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BENEDICTINE ABBEY OF ST JOHN

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  COLCHESTER ABBEY
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The subsurface and standing remains of the Benedictine Abbey of St John are located in Colchester, Essex. It was founded in 1095 by Eudo de Rie, steward of William the Conqueror, however evidence suggests a church stood on the site prior to the abbey's establishment.

The elaborate 15th century gatehouse is the only abbey building to remain standing. The building, of two stories and corner turrets, is built in stone with panels of flint flushwork. To the east of the gate is the now roofless, two storied porter's lodging, which is accessible via a square headed doorway in the eastern wall of the carriageway.

The abbey church stood to the south of the gatehouse while the cloister was originally located on the northern side of the church but, following a fire in 1133, it was moved to the southern side. Its possible, however, that this occurred earlier. South of the church, the eastern claustral range contained the chapter house, dormitory and privy house. The south range would have contained the refectory and kitchens, and the cellarer's range would have stood to the west. The abbot's house will have been located elsewhere in the precinct, probably to the west. The abbey would also have contained an infirmary, guest house and a variety of other domestic buildings, stabling and barns. The monks' cemetery would have been located near the eastern end of the abbey church.

The abbey was dissolved by King Henry VIII in 1539 and in 1544 it passed to Sir Thomas Darcy. In 1548 some of the buildings were converted to a residence, while part of the precinct is thought to have been converted to a formal garden. The house served as a Royalist stronghold during the siege of Colchester in 1648, and following the imprisonment of Dutch prisoners in the 1660s, the remaining buildings, except the gatehouse, were demolished. The grounds passed to various owners prior to being acquired by the War Office in 1860.

The gatehouse is currently under the guardianship of English Heritage.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the English Heritage website.