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CHER Number:07528
Type of record:Monument
Name:Earthworks to N of Isleham Priory


Scheduled earthwork remains of fishponds, building platforms and trackways, associated with Isleham Priory.

Grid Reference:TL 641 744
Parish:Isleham, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire

Monument Type(s):

Protected Status:

  • Scheduled Monument 1013278: Isleham priory: an alien Benedictine priory 110m west of St Andrew's Church

Full description

1. Stews (remains of)
2. In rough pasture on the N side of the church are associated earthworks with the remains of fish ponds. The principal feature is a dry ditch, from 7m-16m wide and c.1.3m deep, extending N-S, which evidently supplied water from the N in a channel less than 2.0m wide. The channel however is at a lower level than 4 definite adjacent fish ponds, and there is no trace of water connections between the channel and ponds or between the ponds themselves, which are dry and differing in shape and depth, (0.4m and 1.5m). An irregular shaped low bank at TL/6410/7455 has two possible sluice gaps, and there is the suggestion of further ponds on the N and S sides of the bank evidenced by growth pattern and vegetation 'stains', no depressions or coherent shapes being visible. No evidence of buried structural remains was found in this field. Earthworks re-surveyed at 1:2500 on MSD. See map with PRC.
3. A series of ? platforms separated in some cases by rectangular ? fish ponds, on either side of a sunken track running NW from the Priory Church, and measuring up to 5 1/2m at its NW end by some 1m deep. The earthworks are better defined at the S end. The sunken track still extremely well marked, also ponds and platforms. The whole area is under rough pasture with several thistle patches and a few mature trees.
4. At the latest periodic check the earthworks were still in very good condition. The fish ponds and channels were clearly visible.
5. The pasture to the north of the walled enclosure contains the remains of agricultural buildings and other features related to the economy of the priory. The field, almost completely covered by earthworks, measures approximately 240m north to south and 90m east to west. In the centre of the longest axis is a sunken track or hollow way, 200m in length, which is thought to have served as the main access to the priory's fields around the southern edge of Isleham Fen. The northern half of the hollow way measures about 8m across and 1m deep; gradually becoming wider and shallower towards the south, where it terminates in a shallow slope, 18m wide, some 40m to the north west of the chapel. The erosion of the hollow way reflects prolonged activity associated with a series of barns and other agricultural buildings located to either side, represented by a series of rectangular enclosures, or platforms. The most southerly platform on the east side of the track measures about 25m square and is raised by about 0.3m above the surrounding ground level. The northern edge is defined by a low bank (0.5m high) which projects at a right angle from the side of the hollow way. To the north of this bank a second enclosure, measuring about 30m wide, extends for c.35m towards the edge of a dry pond. A third platform is defined by a shallow ditch 20m to the north, and there are slight traces of two further platforms, similarly divided, extending into the north east corner of the field. There is a single platform to the west, the southern edge of which is marked by a low bank extending at right angles from the end of the hollow way. This measures about 55m north to south and includes the whole width (40m) between the hollow way and the edge of the field. In the southern part of this platform is a second oval pond, largely infilled, which may have been used for watering stock. The northern edge of the platform is raised about 0.3m counteracting the natural slope, and is marked by a low bank and a shallow external ditch. The latter leads to a breach in the western scarp of the hollow way. This boundary is broken by a narrow gap in the centre of the bank and a corresponding causeway across the ditch, providing access to the area to the north. This area, measuring about 160m by 90m, is not subdivided, and contains a series of three largely infilled fishponds aligned across the centre, roughly parallel to the hollow way. The southern pond is c.35m in length, 8m across, and 0,4m deep. The central pond is a similar depth, slightly wider and c.14m long, and the smallest pond to the north measures 11m by 7m, being also the deepest at 0.9m. The ponds are separated by intervals of approximately 8m, each with slight traces of interconnecting channels. To the north of the ponds is an undulating bank, 50m in length, orientated east to west parallel to the northern boundary of the field. The bank, which is thought to be a pillow mound (or breeding place for rabbits), has a rounded profile and varies between 0.4m and 0.7m in height, and averaging 10m in width. The warren area would have comprised the entire area to the north of the platform on the western side of the hollow way, and a slight outward slope near the field boundaries to the north and west indicates the position of the original hedges or fences used to control the stock.

<1> 1924, OS 25 inch map (Map). SCB16797.

<2> Fieldwork Notes (Unpublished document). SCB16798.

<3> Untitled Source (Unpublished document). SCB16799.

<4> 1979, Fieldwork Notes (Unpublished document). SCB16800.

<5> 1996, Isleham priory: an alien Benedictine priory 110m west of St Andrew's Church, SAM 27101 (Scheduling record). SCB16801.

Sources and further reading

<1>Map: 1924. OS 25 inch map.
<2>Unpublished document: Fieldwork Notes.
<3>Unpublished document:
<4>Unpublished document: 1979. Fieldwork Notes.
<5>Scheduling record: 1996. Isleham priory: an alien Benedictine priory 110m west of St Andrew's Church, SAM 27101.