Friar Biggins monastic grange


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 63845 09496

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Friar Biggins monastic grange is unencumbered by modern development and contains undisturbed archaeological remains of the group of buildings forming the core of the grange, together with remains of the enclosures, trackways and hut platforms of the wider grange complex. The monument is a rare example in Cumbria of an undisturbed monastic grange, and as such it will facilitate a greater understanding of the activities undertaken within the buildings, huts and enclosures of this class of monument.


The monument is Friar Biggins medieval monastic grange. It is located at the foot of Orton Scar and includes earthworks and buried remains of a group of stone buildings flanked on the east and north by enclosures. Elsewhere there are lengths of wall, a trackway, and a number of rectangular terraces cut into the hillside which are interpreted as the platforms on which timber buildings stood. The core area of the grange includes the remains of a three roomed rectangular building constructed of limestone. The building measures 19m by 7.5m externally and has turf covered walls up to 1.5m high. To the west of this building, and approximately parallel to it, is a single roomed rectangular building measuring 18m by 6.5m with walls up to 1m high and a doorway on the eastern side. Immediately north of this building are the foundations of a smaller building measuring 6.5m by 5.6m. In the area between the two larger buildings is an artificially levelled area 5m square. To the east of this group of buildings is a rectangular enclosure measuring c.26m by 21m and to the north of the buildings are two smaller three-sided enclosures measuring 16m by 12m and 8m by 4m respectively. Between the two larger enclosures is a levelled terrace cut into the hillside. A narrow track approaches the buildings and enclosures from the west and is flanked by lengths of banking or wall foundations before swinging to the north and east to skirt round the core area of the grange. North of this track are two other terraces cut into the hillside, while on the hillside further to the west there are another three terraces. Friar Biggins monastic grange was associated with the Friary of Conishead, near Ulverston, and is thought to have been constructed c.1319. All field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Letter from J.Cherry to owner, Cherry, J.,


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

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