The site of St Saviour's Abbey, including the remains of an Iron Age farmstead and Faversham Roman villa
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1011804
Date first listed: 23-Feb-1955
Date of most recent amendment: 09-Nov-1995
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This copy shows the entry on 24-Jan-2019 at 02:05:55.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Swale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TR 01859 61717, TR 02018 61715
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.
Faversham abbey is an example of a medieval royal foundation, with documentary records dating from its construction in the 12th century through to its dissolution in 1538. Partial excavations have revealed the impressive scale of the original plan for the church and claustral buildings, and the subsequent alterations made in the 13th century. Other unexcavated archaeological remains relating to ancillary buildings will survive in the area. An Iron Age enclosure and Roman villa are also known from partial excavation to occur within the area later defined as the abbey precinct. These will provide information relating to the early history of the site, and its development around the time of the Roman invasion.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the below-ground remains of the medieval Royal Abbey
of St Saviour, a first century AD Iron Age farmstead and of the Faversham
Roman villa, where these have not been the subject of modern development. The
Iron Age farmstead and Roman villa are situated within and towards the eastern
edge of the later abbey precinct. The site lies to the north of the modern
settlement of Faversham Creek and Abbey Street.
Faversham abbey was founded by King Stephen in 1147 for the royal tombs, and
building work commenced in 1148. The foundation was originally colonised by 12
Cluniac monks under Abbot Clarembold, who arrived on the site in 1148. The
abbey appears to have been run as an independent house, but by the reign of
Henry III the brethren were all Benedictine. In 1152 Matilda was buried in the
abbey, followed by her son Eugene in 1153 and Stephen himself in 1154. In the
Taxatio Ecclesiastica taken for Pope Nicholas IV in 1291, it was recorded that
Faversham abbey owned temporalities worth 21 pounds 19s 7d in Ludenham,
Goodnestone, Graveney, Harty, Hawkinge and Boughton Malherbe; 1 pound 2s 7d
in London; 24 pounds 7s 10d in Radwicke and 80 pounds 18s 5d in Tring. By 1535
when the Valor Ecclesiastica was taken for Henry VIII, the gross value of the
abbey's holdings in Kent alone was given as 261 pounds 5s 2d. The abbey was
surrendered to the Crown on 8 July 1538, and the abbot and eight remaining
monks were pensioned off. On 10 May 1539, the king sent the order for the
church and cloister buildings to be demolished, and for the stone from the
site to be removed. By 1541 material from these buildings was being shipped
across the Channel to help in the building of the fortifications at Calais.
Documentary records suggest that before c.1300 the abbey precinct covered an
area of approximately 24 acres, although by the start of the 14th century,
this holding had been reduced to 16 acres. The precise extent of the pre-
c.1300 precinct is unknown, but by the 14th century, the boundaries of the
precinct ran along Faversham Creek on the west, containing the areas of the
inner and outer courts, and along the extent of the marshes on the north,
later marked by a stone wall. The line of the southern boundary can be seen to
follow the line on which the surviving gatehouse stands, and on the east the
stream would have indicated the extent of the abbey's landholdings. The
arrangement of buildings within the precinct is known from partial excavation
conducted by the Reculver Excavation Group in 1965. This revealed that the
church and cloister were located centrally within the area. The church was
originally designed on a pretentious scale, 361 feet long, built of Kentish
ragstone with a Caen stone dressing on the interior. The cloister stood to the
north of the church, and was designed on an equally impressive scale. The
Chapter House stood in the south of the cloister, with the dorter to the
north. By about 1220, the original building plan of 1148 had not been
finished, and a scheme of drastic modifications was undertaken, due mainly to
financial constraints following the cancellation of the annual grant in 1209.
The church was reduced by almost 100 feet to 260 feet in length, with the
cloister being reduced in proportion.
It is not known why Faversham was chosen by King Stephen to house his royal
abbey, but several important monastic houses had already been established on
other Kentish estuaries, and this may have made Faversham Creek appear an
equally attractive prospect. The foundation may have been wealthy, but
Visitations in 1368 and 1511 both revealed an unsatisfactory state of affairs
at the abbey, and that `women had ingress to the cloister and refectory'.
In 1671 Thomas Southouse described the area of the abbey: `In this place
sometime stood the church of this convent so totally long since demolished
that there is not so much as a stone or underpinning left to inform posterity
whereabouts it stood'. A first attempt at excavation was made by Edward Crow
c.1855-1861. His work in Sextry Orchard revealed `chalk and flint foundations,
much stone and broken tile...'.
In addition to revealing the plan of the abbey, the 1965 excavations also
revealed the remains of a first century AD farmstead and ditch system, which
is thought to have fallen into disuse in the later part of that century, and a
Roman villa. The ditch system is associated with a large enclosure, thought to
have been a cattle compound and to have been associated with domestic huts.
The first Roman building was constructed partly over the ditch system c.AD 70-
100. It had a range of four rooms, with a passage from back to front and a
verandah on the east side. The villa increased in size and complexity during
the second and third centuries, including the addition of various refinements,
such as a hypocaust heating system and a mosaic floor, indicating a period of
prosperity and success. The absence of any material dating from the late third
or early fourth centuries on the site has been taken to indicate that the
villa was abandoned in the late third century AD. The villa is thought to
have formed the centre of a farming estate, possibly extending as far as
Watling Street and covering c.300 acres.
All surface features such as goal posts and fences are excluded from the
scheduling, as are the surfaces of any paths, the garages to the south west of
the playing fields and the sign post in front of the western wall of the
playing fields; also excluded are all standing buildings on the west side of
the monument including Nos 63 and 64 Abbey Street which are listed Grade II,
Arden's House which is listed Grade II* and the wall on the north side of the
garden of Arden's House (Grade II); also excluded is the southern end of a
barn on the west side of the monument; the ground beneath all these features
is, however, included in the scheduling.
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: 24362
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Philp, B, Excavations at Faversham, 1965, (1968), 62-63
Philp, B, Excavations at Faversham, 1965, (1968), 3-35
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