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Holme Cultram Abbey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Holme Abbey.
In the historic county of Cumberland.
Modern Authority of Cumbria.
1974 county of Cumbria.
Medieval County of Cumberland.

OS Map Grid Reference: NY17735098
Latitude 54.84684° Longitude -3.28273°

Holme Cultram Abbey has been described as a Timber Castle but is rejected as such, and also as a Fortified Manor House although is doubtful that it was such, and also as a probable Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Remains of a Cistercian monastery. The abbey was founded on the 30th December 1150 by Henry, son of David I, king of Scotland and then ruling Cumberland, and a colony of monks were sent from Melrose. When Henry II recovered the district for England he took the abbey under his protection. It suffered heavily from its location near the border. The abbey was surrendered on the 6th March 1538. The west end of the nave of the abbey church now forms part of the parish church of St. Mary. It has early C16 additions, and alterations dated 1730. The vestry dates to 1884-5 and the church was restored in 1913. (PastScape 9641)

To the north of the Abbey of Holme Cultram is a mound and broad ditch; this is all that remains of the moat and wall which surround the Monastery of Holme Cultram. (Curwen; Ferguson)
"Motte with ditch, but without bailey, N of the abbey". (Pevsner)
As described by Curwen and Fergusson. There is no trace of a motte. (F1 BHP 19-NOV-68)
The remains of a medieval moat and precinct wall are visible as earthworks on air photographs centred at NY 1773 5099. A broad ditch, 105m long, is flanked on the south side by a bank, representing the precinct wall. (PastScape 9648)

There is a mention of 'Castlehill at Holme Cultram' in 1552. The earthwork is rejected by King as moat only, some other authors give the possibility of it being a motte or precinct rampart. Pevsner, who was not an archaeologist or earthworks expert, may be the source for those who mention a motte. Jackson suggests could be the remains of Alan fitz Waldeve's capital messuage mention in C12. A motte can be rejected. A moated house is possible although there is nothing really to suggest this would have been fortified and the C12 date might argue against what seems to be a straight line of ditch. An abbey precinct wall and ditch seems by the far the most likely explanation of this feature; there is nothing to suggest this would have been of such a strength as to be called fortified.

Although little remains of the medieval monastery the buildings were probably fortified. Said by Parker to been granted a licence to crenellate in 1327 but this was, in fact, for St Benet, Holm in Norfolk.
In 1538, when the abbey was dissolved, the parishioners successfully petitioned for the preservation of the abbey church for 'defence for us agenst our neghbors the Scots' although how a church larger than Carlisle Cathedral was a defence is an open question.
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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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:53

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