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Humberston Abbey

A Scheduled Monument in Humberston, North East Lincolnshire

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Latitude: 53.5274 / 53°31'38"N

Longitude: -0.0242 / 0°1'27"W

OS Eastings: 531069.981862

OS Northings: 405231.477669

OS Grid: TA310052

Mapcode National: GBR XW8N.K7

Mapcode Global: WHHJ0.LLPP

Entry Name: Humberston Abbey

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020424

English Heritage Legacy ID: 34712

County: North East Lincolnshire

Civil Parish: Humberston

Built-Up Area: Cleethorpes

Traditional County: Lincolnshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Lincolnshire

Church of England Parish: Humberston St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Lincoln


The monument includes standing, earthwork and associated buried remains of a
small medieval abbey and the site of a post-dissolution manor house. It also
includes a small icehouse, which is a Listed Building Grade II. The monument
does not include St Peter's Church and its surrounding churchyard as these
remain in ecclesiastical use.
Humberston Abbey was founded in the reign of Henry II (1154-89), probably
around 1160, by William FitzRalph, a local landholder. Dedicated to St Mary
and St Peter it was a house of the Tironian Order, a reformed branch of the
Benedictines. Although it had links with Hambye Abbey in Normandy, it was
never regarded as an alien monastery and thus avoided the general confiscation
by Richard II in 1391 that saw the closure of other Tironian houses in
England. It was never a large or rich establishment and is thought to have
only housed a dozen monks at most. However, it was an important local
landowner with nearly 1000 acres (over 400ha) in northern Lincolnshire, as
well as holding other lands managed by bailiffs elsewhere in the country.
Badly damaged by fire in 1226 and 1305, 14th and 15th century records note
many disagreements between the monks and lapses in discipline. The house was
one of the first to be suppressed by Henry VIII at which time the annual
income was 34 pounds, supporting an abbot, four monks and a lay-brother. Most
of the abbey buildings were demolished by 1562, with the western end of the
abbey church retained as a parish church. Apart from the 15th century tower,
the church, now just dedicated to St Peter, was rebuilt in 1720-22. Following
the Dissolution, a manor house, recorded as Abbey House in 1708, was built on
a raised platform to the south of the original abbey buildings. This was later
demolished and replaced by the current house closer to the church in the late
18th or early 19th century. This is also a Listed Building Grade II.
The abbey is believed to have been constructed on an earlier Christian site as
examples of Anglo-Saxon carved stonework, of mid-10th to early 11th century
date, are built into the walls of St Peter's church. Other fragments have also
been unearthed during excavation in the area. Amateur excavations, conducted
by A Tailby between 1965 and 1970, uncovered substantial remains of the
cloister, typically standing up to 0.75m high, immediately to the south of the
churchyard. Two graves and part of the east end of the abbey church were also
uncovered within the paddock to the east of the modern churchyard. These
excavations also demonstrated that the icehouse, 40m east of the manor house,
is an original part of the southern range of the cloister and is in fact a
vaulted passageway through the south cloister range. It now appears
semi-sunken into the raised modern ground surface, and is 6m by 3m by 2.5m
high and lies beneath an earthen mound 10m across and up to 3m high. Nearly
100m south of St Peter's Church there is a moat ditch that runs WSW to ENE for
just over 120m and then turns NNW as a narrower ditch. This forms part of the
boundary of the abbey precinct and is included within the monument. The
northern and western precinct boundaries are not known, although they are
presumed to be approximately followed by the modern road line. Centred about
90m south of the church, bisected by the eastern wall of the garden to the
south of Manor Farm, there is a raised level platform some 20m by 8m. This is
a building platform that coincides with the position of the former manor house
depicted on an 18th century estate map. The field to the west of Manor Farm
retains further earthworks. These include a number of smaller building
platforms along with a raised trackway that runs WSW to ENE towards the
northern side of the church. This area, which also retains a pond, is
considered to be the outer court of the abbey. This would have included
ancillary buildings such as a bake house, stores and possibly a brewery, along
with the abbey's home farm. The later farm buildings to the south, which are
not included within the monument, probably also lie within part of the abbey's
outer court.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the house and
associated out buildings (excepting the icehouse which is included), all
modern fences, walls, stiles and gates, water troughs and the platforms that
they stand on, telegraph poles, sign posts and all road and path surfaces;
however, 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

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. The
Tironian order was founded by Bernard of Tiron who established an abbey at
Tiron in Northern France in 1109. In his order much emphasis was placed on
manual activity and contemplative exercise and consequently religious services
were short in length. The order preferred isolated rural locations and they
acquired large estates on which they practised self-sufficiency. The Tironians
established at least four priories in England during the first quarter of the
12th century. These were known as `alien' houses because of their dependency
on the French mother house. Because of their close involvement in rural life
and industry many of their houses bore similarity to large farms, with the
addition of a chapel and some simple monastic-type buildings. This order did
not include a workforce of lay-brothers to work for it. Always poor and never
attracting a great following the order was suppressed in 1391. As a rare type
of monastery with only four known foundations, all examples exhibiting good
archaeological survival will be identified as nationally important. The
simplicity of their buildings demonstrates well the diversity of form and
scale exhibited by monastic sites.

Humberston Abbey was the only Tironian foundation in England to have been an
independent abbey rather than a priory, and the only foundation of the order
to survive until the Dissolution. Excavation has shown that significant
remains of the abbey survive in situ and earthworks to the west and south of
the church demonstrate that surviving remains are much more extensive than the
small areas investigated in the 1960s.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Kirkby, A E, Tailby, A, The Abbey of St Mary & St Peter Humberston, (1974)
Hayfield, C , 'Lincolnshire History & Archaeology' in Late Medieval Pottery Group form Humberston Abbey, , Vol. 19, (1984), 107-110
I Tailby, Trial excavations at Humberston, 1965, Typescript report

Source: Historic England

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