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.
Titchfield Abbey, quietly situated in the valley of the River Meon, is a fine
example of a Premonstratensian monastery. The surviving structures provide a
good indication of the scale and importance of the monastic buildings while
the associated fishponds provide evidence for both water management and for
the economic importance of fish to both monastic and later communities.
The surviving elements of the 16th century mansion are an example of the
secular use of a religious complex in the years following the Dissolution of
Small scale excavations carried out in the early 20th century have clarified
the layout of the focal monastic buildings. More recent excavations have shown
the fishponds to have been constructed in the 13th century and to have been
maintained in use after the Dissolution of the abbey in the 16th century.
The main components of the monument are maintained in Guardianship and are
open to the public.
The monument, which lies close to the River Meon and to the north of the
village of Titchfield, includes remains of the medieval monastery of St Mary
and St John the Evangelist, converted in the 16th century into a mansion. Also
included are the remains of ancillary buildings which lie to the west of the
cloister and four medieval fishponds situated to its north west.
The upstanding remains of the abbey include the cloister, used in the 16th
century as the courtyard of the mansion, and the nave of the church which
became its gatehouse. The four towers of the gatehouse, which flank and rise
above the walls of the nave, form the most visually impressive element of the
ruined structure. The position of the frater, chapter house, library and the
quire of the church are also known from archaeological investigations carried
out by Sir William St John Hope in the early 20th century and are largely
enclosed within a boundary wall of 16th century date. Beyond this to the west
the north gable and west wall of a substantial stone building, probably of
16th century date, lie within an area which shows evidence of further
structures. To the north west of the main complex of abbey buildings is a
line of four (originally five) medieval fishponds, lying in a natural hollow
running down towards the River Meon. Excavations carried out by C K Currie in
advance of restoration works demonstrated that the construction of the ponds
was started shortly after the foundation of the abbey in the 13th century and
that they all continued in use after the Dissolution in the 16th century.
Drains leading to the abbey and a pondside building, all of 13th century date
were also discovered east of the dam of the lower pond. A further fishpond to
the north of this line has been considerably altered during the 20th century
and is not included within the scheduling. A tithe barn of pre-Dissolution
date and associated with the monastery, lies 300m south west of the cloisters.
This is Listed Grade I and is the subject of a separate scheduling.
The Abbey of St Mary and St John the Evangelist was founded in 1232 by Peter
de Roches, Bishop of Winchester, for Premonstratensian canons. The history of
the abbey was uneventful and at the suppression of the monasteries in 1537 the
monastic estate passed to Thomas Wriothesley. By 1542 he had converted the
monastic buildings into the residence known as `Place House' which survived
little altered until the greater part of it was demolished in 1781.
In the early 20th century, excavations carried out initially by Sir William St
John Hope helped to clarify the layout of the focal monastic buildings.
Part of the monument is in the care of the Secretary of State.
All paths, tracks, fence posts, notices, sheds, shed bases, areas of hard
standing, fishing platforms and structures abutting the north side of the 16th
century boundary wall are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath these features is included.
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.