Scheduled Ancient Monument: REDLINGFIELD NUNNERY (SF216)

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The earthworks and buried remains of the medieval nunnery and associated fish ponds. It comprises a series of earthworks related to the core of the nunnery, immediately to the south of the church of St Andrew. To the west are two ponds and a complex of three fish ponds. The priory remains sit on a platform roughly 75m x 100m. The north east corner of the cloister is visible as an earthwork, suggesting a cloister size of 23m x 23m (although this may relate to the outside of any buildings surrounding the cloister, rather than the cloister garth itself). Other earthworks relating to the nunnery are visible, but are less coherent. A number of earthworks survive immediately to the south, while those to the west are partially obscured by the extant barn. Two ponds lie to the west of the priory complex. The more easterly of the two, measuring 23m x 14m includes a broad channel running 55m to the north west. The western pond measures 45m x 26m, and contains an island, although map regression shows that only the south and west arms of the pond predate 1887. The fish ponds are connected to the priory by an ‘L’ shaped ditch and bank, measuring 140m west and 160m north. To the west of its northern arm lie three rectangular fish ponds, each between 50m and 55m in length and between 13m and 20m wide. The ponds are surrounded by two channels, which also surround the modern pond. The nunnery at Redlingfield was founded as a Benedictine nunnery in 1120 by Emma de Arras and her husband, Manasses, Count of Guisnes. Emma de Arras was the daughter of the lord of Redlingfield, William de Arras. The nunnery was dedicated to St Andrew, and appropriated the adjacent church of St Andrew as the nunnery church. The nunnery was small, initially with 13 nuns, and it was not rich. It was valued at ‘nil’ in both the Norwich Taxation of 1254 and the Taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1291. It was granted licence to acquire land or rents to the annual value of £10 in 1344, and a further licence to obtain property at a value of £20 per year was granted in 1383. Throughout its existence, the nunnery had between 6 and 13 nuns, and between 20 and 30 servants. The nunnery was the subject of an inquiry in 1427. At the inquiry, the prioress, Isabel Hermyte, confessed to (among other sins) sleeping in a private chamber with a novice, being alone with Thomas Langelond, a bailiff, in ‘private and suspicious places’, violence and not attending confession. The prioress resigned and was banished to a nunnery in Wix, Essex, while the rest of the nunnery was ordered to do penance. A further scandal arose in 1514, with accusations of cruelty against the prioress, that there were no curtains in the dormitory, that boys slept in the dormitory, that there was no proper infirmary and that the refectory was used for purposes other than eating. A subsequent visit in 1520 reported that these issues had been addressed. The nunnery was covered by the Suppression of Religious Houses Act 1535, and was valued at £130 7s 11¼d. The nunnery was surrendered in February 1537 and the nuns and servants pensioned off. The former nunnery buildings and estate were given to Sir Edmund Bedingfield in March 1537, who passed them on to his son, Sir Henry Bedingfield. The estate remained in the Bedingfield family until it was sold to John Willis, between 1715 and 1735. It was sold to William Adair following the death of John Willis in 1764 or 1766, and stayed in the family until the C20. Most of the nunnery buildings were demolished between 1537 and 1783, leaving one remaining structure, now a barn. The main farmhouse and associated structures were built in 1875. The date of the fish pond complex is not known, but they are likely to have been associated with the nunnery. They were built in two phases, with the two southernmost ponds built first, and the northernmost pond added later. The enclosing channels were either constructed at the same time as the northernmost pond, or postdate it, as the channels are routed to include the pond. The westernmost pond was dug between 1957 and 1977, and then enlarged to its current size between 1984 and 1999. The two ponds between the nunnery and the fish pond complex are also undated, and may also have been associated with the nunnery. The more westerly pond was modified in the late C20.

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Grid reference Centred TM 1847 7070 (455m by 199m)
Map sheet TM17SE

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Record last edited

Oct 6 2020 11:25AM

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