Bardney Abbey: remains of a Benedictine monastery, fishponds, post-medieval house and formal gardens


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

West Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 11326 70610

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. Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as `black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over 150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

The remains of the Benedictine abbey at Bardney are associated with those of both a well-known Anglo-Saxon monastery and a substantial post-Dissolution house and formal garden. Partial excavation to late-medieval ground level of approximately 90% of the medieval monastic buildings has revealed a high degree of survival for architectural remains while leaving earlier deposits, relating to the construction of the buildings and to the pre-Conquest monastery, intact. The earthworks of the medieval monastic precinct and post-Dissolution garden have been relatively unaffected by later activity and include waterlogged monastic fishponds, suggesting a high level of survival for organic remains which will allow insights into the monastic and later economy and diet. The site is well documented both historically and archaeologically, and as a monument open to the public has a high educational and recreational value.


The monument includes the remains of Bardney Abbey, a Benedictine monastery traditionally founded in the late seventh century by King AEthelred and Queen Osthryd of Mercia. It was a prominent Anglo-Saxon establishment and pilgrimage centre where the relics of Osthryd's uncle, St Oswald, King of Northumbria, were enshrined. After Osthryd's death in AD 697 AEthelred retired to Bardney and in AD 704 is recorded as abbot. The monastery was destroyed by the Danes in the late ninth century, and in the early tenth century the relics of St Oswald were removed to Gloucester. After the Conquest the property was granted to King William's nephew, Gilbert de Ghent, who in 1087 refounded the monastery as a dependent priory of the abbey of Charroux in France. Less than 30 years later it became an independent abbey with further gifts from Gilbert's son Walter. In the late 14th century there were about 20 monks at Bardney, declining to 13 at the time of the Dissolution in 1538. The property subsequently passed to Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, who created for himself a secular house and garden on the site. The house was ruined during the 17th century, and the site has since been used largely for pasture. The monument includes the whole of the precinct of the later medieval abbey, partly overlain by traces of post-medieval activity including a house and formal gardens, and an area of adjacent fishponds.

The monument is situated approximately one mile north of the village of Bardney and less than half a mile to the east of the old River Witham. The remains take the form of a series of earthworks occupying a pasture field to the north of Abbey Farm, known as Abbey Garth. At the highest part of the site, near the centre of the monument, is a fenced area enclosing the earth-covered remains of the abbey church, cloister and associated buildings. This area was partially excavated in 1909-13 and the buildings found to stand to a height of up to 2m below modern ground level. In the northern part of the enclosure are the remains of the abbey church, a cruciform building approximately 73m long and 18m wide with an aisled nave, transepts, aisled choir and square east end. The church floor is paved with stone flags and grave slabs. Adjoining the church to the south are the remains of the cloister, a rectangular enclosure approximately 30m by 28m. Around the edges of the cloister are the remains of a covered passage with an open arcade surrounded by ranges of rectangular buildings. Those on the east side of the cloister included the treasury, chapter house and dormitory, with rere-dorter attached to the south; in the south range was the refectory; and on the west stood the abbey cellar and abbot's lodging, with kitchens to the south. The abbot's lodging was found to have been altered and extended during the post-medieval period to create a secular dwelling, and the cloister converted into a walled garden. Further buildings identified during excavation within the fenced area include the infirmary, to the east, and the guest house to the south. Adjacent to the east of the treasury were discovered the remains of a limekiln. The excavated remains of the monastic buildings were found to date from the early 12th to the 15th centuries.

Outside the fenced enclosure, immediately to the west of the abbot's lodging, is a further area of earthworks including the remains of a walled yard nearly 8m wide and 22m long. On the north side of the yard are the buried remains of a range of buildings attached to the abbot's lodging, and on the west are those of the abbot's gatehouse. To the south of the yard is an area of level ground bounded on the west by a raised, curved trackway. This feature is considered to represent a raised garden or terrace at the front of the post-medieval house. To the north of the yard is a large area approximately 80m square bounded on the north by a range of buildings aligned roughly east-west; on the west are further building foundations, aligned north-south. This area is considered to be the outer courtyard of the monastery, where the stables, brewhouse and other domestic and agricultural buildings would have been located. To the north of the courtyard is a further area of building remains, including those of a small circular building with two opposing entrances and an internal diameter of 6m, considered to be a medieval dovecote. In both this area and in the outer court, traces of ridge and furrow cultivation are discernible with the remains of a headland to the west. The remains of the monastic church, claustral buildings and associated domestic and agricultural buildings lie within a moated precinct of roughly rectangular shape and approximately 25 acres in area. The boundary moat survives as a broad ditch up to 10m in width, with an external bank on the east, west and south; on its inner bank are the remains of a brick wall, considered to be a later addition. Approximately halfway along the western boundary the moat is broken by a causeway; adjacent on the east are the buried remains of the great gatehouse of the abbey, a rectangular building approximately 14m by 7m connected to the abbot's gatehouse by a long east-west wall. On the eastern boundary of the precinct the moat has been recut in post-medieval times to form a broad, straight channel up to 14m wide with, on its western side, a linear bank about 3m in width containing the remains of a wall. These features form part of the post-medieval gardens of the 16th/17th-century house, the bank creating a raised terrace or walkway along the edge of the moat. In the south eastern corner of the monument is a rectangular pond, approximately 60m by 20m and aligned east-west, considered to have originated in medieval times and recut as a feature of the later garden. The northern, western and southern parts of the inner precinct of the abbey are crossed by a series of linear depressions forming regular rectangular enclosures. These are considered to relate to both the medieval and post-medieval use of the site and include enclosures for cultivation, animals and formal gardens.

In the north western corner of the monument, outside and adjacent to the inner precinct moat, is a low-lying, linear enclosure approximately 230m x 30m bounded on the west by the present course of the drain. Inside this enclosure is a series of linear depressions, several of which run roughly parallel to the precinct moat. These are considered to be the remains of monastic fishponds, constructed in the medieval period in the course of an earlier water channel. Contemporary documents indicate that there were up to four types of fish available at the abbey, including 300-400 pike.

Excluded from the scheduling are all fences, pens and gates, along with the bridge over the drain in the north western corner of the monument.

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.

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Books and journals
Clarke, P, The Saxon Foundation of Bardney 1 - The Historical Setting, (1974)
Higgins, J A, Ruins of Bardney Abbey, (1974)
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 52, 59
Kowles, D, St Joseph, JKS , Monastic Sites from the Air, (1952), 22-23
Marjoram, J, Trial excavation at Bardney Abbey June 1974, (1974)
Owen, D M, Life at Bardney Abbey, (1974)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 97-104
Turner, J, The Architectural Fragments from B. Abbey Now Loose in B. Church, (1975)
Brakspear, H, 'Archaeological Journal' in Bardney Abbey, , Vol. LXXIX, (1922), 1-92
Stocker, D, 'Pre-Viking Lindsey' in The Early Church in Lincolnshire, , Vol. 1, (1993), 101-122
Cruickshank, Christopher, Lincolnshire From The Air, (1993)
RCHM, Everson, Paul, Archive Notes, (1991)
Title: Tithe Award Source Date: 1842 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: LAO ref D219
Turner, J. and T. Leach, Notes for an Outing, 1974,
White, A.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.

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