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Kirby Bellars Priory

In the civil parish of Frisby and Kirby.
In the historic county of Leicestershire.
Modern Authority of Leicestershire.
1974 county of Leicestershire.
Medieval County of Leicestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SK71761838
Latitude 52.75870° Longitude -0.93850°

Kirby Bellars Priory has been described as a probable Fortified Manor House, and also as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


VCH records this site as a 'moated inclosure with stronger defensive works.'

Around the church, the greater part being on the north side, the site of an Augustinian priory is divided into quadrangular areas by banks varying from i ft. to 5 ft. in height. In the midst is a plot of land on a higher level than the surroundings, on three sides of which are excavations which probably served as fishponds, though possibly they were parts of a moat ; the general depth is 8 ft., but the south-west corner is 20 ft. deep. South of the church is another square site around which was formerly a bank, and a scarp of 25 ft. descended to the River Wreak. (VCH)

The earthworks cover an area of almost 200m square with a central square moat approximately 100 x 100m overall; the east and west arms measuring between 16-18m wide and up to 3m deep. The southern arm has been infilled and the northern arm partly infilled. Connecting channels indicating the water management system run from the north-east and south-east corners of the moat. The surface of the moat island has an uneven apperance and two small mounds less than 0.5m high connected by a low bank are situated on the eastern side of the island. Surrounding the moat is a ditch about 3m wide, an inner bank up to 1m high, an outer bank less than 0.5m high on three sides and a low bank on the western side. This is extended northwards from the north-east corner, surviving for 25m as a bank 6m wide and 0.5m tall. To the south of this enclosure are two banks flanking two ditches of similar dimensions which extend around the churchyard to the west. A further enclosure is created on the south-eastern side of the site by a ditch with outer bank measuring 0.5m and an inner bank up to 0.5m. The priory was founded as a chantry in 1316, becoming an Augustinian priory in 1359. The priory church was a separate chapel having the same dedication as the church to the south. By 1440 the priory possessed a chapter house and was dissolved in 1534. (PastScape–ref. scheduling report)

Lying in the flood plain of the River Wreake these moats may have functioned as flood defences and, possibly also as fish ponds, but they are also a strong defence. Was the priory equipped with other defensive features such as a drawbridge and gatehouse? The priory was founded as a chantry in 1316, becoming an Augustinian priory in 1359. The location, by the parish church, suggests this may have been the site of an earlier manor house. Did the local lord, Peter Beler, give away an existing moated manor house and build a new manor house at Kirby Hall away from the village centre, a trend noted in some other places.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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