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Somerset Historic Environment Record

33918

Site Name: Cleeve Abbey, Washford
SCHEDULED MONUMENT: Cleeve Abbey [No:28519]
Civil Parish: Old Cleeve
Comprises:
PRN 11670Excavation (1988), Cleeve Abbey, Washford
PRN 12213Earthwork survey (1999), Cleeve Abbey
PRN 22540Geophysical survey (2007), Cleeve Abbey, Washford
PRN 26734Excavation (1981), Cleeve Abbey
PRN 27165Excavation (1980), Cleeve Abbey
PRN 27480Excavation (1982), Cleeve Abbey
PRN 28180Evaluation and watching brief (2009), Day Room, Cleeve Abbey, Old Cleeve
PRN 28457Evaluation and monitoring (2008), Cleeve Abbey, Old Cleeve
PRN 28507Watching brief and evaluation (2008), Long Orchard, Cleeve Abbey, Old Cleeve
PRN 32237Watching brief (1995), Cleeve Abbey, Washford
PRN 32253Watching brief (2013), Cleeve Abbey, Washford, Old Cleeve
PRN 35873Pipeline watching brief (1998), Cleeve Abbey
Grid Ref: ST 047 407 (ST 04 SW)
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Image: Image of HER 33918 - Heraldic tiled pavement in early refectory. Photo by Somerset County Council (28 October 2010)
  HER 33918 - Heraldic tiled pavement in early refectory. Photo by Somerset County Council (28 October 2010)

Public access:

As far as we are aware all or part of this site is an English Heritage property open to the public at certain times. [Information last updated on 09 December 2002]

Details:

Cleeve Abbey is the best preserved and most complete remains of a Cistercian Abbey in Southern England. Was founded by William Earl of Ronmare 1186-1191. Little known of the internal history of the abbey. The number of monks increased during the C13 to 38 but declined from the C14. Granges established to the N and S of the abbey which were leased out in the C15. Rebuilding in second half of the C15 with a new chapel, hospice and grant of a weekly market and 2 annual fairs. When it was dissolved in 1537 it was worth 155. {1}

The infirmary range was partly excavated by W.St.J Hope but the records have been lost. The church, now completely demolished, was excavated and the foundations can be traced. It is of the usual Cistercian plan with an aisleless presbytery and two chapels in the transepts. Other measurements given. {3}

The W wall of the nave was 5ft thick and there was no W door - very unusual in a Cistercian church. The whole church was paved with tiles, probably of local manufacture. The nave was later used for burials. {4}

Excavations in the 1980s showed the reredorter to be 19.7m long and 7.8m wide with walls 1m thick. The main drain ran through the S part of the building. History of alterations and amendments to the general layout. In the C15 the reredorter range was remodelled. Late medieval (C15) rebuilding of the S range placed the refectory on the first floor running E-W, replacing the earlier C13 refectory running N-S in more typical Cistercian style. Beneath the later refectory are two suites of rooms, probably for corrodians. {5}

Slight activity on the site after dissolution but nothing substantial constructed. Now the domestic buildings are almost complete having been converted into farm buildings. {7}

The refectory has a fine tiled floor. {9}

A moat extended around the abbey with fishponds, now much denuded. {16}

The remains of a late C14 cross were revealed by excavations on the W side of the guest house and conventual buildings. The remains consisted of an octagonal base, from which grows a large sycamore tree, in front of the gateway porch. {34}

The site of the cross is indicated by a low mound surrounded by a circle of small uncut stones. No part of the cross is now visible. {35}

Scheduling revised with new national number (was Somerset 31) on 13.11.1996. {38}

See PRN 35873 for a watching brief on a pipeline where the it crossed the precinct ditch. {39}

An earthwork survey was carried out in the field to the east of the Abbey PRN 12213. {40}

A survey of the floor-tiles has revealed a much larger range of designs and fabric groups that had previously been assumed. The style of the earlier pavements derive from those laid at Clarendon Palace in the first half of C13 and may have been made on site. Later in C13 high-quality tiles were imported from the Gloucester area to pave the frater. There is another group of similar (or just later) date which appear to originate from Somerset. By c 1330 the entire church was paved along with the sacristy and chapter house using local tiles but there was no revival of tile making after the mid C14. {41}

Two photographs showing the refectory's south side and as seen from the cloisters. {42}

The excavation of the reredorter was undertaken before the insertion of the drain. The excavations were over three sessions in the summer months of 1980-82. The reredorter was constructed as part of the original buliding programme which probably started around 1200. It was not finished until the middle of the 13th century. It seems to have formed the south side of a cloister to the east of the Monk's day room. {43}

The quantity of pottery from the reredorter at Cleeve Abbey offer the first stratified medieval pottery sequence from West Somerset. The three medieval sherds of the south Somerset wares all had different compositions. Two were from kilns at Donyatt while the other was from Barnstaple. Consistent patterns were found for the composition of pottery from Cleeve which indicates consistent use of a few production sources for the pottery analysed. {44}

A tree-ring dating programme was undertaken of timber in the frater roof of Cleeve Abbey in 2003. The tree-ring results indicated that timbers felled in the second quarter of the fifteenth century are present in the roof. The absence of surviving sapwood prevented a precise felling or construction date from being obtained. {45}

Analysis of some of the medieval wall plaster was undertaken to identify the reason for blistering. Crystals of salt (NaCl) were found suggesting that humidity or rising damp were causing the problems. {46}

References:

1 Description - Gilyard-Beer, G. Cleeve Abbey.  (1976) English Heritage guidebook.
2 Mention - Page, W. Victoria History of the County of Somerset.  Vol. 2 (1911), 115.
3 Mention - Walcott, M. The Abbey of St Mary in the Vale of Flowers.  (1876) RIBA.
4 Excavation report - Eeles, FC. Cleeve Abbey - recent discoveries. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  77 (1931), 37-47
5 Excavation report - Guy, C. Washford, Cleeve Abbey. In Burrow, I and Minnitt, S and Murless, B. Somerset Archaeology 1980. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History125 (1981), 93-113 at 99, 101
6 Description - Guy, C. Pld Cleeve, Cleeve Abbey. In Burrow, I and Minnitt, S and Murless, B. Somerset Archaeology 1981. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History126 (1982), 61-91 at 77
7 Description - Guy, C. Washford, Cleeve Abbey. In Burrow, I and Minnitt, S and Murless, B. Somerset Archaeology 1982. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History127 (1983), 13-31 at 25
8 Mention - ARCH J Simms R.S 1950 "Cleeve Abbey" vol 107, 118
9 Description - Bramble, JR. Notes on a recently discovered pavement at the abbey of Old Cleve, ...Journal of the British Archaeological Association  33 (1877), 456-64 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
10 Detailed records - Reynolds, J. On the recent discovery of the refectory and tiled floor at Cleeve Abbey. Journal of the British Archaeological Association  33 (1877), 465-67 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
11 Description - Ward Perkins, JB. A late thirteenth-century tile-pavement at Cleeve Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  87 (1941), 39-55
12 Description - Hallam, AD. Decorated medieval tiles from Taunton. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  95 (1950), 64-71 [page 65-9]
13 Description - Buckle, E. The Buildings of Cleeve Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  35 (1889), 83-120
14 Mention - Knowles, D and Hadcock, RN. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales.  (1971), 112 and 117.
15 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division record card. Record ID: ST 04 SW 17 (1965) Location: HER files.
16 Map - Old Cleeve tithe map.  (1839) Available at Somerset Heritage Centre (digital image, fiche and originals). Reference: D/D/Rt/M/268
17 Map - Plan of the manor of Old Cleeve belonging to Edmd Trowbridge Halliday, Esq  (1806). Somerset Record Office. Reference: DD/L/248M
18 Measured plan - Aston, M and Burrow, I (eds). The Archaeology of Somerset.  (1982), 127.
19 Mention - Victoria County History of Somerset 1906 vol 1, 437
20 Verbal communication - Dennison, E Somerset County Council 18.04.84
21 Aerial photographs - St Joseph AP CG 077
22 Mention - Weaver, FW. Cleeve Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  52 (1906), 1-41
23 Description - Eeles, F 1933 "Cleeve Abbey - a guide for visitors"
24 Mention - Hugo, T. On the Charters and other Archives of Cleeve Abbey. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  6 (1855), 17-73
25 Illustration - Anon. Untitled. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  7 (1856-7), plates following page 28
26 Excavation report - Samson, H. St Mary's Abbey, Old Cleeve. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  21 (1875), 36-40 [page 36]
27 Description - Walcott, M "Memorials of Cleeve Abbey"
28 Description - ACAD King, R.J 1877 "The buildings of Cleeve Abbey" vol 11, 397
29 Mention - Archbold, W.A.J 1892 "Somerset Religious houses"
30 Description - Samson, H. St Mary's Abbey, Old Cleeve. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History.  21 (1875), 36-40
31 Aerial photographs - Slide (SCC Planning Department) 3.026.70-72 July 1979
32 Detailed records - HBMC Field Monument Wardens report (SCC Planning Department)
33 Aerial photographs - DAP OF14,15. (1990) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
34 Mention - Pooley, C. The Old Stone Crosses of Somerset.  (1877), 107.
35 Detailed records - Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division 1965 ST04SW8 (SCC Planning Department)
36 Aerial photographs - DAP WD35-36a, WE00-3. (1994) Location: HER digital information, prints in archive at Somerset Heritage Centre.
37 Aerial photographs - Slide SCC 3.26.185-8 (3.3.94)
38 Correspondence - English Heritage to Somerset County Council. (18/11/1996) Location: HER files.
39 Verbal communication - Webster, C [Chris]. Somerset County Council, Historic Environment Record (18/05/1999). Location: Verbal, electronic or direct entry, no source retained
40 Survey report - Richard, I. Enhancement of a Site: The Abbey of Cleeve, Somerset.  (1999) unpublished MA thesis. Location: HER files under PRN 12213.
41 Detailed records - Harcourt, J. The medieval floor-tiles of Cleeve Abbey, Somerset. Journal of the British Archaeological Association  153 (2000), 30-70 Copy available in SANHS library at Somerset Heritage Centre.
42 Photographs - The Builder  (1892), 169 and plates Copy available in HER files.
43 Description - Guy, CJ. The excavation of the reredorter at Cleeve Abbey, Somerset. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  142 (1998), 1-40. Copy available in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
44 Description - Allan, J. Cleeve Abbey: the pottery. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History  142 (1998), 41-75. Copy available in Local Studies collection at Somerset Heritage Centre.
45 Tree-ring analysis report - Tyers, I. Tree-Ring Analysis of Oak Timbers from the Frater Roof of Cleeve Abeey, near Washford, Somerset.  Unpublished English Heritage report No: 42/2003 (2003) Location: HER file 30754.
46 Detailed records - McDonnell, JG. Analysis of plaster samples from Cleeve Abbey, Somerset.  Unpublished English Heritage report No: 1/90 (1990) Location: HER file.. Available online.
47 Detailed records - Babington, C, Heritage, A, Manning, T, Stewart, S and Welford, P. Wall Painting Condition Audit, Cleeve Abbey, Somerset.  Unpublished English Heritage report No: 59/97 (1997) Location: HER digital information. HER digital source: 11642.

Record created in July 1984

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