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Rushen Abbey, Ballasalla, Malew

Period: 1134

NGR Easting: 227840

NGR Northing: 470180

Description: Savignian and Cistercian monastery. Rushen Abbey was founded in 1134 through a grant of land from King Olaf Godredsson to Furness Abbey, a powerful Savignian monastery in modern Cumbria. In 1147 the Savignian order was absorbed into the Cistercian order, whose influence across northern England and Ireland was even greater. Construction initially seems to have been slow, as the church was only dedicated in 1257.

The abbey was endowed with some of the richest farmland in the south of the Island, and soon had control of additional land in the parish of Malew. By the time of the Dissolution - Rushen Abbey was one of the last monasteries to be closed in 1540 - the abbey was responsible for all lands owned by the Church throughout the Island, and thus yielded a sum of money to the English Crown out of proportion to its small size.

Only a handful of ruins still survive on the site, but most of the foundations of the major buildings can now be traced after extensive excavation. Ongoing research suggests a grander site than the ruins would initially imply.

The site conforms with the usual Cistercian layout, with the church to the north of a cloister around which three ranges were constructed. The east housed the chapter house and day rooms with dormitory over; the south a refectory and kitchen; the west range appears to have undergone significant change, perhaps reflecting a lack of lay brothers and the renting out of the monastic estates to the north. The chancel, north transept and cloister walkway contains several burials. A guest house and abbot’s lodging lay to the east of the claustral ranges adjacent to the river. To the south a burial ground has revealed both male and female skeletons, and may have been for secular use.

View map location on Archaeology Data Service

Site & Monument Type: abbey

Category: National Monuments Record: Statutory Ancient Monuments

Site ID number: 1065.00

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