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Kirklees Priory, medieval nunnery

A Scheduled Monument in Brighouse, Calderdale

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Latitude: 53.6951 / 53°41'42"N

Longitude: -1.7367 / 1°44'12"W

OS Eastings: 417481.207744

OS Northings: 422106.983961

OS Grid: SE174221

Mapcode National: GBR JT9Q.T4

Mapcode Global: WHC9W.9D73

Entry Name: Kirklees Priory, medieval nunnery

Scheduled Date: 15 September 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1417240

County: Calderdale

Electoral Ward/Division: Brighouse

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Hartsheadst Peter

Church of England Diocese: Leeds


Core area of a medieval nunnery surviving as buried remains including that of the church, cloister and associated service buildings.

Source: Historic England


The earthwork and buried remains of the priory's inner court including church, cloister, prioress's lodging as well as ancillary buildings including a brew and bake house.

The core features of the priory lie within a paddock known as Priory Field lying on the east side of Home Farm, immediately east of Kirklees Priory Gatehouse (Listed Grade II*) and west of the walled orchard (the walls being Listed Grade II), the undulating paddock gently sloping southwards towards the Nun Brook.

The church lies central to the eastern half of the paddock being approximately 24m long and 6.5m wide. Geophysical survey suggests that the stones placed in 1905 marking the west end of the church are set slightly too far to the west. The church is simple in plan, lacking transepts or any marked division between nave and chancel, but has a projection on the northern side which may represent the remains of a porch or bell tower. The 1905 excavations found that the remains of the church were heavily robbed of stonework. To the south of the church, set at the centre of the cloister, is a large, shallow stone bowl identified as the priory's lavabo (a basin for the ritual washing of hands). Like the church, the extent of the cloister is marked with stone blocks placed in 1905, all these marker stones being included in the scheduling. There is fragmentary evidence of the eastern cloistral range, but much better survival of the ranges to the west and south, with stone wall lines of some buildings identifiable as low earthworks. Most of the buildings within Priory Field appear to have been stone built, including a range of ancillary buildings (brew house, bakery, flour bolting house and stables) which extends between the western cloistral range and the gatehouse. However, geophysical survey has also identified the remains interpreted as the prioress's quarters to the north of the church which were recorded in 1535 as being of timber construction. Geophysics has also hinted at the survival of earlier buildings underlying the cloister, although these features may instead be part of the nunnery's water supply system.

The scheduled monument is focused on the paddock known as Priory Field as this contains the known core of the medieval priory. The original precinct for the nunnery is thought to have been much larger, considered to be the original estate bought by John Armytage in 1565, being a large proportion of the modern Kirklees Park which is now a Grade II-Registered Historic Park and Garden. However, the extent of the precinct is uncertain, and no precinct boundaries have been positively identified.

The priory's outer court is thought to have mainly occupied the area of the modern Home Farm to the west and north of Priory Field. Although this includes standing buildings that are late medieval in origin (Grade II* Listed Gatehouse and two Grade I timber-framed aisled barns) and the area around and beneath the buildings is expected to retain medieval archaeology, the area of Home Farm is not included within the scheduling.

The area of gardens to the east of Priory Field is also not included within the scheduling. This area includes the Grade II Listed Nuns Grave and the Grade II Listed Walled Garden also thought to be medieval in origin. Archaeological investigations have identified some possible features within this area (including what may be a further three graves) however their extent and interpretation is uncertain.

Boundary walls and fences defining Priory Field lie immediately outside the area of the scheduling. Modern water and feed troughs, and other fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. In the northern part of the field there is a circular concrete cover for a septic tank serving Home Farm. This is also excluded from the scheduling, although the surrounding and underlying ground is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Kirklees Priory, a medieval nunnery, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:
* Rarity: as a positive identification of a medieval nunnery retaining archaeological remains of its entire inner court;
* History: Kirklees Priory is relatively well documented as a medieval nunnery. It is also traditionally connected to the legendary death of Robin Hood;
* Archaeology: the excavations of 1905 focused on identifying wall lines, generally leaving material in situ, they thus added to our understanding of the monument with minimal damage to archaeological potential;
* Group value: the monument contributes to and benefits from the understanding of the surviving monastic buildings of Home Farm to the north: the Abbey Gatehouse and two timber framed barns (many of which are listed).

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Armytage, G, 'Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians' in Excavations At Kirklees Priory, Yorkshire, , Vol. 21, (1908), 175-186
Armytage, G, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Society Journal, 20,' in Kirklees Priory, , Vol. 20, (1908), 26-31
Chadwick, S J, 'Yorkshire Archaeological Society Journal' in Kirklees Priory, , Vol. 16, (1902), 319-368
"Prospect of Kirkleys Abby where Robin Hood dyed" by Johnson 1669. Original held at The Bodleian (MS Top.Gen d.14 Fol 21v) with a redrawn version published in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1901.,
"Prospect of Kirkleys Abby where Robin Hood dyed" drawn by Dr Johnson 1665 reproduced in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 1901,
Ross Lefort, University of Bradford, Kirklees Priory, West Yorkshire: Geophysical Survey, 2009,
Title: Untitled Plan of Kirklees Estate (West Yorkshire Archive KMA1213)
Source Date: Probably early C17

Source: Historic England

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