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Moated site and monastic retreat at Crowle Court

A Scheduled Monument in Crowle, Worcestershire

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Latitude: 52.2021 / 52°12'7"N

Longitude: -2.1167 / 2°7'0"W

OS Eastings: 392119.669087

OS Northings: 255986.651929

OS Grid: SO921559

Mapcode National: GBR 1G2.ZLV

Mapcode Global: VH92P.8XB8

Entry Name: Moated site and monastic retreat at Crowle Court

Scheduled Date: 16 April 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018894

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30049

County: Worcestershire

Civil Parish: Crowle

Built-Up Area: Crowle

Traditional County: Worcestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Worcestershire

Church of England Parish: Crowle with Bredicot

Church of England Diocese: Worcester


The monument includes the buried and earthwork remains of the moated medieval
monastic retreat at Crowle Court. It was an estate of the Bishop of Worcester
from the 9th century and later formed a manor of the Priory of Worcester,
which is believed to have acted as a summer residence or retreat during the
14th to 16th centuries and acted as the retirement home of Prior Moore on the
eve of the Dissolution.

The moated site lies on a plateau with rising ground to the west and north,
whilst to the east and south the ground slopes gently down to the Bow Brook
and its tributary. The parish church of Crowle, a Grade II* Listed Building,
lies adjacent to the moat on its west side but is not included in the

The moat is orientated south east to north west and measures approximately
100m by 80m externally. The arms are uniform, measuring approximately 10m
across, except the southern part of the eastern arm which is wider, measuring
up to 15m across. The moat is compact, defining a sub- rectangular island and
survives as an earthwork ditch on its western, northern and eastern sides, the
western arm being shallower than the water-filled northern and eastern arms.
The southern arm of the moat was infilled after 1860, in order to extend the
farmyard. Both this and the open arms of the moat will preserve artefactual
and environmental evidence relating to the construction and use of the moat.
The interior of the moat island is undulating and raised 1m to 2m above the
surrounding ground level. A house originally stood on the island, and both
descriptions and engravings confirm it was constructed of stone and timber,
including several chambers. The manor house is described in 1533 and included
a lord's chamber, a second chamber with a study, a guest chamber and a parlour
with a lower chamber next to it. In addition, there was a dormitory with five
beds, and a further four small chambers next to it, each with five beds, as
well as a fully equipped kitchen and a great hall with a dias and also a

Documents refer to medieval structures including the manor house, tithe barn,
stables, kennel, dovecote, and a gatehouse. It is believed that the court
yard area to the south of the moat island and to the east of the tithe barn
will preserve evidence of these buildings and of other lesser structures and
any phases in their development and construction. A raised platform occupies
the northern two thirds of the island, on which stands the late 19th century
farmhouse. The farmhouse and its ancillary domestic buildings are excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. To the
north west of the farmhouse are the single storey remains of a late medieval
stone building, with some brick additions, a brick floor, and a large stone
inglenook fireplace, including a massive stone lintel, and a high quality two
light stone window. The building, which is Listed Grade II, was latterly used
as a cider house and is known as The Kitchen. It is believed to be the late
medieval, free standing kitchen associated with the medieval manor house, and
is included in the scheduling. To the north east of The Kitchen is a well and
other remains, including a large stone vat or trough believed to be associated
with the occupation of the medieval manor; these remains are also included in
the scheduling.

The tithe barn, which stands to the south west of the moat, is built of Lias
limestone, with 10m span trusses and was originally over 30m long and of seven
bays, although the four southern bays have now collapsed. The tithe barn has
been dated by dendrochronology to 1354-6, with documented 16th century
repairs. The barn is Listed Grade II and is excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath it is included. To the east of the tithe barn is
an open yard and then, further east, lying parallel to the barn, is a range of
single storey 19th century animal sheds and farm buildings. These 19th century
farm buildings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath
them is included.

To the north and east of the moat are the remains of medieval enclosures
defined by earth banks with hedges. The banks are up to 1.5m high and 5m wide
across the base, except to the north of the church where they measure 2m high
and 6m wide. A lower internal bank, aligned on the north east corner of the
moat and orientated north to south, divides the enclosure into two parts.
These are believed to relate to gardens and orchards which were recorded at
the site during the medieval period. The 19th century enclosure documents
refer to these enclosures as `Court Orchard' and `Conygare Orchard'. The place
name Conygare means rabbit garth or enclosure, suggesting that there was a
warren here, although there is no other reference to a warren at the site.

The estate is first documented in Saxon charters dated to the ninth century,
describing the boundaries of an estate held there by the Bishop of Worcester.
The Crowle estate was later donated to support the priory of Worcester and
continued largely in the hands of the church until the 19th century. There are
records of numerous disputes over the ownership of the site from before 1086
until 1334, when the estate was finally confirmed to the priory. During the
disputes the moat was occasionally tenanted by laymen, including, before the
Norman Conquest, the Dane Siward and, in 1334, Peter de Neville. The moated
site formed the nucleus of the priory estate or manor and is thought to be the
original site of the medieval manor house, which is believed to have been
constructed in the 1260s. The estate was largely held by tenants until the
1340s when the priory is thought to have taken it into direct control. By
the 13th century the village at Crowle included a church, and 15 taxpayers
are recorded in the 1332 Lay Subsidy Roll, suggesting that the village had
long been established as part of the estate. The estate is believed to have
acted as a summer residence or retreat for the priors of Worcester between the
14th to 16th centuries. The penultimate prior of Worcester, Prior Moore,
chose Crowle as his retirement home on the eve of the Dissolution. His diary
records investments made at Crowle and a series of repairs and restorations.
The documents also refer to the tithe barn, stables, kennel, dovecote, and
a bridge over the southern arm of the moat. The estate passed to the Dean and
Chapter of the Cathedral of Worcester during the Elizabethan period, although
it remained leased out to tenants, who were required to provide a sanctuary
for the chapter during outbreaks of plague. The tenants of the estate can be
traced until the 19th century when it was bought by Robert Smith in 1862. In
1854 the house was described as being half timbered with a partial stone
undercroft, enclosing a courtyard with two wings and including a chapel with
carved corbels and a magnificent dining hall, floored throughout with
encaustic tiles. By the time of the sale the house was almost in a ruinous
state, although the tithe barn was in good condition and a new set of animal
sheds and outbuildings had been built. Ordnance Survey maps suggest that the
present house was constructed on the moat island between the 1880s and 1904.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the farmhouse
and its ancillary domestic buildings, the tithe barn, the range of single
storey 19th century animal sheds and farm buildings lying parallel to the barn
on the east and all modern paths and surfaces, although the ground beneath
these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon
imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers
(secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident
labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were
specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms,
bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and
industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the
wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands
immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange.
Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands.
On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the
parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular
farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to
be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was
without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed
is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of
monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small
percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of
identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the
evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to
medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological
survival are identified as nationally important.

The site at Crowle Court was an estate of the Bishop of Worcester from the 9th
century, and later formed a manor of the Priory of Worcester which is believed
to have acted as a summer residence or retreat for the priors of Worcester
during the 14th to 16th centuries and was the retirement home of Prior Moore
on the eve of the Dissolution.

Monastic retreats are well documented, although relatively few survive. Many
were rented out to tenants, or staffed by caretakers, particularly during the
later Middle Ages, rather than being farmed directly by the monastery, and
were only occupied by the abbot or other monastic guests for a short season
each year. Retreats were high status sites, often including a larger suite of
buildings than is generally seen at either granges or manorial moated sites.
Many included the dwellings and domestic buildings usually found at a manorial
site, which were occupied by the tenant or caretaker, but also included a
range of additional buildings designed to meet the needs of the visiting
monks. They acted as a retreat from the duties and concerns of the monastery
or the heat and bad conditions of the city during the summer. Some retreats
were used for hunting, entertaining noble guests and other leisure pursuits,
others acted as a retirement place for sick or elderly monks.

Consequently there is a wide range of building remains which may be found at a
monastic retreat relating to the varied uses which it may have served.
Features may include; halls, chapels and accommodation; stables, kennels, fish
stews, stores for hunting equipment and gardens for meditation and the growing
of medicinal herbs, in addition to the usual accommodation, barns and
outbuildings of the manorial complex.

The remains of the moated medieval manorial complex and monastic retreat at
Crowle Court will preserve evidence of the site's many uses and associated
buildings and structures will allow a comparison with the documentary sources.
Both documentary sources and archaeological investigations will illuminate the
development of the estate and the moat as well as some of the ancillary
buildings which existed in and around the moat. The site survives
particularly well, including good earthwork and buried features as well as
upstanding building remains of a variety of features such as the late medieval
`Kitchen', the tithe barn and the medieval enclosures. There are also a series
of important documentary sources, ranging from the Anglo-Saxon to the post-
medieval periods. These documents, which complement the physical remains,
provide an outline of the development of the complex which will form the basis
of any detailed research into the site. Relatively few manors have detailed
Anglo-Saxon documentation providing information about the earliest phases of
their development, whilst the survival of information about the medieval moat,
particularly including descriptions of the building complex at the height
of its development, provides an important opportunity to understand the site
in more detail than is often possible. The majority of the monument
survives as upstanding earthworks, providing information about the size and
form of the moated site, however those areas of the moat which have been
partially infilled will be expected to preserve earlier buried deposits
including evidence of construction and any recutting or alterations which
occurred during its active history.

In addition the moat remains waterlogged, and these wet conditions will
preserve environmental deposits providing information about the ecosystem and
agricultural regimes around the moated site from the medieval period.
Earthworks and extant building remains confirm that the buried remains of
buildings survive upon the island. These are believed to include the original
manor house and its associated agricultural and ancillary buildings. As a
retreat the site must have been of a particularly high status and the building
remains will include evidence about the dates and methods of construction,
occupation and demolition of the manor. They will also preserve artefacts
which will illuminate the social history of the site, including evidence about
its occupants and their daily activities. Household remains will provide a
range of dating evidence as well as insights into the spheres of influence,
social contacts and trading mechanisms of the inhabitants of the manor
throughout its history. The arrangement of the agricultural and domestic
ancillary buildings in relation to the residential quarters, will illustrate
the relationships between the different classes of occupants of the manor,
their daily activities and routine areas and methods of work.

Source: Historic England


Hughes, P. Dr, Crowle Barn and its surroundings, A study of a medieval landscap, 1997, report for EH public enquiry
local history society, Somerton, K W, Crowle A Mid Worcestershire village, (1996)
SMR Officers Various, Various unpublished notes, 1970, unpub. notes in smr

Source: Historic England

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