Flixborough Saxon nunnery and site of All Saints medieval church and burial ground


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1009382

Date first listed: 21-Jul-1992


Ordnance survey map of Flixborough Saxon nunnery and site of All Saints medieval church and burial ground
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Flixborough

National Grid Reference: SE 87665 14363


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

Reasons for Designation

Excavations at Flixborough have revealed the extensive survival of settlement remains of Middle Saxon date at this site. Identified rural sites of this date are rare and our knowledge of them is limited as few survive in an easily recognisable form. Excavated buildings and finds from this site confirm that it was a high status site occupied by people who had access to skilled builders and the products of fine craftsmen. The nature of some finds suggest that the site was a religious house, probably a nunnery. Pre-Norman monasteries and nunneries are rare nationally, and are normally identified on the basis of early documentary evidence. This example is especially noteworthy because it has been identified on the basis of excavated finds and has no recorded history. Indeed it has produced more archaeological evidence than many other documented sites. Most of the site was sealed by blown sand after the ninth century and has not subsequently been disturbed, hence further archaeological remains will survive extensively and well. Ecclesiastical use of part of the site continued throughout the medieval period, indicated by the medieval church and graveyard.


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


The monument at Flixborough includes the remains of an Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastical site, probably a nunnery, and also the remains of a ruined medieval church and its attached graveyard. The monument is situated on a low south-facing terrace overlooking the plain of the River Trent. Excavations on an area immediately adjacent to the monument in 1990 revealed evidence for a high-status settlement and for activity of a Middle-Saxon date. Occupation appears to have begun in around 700AD, when a number of substantial timber buildings were constructed on the site. The scale of these buildings indicates that the occupants of the site were of some status. Finds of glass and lead strips indicate that some of the buildings had glazed windows. During the 200 years following the foundation of the site, these buildings were rebuilt and replaced several times. The status of the site was also confirmed by the wealth and type of artefacts found in and around the buildings. Large quantities of animal bones indicated that the inhabitants of the site ate well. Well-made pottery, loom-weights and other occupational debris was also common. Finds of hearths and slag indicate that industrial processes were being carried out, whilst the numerous loom-weights indicate that textiles were also being produced. A collection of objects associated with literacy are of particular interest, including styli, pointed implements used to write on wax tablets, and implements used for the preparation of parchment. A small lead plaque bearing an inscription listing several Saxon female personal names was also discovered. This evidence for literacy, along with the other evidence for high-status activity indicates the ecclesiastical nature of the site. During the Middle-Saxon period literacy was restricted almost entirely to the clergy. No documentary evidence confirming this identification survives but an analysis of the various excavated evidence indicates that the site is likely to have housed a community of nuns. An alternative interpretation suggests that the site was not truly monastic, but merely a pseudo-monastery, a device used by Anglo-Saxon nobles to reduce the tax burden on their estates, and condemned by churchmen, notably Bede. The site excavated was abandoned in about 870, possibly as a result of the threat of attacks by Scandinavian Vikings. After this the site was engulfed by the wind-blown sand which still protects it. The excavated area which produced this settlement and occupational evidence has now been destroyed and hence is not included in this monument. The remains were, however, shown to extend beyond the excavated area into the area included in the scheduling. Immediately adjacent to the Saxon remains and included in this monument are the foundations of a medieval church and its attached graveyard. These features are considered to overlie further Anglo-Saxon remains. The first known church on the site was a Norman foundation, which was replaced in the fifteenth century. It is likely that the Norman church replaced an unrecorded late Anglo-Saxon building. The church was demolished in 1789 and replaced by a mortuary chapel, which is now also in ruins. Only a foundation platform and a few courses of masonry are visible, but remains of the churches from the eleventh century onwards are preserved beneath this platform.

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: 21053

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Dudley, H E, The History and Duties of Scunthorpe and Frodingham, (1931), 82-83
Tomlinson, D, Flixborough: A Middle-Saxon site., (1990)
Leahy, K, 'The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art & Culture AD 600-900' in Selected finds from a high-status site at Flixborough, S. Humbs, (1991), 94-101
Tomlinson, D, 'Rescue News' in Flixborough: A Middle-Saxon settlement on Humberside, , Vol. 54, (1991)
Whitwell, B, 'Minerva' in Flixborough's Royal Heritage, , Vol. 2, 5, (1991), 6-9
Whitwell, J B, 'Current Archaeology' in Flixborough, , Vol. 126, (1991), 244-247
2814, Humberside SMR (2814), (1990)

End of official listing