Monument record MCC439 - St John's Abbey, Colchester


11th century Abbey, founded in 1096 by Eudo Dapifer and dissolved 1538. The most significant surviving element is the N. gatehouse (see MCC415), probably C15 in date, with parts of the original C12 precinct wall surviving along Mersea Road, Napier Road and Flagstaff Road (see MCC441). The site of the Abbey Church is recorded by archaeological investigations (see MCC419, MCC3067).


Grid reference TL 99766 24692 (point)
Map sheet TL92SE
1848 Parish ST GILES


Type and Period (5)

Full Description

The buildings of the Abbey were laid out in 1095 by Eudo Dapifer and the first of them completed in 1115. The cloister and domestic buildings lay north of the church, as a small hill occupied the land to the south. The abbey was burnt down in 1133 and all the workshops, which were originally on the north side were rebuilt to the south side of the church' . The church was rebuilt on a cruciform plan, with a massive central tower and an elaborate west front flanked by south-west and north-west towers, possibly round. Late 12th century capitals, perhaps from the internal jambs of a window or from blind arcading, found near the abbey site, may have been from its church or chapter house. The abbey was dissolved in 1538. Lead from the church roof had been removed in 1552 so it was apparently a ruin by this time.<1><4>

Remains shown by Cutt's Map in Abbey Gardens, thought by Rex Hull to be the domestic wings of the Abbey.<2>

The only known drawing of St John's Abbey is held by the British Library, a copy is held in the Museum Social History Files. The drawing belongs to the Cotton manuscript, Nero D. VIII, a collection of pieces of different dates that were bound together by 1631 at the latest.<3>

See also MCC441 for the Abbey's precinct wall.

Sources/Archives (4)

  • <1> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX. p.303.
  • <2> Monograph: Cutts, Reverend Edward L.. 1889. Historic Towns, Colchester. map inside book.
  • <3> Unpublished document: Social History File: St John's Abbey.
  • <4> Monograph: Bettley, James and Pevsner, Nikolaus. 2007. The buildings of England: Essex. p.272.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (5)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

May 4 2018 10:42AM

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