Hagnaby Abbey: a Premonstratensian abbey and a post-medieval house and formal garden


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Hagnaby Abbey: a Premonstratensian abbey and a post-medieval house and formal garden
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Lindsey (District Authority)
Hannah cum Hagnaby
National Grid Reference:
TF 48423 80633

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. The Premonstratensian order, or "White Canons", were not monks in the strict sense but rather communities of priests living together under a rule. The first Premonstratensian establishments were double houses (for men and women), but later they founded some 45 houses for men in England. The Premonstratensian order modelled itself on the Cistercian values of austerity and seclusion and founded all its monasteries in rural locations.

The remains of Hagnaby Abbey survive well as earthworks and as buried deposits which have been undisturbed by excavation. Waterlogging in the ponds, moats and other channels suggests a high level of survival for organic remains. The potential for the recovery of material relating to industrial activity, such as tanning, is also good. The monument will preserve valuable evidence for the relationship of the monastery with the marshland landscape in which it was founded and with the secular mansion which succeeded it. The remains of the post-medieval house and the earthworks of its surrounding formal gardens are of interest in their own right; the garden earthworks particularly survive well and illustrate developments in the style of garden layout over a period of at least two centuries.


The monument includes the remains of Hagnaby Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery founded by Agnes de Orreby in 1175-6 as a dependent priory of Welbeck Abbey. Dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr of Canterbury, in 1250 it became an independent abbey under the abbacy of Robert of Retford. It was a relatively small establishment of up to about 13 canons and had limited endowments in the county of Lincolnshire. The abbey was dissolved in 1536 and the property sold to John Freeman of London; thereafter the site was occupied by a large country house, in ruins by the 19th century. The remains of the medieval monastery are thus overlain by those of a post-medieval house with extensive gardens and the monument includes the earthworks of both medieval and post-medieval buildings, ponds, ditches and associated features.

The monument lies on the marsh between Alford and Mablethorpe, surviving in an area of pastureland which stands above the surrounding arable. The remains take the form of a group of earthworks contained within a large, ditched enclosure. At the highest part of the site, near the centre of the monument, is a raised area c.60m square which includes the earthworks of building foundations. Fragments of dressed stone are visible on the surface. This is the site of the main monastic buildings, including the church and claustral ranges, and of the secular house which succeeded them. Adjacent to the east, north and south-west are further building remains including fragments of brick. These are considered to represent the remains of largely post-medieval buildings associated with the secular house, including service buildings and garden structures.

Surrounding these areas of building remains are the earthworks of extensive water-control features, including ponds and channels. In the south-eastern part of the monument is a series of interconnecting linear channels, partly water-filled, which form a group of small rectangular enclosures; to the north are the remains of a larger ditched enclosure surrounding a narrow pond, approximately 65m x 4m, with a semicircular mound at each end. These are considered to represent the remains of the formal gardens which were laid out in the post-medieval period around the house.

Further remains of the post-medieval gardens include partial re-cuttings of earlier features. In the south-western part of the monument is a large pond, over 130m long and 10m wide and aligned north-south; on the southern boundary of the monument is a water-filled ditch with an internal bank. Approximately 45m from the northern boundary of the monument is another, partly water-filled ditch, with a linear channel running south-westwards from its western end. These features are considered to represent the course of the monastic precinct moat, later partly re-cut as garden and drainage features. To the west and north of the inner precinct are further earthworks, including ponds and other depressions. These are considered to include the remains of medieval fishponds and other features associated with the abbey and post-medieval house.

All fences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath 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.

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Books and journals
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 184,189
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 205-206
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 205-206
Pevsner, N, John, H, The Buildings of England: Lincolnshire, (1964), 266
White, A J, Hagnaby Abbey (Hannah-cum-Hagnaby) TF 484 806, (1977)
White, A J, Hagnaby Abbey (Hannah-cum-Hagnaby) TF 484 806, (1977)
White, A J, Hagnaby Abbey (Hannah-cum-Hagnaby) TF 484 806, (1977)
White, W, White's Directory of Lincolnshire, (1842), 318
Dudding, R C, 'Lincolnshire Notes & Queries' in Hagnaby Abbey, , Vol. XVIII, 1, (1924), 10-13
computerised record, Hagnaby Abbey - Site No. 00190, (1990)
computerised record, Hagnaby Abbey - Site Number 00190, (1990)
computerised record, Hagnaby Abbey - Site Number 00190, (1990)
SMR parish file - ms notes, White, A J, Hagnaby Abbey, (1979)


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.

End of official listing

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