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Site of Gilbertine priory and post Dissolution house, moats, 18th century garden, medieval settlement and cultivation remains

A Scheduled Monument in North Ormsby, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.4182 / 53°25'5"N

Longitude: -0.0699 / 0°4'11"W

OS Eastings: 528365.588347

OS Northings: 393005.584263

OS Grid: TF283930

Mapcode National: GBR WXYX.NC

Mapcode Global: WHHJK.WBWV

Entry Name: Site of Gilbertine priory and post Dissolution house, moats, 18th century garden, medieval settlement and cultivation remains

Scheduled Date: 6 September 1966

Last Amended: 16 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1010706

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22624

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: North Ormsby

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Fotherby St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument is located in a narrow valley in the wolds approximately 7km
north west of Louth. The remains take the form of a series of earthworks and
buried deposits lying along, and partly incorporating, the valley's
water-course which runs through Abbey Farm in the west to the present village
of North Ormsby in the east. The monument includes the remains of the Priory
of St Mary, a double-house for nuns and canons of the Gilbertine order
founded in 1148-54 by Gilbert fitz Robert of Ormsby. The remains of the
priory are partly overlain by those of a post-medieval house and associated
buildings. Adjacent to the west are the remains of a post-medieval formal
garden, two moats and a series of ponds; to the east is an area of medieval
and post-medieval settlement remains. The whole complex is superimposed on a
system of rectangular fields, partly occupied by traces of ridge-and-furrow

The site of the priory, which lies on the east side of Abbey Farm, is partly
represented by a group of earthworks and partly overlain by a modern farmyard
and farm buildings, which are excluded from the scheduling although the ground
beneath is included. The ground beneath the main farmyard area and the
buildings which enclose it, covering an area roughly 50m square, is excluded
to a depth of 0.5m although the ground below this depth is included. The
earthworks were partially excavated in 1966 when they were found to include
structural remains of the conventual buildings and associated features. On the
south east side of the present farm buildings are the earthworks of the nuns'
cloister, approximately 27m square, including the foundations of a cloister
arcade and a stone- and tile-paved walk. On the east, south and west sides of
the cloister are the earthworks of ranges of buildings which comprised the
nuns' and lay-sisters' accommodation. In the east range are the remains of a
stone-floored chapter-house in which a number of tombstones, including that of
a prioress, was discovered. The nuns' dormitory would have been located on the
upper floor of the east range with a rere-dorter (latrine) to the south. The
south range, which was found to be represented by at least two phases of
building, is believed to have originated as the nuns' refectory with a cellar
below; fireplaces were later added to the ground floor and are considered to
have formed part of a secular house which occupied some of the conventual
buildings following the Dissolution. The range of buildings on the west side
of the cloister was also found to include two or more building phases, and
extends at least 30m south of the cloister across the priory drain. This range
is considered to represent the lay-sisters' quarters and priory kitchens, in
which they prepared food for the entire community. The southern part of the
west range is, like the south range, believed to have been converted to form
part of a post-medieval house. Between these ranges is a flat, rectangular
area with a further group of building remains to the east; this area is
considered to represent an outer court with associated service buildings, also
re-occupied as part of a post-medieval building complex.

Partial excavation to the west of the nuns' cloister revealed traces of a
walled passageway running diagonally north west from the lay-sisters' range.
This feature, characteristic of double-houses, represents a covered walk
between the nuns' and canons' accommodation through which the canons were
provided with food. Communication would have taken place approximately
halfway along the passage at a `window-house'. The remains of the canons'
quarters are thus considered to be located in the north western part of the
inner precinct, largely overlain by the present farm buildings. Excavations
adjacent to the farm buildings revealed the foundations of stone walls
interpreted as the remains of the canons' chapel.

On the north side of the nuns' cloister was found evidence for the foundations
of the priory church, including the remains of a central wall which divided
the nave into two parts longitudinally. The nuns' nave, on the south,
measured approximately 6.4m in width, while the canons' nave, on the north,
measured 3.6m. Fragments of window tracery of the Decorated style indicate
that the original 12th century church was altered or rebuilt in the late 13th
or 14th century.

The remains of the conventual buildings are surrounded on the south, east and
north east by a linear bank, partial excavation of which has revealed a wall
constructed of rough masonry. This feature is considered to represent the
boundary of the inner precinct, an area of nearly 2ha. In the south eastern
part of this precinct are the earthworks of a further group of buildings found
to include at least two phases of construction, also in rough masonry. These
remains are considered to indicate the location of both medieval and
post-medieval outbuildings. In the north eastern part of the precinct,
directly east of the priory church, is a level area believed to be the site of
the conventual cemetery. Running across the northern part of the precinct, on
the north side of the church, are the earthworks of a post-medieval metalled

To the north, east and south east of the inner precinct is a further area
of earthworks bounded by a bank and external depression. This area is
considered to represent the priory's outer precinct where further
buildings, gardens and animal enclosures were located. To the north of
the priory church are the earthworks of buildings believed to have
originated as the priory's gatehouse and hospital. In the north eastern
part of the outer precinct are a pair of levelled cultivation terraces; to
the south is a larger enclosure, and at the bottom of the slope a large
pond. At the southern tip of the precinct, which rises up the opposite
slope, are the remains of a small embanked pond and a channel running
north eastwards from it down to the larger pond.

The Priory of St Mary received a number of endowments during the century
following its foundation, but suffered a decline in prosperity in the mid-
14th century following the Black Death. The population of the priory was
limited to 100 nuns and lay-sisters, 50 lay-brothers and 7-13 canons, but
by 1377 had fallen to six canons; at the Dissolution in 1538 there were
six canons and nine nuns. After the Dissolution the property was granted
to Sir Robert Heneage.

Adjacent to the west of the priory remains, lying south of Abbey Farm on
the opposite slope of the valley, is a distinct group of earthworks
including rectangular terraces, ditches, banks and hollow ways. This area
is planted with large, mature trees; on the eastern side is a small area
of building remains and, near the centre, a Greek-style statue of 18th
century type. These features represent the remains of a post-medieval
garden composed of walks and terraces overlooking Abbey Farm. It is
believed to have been laid out in the 18th century when the present
farmhouse was built.

In the north western part of the monument are the earthworks of a series
of ponds and moats linked by the valley's water-course. Approximately 50m
to the west of Abbey Farm are the remains of a pair of ponds, lying
parallel with each other on the course of the stream. The southern pond
is roughly rectangular and measures approximately 12m x 44m. The northern
pond is less regular in shape, measuring approximately 70m x 10m with an
enlarged eastern end. The ponds are joined on the east by a channel 2m
wide, and separated by a bank 10m wide. These features are considered to
represent the remains of a pair of medieval fishponds, which formed part
of the priory's water-control system. The northern pond is linked on the
west to a moat, approximately 10m in width, which surrounds a rectangular
platform measuring 38m x 45m. In the eastern half of the platform is a
levelled rectangular area approximately 18m x 35m, bounded on the west by
a low bank; on the southern edge of the platform is an internal bank.
Adjacent to the south is a smaller, irregular platform approximately 12m x
45m with an internal bank and external depression on the south and west.
This group of features is separated from the garden on the east by a later
linear depression. Adjacent to the west is another rectangular enclosure,
measuring up to 18m x 25m, surrounded by a water-filled moat about 5m in
width which is linked on the west to a subrectangular pond. These moated
enclosures are considered to be of medieval origin with post-medieval
In the south western part of the monument is an enclosure defined by a
trackway on the south and a ditch on the west. This feature forms part of
a series of rectangular enclosures and trackways which extends eastwards
across the valley's southern slope, and upon which the priory's outer
precinct is aligned. These enclosures are considered to represent a
field-system which was in existence before the establishment of the priory
in the mid-12th century, and which continued in use through the medieval
and post-medieval periods.

Adjoining the site of the priory on the south east is a further series of
earthworks including medieval settlement remains. These earthworks extend
over a distance of 500m on the valley's southern slope, bounded on the
north by the stream, on the south by a field track, and on the east by the
present village of North Ormsby. The settlement remains include a series
of rectangular enclosures lying adjacent to each other on the south side
of the stream and separated by linear banks. On the south they are
bounded by a hollow way which runs parallel to the stream for over 300m.
The enclosures are thus 50m-60m long north-to-south, and vary from 25m to
70m east-to-west. They include linear ditches running at right angles to
the hollow way and, at the bottom of each enclosure next to the stream, a
wet depression representing the remains of a pond. Buildings are
represented by buried walls and house platforms, principally at the top of
the enclosures by the side of the hollow way. These earthworks are
considered to represent the remains of medieval village plots including
dwellings and yards with drainage ditches and outbuildings. In the north
eastern part of the monument the stream has been diverted in post-medieval
times to run approximately 40m to the north; the course of the earlier
stream survives as a linear depression. Between the old and new courses
of the stream are further earthworks, including those of post-medieval
buildings. The settlement remains may thus be seen to represent the
western part of the medieval village of North Ormsby. The settlement developed
to the west from the earlier medieval settlement to the east, where the
present village now stands, by means of a planned extension, following the
establishment of the priory.

In the south eastern part of the monument, rising up the slope at right
angles from the hollow way, is a series of linear boundaries including
banks, ditches and lynchets. To the south west of the settlement remains
they form a group of four linear enclosures varying in width from 30m to
45m; on the east the enclosures are subdivided by an additional ditch and
scarp running across the slope for a distance of approximately 170m.
Among the linear boundaries are two substantial lynchets lying
approximately 35m apart with a shallow depression between. The enclosures
in the south eastern part of the monument include the remains of ridge-
and-furrow cultivation. All of the enclosures are bounded on the south by
a bank and hollow way which run near the edge of the present field. This
group of earthworks represents part of a field system which was in use in
the medieval period and later, partly being overlain by the extension of
the village to the west; it is, in turn, considered to incorporate
elements of an earlier field system, perhaps of prehistoric date, which
included lynchets.

Excluded from the scheduling are the farm buildings and yard at Abbey Farm,
and all fences; the ground beneath these features is, however, included. The
ground beneath the main farmyard area and the buildings which enclose it,
covering an area roughly 50m square, is excluded to a depth of 0.5m although
the ground below this depth is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A post-Conquest double house is a settlement built after the Norman Conquest
to house a community of religious men and women. Only 25 double houses are
known to have existed in England in the Middle Ages. Twelve were established
by the Gilbertines, an order of nuns and canons founded in the 12th century by
Gilbert of Sempringham; of these, eight were in Lincolnshire. Double houses
were supervised by the male founders of the order or their deputies; the nuns,
who led a contemplative life, were strictly segregated from the canons, who
were required to celebrate the mass. The main buildings of a double house
therefore included separate facilities for worship and accommodation, usually
arranged around two self-contained cloisters. As a rare type of monastery all
examples exhibiting significant survival of archaeological remains are worthy
of protection.

The village was a significant component of the rural landscape in most areas
of medieval England, much as it is today. Although the sites of many of these
villages have been occupied continuously down to the present day, some
declined in size or were abandoned throughout the medieval and post-medieval
periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. As a consequence of
their abandonment these villages are frequently undisturbed by later
occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits. Over 2000
deserted villages are recorded nationally, and because they are widely
dispersed in most parts of England they provide important information on the
diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy between the
regions and through time.

The remains of the Gilbertine priory and deserted settlement at North Ormsby
survive as a substantial series of earthworks extending for a distance of over
700m in the valley bottom. Limited excavation in the area of the priory has
demonstrated the survival of buried deposits, including structural and
artefactual material, and waterlogging in the low-lying parts of the site
indicates that organic remains are also likely to survive well. The adjacent
and related settlement remains in the valley are characteristic of a series of
medieval settlements on the eastern edge of the wolds. As well as being
related to a variety of contemporary landscape features, including fishponds
and moats, the remains of the priory and its associated settlement are also
superimposed upon an earlier pattern of land-use thought to be prehistoric in
origin. In incorporating the remains of overlying features of post-medieval
date, including domestic and agricultural buildings and 18th-century garden
remains, the monument retains well-preserved evidence for the
interrelationships between a variety of settlements and other uses on the site
over hundreds of years.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Dornier, A, North Ormsby Gilbertine Priory: 1966 Excavations
Dornier, A, North Ormsby Gilbertine Priory: 1966 Excavations
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 194-195
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 195-196
White, W, White's Directory of Lincolnshire, (1842), 376
Stenton, F M, 'Lincolnshire Record Society' in Transactions of Charters Relating to Gilbertine Houses, , Vol. 8, (1922), 60
FO 48, FO 49, St. Joseph,
FO 51, FO 52, St. Joseph,
Ordnance Survey 495, JB, TF 29 SE 5, (1973)
Source Date: 1905

Source Date: 1956

Source: Historic England

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