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


Ordnance survey map of The site of St Saviour's Abbey, including the remains of an Iron Age farmstead and Faversham Roman villa
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Swale (District Authority)

Parish: Faversham

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

End of official listing