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Croxden Abbey

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Croxden Abbey

List entry Number: 1011448

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Staffordshire

District: East Staffordshire

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Croxden

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 30-Nov-1925

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Apr-1994

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 21531

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

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. Some 75 of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian order founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or "white monks", on account of their undyed habits - led a harsher life than earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion, they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers eventually made the order one of the richest and most influential. They were especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on sheep farming. The Cistercians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains are worthy of protection.



Croxden Abbey is a well documented example of a Cistercian monastery with historical records dating from its construction in the 12th century, through to its dissolution in the 16th century. The extensive earthwork and standing remains of the monument reflect not only the secular activities of a monastery but also the agricultural, industrial and domestic elements of Croxden Abbey's history. Limited excavation in parts of the site have confirmed the presence of important buried remains.

History

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

Details

The monument is situated within the village of Croxden in the valley of the Croxden Brook. The core of the site of St Mary's Abbey, Croxden, a foundation of the Cistercian order, is in the Guardianship of the Secretary of State and includes the ruins of the conventual buildings which are also Listed Grade I. The monument, which consists of two separate areas, is more extensive and, in addition to the standing remains, includes the earthwork remains of buildings and other features and parts of an associated water management system. Croxden Abbey was founded by Bertram de Verdun in 1176 and was colonised by monks from Aunay in Normandy. The first settlement was established at Cotton but, by 1179, the monks had moved to Croxden. Construction work was started under the first abbot and the church was dedicated in c.1254. The 13th and 14th centuries were evidently a time of great prosperity for the abbey. Croxden Abbey was dissolved in 1538 and, by 1539, the site was leased to Francis Bassett, a servant of Archbishop Crammer. The monastic church is situated near the centre of the precinct and was laid out on a plan copied from the church at Aunay, the mother-house. It is more elaborate in plan than most Cistercian houses in England. A road which dates from the 18th century runs diagonally across the site of the nave and the south transept. To the south of the road, much of the southern walls of both nave and south transept stand to heights of up to 20m and the nave wall retains evidence that the nave aisles were originally vaulted. The west wall of the church is also approximately 20m high and has two surviving doorways and three tall lancet windows within its fabric. The conventual buildings are immediately to the south of the church and are laid out around a square cloister. A large proportion of the ground floor of the east range of the cloister survives as standing remains, whilst its upper floor, which would have been occupied by the monks' dormitory, is now very fragmentary. The doorway of the night-stair, which provided access directly from the dormitory into the church, survives in the south transept wall. Documentary evidence indicates that the dormitory was extended during the 14th century. Projecting eastwards from the south end of the east claustral range are the remains of the monk's latrine, the reredorter, where a stone-lined drain is visible. The south range of the cloister was occupied by the refectory and its associated rooms and, as was usual in Cistercian houses, the refectory was built on a north-south (as opposed to an east-west) alignment. The standing remains of this range retain evidence for several alterations, thought to have taken place during both the 15th century and following the monastery's dissolution. The Abbey farmhouse, a Grade II Listed Building, and its outbuildings occupy the western end of the south claustral range and are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. The remains of the west claustral range, which lies to the north of the farmhouse, are visible as ruins attached to the south west corner of the church. The southern end of the west range is thought to survive as buried features beneath the farmhouse complex itself. To the south east of the abbey church, beyond the claustral group, are the standing remains of further masonry buildings; the abbot's house and the monastic infirmary. The former was originally a large building of two storeys which was constructed in 1335-6. Internally it measures approximately 19m by 8m. The two floors communicated by means of a stair turret which survives in the north west angle. The thickness of the walling and the size of the buttresses suggest that the lower floor was vaulted. To the north of the abott's house are the ruins of the monastic infirmary which was originally of seven bays and partly vaulted. The northern part of the infirmary complex extends beneath the road which crosses the site, but its plan was obtained by excavation during the last century. The remains of a fireplace, incorporating re-used medieval glazed tiles, suggests that the infirmary was converted for secular uses after the abbey's dissolution. A major vaulted extension to the east of the infirmary is thought to mark the site of the infirmary chapel. The conventual buildings were originally set within the central part of a large rectangular precinct which defined an area of approximately 28ha. The extent of this precinct is known from field and cartographic evidence and it extended both west and east of the central core of the site and south beyond the Croxden Brook. The precinct boundary is thought to have originally been defined by masonry walling, parts of which remain standing. To the north and north east of the monastic church, the precinct wall survives to a height of 2m and is up to 1m thick. It is faced on both sides with dressed stone and a 300m length of the north precinct wall is included in the scheduling. Documentary evidence establishes that the main abbey gatehouse, originally a major stone building, was sited across the line of the present road to the north west of the monastic church. It is known to have been 'almost entire' in 1719. There was a chapel directly to the east of the gatehouse and this was constructed in the mid-13th century. This chapel survived as Croxden parish church until 1886 when it was replaced with the present church on a site approximately 30m to the north. The remains of part of the gatehouse, the chapel and associated ancillary structures, such as stables, will survive as buried features in this area and are included in the scheduling. In the field to the south and east of the present churchyard there is evidence for a water-management system, thought to be associated with Croxden Abbey. Water was originally held behind the dam situated 300m to the west of Abbey Farm (which is also included in the scheduling), and was brought along a leat which followed a similar alignment to the present water channel visible here. It was then held in a small mill pond which is indicated on the 1881 map and situated to the north west of the abbey church. This pond and an associated mill pre-date the foundation of the monastery and the local people were allowed access to the pond and mill after the abbey's construction. Although now infilled, the pond is included in the scheduling. From here it is thought that water was piped through the site along a series of channels eventually flowing into a group of fishponds and breeding tanks located to the north east of the monastic church. These ponds and their associated inlet and outlet channels survive as impressive earthworks and are included in the scheduling. Recent excavations in the area between the churchyard and the backfilled pond, north west of the abbey church, have produced evidence of medieval metal working at the site and the stone foundations of a large building are known from excavations further to the north east. In the field to the south east of the conventual buildings there is evidence of low earthwork remains which are thought to be associated with the monastery or with immediate post-dissolution use of the area and they are included in the scheduling. North of this field, and to the east of the abbey church, there has been a great build-up in the land surface. Evidence from parallel sites would suggest the monastic burial ground is located in this area. There are now six modern houses and gardens here but it is considered that their construction will have caused little damage to the underlying monastic deposits and, therefore, the ground below them is included in the scheduling. Approximately 280m west of the abbey church is a large earthwork retaining bank or dam which stands up to 4m high and over 12m wide at its base. To the west of this dam there would once have been a large pond over 100m wide and several hundred metres in length. The pond, which is now dry, would have been the principal source of water for the monastery. The earthwork dam and a sample section of the floor of the adjacent pond are included within the second area proposed for scheduling. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are Abbey farmhouse, situated at the south west corner of the cloister, its associated outbuildings and tennis court, the six houses and their outbuildings in the north east part of the site, the surface of the modern road which runs north west-south east through the site, all fence posts and modern walls, the surfaces of all paths and driveways, the modern visitor centre sited to the east of the east claustral range and the electricity poles and their support cables; the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Duggan, A P, Greenslade, M W, Croxden Abbey, (1970)
Gardiner, R , The Natural History of Staffordshire, (1844)
Lynham, C, The Abbey of St Mary Croxden, (1911)
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Staffordshire, (1974)
Wardle, G Y, 'Archaeologia' in The Gatehouse Chapel, Croxden Abbey, , Vol. 49, (1886)

National Grid Reference: SK 06226 39765, SK 06601 39750

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Nov-2017 at 05:27:44.

End of official listing