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Croxton Abbey and associated remains

A Scheduled Monument in Croxton Kerrial, Leicestershire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.8407 / 52°50'26"N

Longitude: -0.7789 / 0°46'44"W

OS Eastings: 482344.871823

OS Northings: 327716.495228

OS Grid: SK823277

Mapcode National: GBR CPD.V75

Mapcode Global: WHFJP.0VCN

Entry Name: Croxton Abbey and associated remains

Scheduled Date: 7 July 1993

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011244

English Heritage Legacy ID: 17109

County: Leicestershire

Civil Parish: Croxton Kerrial

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Croxton Kerrial

Church of England Diocese: Leicester

Details

The monument at Croxton is situated 2km south-west of the village of Croxton
Kerrial and extends for over 1km along a small valley. The site includes the
remains of a Premonstratensian abbey with associated earthworks of closes,
barns, eleven fishponds, eight dams, a watermill site, a moated site, the
post-medieval earthworks of a former garden and the site of a dovecot. Most
of the monument is included in one main area but the sites of the dovecot and
the moated site are included in two separate, smaller, areas.
The house was founded as a priory of Premonstratensian canons and was
subsequently promoted to abbey status. The first buildings are said to have
been completed by 1162. In 1326 the church, cloister and other buildings were
destroyed by fire. Bishop Redman's visitation of 1500 mentions that the abbot
had built and repaired the church and lady chapel. The buried remains of the
conventual buildings are situated on low lying ground to the east of the
fishpond complex. A ground plan of the conventual buildings was recovered by
excavations in 1926 and although their exact location is not known, they are
marked by irregular earthworks and grass-covered spoil heaps. The early
church was aisleless and measured 48m x 10m. A presbytery was added in the
13th century and extended in the 15th century, at which time a south aisle was
added to the church. The cloister, lying to the north of the church, was
extended in the 13th century to cover an area measuring 27m x 22m. Other
conventual buildings investigated in the 1926 excavation included the chapter
house, kitchen, frater (dining hall) and dorter (dormitory). A range of
buildings to the north of the main claustral ranges has been identified as the
guesthouse. Situated on higher ground to the east of the claustral buildings
is an earthwork complex comprising enclosures bounded by banks, which stand up
to 1.5m high on the north-east side. Associated with the banks are the
earthworks representing the sites of buildings, included those of two large
barns, one of which measured 45m x 15m. To the north of this group of
earthworks are two further building platforms and an associated trackway
situated in a dry valley running east from the main valley. Taken together,
these earthworks represent the agricultural and industrial parts of the abbey
site.
An extensive series of fishponds fill the valley bottom, each formed by
damming the stream as it flows northwards through the site. There are also
two groups of fishponds to the west of the main series along the course of the
stream; one group sits on an artificial terrace adjacent to the main series of
ponds whilst the other, further north, occupies a smaller tributary valley to
the west. The water level in all of the ponds was controlled by dams, four of
which still fulfil this purpose. The southernmost pond in the series was
created by damming the main stream and measures about 200m x 50m, tapering at
the southern end and is today heavily silted. The second pond in the series
along the stream bed is partly silted and partly water-filled and measures
175m x 75m. The next pond to the north is also water-filled and measures 125m
x 70m.
To the west of this water-filled pond are the earthworks of three, smaller,
dry fishponds arranged in series and covering an area in total about 150m x
50m. This group may represent the fish-breeding tanks. Returning to the main
stream bed, to the north-east of these smaller ponds is a triangular shaped
water-filled fishpond 100m long and 60m at its widest point. Between the
three smaller ponds and the triangular pond is a large watermill, which has
been extensively modified in recent times and is not included in the
scheduling.
To the west of the triangular shaped pond are the earthwork remains of two
large ponds set end-to-end in a small tributary valley running west from the
main valley. These may also have been used in fish breeding. The westernmost
pond is defined by an earthwork dam approximately 100m west of a trackway
which crosses the remains of a second dam. This formed the second pond and
lies across the mouth of the tributary valley. This second dam is a major
earthwork standing 2m high and has breaches at both ends and in the centre.
The pond formed behind this dam measured 90m x 40m.
Returning to the main series of ponds in the valley bottom, the two ponds to
the north of the triangular shaped pond are dry. Both were formed by large
dams crossing the valley floor which survive as earthworks up to 2m high, each
with a breach in the centre. The water in the first would have covered an
area approximately 150m x 60m, whilst the second would have covered an area
approximately 280m x 60m. The northernmost of the two ponds is flanked on its
eastern side by the earthwork remains of a large by-pass leat nearly 2m wide.
At the northern end of this leat, at the eastern end of the northernmost dam,
are the earthwork remains of a watermill which was fed by the leat before the
water passed back into the stream via a tailrace.
To the west of the main abbey complex, on the hilltop west of the trio of dry
fishponds on the artificial terrace, is a circular moated site known as
"Punch's Grave". This is thought to be contemporary with the abbey and is
included in this scheduling within a separate area. The site is about 30m in
diameter with an additional 5m wide bank on the eastern side. The ditch is
about 1.5m-2m deep and surrounds an island 14m in diameter. It is possible
that the site was used by the abbey as a rabbit warren.
Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site of the abbey was
granted to Thomas, Earl of Rutland who built a manor house, some of which
survives as part of New Park House and is still lived in. Between 1710-20 the
2nd duke of Rutland built a second house, known as Old Park House, which is
now derelict. On the western side of this house, overlooking the fishponds,
are the earthwork remains of a contemporary formal garden covering an area of
some 60m x 75m; the earthworks consist of banks and platforms up to 1.75m
high. These remains lie within the main area. New Park House and Old Park
House are both grade II listed buildings.
To the south of the garden earthworks, and included in the third area, is the
site of a dovecot, represented by a circular feature on a raised platform 15m
in diameter. Excluded from the scheduling are New Park House and Old Park
House, all the modern buildings south-east of New Park House, and fences,
although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 monument at Croxton retains an extensive and diverse range of features
associated both with the abbey and with the post-Dissolution history of the
site. The survival of below ground remains has been confirmed by excavation.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Hartley, R F, The Medieval Earthworks of North-West Leicestershire, (1987)
Clapham, A W, 'Archaeologia' in The Architecture of the Premonstratensians, , Vol. 73, (1924)
Herbert, A, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological Society' in Croxton Abbey, , Vol. 22, (1945)

Source: Historic England

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