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Record Details

HER Number:00413/01
Type of record:Monument
Name:St Mary's Priory at Hampole


St Mary's Priory, a Cistercian nunnery at Hampole founded c.1150 and dissolved 1539

Grid Reference:SE 506 103
Map Sheet:SE51SW
Parish:HAMPOLE, Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Map:Show location on GoogleMaps (to an accuracy of 100m only)

Monument Types:

  • NUNNERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CEMETERY (Medieval - 1150 AD to 1529 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Medieval - 1156 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Finds:

  • None
  • Full Description

    <1> Hampole Priory was a house of Cistercian nuns founded c.1150 by William de Clairfait and Avicia his wife. The chief claim to fame of the priory is as the home and burial place of Richard Rolle, the famous medieval mystic and writer, who in the second quarter of the 14th century served as priest and spiritual adviser to the nuns, and probably lived in a cell attached to the priory church. Rolle died in 1349, probably from the Black Death. A shrine was erected over his tomb in the later 14th century and a number of miraculous healings are reported to have taken place there in the following centuries. It was probably partly due to the influence of Rolle that the priory remained an establishment of reasonable size up to the Dissolution in 1539, 'when there was a / prioress (Isabel Arthington), a sub-prioress and seventeen nuns.

    Nothing now remains above ground level of the priory buildings (with the possible exception of some masonry in the walls of farm outbuildings) although a large number of carved stones and architectural fragments either lie in local rockeries or have been re-used in houses nearby. In 1925 a small-scale excavation revealed medieval walling and features near the village school. In 1937 Professor C.E.Whiting dug a number of trenches in the field on the north side of the village, locating extensive structural remains of a number of medieval buildings which probably formed part of the main claustral complex. Whiting's work seems to have been limited to the location and following of walls, and both his archaeological techniques and published account in the 'Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' were poor by the standards of the day, let alone those of a more modern era. His work did however establish that substantial remains of the priory do exist beneath the surface - some walls still stood to a height of seven courses.

    Whilst the majority of the larger abbeys and priories in Yorkshire have been fairly fully excavated (often in the 19th century when archaeological science was in its infancy) surprisingly little is known of the smaller monastic houses and in particular the nunneries. In contrast to the houses of monks and canons, there is no Yorkshire nunnery where sufficient remains above ground to elucidate even the basic ground plan. A few sites retain part of the nunnery church - notably Nun Monkton, near York - but few have even fragments of their domestic buildings. Only Kirklees near Halifax has seen any excavation, and that was almost eighty years ago ('Yorks. Arch. Journal XX, p.24-32, 1909).

    The site of Hampole Priory is thus of considerable importance to the understanding of medieval religious houses in the North of England. In South Yorkshire it is unique in being the only medieval, monastic house in the county in which the site remains, in part at least, unbuilt on and available for excavation by modern methods. The substantial remains of buildings known to exist beneath the turf might well warrant conservation and display as a visible monument and a valuable cultural amenity, doubly important through both its archaeological significance and its historical connections with Richard Rolle.
    P.F.Ryder, South Yorkshire County Archaeology Service, 10. 8. 83

    <2> Some excavation 1937 by C E Whiting - a church was located. A few architectural fragments reused in various buildings.
    References: W.R. Yorkshire 1923 p.242-3 (Morris), South Yorkshire Vol.1 1831 p.356-9 (Hunter), YAJ 34 1939 p. 204-12 (C E Whiting), V.C.H. II 163-5, 175

    Sources and further reading

    <1>SSY963 - Unpublished document: South Yorkshire Archaeology Unit. See Record. South Yorkshire Archaeology Unit Site Inspection Record.
    <2>SSY213 - Unpublished document: South Yorkshire Archaeology Service. c1974-c2003. SMR Card. Indexed according to PIN Number.

    Related records

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