Manorial settlement incorporating a medieval undercroft, 100m north of St John the Baptist's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017194

Date first listed: 21-Oct-1960

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Nov-1999


Ordnance survey map of Manorial settlement incorporating a medieval undercroft, 100m north of St John the Baptist's Church
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Devon

District: East Devon (District Authority)

Parish: Broad Clyst

National Grid Reference: SX 98178 97374


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

Reasons for Designation

Manor houses of the medieval period were often provided with a stone built vaulted undercroft above which would be located the living quarters, either a hall in earlier medieval times or a solar (private chamber) in the later medieval period. There are various types of vaulting and the technique has a long and complex history of development but the typical form from the 12th century to the later 13th century was the quadripartite bay (so called as the bay roof was effectively divided into four by four ribs supported on wall mounted corbels). A domestic undercroft of this period might comprise three, four or more of these bays depending upon the wealth of the owner. The undercroft, constructed of stone, was fireproof and was used for the storage of provisions or items of special value. Placed beneath the owner's chamber it could thus be kept under close supervision. Although they are sometimes referred to as cellars, manor house undercrofts were not necessarily built entirely below ground level, but, where they are sunken into the ground this can aid their preservation when the manor house either falls into disuse or is replaced by a later structure. All domestic undercrofts of the medieval period with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered worthy of protection. Excavations have confirmed that the undercroft of the former manor house at Broad Clyst survives in an exceptional state of preservation with its east wall standing almost to its original height. Excavation records, although unpublished, have been studied and have provided evidence for the likely date of its construction to be around the turn of the 14th century. In addition they have demonstrated that it consisted of three quadripartite bays which would have lain beneath the solar. The manor house would have been sited at the heart of the manorial complex and the high ground immediately to the east of the undercroft (which has no history of disturbance) will preserve further remains of the settlement. The monument will therefore provide archaeological information on the architectural styles of the period and on the lives of the inhabitants of the manor house, one of whom, Sir Roger de Nonant, is known by name.


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


The monument includes part of the remains of a medieval undercroft (or vault) and part of the manorial settlement of the Nonants family who held the manor from about AD 1100 to 1340. The manor house itself no longer survives above ground but the remains of its undercroft have been revealed in excavation and its east wall is preserved in the east boundary wall of Broad Clyst churchyard; further settlement remains associated with the manor house lie immediately to the east of this wall and are included in the scheduling. Excavations by A W Everett in 1959 revealed the well preserved walls of a stone built vault of three bays with four vaulting corbels for the springing of wall ribs. The results of Everett's excavation were never published and the excavation trenches were backfilled, although he recorded dimensions of about 10m by 4.5m for the extent of the vault. The upper courses of the undercroft's east wall have been incorporated, in antiquity, into a roughly coursed red sandstone wall which acts as a boundary wall for the graveyard of the church of St John the Baptist (this church was largely rebuilt, probably between 1395 and 1419). A 10m length of the inner (west face) of the medieval undercroft's eastern wall, that section exposed by Everett's excavations, and part of the north wall, project about 1.5m above ground level. The exposed east wall shows three relieving arches of moulded sandstone and local volcanic trap closed within masonry of the same material. The tympana (the areas between the arches) are infilled with volcanic stone. The remaining masonry of the wall, together with the vaulting corbels, north wall foundations, entrance, and four steps, are known from excavation photographs and unpublished records, to survive below ground. Studies of the photographs and field notes have suggested a date of around 1300 for the construction of the undercroft and it is considered, from comparison with other known examples of similar date, to have been overlain by the solar (main living chamber) of the manor house. The undercroft was probably terraced into the slope of the ground which falls gently from the east towards the River Clyst. This appears to be confirmed as the outer face of the east wall of the undercroft which is entirely hidden by the higher ground on that side of the building. However, the flight of steps which were seen in excavation in an entrance in the north wall demonstrate that its floor was at least partially sunken below ground level. A substantial artificial platform lies to the west of the undercroft and this suggests a complex of considerable size in the medieval period with the area of higher ground immediately east of the undercroft considered to preserve remains of ancillary buildings which would have been at the core of the manor house settlement; this area appears to have remained largely undisturbed, apart from small scale cultivation, since the medieval period. It is unclear what befell the manor house itself following the death of its owner Sir Roger de Nonant some time around 1340, but medieval architectural fragments have been recorded reused as building stone in some of the field walls in and around the area in which the house stood and other small standing sections of wall appear to survive within hedge banks although their antiquity has not been firmly established. The effigy of a knight in armour, believed to be that of Sir Roger, is located in the chancel of the nearby St John the Baptist's Church.

All fencing, all garden sheds, and all gravestones which fall within the area of the monument or its protective margin are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all of 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: 29692

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hoskins, WG, Devon, (1954), 351-2
Wood, E , The English Medieval House, (1965), 93

End of official listing