MSO8840 - St Nicholas Priory or Barlynch Priory or Barlinch Priory, Brompton Regis (Building)


St Nicholas Priory at Barlynch, an Augustinian cell of Cleeve Abbey, was founded in 1174-89 and dissolved c.1537. Ruins of a probable guest house or infirmary and earthworks of a fishpond, leat and other buildings are visible. Fragments of wall thought to be the church and cloister are incorporated into garden walls and later buildings.

Please read the Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record .

Type and Period (7)

Protected Status

Full Description

[SS 9292 2898] Barlinch Abbey (remains of) (NAT) St Nicholas's Priory (NR) (Augustinian - founded 12th Century). [1] Very little remains of Barlinch Priory. When digging the foundations of a cottage some vaults were found paved with encaustic tiles, which may have been the crypt of the church. Some bones were also recovered. [2] The remains also include a lofty wall running towards the river which appeared to be the south wall of the church, and the thick fence wall north of it occupied probably the position of the original north wall. Two large blocks of masonry probably represent the east side of the cloister, but about the only architectural feature remaining is a small piece of tracery from one of the windows inserted in the modern wall of a building attached to the farmhouse. [3] Priory of St Nicholas for Augustinian Canons was founded circa 1174 and dissolved circa 1537. The Priory of St Nicholas, was claimed to be founded by William de Say. [4] The Priory was founded temp Henry II (1154-89), and the first recorded prior was temp. Bishop Reginald (1174-91). It was suppressed before July 1537. [5] Scheduled, Somerset 182. [6] The remains of the priory, at SS 9289 2896, are as described above. (See GP AO/65/186/4). [7,14] Barlynch Farm House includes remains of St Nicholas Priory. The farmhouse itself is probably mainly 17th/ 18th century, but the fabric may incorporate parts of the medieval Priory of St Nicholas, a branch 'cell' of Cleeve Abbey. Running eastwards from the end of the farmhouse is a stretch of ruined rubble walling in which are the lower halves of two window openings. This is probably part of the original Priory fabric. Extending northwards from an outbuilding in the rear of the farmhouse are further lengths of ruined walling (one of which is pierced by a plain pointed-arch opening) and fragments of rubble masonry. There appear to be no surviving worked stones and all these ruins are heavily overgrown. Apart from the archaeological interest of the sites, the farmhouse constitutes a picturesque roadside feature in the thickly wooded Exe valley. [8] Barlinch was a small house. When it was surrendered it consisted of a prior and six canons. [9] Mostly overgrown and overlain by 19th century farm buildings. The remains comprise: (i) a low stone wall 75 centimetres wide and 1 metre high, which is in the position of the original northern wall of the church. (ii) a massive east-west wall averaging 3.5 metres high and 5 metres wide at one point, which is the southern wall of the church. (iii) a wall with two buttresses and two window openings containing the southern wall of the house westwards. A return at its western end running north and offset walling is evident. Probably the southern wall of Frater. (iv) a leat 2 metres wide and 40 centimetres deep filled in south of the house, but otherwise well preserved. (v) low banks probably representing a fishpond. (vi) other associated earthworks. (vii) window tracery and a stone wall along the river bank. [10] Barlynch Cottage adjoins the scheduled area and has massive foundations. [11] Additional bibliography. [12-13,15] One of the bells in Dulverton Church is said to have come from Barlynch. [16] The site of the Priory of St Nicholas, Barlynch was surveyed in March 1999 by the RCHME at the request of the Exmoor National Park Authority. The survey confirmed the existence of the remains of parts of the priory church, fragments of the east and south cloister range, and a third building. From these fragments and the layout of later farm buildings, an outline ground plan of the monastic layout has been put forward. In addition, the earthwork remains of a leat supplying the priory were traced, as well as a well preserved fishpond. Other earthworks may represent the site of a dovecote and the gatehouse range. There is a quarry scarp, 4 metres high, on the eastern side of the A396 road, which seems to be a constructional scarp for the priory buildings. It has been suggested previously that material was removed to local churches from Barlynch after the Dissolution, such as the church door at Winsford, the screen at Brushford and a bell at Dulverton. These have been discredited or considered unprovable. However, the east window and colonnade at Huish Champfleur church seems likely to have come from Barlynch. Only one piece of decorated tracery survives on site at Barlynch, built into the upper courses of the gable end of a barn, which seems to have been constructed at the end of the 19th century. For further details see archive report. [18,40-43] A late 15th or early 16th century school notebook from St Nicholas Priory has revealed information about the monastery and what was taught in grammar schools at the time. Since 1339, all Augustinian monasteries were instructed to employ a schoolmaster, though some small houses did not obey the rule consistently. It is not known if the schoolmaster, David Juyne, mentioned in the notebook, was employed by the monastery or if he taught at Barlinch on his own initiative, as a convenient place for holding a school in the area. [19] A fragment of medieval traceried window was revealed in a barn at Barlinch, though it was not in its original position. The barn is thought to have been used as a stable in the 19th century. It was possibly converted from a cowhouse, and prior to that a threshing barn. The building probably dates to the 18th century, and there is some reused medieval stone within the walls. [20] 'Building 3' (taken from [18]) is the focus of this report. The remains consist of the south wall of a large building aligned east to west. The structure formed part of a range of building separate from the caustral range, it may have functioned as an ancillary building forming part of the monastry's outer court. The wall was supported by two butresses, 1 metre in width and at least 4 metres in height originally. The buttresses are unlikely to be 12th century in date but there is nothing in the known priory history to provide a context for expansion . The eastern range is the best preserved with a wall height of 5.5 metres above modern ground level. The remains represent at least 2 but probably 3 substantial buildings. The thickness of the walls suggest it may have been two storeys. The building was possibly residential and for secular use, being located in the outer court. It is suggested that it may have had a hall, lodgings and latrines; possibly forming a high status guesthouse, the accompanying kitchen or service range for which may have surviving remains in the adjacent farmhouse (for instance, the conspicuous chimney breasts in the south wall). [22] A gradiometer and resistance survey were carried out in September 2000. The earthworks in the field to the north of the modern farm buildings have shown to include evidence of buildings and a water management system. This may indicate that there was once a mill or fish ponds in this field. A survey of the earthworks in the southern field showed a complex sequence of stone built structures, suggesting one or two small buildings. [23] The medieval remains of St Nicholas Priory are probably partly incorporated into the 16th - 17th century Barlinch Farmhouse. The farmhouse has been subsequently altered and enlarged to the east in the 19th century. The remains of the priory include random rubble local stone much overgrown with ivy at the time of the survey (June 1985) and obscured by vegetation, and walls rising to a maximum of about 5 metres, in all about 30 metres in length. According to the previous list a small piece of tracery is said to have been inserted in a modern wall of a farmbuilding adjoining to the north. [24] Apart from the archaeological interest of the sites, the farmhouse constitutes a picturesque roadside feature in the thickly wooded Exe Valley. [25] The Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment of 2009 gave the site a survival score of 5. [27] Conservation works carried out as part of the 2009/10 Monuments Management Scheme concentrated on a stretch of ruined rubble wall which stretches east from the farmhouse. [28] A piece of glazed pottery, presumably medieval, was recovered from the river by the Farm prior to May 2012. A further piece of possible encaustic (?floor) tile was recovered from a flowerbed from the site at an unspecified date. [29] A watching brief was undertaken in August 2012 while a narrow trench was excavated adjacent to an existing wall at Barlynch Cottage to allow the insertion of new piping. No obvious archaeological features were observed during groundworks. At the north east area of the wall, where it turns the corner several very large blocks of stone were removed by mechanical digger. These were lying within the trench area, the largest measuring 50 x 70 x 35 centimetres. There was no evidence for any worked faces or carving to any of the pieces of stone removed from the trench. Within the trench along the east wall, in line with the area of a gate some lime mortar and bone was visible within the excavated section. The bone appeared to be animal rib and there were several lumps of lime mortar of varying size. It was suggested by Rob Wilson-North that this area may have been a midden. [30] The buildings were visited as part of the rapid condition survey of Exmoor's Listed Buildings 2012-13. The farmhouse received a BAR score of 6 and the extant wall a score of 4A. [31] The site was surveyed in July 2015 as part of the 2015 Exmoor Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment. It was given a survival score of 8. [32] An information leaflet was produced by the National Park Authority at some time between 2000 and 2012. It gives general information about the site. [33] Barlinch Priory was "one of the poorest, remotest monasteries of medieval Somerset". It had six Augustinian canons and a prior in the 1530s. Its income was under £100 a year and much was derived from Morebath, which was in its manorial lands. The manor passed to Sir John Wallop after the dissolution. A school was based at the priory in the early years of Henry VIII's reign, where Master David Juyne taught a standard grammar school curriculum. This would have prepared novices for ordination and choir and serving boys attached to the house, although other pupils may have attended, such as those from local villages. Barlinch was dissolved in February 1536; it is possible the school had already closed by this time. By 1537 the buildings were owned by Hugh Paulet, who dismantled them for their materials. One of the priory church windows was gifted to Morebath church, where it was installed in 1538. [35] The Priory at Barlynch was given a ferling of land in North Wynesforde manor by William de Regny and before 1268, the Prior and Canons of Barlynch purchased a rent of 100 shillings a year and half a virgate of land in Winsford, together with the advowson of the church. A dispute arose of ownership of land and the church at Winsford between Barlynch and Wells, which was settled when Hugo de Romenall supplied Barlynch's Prior the means to compensate the authorities at Wells for the loss of the church, and all rights were transferred to the Priory. The Prior of Barlynch in 1483 was John Chester, and he became Vicar of Winsford Church in 1483 concurrently. [36] The source includes information from Collinson relating to the site. Acland also states that Barlynch may have been positioned by the water as it supplied trout and eels for food on fast days. He was told that the name means "enclosure" on the Barle (though it is on the Exe). [37] Conservation works were undertaken to the range west of the farmhouse in 2020 as part of a Monuments Management Scheme project run by ENPA in partnership and with grant funding provided by Historic England. The walls were consolidated and soft-capped. Some small additional observations were made with a photographic record of works [47]. Access works were undertaken to facilitate pedestrians with the installation of 3 new gates. Only one gate (4) requiring below ground work lay within the Scheduled area. A potential layer of collapsed masonry or demolition debris was observed at Gate 4. There were a number of fragments of pottery and glass present but nothing predating the 19th Century [38]. As part of the same project, resistivity and magnetometry survey was undertaken in the field to the north of Barlynch Farm and to the west of the Cottage in January 2020. High resistance anomalies on a similar alignment to the priory complex were suggested to show the former presence of buildings in this part of the site. An area of enhanced magnetism also suggested a concentration of stony building material from earlier periods in the site's history [39]. A new leaflet and on-site interpretation for visitors on Open Days was produced (no public access) [48, 49]. The site was photographed by the RCHME in 1999. [44] This record was enhanced as part of the National Record of the Historic Environment to Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Record data transfer project. [45] A study of the floor tiles from the site was made in 2021. [46]

Sources/Archives (50)

  • --- Unpublished document: Shirley Blaylock, Thomas Thurlow. MONUMENT MANAGEMENT SCHEME FOR EXMOOR 2018 – 2020, Barlynch Priory.
  • <1> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1962. 6 Inch Map: 1962. 1:10560.
  • <2> Article in serial: Unknown. 1883. Thursday's Excursion. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Nat. 29. Part 1, 58-80. pp 72-80.
  • <3> Article in serial: Anonymous. 1900. Second Day's Proceedings. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 46. Part I, pp 25-34. p 34.
  • <4> Monograph: Knowles, D. + Hadcock, R.N.. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses England and Wales. P.138, 146, 201.
  • <5> Monograph: Dugdale. 1846. Monasticon Anglicanum.
  • <6> Unpublished document: Various. Scheduled Monument Notification . Somerset 182. Department of the Environment, Ancient Monuments of England 2, 1978. P.121.
  • <7> Unpublished document: PITCHER, GHP. 1960s. Field Investigators Comments. Ordnance Survey visit, F1, 17 August 1965.
  • <8> Index: Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest . Department of the Environment, Dulverton Rural District, Somerset (September 1955), 3.
  • <9> Article in serial: Weaver, F.W.. 1908. Barlinch Priory. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 54. P.79-106. Details of Priors and Benefactors of Barlinch Priory.
  • <10> Unpublished document: Burrow, I.. 1983. Site Visit Form with Plan of Barlynch Priory.
  • <11> Report: Various. Various. Field Monument Warden Report. Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
  • <12> Monograph: Pevsner, N.. 1958. The Buildings of England: South and West Somerset. Penguin Books. P.81.
  • <13> Monograph: Page, W. (editor). 1911. The Victoria History of the County of Somerset. Archibald Constable and Company, Limited (London). 2. P.132-134 (T. Scott Holmes).
  • <15> Serial: Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 1851-. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. Volume 98 (1953), P.8.
  • <16> Monograph: Binding, H. + Bonham-Carter, V.. 1986. Old Dulverton and Around: Dulverton - Bury - Brushford - Exebridge. The Exmoor Press. P.6 Photograph.
  • <17> Monograph: Dulverton and District Civic Society. 2002. The Book of Dulverton, Brushford, Bury and Exebridge. Halsgrove. P.9, 31, 115, Photograph.
  • <18> Report: Wilson-North, R.. 1999. The Priory of St Nicholas, Barlynch, Brompton Regis, Somerset. RCHME.
  • <19> Article in serial: Orme, N.. 1984. A School Note-Book from Barlinch Priory. Somerset Archaeological & Natural History Society. 128.
  • <20> Report: Bond, C.J.. 1993. Barlinch Priory, Brompton Regis, Somerset; Report on Survey of Barn.
  • <21> Projected and video material: Ealing Studios. 1944. The Halfway House. Film set.
  • <22> Report: Parker, R.W.. 2001. Archaeological Recording at Barlynch Priory, Brompton Regis, Somerset.
  • <23> Report: Dean, R.. 2000. A Gradiometer and Resistance Survey at Barlynch Farm (The Site of The Priory of St. Nicholas), Brompton Regis, Somerset. Substrata.
  • <24> Index: 4/8/1986. 36th List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, District of West Somerset (Somerset)/Exmoor National Park..
  • <25> Monograph: Dulverton and District Civic Society. 2002. The Book of Dulverton, Brushford, Bury and Exebridge. Halsgrove. P.31, Photograph.
  • <26> Report: Wilson-North, R. + Cowley, J.. 2004. Exmoor National Park Monument Management Scheme 2003-4.
  • <27> Report: Bray, L.S.. 2010. Scheduled Monument Condition Assessment 2009, Exmoor National Park. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <28> Report: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2010. Monument Management Scheme: 2009-10 Report.
  • <29> Verbal communication: Various. 1993-. Exmoor National Park Historic Environment Team staff comments. Rob Wilson-North, 22 December 2014.
  • <30> Unpublished document: Balmond, F.. 2014. HER Input Form: Barlynch Cottage watching brief.
  • <31> Report: Lawrence, G.. 2014. Exmoor National Park: Rapid condition survey of listed buildings 2012-13.
  • <32> Report: Gent, T. and Manning, P.. 2015. Exmoor National Park Scheduled Monument Condition Survey 2015. Archaedia.
  • <33> Leaflet: Exmoor National Park Authority. c.2000-12. The Priory of St Nicholas at Barlynch. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <34> Serial: Exmoor Society. 1959-present. Exmoor Review. Volume 28 (1987), "Barlynch Priory", p54-56, (E Holloway).
  • <35> Monograph: Duffy, E.. 2001. The voices of Morebath: Reformation and rebellion in an English village. Yale University Press. 2-3, 8, 15, 61, 79, 90.
  • <36> Article in serial: Dicker, W.. 1900. Notes on the History of Winsford. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 46. pp 188-195. pp 188-190.
  • <37> Article in serial: Acland, T.D.. 1900. The Presidential Address. Proceedings of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society. 13-15.
  • <38> Report: Blaylock, S.. 2021. ENPHER Short Report Form: Barlynch Priory, Brompton Regis, Archaeological Watching Brief of the Installation of Access Gates, May 2019.
  • <39> Report: Edwards, M. and Trick, S.. 2020. An archaeological magnetometer and resistance survey: Barlynch Priory, Exmoor. Substrata. p4,5.
  • <40> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1999. Barlynch. Unknown. Permatrace. Unknown.
  • <41> Technical drawing: Riley, H. and Wilson-North, R.. 1999. Barlynch/ink survey. Unknown. Permatrace. Pen and Ink.
  • <42> Technical drawing: Riley, H., Jamieson, E. and Wilson-North, R.. 1999. Barlynch/pencil survey. Unknown. Permatrace. Pencil.
  • <43> Unpublished document: Wilson-North, R.. Various. Field Investigators Comments. RCHME Field Investigation, March 1999.
  • <44> Photograph: Hesketh-Roberts, M.. 1999. Job: Barlynch Priory. Unknown. Unknown. Negative.
  • <45> Digital archive: Historic England. Various. National Record of the Historic Environment (NRHE) entry. 36537, Extant 5 April 2022.
  • <46> Report: Allan, J. and Keen, L.. 2021. Medieval floor-tiles from Barlynch Priory. John Allan.
  • <47> Report: Blaylock, Shirley. 2021. Archaeological Monitoring of Consolidation Works at Barlynch Priory, Brompton Regis June – September 2020. Unpublished.
  • <48> Leaflet: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2020. The Priory of St Nicholas at Barlynch, The remains of an Augustinian House c 1180-1536. Exmoor National Park Authority.
  • <49> Unpublished document: Exmoor National Park Authority. 2020. Barlynch Priory Interpretation Panels.

External Links (1)

Other Statuses/References

  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (4A): 1648/9/10/2
  • 2012-3 Building At Risk Score (6): 1648/9/10/1
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO10798
  • Exmoor National Park HER Number (now deleted): MSO11068
  • Local Heritage List Status (Rejected)
  • National Monuments Record reference: SS 92 NW6
  • National Park: Exmoor National Park
  • NBR Index Number: 1269066
  • NBR Index Number: 1269089
  • NBR Index Number: 99/01495
  • NRHE HOB UID (Pastscape): 36537
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 31330
  • Somerset SMR PRN: 33365



Grid reference Centred SS 2929 129e (136m by 127m) Enhanced using source SEM340843
Map sheet SS21SE

Finds (5)

Related Monuments/Buildings (7)

Related Events/Activities (6)

Related Articles (1)

Record last edited

Jan 31 2024 2:52PM


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