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Cistercian Abbey at Boxley

A Scheduled Monument in Boxley, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3003 / 51°18'1"N

Longitude: 0.5249 / 0°31'29"E

OS Eastings: 576115.731526

OS Northings: 158712.161562

OS Grid: TQ761587

Mapcode National: GBR PQV.FJM

Mapcode Global: VHJM7.1LV1

Entry Name: Cistercian Abbey at Boxley

Scheduled Date: 19 May 1952

Last Amended: 29 May 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012264

English Heritage Legacy ID: 12805

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Boxley

Built-Up Area: Maidstone

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent


The monument includes the abbey and monastic precinct at Boxley. The
remains of the Abbey, which was founded in 1143, are enclosed within an
angular wall which preserves the line and many of the features such as
door-openings of the original precinct wall, although some of its fabric
is clearly recent.
The main gatehouse is on the western side, and features Tudor brickwork
as well as a quantity of original medieval stonework, showing that it
was rebuilt not long before the abbey's dissolution in 1538.
Many features of the abbey have been disguised by later landscaping but
were identified during small-scale excavations in 1897-8 and 1971-2.
Both the east range of the cloister and the south aisle of the church
are marked by embankments within the present garden whilst the E-W drain
from the latrine has been incorporated into a walled garden. The nave of
the church is marked by a former water garden. Further remains of the
abbey are considered likely to survive beneath the present ground level,
such as stables, granaries and other agricultural buildings, many
originally built of timber. Fishponds and other watercourses survive as
earthworks at several locations. The main upstanding feature inside the
9ha. precinct is the Hospitium. This building, thought originally to
have been a hostel for visitors to the Abbey, is now used as a barn; it
is included in the scheduling as well as being listed Grade I.
Excluded from the scheduling are the cottages, which are listed Grade
II, near the gatehouse, and the present house, which is listed Grade
II*, (except the lengths of medieval stone walling of the W range of the
cloister), and also the metalling of the access roads and the service
trenches below them. The ground beneath each, however, is included.
Also excluded from the scheduling are all post-Dissolution stonework
used for garden features etc. unless part of repairs to medieval

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

From the time of St Augustine's mission to refound Christianity in AD
597 to the reign of Henry VIII, monasteries formed an important facet of
both religious and secular life in the British Isles. 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, 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 centre of a wide network including parish
churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages.
Some 75 of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian Order
founded by Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth century. The
Cistercians - or "white monks on account of their undyed habits" - led
a harsher life than the earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue
of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion,
they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook
major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very
large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen,
shepherds, carpenters, and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers
eventually made the Order one of the most rich and influential. They
were especially successful in the rural north of England where they
concentrated on sheep farming.
Boxley is one of the most complete of the group of Cistercian Abbeys
which were established as daughter houses by larger monasteries. Of
these daughter houses virtually nothing is known other than the layouts
of the church and cloisters. Few Abbey precincts survive sufficiently
extensively to allow an understanding of the range of agricultural and
industrial activities undertaken at such a site to support the community
of monks and lay-brethren. The degree of survival and diversity of
features in the example at Boxley provide a potentially outstanding
opportunity to do so. At the same time, the small scale excavation of
parts of the cloisters and church at Boxley means that it is well
documented archaeologically.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Tester, P, 'Arch. Cant.' in Excavations at Boxley Abbey, , Vol. 88, (1973), 88
Account of verbal report, Payne, G, Archaeologia Cantiana, (1902)

Source: Historic England

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