Ancient Monuments

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Friar Biggins monastic grange

A Scheduled Monument in Orton, Cumbria

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Latitude: 54.4794 / 54°28'46"N

Longitude: -2.5596 / 2°33'34"W

OS Eastings: 363835.637312

OS Northings: 509487.373956

OS Grid: NY638094

Mapcode National: GBR BJKN.N0

Mapcode Global: WH93B.NNBV

Entry Name: Friar Biggins monastic grange

Scheduled Date: 20 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007636

English Heritage Legacy ID: 23646

County: Cumbria

Civil Parish: Orton

Traditional County: Westmorland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cumbria

Church of England Parish: Orton with Tebay All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Carlisle


The monument is Friar Biggins medieval monastic grange. It is located at the
foot of Orton Scar and includes earthworks and buried remains of a group of
stone buildings flanked on the east and north by enclosures. Elsewhere there
are lengths of wall, a trackway, and a number of rectangular terraces cut into
the hillside which are interpreted as the platforms on which timber
buildings stood.
The core area of the grange includes the remains of a three roomed rectangular
building constructed of limestone. The building measures 19m by 7.5m
externally and has turf covered walls up to 1.5m high. To the west of this
building, and approximately parallel to it, is a single roomed rectangular
building measuring 18m by 6.5m with walls up to 1m high and a doorway on the
eastern side. Immediately north of this building are the foundations of a
smaller building measuring 6.5m by 5.6m. In the area between the two larger
buildings is an artificially levelled area 5m square. To the east of this
group of buildings is a rectangular enclosure measuring c.26m by 21m and to
the north of the buildings are two smaller three-sided enclosures measuring
16m by 12m and 8m by 4m respectively. Between the two larger enclosures is a
levelled terrace cut into the hillside. A narrow track approaches the
buildings and enclosures from the west and is flanked by lengths of banking or
wall foundations before swinging to the north and east to skirt round the core
area of the grange. North of this track are two other terraces cut into the
hillside, while on the hillside further to the west there are another three
Friar Biggins monastic grange was associated with the Friary of Conishead,
near Ulverston, and is thought to have been constructed c.1319.
All field boundaries are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath
them is included.

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.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon
imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers
(secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident
labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were
specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms,
bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and
industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the
wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands
immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange.
Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands.
On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the
parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular
farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to
be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was
without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed
is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of
monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small
percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of
identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the
evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to
medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological
survival are identified as nationally important.

Friar Biggins monastic grange is unencumbered by modern development and
contains undisturbed archaeological remains of the group of buildings forming
the core of the grange, together with remains of the enclosures, trackways and
hut platforms of the wider grange complex. The monument is a rare example in
Cumbria of an undisturbed monastic grange, and as such it will facilitate a
greater understanding of the activities undertaken within the buildings, huts
and enclosures of this class of monument.

Source: Historic England


Letter from J.Cherry to owner, Cherry, J.,

Source: Historic England

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