Site of medieval nunnery and post-Dissolution house, Nun Cotham


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008686

Date first listed: 05-Dec-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 21-Jan-1993


Ordnance survey map of Site of medieval nunnery and post-Dissolution house, Nun Cotham
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Lincolnshire

District: West Lindsey (District Authority)

Parish: Brocklesby

National Grid Reference: TA 15586 11254


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 remains of the nunnery at Nun Cotham have never been excavated archaeologically. They are largely overlain by the remains of later, post-medieval, activity on the site, which will conceal archaeological evidence for the conventual buildings and other features. The earthworks are in exceptionally good condition, indicating high potential for the retrieval of archaeological information.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the remains of the medieval nunnery of Nun Cotham, a priory of Cistercian nuns founded in the mid-12th century and dissolved in 1539. The remains of the nunnery are overlain by those of a post-Dissolution house, garden, farmbuildings and other later features. Also associated with the site are a pair of fishponds and a post-medieval windmill mound. The monument therefore includes a complex sequence of building remains and other earthworks which can be described in eight areas: a central area of building remains; a series of ditched and banked enclosures; a complex of water-control features; a group of rectangular closes; remains of a barn-like structure and other buildings; a group of farmyard earth-works and a windmill mound; a pair of rectangular enclosures; and a pair of fishponds. At the centre of the monument lies an area of building remains characterised by low earth-covered walls. The visible features are largely the remains of a house built on the site of the nunnery conventual buildings in the 16th and 17th centuries after the Dissolution. Archaeological remains of the nunnery will survive below these visible remains and it is thought that the later house utilised part of its original structure. (The principal nunnery buildings would have been laid out in ranges around a central cloister and it is thought that the church may have lain along its northern side. This would suggest that the succeeding house, with its E-shaped plan, occupied the site of the west range of the nunnery cloister with two extensions to the east; one overlying the site of the church nave (at the northern end) and the other overlying the site of the refectory (at the southern end)). On the same alignment is a square enclosure adjoining the building to the north. Immediately to the south are building remains of more recent appearance, representing structures which persisted in use beyond the occupation of the house. All of these remains lie within an enclosure defined on nearly all sides by a bank. Immediately to the east of the central area of building remains is a series of enclosures defined by ditches and banks. The ditches interconnect and are linked on the east to the New Beck Drain. Neatly cut and regular, they are considered to represent formal gardens laid out around the post-Dissolution house. On the north, adjoining both the ditched enclosures and the area of building remains, is a separate complex of water-control features, linked on the east to the New Beck Drain and to a channel on the west via a linear ditch. Within this complex, and immediately north of the site of the house, are a small group of linear features representing the remains of ornamental canals, indicating that this area also was part of the formal gardens of the post-Dissolution house. To the north of the water-control complex are traces of further banks and ditches, delineating rectangular closes on the edge of the occupied area. To the south of the central area of building remains, and west of the southernmost and largest garden enclosure, are further building remains. These include a large rectangular barn-like structure and a roughly circular mound on two sides of a small yard. Adjacent to the mound a small section of stone walling has been exposed. To the south-west are further remains of buildings, some only clearly discernible from the air. In the south-west corner are earthworks of a building platform and yard. These are bounded on the south by a bank and part of a hollow way running east-west. To the north is a circular mound approximately 7m in diameter representing the site of a windmill. These remains are surrounded on the north and west by an area of shallow earthworks representing quarrying. This area is bounded on the north by a low bank, roughly aligned with the moated enclosures and other water-control features, representing an old field boundary. On the west it is partly bounded by the remains of a bank, which also defines the western edge of the monument. In the south-east part of the site is a further area of earthworks, adjoining and aligned with the main features of the monument. In the southernmost part of the site is a pair of rectangular enclosures defined by ditches and banks. Adjacent to these, in the easternmost corner of the site, is a pair of linear ponds aligned south-west/north-east and bounded by banks. The smaller, later pond, to the east, is connected to the New Beck Drain by a cut in the bank approximately 2m wide. The larger pond is overlain by a causewayed track running from the hollow way in the south-west of the site to a bridge (outside the area of the scheduling) over the Drain. Excluded from the scheduling are the fences which surround and in places cross the monument, although the ground beneath these them 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: 22602

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Ross Manuscript
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906)
Cambridge, 105/156113: FO 59, 60, 62,
RCHM(E), Everson, P L and Taylor C C and Dunn, C J, Change And Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire, (1991)

End of official listing