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Horton Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Monks Horton, Kent

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Latitude: 51.1142 / 51°6'51"N

Longitude: 1.0076 / 1°0'27"E

OS Eastings: 610605.640476

OS Northings: 139296.215804

OS Grid: TR106392

Mapcode National: GBR SYS.3KY

Mapcode Global: VHKKX.F815

Entry Name: Horton Priory

Scheduled Date: 13 September 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018878

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31407

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Monks Horton

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes a Cluniac monastery situated on a low spur on the
eastern bank of a tributary of the East Stour river, around 10km south east of
Ashford. The monastery was founded in around 1142 by Robert de Vere and
survives in the form of standing buildings, earthworks and associated below
ground remains. Dedicated to St John the Evangelist, the priory was dependent
upon the principal English Cluniac house, Lewes Priory in Sussex.

The main claustral buildings lie towards the centre of the monument, arranged
around a square, east-west aligned cloister yard. The standing parts are
Listed Grade I and incorporate the western range, originally the prior's
lodgings, and an attached, ruined fragment of the western wall of the mainly
demolished church. Constructed during the second half of the 12th century,
with some 14th and 15th century remodelling and additions, the two-storeyed,
ashlar-faced buildings incorporate dressings and decorations of high
architectural quality.

A detailed building survey has indicated that the church, the remainder of
which will survive in the form of buried foundations, was aisled and
originally around 14.6m wide internally, with a projecting newel stair-turret
between the nave and each aisle. Major restoration work carried out in 1913-14
included the addition of a large service extension to the east. The standing
buildings are in use as a private dwelling and are therefore excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

The demolished ranges of the main cloister will survive in the form of buried
foundations and associated below ground traces in the areas to the east of the
standing buildings. Further associated buried remains representing the
gatehouse, any subsidiary cloisters and the monastic burial ground, can be
expected to survive in the areas surrounding the main cloister.

A group of impressive associated earthworks visible in the south western and
north eastern parts of the monument represent at least two, now dry fishponds,
(designed to supply the monastery with fresh fish), an extensive water
management system and a number of demolished buildings.

Horton Priory was dissolved in 1536. Soon afterwards many of the monastic
buildings were demolished, and the western range reused as a secular dwelling.
Garden landscaping and building work carried out in association with the major
building restoration of 1913-14 will have caused some disturbance to
archaeological features.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the private
house known as Horton Priory, all associated outbuildings, barns, modern
garden structures and features, the modern surfaces of the carpark to the
north of the house, all hardstanding, tracks, paths and paving, and all modern
fences and gates; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597
to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both
religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious
communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks,
canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of
religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated
from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England.
These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to
tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide
variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a
result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout,
although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for
the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into
the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship,
learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some
orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were
established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest
of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish
churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. The
Cluniac order had its origins in the monastic reformations which swept across
continental Europe in the tenth century. The reformations which occurred were
partly a response to the impact of Viking raids and attacks on established
monastic sites in the preceding century but were also a reaction against the
corruption and excesses which were increasingly noted amongst earlier
establishments. The Cluniacs were amongst the most successful of the new
reformed orders that developed. The founding house of Cluny in south-east
France was established in AD 910. Here the community obeyed a stringent set of
rules which, amongst other things, involved celibacy, communal living and
abstention from eating meat. The ideals of the Cluniac reformers passed on to
England in the tenth century. Influential Cluniac houses had been established
in England by 1077. Once established, Cluniac houses were notable for the
strong links they maintained both with the founding house of Cluny in France
and also with other houses of their order. Most Cluniac houses in England were
established near major towns and they particularly sought locations in valley
bottoms within the protection of a nearby castle. Cluniac monasteries are
notable for highly decorated, elaborate buildings. Cluniac houses are
relatively rare, with some forty-four houses known in England, and all
examples exhibiting good survival of archaeological remains are worthy of

Horton Priory survives well, despite some subsequent disturbance, retaining
standing buildings of high architectural quality and impressive associated
earthworks. The monument will also contain important archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the original use of the monastery.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Archaelogy SE, , Horton Priory, (1997)
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 97
Martin, D, Horton Priory, Monks Horton, Kent, (1997)
Newman, J, The Buildings of England: North East and North Kent, (1976), 393-394
'Archaeological Journal' in Proceedings at Meetings, Monks Horton Priory, , Vol. 86, (1929), 314-316
Bailey, C, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Monks Horton Priory, , Vol. 10, (1876), 81-89

Source: Historic England

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