Monastic Grange at Fenham
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1015631
Date first listed: 25-Jan-1962
Date of most recent amendment: 15-Apr-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: NU 08669 40746
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon
imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers
(secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident
labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were
specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms,
bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and
industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the
wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands
immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange.
Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands.
On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the
parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular
farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to
be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was
without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed
is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of
monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small
percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of
identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the
evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to
medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological
survival are identified as nationally important.
The monastic grange at Fenham survives in a good state of preservation and is one of very few granges in Northumberland where the location is known with certainty. It was associated with the priory at Holy Island and, as such, it is very well documented. It is a rare survival in Northumberland and it will add significantly to our knowledge of the working of monastic granges.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the remains of a monastic agrarian grange at Fenham. The
site is situated on sloping ground leading down to the coast, at the edge of
Fenham Flats. It has a clear view eastwards across to Holy Island. The grange
was originally in the possession of Holy Island Priory. The monument consists
of the remains of a moated manor house surrounded by a precinct wall and a
series of enclosures containing the remains of service and agricultural
buildings, crofts and tofts, the remains of medieval agricultural systems and
part of the mill-race which served Fenham Mill. Cropmark evidence from aerial
photographs suggest that the site may have extended into the ploughed field
immediately to the south of the visible remains, however, this area has not
been included in the scheduling as the extent and nature of the cropmark
remains are not sufficiently well understood.
The remains of the manor house are situated approximately centrally along the
southern edge of the site. They comprise a rectangular building constructed
on a low, sub-rectangular platform. The building is 28m long by 15.5m wide,
the walls survive as stone banks 2.5m wide and up to 1.5m high. The building
is divided internally into three rooms, the two northernmost rooms contain
large stone mounds with domed tops, 2m in diameter and 0.5m high. The platform
on which the house is built has maximum dimensions of 35m by 33m, it is up to
1m high. Situated in the south west corner of the platform, immediately to the
south of the main building, are the remains of two rectangular stone buildings
up to 14m long and 8m wide, the walls survive up to 1m high. The platform
itself is surrounded by the remains of a well constructed, mortar-bonded, wall
with dressed stone faces and a laid rubble core of large irregular blocks. It
is 1m wide and up to 1.1m high and has a simple gap entrance 1.5m wide near
the centre of the west side. This wall formed the boundary of the inner
courtyard. Slight traces of a ditch to the north and west may represent the
moat which was built around the site in 1385; the abbey mill-race runs
directly behind the southern edge of the manor house complex. To the east and
north of the inner courtyard is a second, larger, enclosed platform, possibly
originally an outer courtyard to the manor house. This enclosure is a maximum
of 53m east-west by 105m north-south; it is defined on three sides by a well
constructed stone wall 1.5m wide and up to 1m high with an entrance 4m wide in
the south east corner. On the north side, the edge of the platform falls away
sharply, this fall is enhanced by the hollow way which runs parallel to it.
This edge is defined by a stone faced bank up to 1.5m high. The foundations of
a rectangular building, 10m by 8m, abut the outer north west corner of the
bank and west wall. The interior of the enclosure contains the remains of
ridge and furrow cultivation. To the east of this outer enclosure are the
foundations of at least two steadings, aligned east-west. The westernmost
steading is 17m long by 7m wide, with walls surviving up to 2m wide and 0.3m
high, the building contains a central cross-passage with the eastern
cross-wall clearly visible. A yard, or garden, area 10m by 12m lies to the
rear of the steading and is defined by a low bank. A second steading lies to
the east, this is 20m long by 7m wide and the interior is divided into four
equal sized compartments, although the building narrows towards the east end.
There are slight traces of a possible third steading beyond this, but evidence
of this has been largely removed by later activity in this area. At the rear
of each steading is a toft, or plot, 50m long. They are clearly visible as
single wide ridges, with a narrow stone bank running along the bottom of each
furrow marking the edge of the plots. The southern boundary of the plots is
defined by a stone wall which abuts the east wall of the outer courtyard.
This wall is 1m wide and up to 1m high, it contains a number of reused
architectural fragments. The east edge of the plots is defined by the remains
of a robbed field boundary wall which runs parallel to the modern wall which
defines the edge of the field at this point. To the north of the steadings
are the remains of a small rectangular field, defined by a much robbed field
wall, which has been used until recently as a market garden. This area has
been much reduced by recent activities and is not included in the scheduling.
To the west of the manor house site and outer courtyard are a further range of
buildings and enclosures. A large sub-rectangular area, with maximum
dimensions of 100m by 110m is defined by low earth and stone banks, and by the
remains of the mill-race which runs along the southern edge. A sub-rectangular
building with a rounded north end is situated in the south east corner of this
area. The walls, up to 1m high, are well constructed of dressed stone, the
east and south walls are incorporated into the outer boundary walls of the
enclosure. The building is 33m long by 10m wide, the interior is divided into
three compartments, the central one of which comprises a raised platform, 5m
by 5m and 1.7m high. On the same alignment, 35m to the north, foundations of
a further structure, 9m by 6m, are incorporated within the wide northern bank
of the enclosure. Within the interior of the enclosure are the circular
foundations of a building, 10m in diameter. These are believed to be the
remains of a dovecot and this is substantiated by the fact that the field
was called Ducket Close from as early as the 16th century. Immediately to the
west of the enclosure is the site of a well, now capped with a large block of
sandstone supported on smaller boulders. To the north of the enclosure are
the remains of further house platforms and a hollow way which runs east-west
for virtually the entire length of the site.
Fenham was a member of the Bishop of Durham's estate of Islandshire. It was
granted to the monks of the Durham cell of Holy Island in 1082. The Account
Rolls of Holy Island Priory contain detailed records of building and
agricultural activities, and of the equipment of the manor house, grange and
mill. From these records it is clear that the grange practised a mixed
farming economy, growing wheat, barley and oats and rearing sheep, pigs,
cattle and fowl. A chapel was built on the site shortly before 1200. In 1326
it was recorded that the tithes of Fenham, Fenwick, Beal and Scremerston were
collected in the chapel at Fenham. The manor house is recorded as being built
or repaired in 1339 and, in 1385, 40 shillings was spent `for making a ditch
round the manor house at Fenham'. By the end of the 14th century the lands
were being let to farm. At some point a defensive tower was constructed, as in
1560 it was referred to as `a towre in good repair'. The township was granted
to Sir William Reade, a captain of Berwick upon Tweed, after the Dissolution.
A full inventory was taken of the estate at his death in 1603 and this records
in detail all the rooms within the manor house, including the `towre chamber',
and all the ancillary domestic and agricultural buildings in use at that time.
The house was bequeathed to Sir William's son, but had passed out of the
family by the end of the 17th century.
The telegraph poles and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling although
the ground beneath them is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 24614
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Raine, J, The History and Antiquities of North Durham, (1852), 174-80
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