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Owston Augustinian Abbey with six fishponds, a gatehouse and boundary

A Scheduled Monument in Owston and Newbold, Leicestershire

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Latitude: 52.6626 / 52°39'45"N

Longitude: -0.8571 / 0°51'25"W

OS Eastings: 477394.725228

OS Northings: 307825.757096

OS Grid: SK773078

Mapcode National: GBR BQ9.04P

Mapcode Global: WHFKL.TB1L

Entry Name: Owston Augustinian Abbey with six fishponds, a gatehouse and boundary

Scheduled Date: 20 February 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008556

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17092

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Owston and Newbold

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Owston and Withcote (Whatborough Parishes)

Church of England Diocese: Leicester


The monument at Owston is situated on the relatively high ground of east
Leicestershire and includes an Augustinian abbey with six fishponds, the below
ground remains of a gatehouse, and a boundary ditch and bank. The site is
contained within two constraint areas.

The remains of the abbey buildings are located in the vicinity of, and
incorporated in, the parish church of St Andrew, which is a grade I listed
building. Features within St Andrew's church date from the 12th century, with
a chancel situated below ground, external to the present church. It is
considered that the cloister and its associated buildings lie to the south of
the church where stonework is known to exist beneath the present ground
surface. Further stonework can be seen exposed in earthworks 100m to the
south-west which indicates associated buildings. The foundations of a
building, surviving as an earthwork, can also be seen some 300m to the
south-west situated on the highest ground contained within the site. A
gatehouse, demolished in the late 18th century, stood adjoining the south-west
corner of the nave.
Other earthwork features associated with the abbey, the principal elements of
which are two sets of fishponds, are located to the west of the buildings and
extend north-south for over 500m. The first is a complex of four fishponds,
contained within the area south of the road, which currently contain no
visible water but are largely waterlogged and follow the course of
a stream running from south to north. Fishpond No.1 is the most southerly in
the complex and measures approximately 100 x 25m. A bypass channel on the
eastern side, which would have been utilised by a series of sluices, extends
past fishpond No.2 which measures 50 x 30m. Fishpond No.3 measures 60 x 25m
and No.4 is a large fishpond measuring 125 x 30m which widens out to over 100m
on the northern side at which point it is dammed. The complex is contained
within a boundary bank and ditch up to 4m wide and 1m high which extends from
the south of the site westwards and partly up the western side at a distance
of about 50m from fishponds Nos.2 & 3. Across a road to the north is a
further set of two fishponds, contained within a second area, which appear
different in design to the complex lying to the south. They are long and
narrow, being contained within substantial banks up to 2m high. Fishpond
No.5, the western pond, measures 120 x 8m. Its companion fishpond, No.6,
measures 75 x 10m and is dammed at the northern end.

The Augustinian abbey was founded by Robert Gimbald in 1166-7. Owston abbey,
although comparatively poor, acquired churches in Leicestershire, Lincolnshire
and Rutland, and a moated grange located 1.5km to the east. It was dissolved
in 1536, after which time the buildings rapidly deteriorated. An
environmental analysis carried out by Leicester University has provided an
insight into those fish kept by monastic foundations and also analyses
information from pollen and invertebrates.

The church of St Andrew is excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath it is included. A boundary bank and ditch to the east of the
site, which have been modified by sand quarrying and later ploughing activity,
are totally excluded from the scheduling.

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

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.

The abbey at Owston retains extensive ruined, earthwork and buried remains of
medieval date. In addition to the monastic buildings the site retains an
important complex of fishponds and water-management features. Deposits from
the fishponds have already been analysed and shown to retain significant
information on the fish farmed in the ponds and wider environmental
conditions. Considerable archaeological information will survive across the
whole of the rest of the site.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Nichols, J, The History and Antiquities of the County of Leicestershire, (1804)
Pevsner, N, Williamson, E, The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland, (1984)
Shackley, M, Hayne, J, Wainwright, N, 'BAR' in Environmental Analysis of Medieval Fishpond Deposits, , Vol. 182, (1988)

Source: Historic England

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