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St Peter's Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Abbotsbury, Dorset

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.664 / 50°39'50"N

Longitude: -2.5994 / 2°35'57"W

OS Eastings: 357733.805559

OS Northings: 85096.046812

OS Grid: SY577850

Mapcode National: GBR PT.SS1V

Mapcode Global: FRA 57FB.54S

Entry Name: St Peter's Abbey

Scheduled Date: 15 October 1924

Last Amended: 16 May 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015693

English Heritage Legacy ID: 22961

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Abbotsbury

Built-Up Area: Abbotsbury

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Abbotsbury St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Details

The monument includes those parts of the precinct of St Peter's Abbey which
have not been seriously affected by subsequent development. It contains many
contemporary features and is located just south of the present village.
The precinct which defines the monument is roughly square in plan and covers
an area of c.10ha. Its boundary is now marked by walling along Rope Walk and
Chapel Lane to the west, by a similar wall to the east of the modern car park
in the north eastern area, by boundary banks to the south and south east, and
by the course of Rodden Row to the north.
Access into the precinct was via the two gatehouses situated on its western
side. The outer gatehouse (Listed Grade II*), of 14th century date, is
situated to the west of the Abbey Church and enabled access from the north.
This is now ruined, but includes the remains of an archway. The inner
gatehouse (Listed Grade I), situated further south, regulated access into the
western precinct. The structure dates from the 14th century and was converted
into a house during the 17th century, when a wing was added to the west and
the eastern archway was blocked.
The north central precinct area contained the main monastic structures,
including the Abbey Church and related buildings. The church was identified
during part excavations in 1871, when fragments of wall foundations, tiled
floors and stone coffins were found to the south of the parish church. To the
north east, the structure of `Abbot's Walk' (Listed Grade II*), is likely to
incorporate the remains of the Chapter House or Abbot's Lodgings. This
building is 14th century in origin, with 17th century alterations. The
adjacent `Abbey House' (Listed Grade II) dates from the 17th century, but is
likely to include reused masonry from the Abbey.
The cloister block is likely to have occupied the terrace south of the parish
church, where a substantial eastern gable is the only upstanding structural
survival. This gable (Listed Grade II*) dates to the late 14th century. A
monastic mill, situated to the east of the main monastic structures, was
identified following excavations in 1985. The structure, (Listed Grade I) and
known as The Old Malthouse, was built during the 14th century. It had two
water wheels served by natural spring water from the north, and a stone outlet
culvert is visible to the south. Following the Dissolution, the building was
partly converted: the western wing became a residence and the mill was reduced
in capacity and was served by a single water wheel. The mill continued in use
until the 18th century, when the building was converted into a malthouse and
the western gable end rebuilt.
The southern precinct area contained a variety of agricultural structures,
including a granary, tithe barn and dovecote. After the Dissolution, these
buildings continued in use as part of Abbey Farm and have, therefore, been
well maintained. To the south is a large tithe barn (Listed Grade I) which
dates from the 15th century. It has heavily buttressed walls, with maximum
dimensions of 83m in length and 9.4m in width. Internally, it is divided into
23 bays, although the north eastern half is ruined following storm damage in
the 17th century. To the east of the barn is a dovecote (Listed Grade II*).
The building is rectangular in plan, aligned north east by south west, with
maximum dimensions of 5m by 10m. Internally, it is divided into two and fitted
with stone nesting boxes. To the north is a granary (Listed Grade II), thought
to date from the 18th century but using earlier masonry.
The western precinct contains a group of fishponds and associated drainage
channels within the area known as Broad Garden. The fishponds have become
infilled over the years, but are visible as slight earthworks with maximum
dimensions of between 25m to 80m across and c.0.5m to 0.75m deep. The area,
which lies between the main precinct and a field system on Chapel Hill, is
also likely to have formed the Abbey gardens.
St Peter's Abbey was a Benedictine monastery founded c.1026 by Orc, a chief
minister of King Canute. The site may have belonged to Glastonbury Abbey in
the tenth century and an early monastic settlement at the site is possible.
Very little is known of the earliest remains, as extensive demolition occurred
during the Norman period (around c.1070), when new buildings were constructed.
The earliest remains now visible include late 12th century carved decoration
and 13th and 14th century architectural features.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are the
structures of the parish church (Listed Grade I), The Manor House (Listed
Grade II*), Abbey House (Listed Grade II), Abbots Walk (Listed Grade II*),
Abbey Dairy House (Listed Grade I), the adjacent modern house, the summer
house and swimming pool situated to the south of Abbey Dairy House, all garden
sheds, the car park attendant's hut, the buildings north of the tithe barn,
all fence railings, posts and gates relating to the modern field and property
boundaries, all notice boards, signs and posts and all metalled surfaces; The
ground beneath all of these features, however, is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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.
Benedictine monasticism had its roots in the rule written about AD 530 by St
Benedict of Nursia for his own abbey at Monte Cassino. Benedict had not
intended to establish an order of monasteries and wider adoption of his rule
came only gradually. The first real attempt to form a Benedictine order came
only in 1216. The Benedictine monks, who wore dark robes, came to be known as
`black monks'. These dark robes distinguished them from Cistercian monks who
became known as `white monks' on account of their light coloured robes. Over
150 Benedictine monasteries were founded in England. As members of a highly
successful order many Benedictine houses became extremely wealthy and
influential. Their wealth can frequently be seen in the scale and flamboyance
of their buildings. Benedictine monasteries made a major contribution to many
facets of medieval life and all examples exhibiting significant surviving
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Despite some redevelopment, St Peter's Abbey includes many well-preserved
structures, such as the tithe barn (reputedly the largest in England), a
dovecote, watermill and well-preserved earthworks representing fishponds and
buried foundations. The boundaries of the monastic precinct are known from the
course of surviving banks and walls and much of the internal area is
relatively undisturbed. Part excavations over the years have confirmed the
survival of well-preserved buried remains.
There are many historical references to the Abbey. The site is known to
represent one of the larger Benedictine houses in Dorset. Part of the site is
accessible to the public.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 4
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 1-2
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 3
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 1
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 6
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 7
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 3
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of Dorset: Volume 1 , (1952), 5
Whitworth, A, Dorset Dovecotes, (1988), 8, 21
Whitworth, A, Dorset Dovecotes, (1988), 20
Whitworth, A, Dorset Dovecotes, (1988), 21
Graham, A H, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in The Old Malthouse, Abbotsbury, , Vol. Vol 107, (1985), 173
Graham, A H, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in The Old Malthouse, Abbotsbury, , Vol. Vol 107, (1985), 173
Graham, A H, 'Proc Dorset Nat Hist Arch Soc' in The Old Malthouse, Abbotsbury, , Vol. Vol 107, (1985), 173
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 22
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21-22
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21
Keen, L, 'Archaeological Journal' in Abbotsbury Abbey, (1983), 21
Other
Buttressed as at St Catherine Chapel, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
c. 1400 date, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Destruction of Strangeways residence, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Detail fishponds, RCHME, National Monuments Record ,
Detail inner gatehouse, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Detail jambs and archway, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Detail of southern precinct structure, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Detail outer gatehouse, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Detail southern gable end, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Details of northern entrances, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Details of southern entrances, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Internal divisions of gatehouse, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Interpretation of 'Abbot's Walk', RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Listing Grade and description, Listing Details: West Dorset District,
Mention 1400 date, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention 17th century conversion, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention 17th century thatched roof, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention blocked archway, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention date of structure, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention demolition in 1790, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention division into 23 bays, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention doorway and s wall fragment, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention earlier fabric in fire place, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention eastern end unroofed, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention eastern precinct wall, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention extensive Norman demolition, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention fireplaces and buttresses, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention largest tithe barn in England, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention modern windows, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention name 'Broad Garden', RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention other fishponds,
Mention print of 1773, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention relatively well maintained, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention southern precinct boundary, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Mention western precinct wall, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
RCHME, National Monuments Record,
RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Rectangular plan of Abbot's Lodge, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Represents part of southern range, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Structure of inner gatehouse, RCHME, National Monuments Record,
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1962
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Depiction of Abbotsbury Mill
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1962
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Depiction of 'Nunnery Grove'
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1962
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Depiction of 'The Swannery'
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mapped depiction of Abbotsbury Mill
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mapped depiction of gullies
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mapped depiction of mill pond
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mapped depiction of mill stream
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mapped depiction of pond
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 Series
Source Date: 1964
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Mention name 'Broad Garden'

Source: Historic England

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