College and Franciscan nunnery, water control features and formal garden remains at Bruisyard Hall


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.

East Suffolk (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TM 33396 66292

Reasons for Designation

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 refounded. 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 all examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Only five houses of Franciscan nuns are known to have been established in England throughout the medieval period and, as a well preserved example of such a rare type, Bruisyard Abbey is of considerable importance. The previous occupation of the site by a college of secular canons gives it additional interest. The monument displays a wide range of features relating to several distinct periods of use during the medieval and early post-medieval periods. Observations made in service trenches have confirmed, also, that well preserved archaeological information is retained in deposits below the ground surface, including evidence concerning the layout, use and subsequent demolition of the collegiate and monastic buildings, the construction and use of the moated precinct and activities in the surrounding area. Further evidence relating to the water management system will be contained in the earthworks of the ponds and leat, and organic remains will be preserved in water-logged deposits in the pond and moat. Evidence of land use prior to the construction of the earthworks will be contained in soils buried beneath the dams and the bank alongside the leat.


The monument is situated approximately 500m east of the village of Bruisyard on a south-facing slope above the valley of the River Alde. It includes the remains of the conventual buildings of a Franciscan nunnery, the moated site on which they stand and earthwork remains of other features associated with the college or nunnery and their successors on the site. Bruisyard Abbey was founded by Lionel, Duke of Clarence in 1366 and dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It replaced a college of secular clergy which had been founded originally in 1347 for a warden and four chaplains attached to the church of the Priory of Augustinian Canonesses at Campsey Ash. The college was moved from Campsey Ash to Bruisyard by Maud, Countess of Ulster, in 1354 but in 1366 it was dissolved and the site was surrendered to make way for the Duke of Clarence's new foundation of nuns minoresses of the order of St Clare. In 1539 the abbey, which in 1534 was valued at 56 pounds, two shillings and a penny, was dissolved and the site was granted, with Bruisyard Manor, to Nicholas Hare. His son, Michael, is believed to have built the house which now stands on the site. The remains of the claustral buildings stand in the south-western part of the large moated enclosure, to the north and west of which are various earthworks including components of an extensive water management system. According to an inventory signed by the abbess at the time of the Dissolution, the abbey buildings comprised, in addition to the church, a parlour and five chambers including a guest chamber, a napery, buttery, kitchen, bakehouse and brewhouse. Although the layout of these buildings has not been established in detail, the foundations which have been observed and the upstanding fragments of medieval walls which survive (some of them preserved in the fabric of Bruisyard Hall) indicate that they were grouped around a rectangular courtyard or cloister. Large areas of flint rubble walling are visible in the east and west faces of the west range of the hall, the west wall of which also incorporates three blocked medieval arched openings, one of them with moulded stone jambs. These features are part of a dwelling-house which is Listed Grade II*, and are excluded from the scheduling. To the north and south-east of the house are several walls and wall footings of medieval and early post-medieval date, including blocked openings and other features. Approximately 6m to the north of the house and running parallel to it, west-east, is a partly ruined wall 0.75m thick and almost 30m in length, built of flint rubble and brick. From this, two walls run southwards, one from the eastern corner and the other, which is preserved in the east wall of an outhouse, to the west of the first and parallel with it. Approximately 17m south to south-east of the south-eastern corner of the house are the remains of another east-west wall of flint rubble construction, capped with several courses of later brickwork, and immediately to the east of this is a fragment of an irregular brick and flint rubble wall incorporated in the north wall of a later outbuilding. Elsewhere, the buried foundations of several other walls have been observed during the digging of service trenches, some of them relating to the east and west ranges of the claustral buildings. In the same area, below the ground surface, are extensive stratified deposits of building material including broken brick and roof tile, and decorated floor tiles have also been found. The monastic cemetery, where skeletons were found in 1960 by workmen digging a sewer trench, appears to have been to the south of the claustral buildings. The moated site on which the conventual buildings stood survives as a rectangular platform with internal dimensions of 125m east-west by 71m north- south, enclosed on the east, north and west sides by a moat approximately 2m deep and ranging from 9m to 15m in width. Towards the eastern end of the northern arm of the moat there is a slight external bank. The eastern arm of the moat is dry but the northern and western arms are largely water-logged, with some open water. The southern end of the western arm has been filled in, but will survive as a buried feature. The south side of the central platform is defined at its eastern end by a steep scarp approximately 1.6m high above a ditch approximately 3m wide, although the ground immediately to the south of this has been cut into and levelled and is occupied by farm buildings. A broad, flat-topped, internal bank of earth borders the moat on the west and north sides, and also on the northern part of the east side, although here it is a very slight feature. The bank covers the brick footing of an earlier wall which at one time ran around the edge of the central platform and which remains visible alongside the southern half of the eastern arm. At the southern end of the bank, a channel measuring approximately 3m wide and 0.5m deep cuts across the eastern moat ditch and through the wall, extending westwards into the interior. The wall is thought to define a part of the inner precinct of the nunnery but the later internal bank was probably constructed as a feature in a 16th or 17th-century formal garden relating to the hall. To the north-west and west of the moated site are the remains of an extensive system for managing the storage and supply of water. On the hill slope above the moat, set one above the other, are two large, trapezoidal ponds each retained by an earthen dam across the southern end. Water from these was carried to the southern part of the site by a leat which issued from the south-western corner of the lower pond and the flow of water from the upper to the lower pond was controlled by a sluice in the intervening dam. The upper, northern pond is shown in an estate map of 1806 but had been partly filled in by the middle of the 19th century. The dam at the southern end of it survives and the southern end of the western edge is marked by a scarp up to 1m in height. The line of the eastern edge is also preserved in a field boundary. The whole area of this pond, which will retain buried deposits, is included in the scheduling. The lower pond remains complete and is waterlogged, with some open water. An outlet at the southern end, which issues through a culvert near the western end of the dam, links it to the north-western corner of the adjacent moat and, to the west of this, a second outlet leads into a small, rectangular pond. The leat survives as a dry ditch up to 1m deep and approximately 6m wide, bounded on the east side by an earthen bank approximately 0.5m in height and 3m to 4m in width. An elongated hollow alongside the western edge, at the northern end, marks the site of a modern silage pit which is not included in the scheduling. Between the leat on the west side and the moated site to the east, other earthworks are visible, the most prominent of which is a rectangular terrace. A trench for a water-pipe dug across this revealed a series of pits or dumps containing large quantities of roof tile and two brick-lined drains, one of them dated to the 15th or 16th century and the other later. Near the foot of the terrace, on the east side, is a small rectangular structure with low flint rubble walls and overall dimensions of 3m north-south by approximately 2m east west. To the south of the terraced area, a slight, linear hollow runs east-west and cuts across the leat, marking the course of a later track or boundary but irregular hollows in the surface of the field to the south of this feature are probably the result of sand digging and are not included in the scheduling. The dwelling-house and all associated outbuildings and walls, other than those specifically described above, are excluded from the scheduling, together with the farm buildings to the east of the hall; also excluded are all yard surfaces, all service pipes and inspection chambers, a service pole with support cables, the garden railings and gate in front of the house, the remains of two fountainheads in front of the hall on the south side,the access track, and all field gates and fences, but the ground beneath all these buildings and features 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.

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Books and journals
Davy, H, Brit. Mus. Add Mss 19100-19101
Farrer, E, 'East Anglian Miscellany' in Bruisyard Hall, , Vol. 10, (1916), 26
Haslewood, F, 'Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol' in The Monastery of Bruisyard, , Vol. 3, (1891), 321
Notes based on site visit, Newman, J, (1992)
Notes based on site visits, Newman, J, (1992)
Rous, R C, (1992)
Suffolk SMR: Parish File, BUD 001, (1989)
Title: Estate maps held at Dennington Hall Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


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.

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