Monument record MCC7930 - St John's Abbey, Colchester


Founded in the late 11th century for Benedictine monks by Eudo Dapifer.


Grid reference Centred TL 998 247 (335m by 459m)
Map sheet TL92SE


Type and Period (4)

Full Description

Founded in the late C11 for Benedictine monks by Eudo Dapifer. The buildings have disappeared except for the great gatehouse and parts of the precinct wall. The former was built, probably, in the C15 and has been much restored. It is of two storeys, the walls are partly rubble and partly brick with limestone dressings. The roofs are covered with lead and tiles. It is flanked by two octagonal turrets with * pinnacles. There is a tall carriageway and a smaller entrance for pedestrians, both with four- centred arches. The main arch is flanked by two large niches. The upper storey has two windows flaning a large niche, all extensively restored. The inner face is plainer but also flanked with octagonal turrets with * pinnacles. The gate hall has a ribbed vault, the ribs springing from carved and moulded corbels. Adjoining the W side of the gatehouse was a now destroyed building. The SW staircase turret was * from it and has two doorways with four-centred heads. The precinct wall remains for a considerable length on the NE and S sides. It is of rubble and C16 brick. Numerous worked and moulded stones ae built into a wall on the W side of the site and also into a * near the middle of the site. Near the E wall a round * is entirely composed of vaulted ribs and other fragments. Some C12 fragments are incorporated in the internal walls of the gatehouse. Other fragments are incorporated into the churchyard wall of St Gile's Church and the wall N of St John's Green School (photo in RCHM). <1> Gatehouse is characteristically more ornate to the outer world than to the abbey precincts. (photo in Pevsner). Perimeter wall still stands on the N, E and S sides, of brick, moulded stones and rubble. In the NE angle is the site of a well, represented by a brick projection with stone pointed head arch and date panel; `Abbey Well 1817'. <3> Nothing known of the monastic church which are important because two such await discovery. The earlier buildings lay N of the monastic church but due to the noise of Colchester's southern suburb, they were transferred to the S side. In 1133 it is recorded that after a fire in which "this monastery and nearly the whole of Colchester were burnt" the monks houses were transferred from the N side, under the town wall, to the S side of the church. (see source 5). <4> <5> The abbey was founded in 1096-7, and dissolved i 1539. <6> Consideration of documentary sources suggets that the abbey workshops were removed to the S side in 1133 after a fire, but that the story of an earlier removal because of noise is incorrect. The abbey was founded in 1095, building began in 1096 and the dedication was in 1115. The monastic remains are shown ono Speed's map of 1610 but were almost completely destroyed during the 1648 siege. A drawing of the southern elevation of the Abbey church exists, but is suspect as it shows no claustral buildings (these may have been deliberately omitted). The illustration is in Morant and also source . Seems to show mainly C12-C13 building with round tower; , windows? rebuilt a century aftre foundation. For detailed documentary refs see source 7. <7> - <10> <13> Other refs. <11> <12> Rear of gatehouse was rebuilt in the C17 after damage in the siege of 1648. <14> See for finds of * probably from the abbey, for the earlier church and for cemetery.

Site Management: = Additional areas put forward for scheduling in 1981. <11>

Site Assessment = Gatehouse is a splendid piece of display , characteristically more ornate to the outer world.<2>

Sources/Archives (13)

  • <1> DESC TEXT: RCHME. 1922. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex - Volume 3. Vol 3, pp.47-48.
  • <2> DESC TEXT: Pevsner, N. 1954. The Buildings of England, Essex. p.123.
  • <3> RECORD SHEET/FORM: Ordnance Survey. unknown. OS cards. TL92NE3.15, 1976.
  • <4> Monograph: Rodwell, Warwick J with Rodwell, KA. 1977. Historic Churches - A Wasting Asset. p.37.
  • <5> DESC TEXT: Rickword, G. 1922. The Churches and Abbeys of Colchester. TEAS, Vol 16, pp.122-126.
  • <6> DESC TEXT: Priddy, DA. unknown. SMR.
  • <7> DESC TEXT: Crummy, P. unknown. Aspects of Anglo-Saxon and Norman Colchester. No 39 (CAT Rep 1), pp28-30, 40-46.
  • <9> DESC TEXT: Morant, P. 1748. History of Colchester. Vol 2, pp.36-37.
  • <10> Graphic material: Crummy, P. 1988. St John's Abbey Church. No 2, p.16.
  • <11> Scheduling record: Department of the Environment. 1986. DOE Scheduled Ancient Monuments. Parts 5-8.
  • <12> DESC TEXT: Knowles, D and Hadcock, RN. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses. pp.53, 62.
  • <13> Graphic material: unknown. unknown. Cotton MS * viii.
  • <14> DESC TEXT: unknown. 1971. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest:Colchester. p.114.

Finds (1)

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (6)

Record last edited

Mar 30 2020 9:18AM

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