St Ninian's preconquest monastic site, site of nucleated medieval settlement, St Ninian's Church and churchyard


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016398

Date first listed: 22-Oct-1970

Date of most recent amendment: 29-Jan-1998


Ordnance survey map of St Ninian's preconquest monastic site, site of nucleated medieval settlement, St Ninian's Church and churchyard
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Cumbria

District: Eden (District Authority)

Parish: Brougham

National Grid Reference: NY 56071 29981


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 monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Early monasteries were built to house communities of monks or nuns; sometimes houses were `mixed' and included both sexes. The main buildings provided facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. They included a series of timber halls and perhaps a stone church, all located within some form of enclosure. Preconquest monastic sites are rare nationally and fewer than 100 sites have been recognised from documentary sources, of these the locations of less than half have been confirmed. They are of considerable importance for the analysis of the introduction of Christianity into the country and all examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains will be identified as nationally important. A parish church is a building, usually of roughly rectangular outline, containing a range of furnishings and fittings appropriate to its use for Christian worship by a secular community, whose members gather in it on Sundays and on the occasion of religious festivals, baptisms, marriages and funerals. Parish churches were designed for congregational worship and are generally divided into two main parts; the nave, which provides accommodation for the laity, and the chancel, which is the main domain of the priest and contains the principal altar. Either or both parts are sometimes provided with aisles giving additional accommodation. Many parish churches also contain towers, transepts at the crossing of the chancel and nave, and porches. The main period of parish church foundation was the 10th to 11th centuries and the 19th century. Most medieval churches were rebuilt and modified on a number of occasions and hence the visible fabric will be of several different dates. They are found throughout the country and their distribution reflects the densities of population at the time they were founded. Parish churches provide important insights into medieval and later population levels or economic cycles, religious activity, artistic endeavour and technical achievement, and a significant number of surviving examples are identified as nationally important. Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more. This monument lies in the Cumbria-Solway sub-Province of the Northern and Western Province, an area characterized by dispersed hamlets and farmsteads, but with some larger nucleated settlements in well-defined agriculturally favoured areas, established after the Norman Conquest. Traces of seasonal settlements, or shielings, dominate the high, wet and windy uplands, where surrounding communities grazed their livestock during the summer months. The Inglewood local region is a marked sandstone ridge which separates the northern part of the Eden valley from the valleys of the Petteril and the Caldew. This former medieval royal forest bears signs of post-medieval enclosure in the pattern of straight roads and rectangular fields. Isolated farmsteads are the characteristic form of settlement. Despite the fact that no upstanding earthworks survive, St Ninian's preconquest monastic site and components of the deserted nucleated medieval settlement remain clearly visible on aerial photographs. The monastic site has traditional links with the Scottish saint, Ninian, and will facilitate further study of the spread of late fourth/early fifth century AD Christian settlement to the upper Eden valley. St Ninian's Church is a rare example of 17th century Gothic Survival architecture which, apart from the addition of a 19th century porch and bellcote, has remained relatively unchanged both internally and externally. A church is known to have been in use on this site in the 14th century and the finding of a Roman coin hoard and eighth century metalwork, together with the existence of a medieval high cross base in the churchyard, confirm that the site was in use for a considerable period before construction of the present church.


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


The monument includes the buried remains of St Ninian's pre-Conquest monastic site, the buried remains of the deserted nucleated medieval settlement of Brougham, St Ninian's 17th century church and the buried remains of its medieval predecessor, the churchyard, and the socle or base of a medieval high cross situated in the churchyard to the south of the church. It is located on the floodplain of the River Eamont south and east of a sharp bend in the river. Both the monastic site and the site of the medieval settlement have been identified from cropmarks visible on aerial photographs which clearly show the infilled ditches of enclosures, pits, field boundaries and structural foundations. The pre-Conquest monastic site lies to the east of the St Ninian's Church and is seen from aerial photographs to include an elliptical enclosure containing three rectangular structures along the inside edge of the enclosure ditch and faint traces of several other structures. The central of the three structures is sub-divided into two rooms. This form of monastic settlement typified by the circular enclosure is of early medieval Irish influence. A similar site at Hoddom in southern Scotland was excavated in 1992 and showed a series of rectilinear buildings set against the precinct boundary. Radiocarbon dates from Hoddom indicated that the site was occupied from the early seventh until the 11th century. The deserted medieval village of Brougham is seen from aerial photographs to include a series of linear features interpreted as field boundaries, enclosures and pits covering a wide area on all sides of the church. To the east of the monastic site traces of a semi-circular enclosure with an entrance on the western side can be seen on the aerial photographs, as can a field boundary aligned NNW-SSE, beyond which can be seen faint traces of a sub-rectangular enclosure. Documentary sources indicate that a medieval church was located here in 1393. By the mid-17th century this church was delapidated and derelict; consequently it was demolished and the present church built on the same site in 1660 by Lady Anne Clifford. The church is constructed of red sandstone rubble with regularly spaced buttresses and a slate roof. It has a four-bay nave and a single-bay chancel; the windows are small and round-arched with single lights, and are slighly taller in the east and west walls than in the north and south walls. In the 19th century a porch and bellcote were added. Internally the church remains almost completely furnished as it was in Lady Anne's time with much original woodwork, including box pews. The churchyard is trapezoidal in plan, has maximum dimensions of approximately 60m north-south by 55m east- west, and is bounded by a sandstone wall. The medieval high cross base situated in the churchyard to the south of the church consists of a rectangular sandstone block measuring 1.05m by 0.95m by 0.35m high. The original cross shaft and head has been replaced by a modern version. A variety of evidence hints at intermittent or continuous occupation of this spot from Roman times onwards. During the digging of a grave in the churchyard in 1914 a hoard of 23 Roman coins was discovered and examination of these suggests they were deposited between 276 and 286 AD. Local tradition asserts that a monastic site was founded here by the Scottish saint, Ninian, at the end of the fourth century AD. In 1846 an eighth century AD `Hiberno-Saxon' decorated gilt cup mount was reportedly found together with a number of skeletons. Documentary sources and place-name evidence indicate that in the mid-13th century the `town' of Brougham was probably sited near to the present church of St Ninian, although the church at that time was dedicated to St Wilfred, a Northumbrian saint who lived between AD 634 and 709. By the end of the 13th century documentary evidence mentions only `the walled church of Brougham' and it is thought that the settlement had been destroyed and its lands incorporated within the forest of Whinfell. Over the course of time St Wilfred's Chapel at Brougham Hall 3.5km away was used for most services and St Ninian's fell into disuse. It was declared redundant in 1977 and is a Grade I Listed Building. All modern field boundaries and telegraph poles are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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: 23678

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Higham, N, The Northern Counties to AD 1000, (1986), 276
Higham, N, Jones, B, The Carvetti, (1985), 130-2
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Cumberland and Westmorland, (1967), 234-5
Bouch, C M L, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Ninekirks, Brougham, , Vol. L, (1950), 80-90
Casey, P J, 'Trans Cumb & West Antiq & Arch Soc. New Ser.' in The Ninekirks (Brougham) Hoard; A Reconsideration, , Vol. LXXVIII, (1978), 23-8
AP No 2519,15,
AP No's STJ AVY56; CCC 2709,19A; 2519,15; MU CS 39,20,
Church Guide,
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,
Letter to Startin,W, Leech, RH, (1983)
SMR No. 2856, Cumbria SMR, Settlement by St Ninian's Church,
SMR No. 2856, Cumbria SMR, Settlement by St Ninian's Church, (1985)

End of official listing