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Moated site of Flixton Priory

A Scheduled Monument in Flixton (The Saints Ward), Suffolk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.4263 / 52°25'34"N

Longitude: 1.4042 / 1°24'15"E

OS Eastings: 631541.914805

OS Northings: 286373.831805

OS Grid: TM315863

Mapcode National: GBR WL7.V4C

Mapcode Global: VHM6N.986V

Entry Name: Moated site of Flixton Priory

Scheduled Date: 10 February 1953

Last Amended: 18 March 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018268

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21448

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Flixton (The Saints Ward)

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Flixton St Mary

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich

Details

The medieval moated site of Flixton Priory is located some 400m south east of
St Mary's parish church, on the southern edge of the valley of the River
Waveney. The monument includes the moated site and the standing and buried
remains of the priory which it contains. The visible remains include a ruined
wall, earthworks overlying masonry wall footings, and fishponds with
associated water management features.

At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the manor of Flixton formed part
of the estate of William, Bishop of Thetford, and it was later held by
Geoffrey de Hanes. In the 13th century it passed by marriage to Bartholomew de
Creke whose widow, Margery, founded the priory in 1258 and endowed it with the
capital manor and other holdings. The priory, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin
and St Catherine, was of the Augustinian order, and the community, according
to the terms of the foundation, was to number not more than 18 nuns in
addition to the prioress. A survey of 1292 records an annual income of 43
pounds, 18 shillings and 2 pence, but this declined sharply following the
Black Death (1349), and by the beginning of the 16th century there were only
seven or eight nuns. The nunnery was among the small houses listed for
suppression in 1528 but was not, in fact, dissolved until 1536. It was granted
in 1537 to Richard Warton and in 1544 passed to John Tasburgh. Members of the
Tasburgh family are believed to have lived here for a time in the later 16th
century before removing to Flixton Hall.

The moated site is sub-rectangular in plan and has maximum overall dimensions
of approximately 180m NNW-SSE by 136m. The moat, which contains some open
water, bounds the north, east and south sides of the central enclosure and
defines the northern and southern ends of the west side, leaving a gap
approximately 72m wide between. The end of the moat to the south of this gap
is aligned towards the north west and terminates in a sub-rectangular pond
which is partly separated from the main arm by a narrow baulk. The terminal of
the moat on the north side of the gap turned inward at one time, and although
this short eastward extension is now largely infilled and survives chiefly as
a buried feature, it is marked by a sub-rectangular depression approximately
1.5m wide and up to 0.5m deep in the ground surface. It flanks what was
probably the original main entrance to the priory and the associated public
area to the west of the church and conventual buildings. The width of the
southern and eastern arms of the moat ranges from approximately 9m to 11m, but
the northern arm is wider, between 15m and 20m. A short spur which projects
northward from the western end of the northern arm may mark the opening of a
former outlet channel. Two causeways which give access to the interior across
the northern arm and the south east corner of the moat are probably not
original features.

The remains of the conventual buildings are situated slightly to the west of
centre within the enclosure. Abbey Farmhouse, which is Listed Grade II, is
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included. It
incorporates what is thought to be part of the monastic church, although the
main body of the church may have stood immediately to the south of the present
building. Flint masonry of medieval type, with stone quoins, is exposed in the
outer face of the lower wall at the south east corner of the larger, western
wing of the house. The conventual buildings adjoining the church were ranged
around a rectangular cloister, the outline of which can still be traced to the
south of the farmhouse. It is defined on the western side by a low bank
approximately 7.5m wide, which runs southward from opposite the western end of
the house and is believed to cover the masonry footings of the west claustral
range. The line of the outer wall of the south range is also clearly visible
about 37m from the house. A central section of this wall, approximately 8.7m
in length, still stands almost to roof height, and low banks mark the buried
footings to the east and west of it. A block of fallen masonry about 7m from
the standing section lies at what is probably the eastern end of the range.
The ruined wall is constructed primarily of mortared flint rubble with
limestone dressings and includes a large, internally splayed window opening,
now partly blocked, surmounted by a depressed arch which, on the evidence of
the stonework, is a late insertion. The blocking of an earlier, pointed arch,
is visible in the masonry above it. At either end of the standing wall are
traces of two more windows of similar type, one of which, at the western end,
displays a well-preserved section of the moulded stone surround, with the
springing of the arch and sockets for glazing bars. The other, at the eastern
end, shows evidence of alteration, including inserted brickwork. The stub of a
buttress projects from the outer face of the wall towards the eastern end.

If the arrangement of the cloister followed the usual custom, the south range
will have been occupied by the nuns' refectory, and the west range probably
contained an undercroft used for storage, and perhaps an outer parlour also,
with apartments for the prioress and accommodation for guests above. The range
containing the nuns' dormitory and the chapter house, where the daily business
of the community was discussed, will have been on the east side of the
cloister, and although the traces of this above ground are slight, it is
thought that foundations and other remains survive below the ground surface.

On the south side of the enclosure is a rectilinear pond measuring
approximately 35m in length east-west and up to 16m in width. It is aligned
parallel to the adjacent southern arm of the moat and is linked to it by a
short channel in which there would originally have been a sluice to control
the flow of water between the two. This connecting channel has become partly
infilled but is visible as a linear depression approximately 2.5m wide and
0.5m deep. Another ditch or channel, traceable as a somewhat shallower
depression approximately 13m wide, runs northwards from the western end of the
pond to the south eastern angle of the cloister. A rectilinear depression in
the ground surface marks the site of a second, smaller pond, now largely
infilled, which adjoined the first on the north east side. These ponds are
considered to be medieval in origin and to have been created for the breeding
and storage of fish.

Other slight earthworks extend between and beyond the two ends of the moat on
the western side of the enclosure. Here, a quadrangular area, bounded on the
south west and north sides by ditches which project north westwards and south
westwards from the two ends of the moat, is divided into unequal quadrants by
two intersecting ditches, aligned north west-south east and north east-south
west respectively and visible as linear hollows approximately 3.5m wide and
0.4m deep. These features, which perhaps relate to former garden plots, are
also included in the scheduling.

In addition to Abbey Farmhouse, all outbuildings and sheds within the
protected area are excluded from the scheduling, together with the surfaces of
modern tracks, driveways and paths, all modern fences and gates, service poles
and inspection chambers, although the ground beneath all these features is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
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 nunnery was a settlement built to sustain a community of religious women.
Its main buildings were constructed to provide facilities for worship,
accommodation and subsistence. The main elements are the church and domestic
buildings arranged around a cloister. This central enclosure may be
accompanied by an outer court and gatehouse, the whole bounded by a precinct
wall, earthworks or moat. Outside the enclosure, fishponds, mills, field
systems, stock enclosures and barns may occur. The earliest English nunneries
were founded in the seventh century AD but most of these had fallen out of use
by the ninth century. A small number of these were later refounded. The tenth
century witnessed the foundation of some new houses but the majority of
medieval nunneries were established from the late 11th century onwards.
Nunneries were established by most of the major religious orders of the time,
including the Benedictines, Cistercians, Augustinians, Franciscans and
Dominicans. It is known from documentary sources that at least 153 nunneries
existed in England, of which the precise locations of only around 100 sites
are known. Few sites have been examined in detail and as a rare and poorly
understood medieval monument type all examples exhibiting survival of
archaeological remains are worthy of protection.

Flixton Priory was one of only 11 medieval nunneries in Norfolk and Suffolk,
two others of which were of the Augustinian order. The greater part of the
moated precinct, including the area of the cloister and claustral ranges,
displays little evidence of modern disturbance, and although only a small part
of the conventual buildings still stands above ground, the earthworks which
remain visible are evidence for the survival of buried foundations and various
other features of monastic date. These, with associated archaeological
deposits, will contain information concerning the physical layout and the
social and economic organisation of the priory, and its development over time.
The documented association with Flixton manor gives the monument additional
interest, and it is also likely to retain evidence for the use of the manorial
site both before the foundation of the priory and after the Dissolution. In
addition, it is probable that organic materials, including evidence for the
local environment in the past, will be preserved in waterlogged deposits in
the moat and ponds.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Copinger, W A, History of the Manors of Suffolk: Volume VII, (1911), 176
Cox, J, The Victoria History of the County of Suffolk: Volume II, (1907), 115-117
Cox, J, The Victoria History of the County of Suffolk: Volume II, (1907), 115-117
Evans, N, 'Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol' in The Tasburghs of South Elmham, , Vol. 34, (1979), 269-280
Haslewood, F, 'Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol' in Inventories of Monasteries Suppressed in 1536, , Vol. 8, (1894)
Other
CUCAP BEQ 69,
NAU AYD 25, (1985)

Source: Historic England

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