Lindisfarne Priory: steps to the dorter

Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill

The night stairs that led from the dorter to the church are located in the south transept.

Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill

The day stairs were at the south end of the dorter building. The chapter house was probably on the ground floor.

Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill
Lindisfarne Priory © David Gill

Benedictine Abbeys in State Care

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

Battle Abbey, Sussex. The Abbey was founded on the site of William I’s victory at the battle of Hastings. It seems likely that it was founded at some point after 1070, and the choir of the new abbey was consecrated in 1076. The completed abbey was consecrated in February 1094. The first four monks came from the abbey of Marmoutier Abbey in the Loire. [EH]

Canterbury, St Augustine’s Abbey, Kent. The first abbey was established in 598 as part of Augustine’s mission to England. Abbot Scotland, a monk from Mont St Michel, was appointed in 1070. [EH]

Boxgrove Priory, West Sussex. Founded c. 1117 from abbey of Lessay in Normandy. [EH]

Westminster Abbey. The Pyx Chamber is in State Guardianship. [EH]

1955 (12th impression 1977)


East Anglia

Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Suffolk. The monastery was the resting place of the body of king Edmund killed in 903. The Benedictine abbey was found in 1020. [EH]

Colchester, St John’s Abbey, Essex. The abbey was founded in 1095 to the south of the town. The 15th century gatehouse is in State Guardianship. [EH]

Isleham Priory, Cambridgeshire. The priory was founded c. 1100. The priory church is in State Guardianship. [EH]

Denny Abbey, Cambridgeshire. Founded in 1159, and passed to the Knights Templars in 1170. [EH]

Binham Priory, Norfolk. The priory was founded in 1091 from St Alban’s Abbey in Hertfordshire. [EH]

Binham Priory, undercroft (with dorter above) and warming room beyond © David Gill


The South-West

Muchelney Abbey, Somerset. [EH] [Historic England]

Abbotsbury Abbey, Dorset. The abbey was founded in 1044. [EH]


Ewenny Priory, Glamorgan. The Benedictine priory was founded by Maurice de Londres in 1141. It was founded from the abbey of St Peter in Gloucester that had links with the earlier church at Ewenny established 1116-26. [Cadw]

The North-East and Yorkshire

Whitby Abbey © David Gill

Whitby Abbey, Yorkshire. The first monastery at Whitby was established by Abbess Hild in 657 at the prompting of king Oswy of Northumbria. The Synod of Whitby was held in 664. The monastery was probably destroyed during the Viking raids c. 867. In the years after the Norman conquest the monastery was established, probably c. 1078, by Reinfrid, from the Benedictine monastery of Evesham. The church was constructed c. 1090. [EH]

Jarrow Priory, Tyne and Wear. Founded from Durham between 1075-83. [EH]

Finchale Priory © David Gill

Finchale Priory, Durham. The origins lie in the hermitage of St Godric that continued until 1196 when it became a priory linked to Durham Cathedral. [EH]

Lindisfarne © David Gill

Lindisfarne Priory, Northumberland. The first monastery was founded in 635. It was destroyed by a Viking raid in 793. In 1069 St Cuthbert’s remains were brought to the island from Durham  to protect them during the Norman raids of the north. After 1083 Benedictine monks linked to Durham arrived at the older monastery site on Holy Island. The church was probably constructed from the 1120s. [EH]

Tynemouth Priory © David Gill

Tynemouth Priory, Tyne and Wear. The first monastery at Tynemouth was probably established in the late 8th century, part of the kingdom of Northumbria. It was important as the burial site of king Osred II of Northumbria. The monastery was probably destroyed in 875. A church on the site was destroyed during the early years of the Norman conquest, and the location given to the monks of Jarrow some time after 1074. A new church was built in 1083. Some after 1090 the monastery was given to the Benedictine abbey of St Albans in Hertfordshire by Robert de Mowbray, earl of Northumberland. [EH]


Wetheral Priory, Cumbria. founded in the early 12th century. [EH]


Dunfermline Abbey, Fife. Founded c. 1070, perhaps as the earliest Benedictine community in Scotland. The abbey was established in 1128. [HES]

Iona © David Gill

Iona Abbey. The Benedictine community was established in 1200. [HES]



Bury St Edmunds: The Abbey Church

Bury St Edmunds © David Gill
Bury St Edmunds, North Transept © David Gill

The Abbey Church was 154 m long. In the North Transept was St Martin’s Chapel and the Lady Chapel.

Bury St Edmunds, South Transept © David Gill
Bury St Edmunds, South Transept © David Gill

In the South Transept was the Chapel of St Nicholas.

Bury St Edmunds, Crossing © David Gill
Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

The crossing stood below the central tower with the choir stalls immediately to the west at the head of the nave. The nave was constructed during the time of Abbot Anselm (1119-1148).

Bury St Edmunds © David Gill
Bury St Edmunds, Nave © David Gill

To the east of the crossing lay the high altar and beneath it the crypt.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey, looking east towards North Transept and Crossing © David Gill

Finchale Priory: dorter and reredorter

Finchale Priory © David Gill

The dorter at Finchale Priory in Co. Durham is located on the east side of the cloister above the chapter house. It connected to the south transept of the church via a night stair. Sir Charles Peers suggested that the large room at the south end of the range ‘which in other monasteries served as a dayroom, is here too ill-lighted for such purpose, and at any rate in the later days of the priory can have been merely a storeroom’.

Finchale Priory © David Gill

On the east side of the dorter was the reredorter.

Finchale Priory © David Gill
Finchale Priory, reredorter © David Gill

Finchale Priory: children and heritage sites

Finchale Priory © David Gill

The Benedictine priory of Finchale Priory in County Durham is situated in a bend of the river Wear.

There are two Ministry signs warning of the dangers to be found at a heritage site: one on the north side of the church, and the other at the first floor entrance to the hall.

Finchale Priory © David Gill

The guidebook was written by Sir Charles Peers.

Abbot’s Bridge at Bury St Edmunds

Abbot’s Bridge, Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

The Abbot’s Bridge takes the precinct wall of the abbey over the river Lark. The bridge is adjacent to the east gate of the town on the north-east corner of the precinct. The bridge dates to the 13th century.

Abbot’s Bridge, Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

Bury St Edmunds Abbey: Warnings

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

Bury St Edmunds Abbey was placed in State Guardianship in 1955. Signs indicating different parts of the abbey and the precinct were placed around the remains (e.g. crypt, crossing, lecture room). Visitors were discouraged from climbing the walls. Similar signs can be seen at Kirkham PrioryHadleigh Castle and Pickering Castle.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

What appears to be a pre-Ministry sign threatened those who damaged the walls with prosecution. However workmen from the Ministry had assisted with the consolidation of the ruins in 1928 and these signs may date to this phase (and see also Brough Castle).

Bury St Edmunds: Norman Tower

Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Norman Tower © David Gill

The Norman Tower was constructed in the period 1120 to 1148 under Abbot Anselm. It stands opposite the end of Churchgate Street, and in front of the west end of the abbey church. It served as a gateway to the abbey (completed in 1095) and the bell tower to the adjacent church of St James (now St Edmundsbury Cathedral).

Abbot Anselm was also responsible for the construction of the precinct wall, the church of St James, and the church of St Mary (at the south-west corner of the precinct).

The present ground level is well over the original street level. The tympanum over the western entrance was removed in 1789, and the battlements on the tower in 1842-46.

The Norman Tower, along with other parts of the abbey remains, is in the care of English Heritage.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey, Norman Tower © David Gill

The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds: Crypt

Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

The crypt of the abbey at Bury St Edmunds lies at the east end of the abbey church. The new stone church was constructed during the time of Abbot Baldwin. A comparable crypt can also be seen at St Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury.

The shrine of St Edmund was located behind the high altar, immediately above the crypt.

Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill
Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

At the east end of the crypt were three chapels. In the centre was the chapel of St Mary in the crypt, and to its north the chapel of St Anne.

Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill
Abbey of Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

On the south side was the chapel of St Robert, with the altar of Edward the Confessor.

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill


Reredorter at Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

The reredorter for the abbey at Bury St Edmunds lies to the east of the dorter (i.e. one the side closest to the river Lark) and to the north of the prior’s house. The structure appears to date to the 13th century.

Reredorter at Bury St Edmunds Abbey © David Gill

For other examples: Binham Priory; Castle Acre Priory; Rievalux Abbey.

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