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Moated site of Flixton Priory

List Entry Summary

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 Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Moated site of Flixton Priory

List entry Number: 1018268

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Suffolk

District: Waveney

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Flixton

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 10-Feb-1953

Date of most recent amendment: 18-Mar-1998

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 21448

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

A nunnery was a settlement built to sustain a community of religious women. Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. The main elements are the church and domestic buildings arranged around a cloister. This central enclosure may be accompanied by an outer court and gatehouse, the whole bounded by a precinct wall, earthworks or moat. Outside the enclosure, fishponds, mills, field systems, stock enclosures and barns may occur. The earliest English nunneries were founded in the seventh century AD but most of these had fallen out of use by the ninth century. A small number of these were later refounded. The tenth century witnessed the foundation of some new houses but the majority of medieval nunneries were established from the late 11th century onwards. Nunneries were established by most of the major religious orders of the time, including the Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians, Franciscans and Dominicans. It is known from documentary sources that at least 153 nunneries existed in England, of which the precise locations of only around 100 sites are known. Few sites have been examined in detail and as a rare and poorly understood medieval monument type all examples exhibiting survival of archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Flixton Priory was one of only 11 medieval nunneries in Norfolk and Suffolk, two others of which were of the Augustinian order. The greater part of the moated precinct, including the area of the cloister and claustral ranges, displays little evidence of modern disturbance, and although only a small part of the conventual buildings still stands above ground, the earthworks which remain visible are evidence for the survival of buried foundations and various other features of monastic date. These, with associated archaeological deposits, will contain information concerning the physical layout and the social and economic organisation of the priory, and its development over time. The documented association with Flixton manor gives the monument additional interest, and it is also likely to retain evidence for the use of the manorial site both before the foundation of the priory and after the Dissolution. In addition, it is probable that organic materials, including evidence for the local environment in the past, will be preserved in waterlogged deposits in the moat and ponds.

History

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

Details

The medieval moated site of Flixton Priory is located some 400m south east of St Mary's parish church, on the southern edge of the valley of the River Waveney. The monument includes the moated site and the standing and buried remains of the priory which it contains. The visible remains include a ruined wall, earthworks overlying masonry wall footings, and fishponds with associated water management features.

At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the manor of Flixton formed part of the estate of William, Bishop of Thetford, and it was later held by Geoffrey de Hanes. In the 13th century it passed by marriage to Bartholomew de Creke whose widow, Margery, founded the priory in 1258 and endowed it with the capital manor and other holdings. The priory, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and St Catherine, was of the Augustinian order, and the community, according to the terms of the foundation, was to number not more than 18 nuns in addition to the prioress. A survey of 1292 records an annual income of 43 pounds, 18 shillings and 2 pence, but this declined sharply following the Black Death (1349), and by the beginning of the 16th century there were only seven or eight nuns. The nunnery was among the small houses listed for suppression in 1528 but was not, in fact, dissolved until 1536. It was granted in 1537 to Richard Warton and in 1544 passed to John Tasburgh. Members of the Tasburgh family are believed to have lived here for a time in the later 16th century before removing to Flixton Hall.

The moated site is sub-rectangular in plan and has maximum overall dimensions of approximately 180m NNW-SSE by 136m. The moat, which contains some open water, bounds the north, east and south sides of the central enclosure and defines the northern and southern ends of the west side, leaving a gap approximately 72m wide between. The end of the moat to the south of this gap is aligned towards the north west and terminates in a sub-rectangular pond which is partly separated from the main arm by a narrow baulk. The terminal of the moat on the north side of the gap turned inward at one time, and although this short eastward extension is now largely infilled and survives chiefly as a buried feature, it is marked by a sub-rectangular depression approximately 1.5m wide and up to 0.5m deep in the ground surface. It flanks what was probably the original main entrance to the priory and the associated public area to the west of the church and conventual buildings. The width of the southern and eastern arms of the moat ranges from approximately 9m to 11m, but the northern arm is wider, between 15m and 20m. A short spur which projects northward from the western end of the northern arm may mark the opening of a former outlet channel. Two causeways which give access to the interior across the northern arm and the south east corner of the moat are probably not original features.

The remains of the conventual buildings are situated slightly to the west of centre within the enclosure. Abbey Farmhouse, which is Listed Grade II, is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. It incorporates what is thought to be part of the monastic church, although the main body of the church may have stood immediately to the south of the present building. Flint masonry of medieval type, with stone quoins, is exposed in the outer face of the lower wall at the south east corner of the larger, western wing of the house. The conventual buildings adjoining the church were ranged around a rectangular cloister, the outline of which can still be traced to the south of the farmhouse. It is defined on the western side by a low bank approximately 7.5m wide, which runs southward from opposite the western end of the house and is believed to cover the masonry footings of the west claustral range. The line of the outer wall of the south range is also clearly visible about 37m from the house. A central section of this wall, approximately 8.7m in length, still stands almost to roof height, and low banks mark the buried footings to the east and west of it. A block of fallen masonry about 7m from the standing section lies at what is probably the eastern end of the range. The ruined wall is constructed primarily of mortared flint rubble with limestone dressings and includes a large, internally splayed window opening, now partly blocked, surmounted by a depressed arch which, on the evidence of the stonework, is a late insertion. The blocking of an earlier, pointed arch, is visible in the masonry above it. At either end of the standing wall are traces of two more windows of similar type, one of which, at the western end, displays a well-preserved section of the moulded stone surround, with the springing of the arch and sockets for glazing bars. The other, at the eastern end, shows evidence of alteration, including inserted brickwork. The stub of a buttress projects from the outer face of the wall towards the eastern end.

If the arrangement of the cloister followed the usual custom, the south range will have been occupied by the nuns' refectory, and the west range probably contained an undercroft used for storage, and perhaps an outer parlour also, with apartments for the prioress and accommodation for guests above. The range containing the nuns' dormitory and the chapter house, where the daily business of the community was discussed, will have been on the east side of the cloister, and although the traces of this above ground are slight, it is thought that foundations and other remains survive below the ground surface.

On the south side of the enclosure is a rectilinear pond measuring approximately 35m in length east-west and up to 16m in width. It is aligned parallel to the adjacent southern arm of the moat and is linked to it by a short channel in which there would originally have been a sluice to control the flow of water between the two. This connecting channel has become partly infilled but is visible as a linear depression approximately 2.5m wide and 0.5m deep. Another ditch or channel, traceable as a somewhat shallower depression approximately 13m wide, runs northwards from the western end of the pond to the south eastern angle of the cloister. A rectilinear depression in the ground surface marks the site of a second, smaller pond, now largely infilled, which adjoined the first on the north east side. These ponds are considered to be medieval in origin and to have been created for the breeding and storage of fish.

Other slight earthworks extend between and beyond the two ends of the moat on the western side of the enclosure. Here, a quadrangular area, bounded on the south west and north sides by ditches which project north westwards and south westwards from the two ends of the moat, is divided into unequal quadrants by two intersecting ditches, aligned north west-south east and north east-south west respectively and visible as linear hollows approximately 3.5m wide and 0.4m deep. These features, which perhaps relate to former garden plots, are also included in the scheduling.

In addition to Abbey Farmhouse, all outbuildings and sheds within the protected area are excluded from the scheduling, together with the surfaces of modern tracks, driveways and paths, all modern fences and gates, service poles and inspection chambers, although the ground beneath all 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Copinger, W A, History of the Manors of Suffolk: Volume VII, (1911), 176
Cox, J, The Victoria History of the County of Suffolk: Volume II, (1907), 115-117
Cox, J, The Victoria History of the County of Suffolk: Volume II, (1907), 115-117
Evans, N, 'Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol' in The Tasburghs of South Elmham, , Vol. 34, (1979), 269-280
Haslewood, F, 'Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol' in Inventories of Monasteries Suppressed in 1536, , Vol. 8, (1894)
Other
CUCAP BEQ 69,
NAU AYD 25, (1985)

National Grid Reference: TM 31529 86369

Map

Map
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End of official listing