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Nun Cotham Priory, Brocklesby

Reference Name MLI54214

Nun Cotham Priory, Brocklesby

Site of the medieval priory of Nun Cotham, to the east of Brocklesby.


Site of the medieval priory of Nun Cotham, to the east of Brocklesby. There are no visible remains of the buildings, but the site is marked by a complex of v-shaped ditches about 18ft deep, with internal banks, which appear to be at least three rectangular enclosures with a fourth, smaller one to the north. The site is under grass. The house of Cistercian nuns was founded during the episcopate of Henry Murdac of York (1147-1153) by Alan de Boncels. The maximum number of nuns was to be thirty, with twelve lay brothers, but between 1377 and 1539 the figure varied between 12 and 15. The priory was dissolved in 1539. The income in 1535 had been 46 pounds 17s 7d. {1}

A superb series of earthworks; the four enclosures are clearly defined although the smaller earthworks are less clear. Linear fishponds are at the north-east end of the site 1.5m deep. Earthworks continue to the west of the scheduled area with traces of an enclosure bank at the west boundary of the field, and includes a mound, probably a windmill mound. {2}

The Cistercian priory of St Mary was founded between 1147 and 1153. It grew fast and this lead to a numerical limit being placed on the size of its community. It suffered severely at the Black Death and afterwards at any time numbered few more than the twelve nuns and a prioress who surrendered the priory to Henry VIII in 1539 at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site is a single pasture field of over 12 hectares (30 acres) that preserves excellent earthworks including clear building ranges with appended rectangular walled enclosures and large ditched or moated and embanked closes. No monastic conventual plan is obvious in this, and much if not the whole of the well-preserved complex probably belongs to the post-Dissolution house. {3}{4}{5}{6}{7}{8}{9}

An investigation of the evidence suggests that the area of scheduled monument number 158 does not include the whole site of the nunnery. Mapped earthworks exist throughout this extended area. {10}{11}

Tile pits are recorded in the late 12th and 13th centuries, at Habrough (North-East Lincolnshire) in the place names ‘Tigelpittes’ and ‘Tygelpitgate’. It is likely that there were also tile kilns there at this time. Given the date of the place-name evidence it is possible that the tile-making site at Habrough may be linked to the monasteries at Newsham and Nuncotham, and perhaps Thornton (North Lincolnshire) too. {12}{13}

The presence of further earthworks outside of the scheduled area was confirmed in 1999, during a walk-over survey of land at the Brocklesby Estate. The earthworks included the ploughed out remains of a former moat, to the north of the scheduled area, that was visible on aerial photographs. Stonework found in this vicinity may indicate the position of a former gatehouse. {14}{15}

1 Scheduling Record: HBMC. 1960. AM 7. -
2 Scheduling Record: HBMC. 1987. AM 107. -
3 Bibliographic Reference: Page, W. (editor). 1906. The Victoria County History. Lincolnshire volume II. vol.II, pp.151-3
5 Bibliographic Reference: BERESFORD, M.W.. 1954. The Lost Villages of England. p.364
6 Bibliographic Reference: Everson, P.L., Taylor, C.C. and Dunn, C.J.. 1991. Change and Continuity: Rural Settlement in North-West Lincolnshire. Archive notes
7 Aerial Photograph: 1945-84. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY COLLECTION. FO 59-60, 62 (1951)
8 Aerial Photograph: 1945-84. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY COLLECTION. AFP 52-3 (1962)
10 Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Card Index. TA 11 SE: 1, 1962, FRH
11 Map: Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. 1992-1996. National Mapping Programme. LINCOLNSHIRE. TA1511: LI.307.1.1-19
12 Bibliographic Reference: Cameron, K.. 1991. The Place-Names of Lincolnshire, Part 2. 2. p.147
13 Electronic Communication: Miller, Keith. 2011. Information from Keith Miller. -
14 Report: Archaeological Project Services. 1999. Archaeological and Historical Survey of Parts of the Brocklesby Estate. APS site code: CGL98, feature 15
15 Archive: Archaeological Project Services. 1999. Archaeological and Historical Survey of Parts of the Brocklesby Estate. LCNCC 1998.271

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Last updated: 04-December-2018 13:39:56

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