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Craswall Priory, Craswall

SMR Number
: 167
Grid Reference
: SO 2725 3770

A house of the order of Grandmont, dedicated to St Mary, was founded at Craswall c.1225. House survived the general suppression of alien monasteries and continued until 1462. In 1441 it was given to God's House, Cambridge which was afterwards united to Christ's College. The remains of the Priory Church and claustral buildings are disintegrating, mainly due to frost damage especially due to excavation. Plan. (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(40)
Not all of the site is scheduled.
Founded 1220-25 by Walter de Lacy, Lord of Ewyas Harold and suppressed in the 15th century. Priory Church consisted of church with semicircular apsidal east end and nave. At the east end the walls are now only 5-6' above floor level but rise in height towards the west end of the chancel and the side walls of the nave are now 10-12' high. Cloister has traces of foundation of arcade wall. Chapter House has walls to the lower stones of windows. Also fragmentary remains of domestic buildings. Excavations largely restricted to church, chapter house and cloister. (8)
One of only three houses of this order in England, full history. Trees causing damage removed. (9)
An article by Carole Hutchison about the chapels at Craswall Priory. Note is made of the south chapel which appears to be the only one of its kind. Nowhere else did the Grandmontine builders provide a chapel which intervenes between the church and east range. It is thought that this chapel represents the first oratory built by the pioneer community. Further excavation would be needed to corroborate this. (11)
Walls of the nave to the west of two doorways set forward by about a foot. This was not rebuild but a deliberate feature common to all churches of the Grandmontine order. (13)
A collection of documents spanning 3.5 centuries relating to the Manor of Craswall is lodged in the Penpont and Maybery manuscript collections at the National Library of Wales. The Upper Township of Craswall was known as the Bull's Head Manor. In 1674 this manor was in the hands of Thomas Smyth of Tenbury Wells. The series of documents ends in 1853. (14)
Walter II had estates in Normandy, England, the south Welsh March and Meath in Ireland, and he was assessed at fifty-one and a quarter knights' fees in the 1190, 1194 and 1210 scutage. The foundation of the Priory must have taken place while Walter was sheriff, not after peace was restored in 1225. Craswall formed a vital link in the chain of castles that protected Herefordshire. It was visited by Henry III on his journey from Hay to Abergavenny. (15) (16) (17)
Historical information about the Order of Grandmont, a totally independent religious order. (Miss C Hutchison). (19)
Members of the archaeology section of the Woolhope Club visited the site on 19/03/78. R.E Kay has included a brief history of the Order of Grandmont and of the Priory at Crasswall. He also gives details about the architecture of the Grandmontine Order and a description of the remains of the priory. The priory's position, even today, is remote and difficult of access, and at an altitude of 1240' above sea level. The hills surrounding are rough pasture and woodland, but a mile or so to the west rise the barren and forbidding slopes of the Black Mountains. A first impression is one of remarkable seclusion; hidden by trees, the ruins are so thickly overgrown that they are not seen until one commences to walk over their scattered stones. Through the site runs a small stream - the Leth, which, diverted from its original course, now crosses the site of the frater. The general state of the ruins is deplorable and the walls, built of the local laminated red sandstone with inferior mortar, are everywhere dislocated by a riotous growth of trees and bushes. The excavations conducted under the auspices of the Woolhope Club in 1904-7 were only partial and included the clearing of the eastern portion of the cloister, the eastern half of the church and the whole of the chapter house. The excavations were seemingly undertaken with very little forethought and no attempt was made to preserve the walls and other details uncovered. Succeeding years of neglect have caused irreparable damage and much carved work has been lost or dispersed. The excavations of 1962 by C. Wright and R.E. Kay threw light on the plan and detail of the north and south chapels and the slype. These excavations were backfilled as completely as possible. The architecture of the priory is severe, except for the chapter house, and inclined to be ponderous in detail. The stone is dark and, unless paint and plaster were used extensively, the buildings must have exuded a rather gloomy and depressing atmosphere which would have done nothing to alleviate the rigorous Rule of the Order. (20)(41)
English Heritage Management Agreement for the period 01/07/2002 to 30/06/2005. (21)
A description of the results of the examination of the human remains found in a small leaden casket from the ruins of the priory. (22)
Observation on the ruins made on a visit in 1913. (23)
Report on the field study carried out in 1962 by students from the Liverpool College of Building on the ruins of Craswall Priory. (24)
After the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) religious orders with an allegiance to France were disbanded and their assets seized by the Crown. Full description and history. (25)
Article on the distribution of the bones of St Ursula and her followers and whether any relics came to Craswall Priory. (26)
Description of excavations undertaken between 1904-1908. (27)
Article on Craswall Priory and its history, including a series of photographs taken of the ruins in 1904. (28)
Chris Musson's 2003 B&W aerial photograph catalogue (29)
Chris Musson's 2003 colour slide aerial photograph catalogue (30)
Chris Musson 2006 colour negative aerial photograph catalogue. (31) (32) (33) (34)
English Heritage Section 17 Management Agreement for the period 16/02/2004 to 15/02/2009. (35)
English Heritage Section 17 Management Agreement for the period 03/03/2008 to 02/03/2011. (38)
English Heritage Section 17 Management Agreement for the period 16/02/2009 to 15/02/2012. (39)

Monument Type(s)

  1. PRIORY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Associated Files

    Sources and Further Reading

    1. <1>SHE6008 - Bibliographic reference: Ordnance Survey Record Card. 1972. SO23NE5. Ordnance Survey.
    2. <2>SHE9690 - Bibliographic reference: Knowles D and R N Hadcock. 1953. Medieval Religious Houses. Pages 103.
    3. <3>SHE6241 - Bibliographic reference: Bannister, A. Memoirs of Old Hereford. 129.
    4. <4>SHE267 - Bibliographic reference: Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. 1934. Inventory of Monuments, Herefordshire North-West, Vol III. Herefordshire North-West, Vol III. Pages 42.
    5. <5>SHE9611 - Document: Kay, R. 1960. MS Notes on Craswall Priory.
    6. <6>SHE659 - Bibliographic reference: 01/1967. Hereford News. 2.
    7. <7>SHE10741 - Bibliographic reference: Pevsner, N. 1963. Herefordshire. The Buildings of England. 107.
    8. <8>SHE3416 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. 09/1987. Schedule. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (English Heritage).
    9. <9>SHE1928 - Unpublished Report: Hutchison, C and Anon. 08/1985. Craswall Priory. Interim report on the site clearance works.. City of Hereford Archaeology Committee.
    10. <10>SHE11771 - Bibliographic reference: Robinson, Rev C J. 1872. A History of the Mansions and Manors of Herefordshire.
    11. <11>SHE9324 - Bibliographic reference: Hutchison, C. 1989. The Hermit Monks of Grandmont. Cistercian Studies 118.
    12. <12>SHE15173 - Unpublished Report: Shoesmith, R. 1997. Craswall Priory, Herefordshire. Archaeological recording associated with the phase 2 consolidation work. Archaeological Investigations Ltd. 324. Rep No. 324.
    13. <13>SHE14762 - Unpublished Report: Shoesmith, R. 1993. Craswall Priory, Herefordshire. Archaeological Works 1993. City of Hereford Archaeology Unit. 194. Rep No. 194.
    14. <14>SHE14094 - Bibliographic reference: Houston, Jenny. 1999. Olchon Development Project. Final Report. Local History Section. Olchon Development Project.
    15. <15>SHE15444 - Unpublished Report: Hillaby, Joe. 2003. Walter II de Lacy and the Foundation of Craswall Priory. unpublished document given to the SMR.
    16. <16>SHE15443 - Bibliographic reference: Hillaby, Joe. 1992. Colonisation, Crisis Management and Debt: Walter de Lacy and the Lordship of Meath, 1189-1241. Riocht na Midhe. VIII(iv) (1992/3) 1-50.
    17. <17>SHE15442 - Bibliographic reference: Hillaby, Joe. 1985. Hereford Gold: Irish, Welsh and English Land. Part 2. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. XLV.
    18. <18>SHE15441 - Serial: Anon. 1994. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 62. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 62. Pages 23.
    19. <19>SHE15438 - Serial: Halliwell, Peter (ed). 1993. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 59. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 59. Pages 7.
    20. <20>SHE15686 - Serial: Attfield, C E (ed). 1978. Herefordshire Archaeological News No. 35. Woolhope Club Archaeological Research Section. 35. Pages 3/4.
    21. <21>SHE15969 - Document: English Heritage. 2002. Notification of Section 17 Management Agreement for Craswall Priory, Associated Building Remains, Pond Bays & Hollow Ways, Craswall.
    22. <22>SHE16295 - Bibliographic reference: Cornwall, I W. 1966. A Human Relic from Craswall Priory, Herefordshire. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. XXXVIII 1966 Part III. 251-254. XXXVIII 1966 Part III. Pages 251-254.
    23. <23>SHE16500 - Bibliographic reference: 1915. Second Field Meeting - Craswall Priory, Near Hay. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. 1915. 48-53. 1915. Pages 49-52.
    24. <24>SHE16353 - Bibliographic reference: Wright, Cecil F.. 1964. Craswall Priory - Report of a field study made in 1962. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. XXXVIII 1964 Part I. 76-81. XXXVIII 1964 Part I. Pages 76-81.
    25. <25>SHE16546 - Bibliographic reference: Fleming-Yates, Joan. 2005. The River Running By. Wedderburn Art Ltd and Joan Fleming-Yates. Pages 11.
    26. <26>SHE16430 - Bibliographic reference: Marshall, George. 1942. Craswall Priory and bones of one of St Ursula's 11,000 virgins of Cologne. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. XXXI 1942 Part I. 18-21. XXXI 1942 Part I. Pages 18-21.
    27. <27>SHE16572 - Bibliographic reference: 1908. Craswall Priory Excavations. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. 1908-9-10-11. 36-40. 1908. Pages 36-40.
    28. <28>SHE16581 - Bibliographic reference: Lilwall, C.J.. 1904. Craswall Priory. Transactions of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club. 1904. 272-273. 1904. Pages 272-273.
    29. <29>SHE16873 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 31/08/2003. 03-MB-1379. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. B/W.
    30. <30>SHE17606 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 31/08/2003. 03-C-1278. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. Colour.
    31. <31>SHE18227 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 2006. 06-CN-0920A. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. 645Colour.
    32. <32>SHE18228 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 2006. 06-CN-0921A. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. 645Colour.
    33. <33>SHE18231 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 2006. 06-CN-0924A. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. 645Colour.
    34. <34>SHE18233 - Aerial Photograph: Musson, C R. 2006. 06-CN-0926A. The Herefordshire Aerial Survey Phase I. Oblique. 645Colour.
    35. <35>SHE18804 - Document: English Heritage. 2004. Notification of Section 17 Management Agreement for Craswall Priory - Dam, Pond, and Additional Area, Craswall.
    36. <36>SHE18864 - Unpublished Report: S T Walker & Partners. 1990. Craswall Priory, Hereford and Worcester. Architect's Report: September 1990.
    37. <37>SHE18865 - Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1996. Craswall Priory, associated building remains, pond bays and hollow ways.
    38. <38>SHE18866 - Document: English Heritage. 2009. Notification of Section 17 Management Agreement for Craswall Priory, associated building remains, pond bays and hollow ways, Craswall.
    39. <39>SHE18867 - Document: English Heritage. 2010. Notification of Section 17 Management Agreement for Craswall Priory, Dam, Pond and Additional Area, Craswall.
    40. <40>SHE9628 - Graphic material: Kay, R. Sketch Plan of Craswall Priory.
    41. <41>SHE19055 - Article in serial: Kay, R E. 1978. "The Grandmontine Priory of St Mary at Crasswall", Herefordshire Archaeological News, No. 35, 1978. 4-7.

    Associated events

    Protected status

    1. Listed Building (II) 355313: CRASWALL PRIORY

    Associated Historic Landscape Character Records

    1. HHE392 - Small Compass Enclosure of the Landscape - Reconfiguration of Monastic Territory
    Last Updated: 23/07/2010 12:35:57