SWINESHEAD ABBEY

TF 249406

 

The house now known as Swineshead Abbey is situated one kilometre east of the present village of Swineshead (Fig 20) and is assumed to be built on the monastic site. It lies in a few acres of parkland, the survivor of a much grander estate which as late as 1739 included amongst its field names the Great Dear Park, the Little Dear Park [sic] etc. (1). Within this grassland is a series of ditches, the largest of which appear to be fishponds within or close to the precinct of the abbey; they still contain water (Fig 21). It can be seen from the air that most of these are part of a larger complex of dylings, much of it now under plough, which extended a considerable distance eastwards of the present house (Pl V).

The monastic house, a colony of Furness, was founded in 1134 or 1148 by Robert de Gresley in the marsh of Swineshead for a community of Cistercian monks (2). The muniments of the monastery have not survived, and little is therefore known of the history of the foundation or its fabric. Its initial endowment consisted of 240 acres of demesne and various other gifts, and in the succeeding centuries it attracted benefactions from many local lords in Holland, Kesteven, Rutland, and Nottinghamshire (3). In its heyday the house was probably quite wealthy, but by 1534 it was worth less than 200 and was dissolved under the first Act of Suppression (4). The site was granted to Lord Clinton in 1550, and the present stone building retains parts of the house built out of the ruins for Sir John Lockton in 1607. The only visible medieval feature used to be a thirteenth century effigy of a knight set in a wall on the south side (5), but this was removed in the early 1970s. Remains of substantial stone walls were seen during works west of the house in 1977, and over the years a great deal of medieval pottery dating from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century has been picked up on the surrounding arable fields. There is evidence of a tile kiln operating here which produced a very distinctive type of high quality relief tile during the fourteenth century (6).

 

1. W. D. Sweeting, 'The Manor of the Moor, Swineshead', Fenland Notes and Queries iii, (1895-7), 76-8.

 

2. Mon Ang v, 337; VCH Lincs ii, 145. The Chronicle of Peterborough gives the former date and the Book of Furness the latter.

 

3. Religious Houses ii, 96-7.

 

4. VCH Lincs ii, 145.

 

5. White 1856, 816; Pevsner, Lincs, 690.

 

6. E. Eames, Medieval Tiles, London 1985, 24; F. H. Thompson, 'Archaeological Notes for 1954', Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society Reports and Papers 6, (1955), 12-13 and Fig 2, 12.