Ancient Monuments

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Quarr Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Fishbourne, Isle of Wight

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Latitude: 50.7305 / 50°43'49"N

Longitude: -1.1997 / 1°11'58"W

OS Eastings: 456581.434617

OS Northings: 92623.939844

OS Grid: SZ565926

Mapcode National: GBR 9CL.3J0

Mapcode Global: FRA 87C4.Y5L

Entry Name: Quarr Abbey

Scheduled Date: 4 February 1953

Last Amended: 11 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1012714

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22034

County: Isle of Wight

Civil Parish: Fishbourne

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Isle of Wight

Church of England Parish: Binstead Holy Cross

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of a Cistercian
monastery on the north east coast of the Isle of Wight. The remains are Listed
Grade II and largely contained within the original precinct boundary which can
be traced for most of its course. Some extra-mural features have been recorded
beyond the precinct boundary.

The buildings generally associated with a Cistercian house were present at
Quarr and largely conformed to the usual ground plan, except that all the
buildings are to the north of the church. The upstanding remains of buildings
which can be identified are the cellarium, parts of the kitchen and refectory
or frater, a wood house, the warming room and parts of the undercroft of the
monks dorter and infirmary chapel. The remains of the other buildings within
the precinct exist as buried features. The complex has an extant Listed Grade
II precinct wall on the east and north sides. The remainder can be traced on
aerial photographs. The church of the house lay along the axis and partially
beneath the trackway which crosses the monument in an east-west direction. The
archway which crosses this track lies on the line of a connection between the
cellarium and the west front of the church. No remains of the church can be
identified on the ground. The cloister lay to the north of the church. The
existing barn represents the range of buildings to the west of the cloister,
and its entrance to the north has a group of 13th century lancet windows which
have been reset. This west range of buildings consisted of the cellarium or
food store for the monastery, and is high enough to have had a dorter or
dormitory for the lay brothers above. Extant parts of the range of buildings
to the north of the cloister include part of the kitchen and vestiges of its
interior including a hatch between the kitchen and the south end of the
refectory or frater. There is also the boundary between the frater and the
warming room on its east side. To the east of the warming room some walls of
the undercroft of the monks dorter survive. Next to the door in the refectory
is a recess, reputedly for a cupboard. To the north east of the refectory is a
section of wall and an arch, which is thought to be a wood store or part of
the abbot's lodging. The buildings to the east of the cloister survive as
buried features, and beyond these further to the east is a fragment of wall
and part of a fireplace with square head and panelled sides of 14th century
date together with a round headed north window. This was the infirmary chapel.
Much of the extant precint wall remains to its original height of c.3m. In the
north west corner of the circuit there are the blocked remains of a gateway.
Set into the north precinct wall are two gunports of medieval type.

To the south and west of the precinct wall, aerial photography has identified
further evidence of occupation, some features being confirmed as earthworks on
the ground. To the east of the precinct wall is a leet which links the
fishponds of the abbey at one end and enters the abbey precinct in the
vicinity of the infirmary chapel. The fishponds are the subject of a separate

The abbey was founded in 1131 under Benedictine rule by Baldwin de Redvers,
Lord of the Island, as a daughter house of Savigny. Savigny with its daughter
houses joined the order of Citeaux in 1147 with the result that Quarr changed
to the Cistercian order. Threat of attack by the French in the late 14th
century led the Abbot of Quarr to obtain a licence to crenellate in 1365, and
the work had begun the following year. An approximately square area of 800ft
was enclosed with a wall of Quarr stone and Bembridge limestone rubble. There
is no subsequent record of the abbey being attacked. Though not the oldest of
the Anglo-Norman foundations on the island, it was certainly the largest and
most important. Nevertheless at the time of the Dissolution, Quarr, with an
income of less than 200 pounds a year, was reckoned a lesser house and was
closed by order of the King's Commissioners on 22 July 1536.

In 1891 Mr P G Stone partly excavated the site and recorded the ground plan of
the abbey. In addition, there are documentary references of 1535 to a mill to
the east or south east of the south gate, while the marshy area to the south
of the abbey church is reputed to be the location of a fishpond inside the
precinct wall.
The house which fronts onto the north side of the track and lying on the south
end of the west side of the cloister is excluded from the scheduling, as are
the houses known as Quarr Abbey Lodge and Farway, the northern range of
buildings and lean-to structures of Quarr Abbey Farm, the building on the west
side which abuts the lean-to, the free-standing barn to the west of Quarr
Abbey Farm and to the north of Quarr Abbey Lodge, all post and wire fences and
the water trough, although the ground beneath all of these features is

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 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 75
of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian order founded by St
Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or "white monks",
on account of their undyed habits - led a harsher life than 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 richest and most influential. They were
especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on
sheep farming. The Cistercians 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 Cistercian abbey of Quarr is known from partial excavation and survey to
contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the
abbey and the economy of its inhabitants. Quarr Abbey is well documented as
the largest and most important Anglo-Norman foundation on the Isle of Wight.
It is central to a variety of contemporary features, including fishponds and a
leet, in addition to other associated settlement remains on the island which
were granges of the abbey. The precinct wall contains two of the earliest
gunports recorded in Britain.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hockey, S F, Quarr Abbey and its Lands 1132-1631, (1970), 50
Ed Hockey, D S F, 'Isle of Wight Records Series' in The Charters of Quarr Abbey, , Vol. 3, (), intro
Renn, D F, 'Archaeological Journal' in The Earliest Gunports in Britain?, , Vol. 125, (1968), 301-303
Stone, P G, 'The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight' in The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, , Vol. 1, (1891)
Bailey, J. and Basford, F., 117/5/86 and 31-8-90,

Source: Historic England

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