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Winchcombe Abbey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Winchcomb; Wynchecombe

In the civil parish of Winchcombe.
In the historic county of Gloucestershire.
Modern Authority of Gloucestershire.
1974 county of Gloucestershire.
Medieval County of Gloucestershire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP02372831
Latitude 51.95328° Longitude -1.96691°

Winchcombe Abbey has been described as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are no visible remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law*.


Winchcombe Abbey lay in one of the chief royal centres of the Saxon period, which from 1007 to 1017 was the centre of a shire, a large block of land consisting of many subdivisions called hundreds. The monastery is therefore expected to preserve rare evidence for late Saxon religious building. Despite demolition following the Dissolution, the site of the monastic precinct has had only limited disturbance, and therefore good survival of below ground archaeological levels can be expected.
Winchcombe is situated in a wide combe on the north west edge of the Cotswolds, and the abbey and its precinct lie towards the southern central side of the town. Winchcombe was an important centre in the Saxon period; by the early eighth century it had become one of the chief royal centres of the sub-kingdom of the Hwicce, who owed their allegiance to the kings of Mercia. Offa is said to have built a nunnery at Winchcombe in the late eighth century, although there is no indication that this is linked to the abbey. The construction of the abbey was begun by Cenwulf in 798 and dedicated in 811 to St Mary. During the next 150 years monasticism declined in England, and at Winchcombe monks gave way to secular clerks; but in about 969 the clerks were made to withdraw, and the monastery was refounded as a Benedictine community. In 1151 the church and monastic buildings were seriously damaged by fire, and books and charters were destroyed. The abbey was endowed with extensive estates, and various abbots brought either prudence or reckless expenditure with their tenures, but generally the abbey's importance as a landholder continued until the Dissolution. In 1539 it was surrendered, and the buildings were given to Lord Seymour of Sudeley who carried out the demolition. (Scheduling Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1373 March 5 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).


As with most monastic building there were many phases of building at Winchcombe but none are clearly identifiable with the licence to crenellate granted in 1373. However, at other houses such licences tend to be associated with the building (usually rebuilding) of outer precinct gatehouses. These gatehouses were usually the place where the monastic almoner gave out dole to the poor and often were where the manorial court of the lands held by the monastery was held. Therefore such gatehouses had a complex symbolic role as both a barrier, that cut off the monastic community from the secular world; as a portal for Christian charity; and as centre of secular tenurial power. Crenellations, and royal approval for crenellations, were but one of a number of symbolic representations of these complex social functions.
The reports of the lost Winchcombe Castle include references to an "Ivy Castle," a name which suggests a masonry building. This may have been, in fact, an abbey gatehouse built in a particularly 'castle-like' style.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:10

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