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The rise and demise of Newbo Abbey

The boundary between the parishes of Sedgebrook and Barrowby has always been to the immediate east of the settlement of Sedgebrook. Indeed the eastern-most buildings are called Abbey Farm – and archaeological investigations in the 1920s and about 1970 confirm that on the Barrowby side of the boundary there was a medieval monastic site.



 
The approximate extent of Newbo Abbey's lands.
 
From Lincolnshire Heritage Explorer.


This was a Premonstratensian abbey known as Newbo, founded in 1198 by Richard de Malebisse in honour of the Assumption of the Blessed Mary. It was a daughter house of Newsham Abbey (which was four miles south-west of Immingham).

Newbo was never a big establishment – seemingly never more than thirteen canons. Presumably as a consequence of the Black Death pandemic of 1346–53 in 1381 there were only six. In 1401 the abbey was reported to be almost depopulated by pestilence and poverty. This resulted in a licence to admit novices who would normally have been refused entry. By 1478 there was once again thirteen canons. But by 1482 the abbey was heavily in debt, though this was much reduced by 1491.

It seems the canons' lifestyles did not always set the best example for religious recluses. They were ordered to remove all hunting dogs in 1482. In 1494 they were instructed not to drink alcohol after the final service of the day and any canons 'absenting themselves' from the first service in the morning were to fast on bread and water the next day. In 1497 they were prohibited from playing games for money or eating in secular houses. In 1500 things were generally better, although one canon was severely punished for being absent without leave.

Newbo was one of the first monastic houses dissolved by Henry VIII. At the time of its suppression (before Michaelmas 1536) there were eight canons, including the abbot and a novice.

While many monastic sites were sold off by Henry to become upmarket homes, this seems not to have happened at Newbo. Instead stone buildings were most likely demolished to construct houses at Sedgebrook and any earthworks steadily ploughed out. Apart from faint traces visible only by aerial photography there was almost nothing to see by the nineteenth century although the oldest buildings at Abbey Farm may date, at least in part, to the medieval era.

In the April 1923 the then Duke of Rutland excavated the site, discovering burials in stone coffins and a recumbent effigy of probably the first abbot thought to date to about 1200. These finds were removed to Belvoir Castle where the effigy of the abbot is now in the private chapel.



 
Twelfth century effigy of an abbot now in the chapel within Belvoir Castle.
This is presumed to depict the first abbot of Newbo, although we do not know his name.
Photograph from Matthews 2002.
 

 
Stone coffin from Newbro also in the chapel within Belvoir Castle.
 

 
A comparable stone coffin outside Barrowby church.


An octagonal decorated bowl with drain holes, thought to be a piscina, was recovered from a nearby garden rockery in 1965. A campaign of archaeological fieldwalking in 1970 recovered dressed stone (including part of a column capital and a possible part of a latrine) and numerous pottery fragments (including two joining sherds of glazed pottery depicting a quadruped; described by John Smith and John Manterfield as a 'man-leopard' but in most respects conforming to medieval depictions of lions).


 
The 'mystery big cat' from Newbo.
Is it a man-leopard? Or a lion?

 
Redrawn from Smith and Manterfield 1973..


Sources

Lincolnshire Heritage Explorer

Cryer 1979 p4–7

Smith and Manterfield 1973 p36–42


If you think I've got something wrong – or can add additional information or photographs – then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.


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Articles about Barrowby

Barrowby's location and geology

summary of prehistoric Barrowby

summary of Roman Barrowby

Anglo-Saxons

Medieval

Seventeenth and eighteenth centuries

Nineteenth century

nineteenth and twentieth century population

Twentieth century

there's more could be said...

bibliography

index of surnames in Cryer 1979


Articles and web links for nearby places

rare seventeenth fonts at Muston, Bottesford and Orston from Project Gargoyle Newsletter 2020

Ironstone quarries of Leicestershire
YouTube video

Wyville's wells

Harston's Anglo-Saxon carvings

Bottesford's effigies

Grantham Canal Society

The Grantham Canal
All you need to know – and more – from Wikipedia

Croxton Kerrial manor house excavations
photos and brief details from Leicester Mercury.
By 2021 the remains had been consolidated and there are annual open days.

Bottesford History Group