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This site is protected as a "scheduled monument" under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (as amended). Without prior permission it is an offence to i) cause damage ii) to execute, cause or permit work iii) to use a metal detector.


Name:Bayham Abbey: med abbey
HER Ref:MES3266
Type of record:Monument

Designations

  • Archaeological Notification Area (1) 266: Bayham Abbey : medieval abbey ruins
  • Scheduled Monument 1012541: PREMONSTRATENSIAN ABBEY AT BAYHAM
  • Registered Park or Garden (II) 1000257: BAYHAM ABBEY
  • SHINE: Bayham Abbey: med abbey

Summary

Premonstratensian Abbey founded circa 1207. The church was expanded during the later 13th century. Parts of the abbey survive as ruins.


Grid Reference:TQ 6500 3645
Parish:FRANT, WEALDEN, EAST SUSSEX
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Monument Types

  • SITE (Undated)
  • ABBEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • ABBEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CHURCH (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DRAIN (Built, Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD (between))
  • GATE PIER (Built, Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD (between))
  • PREMONSTRATENSIAN MONASTERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • PREMONSTRATENSIAN MONASTERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CONSTRUCTION TRENCH (Built, Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD (between))
  • PATH (Built, Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD (between))
  • WALL (Built, Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD (between))

Description

(TQ 650364) Remains of Bayham Abbey (GT) (Premonstratension - founded c AD 1207). (1) The Premonstratension house formerley at Brockley, Kent (TQ 37 NE 1) moved to Bayham, Sussex, between 1199 and 1208. The abbey at Otham, Sussex (TQ 50 NE 4) also moved to Bayham between 1208 and 1211. Building began c 1207 at Bayham and an Abbey for some 18 cannons was formed (2). Part of the church which was expanded in the 13th cent, and three ranges of claustral buildings still stand, mostly to first floor level. A gatehouse apparently of 14th cent date was made into a landscape feature in 18/19th cent (3). Foundations, possibly of the infirmary and Abbots lodging, are visible SE of the circular path (4). See plan. Scheduled. (2-5) The remains of Bayham Abbey are as described, but no trace of the foundations of the infirmary and Abbot's lodging were visible in the pasture. The ruins are undergoing renovation by the M of PB & W, and the site will be officially open to the public in 1970. Resurveyed at 1-2500. To the SE of the buildings are two fishponds one marshy, the other now dry and under pasture. They were fed by a tributary of the River Teise which encloses the site on the N side. A fishpond on the Teise, now on ornamental water, may be an original feature. Fishponds revised at 1:2500. (6) 5208 FRANT BAYHAM ROAD The Ruins of Bayham Abbey TQ 63 NW 8/353 26.11.53 2. Scheduled Ancient Monument. Premonstratension abbey founded at Otham about 1200 and moved to Bayham between 1208 and 1211. Stone remains of the church, cloister, chapter-house and dormitory. (7)

During an archaeological watching brief undertaken at Old Bayham Abbey in 2013.
Approximately 11.40m south from the gatehouse wall the upper surviving section of a stone pier was encountered projecting from below the base of the trench excavation to within 0.12m of the present ground surface. Consisting of three separate courses of differing sized reused Sandstone blocks, clearly consisting of salvaged facing stones from the abbey ruins, they were arranged one over another with two smaller rectangular stone blocks set projecting slightly from between two larger rectangular stone blocks. Each possessing evidence of medieval tooling across their surfaces, examination between the jointing failed to reveal any evidence of mortar bonding between each course of stonework, though a patch of pale sandy brown coarse sandy lime mortar was recorded adhering to the upper face of the uppermost stone block. Possibly forming the foundation to a formal gate pier, the opposite side of which was not encountered during monitoring, it may be a precursor to the timber gate providing access into the adjoining field roughly 12.5m further to the south. It is interesting to note that that in the adjacent field to the west, a raised ridge extending east-west aligns towards this pier base. It is suggested that this represents an earlier track extending parallel with the River Teise towards a small raise bridge over the wet ditch linking the possible monastic pond feature with the river.
Machining from the centre towards the southern boundaries western end, adjacent a possible monastic fish pond feature, a series of ashlar Sandstone blocks were encountered roughly 3m apart within the depth of the new trench excavation. Following removal of some blocks during machining, each was found to consist of a reused medieval facing block possessing contemporary tooling across each of its faces. Measuring roughly 0.15m x 0.20m x 0.25m each block was found to possess a secondary cut hole measuring 0.04m square in the centre of its upper face into which the corroded base to a square section iron rod was affixed using molten lead. Only at the eastern end of this fence alignment did this vary with a more substantial Sandstone block measuring 0.18m x 0.24m x 0.28m with two fixture holes, one slightly larger than the other occur possibly as an end, corner or strainer post position. Clearly representing the base of an iron park type fencing, its encountering along this section of the present monument may indicate a landscape vista extending from the Dower House across the adjoining pond feature to open parkland beyond.
Extending westwards from the carpark, the present boundary fence traverses a series of prominent roughly north-south aligned earthworks that appear as linear terracing raising the present ground level towards the monuments western boundary. Excavation across these earthworks failed to provide further interpretive information as to either their form or function, though an area of dark humic soils was encountered across the base of one terrace. Consisting of a mid – dark grey-brown silty sandy clay soil, it extended across the base of the new fencing trench for a distance of approximately 4.2m and clearly continued both to the north and south. Representing the upper fill of a moderate-large feature associated with and running along the terrace, several pieces of broken red brick rubble and ceramic roof tile in its upper surface suggest it may be a feature associated with the series of previous farm buildings known to occupy the area immediately to the south. Either side of the dark soil filled feature, the base of the trench consisted of mixed mid-pale orange-brown stiff sandy silty clay containing abundant small-medium irregular pieces of Sandstone throughout. Sealed by a 0.25m thick deposit of topsoil, which increased in excess of 0.40m across the area of the dark soil filled feature, it was uncertain whether this natural subsoil looking material was the upper surface of the undisturbed natural geology or that it represented upcast material associated with the formation of the terraces.
Monitoring of the trench excavation along the majority of the monuments curving western boundary, which was mostly excavated by hand due to a dense collection of trees and small-medium shrubs, largely failed to penetrate through the depth of topsoil, which was in excess of 0.35m deep. It was not until the final 20m length, extending towards the southern side of the possible monastic fish pond feature that this differed, where along this length, the land surface within the monument and surrounding the southern side of the pond feature was at a slightly raised level than the open field immediately to the west. Monitoring of this section of new fencing trench revealed a mixed mid-dark silty sandy clay deposit with abundant Sandstone rubble across the base of the trench. Largely consisting of small-medium irregular pieces of stone, this deposit also included medium-large ashlar blocks with tooled facing, broken red brick fragments and ‘pan-tile’ ceramic roofing pieces. Several heavily worn pieces of glazed ceramic floor tiles were also collected from within this deposit as-well-as several sherds of nineteenth-century pottery and bottle glass. Extending to within 0.25m of the present ground surface, this deposit was sealed by topsoil similar to that encountered elsewhere around the monument, though this possessed numerous small pieces of Sandstone rubble and roofing material throughout.
Extending for a distance of approximately 5m from the internal face of the North Gatehouse east wall the base of the trench consisted of a mixed rubble deposit of small-medium angular sandstone rubble and crushed pale creamy white coarse gritty lime mortar intermixed with dark grey-brown silty sandy clay. Located at a depth of approximately 0.15m below the present ground level, this deposit was recorded as abutting the standing gatehouse wall, the internal face of which continued vertically beyond the base of the trench excavation. At the southern extent of this deposit the depth of topsoil covering it increased as the deposit dipped gradually beyond the base of the trench excavation. Possibly representing a demolition deposit associated with the destruction of the medieval gatehouse, it is also possible this may be associated with the reconstruction of the gatehouse as a romantic ruin as part of the creation of the formal gardens. The construction of a summer-house utilising reused medieval masonry against the western gatehouse ruins clearly shows this, adjacent which a similar rubble deposit was encountered.
Situated approximately midway along the curving eastern edge of the monument boundary, the upper surface of a stone paved path was encountered between 0.16m and 0.20m below the present ground surface. Projecting through the base of the trench, its surface of small-medium irregular pale grey Sandstone rubble was purposefully laid to create a slightly cambered path bounded to the north and south by larger darker yellow irregular stone blocks. Clearly indicating an approximate width of 8m its east-west alignment perpendicular across the base of the trench extended to the open east end of the chapterhouse of the abbey ruins. Possible formed to create a walkway from the ruins to the pond feature beyond the monument’s eastern boundary, the path clearly formed part of the formal garden arrangements of the late eighteenth – early nineteenth-century.
Forming the southern and eastern extent of the monument’s carpark are two sections of upstanding masonry walling positioned at right angles to one another. Today these form retaining walls to the carpark, which stands at a slightly raised level than the ground to the east and south, and though the rabbit-proof fencing extended along the upper surface of both sections of walling, no excavation was permitted here. Instead, the new fencing was attached to the existing fencing and its turned base pinned to the upper face of the exposed masonry walling. Formed of reused ashlar Sandstone facing blocks, both sections of walling relate to the eastern side wall and the southern end wall of a building that once formed the eastern range to a small courtyard group that previously straddled the carpark and main entrance roadway.
Immediately west of the North Gatehouse remains, forming part of the eastern edge of the possible monastic fish pond feature, a short curving section of existing fencing was excavated by machine. Situated overlooking the junction of the southern bank of the River Teise with the north-eastern edge of the possible monastic fish pond feature, this area is raised above the river level with a curving embankment wall of red brick to provide erosion protection to the North Gatehouse’s western side. Along the entire 11m length of new trenching, which followed the curving river edge, a mixed middark silty sandy clay deposit and Sandstone rubble deposit similar to that encountered on the opposite side of the pond feature (see 8 above) was revealed across the base of the trench. Sealed by a deposit of topsoil, the upper surface to the rubble layer was encountered at a depth of only 0.18m below the present sloping ground surface and consisted mainly of dumped small-medium ashlar Sandstone facing blocks. Clearly utilized to raise the immediate landscape as part of the river defenses, it is proposed this deposit extends around the entire circuit of the possible pond feature as antiquarian prints of the abbey ruins show the pond to possess gradual sloping edges during the nineteenth-century.
Immediately at the west end of the North Gatehouse remains, the masonry foundation to a wall was encountered only 0.10m below the present ground surface. Barely sealed by a thin layer of topsoil, the foundation was initially thought to be a continuation of the stone rubble deposit forming the upper section of the riverside embankment (see 9 above), though, examination revealed a more sturdy construction than the rubble deposit, which abutted its western edge. Consisting of a north-south alignment of reused ashlar facing blocks, each possessing tooled faces, it measured approximately 0.60m wide was aligned on a roughly north-south axis from the western end of the North Gatehouse’s standing north wall. No evidence of mortar was recorded bonding the foundation, though small patches of crushed pale yellow-brown coarse gritty lime mortar was noted in the general area. Whilst it is possible this foundation may form a western wall to a now demolished west range to the mediaeval gatehouse, the present structure, formed from reused medieval stonework is reputed to have been constructed during the eighteenth-century as a summerhouse to the formal gardens. Though this foundation sits uncomfortably close to the summerhouse’s salvaged arched west side, the foundation could have supported a timber and glass wall providing views from the summerhouse across the adjacent pond feature along the river valley. [11]

Sources

<2>Article in serial: Article in serial. Knowles, Hadcock. 1953. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales, 163 .
<3>Serial: Royal Archaeological Institute. 1844. The Archaeological Journal.
<4>Article in serial: Article in serial. Knowles, St Joseph. 1952. Monastic Sites from the Air 1952, 176..
<5>Article in serial: Article in serial. AM's Eng and Wales. 1961 89 (MOW).
<6>Correspondence: 1952. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comment. F1 ASP 22-OCT-69.
<10>Article in monograph: English Heritage. Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England . Kent Vol No. - Part 24.
<11>Report: Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

Associated Events

  • Field observation on TQ 63 NE 5
  • BAYHAM ABBEY (Ref: EI 626)
  • BAYHAM ABBEY (Ref: EI 12910)
  • BAYHAM ABBEY (Ref: EI 21405)
  • BAYHAM ABBEY
  • The Dower House, Bayham Abbey, Little Bayham, East Sussex: Dendro
  • Bayham Abbey, Little Bayham, East Sussex: Condition survey
  • Old Bayham Abbey: Watching Brief
  • Bayham Old Abbey, Frant : Ground Penetrating Rador and Earth Resitivity Survey

Associated Monuments - none recorded

Associated Finds

  • CARVED OBJECT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • RUBBLE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • CERAMIC (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)
  • POT (AD 18th Century to AD 19th Century - 1700 AD to 1899 AD)