printer icon


Remains of Quarr Abbey

Monument Types and Dates

ABBEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD) RUINED BUILDING

FARMHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD) EXTANT BUILDING

FORTIFICATION (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD) STRUCTURE



Quarr Abbey was a Cistercian foundation of 1131 under Benedictine rule but c.1140 it changed to Cistercian. Dissolved 15361 but the remains are scanty. The farmhouse is early C19 two storey probably of old stones. Lancet windows grouped in threes below stepped gables. Ground floor three lights with stone mullions to outer bays. The centre is slightly recessed with corbelled parapet, double chamfered pointed arch to doorway. Stepped gables to side and to rear, which are considerably taller, the crown of gable raised up with cornice and pierced by lancet. Below the gable to the north, the archway, linking the farmhouse to the barn originally the cellarian, may be connected with the west front of the church. The barn represents the west range of the cloisters, and its entrance bay to the north has a group of genuine C13 lancets reset. To the east and west: remains of the north range, retaining part of the kitchen entrance and vertiges [sic] of its interior, heavily chamfered hatch between kitchen and the south end of the refectory. Of the refractory one shafted joint to the doorway and one wall shaft of what must have been a blank arcading, survive. Next to the door a cupboard recess. Apart from this group little remains: to the north a section of wall and an arch with continuous chamfer, possibly part of the Abbot's lodging or a woodhouse. To the east a fragment of wall and part of a fireplace with a square head and panelled sides of the C14, a round headed north window. This was the infirmary chapel.2

The remains and sites of the principal buildings of St. Mary's Abbey are within a pasture field on farmland belonging to the modern Quarr Abbey. The remains are not in a very good state of preservation but some work has been done on them by the Ministry of Works. (Description of buildings similar to H.H.R.) The sites of the Abbey Church, Chapter House, Cloisters and Monks Cemetery are indicated by level places on the ground. Much of the Precinct wall remains, largely to its full original height; there are the blocked remains of a north gateway.3

Frequent attacks led the Abbot of Quarr to obtain a licence to crenel late in 1365 and the work had begun the following year. An approximately square area of 800 feet was enclosed with a wall of limestone rubble, now in poor condition. Adjoining the north-west angle is the sea gate, now blocked - arch still visible. 15 feet beyond modern field gate is an embrasure 24 ins. wide and 28 ins. high framed in 4 ashlar slabs, the outer face being of two rough slabs with circular opening. Similar embrasure 100ft east with blocked opening - both are gun ports of Medieval type.4

3 stone coffins, 2' long by 1' wide, uncovered south of the original Abbey during road construction. Report on the circumstances and skeletal remains by Edward Harris, 30 Union Street, Ryde, 7th January 1857.5

Parch marks visible in May 1990 showed building foundations in cloister area, including Chapter House and north wall of church. Also south transept. Other foundations near south west corner of precinct both straddling and outside the precinct wall are visible. Marks photographed by D.L. Motkin and transcribed onto a map by Tracy Day in July-August 1990.6

Topographic, resistivity and magnetometer surveys carried out7

What survives indicates a set of buildings of early to mid-C13 date, suggesting reconstruction a century or so after the abbey was founded, with few later alterations. The church has a typical Cistercian plan, nave with narrow aisles, transepts each with three E chapels, and a short presbytery to which side chapels were added later. Almost nothing of the church remains above ground; the lane from the N part of Binstead towards the modern abbey runs over the site of the S arcade and aisle. The cloister and monastic buildings were to the N of the church, contrary to usual practice; this arrangement was probably related to water supplies.

Fronting the lane on the N side, just W of the church site, is a small early to mid-C19 former farmhouse with sets of triple lancet windows and a wide Gothic arch in the centre of its façade; these are partly imitation features but may include re-set medieval details. The house backs on to a building aligned N-S, for long used as a barn. This is basically the range, which abutted the cloister on its W side, although the upper parts have been reconstructed. There are blocked doors and other openings and, on the E side, an addition containing the entrance to the barn. This has in its gable a genuine, but re-set, triple lancet window with tall central member - one of the few aesthetically rewarding details on the site. Otherwise the site contains a few irregular pieces of walling. One fragment survives between the site of the refectory, on the N side of the cloister, and the small kitchen to its W, including a hatch with a moulded segmental arch. Fairly substantial walling at the N end of the site may relate to the abbot's lodging. Towards the E is a section of the N wall of a building, which may have been the infirmary chapel, with the fairly well preserved ribbed internal frame of a rounded window. Percy Stone, who excavated the site, included in his Architectural Antiquities imaginative reconstructions of parts of the abbey based on the ground plan and surviving fragments. The precinct was surrounded by a defensive wall after licence to crenellate was given in 1365, in the period of French attacks. Parts of this survive.8

Geophysical and topographic survey undertaken during summer 2002, with the primary aim of determining the exact location of the inner precinct buildings, in particular the abbey church, cloisters and service buildings. Further work was carried out in a field, which was supposedly the location of a fishpond attached to the monastic complex. The geophysical survey indicates that substantial areas of the complex survive, maintaining in most parts the plan produced by Percy Stone. The central cloisters, nave, choir, chapter house, infirmary hall and court are visible, variations in the strength of anomalies attest to the differences in depth of surviving remains from the modern ground surface. In the north field, two possible structures were located in the eastern half of the field. In the Fishpond field, it is probably that the location of the fishpond and its channel have been recorded in the south of the field, together with heavily truncated remnants of structures associated with the main abbey buildings along the line of the stream.9

The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of a Cistercian monastery on the north east coast of the Isle of Wight. The remains are Listed Grade II and largely contained within the original precinct boundary, which can be traced for most of its course. Some extra-mural features have been recorded beyond the precinct boundary.

The buildings generally associated with a Cistercian house were present at Quarr and largely conformed to the usual ground plan, except that all the buildings are to the north of the church. The upstanding remains of buildings which can be identified are the cellarium, parts of the kitchen and refectory or frater, a wood house, the warming room and parts of the undercroft of the monks dorter and infirmary chapel. The remains of the other buildings within the precinct exist as buried features. The complex has an extant Listed Grade II precinct wall on the east and north sides. The remainder can be traced on aerial photographs. The church of the house lay along the axis and partially beneath the trackway, which crosses the monument in an east-west direction. The archway, which crosses this track, lies on the line of a connection between the cellarium and the west front of the church. No remains of the church can be identified on the ground. The cloister lay to the north of the church. The existing barn represents the range of buildings to the west of the cloister, and its entrance to the north has a group of 13th century lancet windows, which have been reset. This west range of buildings consisted of the cellarium or food store for the monastery, and is high enough to have had a dorter or dormitory for the lay brothers above. Extant parts of the range of buildings to the north of the cloister include part of the kitchen and vestiges of its interior including a hatch between the kitchen and the south end of the refectory or frater. There is also the boundary between the frater and the warming room on its east side. To the east of the warming room some walls of the undercroft of the monks dorter survive. Next to the door in the refectory is a recess, reputedly for a cupboard. To the north east of the refectory is a section of wall and an arch, which is thought to be a wood store or part of the abbot's lodging. The buildings to the east of the cloister survive as buried features, and beyond these further to the east is a fragment of wall and part of a fireplace with square head and panelled sides of 14th century date together with a round headed north window. This was the infirmary chapel. Much of the extant precinct wall remains to its original height of c.3m. In the north west corner of the circuit there are the blocked remains of a gateway.

Set into the north precinct wall are two gun ports of medieval type. To the south and west of the precinct wall, aerial photography has identified further evidence of occupation, some features being confirmed as earthworks on the ground. To the east of the precinct wall is a leet which links the fishponds of the abbey at one end and enters the abbey precinct in the vicinity of the infirmary chapel. The fishponds are the subject of a separate scheduling.


From the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in AD 597. To the reign of Henry VIII, monasticism formed an important facet of both religious and secular life in the British Isles. Settlements of religious communities, including monasteries, were built to house communities of monks, canons (priests), and sometimes lay-brothers, living a common life of religious observance under some form of systematic discipline. It is estimated from documentary evidence that over 700 monasteries were founded in England. These ranged in size from major communities with several hundred members to tiny establishments with a handful of brethren. They belonged to a wide variety of different religious orders, each with its own philosophy. As a result, they vary considerably in the detail of their appearance and layout, although all possess the basic elements of church, domestic accommodation for the community, and work buildings. Monasteries were inextricably woven into the fabric of medieval society, acting not only as centres of worship, learning and charity, but also, because of the vast landholdings of some orders, as centres of immense wealth and political influence. They were established in all parts of England, some in towns and others in the remotest of areas. Many monasteries acted as the foci of wide networks including parish churches, almshouses, hospitals, farming estates and tenant villages. Some 75 of these religious houses belonged to the Cistercian order founded by St Bernard of Clairvaux in the 12th century. The Cistercians - or "white monks", on account of their undyed habits - led a harsher life than earlier monastic orders, believing in the virtue of a life of austerity, prayer and manual labour. Seeking seclusion, they founded their houses in wild and remote areas where they undertook major land improvement projects. Their communities were often very large and included many lay brethren who acted as ploughmen, dairymen, shepherds, carpenters and masons. The Cistercians' skills as farmers eventually made the order one of the richest and most influential. They were especially successful in the rural north of England where they concentrated on sheep farming. The. Cistercians made a major contribution to many facets of medieval life and all of their monasteries, which exhibit significant surviving archaeological remains, are worthy of protection.

The Cistercian abbey of Quarr is known from partial excavation and survey to contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the abbey and the economy of its inhabitants. Quarr Abbey is well. documented as the largest and most important Anglo-Norman foundation on the Isle of Wight. It is central to a variety of contemporary features, including fishponds and a leat, in addition to other associated settlement remains on the island, which were granges of the abbey. The precinct wall contains two of the earliest gun ports recorded in Britain.10

The Abbot of Quarr in 1365-6 had licence to inclose with a crenellated wall. He was also permitted to build castles and fortalices there.

WAREHOUSE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

The hamlet at the mouth of Wootton Creek doubtless represents the place called Fishbourn or Fishhouse, upon the coast, which the Abbot of Quarr in 1365-6 had licence to inclose with a crenellated wall. He was also permitted to build castles and fortalices there.11

Licence to fortify the coastline, special mention being made of buildings at 'FISSHEHOUSES' apparently a sort of defensive warehouses.12
No trace of these defences seen near the foreshore at Fishbourne (sited to SZ5592).13
Traces of detached building on coast. Approx. 78 X 36 ft. Probably connected with Abbey by Causeway. Ruins just above high water mark 189114

WATERMILL (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Water Mill. Quarr Abbey owned a water mill at Quarr at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The mill at Quarr is now a site, which can be identified by earthworks to the east of the present Abbey. It is only in 1535 that we have the first reference to a mill on the site of the abbey itself, to the east or south east of the gatehouse, which will therefore be outside the enclosure.15

FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

A pond was excavated just to the south of the abbey church inside the enclosure. Visible today as marsh. Fish did not become general as monastic food until the end of the thirteenth century. If the Quarr ponds were excavated before that date, then we must assume that they were constructed to produce revenue.16 A depression is shown on the 1861 OS Map some way south of the Abbey church, but within the south precinct wall. This is also visible on May 1990 air photos in SMR.17

FISHPOND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Fishponds associated with Quarr Abbey. Aligned north-south with a common dam between them, and a leat entering at the junction between the ponds (North of Newnham) the stream was by a dam diverted from its original course and made to flow at a higher level along a channel cut out of the western slope of the little valley. By the side of the high level stream was made the cart road down to Quarr. In the valley bed were excavated two fish ponds of considerable size into which water was fed from the upper stream through controlling sluices, while the excess ran off into the lower stream.17

Site visit by F. Basford and representative of ADAS to discuss future management of the earthworks within the wooded area. The following were discussed:
1. Use of woodland as a 'woodland management demonstration area' for farmers and visiting groups. This would involve coppicing and regeneration of hazel.
2. Restore the earthworks and refill with water, stock with fish and hire to local fishing club.
3. Clear the site of all trees except mature oaks and alder, remove all scrub and maintain this situation, not allowing the regeneration of hazel and shrubs.18 Scrub clearance taking place under the M.S.C. in and around the northern pond, in order that it may be restored and filled with water.19 Inspection of earthworks after scrub clearance to assess maintenance requirements.20 Restoration of Northern pond was completed in 1988, and pond filled.21

South pond restored with English Heritage consent. Breach in dam dividing north and south pond repaired using soil from base of pond. Eastern leat re-cut and sluice inserted to control water level in south pond. Trees and vegetation removed from sides of south pond. Natural stream diverted to take water south of south pond into re-cut leat. Watching briefs carried out as required during soil moving operations. Artefactual remains completely absent. The natural subsoil was observed after the removal of only 10-15 cm of humic soil in the bed of the pond. The leat at the east side of the south pond was cut deeper than its original profile.22

The monument includes two adjoining fishponds situated on an east facing slope and associated with the nearby monastery at Quarr. They are aligned north-south with a common dam between them, and a leat entering at the junction between the ponds. Each fishpond has an earthwork bank enclosing a depression from which material was quarried during its construction. The northern pond, which is roughly rectangular in shape, still retains water.

It is the smaller of the two and measures c 80m north-south and c 42, east-west at its widest point. The southern pond, which is pear-shaped, is now dry. This pond measures c 150m north-south at its maximum extent and c 95m east-west at its widest point.

There are additional associated earthworks on the west side of the northern pond, and at the junction of the two ponds; a leat joins the ponds at a common point on their east side. This leat runs south parallel with the southern pond on its east side, and travels northwards to open into the east side of the precinct of the medieval abbey of Quarr. The leat was made in order to fill the higher northern pond, and then, by a series of sluices, the lower southern pond. A stone wall was discovered within the last tem years during digging at the junction of the two ponds on their west side.


The fishponds at Pucker's Copse survive well and will contain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the fishponds and the landscape in which they were constructed. This is one of only very few medieval fishpond sites known to survive on the Isle of Wight, and is part of a wider complex of contemporary features associated with Quarr Abbey, including mills, salt water fish ponds and monastic granges.23

GRANGE (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Newnham, Ninham, was the home grange of Quarr Abbey.24

POND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Newnham is the source of the brook that runs northwards through the abbey site and into the Solent. This stream was made to fill a pond for Newnham (for other ponds downstream see PRN's 1076 and 1077) - a grange of Quarr Abbey.16

June 1984. Pond drained for construction of revetment wall on north side of pond - next to the road. A wooden sluice was observed in this north face of the pond with a wooden culvert, which appeared to run under the road. Further west was another culvert of dry stone construction, which still carries water from the pond to the stream on the other side of the road. To the east of the wooden sluice the original eastern edge of the pond (as shown on 1862 OS 6" map) was visible in section and immediately to the east a band of chalk rubble hardcore seemed to correspond to a track shown on 1862 map. Photographs, plans and section drawings made by Frank Basford. 28.6.84.

1. D. Knowles and R. N. Hadcock 'Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales', (1953). p 113, London: Longmans
2. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: Borough of Ryde, Isle of Wight, DOE, 18 May 1972, p.42, SZ 5692 1/95 SZ 59 SE 7/95
3. Ordnance Survey Field Investigator 1967.
4. Renn, D.F. 'The enciente wall of Quarr Abbey', (1954) Proc. Isle Wight Nat. Hist. Archaeol. Soc. 4, 350-351. Illust
5. Isle of Wight Observer, 10 January 1857.
6. D.L. Motkin 14-5-1993.
7. OS parcels 4451 and 4467 [parts of] by the Archaeology Department of Southampton University in August 1997. Survey report prepared for Isle of Wight Sites and Monuments Record as a condition of the Scheduled Ancient Monument consent agreement. Report deposited in SMR 17.06.1998.
T.J.T. Sly, and K. M. Clark, Survey at Quarr Abbey, IOW: The West and South-West Precinct Wall. (1997) Unpublished report, Southampton University.
8. D. W. Lloyd and N. Pevsner 'The Buildings of England: The Isle of Wight', (2006). New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p.214
9. N. Edmonds, T. Sly and K. Strutt, 'Quarr Abbey Geophysical Survey Report, November 2002', University of Southampton
10. Entry in the Schedule of Monuments compiled and maintained by the Secretary of State for the Environment under Section 1 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended. Monument: Quarr Abbey National Monument no: 22034
11. W. Page. The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, (ed), 1912) vol 5, p.151, London: Constable
12. P. G. Stone 'Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight', vol. I (1891) p 32
13. Ordnance Survey Field Investigator 1955
14. P.G.Stone (Worsley). Sited to SZ56 93. [CCM 6".]
15. S. F. Hockey. 'Quarr Abbey and its Lands', (1970).p 38-39; J.K. Major, 'The Mills of the Isle of Wight', (1970) London: Charles Skilton
16. S.F. Hockey, 'Quarr Abbey and its Lands', (1970) p 49-50, Leicester University Press
17. D.L. Motkin 2-8-1990.
18. F. Basford, 20 August 1986
19. F. Basford, site visit. 16/11/87.
20. Site visit, 23.2.88. David Tomalin, Frank Basford and Landowner.
21. D.L. Motkin 2.8.1990.
22. Watching brief, F. Basford, June 1997.
23. Entry in the Schedule of Monuments compiled and maintained by the Secretary of State for the Environment under Section 1 of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended. National Monument no: 22035 Monument: Two fishponds associated with Quarr Abbey at Puckers Copse, Newnham. Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1996
24. P.G. Stone, 'The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight' vol.1, (1891) p 79

Link: Information from website about fortifications at Quarr Abbey and other of the Abbey's properties. Copy in HER back up file [Rob Martin, 'Minor Fortifications for the Isle of Wight', March 2006] External link image

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:45

This Site is Sponsored by:


Help To Support Us

Wootton Bridge Historical is run as a not for profit organisation, if you have found this site useful please help to keep it running by donating a small amount.

Donate »

Another Way To Support Us

If you are looking for fast reliable web hosting you can do no better than Vidahost. We receive a small commission for each sale which helps us to keep Wootton Bridge Historical running.

Sign up »

Wootton Bridge Walks

Wootton Walk leaflet

If you are visiting the Isle of Wight you may be interested in our Wootton Walks leaflets which include a large scale route map.

These leaflets enable you, in a series of five walks, to explore some of our village’s history and beautiful surroundings. Enjoy your walk.

Continue Reading »