Premonstratensian Abbey at Bayham


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1012541

Date first listed: 04-Aug-1933

Date of most recent amendment: 17-Oct-1990


Ordnance survey map of Premonstratensian Abbey at Bayham
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 17-Dec-2018 at 19:47:34.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: East Sussex

District: Wealden (District Authority)

Parish: Frant

County: Kent

District: Tunbridge Wells (District Authority)

Parish: Lamberhurst

National Grid Reference: TQ 65006 36353


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. 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 integrity and diversity of the Bayham Abbey precinct, disturbed only by the Dower House of 1752 and by the lake to the north-east created ca.1800, provides a potentially outstanding opportunity to understand the development of the monastery. The part played by the ruins of the Abbey in the landscaping plans of Repton and Wilkins also provides a useful insight into late 18th century approaches to such monuments.


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


The Abbey at Bayham was founded shortly before 1211 and belonged to the Premonstratensian Order of canons. It includes not only the ruins of the church and its cloister, and the gatehouse to the north, but also the surrounding area of the monastic precinct within which stood other necessary buildings such as the infirmary, water mill, brewhouse, bakehouse, barns, stables and other storage buildings. In this area is an embanked mill-leat and there are also considered likely to have been fishponds and small agricultural plots, or closes, which provided at least some of the produce needed to support the community of monks. The monastic boundary was defined by moats on three sides which helped to drain the Abbey's grounds at the same time as defining its extent. The western side of the precinct was formed by a bank and ditch which survives to a height of 0.6m and part of which is marked by a mature hedge. The sequence of buildings in part of this area is known from excavations between 1973-76. The components of the cloister and gatehouse were identified, and building was shown to have taken place through the 13th century with further modifications in the 15th century. After the Abbey's dissolution in May 1525, parts of the Abbey were used for iron-working on a small scale. The ruins were incorporated into a romanticized landscape around 1800, based on the ideas of William Wilkins and Humphry Repton. Excluded from the scheduling are the Dower House, the storage sheds, all fences and gates, the access road (and service trenches) and the two bridges, although the ground beneath each remains included in the scheduling. The Abbey is a Grade I listed building, part of the monument is also in the Guardianship of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

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: 12804

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Rigold, S, Coad, J, Bayham Abbey, (1985)
S.A.S. Lewes, Streeten, A, Bayham Abbey, (1983)

End of official listing