Monument record MCC7950 - St Botolph's Priory, Colchester


St Botolph's Priory, founded at the close of the 11th century AD, was the first house of Augustinian Canons in the country.


Grid reference TL 9995 2497 (point) (FCE)
Map sheet TL92SE


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

Colchester - St Botolph's Priory Founded at the close of the C11, this was the first house of Augustinian Canons in the country. The priory was suppressed in 1536 and mostly destroyed except the nave, or such part as was parochial. The building was entirely ruined in the siege of 1648. Apart from minor details, the whole of what remains is of the mid C12. Seven bays remain from the nave which probably once extended further E. The W front extends as one composition the full width of the nave and aisles and was flanked by the two western towers. The N tower is ruined to near the ground while the lowest stage survives of the southern tower. Of the front itself, a fragment at the end of the S arcade rises to almost full height but the rest is ruined. The richly ornamented W doorway and the S aisle doorway largely survive but little remains of the N aisle doorway. The west front was richly decorated with window recesses and wall-arcading. Later features include C13 and C14 windows in the aisle walls. Nothing remains of the domestic buildings S of the church except the base of the N arcade wall of the cloister. A thick rubble wall incorporated in the house `now' shop, No 37 Botolph Street, is probably part of the entramnce or gateway to the Priory. According to the RCHM glass in a case in the Sw tower was found in excavations (when?). There is a C14 niche in the first column from the E of the N arcade. In the N aisle, on the N wall, painted masons lines on plaster are probably C14. Remains of tile paving in the nave and aisles also recorded by the RCHM. RCHM has plates and plan of the church. <1> Built almost entirely of stone and brick reused from Roman buildings. <3> Originally secular in 1093, established as the priory of St Julian and St Botolph before 1106, the first Augustinian house in England. <4> Church probably existed prior to the founding of the monastic establishment in 1093-1100. The church lies in an extensive Roman cemetery and a tessellated floor was found to the N (see for Roman remains). The first house in England to adopt the Augustinian Rule, c.1104-6. However, there is difficulty in assigning a precise date to the foundation. Colchester was a house of secular canons from 1093, and later decided to embrace the full religious life. A house was established for Augustinian Canons before 1107, probably sometime between 1104 and 1106. See original of this source for detailed refs. <8> Other ref. <9>

Site Assessment = The use of Roman brick so extensively in a building is unusual. The whole of the wall surfaces were no doubt originally plastered. <1> The building is immensely impressive as a ruin, but the grim severity which the absence of all surface embelishment gives may have been a quality of the church even when it was new. To an extent it would share this quality with all Early Norman buildings. <2> The west front is particularly fine, with curious interlacing arcades in brick. <3> Ground levels and sheds with light foundations suggest substantial remains of the transepts and eastern arms of the Priory church may still survive and are

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.48-50.
  • <2> DESC TEXT: Pevsner, N. 1954. The Buildings of England, Essex. pp122-123.
  • <3> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest:Colchester. p114.
  • <4> RECORD SHEET/FORM: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS cards. TL92NE3.144, 1976.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1960 0nwards. SMR form unknown.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: Department of the Environment. 1982. SMR.
  • <7> Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. 1986. DOE Scheduled Ancient Monuments, parts 5-8.
  • <8> DESC TEXT: Robinson, DM. 1980. The Geography of Augustinian Settlement. No 80, pp12-15, copy in SMR.
  • <9> DESC TEXT: Charles, D and Hadcock, RN. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses. p139, 155.

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Record last edited

Jan 9 2017 11:58AM

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