Tupholme Abbey: a Premonstratensian abbey and post-medieval houses and formal gardens


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


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

East Lindsey (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TF 14422 68228

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.

The remains of Tupholme Abbey survive well as standing remains, extensive earthworks and buried deposits which have been largely undisturbed by excavation. Waterlogging in the ponds, moat and other channels suggests a high level of survival for organic remains. The monument will preserve valuable evidence for the relationship of the monastery with the marshland landscape in which it was founded and with the post-dissolution manor which succeeded it.

Many early houses had gardens associated with them. The creation of gardens has an early history in England, the earliest known examples being associated with Roman villas. However, the major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods when the idea of the garden as a `pleasure ground' developed. Early gardens took a variety of forms. Some involved significant water management works to create elaborate water gardens which could include a series of ponds and even ornamental canal systems. At other sites flower gardens were favoured, with planting in elaborately shaped and geometrically laid out beds. Planting arrangements were often complemented by urns, statues and other garden furniture. Such sites were often provided with raised walkways or prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which the garden design and layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high status houses of the 16th century and later date, continued occupation of houses and related use and remodelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early remains rarely survive undisturbed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings. Their design often mirrors elements of the design of the associated house; particularly following the symmetry of the buildings. In view of their rarity, great variety of form, and importance for understanding high status houses and their occupants, all surviving examples of early date will be identified as nationally important.

The remains of the formal gardens surrounding the site of the post-dissolution house at Tupholme offer a good opportunity to understand the development and adaptation of a monastic site, particularly the reuse of industrial features for leisure purposes. The gardens also provide an insight into the wealth and social status of the occupants of the post-dissolution house.


The monument includes the remains of Tupholme Abbey, a Premonstratensian monastery founded between 1155-65 on land granted by Alan and Gilbert de Neville. In 1342 the manor of Ranby was granted to the abbey by Ralph de Neville. Tupholme was a relatively small establishment of up to 12 canons and had limited endowments in the county of Lincolnshire. Along with other Lincolnshire monastic sites Tupholme was involved in the wool export trade, although to a lesser extent than other houses. To assist in this trade it was linked to the River Witham by a navigable waterway granted by Henry II.

The abbey was dissolved in 1536 and the property granted to Sir Thomas Heneage of Hainton. Thereafter the site was occupied by a country house, demolished around the beginning of the 18th century and replaced in the 19th century by cottages and a farmhouse, which were themselves dismantled in 1986. The remains of the medieval monastery are therefore intermingled with those of the post-medieval house and farms and the monument includes the earthworks and standing remains of medieval and post-medieval buildings, ponds, ditches and associated features.

The monument is situated approximately 2km south east of Bardney on a low island of sand and gravel within an area of former marshland. The remains take the form of a group of earthworks, standing remains and buried archaeological deposits identified by aerial survey, which cover an area approximately 350m by 300m. The centre of the monument is occupied by the standing remains of the south wall of the abbey's refectory, a Grade I Listed structure which is included in the scheduling. The wall is comprised of coursed limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, and survives to a maximum of 5.4m in height and up to 23m in length. It includes the remains of six lancet windows and a reader's pulpit and can be dated architecturally to the early 13th century.

Abutting the south side of the wall are the remains of the 19th century Abbey Farm consisting of a brick built farmhouse and a stone cottage. Low earthwork banks immediately north of the refectory wall defining a sub-rectangular area 18m by 13m internally, are interpreted as representing the location of the claustral range and subsequently the position of the post-dissolution house, itself having utilised the standing remains of the eastern, western and southern ranges. The northern range of the cloister would originally have been occupied by the monastic church, although no obvious remains of this structure have been identified. The stone foundations of a rectangular building up to 47m by 20m situated approximately 70m south of the refectory wall are thought to represent a separate monastic building in the nature of the abbot's lodging.

The core monastic buildings probably lay within an inner court, perhaps defined by a wall. This inner court lay within a larger monastic precinct which would also have been defined in some way and which would have had a gatehouse at the main entrance. The antiquarian Stukeley made a sketch of the gatehouse in 1726. It is thought that this structure was demolished by the end of the 18th century as there are no 19th century records of it. The exact location of the gatehouse remains unknown but it is likely to have stood along the northern boundary of the monument as the position of the road here is thought to mirror the line of the precinct boundary. On the eastern side, the boundary of the outer precinct is interpreted as having followed the line of the present field boundary. To the south the field drain, itself representing the approximate course of the navigable waterway, is interpreted as having marked the boundary on this side. To the west the monument is defined by parallel linear ditches up to 350m in length which are visible as soilmarks on aerial photographs. These are also interpreted as representing the course of the boundary marking the outer monastic precinct.

Surrounding the core monastic building remains are the earthworks of extensive water control features, including ponds and channels. In the south eastern part of the monument a series of interconnecting linear channels, partly water filled, define a rectilinear moated area approximately 45m by 20m with an entrance on the north west corner. These, in addition to large earthwork enclosures north and east of the claustral range, are interpreted as the remains of the formal gardens associated with the post-dissolution house. Further remains of the post-medieval gardens include part adaptation of earlier features. In the southern part of the monument a series of four partly water-filled linear depressions up to 200m in length and 7m in width aligned on a north east-south west axis are interpreted as monastic fishponds reused in the post-dissolution period. A further linear depression up to 50m in length and 7.5m in width on the north western side of the monument, and a soilmark approximately 70m in length to the south west, identified from aerial photographs are similarly interpreted.

All trackways, gates, fences and standing buildings (apart from the south wall of the abbey's refectory) 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.

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Books and journals
Cocroft, W, Wilson, P, Field Survey of Site of Premonstratensian Abbey of Tupholme, (1989)
Cocroft, W, Wilson, P, Field Survey of Site of Premonstratensian Abbey of Tupholme, (1989)
Colvin, M, The White Canons in England, (1951)
Oliver, Reverend G, Acc. of the Religious Houses Formerly Sit. East of River Witham, (1846)
Listing Report: TF 16 NE Abbey Ruins, (1966)
RCHME, A.P. Plot of the Earthworks: Tupholme Abbey, Lincolnshire, (1989)
Start, D, (1997)
Turner, J. and Leach, T., Tupholme Abbey - Notes for an outing, (1974)


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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