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Site of Legbourne Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Little Cawthorpe, Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.3375 / 53°20'15"N

Longitude: 0.0414 / 0°2'29"E

OS Eastings: 536023.682967

OS Northings: 384232.555966

OS Grid: TF360842

Mapcode National: GBR XYQV.R9

Mapcode Global: WHHK0.LCYQ

Entry Name: Site of Legbourne Priory

Scheduled Date: 28 April 1953

Last Amended: 12 August 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1011455

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22617

County: Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Little Cawthorpe

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Legbourne All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes the remains of Legbourne Priory, a Cistercian nunnery
founded after 1150 and suppressed in 1536. It was a relatively small
establishment of about 15 nuns and a prioress; from the 12th to the 14th
centuries the population also included lay brethren under the direction of a
prior. After the Dissolution the property was granted to Sir Thomas Heneage.
The remains of the priory, which take the form of a group of earthworks,
include parts of the inner and outer precincts with associated water-control
features and ridge-and-furrow cultivation.

The monument lies in an area of pasture on the west side of the village of
Legbourne adjacent to the present house, garden and farmbuildings known as
Legbourne Abbey. Running north-west/south-east near the centre of the
monument, partly cut by a modern pond, is a pair of parallel ditches with a
narrow bank between. This feature, approximately 15m in width, is considered
to represent the course of a medieval boundary between the inner precinct of
the nunnery on the east and the outer precinct on the west. In the
north-eastern part of the monument this boundary continues as a shallow linear
depression, approximately 10m wide, running north-east/south-west,
representing a former moat. The area thus enclosed is considered to represent
approximately one quarter of the area of the inner precinct. To the south is a
further linear depression running north-eastwards into the inner precinct from
the beck in the south-west. This is considered to represent a medieval
water-supply channel serving the domestic buildings of the nunnery.

To the west of the inner precinct is an area of earthworks, including a series
of banks and ditches, occupying a roughly rectangular area approximately 180m
square. The ditches, some partly infilled, form a group of small rectangular
enclosures, some with internal banks and ditches. These features are
considered to represent the remains of the priory's outer precinct where
enclosures for gardens, orchards or animals would have been located.

In the south-western corner of the monument, immediately adjacent to, and
aligned with, the enclosures of the outer precinct, is a pair of broad
depressions, now partly infilled. That on the west is L-shaped in plan, each
arm being about 60m long and up to 20m wide. On its east side is a small
channel connecting it to another depression over 50m in length and up to 20m
wide. These features are considered to represent the remains of two ponds
which formed part of the water-control system of the priory.

On the north and west sides of the monument are the remains of
ridge-and-furrow cultivation. The ridges, running north-west to south-east,
are aligned with, and immediately adjoining, the earthworks of the precincts
of the priory; running parallel to them, in the north-eastern corner of the
monument, is a linear bank representing the remains of a headland separating
this area of cultivation from another to the north-east. The earthworks
represent the remains of medieval fields associated with the priory.

All fences are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath 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 earthworks of the Cistercian priory at Legbourne survive within a complex
of ridge-and-furrow cultivation, trackways and water-control systems
representing a part of the medieval landscape in which the nunnery was
established. The monument will preserve valuable evidence for the
relationships between the nunnery and these aspects of its environment. In
addition there is a high level of historical documentation relating to the
site. Despite the damage to part of the monument in modern times, the site as
a whole remains of national importance.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
An Inventory of the Monastery of Legburn, (1536)
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 200-274
Page, W, The Victoria History of the County of Lincolnshire: Volume II, (1906), 153-155
White, W, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Lincolnshire, (1856), 504
NAR, TF 38 SE 4, (1963)

Source: Historic England

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