Record Details

NHER Number:4483
Type of record:Monument
Name:Marham Abbey, a Cistercian nunnery


This Cistercian nunnery was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and Saints Barbara and Edmund. It was founded in 1249 by Isabel, widow of Hugh D'Albini. In 1252 it was formally incorporated into the Waverley Abbey, the mother house of the Cistercian order in England. The small abbey housed between ten and fifteen nuns. It was one of only two Cistercian abbeys founded for nuns in England. Earthworks of grass-covered buildings including the cloisters can be seen and the south wall of the church and an outer parlour are still standing in the garden of Abbey House.


  • A plan of the earthworks at Marham Abbey  © Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service


Grid Reference:TF 706 098
Map Sheet:TF70NW

Full description

Abbey of SS Mary, Barbara and Edmund; Cistertian nuns.
One of only two in England.
Fifteen Nuns in 1381.
Information from (S1).
R.J. Rickett (NAU), 17 April 1990.

Founded by Isabel D'Albini and dedicated 27 January 1249.
In 1282 incorporated into Abbey of Waverley.
South wall of aisleless church; two circular windows (one quatrefoil, one sexfoil) remain from row above corbels that supported cloister roof. 14th century outer parlour with two bay ribbed vaulted roof, springing from caryatid.

16 August 1979. Visit.
Unable to visit above buildings owing to absence of owner (Abbey House).
However earthworks to south visited (field rented by Marham House).
Very large mounds on line of cloisters; northwest corner of west range still stands to a fair height, flint with brick
quoins. Lesser earthworks towards Spring Lane.
E. Rose (NAU).

5 Febuary 1988. Visit.
Good conditions of earthworks apart from occasional area of poaching causing erosion, particularly at A on plan in (S2) in file, where a wall is being gradually broken up. One roof tile with peg hole in material that has collapsed from here.
R. Silvester (NAU), 8 Febraury 1988.

26 June 1989. NAU air photography.
Shows a double ditched boundary in playing field to north, no doubt the precinct boundary as it joins onto the earthworks.
E. Rose (NAU), 6 July 1993.

[1] states that he has heard a story that in 1935 an unsuccessful excavation was held in or near the site to find a
tunnel. No other details known.
E. Rose (NLA), 25 January 1996.

1995. Earthwork survey.
Considerable earthworks of grass covered building outlines including the claustral range and at least two other separate groups. Standing masonry within the gardens of Abbey House represent the wouth wall of the church and an outer parlour. An incomplete ditched enclosure with a probable inlet channel to the north, has within it a depression thought to have been a fishpond. Other mainly linear features may well be contemporary, including possible precinct/roadside boundary banks and ditches along the southern edge.
See report (S3) for plan and further details. This site was included in (S4) and the survey is also noted in (S5).
B. Cushion (NLA), January 1996.

German lava quern found near cloisters by [2].
E. Rose (NLA), 16 September 1998.

2012. Watching brief.
Details to come.
A. Cattermole (HES), 27 July 2015.

Monument Types

  • ABBEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • MOUND (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • DOVECOTE (Post Medieval - 1540 AD to 1900 AD)

Associated Finds

  • QUERN (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Protected Status

  • Listed Building
  • Scheduled Monument

Sources and further reading

---Aerial Photograph: TF7009 A-W,AL-ABQ; TF6910 A; TF 7009 ABR-ABU; TF7009 ABY.
---Serial: 1932. Archaeological Journal. Vol 89. p 373-9.
---Designation: Corbishley, M.. 1983. AM107.
---Record Card: NAU Staff. 1974-1988. Norfolk Archaeological Index Primary Record Card.
---Publication: Knowles, D. and Hadcock, R. N. 1971. Medieval Religious Houses of England and Wales. pp 272, 275.
---Monograph: Pevsner, N and Wilson, W. 1999. Norfolk 2: North-West and South. The Buildings of England. 2nd Edition. p 533.
---Monograph: Program of meeting Royal Archaeological Institute 1932..
---Photograph: 1993. Photograghs of Marham Abbey.. black and white.
---Recording Form: Heywood, S. 1998. Norfolk County Council Site Visit Record - Marham Abbey.
---Record Card: Clarke, R. R. and NCM Staff. 1933-1973. Norwich Castle Museum Record Card - Medieval. Marham.
---Secondary File: Secondary File.
---Slide: Various. Slide.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1990-2013. English Heritage Scheduling Notification. Notification. DNF106.
---Designation: English Heritage. 1994? -2011?. English Heritage Digital Designation Record. Record. DNF106.
<S1>Record Card: Ordnance Survey Staff. 1933-1979?. Ordnance Survey Record Cards. TF 70 NW 1 [2].
<S2>Designation: [unknown]. Ancient Monuments Form. SAM Record. DNF106.
<S3>Unpublished Report: Cushion, B. 1995. Marham Abbey SMR4483. Earthwork Survey Report.
<S4>Monograph: Cushion, B. and Davison, A. 2003. Earthworks of Norfolk. East Anglian Archaeology. No 104. p 146.
<S5>Article in Serial: Gurney, D. (ed.). 1996. Excavations and Surveys in Norfolk 1995. Norfolk Archaeology. Vol XLII Pt III pp 397-412. p 403.

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