Tarrant Abbey, site of, and tithe barn at Abbey Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1002715
Date first listed: 22-Aug-1933
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: North Dorset (District Authority)
Parish: Tarrant Crawford
National Grid Reference: ST 92059 03395, ST 92140 03403
Part of the Cistercian Nunnery and the tithe barn at Tarrant Abbey Farm.
Reasons for Designation
Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. A nunnery was a settlement built to sustain a community of religious women. Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. The main elements are the church and domestic buildings arranged around a cloister. This central enclosure may be accompanied by an outer court and gatehouse, the whole bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or moat. Outside the enclosure, fishponds, mills, field systems, stock enclosures and barns may occur. The earliest English nunneries were founded in the seventh century AD but most of these had fallen out of use by the ninth century. A small number of these were later re-founded. The tenth century witnessed the foundation of some new houses but the majority of medieval nunneries were established from the late 11th century onwards. Nunneries were established by most of the major religious orders of the time, including the Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans. It is known from documentary sources that at least 153 nunneries existed in England, of which the precise locations of only around 100 sites are known. Few sites have been examined in detail and as a rare and poorly understood medieval monument type. The Cistercian order was founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or `white monks', on account of their un-dyed habits - led a harsher life than earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion, they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers eventually made the order one of the richest and most influential. They were especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on sheep farming. The Cistercians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life. The church in medieval Britain was of vital importance in all parts of life, not just deaths, baptisms and marriages. Church services were the framework of everyday existence and the strict calendar of festivals, Saint’s Days and events laid out by church authority were pivotal. Not only were charges levied for all services provided by the church, but peasants and farmers were expected to provide labour for free and one tenth of their yearly produce to the church as a form of tax called a tithe. Failure to pay tithes was likely to result in eternity spent in Hell undergoing torment, a fate regularly re-iterated during services to ensure parishioners fully complied. The tithe normally took the form of a tenth of the harvested grain which had to be stored in specially constructed barns known as tithe barns which could be extremely grand buildings exhibiting the best aspects of local building methods and materials. The part of the Cistercian Nunnery and the tithe barn at Tarrant Abbey Farm will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, social, political and religious significance, the functions of the various structures, agricultural practices, domestic arrangements, abandonment and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 16 December 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument, which falls into two areas, includes part of the Cistercian Nunnery of Tarrant Abbey and a tithe barn situated on slightly rising ground beside the confluence between the Rivers Tarrant and Stour. The part of the Cistercian nunnery survives as predominantly buried structures, deposits and layers with visible features including various hollows and banks of up to 0.9m high containing masonry from walls of substantial buildings and parts of the precinct boundary bank with ditch. The tithe barn survives as a rectangular plan stone and brick built roofed building standing to full height and dates to the 15th century with 18th – 19th century alterations. Tarrant or ‘Tarrant Kaines’ was founded in around 1186 for three ladies with their servants who lived as anchoresses under no recognised order. It is believed this may be the unidentified monastery of Camestrum mentioned by Gervase of Canterbury as being of white nuns and dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, who did not at that time belong to the Cistercian order. The abbey of St Mary and All Saints was subsequently founded by 1233 by the Cistercians. In 1237 Bishop Poore of Salisbury was buried there, and in 1238 the sister of Henry III, Queen Joan of Scotland. By the end of the 13th century Tarrant Abbey was one of the richest Cistercian nunneries in England. There was a convent church built in 1240-6 in addition to the parish church (which still survives) and the tombs of the Bishop and Queen were within this convent church. Dissolved in 1539, many of the original buildings were largely demolished. Partial unrecorded excavations took place during the 19th century and floor tiles have been preserved in the summer house of a property in Southampton. Various chance finds of carved stones and tiles have been made.
The tithe barn is listed Grade II.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: DO 120
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape Monument No:-1410346 and 209609
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing