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HER Number:MDV8349
Name:St Mary's College, Slapton


Site of the Medieval St Mary's College in Slapton with the remains of a tower


Grid Reference:SX 821 450
Map Sheet:SX84NW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishSlapton
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishSLAPTON

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 445861
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX84NW/1
  • Old SAM County Ref: 202
  • Old SAM Ref: 24844
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX84NW4

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • COLLEGE (XIV to XVI - 1350 AD to 1600 AD (Between))

Full description

Lysons, D. + Lysons, S., 1822, Magna Britannica, 452 (Monograph). SDV323771.

Oliver, 1844, Untitled Source, 322-30 (Article in Serial). SDV346569.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

'St Mary's College (Remains of)' shown on 19th century map with the 'Gateway' and 'Tower' also shown.

Ministry of Works, 1948, Slapton, Belfry Tower (Schedule Document). SDV346576.

Seminary built and endowed by Sir Guy de Bryan in 1350, dissolved in 1545. All the buildings were demolished except the Gatehouse Tower and the Belfry Tower. The Gatehouse was more or less destroyed by villagers in the 18th century who removed the stone to rebuild their cottages, all that now remains is the Belfry Tower. This was 80 feet (24.38 metres) high in 1897. In 1878 the site was taken over by Father Ignatius for a short time, who intended to rebuild the Monastery but the scheme was never carried out. Other details: Monument 202.

Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1950 - 1953, SX84NW4 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV346566.

One big tower remains and a few wall fragments in the Late Georgian house called The Priory. The remains are in a good state of preservation. Other details: Photograph and Plan.

Yallop, H. J., 1959, Slapton College, 138-48 (Article in Serial). SDV342109.

St Mary's College. Remains include tower and masonry fragments of chantry. A collegiate church with a perpetual chantry of five priests and one rector and four clerks was founded in 1372, in honour of Our Lady by Sir Guy de Brian. A chantry was usually a small chapel either in or adjoining a church, which in this case was the Parish Church of St James the Great. It was endowed for maintaining priests who were to chant masses for the soul of the founder or someone named by him. This chantry contained the founders tomb and had an entrance from the outside for the chantry priest. The chantry was consecrated on 20th December 1372. The college seal as described by Oliver is a large oval, in the centre is the Blessed Virgin represented under a rich canopy, seated on a throne and crowned, supporting her son erect on her right hand, and in her left a lily; under a circular arch below appears the founder on his knees, with his hands joined upon his breast, and his shield beneath him, with the legend 'S Coe Collegii Guidonis de Briene de Slapton'.1534 marked the beginning of the end of the college and chantry as subscription to the kings supremacy of the church was demanded. The college and chantry were dissolved and surrendered by the rector and fellows on 17th November 1545. On 16th January 1551 the 'house, lately a chantry' was granted to Sir Thomas Arundell. Then the chantry of Slapton was granted to Sir William Petre in 1553, but the chantry appears to return to the Arundells in 1784. Only trace of the college and chantry now left is the ruined tower a notable feature of Slapton village, it seems likely that this is the remains of St Mary's Chapel. Other details: Plates 32-3.

Department of Environment, 1960, Kingsbridge, 29 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV140479.

Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N., 1971, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, 418,439 (Monograph). SDV323253.

Stanes, R., 1983, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV346573.

Griffith, F. M., 1984, DAP/DX, 12-13 (Aerial Photograph). SDV342111.

Griffith, F. M., 1986, DAP/HR, 5-6 (Aerial Photograph). SDV140298.

Unknown, 1986 - 1987, Devon Religious Houses Survey (Un-published). SDV347681.

Laithwaite, J. M. W., 1987, St Mary's College, Slapton (Report - Assessment). SDV346567.

Granted to Arundell in 1546. Granted to John Peter in 1552, with its "houses, buildings, barns, stables, dovehouses, ponds, stews, yards, orchards, gardens and ground estimated at two acres within or adjacent to the same". Re-granted to the Arundells in 1554 who, according to Lysons, held it until 1798. However, an inquisition post mortem of 1607 shows "the scite of le late dissolived college or chaunterie of Slapton" belonging to Edward Ameredeth. The earliest antiquarian reference is Leyland's brief comment, between 1535 and 1543: 'a praty college towards the shore'. Milles, in mid-18th century gives a detailed description covering substantially more than now survives. Polwhele, in 1806, does not make it clear if the body of the church still survived, but adds useful detail about the gateway, which no longer exists.

Gibbons, P., 1993, 134697 (Un-published). SDV346568.

The monument includes a chantry college situated on the north edge of Slapton in a prominent position on the lower slopes of a south-west facing hillside. It consists of the known extent of the upstanding and buried remains of a chantry college in occupation from 1373 until 1547. The visible remains consist of a ruined tower that formed the west end of the chantry church of the college. The church was aligned east to west and lay within a level area of land, of irregular shape, terraced into the natural ground slope. The buried remains of the college are more extensive and are believed to extend throughout the terraced area, the south part of which is currently occupied by a large house.

Department of National Heritage, 1995, Slapton Chantry College (Schedule Document). SDV346574.

The monument includes a chantry college situated on the northern edge of the village of Slapton in a prominent position on the lower slopes of a south west facing hillside. The village is less than 1 kilometre from the coast and the freshwater lagoon of Slapton Ley. The monument consists of the known extent of the upstanding and buried remains of a chantry college in occupation from 1373 until 1547. The visible remains consist of a ruined tower that formed the western end of the chantry church of the college. The church was aligned east-west and lay within a level area of land, of irregular shape, terraced into the natural ground slope. The buried remains of the college are more extensive and are believed to extend throughout the terraced area, the southern part of which is currently occupied by a large house. It is evident that the tower was not intended to be a standard church tower in that the upper rooms were constructed as apartments, and the top appears to have included a machicolated parapet. The tower was also constructed independently of the church; it is entirely free-standing and devoid of any wall scars to show where it was structurally bonded to the nave. The line of the roof of the nave however, is visible as a deep chasing in the east wall of the tower and across the east faces of the adjoining buttresses. Both buttresses have a small niche set into their east faces just below the chasing. The lawned garden on the east side of the tower has parchmarks in the area of the nave extending for some 25 metres from the tower, which broadly outline the location of the foundations of the church. The external width of the church would have been at least 9.2 metres. The north-west buttress of the tower is now abutted by a tall garden wall. In addition to the church, chantry colleges traditionally also consisted of buildings to house the priests and other staff, in a similar manner to formal monastic communities. These buildings could include a hall, apartments, service ranges and stables. At Slapton the chantry church is situated on a relatively small area of terraced ground, bounded on the east by a steep hill slope, and to the south-west by the graveyard of the parish church. It therefore seems probable that the main collegiate buildings were in close proximity to the chantry church. The Chantry, the present house on the site, is an early 19th century (Georgian) remodelling of an earlier, possibly 18th century house. It is thought that the house incorporates the remains of parts of the collegiate buildings. The chantry college was founded in 1373 by Sir Guy de Briene, an influential figure in the court of Edward III (1327-77), within his manor of Slapton. The college was attached to an existing chapel of St Mary, built by the founders' family as their burial place. The foundation charter of the college states that the chapel was rebuilt at considerable expense, and that endowments were provided for a rector, five priests and four clerks, all of whom had to remain in residence. One priest was the minister of the adjacent parish church. The college was endowed with lands in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. Other documentary sources state that in 1498 it had a chapter house within which a new rector was elected. In 1536 there was a rector, four priests, two clerks and four choristers in residence. The college was dissolved in 1547, in the reign of Henry VIII, following the suppression of the monasteries and the passing of the Chantries Act aimed specifically at colleges. A condition of the subsequent sale of such properties was that they were to be rendered unfit for ecclesiastical use, and this was greatly assisted by the Crown's sequestration of the roofing lead. Following their disposal by the Crown, the more domestic parts of the buildings were often converted to habitable use, and this pattern appears to have been followed at Slapton. In 1546 the college was sold by the Crown to Sir Thomas Arundel. The inventory describes the property as consisting of, `..the house and site, together with houses, tenements, buildings, structures, barns, stables, dovecotes, lands, meadows, pastures, orchards, gardens, ponds and fishery..'. In the early 17th century the site appears to have been in the ownership of Edward Ameredeth, a local landowner. In the mid 18th century the ruins of the college were described by Milles as consisting of the tower of the church, part of the nave with a small chapel on its south side, and an arched gateway that formed the entrance to the college. In the later 18th century the gateway was destroyed by the villagers who removed the stone to rebuild their houses. By 1878 the tower itself was in use as a gateway. The public road which divides the house from its garden to the west was constructed in the 19th century, and prior to that, a road passed around the east and north sides of the tower and along the north side of the church. It is understood that Lt Col Palmer, a previous owner of the Chantry, undertook excavations within the gardens of the property. The tower is Listed at Grade I, and the Chantry at Grade II. Three sections of garden walls associated with the Chantry are Listed at Grade II, all of which are of 18th or 19th century date. The monument comprises what is currently recognised as the full extent of the chantry college. Within the designated area the following are excluded from the monument: the house and out-buildings and the public highway although the ground beneath all these features is included.
The term college is used to describe a variety of different types of establishment whose communities of secular clergy shared a degree of common life less strictly controlled than that within a monastic order. Although some may date to as early as the tenth century, the majority of English colleges were founded in the 14th or 15th centuries. Most were subsequently closed down under the Chantries Act of 1547.
The college at Slapton is one of only four chantry colleges recorded in the South West. The quality of the masonry in the surviving ruins indicates that the college was a structure of some status in what was an isolated part of the country in the Medieval period. Documentary evidence states that the church was rebuilt in the late 14th century and that the college had a chapter house, which is an unusual feature in this class of monument, although it appears to be more common in collegiate buildings in the South West. The buried remains appear to be extensive and relatively unharmed by subsequent activity. Other details: Monument 24844.

National Monuments Record, 2011, 445861 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV346575.

Tower and Chantry, both built circa 1372. Former parish and collegiate church with college of St Mary, dissolved in 1545. Some 18th century additions to the Chantry building.

English Heritage, 2011, Historic Houses Register (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV346128.

Tower of Collegiate Chantry of St Mary in Slapton was Listed on 26th January 1967. West tower of collegiate chantry church was built circa 1372 or 3 of dressed and coursed slate rubble.
In 1373 Sir Guy de Brian, standard-bearer to Edward III at the Battle of Crecy and Lord of the Manor, founded a collegiate chantry here with an endowment of 6 priests, 1 rector, 5 fellows and 4 clerks. After the foundation of the college the tithes of the parish church were appropriated to the chantry one of whose priests was appointed Minister to the church. The last rector of the chantry was Nicholas Morton. At the Dissolution the chantries revenues were granted to Thomas Arundel. It remained in the possession of the Arundels until the 17th century when it passed to the Page family. Now all that survives above ground is the west tower of the chantry church. There might be some early fabric in the adjacent house known as The Chantry. Other details: LBS Number 99900.

Ordnance Survey, 2011, MasterMap (Cartographic). SDV346129.

'St Mary's College (remains of)' shown on modern mapping.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV140298Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1986. DAP/HR. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 5-6.
SDV140479List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1960. Kingsbridge. Historic Houses Register. A4 Single Sheet. 29.
SDV323253Monograph: Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N.. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Unknown + Digital (part). 418,439.
SDV323771Monograph: Lysons, D. + Lysons, S.. 1822. Magna Britannica. Magna Britannica: A Concise Topographical Account of The Several Counties o. 6: Devonshire. Unknown. 452.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV342109Article in Serial: Yallop, H. J.. 1959. Slapton College. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 91. A5 Hardback. 138-48.
SDV342111Aerial Photograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1984. DAP/DX. Devon Aerial Photograph. Photograph (Paper). 12-13.
SDV346128List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: English Heritage. 2011. Historic Houses Register. Historic Houses Register. Website.
SDV346129Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 2011. MasterMap. Ordnance Survey. Map (Digital).
SDV346566Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1950 - 1953. SX84NW4. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV346567Report - Assessment: Laithwaite, J. M. W.. 1987. St Mary's College, Slapton. Devon Religious Houses Survey. A4 Stapled.
SDV346568Un-published: Gibbons, P.. 1993. 134697. Monument Protection Programme. Unknown.
SDV346569Article in Serial: Oliver. 1844. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Unknown. 322-30.
SDV346573Monograph: Stanes, R.. 1983. A Fortunate Place: The History of Slapton. Unknown.
SDV346574Schedule Document: Department of National Heritage. 1995. Slapton Chantry College. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled. [Mapped feature: #108386 ]
SDV346575National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 445861. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV346576Schedule Document: Ministry of Works. 1948. Slapton, Belfry Tower. The Schedule of Monuments. Foolscap.
SDV347681Un-published: Unknown. 1986 - 1987. Devon Religious Houses Survey. Devon Religious Houses Survey. Mixed Archive Material.

Associated Monuments

MDV54303Parent of: Barn at St Mary's College in Slapton (Monument)
MDV54303Related to: Barn at St Mary's College in Slapton (Monument)
MDV54302Parent of: Gatehouse at St Mary's College at Slapton (Monument)
MDV8350Parent of: St Mary's College Tower at Slapton (Building)
MDV17430Parent of: The Chantry at St Mary's College in Slapton (Building)
MDV79399Parent of: Wall north-east of Tower at St Mary's College, Slapton (Building)
MDV54303Parent of: Barn at St Mary's College in Slapton (Monument)
MDV54303Related to: Barn at St Mary's College in Slapton (Monument)
MDV8368Related to: Slapton, St James (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV4483 - Slapton Parish Churchyard Survey
  • EDV4491 - Watching Brief at Slapton Ley Field Centre

Date Last Edited:Aug 15 2011 9:16AM