Site of Anglo-Saxon nunnery and medieval chapel, Stow Green


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1007687.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 24-Jan-2021 at 18:23:48.


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

North Kesteven (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 09419 35070

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.

The site of the Anglo-Saxon nunnery at Stow Green is rare in being the only known site of a pre-Conquest religious house for women in Lincolnshire. It is also unusual amongst pre-Conquest monastic sites in not having been re-founded, and thus re-built, after the Conquest; the rare buried remains of the seventh century nunnery are therefore likely to survive relatively undisturbed. The monument also preserves valuable information about the construction and use of the medieval chapel and the relationship between the chapel and the nunnery which preceded it. The site has never been archaeologically excavated and post-medieval activity on the site has been of limited impact, overlying rather than destroying earlier remains.


The monument includes part of the site of an Anglo-Saxon nunnery founded at Stow in the late seventh century by AEtheldreda, Abbess of Ely. During the medieval period the site was occupied by a chapel dedicated to St AEtheldreda and by a fair held annually on her feast day. A chapel survived on the site until the end of the 18th century, and the fair until the early 20th century. The remains of the nunnery are therefore overlain by those of a medieval chapel with cemetery and precinct boundary, and traces of post-medieval activity relating to the use of the site as a fair ground.

The monument lies on a low hill in the north-western corner of Stow Green, an area of grassland on the edge of the Roman road, the present Mareham Lane. At the highest point of the hill lies a rectangular area, the boundary of which is defined on the north, east and west sides by a change in grass and soil colour and on the south by a gradual downward slope. The discovery of stone wall foundations along this boundary indicate that it marks the position of the churchyard wall which survived until the 18th century. This boundary is considered to represent the extent of the medieval chapel precinct.

A number of medieval stone fragments including decorated grave-slabs of the 11th/12th centuries were discovered at the centre of the rectangualar precinct. These indicate the position of the medieval cemetery and chapel of St AEtheldreda, which are considered to directly overlie the site of part of the Anglo-Saxon nunnery of the same dedication.

Within the precinct and in the field around it the discovery of medieval and post-medieval coins, pottery and other finds indicate that the remains of the Anglo-Saxon nunnery and medieval chapel and cemetery are partly overlain by those of the medieval and post-medieval fair, although the site of the fair ground was much larger than that of the chapel in its later-medieval form.

The nunnery at Stow is first recorded in a late 11th-century account of the life of St Werburg, AEtheldreda's niece, who was granted the custody of the establishment and died there in about 700. A reference to the building of the seventh century church occurs in a document of the 12th century. By the early 13th century an annual fair had grown up around the church which was granted a charter by Henry III in 1268. The presence of a medieval chapel at Stow which, nevertheless, had a range of rights appropriate to churches of much higher rank (including rights of burial) is further evidence that, although only a chapel in the later Middle Ages, the church site at Stow had its origins in an earlier medieval site of very much greater importance.

The telegraph pole near the western edge of the site is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath this feature is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Roffe, D, 'Lincolnshire History and Archaeology' in The Seventh Century Monastery of Stow Green, Lincolnshire, , Vol. 21, (1986), 31-33
Stocker, D, 'Pre-Viking Lindsey' in The Early Church in Lincolnshire, (1993)
Healey, Hilary, TLA file note ref. NK65.7, (1976)
Kerr, N, Fieldwalking at Stow Green, Nr. Threekingham, Lincs (1984)
White, Andrew, Stow Green Fair, Information Sheet, Archaeology Series, (1979)
White, Andrew, Stow Green Fair, Information Sheet, Archaeology Series, (1979)


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].