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Flixborough Saxon nunnery and site of All Saints medieval church and burial ground

A Scheduled Monument in Flixborough, North Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.6186 / 53°37'6"N

Longitude: -0.6762 / 0°40'34"W

OS Eastings: 487663.865437

OS Northings: 414371.505427

OS Grid: SE876143

Mapcode National: GBR RVQL.DL

Mapcode Global: WHGG5.L96S

Entry Name: Flixborough Saxon nunnery and site of All Saints medieval church and burial ground

Scheduled Date: 21 July 1992

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1009382

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21053

County: North Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Flixborough

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Flixborough All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument at Flixborough includes the remains of an Anglo-Saxon
ecclesiastical site, probably a nunnery, and also the remains of a ruined
medieval church and its attached graveyard. The monument is situated on a low
south-facing terrace overlooking the plain of the River Trent.
Excavations on an area immediately adjacent to the monument in 1990 revealed
evidence for a high-status settlement and for activity of a Middle-Saxon date.
Occupation appears to have begun in around 700AD, when a number of
substantial timber buildings were constructed on the site. The scale of these
buildings indicates that the occupants of the site were of some status. Finds
of glass and lead strips indicate that some of the buildings had glazed
windows. During the 200 years following the foundation of the site, these
buildings were rebuilt and replaced several times. The status of the site was
also confirmed by the wealth and type of artefacts found in and around the
buildings. Large quantities of animal bones indicated that the inhabitants of
the site ate well. Well-made pottery, loom-weights and other occupational
debris was also common. Finds of hearths and slag indicate that industrial
processes were being carried out, whilst the numerous loom-weights indicate
that textiles were also being produced. A collection of objects associated
with literacy are of particular interest, including styli, pointed implements
used to write on wax tablets, and implements used for the preparation of
parchment. A small lead plaque bearing an inscription listing several Saxon
female personal names was also discovered. This evidence for literacy, along
with the other evidence for high-status activity indicates the ecclesiastical
nature of the site. During the Middle-Saxon period literacy was restricted
almost entirely to the clergy. No documentary evidence confirming this
identification survives but an analysis of the various excavated evidence
indicates that the site is likely to have housed a community of nuns. An
alternative interpretation suggests that the site was not truly monastic, but
merely a pseudo-monastery, a device used by Anglo-Saxon nobles to reduce the
tax burden on their estates, and condemned by churchmen, notably Bede.
The site excavated was abandoned in about 870, possibly as a result of the
threat of attacks by Scandinavian Vikings. After this the site was engulfed
by the wind-blown sand which still protects it.
The excavated area which produced this settlement and occupational evidence
has now been destroyed and hence is not included in this monument. The
remains were, however, shown to extend beyond the excavated area into the area
included in the scheduling. Immediately adjacent to the Saxon remains and
included in this monument are the foundations of a medieval church and its
attached graveyard. These features are considered to overlie further
Anglo-Saxon remains. The first known church on the site was a Norman
foundation, which was replaced in the fifteenth century. It is likely that
the Norman church replaced an unrecorded late Anglo-Saxon building. The
church was demolished in 1789 and replaced by a mortuary chapel, which is now
also in ruins. Only a foundation platform and a few courses of masonry are
visible, but remains of the churches from the eleventh century onwards are
preserved beneath this platform.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Excavations at Flixborough have revealed the extensive survival of settlement
remains of Middle Saxon date at this site. Identified rural sites of this
date are rare and our knowledge of them is limited as few survive in an easily
recognisable form. Excavated buildings and finds from this site confirm that
it was a high status site occupied by people who had access to skilled
builders and the products of fine craftsmen. The nature of some finds suggest
that the site was a religious house, probably a nunnery. Pre-Norman
monasteries and nunneries are rare nationally, and are normally identified on
the basis of early documentary evidence. This example is especially
noteworthy because it has been identified on the basis of excavated finds and
has no recorded history. Indeed it has produced more archaeological evidence
than many other documented sites. Most of the site was sealed by blown sand
after the ninth century and has not subsequently been disturbed, hence further
archaeological remains will survive extensively and well. Ecclesiastical use
of part of the site continued throughout the medieval period, indicated by the
medieval church and graveyard.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dudley, H E, The History and Duties of Scunthorpe and Frodingham, (1931), 82-83
Tomlinson, D, Flixborough: A Middle-Saxon site., (1990)
Leahy, K, 'The Making of England: Anglo-Saxon Art & Culture AD 600-900' in Selected finds from a high-status site at Flixborough, S. Humbs, (1991), 94-101
Tomlinson, D, 'Rescue News' in Flixborough: A Middle-Saxon settlement on Humberside, , Vol. 54, (1991)
Whitwell, B, 'Minerva' in Flixborough's Royal Heritage, , Vol. 2, 5, (1991), 6-9
Whitwell, J B, 'Current Archaeology' in Flixborough, , Vol. 126, (1991), 244-247
2814, Humberside SMR (2814), (1990)

Source: Historic England

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