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Monument record MDR4746 - Breadsall Priory (site of), Moor Road, Breadsall

Type and Period (6)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Full Description

The priory at Breadsall was founded during the 13th century according to documentary evidence. After the dissolution of the monasteries the priory buildings appeared to fall into disuse for approximately 60 years before being purchased by Sir John Bentley. This would accord with the architecture of the oldest parts of the present 'Priory House' which belong to the end of Elizabeth's reign or the beginning of James's reign. An engraving of the house, published in 1791 in Blore's account of the manor and priory, shows the structure with steep-pitched gables and four storeys of lofty mullioned windows. The engraving also shows a large timber dovecote north east of the house, octagonal in shape diminishing in size towards the top. This may have been of great antiquity, as a dovecote is mentioned at the priory in 1291. Cox, writing in 1877, states that there were no above ground remains of the old priory except for a few moulded stones that formed part of the rockeries on the north lawn. Excavations by Sir Francis Darwin [c.1858] on the north side of the 'Priory House' to locate the dovecote foundations, uncovered the substantial foundations of the chapel. Fragments of two elegantly moulded trefoil headed arches were also recovered during the excavations and carefully put together. Cox states that there is no doubt that these were from the original priory and regrets that they were again pulled down and dispersed during recent alterations. Cox describes a rivulet that passes through the grounds, which used to keep the fish ponds well supplied. The horse-shoe pond, which Cox describes as being close to the house, was probably one of the old ones. (1) The Elizabethan house which now occupies the site of the old priory, "was built by Sir John Bentley (died 1621) in the latter part of the reign of Elizabeth, but it was very considerably enlarged and the old walls re-faced by the late Mr. Francis Morley". An arch of the Augustinian Priory, founded in the 13th century, is incorporated in the basement. (2) Currey, writing in 1905, states that careful inspection of the current house fails to show any [upstanding] buildings that can be attributed to monastic times. The Elizabethan house built by Bentley remains almost intact and incorporated into the current mansion. Some walls identified in the cellar almost certainly represent the remnants of the foundation of the Priory. (3) The Augustinian Canons' Priory Cell, at Breadsall, was founded in the 13th century 'well before it was first recorded' in the Patent Roll of 1266. The document states that Henry III made a ' grant in frank-almoin for the saving of souls of the king and his ancestors and heirs to the brethren of the hermitage of twenty acres of land in Horsle and Harestan'. It is the use of the word 'hermitage' that led Cox to at first believe that the house was founded as a priory, and it was not until later that it become an establishment of Austin Canons. Later, he argues that Breadsall was always a priory of Austin Canons, describing it as a an apparent 'error, on the part of the scribe'. The priory is described as being a "very small priory, probably for three or four canons at most, the income in 1291, being nearly £6. In 1535 there were no canons apart from the prior". (5, 6, 7, 8) The site of an Augustinian priory founded in the 13th century of which only an arch and a drain survive in the basement of the Jacobean house built by Bentley. The three storey Elizabethan house survives intact on the top floor and is visible on the outside in a few gables. The extensive gothic enlargements are of c. 1861 by Robert Scrivener. An Elizabethan wing was added after 1899 by Sir Alfred Haslam. The house is now a hotel and golf club. (9) An observation in 1967 noted that, although externally the Priory House appeared to be modern, it had 13th century work which was extant in the cellars. (10) An archaeological watching brief was carried out at Breadsall Priory by Trent and Peak Archaeological Unit in 1999. The watching brief was undertaken during groundworks associated with the construction of a new external stairwell access to the existing vaulted basement and cellars in the northeast corner of the building. Two walls were discovered outside the former window opening where the external access was being created. These walls indicated that this was once an earlier external access point to the cellars that had been infilled at some point and, perhaps at a later date, was reused as a window opening. (12) Stone carved head has been found in the garden of the hotel and has been roughly dated to the 12th century, similar to those at Darley Abbey. (13)

Sources/Archives (12)

  • <1> Bibliographic reference: Cox, J C. 1877. Notes on the Churches of Derbyshire, Vol. III. pp 67-78.
  • <3> Bibliographic reference: Bulmer, T and Co.. 1895. History, Topography and Directory of Derbyshire. p 712.
  • <4> Article in serial: Currey, P. 1905. 'Breadsall Priory, The Priory', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 27, pp 127-37. pp 127 -137, Pl. 1.
  • <5> Article in serial: Cox, J. 1905. 'The History of Breadsall Priory' Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 27. pp 138-149.
  • <6> Bibliographic reference: Cox, J C. 1907. 'The Religious Houses of Derbyshire', in The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Derbyshire. Volume II, pp 54-56. pp 54-56.
  • <7> Article in serial: Fisher, F. 1953. 'Notes on the Manorial History of Horsley', Derbyshire Archaeological Journal. Volume 73. pp 64-5.
  • <8> Bibliographic reference: Knowles, D & Hadcock, R. 1953. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. pp 129, 203.
  • <9> Bibliographic reference: Pevsner, N. 1953. The Buildings of England: Derbyshire, 1st edition. p 108.
  • <10> Personal Observation: F1 FDC 02-JAN-67.
  • <11> Index: TPAT. 2217. 2217.
  • <12> Unpublished document: Sheppard, R (TPAU). 1999. An archaeological watching brief at Breadsall Priory, Derbyshire. HER Doc. No. 496.
  • <13> Correspondence: D'Arcy, J. 2006. Email regarding stone heads found at Breadsall Priory, 2nd May, 2006.



Grid reference Centred SK 3802 4153 (380m by 256m) Centre

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

  • EDR744
  • EDR2757

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Record last edited

Jan 26 2024 2:58PM

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