Langdon Abbey

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameLangdon Abbey
Alternative NamesLangedon
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishLangdon

The abbey with its associated fishponds at West Langdon is a comparatively well documented example of a Premonstratensian monastery with historical records dating from its construction at the end of the 12th century through to its dissolution in the 16th century and beyond. Although they have been incorporated into a later house and its grounds, the standing architectural fragments and earthworks reflect not only the religious aspects of monastic life but also domestic and agricultural elements. Partial excavation has confirmed the presence of below ground archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. Around 2.75km to the east is the now ruined church of St Nicholas, parish church of St Margaret's at Cliff, which originally belonged to Langdon Abbey and was served by its canons. The close association of these monuments provides evidence for the involvement of the monastery in the life and institutions of the surrounding community. The monument includes a Premonstratensian monastery, known as West Langdon Abbey, and two associated fishponds situated on gently undulating chalk downland c.4km north east of Dover. The abbey buildings survive partly as ruins incorporated within a later house, Listed Grade II-star, and also within the Grade II Listed, north eastern wall of a 19th century agricultural barn. Elsewhere, the abbey survives in buried form and as earthworks. The abbey was founded between 1189-1192 by Sir William de Auberville of Westhanger for the use of white canons from Leiston in Suffolk. The church was dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Thomas of Canterbury. In 1535 the abbey was suppressed with the lesser religious houses, at which time it is recorded as accommodating an abbot and ten canons. After being granted initially to the Archbishop of Canterbury, the abbey soon passed into secular ownership

A red brick manor house was built on the site of the ruins for the new owner, Samuel Thornhill in the 1590's, and his descendants lived in the house, gradually extending and altering it, until 1700, when it was sold to the Waldershare estate. The abbey was partially excavated in 1882 when the flint footings of many of the monastic buildings were discovered within an area of levelled ground now occupied by the later manor house and garden. In common with most religious houses, the main buildings range around a square, inner courtyard, or cloister yard, which contained a central, open area, or garth, surrounded by a covered walkway. To the north is the roughly east-west aligned abbey church, originally constructed as a simple rectangular building c.43m by 9m, to which flanking aisles were added at a later date. Running along the eastern side of the cloister is an originally two-storeyed building containing the chapter house, slype and calefactory, or warming room, at ground level, and the dormitory on the first floor. The frater, or refectory, fronts the southern side of the cloister yard. The later manor house adjoins the western side of the cloister, and the standing remains of an earlier, medieval undercroft, or below ground room used for the storage of provisions, have been incorporated within its cellars. These can be dated by their Late Transitional/Early English architectural style to the 12th century, and include a barrel vaulted ceiling in finely-gauged chalk, several stone springers for groined vaulting, and round-headed doorways with ashlar dressings. To the south east of the inner cloister yard is a subsidiary cloister which incorporates the infirmary in its north western corner. Boundary walls and the remains of other structures were found to continue to the east, north and south of the identified conventual buildings. Further buried features, representing associated agricultural and industrial buildings, will also survive in these areas. A disused, roughly circular pond c.20m in diameter and 2m deep, dug into the north eastern corner of the modern garden, is interpreted as a later feature, post-dating the earlier abbey remains. Around 100m to the west of the main complex is a length of stone and flint boundary wall, dating to the medieval period, which has been incorporated within the rear wall of a later, 19th century barn. The north west-south east aligned wall survives to a height of up 1.8m in places, and runs along the north eastern side of the modern access road to the manor house for a length of around 50m. The wall has been interpreted as forming part of the south west boundary of the abbey precinct. Lying to the south west of the main complex are the earthwork remains of two, adjacent, now dry, medieval fishponds. These are clearly visible on aerial photographs as roughly oval ponds, formerly fed in series from a natural source, although clear traces of the water management system which regulated them are no longer visible. Along the north eastern side of the northerly pond are the lower courses of an originally higher, stone-built revetment. A later, small brick building, dating to the late 19th/early 20th century and now ruined, covers a disused well situated on the south eastern side of the northerly pond. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The licence to crenellate granted in 1348 was for a gatehouse (domun portae). Conflict between the abbots of Langdon and another Premonstratensian Abbey Langley, granted a licence in 1346 may be the root cause for this licence and possible new prestigious gatehouse.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2* listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTR326469
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  • Newman, John, 1983, Buildings of England: North east and east Kent p. 369
  • Knowles, David and Hadcock, R. Neville, 1971, Medieval religious houses in England and Wales (Longmans)┬áp166
  • Page, Wm. (ed), 1926, 'Houses of Premonstratensian canons: The abbey of West Langdon' VCH Kent Vol. 2 p. 169-172 online transcription
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 415 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1800 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 9 p. 401-5 online transcription


  • Coulson, Charles, 2007-8, 'On Crenellating, in Kent and Beyond - A Retrospection' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 21 p. 189-201 esp p. 196
  • Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation: An Essay in the Sociology and Metaphysics of Medieval Fortification' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 69-100 online copy
  • Harrison, W.C., 1961, 'Report and Accounts for 1960' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 76 p. lvii
  • Clapham, A.W., 1923, 'The architecture of the Premonstratensians, with special reference to their buildings in England' Archaeologia Vol. 73 p. 132, 139
  • Hope, W.H.St John, 1883, 'on the Premonstratensian abbey of SS. Mary and Thomas of Canterbury, at West Langdon, Kent' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 15 p. 59-67 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1348-50) Vol. 8 p. 38 online copy