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HATFIELD BROADOAK PRIORY

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Priory of St Mary and St Melaine was founded by Alberic de Vere circa 1135 as an alien cell of Renes. It became independent in 1254 and surrendered in 1536. The present parish church of St Mary the Virgin formed the structural nave of the church of a priory founded c 1135, as a cell to the abbey of St Melaine at Rennes in Brittany, by Aubrey de Vere the second. The church was cruciform, and originally had an aisleless nave, with the conventual buildings on the W side; the eastern arms and transepts are only represented by foundations which were left exposed after the excavations of 1897. The remains of the former Presbytery and Central Tower and the N wall of the present N aisle probably represent the original monastic structure of circa 1140-50. In 1897, with the assistance of the Society of Antiquaries, the whole plan of the Church and Priory was exposed, and in 1915, the foundations of the former were built up to the surface, but they are now covered again. The priory enclosure was protected by a wall and ditch on three sides, while on the west the principal entrance was defended by a gatehouse and a moat. Adjoining the gatehouse were the stables, and further north the brewhouse, malting and barn, the latter a large wooden building which was demolished in 1904. The octagonal dovehouse of brick, of which part was standing till 1892, was apparently of early 17th century construction, and was built perhaps on an old site. The house which is known to have existed west of the Priory barn may have been the Hall of the Manor of "Priors".To the North, the only extant features in an area of light pasture, are three fishponds (still waterfilled), the platform stead of the barn, and the mound.

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