Monument record MLI60740 - Haverholme Priory


Religious house to the north-east of Sleaford. Construction initally started by the monks of Fountains Abbey in 1137, but abandoned by them soon afterwards. The site was then given to the Gilbertines, with the founding of their double house priory begun in 1139.

Type and Period (6)

Protected Status/Designation

Full Description

In 1137, Bishop Alexander of Lincoln gave the island then called Halfreholm to the monks of Fountains Abbey, to build a monastery upon. This was the first monastery founded on this site, Haverholme Abbey. After making only a small amount of progress in its erection, however, the monks removed to Louth Park. About two years later the Bishop then gave the site to the Gilbertine monks of Sempringham, who immediately set about the erection of a large priory which is said to have consisted of fifty monks and 100 nuns. {1} The Gilbertine priory of St Mary, Haverholme, was founded as a double house in 1139. Nuns, lay sisters and lay brothers were sent from Sempringham by St Gilbert to occupy buildings erected on a marshy island in the river near Sleaford in 1137-38 for Cistercian monks from Fountains and rejected by them. The house was dissolved in 1538. {2}{3} The monastic remains are below ground. Excavation and field work in 1961-64 located buildings along the south fence of the mansion's garden and on the north bank of the River Slea including roof tile kilns. Excavations in 1872 located buildings west of the mansion, while the probability that they also lie beneath the mansion and garden terrace is supported by Trollope's reference to finds made there in 1854. A firm limit to the north is given by the ridge and furrow in the wilderness. {4}{5}{6} White mentions that several stone coffins and human bones were found in 1855 when excavating on the south-east side of the country house. {7} A short trial excavation and ground surface survey was carried out at the priory site after quantities of stonework, pottery and mortar had been brought to the surface by deep ploughing. The investigation aimed to locate the main structures, find out how much the stonework had been robbed and establish how much damage the ploughing was causing. The surface survey revealed that only the southern half of the site was under plough. The trenches located five extensively robbed stone walls and also 13th-16th century occupation layers which were being progressively destroyed by ploughing. Finds included pottery of the 12th-16th centuries, 2 coins, 2 bone weaving or netting objects and several iron objects. {8} Following the 1961 investigations, a full excavation was carried out over several months in 1962 and 1963. This revealed more walls and structural features, including a circular well-like feature which went down at least 10 feet below the current surface and divided into two compartments by an old millstone. The lower chamber of this feature contained clean gravel, perhaps to filter the well water. A rubbish dump was also located on the marshy edges of the priory area. This contained much pottery, including rare blue-grey continental wares as well as Stamford and shelly wares, as well as spindle whorls, bodkins and bobbins. The remains of roof tile kilns, including many wasters, kiln furniture, firebars and clay cones, were discovered beyond the rubbish dumps, by the river. Finds from the excavation include building fragments, pottery and tile including the kiln material, iron keys, a cresset lamp, decorated bronzes, jet beads and silver pennies. Roman material (see PRN 64235), including tegulae and tile fragments, was also found in the monastic layers, suggesting that Roman remains at Sleaford may have been utilised as stone quarries during the construction of the priory. {9}{10}{11} A history of the priory and some of its inhabitants is given in the Victoria County History. No mention of tile production is made, although the revenues and holdings of the priory are discussed. {12} A history of the priory is also given by Trollope, who also discusses the state of the ruins in the 19th century and mentions recent finds including human remains, stone coffins and architectural fragments. {13}

Sources/Archives (13)

  •  Index: Lincolnshire County Council. Sites and Monuments Record Card Index. TF 14 NW: C.
  •  Index: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Card Index. TF 14 NW: 1.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: D. Knowles and R.N. Hadcock. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales - Second Edition. pp.194-5.
  •  Scheduling Record: HBMC. 1966. AM 7. SAM 178.
  •  Aerial Photograph: 1945-84. CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY COLLECTION. EU3; BZT5.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: Nikolaus Pevsner and John Harris, with Nicholas Antram. 1989. Buildings of England: Lincolnshire (Second Edition). pp.274-5.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: William White. 1856. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Lincolnshire (Second Edition). p.448.
  •  Article in Serial: PETCH, D.F.. 1962. 'Archaeological Notes for 1961' in Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society Reports and Papers. vol.9, part.2, p.109.
  •  Article in Serial: J.B. Whitwell (ed.). 1966. 'Archaeological Notes, 1964 and 1965' in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology. vol.1, pp 38-9.
  •  Correspondence: 1960s. Papers relating to the excavations at Haverholme Priory in 1961-63. -.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: William Page (ed). 1906. The Victoria County History: Lincolnshire - Volume 2. pp.187-8.
  •  Bibliographic Reference: Rev. Edward Trollope. 1872. Sleaford and the Wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn in the County of Lincoln. pp.242-8.



Grid reference Centred TF 1083 4933 (479m by 481m) Estimated from Sources

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (6)

External Links (0)

Record last edited

Jan 17 2023 11:23AM


Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.