Ancient Monuments

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Catley Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Walcott, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.0855 / 53°5'7"N

Longitude: -0.3311 / 0°19'51"W

OS Eastings: 511876.202648

OS Northings: 355556.640563

OS Grid: TF118555

Mapcode National: GBR GR2.F48

Mapcode Global: WHGJV.WPJY

Entry Name: Catley Priory

Scheduled Date: 5 January 1972

Last Amended: 16 January 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017524

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30001

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Walcott

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Walcott

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes the remains of the Gilbertine Priory of St Mary,
Catley, a double house for nuns and canons founded between 1146 and 1154 by
Peter of Billinghay. The foundation proved locally popular but the priory was
never wealthy by comparison to other reformed monastic houses, and underwent
economic decline from the 14th century. It was dissolved in 1538 and the site
was later acquired by Robert Carre of Sleaford.
Situated in the area formerly known as the Island of Catley, the monument is
surrounded by low lying, formerly waterlogged land. The remains take the form
of a series of earthworks and buried deposits, including an area of earthworks
representing the inner court of the priory, its buildings and water management
The monument is bounded on the south and west by two arms, now dry, of the
original moated boundary of the inner court of the priory. The western arm is
6m to 8m wide, 0.75m deep and 220m long; and the southern arm is 8m to 10m
wide, 2m to 2.5m deep and 240m long. Running parallel to the western arm of
the moat, for a distance of 25m at its northern end, is a second inner ditch
of similar proportions. This is thought to be the remains of a second moat
which bounded the entrance to the inner court of the priory, and is connected
to the moat by a causeway 10m wide. The moat encloses the earthwork remains of
the main conventual buildings, occupied by both the canons and the nuns, and
ranges of ancillary service buildings and associated enclosures. The
northernmost building platforms surviving as earthworks include the remains of
the church, which was partly excavated in 1775. Immediately to the south of
these are two groups of earthworks which are believed to represent the two
claustral complexes occupied by the canons and nuns respectively. The
conventual buildings were substantial, for the priory supported a large
community composed of canons, nuns and lay brethren. There is evidence of two
groupings of rectangular and sub-rectangular buildings each arranged around
a cloister. The cloisters lay adjacent to each other situated immediately to
the south of the church. The smaller western cloister area is thought to be
that occupied by the canons, whilst the larger eastern cloister with its
associated service buildings to the south would be occupied by the nuns. The
nuns lived a far more restricted lifestyle than the canons and this eastern
position is traditionally the most secluded area of the monastic complex. The
nuns and lay sisters also undertook the majority of the domestic tasks on
behalf of both sexes and required immediate access to a greater number of
service buildings. Earthwork banks representing the enclosures, which
surrounded the cloisters and separated that of the canons from that of the
nuns, can also be identified aligned north-south between the two complexes and
east-west to the south of the building platforms.
To the south of these features are further earthworks representing the moats,
fishponds and associated water channels of the priory which also lay within
the precinct. In the south western angle of the precinct are several
interconnected linear ponds or channels with leats, thought to represent the
priory fishponds. The ponds are now dry and their northernmost earthworks
extend to within 2m of the eastern claustral range. In the south eastern
angle of the monument are further linear depressions representing water
channels extending to the south from the eastern range of the eastern cloister
as far as the southernmost boundary moat including the remains of a further
moated enclosure. Adjacent to the east of the area of earthworks are further
buried remains of the priory precinct. Soil marks recorded by aerial
photography, which show differential soil colour over ditches and walls,
demonstrate the below ground survival of several features including the
service buildings, guest housing, an infirmary and the remains of the northern
and eastern boundaries. Fragments of medieval roof tiles, pottery and
limestone in the plough soil indicate the presence of buried building remains
extending over an area of approximately 0.55ha. The precinct boundary is
visible as a low linear bank, 10m wide, running north east from the moated
enclosure at the south east corner of the precinct for 150m, before turning at
right angles and continuing north west for a further 140m to meet the northern
end of the western arm of the moat.
All the modern post and wire fencing is excluded from the scheduling, although
the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A post-Conquest double house is a settlement built after the Norman Conquest
to house a community of religious men and women. Its main buildings were
constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence.
The main elements included one or two churches and domestic buildings,
normally arranged around two self-contained cloisters. One or two outer
courts and gatehouses would accompany the central cloister compound, the whole
complex being bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or a moat. Outside the
main enclosure fishponds, barns and mills may be found.
The tradition of establishing double houses originated in the early
Anglo-Saxon period. However, early double houses were often re-founded as the
more popular single sex communities. During the 12th century a new order was
founded which revived the concept of the double house. This order was founded
by Gilbert of Sempringham. Within these new foundations the nuns were
supposed to lead an enclosed contemplative life. The houses were under the
supervision of the male founders of the order or their deputies. The male
canons in each house were required to celebrate the mass for the nuns. The
Gilbertines founded 12 double houses; in addition, a small number of such
houses were established by other orders, such as the Fontevraults and the
Bridgettines. In total only 25 sites are known to have existed. As a rare
type of monastery all examples exhibiting significant survival of
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Catley Priory is one of only 12 known Gilbertine double houses in England
the majority of which are to be found in Lincolnshire. The remains of the
priory survive as substantial earthworks and below ground remains. Part
excavation and field walking have increased our understanding of the site
while leaving the majority of the deposits intact. The good condition of the
earthworks indicates a high level of survival for archaeological deposits
within the precinct, and water logging within the moats and ponds indicate a
high level of survival for organic remains.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire196-7
Hall, H Ed, The Red Book of the Exchequer, (1896), 72-90
Kowles, D, St Joseph, JKS , Monastic Sites from the Air, (1952), 250-251
Lunt, W E Ed, The Valuation of Norwich, (1926)
Owen, D M, Church and society in medieval Lincolnshire, (1971), 144
Before earthworks ploughed in E., Cambridge University, Catley Priory,

Source: Historic England

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