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South Grange medieval monastic grange

A Scheduled Monument in Sibton, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.2623 / 52°15'44"N

Longitude: 1.4689 / 1°28'7"E

OS Eastings: 636811.517983

OS Northings: 268353.06297

OS Grid: TM368683

Mapcode National: GBR XPS.068

Mapcode Global: VHM7G.DDWK

Entry Name: South Grange medieval monastic grange

Scheduled Date: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018328

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30546

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Sibton

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Sibton

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of a medieval monastic
grange, formerly one of the principal granges belonging to the Cistercian
abbey of Sibton, the remains of which are located approximately 1.3km to the
north and are the subject of a separate scheduling. The remains of the grange,
enclosed by a substantial ditch, are situated on a gentle, north east facing
slope above a minor tributary of the River Yox and contained within the
grounds of South Grange farmhouse and a single adjoining field.

South Grange formed part of the abbey demesne from the foundation in 1150, and
from surviving accounts it is known that in the 14th century it was run as a
self contained mixed farm, concerned principally with sheep and arable
cultivation, growing wheat, barley, oats and peas. A survey of 1325 describing
the extent of the grange mentions a great courtyard and buildings which
included the house with household refectory, the separate offices of the barn-
ward and ploughbrother and an ox house, as well as a hemp pightle behind the
ox house, and it also gives the value of various commodities grown within the
grange, including hay, osiers, nettles, fruit and nuts. During most of the
medieval period the grange was farmed by the lay brothers or servants of the
abbey, but by the late 15th century was being leased out in its entirety, at a
rent of ten pounds per annum.

No part of the residential buildings is known to survive above ground, but it
is probable that they stood in the south west corner of the greater enclosure,
surrounded or partly surrounded by a moat. Two `L' shaped lengths of this
moat, approximately 6m wide, remain open and partly water filled, defining the
south west and south east angles of a sub-rectangular enclosure measuring
approximately 100m east-west internally. The line of the western arm of the
south western length of the moat, which runs north westwards for a distance of
approximately 28m from the south west corner, is continued in a field
boundary. The eastern arm of the south eastern length runs NNW for a distance
of approximately 40m and a narrower and relatively slight linear depression
which continues on the same line for a further 15m perhaps marks the extent of
an infilled section which will survive as a buried feature. The northern end
of the linear depression curves south westward, and in the western field
boundary opposite there is a slight, corresponding inward kink, providing some
evidence for the return of a now infilled ditch or other boundary feature
along the northern side of the enclosure. The south eastern quadrant of the
enclosure contains a pond, and immediately to the north of this is a sub-
rectangular mound approximately 0.7m in height which may mark the site of a
building. South Grange farmhouse, which is Listed Grade II, and various farm
buildings which now stand within the central part of the same enclosure are
all known or considered to be of post-medieval date and are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

The dry ditch which encloses the much larger sub-rectangular outer enclosure,
some 4.1ha in area, is approximately 6m wide and open to a depth of between
0.5m and 1m. The southern arm runs north eastwards from the south west angle
of the moat and the western arm continues on the same north westward alignment
as the western arm of the moat, though stepped inward twice towards the
northern end.

Earthworks within the western half of the greater enclosure include a shallow
sub-rectangular depression with maximum dimensions of 23.6m ENE by 16.8m and
traces of associated ditches, situated immediately to the north of the area of
the partly moated enclosure and perhaps representing a small pond or sunken
yard. At the northern end of the enclosure, adjoining the inner edge of the
northern arm of the surrounding ditch towards its end is a low, sub-
rectangular raised platform measuring approximately 17m east-west by 7m which
may have supported a building, and to the south west of this, bordering the
inner edge of the western arm of the ditch, there is a broad, flat-topped bank
approximately 0.3m in height and 7.5m wide which probably served a similar
purpose. The eastern half of the greater enclosure contains a more numerous
and complex group of earthworks, probably of varying date, representing
various buildings and subsiduary enclosures. Towards the southern end is a
large, somewhat uneven rectangular depression defined by scarps up to 1m in
height on the western side, with a low, rectangular building platform,
approximately 28m in length and 10m in width and clearly visible in aerial
photographs, along the northern side, and traces of possible buildings on the
west side, also. Further to the north can be seen slight earthworks defining
parts of other rectilinear enclosures and at least one other possible large
building. In the same area there are remains of several oval and sub-
rectangular ponds and associated overflow channels, some of which are probably
of later date, although a series of three depressions in a line along the
eastern side of the enclosure, close to the boundary ditch, may be the remains
of an array of fishponds.

It is thought that the grange may include part of the abandoned site of the
medieval settlement of Rapton, recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086 and
granted to Sibton Abbey at its foundation, although none of the visible
remains can be attributed with certainty to this earlier period.

The farmhouse, farm buildings and outbuildings, the supports of an oil tank,
garden furniture, garden fences, modern paving, driveway surfaces, inspection
chambers, service poles, field gates and fences are all excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath all these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and
independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile
labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for
consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide
surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th
century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution.
This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon
imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers
(secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident
labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were
specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms,
bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and
industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the
wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands
immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange.
Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands.
On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the
parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular
farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to
be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was
without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed
is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of
monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small
percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of
identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the
evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to
medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological
survival are identified as nationally important.

South Grange is a well documented example of a Cistercian grange, situated
close to the parent abbey, and the earthwork enclosure contains the remains of
buildings and associated units which formed the nucleus of the monastic farm,
largely unencumbered by later buildings. The earthworks and buried deposits
will retain archaeological information concerning the organisation and economy
of the farm from its foundation in the 12th century to the Dissolution and
after to supplement the documentary records, and the likelihood that it
overlies part of the site of an earlier settlement recorded in the Domesday
Book gives the monument additional interest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Denny, A H (ed), 'Suffolk Records Society' in The Sibton Abbey Estates: Selected Documents 1325-1509, , Vol. 2, (1960)
SBT 006: Sibton, South Grange house,
St Joseph, CUCAP ARD18, 20, (1967)

Source: Historic England

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