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HER Number:MDV127453
Name:Monastic graves under Bedford Square, Tavistock


Archaeological investigations during repair works to the town's sewer system revealed three high status monastic graves which would have original lain within the north aisle of the medieval abbey church. Two of the burials retained fragments of clothing and had been buried with a chalice and paten.


Grid Reference:SX 481 744
Map Sheet:SX47SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishTavistock
DistrictWest Devon
Ecclesiastical ParishTAVISTOCK

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses: none recorded

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • INHUMATION (X to XVI - 901 AD to 1600 AD (Between))

Full description

South West Water, 1996-1997, Tavistock Photographs (Ground Photograph). SDV354597.

Contact sheets of photos of graves and finds.

Stead, P. M., 1997 - 1999, Archaeological Investigations in the Vicinity of Tavistock Abbey 1997-1999 (Report - non-specific). SDV338870.

A drainage trench cut across the east end of the abbey church during sewer repair works in 1997 revealed the foundations of a number of walls and three high status monastic graves. Two of the graves contained chalices and fragments of clothing.

Stead, P. M., 1999, Archaeological Investigations at Tavistock Abbey 1997-1999 (Article in Serial). SDV336200.

Archaeological investigations undertaken during sewer improvement and enhancement works in Tavistock town centre in 1997 and 1999 revealed three high status monastic graves which would have lain within the north aisle of the abbey church.
Grave 1 was 1.82m by 0.78m. It was lined with fine pieces of Hurdwick stone including a shaped pillow stone for the head and covered with four plain slabs. Beside the remains of the skeleton was a chalice and paten. The faint mark of where a wooden staff or crozier had lain was just visible. The grave also contained fragments of textile with gold braid.
Grave 2 was of similar construction to grave 1, two of the four covering slabs having broken. The skeleton was poorly preserved. A chalice and paten had been placed in the grave and a silver coin was also found at the base of the grave. A quantity of gold braid lay above and beneath the skeleton and fragments of leather footwear also survived.
Grave 3 had been largely robbed of its stone lining. Nails found on either side of the skeleton suggest that the body had been buried in a coffin. There was no chalice or paten with the burial as with graves 1 and 2 but it is possible that, given the evidence for the robbing of the grave lining, they had been removed. However, it is also possible that this was not the burial of a priest but of a high status lay person or someone closely related to or associated with the abbot.
See article for full details.

South West Water, Unknown, Exhibition of Archaeological Discoveries in Tavistock (Leaflet). SDV354596.

Three burials were discovered during repairs to the town's sewerage system. They would have lain within the abbey church, probably near the high altar. Two retained fragments of clothing, including leather shoes and textiles woven with gold braid. They had been buried with a chalice and paten indicating their status as priests. Burial, however, within the church was reserved for high officials of the abbey. The gold braid is similar to that known from burials of abbots elsewhere in the country dating to the 13th century.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV336200Article in Serial: Stead, P. M.. 1999. Archaeological Investigations at Tavistock Abbey 1997-1999. Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society. 57. Paperback Volume.
SDV338870Report - non-specific: Stead, P. M.. 1997 - 1999. Archaeological Investigations in the Vicinity of Tavistock Abbey 1997-1999. Exeter Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV354596Leaflet: South West Water. Unknown. Exhibition of Archaeological Discoveries in Tavistock. A4 Folded + digital.
Linked documents:2
SDV354597Ground Photograph: South West Water. 1996-1997. Tavistock Photographs. Photocopy + Digital.

Associated Monuments

MDV43870Part of: Tavistock Abbey Church (Monument)

Associated Finds

  • FDV1032 - CHALICE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FDV7324 - PATEN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FDV7326 - TEXTILE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • FDV7325 - COIN (XIII - 1281 AD to 1282 AD)

Associated Events

  • EDV4255 - Investigations at Tavistock Sewer Improvement Scheme

Date Last Edited:Feb 6 2020 3:06PM