Durford Abbey


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


Ordnance survey map of Durford Abbey
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Hampshire (District Authority)
West Sussex
Chichester (District Authority)
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SU 77798 23416

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.

Despite some disturbance caused by the construction of modern buildings and agricultural operations, the Premonstratensian monastery at Durford Abbey Farm survives comparatively well in the form of standing architectural fragments, earthworks and below ground archaeological remains. Although they have been incorporated within a later farmhouse, its outbuildings and grounds, these remains illustrate not only the religious aspects of monastic life but also domestic and agricultural elements. The survival of the later barn with part of its water driven threshing apparatus represents the rare survival of an unusual form of 19th century agricultural machinery.


The monument includes the remains of a Premonstratensian monastery and a later threshing barn, along with its associated water wheel and water-powered drive shafts, situated on the northern bank of the River Rother c.3km east of Petersfield. Some of the monastic buildings survive as ruined structures and fragments incorporated within a later farmhouse and outbuildings. Elsewhere, the abbey survives in the form of earthworks and below ground archaeological remains. Historical records suggest that the monastery, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist, was founded by Henry Husey in 1161. A series of misfortunes during the 14th and early 15th centuries, including two serious robberies and a fire in 1417, after the church tower was struck by lightning, contributed towards its subsequent decline. The abbey was dissolved in 1534, after which time it passed into secular ownership, and in 1784 the then owner, Lord Stawell, carried out a substantial programme of alteration and rebuilding on the site. In common with most religious houses, the main buildings are ranged around a square, inner cloister yard. The frater, or refectory, fronted the southern side of the cloister yard and the surviving fragments of its undercroft, or below ground storage room, are represented by in situ masonry, including the apexes of three arches, incorporated within the lower courses of the southern and western walls of a later stable block, Listed Grade II. Around 16m to the south west of the stable block is the base of a round column, also interpreted as an in situ fragment of the original southern range. Surviving elements of the western range, including some in situ medieval masonry, form part of the fabric of the later farmhouse, which mainly dates to the 1784 rebuilding and is also Listed Grade II. Further fragments of medieval masonry have been reused in the later garden walls. However, all the above ground elements of the farmhouse and modern walls are excluded from the scheduling. The other main buildings which were ranged around the inner cloister, including the monastic church to the north and further accommodation and service blocks, survive in the form of buried remains beneath the later outbuildings and grounds of Durford Abbey Farm. Lying to the north and south west of the main cloister are earthworks representing a group of associated fishponds, along with traces of the water management system which regulated them. A roughly east-west aligned, linear ditch running eastwards from the northerly fish stews has been interpreted as part of the northern boundary of the monastic precinct. The later, timber-built threshing barn lies on the eastern side of the earlier monastic cloister yard. The large rectangular, weather-boarded barn, which is Listed Grade II, has been dated to c.1600. It is constructed on stone footings and has a hipped, clay-tiled roof of braced, queen-post construction. The wagon entrance is centrally placed on the western side of the building and is headed by a gabled projection. Fixed to one of the main beams within the barn is a series of drive shafts originally attached to threshing machinery, although this no longer survives. The drive shafts, which date to the 19th century, were powered, via an unusual culverted, connecting underground shaft, by an undershot iron water wheel situated alongside a leat fed by the River Rother c.40m to the SSE. The farmhouse, all post-medieval and modern barns and outbuildings, all modern garden structures and ornaments, post-medieval and modern walls, fences and gates and the modern surfaces of all roads, tracks, paths, terraces and hardstanding areas are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included. However, the scheduling does include the threshing barn and its machinery, and the in situ medieval parts of the stable block.

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:
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Books and journals
Knowles, , Haddock, , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1953), 188
Aldsworth, FG, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Durford Abbey, (1979), 250-1
Aldsworth, FG, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Durford Abbey, (1979), 250-51
Adam, N & Hearne, C, Arch Watching Brief of The Old Stables, Durford Abbey Farm, 1992,


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

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