Farmstead record HXN 053 - Farmstead: Abbey Farm

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Abbey Farm, Hoxne. 19th century farmstead and 16th century farmhouse with converted buildings. Regular courtyard E-shaped plan formed by working agricultural buildings with additional detached elements. The farmhouse is set away from the yard. Partial loss (less than 50%) of the traditional farm buildings. Located within a hamlet.


Grid reference Centred TM 1828 7643 (114m by 107m)
Map sheet TM17NE


Type and Period (9)

Full Description

A historic building record was made of farm buildings at Abbey Farm in advance of conversion proposals. The complex comprises a group of late 19th century farm buildings, typical of the High Victorian fashion for enclosed cattle yards, and which have been extensively altered. Adjoining the complex is an important late 16th century timber framed structure, the precise form of which is unclear, but is likely to have been a stable with hay lofts above. The building apparently faced northwards, and on a 1757 estate map appears to have formed part of a service courtyard in conjunction with three other outbuildings. These northern buildings may have formed a service or base court to the monastic buildings to the south of the house when approached from the north, and archaeological evidence relating to early occupation may survive (S1).

Abbey Farm, Hoxne. 19th century farmstead and 16th century farmhouse with converted buildings. Regular courtyard E-shaped plan formed by working agricultural buildings with additional detached elements. The farmhouse is set away from the yard. Partial loss (less than 50%) of the traditional farm buildings. Located within a hamlet (S2-7).

Recorded as part of the Farmsteads in the Suffolk Countryside Project. This is a purely desk-based study and no site visits were undertaken. These records are not intended to be a definitive assessment of these buildings. Dating reflects their presence at a point in time on historic maps and there is potential for earlier origins to buildings and farmsteads. This project highlights a potential need for a more in depth field study of farmstead to gather more specific age data.

Abbey Farm occupies the partly Scheduled site of a medieval priory founded in the 12th century to exploit a pre-existing chapel believed at the time to mark the location of St Edmund’s martyrdom. The original chapel is known to have been rebuilt shortly before the priory’s establishment, but its replacement served as the priory church as was later known as the Great Chapel. Medieval accounts record a substantial complex of buildings including a hall possibly with a chamber above, a parlour, a dormitory with a chamber above, a kitchen, bakery, dairy, brewery, stables, malt-house, dove-cote, walled cemetery, barn yards and gardens. The only obvious survival today is a grade II-listed flint-rubble wall adjoining the road which was part of a large L-shaped building depicted on a map of 1757, but the accounts suggest the 15th century buildings were of largely of brick. The site was acquired by the wealthy and well-connected Thurston family shortly after the priory’s dissolution in 1538, and the spectacular timber-framed southern range of the present grade II*-listed house was built by John Thurston in circa 1580. This jettied structure boasted a fine array of expensive display features including brick nogging, serpentine bracing, and oriel windows supported by brackets in the typical Elizabethan manner, and was initially entered by two-storied porches on both sides of its cross-passage. Only the hall and service bays now survive, with the parlour probably demolished after the death of the last Thurston in 1747 when the surrounding park shown by Kirby in 1736 was enclosed and the property converted into a farmhouse on the Hoxne Hall Estate. Tax was paid on 15 hearths in 1674, suggesting the present house comprises two-thirds or less of the original.

The building’s brick western range is less eye catching and is ostensibly a later extension, but it contains a number of anomalies and may in fact represent a much altered and heavily disguised fragment of the priory. Its roof structure dates only from the mid-17th century but terminates in a gable window that formerly overlooked a lower structure on the site of the modern kitchen in the south-western corner of the house. When this corner structure was raised in height or rebuilt in the 18th century the entire wing was unified with a new skin of ostensibly re-used Tudor bricks laid in Flemish Bond. The depiction of the site in 1757 suggests this skin also served to disguise the truncation of the western range on the north and the creation of new chimneys at both gables. Unfortunately the internal walls are completely hidden by plaster, with only a single exposed tie-beam containing arch-brace mortices in the style of the 15th and 16th centuries to suggest they pre-date the 17th century roof. A recent resistivity survey of the grounds has revealed the foundations of buildings forming a small enclosure beneath the lawn immediately south of the house, but the relationship between the house and priory remains a matter of debate. The southern part of the site is known to have been occupied by gardens in the Middle Ages just as today, but the enclosure appears too small to represent the main cloister about which the priory complex is likely to have revolved. If the western wing of the house does pre-date the Reformation it may have formed a cellarer’s hall on the western side of this cloister with the timber-framed range on the site of the refectory and the chapel on the reputed site of Edmund’s death beneath the gravel drive to the north. It may well be possible to settle this intriguing question with further geophysics and investigation of the western range’s wall fabric (S8).

Sources/Archives (8)

  • --- Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2018. Historic Building Survey: Abbey Farm, Hoxne.
  • <S1> Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2010. Historic Building Record: Farm Buildings at Abbey Farm, Hoxne, Suffolk.
  • <S2> Unpublished document: Campbell, G., and McSorley, G. 2019. SCCAS: Farmsteads in the Suffolk Countryside Project.
  • <S3> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1880s. Ordnance Survey 25 inch to 1 mile map, 1st edition.
  • <S4> Map: Ordnance Survey. c 1904. Ordnance Survey 25 inch to 1 mile map, 2nd edition. 25".
  • <S5> Vertical Aerial Photograph: various. Google Earth.
  • <S6> Map: Ordnance Survey. 1949. Ordnance Survey 6 inch to 1, mile, 3rd edition. 1:10,560.
  • <S7> Map: 1840. Hoxne Tithe Map.

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Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Nov 22 2022 3:50PM

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