Conjectural plan of Swingfield Preceptory in the early 14th century

Four sources make it possible to attempt an interpretation of the above ground remains at Swingfield; the remains themselves, the 18th, 19th and 20th century illustrations, the 1529 itinerary and the 1338 Extent.  In the present context the focus of interest is the preceptory in the early 14th century and developments after that date need only be mentioned briefly.

The upstanding remains consist of the preceptory chapel, dated on architectural grounds to the first half of the 13th century. The surviving building measures 8.3m north-south and 19.07m east-west. It has been noted that it is truncated at the west end and the lie of the ground shows that it originally extended about a further 10m. Following the 1529 itinerary, which proceeded from room-to-room around the site in a systematic way, it is clear that the demolished part of the building included both the Hall and its service range to the south​. The Hall is the only room for which dimensions are given, it being stated to to be 42 feet (12.9m) long and 30 feet (9.23) broad. Rigold (Grove and Rigold 1979, 121-3) has interpreted this as an aisled hall and commented that it was contiguous with the chapel, was probably as old and extended north from its service range or chamber block.  The entry for the Hall​ refers to both east and west windows indicating that the Hall extended northwards beyond the porch. The Hall had been completely demolished by the time of the 1794 to 1806 illustrations and the building illustrated comprised, in addition to the chapel, the modified chamber block. 

The 1529 itinerary refers to a number of other rooms in  the preceptory building; an Old Parlour, a Pantry, a Buttery, Chamber over the Old Parlour, a ​New Parlour, the Lord's New Chamber above the New Parlour and Gallery between the latter two rooms and the Chapel.  Careful reading if the itinerary suggests that the New Parlour,  the Lord's New Chamber over the New Parlour and the Gallery were in the western portion of the surviving building. This reading also suggests that the Old Parlour, Pantry and Buttery along with the Chamber over the Old Parlour were in the demolished western third. The Chamber over the Old Parlour may have been the original Great Chamber.

The 1338 Extent adds little to our knowledge of the site. The manerium was the preceptory building as described above. The dovecot is likely to be the one described in 1529 but does not survive and windmill is unlikely to have been on-site. The personnel listed numbered 17 and some of these, the senior members, probably had accommodation in the preceptory building while one of three chaplains mentioned may have occupied the upstairs room at the west end of the chapel.



SWINGFIELD PRECEPTORY; archaeology 3