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Latitude: 52.3795 / 52°22'46"N
Longitude: -1.3902 / 1°23'24"W
OS Eastings: 441603
OS Northings: 275890
OS Grid: SP416758
Mapcode National: GBR 7NW.WW7
Mapcode Global: VHBX6.VGD7
Entry Name: The Priory
Listing Date: 4 December 1951
Last Amended: 25 January 2012
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1365082
English Heritage Legacy ID: 308862
Location: Wolston, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV8
Civil Parish: Wolston
Built-Up Area: Wolston
Traditional County: Warwickshire
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Warwickshire
Church of England Parish: Wolston St Margaret
Church of England Diocese: Coventry
House largely of C16 date, incorporating C14/C15 fabric, with later alterations and additions.
MATERIALS: red sandstone ashlar with light-coloured stone dressings to the main, south, elevation with roughly-squared, coursed lias stone with a red sandstone plinth and dressings to other elevations. The house incorporates C14/C15 timber framing to the interior and some C16/C17 timber framing to gable ends and the cross passage. Clay tile roof with rebuilt brick stacks, set on the diagonal to the roof. Some brick refacing to the east end of the hall block and to the C20 kitchen addition.
PLAN: hall range with cross passage and projecting porch; cross wing to west; C16/C17 chamber block to north; C20 brick kitchen addition to east.
EXTERIOR: two storeys to the central block increasing to three to the chamber block and west wing. The principal (south) elevation is of four bays, the first and the third formed by the gabled ends, with moulded finials and skewbacks, of the west wing and cross passage porch respectively. There is a tall central gabled dormer to the main hall block, also with moulded finials. Windows are ovolo-moulded mullions, those to ground and first floor C20 replacements, transomed to ground floor. A moulded string course forms a hood mould to the windows on the ground floor with hood moulds elsewhere. To the porch a late C15/early C16 entrance arch with a four-centred moulded arch resting on moulded capitals, the moulding being continued down the jambs to splayed stops. The soffit of the arch and the jambs are panelled, and it has a hood-mould with large moulded square stops. The doorway has a moulded four-centred arch under a square head with sunk spandrels and is fitted with a C16 oak door of vertical panels. A large external stack, which formerly stood to the right of the porch, was removed in the 1930s to create a garage. This has since been replaced by a modern mullioned and transomed window to match. C20 kitchen addition half-timbered to this side. The west front resembles the south, but with hood-moulds throughout and a square-headed doorway near the centre with its hood cut away.
The north elevation reflects the evolution of the building and is comprised of the gable end of the western cross wing; two bays of the C17 chamber block; the gable end of the cross passage and the re-clad eastern end of the hall block which has an external brick chimney, rising to a hexagonal stack. Two timber-framed gables to the chamber block are set above a long five-light timber mullioned window on the east side of the block to match the six light ovolo-moulded stone mullioned window below. Access to the cross passage is provided by a doorway with four-centred head similar to the south with a two-light window with hood-mould above.
INTERIOR: the interior has an evolved plan, although the main elements of the hall and cross passage, west wing and chamber block are still discernable. The present cellar, almost certainly formerly a further storey on the north and west, is thought to have been created by later landscaping. Stairs in the chamber block give access to the cellar which retains a late C16/early C17 Tudor-arched fireplace and fragments of stonework including a shaped corbel and a corbel with grotesque mask, probably from the former Priory to the west. The earliest in-situ fabric within the house is however the timber-framed east wall of the cross passage, dated to the late C14/early C15 on stylistic grounds, which is comprised of heavily jowled posts to either end supporting a mid-rail and tie-beam with a prick post with curved braces to either side. The former openings for a pair of doors are visible in the centre of the wall. Throughout the house retains fittings relating to its major periods of refurbishment in the C16; C17 and early C20. These include stone Tudor-arched doorways; a number of stone chimneypieces with flat-moulded heads carried down the jambs to splayed stops; chamfered transverse beams to the ground floor, some with ogee stops, others with run outs; and a number of plank doors. The more recent 1930s refurbishment is reflected in the Arts and Crafts blind arcading and copper hood to the fireplace in the ground floor of the west wing; eared-architraves to some doors and some of the window furniture to the casements. There is a good C17 stair to the west wing with a modern stair to the east of the cross passage.
Roofs are varied but generally comprise pegged and collared trusses, some with tie-beams, supporting paired purlins, some with windbracing. There are some closed trusses, that to the porch with a date of 1787 in the plaster to the left of the door giving access to the roof space.
Painted on the sloping ceiling in one of the attics is an inscription in black letters, only partly legible: ‘I goe to bed as to my….knowes when…..Lord……thou with me…..take Decem. 1646’.
Wolston Priory was established on land granted by Hubert Boldron to the Benedictine Abbey of St Pierre-sur-Dive in Sees, France at sometime between 1086 and 1194. The original grant appears to have been modest, comprising the church of Wolston with its privileges and two hides of land. Frequent references to a prior at Wolston throughout the C13th and C14th suggest that the priory remained of modest size and endowment. Certainly by 1388, an inquisition records that the hall, stable, grange and barn at the priory were dilapidated with Nicholas Cheryton, a monk of Westminster, farming at the rectory which he had leased from the abbey. Control of the priory was transferred from St Pierre-sur-Dive to the Carthusian house at Coventry with which it remained until the Dissolution.
The earthwork remains of the presumed site of Wolston Priory are a Scheduled Ancient Monument (1007721) and lie to the west of the building now known as Wolston Priory. An area of marshy land to the south of Priory Road has been interpreted as the site of fishponds, possibly associated with the earlier priory. The presence of early fabric within the present building has led to the suggestion that the present building known as Wolston Priory may represent part of the medieval priory. The documentary history of the priory site makes clear that the holding comprised not only the principal complex, but also a number of subsidiary holdings including the rectory which was identified as a distinct element in the 1388 valuation. It is this rectory that is identified with the present Wolston Priory, and the substantial timber-framed elements in the east wall of the cross-passage of the present house are likely to relate to this building, believed to have originally been a tall single-storey building open to the roof and orientated east to west.
First leased by Roger and Christian Wigston in 1522, the rectory was purchased by their son William after the dissolution, eventually becoming the principal residence of his son, Roger. It is likely that much of the rebuilding which has given the Priory its present appearance was undertaken during Roger’s ownership. It was here that John Penry, a religious reformer, reportedly printed some of the series of Marprelate tracts – a series of texts attacking the episcopacy of the Anglican Church and calling for religious reform. The rectory remained with the Wigston family until Roger Wigston’s death in 1608 when the estate was inherited by his grandson, Sir Peter Wentworth, remaining with the family until the early C18 when it was sold by the descendents of Fisher Wentworth. The estate was sold in the early C19 to the Wilcox family who retained it until circa 1926.
The house is depicted on a plan of 1869 associated with the Wilcox estate, although the building was not surveyed closely. The First Edition Ordnance Survey Map of 1886 shows the plan of the house much as it is today. Photographic evidence, supported by the fabric of the building, shows that an important phase of restoration took place in the early C20 and confirms that the land formerly fell away more sharply to the east, indicating that the now subterranean chamber to this side was formerly a full-height storey to this side.
The Priory at Wolston is Listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural interest: the building's exterior is a substantial C16 house of some architectural distinction, with good detailing, particularly in the gabled roofs, the chamfered and moulded doorways and the stone windows, and in the timber-framing to the rear elevation;
* Historic interest: the building incorporates part of an earlier timber-framed range dating to the late C14 or early C15, which can be identified as part of the priory at Wolston, which existed to the west of the house before the Dissolution;
* Evolution: the house retains fabric from phases in the C14/C15, C16, C17 and early C20, demonstrating the building's development and changing social mores;
* Interior: the interior retains a large number of features of interest, including early fireplaces, a C17 timber stair, chamfered and stopped stone doorways, ovolo-moulded window frames, timber-framed partitions, chamfered and stopped beams and joists, and good roof structures in the various ranges;
* Historic association: the house was one of a handful of sites where in 1588-9, John Penry set up a secret press, printing two of the famous Martin Marprelate tracts, a series of seven texts satirically attacking the episcopacy of the Anglican church and calling for religious reform.
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