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John Moore’s Notes on Bourne Abbey  (1809)

from “Collections for a Topographical, Historical and Descriptive Account of the Hundred of Aveland.”

Published at Lincoln in 1809.

This document is one of several dealing with Bourne Abbey.

It was transcribed from a book lent by the Willoughby Memorial Library, to the trustees of which I offer my thanks.

It is presented here as an historical document so the credibility of what it says should be assessed. The reliability of old essays on history is usually best on points to do with the writer’s own time.

Collections for a Topographical, Historical, and Descriptive Account of the Hundred of Aveland. by John Moore. Lincoln, 1809.

The dedication page.


mrs. POCHIN, 1














February, 1809.

In his preface,3 Moore says the following:

“It may, perhaps, be expected (as is generally customary with authors) for me to assign my reasons for publishing the subsequent account. My first is the desire of seeing a history of the place of my nativity laid before the public, on which account I have made it my chief study to render the account of Bourn, correct and satisfactory.”

This, combined with the date of publication, his interest and what he calls “antiquarian researches” and a graffito on the outside of the east wall of the Abbey chancel (“I Moore, Bourne Lincolnshire 1807”) seems to indicate that if not directly involved, he was taking an interest in the antiquarian aspect of the Abbey, in 1807, at the time of the rebuilding of the chancel. It will have been the influence of someone like him, which saved the fragments of twelfth century masonry, now found near the south door.

The Abbey. (pp. 11 to 14.)

[The section begins with a poem.]

An abbey was founded here prior to the conquest, 4 and, could we credit a date on one of the remaining pillars, as early as 161. 5 But as the first monastery of stone was that founded at Weremouth, A. D. 671, the date here placed can have no reference to the original erection of this. To specify the exact time of foundation of Bourne abbey, cannot be done, though it certainly was built by the Saxons about the end of the eighth, or beginning of the ninth century. Baldwin, son of Baldwin Fitzgilbert, 6 placed here an abbot and eleven canons of the Augustine order, in the fourth year of the reign of king Stephen, (1139) 7 and endowed it with the churches of Helpringham, Morton, East-Deeping, West-Deeping, Barholme, Stowe, Thrapston, Bitchfield, &c. with all their rights and appurtenances, besides divers other lands and gifts, which were confirmed by king Stephen, A. D. 1139.

By a mandate from Edward II. directed to Mathew Burn, or Brunne,* it was provided, that he should have custody or guardianship of this abbey, and in case of vacation, should elect and confirm new abbots.

At the dissolution of religious houses by Henry VIII. A. D. 1540, the yearly revenues belonging to this abbey, were valued, according to Dugdale, at £167:14:6: Leland makes it £200. The scite was granted to sir Richard Cotton.

In this abbey lie the remains of that great and renowned Saxon chieftain, Hereward, 8 once lord of this place, and Earl of Mercia.

[There follows, a poem.]

The ruins of the Abbey, though but small, proclaim its former magnificence. They remind us of the pomp and grandeur of its ancient possessors, now gone down to the dust; they shew us the decay to which sublunary objects 9 are destined, in spite of every effort to rescue them from the all-devouring gulph of oblivion.

The abbey, or more properly the scite of it , (as but a small fragment of the ancient building is now remaining) 10 was lately in the possession of Thomas Trollope, Bart. who left it to his nephew George Pochin, esq. by whom the present handsome edifice was erected, A. D. 1764. 11 In the cellar of the present building, is a subterraneous passage under the bed of the river, which is supposed to have communicated with the castle. 12 At this time, (1809) the abbey is the property of Mrs. Pochin, widow of the above George Pochin, esq.

*        This mandate bears date February 12, A. D. 1324. Matthew was escheator to the king for the counties of Lincoln, Northampton, and Rutland. From him the family of the Wakes are descended, who also were great benefactors to this abbey. Magna Britannia, II. 1485.

The Church (pp. 7 & 8.)

Near the south entrance stands an octangular font, very antique, having the following inscription round it:

sup ome nom chr est nom qde. 13

On a slab in the floor of the middle aisle 14 are the remains of an inscription, which, from the legible part, appears to have been in memory of some of the Abbots, as the word abbat 15 which concludes the first line, is very fresh ; but the rest is obliterated. There are also fragments of inscription in Roman characters on several pieces of slabs near the north transept. 16

Inscriptions on the Bells. 17

1st. Surge. Age. [Arise, get moving] William Dodd Vicar 1729.

2d. Laudo. Deum. Verum, [I praise the true God] 1729.

3d. It. Clamor. Ad. Cælos. Henricus. Penn. Fusor. [Thus, rejoicing to Heaven. Henry Penn (bell)founder] 1729.

4th. Ut. Mundus. Sic. Nos. Nunc. Lætitiam. Nunc. Dolorem. [Do you see how elegantly we thus now rejoice, now express pain?] 1729.

5th. Plebem. Voco. Congrego. Clerum. Henricus. Penn. Fusor. [I call and gather the people Henry Penn (bell)founder.] 1729.

6th. Defunctos. Plango. Vivos. Moneo. [I toll for the dead, the living I remind.] Ino. Hardwick. Lyon Faulkner. Ino. Ley, Churchwardens, 1729.

On a small bell called the Sanctus Bell, 18 hanging in the north window of the steeple, is the date 1634, and on one of the pinnacles are the initials

I.H. R.A. R.H.

I.L. Chvrch

Wardens, 1637

The meaning of this I am unable to comprehend, as we have no account of the steeple being rebuilt at this period, though it certainly was not originally of the form it now is. Perhaps they may have been put here, on some slight alteration or repair. 19

On the front of the choir is a table of benefactors to this parish. 20

(pp.18 & 19.)

THE Church, dedicated to Saint Simon and Jude, 21 is a handsome building, and formerly had two large square towers at the west end, the northernmost of which is now almost demolished. 22

[There follows a poem by Cottle]

IN its present state, the church consists of a lofty chancel, 23 a nave, with side aisles, and a short transept on each side.

THE nave is separated from the aisles by circular plain arches, springing from large columns, exhibiting a specimen of the early Norman style.

“At the west end is a piscina 24 and pointed arcades, over which are two lancet windows and a large window having four mullions, with tracery.

At the east end is another large window similar to the above; 25 and on the outside of the south porch is another piscina.

Entering the church at this door, on the right hand is a slab 26 with an inscription to the


of the

Rev. William Dodd,

Vicar of Bourne.

He died August 6th, Aged 54.


Elizabeth his Wife.

She died May 23d, 1755, aged 55.”

Near the west entrance, on a blue slab,

Edmund Son of T. and D.

Rawnsley, died Novr. 22,

1788, in the fourth Year of

 His Age.

Also Jane

Ruth and Jane their

Daughters died


Also Mary Ann

Died an infant, 1799.

On the floor of the north side aisle is a black slab with this inscription :

In memory of

John Caldecot, Gent.

who died the 7th of April, 1755,

Aged 67 years.

On a slab in the middle isle,

In memory of

Alice Hyde, the wife

of John Hyde.

She died July ye 26, 1737,

Aged 32. 27


1. ^       Eleanor Pochin, lady of the manor of Bourne Abbots. She lived at Bourne Abbey (Abbey House) adjacent to the Abbey Church, which she inherited in 1804, when her sister-in-law, Mary, died. Eleanor died in 1823. See Pochin Memorial.

2.         Now demolished but referred to as Abbey House. In the early nineteenth century, it was usually called Bourne Abbey or occasionally, Bourne Park.

3. ^      Moore pp. V & VI.

4.         The presence of a pre-Conquest abbey in Bourne is sometimes asserted but the idea seems unsupported. There may have been an abbey in Bourne but it was not Arrouaisian since the order itself developed only around 1100. The first hermit settled in 1090 and the first abbot of the mother house was elected in 1121. See the Augustinian Canons web site. In any event, it is highly unlikely that in Bourne, such an institution was on the present site. The twelfth century abbey was sited as a result of external circumstances which had to be considered at that time. It lay on the through route (now the A15) so that the Arrouaisian canons could fulfil their mission of service to travellers. The claustral buildings were fenced around by the course of the river, which had just been placed in its present position on the top of a slight ridge. It was thus entirely artificial, its course arising from the design of the defences of the castle and from an improvement in the efficiency of the use of its latent power in driving the mills. There is very little sign of Anglian occupation of this part of the modern town. Apart from some Roman occupation on the Abbey Lawn, to the east and mills in the natural valley, a little to the south, occupation near the modern town centre began in earnest, in the twelfth century. (RJP3)

5. ^      While we can take Moore’s word for the presence of the number, it is difficult to agree with his line of reasoning. At the ostensible date, the number would have been written as CLXI. He may have translated it for our benefit but that seems unlikely. He has not done that elsewhere in his text. Then, it is unlikely that anyone in 161 would have been using the modern system of accounting for years. While those ‘remaining pillars’ are stylistically consistent with a date around 1140, they are quite out of place for a time before 161.

6.         The man concerned was Baldwin, son of Gilbert de Clare, whose family can be traced back into Normandy.

7.         The usually quoted date is 1138.

8.         The date of decease of Hereward is not recorded but a likely time is around 1110. The original, English version of the Gesta Herwardi seems to have been written as a response to his death. That was done before the fire at Peterborough Abbey in 1116 in which the manuscript was damaged. He was born around 1037 so the death will not have been many decades later than 1100. Baldwin’s charter is of 1138 and the earliest parts of the remaining building are stylistically consistent with this. While Hereward’s body may have been reburied here, only this unsupported tradition implies that it was. He is also said to have buried with his estranged wife at Crowland. Hereward appears to have been the great-grandfather of Baldwin’s wife, Adelina.

9.         ‘Sublunary objects’ are literally, things under the moon. What is meant is ‘everything on Earth’.

10. ^    In this instance, by ‘the abbey’, he means the claustral buildings of the abbey, in which the Abbey Church is not included. ‘Scite’ is an early nineteenth century spelling of ‘site’.

11.        This is Abbey House.

12.       The tunnel tradition probably arises from after-dinner yarns at the house. It would not be at all easy to achieve a watertight passage through the quite long distance involved and under at least two wet moats. The most convincing guess is that the story arose from  the culvert under Church Walk, which led the river from the outermost moat of the castle, under the road, to be continued by a ditch closely around the claustral buildings. The eighteenth century house appears to have been built right up to the ditch so that when an extension was needed, it was slightly re-routed on a parallel course, under the new building, in such a way that the southern wall of the extension could be built on the site of the original ditch. The culvert was continued across part of the garden since the ditch was no longer on its boundary. At this stage, it debouched alongside what was known, later at least, as ‘the Goose Garden’. The culvert is still there, passing just to the north of the present vicarage. The parallel courses of the ditch, from the different periods, were visible in the 1985 archaeological excavation. (RJP1)

13.       The text includes marks indicating where parts of the words are omitted but the means of replicating those here are not available. nomen quod super omne nomen christus est - The name which is above every name is Christ.

14.       Aisle means ‘wing’ so strictly, the aisles are the lean-to buildings each side of the nave. Nowadays, the word is frequently used to mean a passageway between seats and the like. We may imagine that this use arose with the cinema but here the word is used in such a way well before that was invented. OED quotes a examples from the eighteenth century; but those are written as ‘isle’.

15. ^     This fragment might be part of a Latin reference to the manor of Bourne Abbots. The canons would have been commemorated in the chancel, if anywhere but the chancel is likely to have been used as a source of paving stones once it had gone to ruin.

16.       Roman style inscriptions are by no means guaranteed to be of Roman age. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, anyone pretending to being cultured would show off his Classical learning.

17.       It is clear from the uniformity of the date that there was a thorough renovation in the bell department during the incumbency of William Dodd. The fifteenth century top of the tower seems clearly to have been designed to accommodate bells. It would be interesting to learn whether the old bells had been removed at some stage between then and 1729. The fusor, Henry Penn was the bell founder, the man who cast the bell. I have added translations by my Latin is none too good. If you know better, please let me know - .

18.       Until the ringing of church bells was stopped in 1939, for the duration of the war, this was sounded each evening as the curfew bell.

19.       The inscription is on the inward-facing side of the western parapet of the tower.

20. ^    This is a typical eighteenth century feature of a parish church. At that stage, the church was used as a means of social administration. It was where most of the parish could be expected to attend once a week so notices of non-church parish business were given there. The list of bequests would serve two purposes: to encourage others among the more wealthy to support social welfare and to remind people of what was available, so reducing the risk that the trustees of a charity might forget to pay out. The list mentioned by Moore, may be the one recorded by Ball. Ball said that his was ‘from the gallery’ while Moore places it ‘on the front of the choir’. This is a reminder that, at this time, the church’s musical department was housed in the gallery, at the western end of the nave. Scholes (Anglican Parish Church Music), gives a clear summary of typical musical arrangements in churches, at various periods.

21.       This dedication was quoted at around this period. The dedication is now regarded as being to SS Peter and Paul but it seems that this latter was originally the dedication of the monastic abbey as opposed to the parish church.

22.       It is more likely that building work came to a stop and this tower was never completed. The bottom storey is now incorporated into the church but its roof is a nineteenth century addition. In Moore’s time, it will have been a roofless ruin. His frontispiece shows it with its windows and the present entrance blocked by masonry and with plants growing on the top of its wall.

23.       ‘Lofty chancel’ is exactly the phrase used by Cooke in about 1808. The chancel was built in 1807 and clearly ‘lofty’ was the buzzword attached to it. 

24.       These are not strictly piscinas but holy water stoups. They were at the door so that arriving worshipers could ritually clean or bless themselves. A piscina was placed by an altar so that ritual vessels could be cleaned. That water was carefully drained securely so that it could not be put to improper use by others. Both stoups are more weathered than they were two hundred years ago and each has the front of its bowl knocked out, obviously for the prevention of its further use.

25. ^    This and Moore’s two woodcuts, showing opposite ends of the building, belie the occasional suggestion that the old west window was moved to the east end.

26.       The inscription recorded by Moore here is essentially the same as that of the stone now at the west end of the nave, near the font. See the separate page.

27. ^    The Hyde family was the most prominent one in Langtoft. In the mid eighteenth century, one of its members, Humphrey, became vicar of Bourne and in 1796, his daughter, Catherine, married James Digby of the Red Hall. (Birkbeck p. 57) This event gave rise to much modernization of the hall and its immediate surroundings. The Gothick lodge on the South Street bend and the cornice in the entrance hall date from this time. After 1811, as a widow, she became a prominent figure in the town. (Birkbeck p. 83)

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