St Ebba's chapel and monastic site


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.

Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NU 23964 28707

Reasons for Designation

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597 monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Early monasteries were built to house communities of monks or nuns; sometimes houses were `mixed' and included both sexes. The main buildings provided facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. They included a series of timber halls and perhaps a stone church, all located within some form of enclosure. Those sites which have been excavated indicate that no standard layout of buildings was in use. Rather a great diversity in building form, construction, arrangement and function is evident. Preconquest monastic sites are rare nationally and fewer than 100 sites have been recognised from documentary sources. The locations of less than half of these have been confirmed. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of the introduction of Christianity into the country. All examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains will be identified as nationally important.

The monastic site and later chapel at St Ebb's Nook are well preserved. The monastic site is one of a number situated on promontories or island locations in Northumbria. It will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of early Christian settlement in the immediately post-Roman period.


The monument includes the remains of a post-conquest medieval chapel situated on the rocky promontory known as Ebb's Nook. The chapel is surrounded by a range of earthwork features, some of which are considered to pre-date the chapel and provide evidence of an earlier monastic site here. The visible remains consist of a stone built, rectangular chapel and a series of earthworks. The chapel, which was partially excavated in 1853 is situated at the centre of the complex and measures 17m east-west by 4m north-south. It is thought to date, in its present form, from the 12th or 13th centuries AD. It consists of a nave, a chancel and a later western annexe, although it is now overgrown and much of the detail of the internal layout uncovered by the excavation is obscured. Although other buildings surrounding the chapel were noted in the mid 19th century they have only recently been understood. Immediately east of the chapel there is a rectangular stony earthwork measuring 3m north-south and 4m east-west; this is thought to be the remains of an earlier building, built on a slightly different axis to that of the later chapel. The stone chapel and the earlier structure form the south side of a walled enclosure 22m by 13m, the other sides being formed by low rubble walls. This complex is situated at the eastern end of a larger enclosure 55m by 25m. The perimeter of this enclosure is formed by a large bank of earth which cuts off the promontory at the western landward end; the bank runs around the edge of the promontory on the western and north-eastern sides and varies in width from 1m to 2m and stands to a maximum height of 1m. The bank is thought to have originally continued along the south side of the promontory; here the cliff face has been eroded and surface traces are not visible. Within the enclosure there are several hollows at the western end and a linear hollow which cuts the north-eastern perimeter bank; these are interpreted as the result of later quarrying and military activity. A stone circular feature 1.5m in diameter is situated at the extreme eastern end of the promontory; it is composed of reddened stone and is thought to be the remains of a hearth associated with the use of the site. The monastic settlement has for over a century been associated with St AEbba, the step- daughter of the king of Northumbria AEthelfrith; though there is no absolute proof of association it is thought that an early Christian origin for the earthworks at St Ebb's Nook is not inconsistent with the fact that St AEbba was a devoted Christian who is known to have founded other monasteries in Northumberland and it is known that Beadnell was tenurially linked to the Anglian royal seat at Bamburgh.

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:
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Books and journals
Fowler, P J, 'Uni of Durham & Ncle Archaeological Reports 1992' in Ebb's Nook, Beadnell, Northumberland, (1993), 45-50
Hodgson, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 3 13' in Archaeologia Aeliana ser 3 13, (1916), 4
Way, A, 'Archaeological Journal 11' in Archaeological Journal 11, (1854), 410-13


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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