The truncated Priory site contains seven listed buildings, all but one of which are medieval and all but one listed Grade I, and several other non-listed structures. Only two of the buildings are roofed. The medieval buildings appear to date from the last major prosperous phase of the Priory between the late-15th and early-16th centuries begun by Prior Deane. These buildings are dealt with in more detail in the relevant appendix but summarised in this section. The alphabetic identification and attribution of names used in the appendix are also used in this summary.
A: West Gatehouse
B: West Precinct Wall (South)
C: West Precinct Wall (North)
D: North-West Range
E: North Range & Wall
F: Tithe Barn
G: East Wall
H: South Wall
I: Great Stable
J: South-West Range
K: Victorian Farmhouse
L: Medieval Range
Fig.8: Identification of Buildings
The recently restored remains of the West Gatehouse, which would have led into the Outer Court from the Hempsted Lane, consist mainly of the southern half of the west, or entrance, wall, though the rest of the footprint has been identified through excavation. The surviving archway in this section was for pedestrians, and only the springing of the arch of the larger vehicular archway to the north survives.
The building was evidently of composite construction, of crisp ashlar-faced brickwork, and was of the highest architectural quality. The gateway was of two storeys, though the height of the lost vehicular arch meant that there would only have been sufficient height for a first-floor chamber over the pedestrian entrance, probably used by the porter. The stylistic evidence of the buttressed and battlemented gatehouse, including the arch profiles, the moulding details and the use of brick suggests a date of circa 1500. In the façade are the coats of arms of Dene Prior, the de Bohuns, important benefactors of the Priory, and Henry VII. The gatehouse was clearly designed to impress anyone entering the priory precincts.
Pl.3: The remains of the West Gatehouse and the west precinct wall, with the busy Llanthony Road in the foreground.
Running southwards from the West Gatehouse is a long section of late-medieval battlemented precinct wall, much patched but essentially intact. It is mainly built of a dark red hand-made brick, with traces of surviving patterns of grey-glazed or burnt brick headers mainly in the form of lozenges but also including at least one roadside cross and some chequer work. Much of the wall top, including the ashlared embrasures, are modern.
To the north of the West Gatehouse the precinct wall is much lower and less well preserved than the section to the south, but it also appears to be older. It is mainly built of rubblestone and has low weathered buttresses. Dating is difficult, though a 14th or 15th century date seems likely.
The North-West Range is a fragmentary and roofless range in the corner of the site whose west wall incorporates some of the much rebuilt medieval precinct wall. At one time it had been part of a small cottage but it was probably originally one of the monastic ranges.
The much rebuilt section of the northern wall of the present truncated site is possibly on the original precinct boundary and could be footed on and retain traces of medieval work including, possibly, the remnants of a medieval opening. In its present form it appears to be largely post-medieval in date, but reusing medieval masonry. The paved floor and footings a range built up against the wall survive and indicate that this was a post-medieval agricultural building, almost certainly a cow house, probably demolished in the late-19th century.
Although roofless, ruinous and with most of the western section of its south wall demolished, the stone-built and buttressed Tithe Barn is nevertheless an impressive structure. It was a ten-bay structure with two threshing floors, each with a projecting south porch and a rear double doorway. The masonry rises from an ashlar plinth but above that level only the south wall and the porches were faced in ashlar, the rest being coursed lias rubblestone with ashlar dressings to the buttresses, the doorways, and the tall ventilation loops.
All of the gable ends were coped and there was also a level cornice around the whole building. Although the inner faces of the walls are mainly of lias rubblestone, there are significant areas of brickwork that appear to be original. The tall gabled roof structure was probably based on trusses supported by short, corbel-mounted wallposts. The moulding details and the use of brick suggest a date of circa 1500 and it would have been an important building within the precinct. It appears to have become roofless by the early-18th century but only lost the western porch and adjacent section of south wall in the 19th century. It has recently been consolidated.
Pl.4: The Tithe Barn from the south, with the new College buildings beyond.
The east precinct wall is not listed and in its present state a low structure parallel to the adjacent canal and largely post-medieval, though reusing medieval masonry and with one or two structural anomalies that could indicate surviving medieval fabric in situ.
The eastern section of the South Precinct Wall is, in part, evidently the south wall of a largely demolished structure that was probably of late-medieval date. This is built of fairly regular coursed lias rubblestone and contains traces of several blocked primary openings. It may have been associated with the adjacent Great Stable to the west.
The building identified as the Great Stable is a roofless rectangular shell sited against the southern boundary of the site. The walls are built of hand-made red brick with ashlared quoins and decoration. There is a large blocked primary doorway at the east end of the north wall and a series of small stone-framed single light windows on two levels on the north and west elevations – the upper ones with Tudor four-centred heads with indented spandrels. Much of the east gable has been removed. Internally there is an inserted brick cross wall.
Pl.5: The former Great Stable from the north.
A scar in the brickwork towards the west end of the north wall of the range and absence of primary windows to the west of it indicates that there was another range at right-angles on the north side that would align with the surviving portion of the Medieval Range (Building L).
The dating evidence of the window heads and the character of the brickwork suggests a date of circa 1500 for the primary phase and it seems likely that it was built as stabling and accommodation for visitors to the priory. In the post-medieval period the first-floor was removed, original windows blocked and larger ones inserted, as well as broad new openings in the north and east elevations. At the same time the original ground floor level was raised significantly. It is unclear when the building became derelict.
To the north and west of the Great Stable is a potential important fragment of mixed lias and brick walling that could be associated with the lost section of the range running northwards from that building.
The Victorian Farmhouse is built on the footprint, and probably footings, of a section of the medieval range between the Outer and Inner courts of the Priory that incorporated the Middle Gateway between them. Fragments of the gateway are visible within the farmhouse. It is a fairly elaborate Tudor Gothic design of red brick with stone dressings, its north wall, however, probably being largely medieval where it butts against the surviving Medieval Range (Building L). The main front faces east and is an irregular three bay composition with a shallow projecting wing containing the ogee-headed doorway.
The rear elevation has a shallow projecting wing at the north, or left, hand end instead and the well-windowed south gable has a central buttress. All of the detailing is late-medieval in form, with elaborate drip-moulds, window surrounds and originally, bargeboards. It was built when the farm was tenanted, but probably at the expense of the owner who had used the architect P C Hardwick who could have been responsible for this design. It is general thought to have been built circa 1870 but may be slightly earlier. It was recently renovated but has since been empty and prone to vandal attack.
Pl.6: The Victorian Farmhouse (left) and the Medieval Range from the south-east.
The Medieval Range is the most important and most intact of the medieval buildings of the Priory. It is a long two-storey range that probably formed part of a much longer range. Of composite construction it has a lias rubblestone ground floor with plinth and cornice beneath a close-studded timber-framed first floor. At ground floor level there is a probably primary doorway on the east side and a primary three-light window in the west wall, but most of the other existing penings appear to have been inserted, including a re-set three-light window on the east side.
There are identifiable primary window positions in the close-studding at first-floor level but the present windows are inserted. Internally the ground-floor has been radically altered over the years but it is easier to assess the first-floor layout. This consisted of chambers open to the apex of the rather fine medieval roof, of which six bays survive. This has different types of trusses supporting two tiers of purlins and a ridge-piece. All of the lower purlins are wind-braced, but only in the three southern bays are the upper purlins wind-braced too. At this level the southern end bay appears to have been a single space against the gateway to the south, whilst to its north was a two-bay chamber with central arch-braced truss.
The remaining three bays to the north formed the southern part of a long chamber that continued northwards past the later existing north end wall, added circa 1870 when the range further north was demolished. This was part of an ambitious high status range that could have extended as far south as the Great Stable. It was probably part of the guest accommodation, built circa1500, and providing lodgings on both floors. It appears to have been converted into agricultural use after the Dissolution, used for both stabling and as an ox-house, before being converted into the farmhouse in the later-17th century – possibly after the destruction of the house formed within the church and cloister.
Pl.7: The first-floor of the Medieval Range, looking north.
When the site was scheduled, the assumption, based on 19th century writers – and it particular by local antiquary J Clarke - was that it contained, in the north-eastern portion, the buried remains of the church and claustral buildings. Unfortunately, when pier bases were uncovered – five feet deep and eight feet apart - in 1846 their position does not seem to have been noted or planned.
Although Clarke’s assessment was based on his detailed observations, his basic suggested layout seems rather odd, especially given the huge size of his suggested cloister and the proximity of the Tithe Barn to the north wall of a very elongated nave. Nevertheless, his observation of pairs of truncated walls by the canal bank, one of the northern ones estimated at twelve feet thick – of which there are now no traces – was very useful if intriguing.
Llanthony Secunda Priory Trust
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Llanthony Secunda Priory Trust
5 Gloucester Street
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