Bardney Abbey

  • In the 7th Century, an Abbey was founded at Bardney, making it the first of a group of monastic houses that dominated the Witham Valley.
  • It is believed that the first abbey may have been sited near to Bardney Dairies (according to Leland), not on its current site.
  • The first monastery was built in Anglo-Saxon times and was endowed by Ethelred, King of Mercia, and his wife Osthryd. It housed the shrine to Osthryd’s uncle, King (and later Saint) Oswald. Oswald had donated lands and property from his estates, to establish monastries around the area. Immediately after his death, many alleged miracles were reported to have occurred on the spot he died. His name became synonymous with Bardney, where he became venerated as the first Anglo-Saxon royal saint. After he was killed, in the battle at Maserfield in 642, his body, minus the head and arms, was eventually brought to Bardney in 675. Oswald’s head went to Lindisfarne Abbey and his arms to Banburgh.
    Crest of st oswald

                Crest of St Oswald                            (Impression)

  • In 870, the monks of Bardney Abbey were slain by the Vikings who had invaded Northumbria earlier in 866. According to legend, the onslaught was led by the four sons of Ragnar Lodbrok, (king of Sweden and Denmark) to avenge the death of their father, who had been imprisoned by King Ella and then cast into a snake pit, where he died. It was Ivar Ragnarsson, nicknamed ‘the Boneless’ (or Hingwar), who lead their ‘Great Heathen Army’ across Eastern England, along with Halfdan and Hubbe. Firstly they ransacked York and then moved south to East Anglia, on the way attacking the abbeys of Bardney, Crowland and Medeshampstede (Peterborough) where, according to tradition, their army slew many monks. The Abbey was completely destroyed with all the monks (up to 300) killed. The whole site was raised to the ground, where it was to lay in ruins for over 200 years.
  • In 913, the bones of St. Oswald were taken to Gloucester for safe keeping.
  • In 1087, Gilbert de Gant, the new Norman owner of Bardney, decided to build a new priory here, adjacent to the original site, using local Oolitic Limestone. It is believed to have been modelled on York Minster - which was completed in 1100.
  • It was raised to the status of an Abbey by Gilbert’s son, Walter in 1116.
  • Bardney was endowed with many properties, including: Barton on Humber, Beckingham, Boultham, Burton by Lincoln, Claypole, Cranwell, Edlesborough, Edlington, Firsby, Folkingham, Gedling, Hagworthingham, Hale, Heckington, Howell, Hunmanby, Irnham, Kirkby Laythorpe, Laxton, Lusby, Partney, Ruskington, Scampton, Skendleby, Sotby, Spridlington, Stainton, Great Steeping, Wainfleet St Mary.
    The Abbot had 11 fisheries and a swannery on the river.
  • 1406 Henry IV (1367-1413) visited the abbey.
    Crest of bardney abbey

             Crest of Bardney Abbey


  • In 1536, the Abbey was threatened with closure and forfeiture of all assets by King Henry VIII.
  • In October 1536, a local rebellion broke out against this proposed ‘Dissolution’. Six monks were hanged, drawn and quartered in Lincoln, during March 1537. These were:
  1. William Coy
  2. William Cowper
  3. John Frances
  4. Hugh Lonsdale
  5. Richard Phelip
  6. John Tenant
  • The monastery was then surrendered to the King and was dissolved in 1538.
  • The land was acquired by Sir Robert Tyrwhitt, who demolished the church and used the stone to convert the other monastic buildings into a fine house. He moved the abbots lodging and converted the cloister into a walled garden. The remainder fell into ruins.
  • In 1718, all the buildings had gone, including Tyrwhitt’s house, and only a fragment of the Gatehouse remained.
  • On February 17th 1909, the local vicar, Reverend Charles Laing undertook the excavation of the ruins. With his team of labourers, it took six years to unearth the main Abbey buildings. (See Photo Gallery II)
  • The ruins were left open, on view, for twenty years.
  • In 1933 it was decided to cover up all the exposed ruins, to protect them from the elements.
  • A model of the Abbey was constructed by the children of Bardney school, under the supervision of Mr Brindley. It is currently in St Lawrence's church.
  • In 1974 the Jew's Court Trust became custodians of the site.
  • In 1974 a trial excavation was carried out to assess the state of preservation. It was performed in conjunction with Bardney Primary & Banovallum school pupils.
    1992 the site information boards were erected.
  • 2009 A three-day investigative dig was held on 23-25th November, in conjunction with the Jew's Court Trust, owners of the site, Four test pits were dug, to ascertain the condition of the stonework.
  • The outlines of the buildings remain visible today.