St Radegund’s Abbey, 250m south-east of Bradsole.
Reasons for Designation
From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 to the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England. These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. The Premonstratensian order, or "White Canons", were not monks in the strict sense but rather communities of priests living together under a rule. The first Premonstratensian establishments were double houses (for men and women), but later they founded some 45 houses for men in England. The Premonstratensian order modelled itself on the Cistercian values of austerity and seclusion and founded all its monasteries in rural locations.
Despite later alterations and disturbance, St Radegund’s Abbey survives remarkably well. It includes a considerable amount of upstanding remains with some fine architectural details such as lancet arches, vaulting springers and round capitals. Partial excavation has shown that the walls and foundations of many of the abbey buildings are well preserved below ground. The ground plan of the abbey survives extremely well and will make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the layout and function of religious houses during the medieval period. The site retains a high degree of potential for further investigation using modern archaeological methods and techniques. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, use and history of the abbey.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 15 December 2014. The 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.
The monument includes a Premonstratensian abbey surviving as upstanding remains, earthworks and below ground remains. It is situated on the summit of a ridge north-west of Dover.
The upstanding remains are centred on the cloister of the abbey, much of the walls of which survive, and largely date to the late 12th or 13th century. They currently form the entrance gatehouse and forecourt to St Radegund’s Farmhouse. The abbey is built of flint, stone rubble and ashlar with later alterations in red brick. The cloister is rectangular in plan and about 22m long by 21.5m wide. On the north side is the nave of the church, which survives as upstanding remains. Internally it is about 56m long and 7.5m wide although the width across the transept is about 30m. Between the angle of the nave and north transept is a tower. It is built of coursed flint decorated with triangular ashlar blocks. The north wall is supported by two large buttresses between which is a 16th century red brick semi-circular arch and chamfered window lights. Within the interior are chamfered and moulded arches and springers for vaulting. To the east are the buried remains of a large part of the abbey church including the north and south transept, and the chancel. The chancel includes a presbytery, flanked by aisles and side chapels, with a lady chapel at the east end. The east wall of the cloister forms the west wall of the south transept and the west wall of the chapter house. It includes four openings, two of which are blocked, with moulded and chamfered arches with round capitals and water holding bases. The chapter house survives as buried remains apart from the north and west walls. It is a rectangular in plan and about 10.5m long by 6.5m wide. On the west side of the cloister are the walls and buried remains of the cellarer’s building and guesthouse. The north end of this range includes several lancet arches, with deep rere-arches to the ground floor. On the south side of the cloister is St Radegund’s Farmhouse, which is excluded from the scheduling. The farmhouse was formerly the refectory of the abbey, which included a four bay vaulted undercroft.
Attached to the south-east is the common room or calefactory. To the east are the buried remains of the infirmary hall, which is rectangular in plan and about 14.5m long by 8m wide.
South of the abbey claustral complex are an 18th century Well house, a 16th century timberframed barn, and a large stone barn dating from about the 13th century. The stone barn is built of flint and rubble with a pantiled roof and central gabled porch. Surrounding the abbey buildings are earthworks, which denote the precinct boundary, including an inner and outer enclosure, as well as fishponds. The earthworks of the inner enclosure are most visible south of the abbey buildings where they include a ditch approximately 5m wide and 0.6m deep flanked by banks about 5m wide and 0.5m high. The ditches of the precinct boundary have become part infilled in places and will survive as a buried feature. To the north-east of the cloistral range are the earthworks of a rectangular fishpond, about 32m long, 14m wide and at least 2.5m deep. Nearby is at least one other fishpond denoted by a rectangular earthwork. The upstanding remains of part of a walled enclosure also survive to the north-east of the cloistral range. Its course is fragmentary and a large part of it survives as buried remains. However it is thought to be a later alteration or addition, using reused monastic stone, since it overlies an earlier earthwork.
St Radegund’s Abbey was founded in about 1191 and colonized directly from the mother Abbey of Prémontré, France. In 1302, King Edward I apparently received the Great Seal with his own hands in the King's Chapel (presumably one of the side chapels) at St. Radegund's and delivered it to the Chancellor. By the late 15th century it is recorded as being in a state of disrepair. In 1538, the abbey was suppressed and the site granted to Archbishop Cranmer. Shortly afterwards he returned it to the King in exchange for other lands. In 1590, Elizabeth I granted the abbey to Simon Edolph and it remained in his family until 1719. It then passed to Sir Peter Eaton and in 1750 to the Sayer family. The site was partially excavated in 1880 revealing much of the ground plan of the abbey, as well as tiles and architectural fragments such as mouldings, tomb stones, marble shafts and capitals.
The upstanding remains of the abbey, St Radegund’s Abbey Farmhouse and Outhouse, and the stone barn are Grade II* listed. The Well house and 16th century timber-framed barn are Grade II listed.