Listed Building: REMAINS OF BEAUVALE PRIORY (5.8.19)

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Grade II*
EH LBS Legacy ID 429606
Date assigned Wednesday, May 14, 1952
Date last amended Thursday, May 15, 2014


Summary of Building The standing remains of the Priory Church and the Prior's Lodgings which form the principal surviving buildings of the Carthusian Priory at Beauvale in Nottinghamshire. Founded by Nicholas de Cantilupe in 1343 with C15 extensions, the Priory was dissolved in 1537. Reasons for Designation The standing remains of Beauvale Priory comprising the walls of the Priory Church and the attached Prior's Lodgings, buildings of more than special interest, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * Historic interest: Beauvale was a Carthusian charterhouse established in 1343. The order was the first to be placed at risk following the passing of Henry VIII’s Act of Succession in 1534. Two of its priors, John Houghton and Robert Lawrence were executed for refusing to acknowledge the monarch as the Head of the Church, and were both canonised in 1970; * Architectural interest: the substantial remains provide clear evidence of the form and layout of the heart of the monastic settlement, with well-preserved detailing, which, when read together with the archaeological evidence form a resource of outstanding architectural interest; * Rarity: Beauvale is one of only nine Carthusian charterhouses to be established in medieval England. The order was unique amongst monastic Orders in its focus upon solitude and individual meditation rather than communal activity and worship. This approach had a direct impact upon the structure of the settlement, which is evident from the standing remains; * Group value: the standing remains of the Priory include not only the Church Walls and the Prior's Lodgings, but also the Gatehouse Range (Listed separately at Grade II) and a section of the boundary or precinct wall (Listed separately at Grade II). All of the structures are included within an extensive area of archaeological remains designated as a Scheduled Monument (Beauvale Carthusian Priory, National Heritage List for England entry 1002920). History The Carthusian Order was founded in the C11, arriving in England in 1178 long after the establishment of other monastic orders in the country. Only 9 charter houses were founded here, the first being established in the C12 or C13. Carthusian settlements provided a community of contemplative monks with facilities for worship, accommodation and, to some extent, subsistence. Carthusian life was centred on solitude and favoured meditation over communal meeting. In taking this approach to monastic life the Carthusians were unique amongst orders in the West. In contrast to other monastic establishments, the components of the charterhouse were devoted to individual accommodation in preference to communal buildings. Most notable were the individual cells and gardens built for each monk, arranged around a great cloister. In addition to these cells, each monastery had a main church, workshops, guesthouses, kitchens and other buildings, enclosed within some form of boundary. Like other monastic communities, the Carthusians were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of their vast land holdings, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. Beauvale Priory was founded in 1343 by Sir Nicholas de Cantilupe, who was given permission by Edward III to establish a priory for the Carthusian Order at Beauvale to accommodate a prior and twelve monks. The foundation charter was signed in 1343 granting the priory 300 acres of land, properties and further land in the nearby villages of Greasley and Selston, and an endowment of £100 yearly. This was to secure the construction of ‘a fit church and houses sufficient for a prior and twelve monks’ with permission to quarry stone for the buildings and to dig marl for enriching the farmland. The Priory was centred on the Priory Church, the first permanent building to be erected on the site, with a chapter house, prior’s house, cloister and twelve cells, refectory, lay brothers quarters and cloister, gatehouse and lodgings and a precinct wall enclosing the priory. Sir Nicholas died in 1356, only 13 years after the foundation and by 1375, with the death of his grandchildren without heirs, the annual endowment ceased. By this time, the priory was already in a parlous state. The Etwall Charter of 1370 refers to the plight of the monks and the condition of the site, aid being needed for ‘their sustentation and of the reparation of their priory which is said to be ruinous’. A far greater threat to the site was posed by the Reformation, with Beauvale finding itself in the forefront of the confrontation between Henry VIII and the Papacy. Following the Act of Succession in 1534, and Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn, the king assumed the title of Supreme Head on earth of the English Church. In 1535 it became high treason to deny that the king held this title and accompanying authority in ecclesiastical matters. Soon after the passing of the Act of Succession, the Carthusian Order fell under scrutiny by royal commissioners and required to confirm adherence to the new law which legitimised the succession to the throne of children born to Boleyn. John Houghton, who had been prior of Beauvale before becoming prior of the London charterhouse, and Robert Lawrence, his successor at Beauvale, were tried and executed for treason in 1535. From that moment Beauvale was increasingly at risk, with a layman installed to replace Prior Lawrence. As the dissolution of monastic holdings gathered pace, Beauvale was surrendered to the Royal Commissioners on 18th July 1539. In 1539, Beauvale was granted to Sir William Hussey of Kneesall Park in Nottinghamshire, but almost immediately, he too was tried and executed for treason, and Beauvale then passed to his son, William, in 1541. From that date onwards, Beauvale passed through a succession of owners. A description of the Beauvale estate in 1707 refers to ‘repairing, upholding supporting and maintaining the said monastery, Grange house and other houses’ together with other buildings and ‘a water mill with appurtenances’. This description suggests that at the time, a substantial remnant of the monastic site remained in use. From 1805 until 1915, the estate was owned by the Cowper family and remained a tenanted farm holding until the late 1990’s when it was sold to the present owners. In 1908, a limited area of the Priory site was excavated by the Thoroton Society, leaving the greater part of the site to the west of the surviving buildings undisturbed. In 1995, a geophysical survey of the site took place, which provided enhanced information about the layout of the site, including the cloister and surrounding house platforms, earthworks and ponds. Beauvale was one of the earliest sites to receive statutory protection as an Ancient Monument, on the 10th April 1915, under the ground-breaking legislation of 1913. Various phases of research, consolidation and restoration have taken place over many years and these are well documented in the Nottinghamshire Historic Environment Record (HER) and in the National Record of the Historic Environment ( and will not be repeated in detail here. Details The remains of the Church and attached Prior’s Lodgings of the Carthusian Priory, founded by Nicholas de Cantilupe in 1343 with C15 extensions and dissolved 1537. The buildings form an L-shaped complex of buildings, the site of the church represented by substantial sections of the nave north and south side walls. Attached to the south nave wall at its west end, and extending southwards is a tall roofed building identified as the Prior's Lodgings. Its north-east corner incorporates the moulded south jamb of the church’s west window. At the east end of the south wall is a single-storied outbuilding built against, but not bonded into, the medieval walling. THE PRIORY CHURCH MATERIALS The Church walls are built of coursed rubble calcareous sandstone, believed to have been quarried locally, with Derbyshire gritstone dressings. The attached Prior's Lodgings appear to be built of a different coursed squared sandstone of varied course depth, with ashlar gritstone dressings. The south gable apex has been replaced in red brick, and the building is roofed in C20 clay tiles. EXTERIOR The remains of the Priory Church walls survive to a maximum height of c.5m. The nave south wall is c.20m in length and is the more substantial of the two. It retains on its southern face a pointed arched doorway to the west side, the arch head with a simple deep chamfer. Above the arch head, a plain narrow band course extends the length of the visible masonry, which is interrupted by the later outbuilding built against the nave wall on the east side. This conceals any remaining section of the band course and a blocked doorway into the nave, visible on the inner wall face. Below the string course to the east of the doorway are three roughly evenly spaced corbels, the most easterly set below a wide C14 pointed-arched window opening. The opening has a moulded surround and the remains of tracery within the arch head, set below a hood mould with plain stops. The inner face of the wall has three openings, one of which, set behind the outbuilding on the south face, is blocked. This and the inner face of the doorway in the west section of walling have shallow plain segmental arched heads. Beyond this doorway, the masonry returns for a short distance as a fragment of the former west end wall, and incorporates part of a moulded jamb of a tall west window, now embedded in the masonry of the north-east corner of the Prior's Lodgings. The east end of the south wall terminates at a low return section of walling extending southwards, the thickness of which suggests that it may have incorporated a buttress. The nave north wall is c.7m in length. It retains a small section area of a moulded surround to an opening at its west end, and, in its north face, a vertical indentation with some projecting stonework suggesting a removed buttress. THE PRIOR'S LODGINGS The Prior’s Lodgings is built against, and incorporates sections of, the nave south wall. It is of two storeys set above basement or undercroft areas, with an attic level accessed by means of a circular stone stair rising from the ground floor to attic level in the south-west corner of the building. The building appears to have provided access by means of a vaulted passage from the south side of the nave to the cloister to the west, and was later adapted for agricultural use. PLAN The building is rectangular in shape, with an off-centre passage flanked by undercroft bays to either side. No internal sub-divisions survive above this level. EXTERIOR The east elevation is faced in coursed squared sandstone to eaves level with substantial quoins to the south east corner. At the north end, immediately adjacent to the nave south wall is a wide pointed arch-headed doorway rising from imposts. The arch is stepped, both levels with a deep chamfer, and set below a hood mould. Above this is a relieving arch of roughly-shaped voussoirs. To the left hand side of the arch is the stub of a low wall which formerly extended eastwards. At first floor level, above the arch is a two-light window set within an ashlar surround, formerly with a chamfer mullion, the seatings for which survive in the surround head and sill. The south elevation is devoid of openings, but has the profile of an asymmetrical roof pitch of a later outbuilding incised in its masonry. The south-west corner of the building is poorly finished at lower level, suggesting that the lower section at least originally extended further to the south. The west elevation has three openings at ground floor level. The central opening is the west doorway to the passage with a pointed arched head below a hood mould. The ashlar doorway surround is set within an area of calcareous sandstone walling matching the fabric of the church walls, and extending at ground floor level from the left of the doorway to the north-west corner of the building. Either side of the doorway, at arch head level is a plain corbel set below a narrow band course formed from the sandstone of the upper part of the elevation. To the left of the central arched opening is a later, crudely-formed inserted doorway with a timber lintel. To the right-hand end of the elevation is a smaller, lower pointed-arch headed doorway with an ashlar surround and a hood mould, Above this at first floor level is a small lancet, lighting the spiral stair to which the doorway below formerly gave access. The upper floor has three blocked window openings formerly of two lights. The central window retains its chamfer mullion within the blocking. The north elevation incorporates areas of calcareous sandstone walling to both corners, that to the north-east with the embedded jamb of a window to the church west end. The north-west corner is poorly formed at lower level, suggesting that the wall at this level may originally have extended further north. At low ground floor level on the left side is a narrow pointed arch-headed doorway with an unmoulded ashlar surround. Above the arch head is another relieving arch in roughly-shaped masonry. Above this is a small former two-light mullioned window. Further to the right, at a higher level is a taller arch-headed doorway approached by a low flight of narrow stone steps. A narrow sloping band course extends from the north-east corner across the gable, above the lower of the two doorways and is interrupted by the higher doorway, as it sloped upwards to the north-east corner. It appears to define the junction between the calcareous sandstone below it and the more regularly coursed sandstone above. Whether the use of two different stones represents a change of material during construction, or a later remodelling is not known. INTERIOR The interior of the ground floor level incorporates two areas of stone vaulting. The central passage is formed with a pointed vault extending the full width of the building, with an area of collapsed masonry at the western end, adjacent to an internal entrance into the north bay which has latterly been used to house animals. A second area of stone vaulting is located at the rear of the south bay, accessed by means of the doorway at the south end. The doorway leads into the compartment which formerly housed the spiral stair, its carefully coursed masonry lining retaining the recesses in which the stair treads were seated. Beyond the base of the stair compartment is a short section of vaulting terminating at a closed end. The inner face of the south gable incorporates two hearths, one at first floor level with a wide, deep lintel set on stone jambs, the other set above at upper floor level of much narrower proportions, and possibly originally with a stone hood, some of the masonry of which appears to survive. The roof structure appears to be C19 or later, with trusses with raking struts supporting two tiers of purlins.

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Grid reference Centred SK 49231 49058 (22m by 20m)
Map sheet SK44NE
District Broxtowe
Civil Parish Greasley, Broxtowe

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Apr 29 2015 11:39AM

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