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Axholme Carthusian Priory and post-Dissolution garden earthworks, Melwood Park

A Scheduled Monument in Owston Ferry, North Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.5078 / 53°30'28"N

Longitude: -0.7857 / 0°47'8"W

OS Eastings: 480632.05411

OS Northings: 401924.914466

OS Grid: SE806019

Mapcode National: GBR QWYW.P8

Mapcode Global: WHFFK.X314

Entry Name: Axholme Carthusian Priory and post-Dissolution garden earthworks, Melwood Park

Scheduled Date: 10 December 1951

Last Amended: 12 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017487

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30119

County: North Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Owston Ferry

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Owston Ferry St Martin

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes the earthworks of a charterhouse (Carthusian priory) and
those related to the houses and gardens built on the site after the
Dissolution. It also includes a partly water filled moat, the buried remains
of a Premonstratensian chapel which predates the priory, and a standing
building, now in agricultural use, that incorporates medieval fabric.
The Carthusian priory was founded in 1395-96 for a prior and 12 monks by
Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, at the site of a small 12th century
Premonstratensian chapel dedicated to St Mary. Of the nine Carthusian
foundations in England, Axholme was the seventh to be established with
building work on the charterhouse, including the repair of some existing
buildings, starting in 1397. It was finally incorporated into the Carthusian
Order in 1432, and in 1447 new building work was started, completed shortly
after 1449. In 1535 the prior of Axholme and the sister house of Beauvale,
together with the prior of the London Charterhouse, were ordered to submit to
the King as head of the Church of England and when they refused were tried for
High Treason and executed. Axholme Priory was dissolved in 1539. In 1540, the
charterhouse and estates in Owston and Hawkesey were granted to John Candysshe
of Westbutterwick who converted the priory into a manor surrounded by gardens
and orchards. About a century later the estate was owned by the Cartaret
family and the manor house, which had become ruinous, was pulled down to be
replaced by a smaller house in 1688.
The core of the site is a roughly square moated island 148m across,
surrounded on at least three sides by a 10m wide moat ditch. Two thirds of the
southern and eastern moat arms are flooded and have been dredged in the recent
past. The remaining lengths, together with the western moat arm, survive as
linear depressions. If there was a northern moat arm to complete the circuit,
it must survive as an infilled feature.
The moated island formed the inner court of the charterhouse and contains well
preserved earthworks of the priory's cloister, including the cells with their
individual small courtyard gardens which are typical of Carthusian
monasteries. The island also contains a Grade II Listed Building which
includes the remains of the house thought to have been built by the Cartaret
family in the late 17th century. This building incorporates medieval fragments
including the carved shield of the Mowbray family. A stone column from a
priory building is now located within a sealed basement room. It also includes
a now blocked 15th century doorway which is thought to have been part of the
first post-Dissolution house. Geophysical survey has identified further wall
lines within the island all around this building. These indicate further
remains of the priory buildings and are thought to include the church,
chapterhouse, and frater (refectory), together with the post-Dissolution manor
house. The inner court will also contain the charterhouse's cemetery, the
cloister garth, the open area to the south of the Listed Building. Some of the
earthworks on the island are the remains of the manor house's gardens
described by Abraham de la Pryme in the late 17th century. These include
linear banks forming raised walkways and a small prospect mound in the south
east corner of the island.
To the north west, north and east of the moated island there are further
earthworks and buried remains of the outer court of the charterhouse. These
will retain evidence for the range of activities conducted by the lay brethren
who supported the priory. The full extent of the outer court is not known and
no outer precinct boundary has been identified, but it is believed that it was
more extensive than the currently surviving remains. Survey has identified a
number of features to the north west of the island, including what is
interpreted as the gatehouse with a trackway with flanking drains running
through it eastwards from Epworth Road. To the south of this trackway there is
a level platform orientated east-west and measuring 50m by 25m, whose location
suggests that it was a timber building housing guest quarters.
Geophysical survey has also identified a number of additional wall lines in
this area. In the field to the east of the moat there are a number of
earthworks including terraced areas, ditches and pits. These are considered to
relate to such things as workshop areas, stores, bake houses and kitchens, all
of which would have been located close to, but outside of the inner court of
the priory, and would have been used by the lay brethren who would typically
have numbered up to 16.
The easternmost farm building, which includes the carved stone shield of the
Mowbray family and is Grade II Listed, is included in the scheduling. All
other buildings, together with all post and wire fencing, gates, cattle grids,
modern feeding and water troughs, and concrete hardstandings are excluded from
the scheduling, although the ground beneath all of these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A charterhouse is a monastery of the Carthusians. The order was founded in
the 11th century, the first houses in England being established in the 12th or
13th century. It is a settlement planned to provide a community of
contemplative monks with facilities for worship, accommodation and, to some
extent, subsistence. Carthusian life was centred on solitude and favoured
meditation over communal meeting. In taking this approach to monastic life
the Carthusians were unique amongst orders in the West. In contrast to other
monastic establishments the components of the charterhouse were devoted to
individual accommodation in preference to communal buildings. Most notable
were the individual cells and gardens built for each monk, these being ranged
around a great cloister. In addition to these cells each monastery had a main
church, workshops, guesthouses, kitchens and other buildings, these being
enclosed within some form of boundary.
Like other monasteries, charterhouses were inextricably woven into the fabric
of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning, and
charity, but also, because of their vast landholdings, as centres of immense
wealth and political influence. Nine charterhouses were established in
medieval England. In view of their rarity and unique form of organisation, all
examples exhibiting archaeological survival are identified as nationally

Around 6,000 moated sites are known in England. They consist of wide ditches,
often or seasonally water-filled, partly or completely enclosing one or more
islands of dry ground on which stood domestic or religious buildings. In some
cases moated islands were used for horticulture. The majority of moated sites
served as prestigious aristocratic or seigniorial residences with the
provision of a moat primarily as a status symbol rather than as a means of
defence. The peak period of moat building was between about 1250 and 1350 and
by far the greatest concentration lies in central and eastern England. However
moated sites were built throughout the medieval period and are widely
scattered throughout England, demonstrating a wide diversity of forms and
sizes. They are a significant class of medieval monument and are important for
the understanding of the distribution of wealth and status in the countryside.
Many examples provide conditions favourable to the survival of organic

Axholme Priory is a well-known and well-documented monument retaining well
preserved and extensive earthworks. Geophysical survey has indicated that the
degree of archaeological survival of wall lines and floor levels of the priory
complex is very good, and the flooded moat ditch implies good conditions for
the survival of organic materials. Overall therefore, significant remains of
the priory complex will be preserved along with important evidence for the
post-Dissolution use of the site, including early garden remains. Many post-
Dissolution houses had gardens associated with them. These could take a
variety of forms. Some used elaborate water-management systems to create
water-gardens which could include a variety of ponds and canals. At other
sites flower gardens were favoured with plants placed in beds which were often
elaborately shaped or geometrically laid out. Such sites often had raised
walkways or prospect mounds from which the garden remains could be viewed.
Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views
about how the landscape could be modified to provide a `pleasure ground'. The
remains at Axholme offer considerable potential for the study of the
transition from religious to high status secular occupation.

Source: Historic England


Earthwork survey report, RCHME, Axholme Priory, Humberside, (1995)

Source: Historic England

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