Site of Legbourne Priory


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Site of Legbourne Priory
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 36042 84110

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 earthworks of the Cistercian priory at Legbourne survive within a complex of ridge-and-furrow cultivation, trackways and water-control systems representing a part of the medieval landscape in which the nunnery was established. The monument will preserve valuable evidence for the relationships between the nunnery and these aspects of its environment. In addition there is a high level of historical documentation relating to the site. Despite the damage to part of the monument in modern times, the site as a whole remains of national importance.


The monument includes the remains of Legbourne Priory, a Cistercian nunnery founded after 1150 and suppressed in 1536. It was a relatively small establishment of about 15 nuns and a prioress; from the 12th to the 14th centuries the population also included lay brethren under the direction of a prior. After the Dissolution the property was granted to Sir Thomas Heneage. The remains of the priory, which take the form of a group of earthworks, include parts of the inner and outer precincts with associated water-control features and ridge-and-furrow cultivation.

The monument lies in an area of pasture on the west side of the village of Legbourne adjacent to the present house, garden and farmbuildings known as Legbourne Abbey. Running north-west/south-east near the centre of the monument, partly cut by a modern pond, is a pair of parallel ditches with a narrow bank between. This feature, approximately 15m in width, is considered to represent the course of a medieval boundary between the inner precinct of the nunnery on the east and the outer precinct on the west. In the north-eastern part of the monument this boundary continues as a shallow linear depression, approximately 10m wide, running north-east/south-west, representing a former moat. The area thus enclosed is considered to represent approximately one quarter of the area of the inner precinct. To the south is a further linear depression running north-eastwards into the inner precinct from the beck in the south-west. This is considered to represent a medieval water-supply channel serving the domestic buildings of the nunnery.

To the west of the inner precinct is an area of earthworks, including a series of banks and ditches, occupying a roughly rectangular area approximately 180m square. The ditches, some partly infilled, form a group of small rectangular enclosures, some with internal banks and ditches. These features are considered to represent the remains of the priory's outer precinct where enclosures for gardens, orchards or animals would have been located.

In the south-western corner of the monument, immediately adjacent to, and aligned with, the enclosures of the outer precinct, is a pair of broad depressions, now partly infilled. That on the west is L-shaped in plan, each arm being about 60m long and up to 20m wide. On its east side is a small channel connecting it to another depression over 50m in length and up to 20m wide. These features are considered to represent the remains of two ponds which formed part of the water-control system of the priory.

On the north and west sides of the monument are the remains of ridge-and-furrow cultivation. The ridges, running north-west to south-east, are aligned with, and immediately adjoining, the earthworks of the precincts of the priory; running parallel to them, in the north-eastern corner of the monument, is a linear bank representing the remains of a headland separating this area of cultivation from another to the north-east. The earthworks represent the remains of medieval fields associated with the priory.

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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Monastery of Legburn, (1536)
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 200-274
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 153-155
White, W, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Lincolnshire, (1856), 504
NAR, TF 38 SE 4, (1963)


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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