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Site of medieval nunnery and post-Dissolution house, Nun Cotham

A Scheduled Monument in Keelby, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.585 / 53°35'5"N

Longitude: -0.2557 / 0°15'20"W

OS Eastings: 515568.600315

OS Northings: 411236.602771

OS Grid: TA155112

Mapcode National: GBR VVNZ.FM

Mapcode Global: WHHHQ.15J0

Entry Name: Site of medieval nunnery and post-Dissolution house, Nun Cotham

Scheduled Date: 5 December 1960

Last Amended: 21 January 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008686

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22602

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Keelby

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire


The monument includes the remains of the medieval nunnery of Nun Cotham, a
priory of Cistercian nuns founded in the mid-12th century and dissolved in
1539. The remains of the nunnery are overlain by those of a post-Dissolution
house, garden, farmbuildings and other later features. Also associated with
the site are a pair of fishponds and a post-medieval windmill mound. The
monument therefore includes a complex sequence of building remains and other
earthworks which can be described in eight areas: a central area of building
remains; a series of ditched and banked enclosures; a complex of water-control
features; a group of rectangular closes; remains of a barn-like structure and
other buildings; a group of farmyard earth-works and a windmill mound; a pair
of rectangular enclosures; and a pair of fishponds.
At the centre of the monument lies an area of building remains characterised
by low earth-covered walls. The visible features are largely the remains of a
house built on the site of the nunnery conventual buildings in the 16th and
17th centuries after the Dissolution. Archaeological remains of the nunnery
will survive below these visible remains and it is thought that the later
house utilised part of its original structure. (The principal nunnery
buildings would have been laid out in ranges around a central cloister and it
is thought that the church may have lain along its northern side. This
would suggest that the succeeding house, with its E-shaped plan, occupied the
site of the west range of the nunnery cloister with two extensions to the
east; one overlying the site of the church nave (at the northern end) and the
other overlying the site of the refectory (at the southern end)). On the same
alignment is a square enclosure adjoining the building to the north.
Immediately to the south are building remains of more recent appearance,
representing structures which persisted in use beyond the occupation of the
house. All of these remains lie within an enclosure defined on nearly all
sides by a bank.
Immediately to the east of the central area of building remains is a series of
enclosures defined by ditches and banks. The ditches interconnect and are
linked on the east to the New Beck Drain. Neatly cut and regular, they are
considered to represent formal gardens laid out around the post-Dissolution
On the north, adjoining both the ditched enclosures and the area of building
remains, is a separate complex of water-control features, linked on the east
to the New Beck Drain and to a channel on the west via a linear ditch. Within
this complex, and immediately north of the site of the house, are a small
group of linear features representing the remains of ornamental canals,
indicating that this area also was part of the formal gardens of the
post-Dissolution house.
To the north of the water-control complex are traces of further banks and
ditches, delineating rectangular closes on the edge of the occupied area.
To the south of the central area of building remains, and west of the
southernmost and largest garden enclosure, are further building remains.
These include a large rectangular barn-like structure and a roughly circular
mound on two sides of a small yard. Adjacent to the mound a small section of
stone walling has been exposed.
To the south-west are further remains of buildings, some only clearly
discernible from the air. In the south-west corner are earthworks of a
building platform and yard. These are bounded on the south by a bank and part
of a hollow way running east-west. To the north is a circular mound
approximately 7m in diameter representing the site of a windmill. These
remains are surrounded on the north and west by an area of shallow earthworks
representing quarrying. This area is bounded on the north by a low bank,
roughly aligned with the moated enclosures and other water-control features,
representing an old field boundary. On the west it is partly bounded by the
remains of a bank, which also defines the western edge of the monument.
In the south-east part of the site is a further area of earthworks, adjoining
and aligned with the main features of the monument. In the southernmost part
of the site is a pair of rectangular enclosures defined by ditches and banks.
Adjacent to these, in the easternmost corner of the site, is a pair of linear
ponds aligned south-west/north-east and bounded by banks. The smaller, later
pond, to the east, is connected to the New Beck Drain by a cut in the bank
approximately 2m wide. The larger pond is overlain by a causewayed track
running from the hollow way in the south-west of the site to a bridge (outside
the area of the scheduling) over the Drain.
Excluded from the scheduling are the fences which surround and in places
cross the monument, although the ground beneath these them is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

The remains of the nunnery at Nun Cotham have never been excavated
archaeologically. They are largely overlain by the remains of later,
post-medieval, activity on the site, which will conceal archaeological
evidence for the conventual buildings and other features. The earthworks are
in exceptionally good condition, indicating high potential for the retrieval
of archaeological information.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ross Manuscript
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971)
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906)
Cambridge, 105/156113: FO 59, 60, 62,
RCHM(E), Everson, P L and Taylor C C and Dunn, C J, Change And Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire, (1991)

Source: Historic England

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