Polesworth Abbey

Description of this historic site

Polesworth Abbey, a nunnery house governed by an abbess. The Abbey dates to the Early Medieval period and lies 200m east of Bridge Street, Polesworth.

Notes about this historic site

1 Legends about the foundation survive and place the foundation at a number of dates between 839 and 1066. A certain amount of the history of the Abbey is known. It was disolved in 1539.
2 After the dissolution the site passed to Francis Goodere, whose son built a manor house on the site of the Abbess’s lodgings. This was later replaced by a vicarage, but some of the remains of the manor house, which may include some parts of the Abbey, were retained. The gate house and abbey church also survive.
8 A number of limited excavations have been undertaken and these enable a hypothetical reconstruction to be made of the layout of the abbey buildings.
10 Description.
11 During 1996 a survey was made of the abbey cloister standing masonry. Observations of the surviving structure appear to reveal about 16 structural phases in the masonry. Using this and the historical sources it is possible to produce a fairly convincing building sequence from the 12th to the 20th century, in which much of the surviving structure turns out to be Post Medieval.
12 Observations of the south-western perimeter wall together with an analysis of the supposed position of the ford preceding Polesworth’s bridge led to an alternative suggested precinct outline and pre-bridge roadline.
13 Investigation of north and east cloister walls accompanying restoration works. Trenching revealed four in-situ burials and allowed medieval/post-medieval cloister developments to be recorded together with elevations.
14 Market Charter for Thursday market granted 14th April 1242 by Henry III to Margerey, Abbess of Polesworth and the Nuns. Charter for Fair vigil feast morrow Margaret (20th July) granted 14th April 1242 by Henry III to Margery, Abbess of Polesworth and the Nuns.
15 Archival material from 1956.
16 Three maps of Polesworth.
17 Scheduling information for the Additional Area.
18 A programme of recording and observation was undertaken by Warwickshire Museum Field Services group between 2002-2006. A reburied medieval stone coffin and part of a brick vault was recorded in the interior of the church, during the excavation of a statue base. Medieval and later masonry was recorded during limited excavation outside the church. This may have belonged either to a monastic range west of the west range to the cloister, perhaps part of the Abbess’ Lodging, or to the west end of a building set against the church. An undercroft was also recorded.
19 Geophysical survey and subsequent trial trenching recorded a number of building ranges to the south and east of the abbey buildings. Three 13th-century graves were identified, together with early 14th-century buildings. Accomodation ranges and possibly part of the Abbess’ Lodgings were recorded.
20 Possible expansion of settlement onto market place, possibly at the time of building the Abbey gatehouse.
21 During trial trenching of possible sites for an extension to the south-east of the existing 19th-centry vicarage and a new vicarage to the west, well-preserved medieval building foundations with surviving floor levels were recorded. At least two later 13th/early 14th stone buildings were recorded to the west of the present vicarage, probably accomadation blocks for guests or Abbey servants. To the south-east of the vicarage, a large stone building, aligned east-west, was terraced into a series of make=up layers in the late 13th/early 14-th century. The building is too far south to be the frater but may have been part of the Abbess’ Lodging (MWA206) or a Guest Hall, demolished during the Dissolution.
22 Report on geophysical survey referred to in 19, consisting of both magnetic and resistance survey carried out to the SE of the church; a number of features of probable archaeological origin were identified, including structural remains to the northwest of the survey area.

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