Monasteries and Abbeys

The power and influence of the Catholic church reached its zenith in England in the Middle Ages. In the 14th century about one in 15 of all Englishmen were churchmen of some kind.

The built remains of this Christian past can be explored up and down the country – from 6th-century St Augustine’s, England’s first Benedictine monastery, to 14th-century Mount Grace, Britain’s best preserved Carthusian priory.

Find out more about England’s monastic buildings and uncover the stories of those who lived and prayed in them.

A mini guide to Medieval Monks

There were many different communities or ‘orders’ of monks and nuns in medieval Britain. Many of these orders followed the Rule of St Benedict, which was first adopted in England in the 7th century.

Many of the monastic sites in our care were once home to Benedictine, Cluniac, Cistercian and Carthusian monks. Watch this animation to find out more about the development of these four major orders and how their beliefs shaped their religious buildings.

Stories and people

  • ‘BE MERY ALL’: THE BATTLE ABBEY CAROL

    A chance discovery of a medieval carol has shed light on the lives of monks at Battle Abbey. Find out more and hear an extract of the piece.

  • Who was St Augustine?

    Discover how a monk from Rome became the first Archbishop of Canterbury and kick-started the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity.

  • Easter: a Moveable feast

    A decision made at Whitby Abbey in AD 664 was a landmark in the history of Christianity in England. Find out more.

  • St Hild of Whitby

    As abbess of Whitby – a monastery for both men and women – Hild led one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world. Discover more.

  • The Suppression of Roche Abbey

    Discover how an eyewitness account reveals the speed and scale of the destruction of Roche Abbey during Henry VIII’s Suppression of the Monasteries.

  • Atoning for the bloodshed: the foundation of Battle Abbey

    Battle Abbey was born out of William the Conqueror’s defeat of the last Anglo-Saxon king, Harold. Discover more about its foundation on the site of the Battle of Hastings.

Find a monastic site to visit

Search our properties and plan your visit to one of the many monastic buildings in English Heritage’s care.

Search monastic sites

Explore our collections

Many of the properties in English Heritage’s care house collections of international significance. Explore some of the unique survivals excavated at our monastic sites, and learn more about the history of English monasticism. 

Discover More with membership

With English Heritage membership, you can enjoy a full year of free entry to over 400 historic sites, including our stunning monastic sites

12 months’ unlimited access from only £3.75 per month. 

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