Haughmond Abbey: an Augustinian monastery on the site of an earlier religious foundation, a post-Dissolution residence and garden remains
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021364
Date first listed: 08-Feb-1915
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jun-2010
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SJ 54187 15262
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
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. Some 225
of these religious houses belonged to the order of St Augustine. The
Augustinians were not monks in the strict sense, but rather communities of
canons - or priests - living under the rule of St Augustine. In England they
came to be known as `black canons' because of their dark coloured robes and to
distinguish them from the Cistercians who wore light clothing. From the 12th
century onwards, they undertook much valuable work in the parishes, running
almshouses, schools and hospitals as well as maintaining and preaching in
parish churches. It was from the churches that they derived much of their
revenue. The Augustinians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval
life and all of their monasteries which exhibit significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.
Haughmond Abbey is a good example of an Augustinian monastery, which unusually developed from an earlier religious house and therefore provides evidence about the changing nature of monasticism over more than 400 years. The claustral buildings survive well as standing structures and as buried remains. The archaeological excavations undertaken here have revealed the ground plan of many of the demolished claustral buildings and have demonstrated that the associated deposits, including floors and external surfaces, are also well-preserved. The artefacts and organic remains contained within these deposits will provide valuable insights into the daily lives of the brethren. Excavations have also shown that burials from both the earlier church and the later abbey survive well. These burials will provide significant information about the living conditions, including diet and health, of the clergy and the abbey's benefactors, as well as providing evidence of contemporary funerary practices. Documentary sources give additional insights into life at the abbey, together with information about the abbey's landholdings and the gifts made by the benefactors. A topographical survey of the area surrounding the claustral buildings has provided detailed information about the planning and development of the ecclesiastical estate. Architecturally, the abbot's hall and apartments are considered to be amongst the finest surviving domestic buildings of the high Middle Ages in the Welsh Marches. Their grandeur was fully appreciated when they became the principal part of the post-Dissolution residence occupied by the Barker family. In addition to the standing structural remains of this house, buried features and associated deposits are expected to survive well. The artefacts and organic remains within these deposits will provide further information about the daily lives of the occupants. The topographical survey of the area has revealed the nature and extent of the gardens associated with this house. The preservation of these garden features will add significantly to our understanding of gardening and landscape design in the 16th and 17th centuries. During the 18th century these remains, together with the abbey ruins, assumed a new importance as 'romantic' elements within the park of Sundorne House. This use of the area provides further indications of the changing attitudes to landscape design during the post-medieval period.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the standing structural, earthwork and buried remains
of an Augustinian monastery, known as Haughmond Abbey, constructed on the
site of an earlier religious house, together with the standing structural,
earthwork and buried remains of a post-Dissolution residence and formal
garden, and the earthwork remains of water management features. The ruins of
the abbey are Listed Grade I and in Guardianship.
Religious life at Haughmond began around 1100 and was centred around a small
cruciform stone church. Documentary sources suggest that this early religious
house was elevated to a priory sometime between 1125 and 1138, when its
members probably adopted the Augustinian rule. At this time the original
church was enlarged and a small cloister was constructed to the south of the
church providing access to associated buildings. The establishment of the
initial church and the founding of a priory here benefited from the patronage
of the FitzAlan family. Unusually for an existing Augustinian house, the
priory was subsequently elevated to an abbey. This change occurred before
1153 and the new foundation was dedicated to St John the Evangelist. Around
1180 the church and the other conventual or claustral buildings (arranged
around a square cloister) were demolished and were rebuilt on a larger scale.
Despite the size of the abbey, documentary sources indicate the religious
community at Haughmond remained small with about 13 canons (ordained priests)
in residence after the middle of the 14th century.
Throughout the Middle Ages the abbey remained prosperous and never suffered
from the debt which troubled so many religious houses. The FitzAlans
continued to act as principal benefactors and members of the Lestrange family
were also prominent patrons. In the 12th and 13th centuries the abbey
acquired numerous holdings in northern Shropshire, and tracts of pastoral
land to the north of the Long Mynd and close to Bridgnorth. The wealth of the
abbey is reflected by periodic building programmes, which enhanced and
enlarged the existing ranges of claustral buildings.
The abbey was dissolved in 1539, and in the following year the site was
granted by the King to Sir Edward Littleton, a local landowner, who
immediately began the demolition of the church and other parts of the
claustral complex. Work was also started to convert some of the remaining
structures into a private residence. By 1548 the land had been purchased by
Sir Rowland Hill and in 1548 he conferred the estate on his nephew, John
Barker. The property remained with the Barker family until 1644, and
thereafter became a farm. Further destruction of the abbey buildings followed
and in 1741 the site was inherited by John Corbet, who incorporated the
remains of the abbey into the estate centred on his newly constructed
residence at Sundorne House, just over 1km to the west.
The abbey is situated at the base of Haughmond Hill and lies approximately
5.5km to the north east of the medieval market centre of Shrewsbury. The
claustral buildings are located near the centre of a five-sided enclosure,
the monastic precinct, approximately 10.4ha in extent. The precinct was
probably laid out as part of the rebuilding programme in about 1180. For much
of its length the precinct boundary was formed by a stone wall. Much of this
wall has collapsed and is recognisable for the most part as a low bank. A
short section of the boundary wall, constructed of neatly coursed stone, is
visible on the southern side of the precinct, where it averages 1m thick and
1.5m high. Along the northern part of the western side the precinct boundary
would appear to have been formed by a stream and a pond. The entrance into
the precinct is situated at the mid point of the northern side, where the
remains of the gateway and associated structures are discernible as a series
of low earthworks. From here the routeway runs along the base of the
escarpement to the claustral buildings. Contained within the precinct, near
the base of the escarpment, are a series of quarries, which probably provided
much of the stone for the construction of the abbey.
The claustral buildings now stand to various heights. The full extent of many
of these structures was revealed during archaeological excavations undertaken
in the 20th century. On the north side of the cloister are the foundations of
the late 12th century church, partly incorporating the remains of the earlier
church. This later building has a long aisleless nave and quire,
square-headed presbytery (chancel), north and south transepts, both of which
have two adjoining chapels to the east. A north aisle and porch were added to
the nave and quire in the early 13th century and around 1500 the nave was
reduced in length at its western end. Within the chancel are the tombs of two
of the abbey's patrons, John FitzAlan (died 1272) and his wife, Isabel de
Mortimer. Immediately to the south of the south transept, on the eastern side
of the cloister, is the chapter house (used for the regulation of religious
duties and business). It was originally a rectangular building. It was
rebuilt in about 1500 on a smaller scale with a polygonal east end and ornate
wooden ceiling, but retained the original richly carved entrance front. The
western side of the cloister is defined by a wall of a long building, which
was two storeys in height. The function of this building, which was
demolished around 1500, is not clear. On the south side of the cloister is
the basement store, or undercroft, of the frater (the canons' dining hall).
This building also defines the northern side of an inner courtyard. To the
east of the courtyard are the remains of the undercroft of a long building,
the first floor of which served as the dorter (the canons' dormitory), with a
reredorter (a communal latrine building) to the south. In the mid-15th
century the dorter undercroft was partitioned to form lodgings for the prior
(the abbot's deputy). From the dorter there was access to a walled garden,
which was probably laid out by Nicholas de Longnor who was abbot between 1325
and 1346. A documentary source dated 1459 mentions a dovecote in 'Longnor's
garden'. Along the southern side of the courtyard is an impressive range of
buildings, which were constructed for the use of the abbot in the 13th
century, and reflect the influence on the abbey by its wealthy patrons. These
buildings replaced other structures built for the abbot, the remains of which
are located to the west of the new range. In its final phase the new range
consisted of a hall for formal gatherings and meetings, with a separate
residence for the abbot to the east. Around 1500, Abbot Pontesbury added
richly decorated bay windows to the south side of his private residence on
both the ground and first floors, although only the ground floor window
survives. The kitchen range on the western side of the courtyard was
constructed in the 14th century, and served the frater and the abbot's hall.
A constant supply of water, which could be regulated, was crucially important
for religious duties and domestic functions within the abbey. Up-slope from
the claustral buildings, in the eastern area of the precinct, is a
rectangular pond basin, which retains water. It acted as a reservoir for the
abbey. Water from the reservoir was conveyed to the claustral buildings by a
series of channels and conduits, and flowed out through a network of drains.
Some of the channels are still discernible as earthworks and the stone-lined
drain running the length of the reredorter can also be seen.
To the north of the precinct are the remains of other water management
features, which are contemporary, and directly associated with the abbey. To
the west is the dam of a former mill pond. Water flowed into the pond from
the east via a smaller pond, which is also now dry. The pond to the west was
replaced by another sizeable pond. This later pond was defined on its western
side by a dam, which survives as a substantial earthwork. The date of the
later pond is uncertain, but it has been suggested that it was created in the
18th century as part of the landscaping associated with Sundorne House. To
the south of the western pond, and connected to it by the stream channel
forming part of the western side of the precinct, are the remains of a
further pond, of probable medieval date. The southern part of this pond was
enlarged in the 20th century and retains water. A former channel connects
this pond to another pond basin, also retaining water. The majority of these
ponds were probably used as fishponds to provide the abbey with a sustainable
supply of food.
Located within the precinct and in the associated area to the north are the
remains of embanked rectangular enclosures of probable medieval date. Some
are likely to have defined areas of pasture or vegetable plots, while others
may have served as paddocks or stock corrals.
Following the Dissolution the abbot's private rooms and the adjacent hall
formed the major part of the residence occupied by the Barker family. To the
south and east of the house a privy garden was established. This area is
defined by a stone wall built with uncoursed stone rubble and ashlar masonry
obtained from the abbey buildings. There is a pedestrian gateway through the
wall on the southern side, the pediment above which was originally inscribed
with the initials of the Barker family. This gateway originally provided
access to a formal garden, the remains of which cover an extensive area to
the south and east of the house within the former monastic precinct. The
medieval ponds within and bounding the precinct were utilised, and the one to
the south of the abbot's hall and residence was probably extended at this
time. To the east of this pond are the earthwork and buried remains of a
probable pavilion, which was the subject of a limited archaeological
investigation in 1994. To the north east of this structure are the standing
remains of a rectangular conduit house, which also appears to have been
constructed as a garden feature. It is built of re-used ashlar masonry and
roofed with stone slabs. Above the low doorway in the west side is an
ogee-headed niche. A former rectangular enclosure in the north western part
of the garden has been sub-divided to create a series of regular
compartments, either denoting horticultural plots or parterres associated
with ornamental planting schemes. Immediately to the north are building
platforms of medieval or post-medieval date.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: the
custodian's kiosk, the cottage, a garage and sheds, the surfaces of the
modern tracks, paths and car parks, all modern (18th century and later) stone
boundary walls, all fence posts, gate posts and stiles, utility poles and
markers, information boards and waymarker posts; however, the ground beneath
all 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: 27548
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Chibnall, MM, The Victoria History of the County of Shropshire, (1973), 62-70
Pearson, T et al, Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire, (2003)
West, J J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Haughmond Abbey, , Vol. 138, (1981), 47
Chitty, G, Haughmond Abbey, 1992, leaflet guide
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