Site of medieval nunnery, post-Dissolution house and gardens
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014454
Date first listed: 20-Dec-1979
Date of most recent amendment: 01-Jul-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: West Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: TF 11153 73227
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
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 priory of St Mary at Stainfield was the only nunnery of the Benedictine order in the old county of Lincolnshire. The remains of the priory, together with those of the post-Dissolution house and gardens which overlie it, have never been excavated. Later activity on the site has been of limited impact, overlying rather than destroying earlier remains. Substantial surviving earthworks in the present park, and finds made in the raised area where both the post-Dissolution house and conventual buildings stood, indicate a good state of preservation below ground.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of the Benedictine nunnery of Stainfield,
founded in the mid 12th century and dissolved in 1536. In 1538 it was granted
to Sir Robert Tyrwhitt whose descendants constructed a large house, park and
formal gardens on the site. The remains of the nunnery, including most of the
precinct, the site of the conventual buildings and a group of fishponds, are
therefore partly overlain by the remains of a post-Dissolution house with
associated buildings, gardens and other landscape features.
The conventual precinct originally occupied a roughly rectangular area approximately 420m by 250m around the present Stainfield Hall. The precinct boundary is represented on the north by Stainfield Beck, on the east by a water-filled ditch and on the west by the course of the present road. Near the centre of the precinct is a slightly raised area on which the present church, dwellings and outbuildings stand. Finds of sculptural and architectural fragments, including reticulated tracery of the 14th century, indicate that this is the site of the priory church and other conventual buildings.
In the northern half of the precinct is a group of fishponds, the largest of which is over 200m long, relatively shallow and contains a small island. Immediately to the north are three smaller ponds of rectangular shape representing sorting or breeding tanks. To the west, three further ponds are grouped around the foundations of a large rectangular building. These ponds are interconnected and drain into the stream via an outlet channel on the west. To the south of the main fishpond are the earth-covered foundations of three rectangular buildings, the easternmost of which is interpreted as the remains of a tower built in the early 18th century as a landscape feature in the park of Stainfield Hall.
Overlying the site of the conventual buildings are the remains of a secular mansion, first constructed in the 16th century and repeatedly altered throughout the succeeding centuries. Immediately north of the present Stainfield Hall, which is 19th century in date and Listed Grade II, lie above ground, remain, including an 18th century stable block and a farm building, both Listed Grade II, St Andrew's Church, Listed Grade II* and a gate pier, Listed Grade II. Of these remains only the gate pier is included in the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included in the scheduling. To the south of the Hall are the remains of part of the early 17th century formal gardens, including a brick wall on the edge of a former kitchen garden and bowling greens. Immediately to the east of the hall complex are the remains of an early 18th century walled garden, including a brick wall on the north and east, and an ornamental pond, now filled in, on the south. To the east of the walled garden, in a small area of woodland, is a further ornamental pond, still water-filled.
To the west of the present Hall is a double avenue of mature trees in an area of pasture, bounded on the north and west by broad banks. The avenue is traversed by a further bank running parallel to and approximately 50m from that on the west. This is interpreted as an early 18th century landscape feature, formed to create a vista from the Hall towards Barlings Abbey and Lincoln Cathedral.
Stainfield priory was founded in the mid 12th century by Henry or William Percy and was the only Benedictine nunnery in the old county of Lincolnshire. It was a small, poor establishment intended to house up to 20 nuns. At its dissolution in 1536 the last remaining nuns were transferred to Stixwould priory. The house of the Tyrwhitt family, who occupied the site from 1538 to the mid 18th century, was first completed in the 1580s and refurbished in 1611 and again in the early 18th century. It was largely dismantled in 1773 and finally destroyed by fire in 1855. The present Stainfield Hall represents the surviving half of a rebuilding of 1856.
All fences, road surfaces and standing walls and buildings are excluded from the scheduling, apart from the brick walls to the east of the Hall surviving from the 17th and 18th century gardens, and the gate pier. The ground beneath the excluded 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: 22608
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Binnall, P, Stainfield and the Tyrwhitt Family, (1971)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 131-132
'White's Directory' in White's Directory, (1856)
'White's Directory' in White's Directory, (1872), 168-169
engraving, Buck, Samuel , Stainfield Hall, (1726)
Penny, J.A., Notes on the Monasteries . . . near the River Witham, 1918,
RCHM(E), Everson, P L and Taylor C C and Dunn, C J, Change And Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire, (1991)
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