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Early medieval urban burh remains east of St Stephen's parish church, including remains of the early medieval Christian enclosure and monastery

A Scheduled Monument in Launceston, Cornwall

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Latitude: 50.647 / 50°38'49"N

Longitude: -4.3699 / 4°22'11"W

OS Eastings: 232546.724422

OS Northings: 85718.459405

OS Grid: SX325857

Mapcode National: GBR NK.8KD1

Mapcode Global: FRA 17QC.KC1

Entry Name: Early medieval urban burh remains E of St Stephen's parish church, including remains of the early medieval Christian enclosure and monastery

Scheduled Date: 26 April 1991

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013339

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15006

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: Launceston

Built-Up Area: Launceston

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: Launceston

Church of England Diocese: Truro


The monument comprises the only remaining open space not developed or
regularly disturbed within the boundaries of the enclosure for the early
medieval town of St Stephen's. Documentary sources confirm that it has been
open space since at least the early 18th century. It contains undisturbed
sub-surface foundations and deposits of the early medieval borough and
monastic site. The monument is situated on the crest of a spur on the north
side of the River Kensey valley.
Archaeological remains are visible as low earthworks, but more extensive
buried deposits have been identified through geophysical survey, including
features interpreted as stone structures and ditches. The remains of stone
building foundations were also discovered immediately west of the monument
during construction of the Church Hall in 1909. The site of the town's Saxon
mint has been traditionally located within the monument, but recent research
has identified the archaeological remains as belonging to the early medieval
monastery which played a central role in the foundation and development of the
town of St Stephen's. A section of the town's defensive enclosure crosses the
S edge of the area. The present church is thought to be on the site of the
early medieval church.
Place-name and documentary evidence provide the historical context for the
structures and deposits in the area. The original name 'Lanstefan' denotes an
origin as an early medieval Christian enclosed site. This grew to comprise a
monastery which, in common with several other Celtic monastic sites in western
Britain, became the focus for the development of an associated trading area.
By the 10th century, St Stephen's combined the monastery with a town
containing the only Cornish mint and, by implication, borough status. Its
growth also reflects the town's location close to the main land route into
Cornwall where it crosses the River Tamar. By the 11th century the town had a
market but, while remaining a borough, the market was removed in 1086 by the
Count of Mortain to his castle at Dunheved on the opposite side of the Kensey
valley. In the mid 12th century, the monastery was re-founded on a new site
in the valley floor at Newport and records of coinage from the mint cease.
The old monastic church was rebuilt and re-dedicated in the mid 13th century
to serve the parish of St Stephen's. The town appears to have continued to
survive as a borough and had a recorded 420 taxpayers in 1377, although by
this time its Domesday Book name of 'Lanscavetone' had migrated to the former
'Dunheved', developing into the present 'Launceston'. The surviving pattern
of property divisions in St Stephen's and early maps of the town suggest that
the later medieval and post-medieval settlement concentrated west of the
church, leaving the eastern half as open space, as this area remains today.
The modern post-and-wire fence and the septic tank outflow drain 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

The early post-Roman church in Celtic and Saxon Britain was organised around
either diocesan centres, normally ruled by bishops located in urban seats, or
monasteries. The former system had its origins in Britain in ecclesiastical
organisation established during the Roman period. The latter were largely a
post-Roman introduction influenced by developments in the eastern provinces of
the Roman Empire. Monasteries comprised enclosed religious communities led by
an abbot (for male foundations) or an abbess (for female foundations) in which
the inhabitants were obedient to a set of rules. The main feature of the
monastic buildings was the church, to which were attached a range of domestic
and other buildings in which the inhabitants lived and worked. Burial grounds
and garden areas were also included. Normally these were surrounded by some
form of boundary. No standard plan for the development of buildings existed
at this time, rather each site evolved to meet its particular needs. The
outward manifestations of monastic life included deliberate missionary work
and education. With the growing acceptance of Christianity monasteries became
popular institutions and many members of leading secular families joined them.
Because of increasing grants of wealth in the form of goods and lands given to
them out of pious respect for the new religion, many monasteries developed
into wealthy and powerful institutions, as a result of which they frequently
came to dominate local life. The requirements of managing their resources
often led their inhabitants to become involved in local trade and exchange,
and this frequently led to their development as foci for such activity.
Early monasteries are normally identified on the evidence of documentary
sources and, where the evidence is available, surviving archaeological
remains. The numbers of such early monasteries is not accurately known, but
they are relatively rare nationally and all of those where remains survive and
which can be linked to a specific site, as at St Stephen's, are considered to
be of national importance.
Additionally, the monument includes the last open and largely undeveloped area
within the early medieval town of St Stephen's. This town is historically
well-documented, indeed it was the earliest recorded town in Cornwall and the
only one to have held a mint.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Balchin, WGV, The Cornish Landscape, (1983)
Padel, O J, Cornish Place-Names, (1988)
'Cornwall Archaeological Unit' in St Stephen by Launceston. A note on the archaeological potential, (1990)
Preston-Jones, A, Rose, P, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Medieval Cornwall, , Vol. 25, (1986)
Gater, J. and Gaffney, C., Report on Geophysical Survey, St Stephen's, 1990, Unpublished geophysical survey report
Rose, P., Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 2596, (1990)
Rose, P., Earthwork Survey at St Stephen's, Launceston, 1990, Unpublished survey report

Source: Historic England

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