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HER Number:MDV9060
Name:Totnes Priory, north of Totnes Parish Church, Totnes

Summary

Site of the medieval Totnes Priory to the north of Totnes Parish Church.

Location

Grid Reference:SX 802 604
Map Sheet:SX86SW
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTotnes
DistrictSouth Hams
Ecclesiastical ParishTOTNES

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • National Monuments Record: 446464
  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX86SW/17
  • Old SAM Ref: 34877
  • Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division: SX86SW11
  • Royal Albert Memorial Museum Accession Number: 26/2007

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • PRIORY (XI to XVI - 1001 AD to 1600 AD (Between))

Full description

Oliver, G., 1846, Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis, 238-243 (Monograph). SDV57424.

In 1542/3, the site of the priory was granted to Katherine Champernoun, John Ridgway and Walter Smith. An extent of the priory in 1338/9 is given.


Birch, W de G., 1872, On Three Lists of Monasteries Compiled in the Thirteenth Century, 45-64 (Article in Serial). SDV256356.

The priory appears as Toteneys, Sancti Mariae on three lists of monasteries compiled in the 13th century.


Windeatt, E., 1880, An Historical Sketch of Totnes, 162 (Article in Serial). SDV168929.


Watkin, H. R., 1909 - 1914, Charters of Totnes Priory, 271-273 (Article in Serial). SDV169696.

Some 207 charters known as the Totnes Priory Deeds have been transcribed and translated by H R Watkin, some are discussed in this arcticle.


Watkin, H. R., 1914, Untitled Source (Monograph). SDV169695.


Whitely, H. M., 1916, Untitled Source, 197-198 (Article in Serial). SDV169688.

Walter Smith granted the land back to the crown, who then returned it to the borough in 1553, the boundaries of the priory being set out in letters patent of Edward VI. Whitely disagrees with the general consensus that the guildhall occupies part of the site of the priory.


Reichel, O. J., 1918 - 1919, Totnes Priory and Medieval Town, 12-15 (Article in Serial). SDV169694.

Details of the foundation of the priory by Judhel of Totnes in 1088. Other details: Part 1.


Watkin, H. R., 1918 - 1919, Totnes Priory and Medieval Town, 56-59 (Article in Serial). SDV169720.

Watkin queries some of Reichel's assertions regarding the foundation of the priory. Part 1.


Rea, C. F., 1925, Untitled Source, 275, 278-279 (Article in Serial). SDV169685.

The priory was situated on the north side of the parish church. An agreement made between the prior and the mayor in 1445 states that the cloister of the priory was adjoined to the nmorth wall of the old (parish) church. A later document of 1553 refers to the "Late Priory of Totnes, now in ruins" lying to the north of the parish church, and states that its site occupied an area 96 feet by 297 feet (east to west). In its early years the priory may have shared the parish church, but during the 13th century a new conventual church seems to have been built (dedicated 1256), this sited north-east of the present parish church. The extension of the parish church eastwards in the 15th century brought together the north-east corner of the parish church and the south-west corner of the conventual church, and the agreement of 1445 makes allowance for the construction of a processional way between the two. This agreement also refers to parts of the old belfry tower of the parish church (at the east end?) being retained as a gable end for the west end of the conventual church, and to the construction of a "courtwall" which divided the priory from the borough.


Anonymous, 1930, Unknown, 550-552 (Article in Serial). SDV169711.


Masterman, J. H. B., 1931, Address of the President: The Monasteries of Devon, 74 (Article in Serial). SDV136066.


Benson, J., 1940 - 1941, Foundation of Totnes Priory, 22-23 (Article in Serial). SDV169693.

Benson argues from documentary evidence that the foundation was prior to 1086, in the time of William I and Judhel, not in the reign of William II.


Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division, 1951, SX86SW11 (Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card). SDV346818.

St Mary's Priory in Totnes stood on the north-east side of the parish church.


Department of Environment, 1952, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV326574.

In 1553, the Town Council incorporated some of the conventual buildings into the new Guildhall buildings. The courtroom of the Guildhall appears to be on the site of the monastic refectory, and its west end retains some of the original window openings, the main refectory entrance and an internal doorway to the site of the monastic kitchen. The building next door with the vaulted undercroft was possibly the prior's lodging - Guildhall Yard represents the priory cloister.


French, K. + French, C., 1957, Devonshire Plasterwork, 134 (Article in Serial). SDV4676.


Eden, P., 1957, Unknown, 117 (Article in Serial). SDV169712.


Russell, P. M. G., 1964, Untitled Source, 10-12, 36, 48-49 (Monograph). SDV169686.

Judhael appropriated the parish church to his priory in 1088 together with the land behind it (ie. to the north) up to the town wall, and also the land beyond that sloping down to the Malt Mill Brook. The Cloister Garth stood to the north of the existing (parish) church. It seems likely that the north range of the cloistral buildings stood on the site now occupied by the guildhall and former grammar school and would have housed the kitchen, refectory and warming house. On the east side of the cloister was probably the chapter house and sacristy, with the monks dormitory over. At the south end of the east range stood the conventual church, and south of this the "courtwall", ie. The south precinct wall of the priory. Plan.


Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N., 1971, Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, 57, 78 (Monograph). SDV323253.

Totnes Priory. Benedictine. The Church of St. Mary, Totnes, was granted with other endowments by Judhael of Totnes to SS Sergius and Bacchus, Angers. The Priory of Totnes was an alien priory of Benedictine monks dependent upon Angers, but probably became Denizen before 1416. Before the Black Death there were probably 10 monks, and 6 in 1377. Six religions are recorded at the time of the suppression.


Griffiths, D. M., 1982, Untitled Source (Personal Comment). SDV169691.

A machine cut trench 23 metres long, 2 metres wide and 3 metres deep was cut along the inside of the northern churchyard wall to allow for repairs. Almost the entire 3 metres depth consisted of graveyard material, the bottom of the trench being of yellow clay (? but not natural), with no discernable features. The north-eastern buttress of the parish church is wider and appears to be of different construction; it may be a surviving portion of the conventual church. On one of these buttresses is a horizontal band of carved beerstone, which may be a survival of the internal decoration of the priory church. A plan of possible priory layout occurs in the parish file. There is some belief that the house called The Priory contains part of a priory building. This could be an outlying structure but is unlikely to be part of the priory itself.


Thompson, M. W., 1986, Unknown, 305-321, Table 2 (Article in Serial). SDV233104.

Thompson suggests that the foundation of the priory was linked with the construction of Totnes Castle.


Griffith, F. M., 1988, Devon's Past. An Aerial View, 89 (Monograph). SDV64198.

Almost none of the priory now survives: its church lay in the open space to the east of the parish church.


Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants, 1996, Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes (Report - Assessment). SDV340328.


Passmore, A., 2002, Archaeological Recording at the Guildhall Yard, Totnes (Report - Survey). SDV169701.

Archaeological recording undertaken during re-paving works within a small enclosed area to the south of Totnes Guildhall at SX80226049 adjacent to present churchyard of St Mary's Parish Church. Ground beneath paving is scheduled as part of the buried remains of the 11th century priory. Buried deposit uncovered, consisting of limited fragments of building debris, Post-medieval coarseware and disturbed human bone.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2002, Totnes Priory (Schedule Document). SDV346817.

This monument includes the buried remains of part of a late 11th century Benedictine priory located within the north-eastern corner of the 10th century Anglo-Saxon burh of Totnes. The Benedictine priory of St Mary was founded in or just before 1088 by Judhael, Norman lord of Totnes, and granted by him to the Benedictine abbey of St Sergius and St Bacchus at Angers. This connection had been broken by 1416, and the priory was dissolved in 1539. The buildings were stripped and partly demolished after the Dissolution, but parts of the north claustral range were rebuilt in 1553 as a guildhall, and in 1624 converted into a magistrates' court and grammar school. The priory church lay in the churchyard immediately north-east of the parish church, with the cloister immediately to its north. Claustral buildings on the north side of the cloister included a lodgings range and refectory, while other buildings, including a chapter house enclosed the east and west sides. The scheduling includes the buried remains of the priory church and its claustral buildings, where these lie within the churchyard and beneath the lane which follows the north and east sides of the monument. The area will also include a small portion of the Anglo-Saxon burgh including part of its defensive ramparts. The standing remains of the priory buildings preserved within the fabric of St Mary's Church and Guildhall are not included in the scheduling; both the church and the Guildhall are Listed Buildings Grade I. The scheduling includes the ground beneath the 19th century open fronted verandah along the south wall of the Guildhall. The loggia of the Guildhall, where this falls within the scheduling, the boundary walls, gravestones and path surfacings are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included. Despite the demolition of some of the upstanding buildings, Totnes Priory is likely to retain important buried remains relating to its construction and use. Wall footings and occupation surfaces are likely to remain beneath the churchyard and its adjoining path, while underlying occupation deposits and a defensive rampart relating to the late Saxon burh of Totnes will be of considerable importance to the future understanding of the site.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2003, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV169702.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted, subject to conditions, for works concerning the installation of a litter bin.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2004, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV169703.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for works concerning the new cobbled path cutting across cobbled area to form a level walkway to the Council Office, to comply with the Disibility Discrimination Act.


Department for Culture, Media and Sport, 2004, Untitled Source (Correspondence). SDV321077.

Scheduled Monument Consent granted for works concerning remedial works to the footway.


National Monuments Record, 2011, 446464 (National Monuments Record Database). SDV346819.

A Benedictine monastery founded in 1088 as an alien cell of St Serge, Angers. It became independent in 1416 and was dissolved in 1536. After the Dissolution in 1536 the greater part of the priory church of St Mary was adapted for use as the parish church and the convental buildings on the north side were incorporated in the new Guildhall buildings. The courtroom appears to be on the site of the monastic refectory and retains some of the original window openings, the main refectory entrance to Guildhall yard (formerly the site of the cloister) and an internal doorway to the site of the monastic kitchen at the west end; later the prison. At the east end a building with a vaulted undercroft (possibly the Prior's lodging) formed the nucleus of the grammar school established in 1553. The buried remains of the priory church and its claustral buildings which lie within the churchyard and beneath the lane and a small portion of the Anglo-Saxon burgh including part of its defensive ramparts are scheduled.


Udyrysz, M. + Clark, A., 2018, St Mary’s Churchyard, Totnes, Devon: Geophysical Survey (Report - Geophysical Survey). SDV360973.

A Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey was conducted at St Mary’s Church in Totnes, Devon. The survey covered approximately 2800m² in the churchyard. A number of anomalies which may be caused by burials were found. Further anomalies possibly associated with foundations were identified south-east and north-west of the area together with potential services in the northern part.

Discrete and complex features have been identified at depths between 0.20 and 1.00 metres, and are thought to be related to possible remains of structural features such as walls or foundations of previous priory buildings.

An anomaly possibly related to a structure has been found at depths 0.20-1.00m. This is found in the south east of the church yard. It seems that this could be related to a defensive structure due to the priory’s troubled history.

A complex, linear discrete feature has been recognised running across the path on the east side of the church at a depth of 0.20-0.30 metres. There is no obvious explanation for this but it may be of archaeological interest. Given its positioning perpendicular to the path it may be related to a wall, if so it is almost certainly debris and not intact.

Around the north-east elevation of the church there are numerous anomalies at depths of 0.80-1.55 metres. These could be related to the priory’s walls or could be previous chest tombs which have since been moved. Due to their proximity to the path it is difficult to identify these accurately.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV136066Article in Serial: Masterman, J. H. B.. 1931. Address of the President: The Monasteries of Devon. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 63. A5 Hardback. 74.
SDV168929Article in Serial: Windeatt, E.. 1880. An Historical Sketch of Totnes. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 12. Hardback Volume. 162.
SDV169685Article in Serial: Rea, C. F.. 1925. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 57. A5 Hardback. 275, 278-279.
SDV169686Monograph: Russell, P. M. G.. 1964. The Good Town of Totnes. Unknown. 10-12, 36, 48-49.
SDV169688Article in Serial: Whitely, H. M.. 1916. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 48. A5 Hardback. 197-198.
SDV169691Personal Comment: Griffiths, D. M.. 1982.
SDV169693Article in Serial: Benson, J.. 1940 - 1941. Foundation of Totnes Priory. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 21. Unknown. 22-23.
SDV169694Article in Serial: Reichel, O. J.. 1918 - 1919. Totnes Priory and Medieval Town. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 10. Unknown. 12-15.
SDV169695Monograph: Watkin, H. R.. 1914. History of Totnes Priory and Medieval Town. Unknown.
SDV169696Article in Serial: Watkin, H. R.. 1909 - 1914. Charters of Totnes Priory. Transactions of the Torquay Natural History Society. 1. Unknown. 271-273.
SDV169701Report - Survey: Passmore, A.. 2002. Archaeological Recording at the Guildhall Yard, Totnes. Exeter Archaeology Report. 4713. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV169702Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2003. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV169703Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2004. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV169711Article in Serial: Anonymous. 1930. Unknown. Archaeological Journal. 70. Unknown. 550-552.
SDV169712Article in Serial: Eden, P.. 1957. Unknown. Archaeological Journal. 114. Unknown. 117.
SDV169720Article in Serial: Watkin, H. R.. 1918 - 1919. Totnes Priory and Medieval Town. Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries. 10. Unknown. 56-59.
SDV233104Article in Serial: Thompson, M. W.. 1986. Unknown. Archaeological Journal. 143. Unknown. 305-321, Table 2.
SDV256356Article in Serial: Birch, W de G.. 1872. On Three Lists of Monasteries Compiled in the Thirteenth Century. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. 28. Unknown. 45-64.
SDV321077Correspondence: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2004. Scheduled Monument Consent Letter. Letter.
SDV323253Monograph: Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R. N.. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales. Unknown + Digital (part). 57, 78.
SDV326574Personal Comment: Department of Environment. 1952.
SDV340328Report - Assessment: Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants. 1996. Assessment of Civic Centre Area, Totnes. Keystone Historic Buildings Consultants Report. K477. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV346817Schedule Document: Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 2002. Totnes Priory. The Schedule of Monuments. A4 Stapled. [Mapped feature: #109266 ]
SDV346818Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card: Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division. 1951. SX86SW11. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Card. Card Index.
SDV346819National Monuments Record Database: National Monuments Record. 2011. 446464. National Monuments Record Database. Website.
SDV360973Report - Geophysical Survey: Udyrysz, M. + Clark, A.. 2018. St Mary’s Churchyard, Totnes, Devon: Geophysical Survey. SUMO Survey. 12233. Digital.
SDV4676Article in Serial: French, K. + French, C.. 1957. Devonshire Plasterwork. Transactions of the Devonshire Association. 89. A5 Hardback. 134.
SDV57424Monograph: Oliver, G.. 1846. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Monasticon Diocesis Exoniensis. Unknown. 238-243.
SDV64198Monograph: Griffith, F. M.. 1988. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Devon's Past. An Aerial View. Paperback Volume. 89.

Associated Monuments

MDV9083Related to: 5 and 5a Guildhall Yard, Totnes (Building)
MDV14233Related to: 65 Fore Street, Totnes (Building)
MDV9085Related to: Guildhall, Guildhall Yard, Totnes (Building)
MDV9069Related to: The Church of St Mary, High Street, Totnes (Building)
MDV18251Related to: The Priory, Totnes (Building)
MDV9063Related to: Totnes Castle (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV7528 - Geophysical Survey: St Mary’s Churchyard, Totnes, Devon (Ref: 12233)

Date Last Edited:Apr 16 2018 10:43AM