Axholme Carthusian Priory and post-Dissolution garden earthworks, Melwood Park


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017487

Date first listed: 10-Dec-1951

Date of most recent amendment: 12-Mar-1998


Ordnance survey map of Axholme Carthusian Priory and post-Dissolution garden earthworks, Melwood Park
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: North Lincolnshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Owston Ferry

National Grid Reference: SE 80625 01922


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

Reasons for Designation

A charterhouse is a monastery of the Carthusians. The order was founded in the 11th century, the first houses in England being established in the 12th or 13th century. It is a settlement planned to provide a community of contemplative monks with facilities for worship, accommodation and, to some extent, subsistence. Carthusian life was centred on solitude and favoured meditation over communal meeting. In taking this approach to monastic life the Carthusians were unique amongst orders in the West. In contrast to other monastic establishments the components of the charterhouse were devoted to individual accommodation in preference to communal buildings. Most notable were the individual cells and gardens built for each monk, these being ranged around a great cloister. In addition to these cells each monastery had a main church, workshops, guesthouses, kitchens and other buildings, these being enclosed within some form of boundary. Like other monasteries, charterhouses were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning, and charity, but also, because of their vast landholdings, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. Nine charterhouses were established in medieval England. In view of their rarity and unique form of organisation, all examples exhibiting archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches, often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some cases moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites served as prestigious aristocratic or seigniorial residences with the provision of a moat primarily as a status symbol rather than as a means of defence. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England. However moated sites were built throughout the medieval period and are widely scattered throughout England, demonstrating a wide diversity of forms and sizes. They are a significant class of medieval monument and are important for the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside. Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic remains.

Axholme Priory is a well-known and well-documented monument retaining well preserved and extensive earthworks. Geophysical survey has indicated that the degree of archaeological survival of wall lines and floor levels of the priory complex is very good, and the flooded moat ditch implies good conditions for the survival of organic materials. Overall therefore, significant remains of the priory complex will be preserved along with important evidence for the post-Dissolution use of the site, including early garden remains. Many post- Dissolution houses had gardens associated with them. These could take a variety of forms. Some used elaborate water-management systems to create water-gardens which could include a variety of ponds and canals. At other sites flower gardens were favoured with plants placed in beds which were often elaborately shaped or geometrically laid out. Such sites often had raised walkways or prospect mounds from which the garden remains could be viewed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to provide a `pleasure ground'. The remains at Axholme offer considerable potential for the study of the transition from religious to high status secular occupation.


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


The monument includes the earthworks of a charterhouse (Carthusian priory) and those related to the houses and gardens built on the site after the Dissolution. It also includes a partly water filled moat, the buried remains of a Premonstratensian chapel which predates the priory, and a standing building, now in agricultural use, that incorporates medieval fabric. The Carthusian priory was founded in 1395-96 for a prior and 12 monks by Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, at the site of a small 12th century Premonstratensian chapel dedicated to St Mary. Of the nine Carthusian foundations in England, Axholme was the seventh to be established with building work on the charterhouse, including the repair of some existing buildings, starting in 1397. It was finally incorporated into the Carthusian Order in 1432, and in 1447 new building work was started, completed shortly after 1449. In 1535 the prior of Axholme and the sister house of Beauvale, together with the prior of the London Charterhouse, were ordered to submit to the King as head of the Church of England and when they refused were tried for High Treason and executed. Axholme Priory was dissolved in 1539. In 1540, the charterhouse and estates in Owston and Hawkesey were granted to John Candysshe of Westbutterwick who converted the priory into a manor surrounded by gardens and orchards. About a century later the estate was owned by the Cartaret family and the manor house, which had become ruinous, was pulled down to be replaced by a smaller house in 1688. The core of the site is a roughly square moated island 148m across, surrounded on at least three sides by a 10m wide moat ditch. Two thirds of the southern and eastern moat arms are flooded and have been dredged in the recent past. The remaining lengths, together with the western moat arm, survive as linear depressions. If there was a northern moat arm to complete the circuit, it must survive as an infilled feature. The moated island formed the inner court of the charterhouse and contains well preserved earthworks of the priory's cloister, including the cells with their individual small courtyard gardens which are typical of Carthusian monasteries. The island also contains a Grade II Listed Building which includes the remains of the house thought to have been built by the Cartaret family in the late 17th century. This building incorporates medieval fragments including the carved shield of the Mowbray family. A stone column from a priory building is now located within a sealed basement room. It also includes a now blocked 15th century doorway which is thought to have been part of the first post-Dissolution house. Geophysical survey has identified further wall lines within the island all around this building. These indicate further remains of the priory buildings and are thought to include the church, chapterhouse, and frater (refectory), together with the post-Dissolution manor house. The inner court will also contain the charterhouse's cemetery, the cloister garth, the open area to the south of the Listed Building. Some of the earthworks on the island are the remains of the manor house's gardens described by Abraham de la Pryme in the late 17th century. These include linear banks forming raised walkways and a small prospect mound in the south east corner of the island. To the north west, north and east of the moated island there are further earthworks and buried remains of the outer court of the charterhouse. These will retain evidence for the range of activities conducted by the lay brethren who supported the priory. The full extent of the outer court is not known and no outer precinct boundary has been identified, but it is believed that it was more extensive than the currently surviving remains. Survey has identified a number of features to the north west of the island, including what is interpreted as the gatehouse with a trackway with flanking drains running through it eastwards from Epworth Road. To the south of this trackway there is a level platform orientated east-west and measuring 50m by 25m, whose location suggests that it was a timber building housing guest quarters. Geophysical survey has also identified a number of additional wall lines in this area. In the field to the east of the moat there are a number of earthworks including terraced areas, ditches and pits. These are considered to relate to such things as workshop areas, stores, bake houses and kitchens, all of which would have been located close to, but outside of the inner court of the priory, and would have been used by the lay brethren who would typically have numbered up to 16. The easternmost farm building, which includes the carved stone shield of the Mowbray family and is Grade II Listed, is included in the scheduling. All other buildings, together with all post and wire fencing, gates, cattle grids, modern feeding and water troughs, and concrete hardstandings 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. 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: 30119

Legacy System: RSM


Earthwork survey report, RCHME, Axholme Priory, Humberside, (1995)

End of official listing