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St Ebba's chapel and monastic site

A Scheduled Monument in Beadnell, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.5515 / 55°33'5"N

Longitude: -1.6218 / 1°37'18"W

OS Eastings: 423958.903495

OS Northings: 628706.406594

OS Grid: NU239287

Mapcode National: GBR K437.PS

Mapcode Global: WHC0V.2Q0J

Entry Name: St Ebba's chapel and monastic site

Scheduled Date: 26 November 1932

Last Amended: 14 April 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008563

English Heritage Legacy ID: 25055

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Beadnell

Built-Up Area: Beadnell

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Beadnell St Ebba

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument includes the remains of a post-conquest medieval chapel situated
on the rocky promontory known as Ebb's Nook. The chapel is surrounded by a
range of earthwork features, some of which are considered to pre-date the
chapel and provide evidence of an earlier monastic site here. The visible
remains consist of a stone built, rectangular chapel and a series of
earthworks. The chapel, which was partially excavated in 1853 is situated at
the centre of the complex and measures 17m east-west by 4m north-south. It is
thought to date, in its present form, from the 12th or 13th centuries AD. It
consists of a nave, a chancel and a later western annexe, although it is now
overgrown and much of the detail of the internal layout uncovered by the
excavation is obscured. Although other buildings surrounding the chapel were
noted in the mid 19th century they have only recently been understood.
Immediately east of the chapel there is a rectangular stony earthwork
measuring 3m north-south and 4m east-west; this is thought to be the remains
of an earlier building, built on a slightly different axis to that of the
later chapel. The stone chapel and the earlier structure form the south side
of a walled enclosure 22m by 13m, the other sides being formed by low rubble
walls. This complex is situated at the eastern end of a larger enclosure 55m
by 25m. The perimeter of this enclosure is formed by a large bank of earth
which cuts off the promontory at the western landward end; the bank runs
around the edge of the promontory on the western and north-eastern sides and
varies in width from 1m to 2m and stands to a maximum height of 1m. The bank
is thought to have originally continued along the south side of the
promontory; here the cliff face has been eroded and surface traces are not
visible. Within the enclosure there are several hollows at the western end and
a linear hollow which cuts the north-eastern perimeter bank; these are
interpreted as the result of later quarrying and military activity. A stone
circular feature 1.5m in diameter is situated at the extreme eastern end of
the promontory; it is composed of reddened stone and is thought to be the
remains of a hearth associated with the use of the site. The monastic
settlement has for over a century been associated with St AEbba, the step-
daughter of the king of Northumbria AEthelfrith; though there is no absolute
proof of association it is thought that an early Christian origin for the
earthworks at St Ebb's Nook is not inconsistent with the fact that St AEbba
was a devoted Christian who is known to have founded other monasteries in
Northumberland and it is known that Beadnell was tenurially linked to the
Anglian royal seat at Bamburgh.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597
monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in
the British Isles. Early monasteries were built to house communities of monks
or nuns; sometimes houses were `mixed' and included both sexes. The main
buildings provided facilities for worship, accommodation and subsistence. They
included a series of timber halls and perhaps a stone church, all located
within some form of enclosure. Those sites which have been excavated indicate
that no standard layout of buildings was in use. Rather a great diversity in
building form, construction, arrangement and function is evident. Preconquest
monastic sites are rare nationally and fewer than 100 sites have been
recognised from documentary sources. The locations of less than half of these
have been confirmed. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of
the introduction of Christianity into the country. All examples exhibiting
survival of archaeological remains will be identified as nationally important.

The monastic site and later chapel at St Ebb's Nook are well preserved. The
monastic site is one of a number situated on promontories or island locations
in Northumbria. It will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of early
Christian settlement in the immediately post-Roman period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Fowler, P J, 'Uni of Durham & Ncle Archaeological Reports 1992' in Ebb's Nook, Beadnell, Northumberland, (1993), 45-50
Hodgson, J C, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 3 13' in Archaeologia Aeliana ser 3 13, (1916), 4
Way, A, 'Archaeological Journal 11' in Archaeological Journal 11, (1854), 410-13

Source: Historic England

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