Please Wait - Compiling Details.

<< Back to Query / Map page

Somerset Historic Environment Record


Site Name: Athelney Abbey, Lyng
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Anglo-Saxon occupation site and site of Athelney Abbey on Athelney Hill [No:33710]
Civil Parish: Lyng
PRN 10540Monument, Isle of Athelney, Lyng
PRN 11620Geophysical survey (1993). Athelney Abbey
PRN 11621Watching brief (1985), Athelney Monument
PRN 11647Geophysical Survey (1987), Athelney
PRN 16154Geophysical survey (2002), Athelney
PRN 28564Evaluation (2002), site of Athelney Abbey, Lyng
PRN 32827Watching brief (2015), Athelney
PRN 44969Watching brief (2000), Athelney Farm, Athelney
Grid Ref: ST 3456 2924 (ST 32 NW)
  Show site on map (Requires Flash)
Image: Image of HER 11117 - Photo by Somerset County Council (02 December 1983)
  HER 11117 - Photo by Somerset County Council (02 December 1983)

Public access:

The public accessibility of this site is unknown but it should be visible from a public right of way. Please assume that the site is private property. (Walkers on the North Curry Moor Trail may visit this monument). [Information last updated on 16 December 2002]


The HER is currently being transferred to a new system. Please ask about this changed entry. {0}

A low lias hill covering an area of about 8 ha with two summits with a saddle between. Connected to Lyng by Balt Moor Wall (PRN 10545), the island was originally separated by the River Yeo with the River Tone on the S side Alfred's fortress: Alfred constructed a fort in 878 on his retreat from Chippenham, which was joined to Lyng (?later) by a causeway. Alfred's monastery: 878-893 foundation, probably after 880. {1}

The fort is generally thought to lie at the W end of the island (cST34052924), where a very slight scarp is visible at the base of the slope. The location of the monastery is not known, though a C12 reference may imply at the edge of the marsh. {2}

The church was described in the C12 by William of Malmesbury in De Gestis Pontificum, as centrally planned with four apses, the earliest known in England. {3}

Later monastery: continuous history from Alfred assumed. The church was in ruins in 1321 and money was left for its repair in 1326. {4}

Location stated to be "top of hill NE of farm" (1674). In 1773 a vault was found "60 yards N of farmhouse" (area of 1801 monument). 80 yards from vault were chapel remains (possibly the oratory mentioned in 1462), demolished at the same time. {5}

Excavations in 1872 near the monument located chancel. {6}

The scheduled area is c680m in length and 122m wide running E-W. There are three stony areas, the largest being around the monument near the E end, which yields carved Ham stone. {9}

Contour survey of the hill done in 1987. {11}

The Claylands survey noted curving features around the W end of the island. {12}

Investigations were undertaken by the "Time Team" television programme in 1993, including fieldwalking and geophysical survey but only a report on the latter has been received (PRN 11620). {13}

Two C13-14 pottery sherds were found at ST34412926. {14}

Three flints have been recovered after ploughing including a prehistoric flint scraper. {15}

There are records of an earlier phase of excavation in c1674 when graves and masonry were reported to John Aubrey. {18}

The site was rescheduled on 5th Jan 2001 incorporating the previous scheduled area of Somerset 367. {19}

Assessment of the Alfredian church in relation to other tower-nave churches suggests possible parallels with Charlemagne's royal chapel at Aachen. The tower seems to have had limited possibilities as a landscape marker feature. {20}

The majority of information associated with Athelney abbey such as its history, of its place in society and relations with secular and ecclesiastical powers rely on documents entered in the only cartulary of the abbey. Following the dissolution of Athelney abbey, the cartulary was redistributed. {21}


0 Compiler comment - Webster, CJ (Chris). Somerset Historic Environment Record (12/02/2016). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained.
1 Description - Keyes, S and Lapidge, M (ed). Asser's life of King Alfred.  (1983), chapters 55 and 93.
2 Verbal communication - Burrow, I [Ian]. Somerset County Council (02/12/1984). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
3 Mention - Clapham, A. English Romanesque Architecture.  (1930), 147-8.
4 Description - Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset.  Vol. 2 (1911), 99-103.
5 Description - Hugo, T. Athelney Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  43 (1897), 94-165 (page 94-165)
6 Description - Mayhew, SM. Jottings in mid Somerset. Journal of the British Archaeological Association.  29 (1873), 208-9
7 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 32 NW 7 (1965) Location: HER files
8 Mention - Anon. The museum. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  12 (1865), 69-70
9 Site visit report - Algar, DJ [david]. English Heritage Field Monument Warden. (13/4/1984) Report location: HER files
10 Description - Dunning, RW. The Abbey of the Princes: Athelney Abbey, Somerset. In Griffiths, RA and Sherborne, J. Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages.  (1986) at 265-303
11 Measured plan - Somerset County Council. 1:1000 contour survey. (June 1987) Drawing HBC 1/32/1. Location: HER collections
12 Map - McDonnell, RRJ. Somerset Claylands survey maps. (1984-86) Aerial photo plotting sheets. Location: HER collections. [ST 32 NW]
13 Verbal communication - Webster, CJ [Chris]. Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record (5/4/2001). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
14 Detailed records - Somerset Levels Project finds sheet. Record ID: S.84.030 Location: Somerset County Museum.
15 Detailed records - Somerset Levels Project finds sheet S.84.031-2,049
16 Aerial photographs - DAP WM16-18. (1994) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
17 Aerial photographs - Slide SCC 1.32.115-6 (08.07.94)
18 Mention - Keynes, S. George Harbin's transcript of the lost cartulary of Athelney Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  136 (1992), 149-159
19 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (30/1/2001) Location: HER files
20 Description - Shapland, MG. Towers of Secular and Relious Lorship: Tower-nave Churches in the Anglo-Saxon Landscape.  (2010) Unpublished extract from forthcoming PhD thesis. Location: HER files. HER digital source: 11075.
21 Description - Keynes, S. George Harbin's transcript of the lost cartulary of Athelney Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  136 (1992), 149-159

Record created in January 1986

© Copyright Somerset County Council 2016