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Alvecote priory and dovecote

A Scheduled Monument in Shuttington, Warwickshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.6353 / 52°38'7"N

Longitude: -1.6308 / 1°37'50"W

OS Eastings: 425082.591081

OS Northings: 304239.435269

OS Grid: SK250042

Mapcode National: GBR 5GT.NJD

Mapcode Global: WHCH4.X1L0

Entry Name: Alvecote priory and dovecote

Scheduled Date: 24 June 1965

Last Amended: 3 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020623

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30096

County: Warwickshire

Civil Parish: Shuttington

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire

Church of England Parish: North Warwickshire All Souls

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

Details

The monument includes the known extent of the buried, earthwork and
standing remains of Alvecote Priory and a dovecote, located on the
southern edge of the valley of the River Anker. A small Benedictine priory
founded in 1159 by William Burdet, it later became a cell of Great Malvern
Priory. Alvecote Priory appears to have regularly housed only four monks
and their servants. In 1291 it was valued at 2 pounds, 9 shillings and 2
pence, and in the 14th century its buildings were refurbished. It was
dissolved in 1536 when it was valued at 28 pounds, 5 shillings and 2
pence. The buildings were converted into a private house which was rebuilt
in 1700. This later house fell into disuse and decayed until it was
demolished in the 20th century. The standing remains of the priory are
Listed Grade II.

The surviving building remains date from the 14th century and are believed to
be the undercroft of a domestic building forming part of the priory. Partial
excavations carried out in 1956 uncovered further medieval remains. The
undercroft survives to a height of approximately 2.5m and is located at the
centre of the priory. It includes a roofless, stone building, divided into two
cells by shallow buttresses, with an arched doorway in the southern wall and a
lancet window in the eastern bay; there are further blocked openings of other
windows visible. To the north west of the building are the earthwork remains
of a curving rubble wall approximately 30m long.

On the eastern edge of the priory, next to the Coventry Canal, are the remains
of a medieval dovecote, also believed to be monastic in origin. It is a
Listed Building Grade II. The earliest record of a dovecote in Warwickshire is
that documented at Alvecote in 1291. The dovecote is square, with internal
measurements of 3m by 3m, and is of massive stone construction with a modern
concrete roof and a small square headed doorway in the western face. It
survives to a height of approximately 2m and includes over 300 L-shaped nest
holes with stone alighting ledges. The position of the original potence
(revolving central ladder supported by a timber post) is clearly visible in
the floor.

In the southern area of the monument are the earthwork remains relating to the
priory estate and the later house and gardens, including a pond in the south
western angle of the field and a square terraced area bounded by earthwork
banks to the east of the pond. The pond measures approximately 10m across and
is up to 2m deep. The terrace measures over 30m north to south and 20m east to
west, bounded by banks 0.75m high. Medieval ridge and furrow cultivation
remains oriented in two directions survive in the south eastern area.

The modern car park, picnic tables and post and wire fences and all modern
paths and surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.
Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St
Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not
intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule
came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came
only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as
`black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who
became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over
150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly
successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and
influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance
of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many
facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Alvecote priory was a minor cell of Malvern priory and the survival of
buildings as well as earthworks and buried remains is relatively rare at such
a small monastic settlement. In addition the history of the priory is well
documented and includes details of its estates and buildings. Together these
remains and information will provide a rich source of evidence about the
lifestyle of the inhabitants during the five hundred year history of the
priory. In addition, the evidence for the reuse of the buildings and site as
a grand residence with gardens will illustrate its later use. The evidence
for the buildings will demonstrate both the changing technical abilities of
masons and architects from 1100 until 1700 as well as the changing fashions
and innovations in building techniques in response to the different
requirements of the monastic and the secular lifestyles. Buried artefacts
will provide a range of information about occupations and activities of the
inhabitants.

This damp low lying site is expected to preserve environmental evidence in
monastic drains and buried ditches which will inform us about the changing
natural environment throughout the occupation of the site, whilst remains
such as the dovecote, fishpond and ridge and furrow cultivation provide
evidence about food production and the changing agricultural regimes carried
out by the monks and their successors.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Cox, J C, The Victoria History of the County of Alvecote Priory, (1908), 61-2

Source: Historic England

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