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Oseney Abbey, Oxford The Scheduled Monument

Underdown, Simon and Sims, Mike Oseney Abbey, Oxford The Scheduled Monument. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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2008 Oxford Archaeology (OA) carried out archaeological and historical analysis and
recording of the scheduled surviving medieval building of Oseney Abbey at Osney
Marina on the site of the former Osney Mill which itself is on the site of, and may
incorporate some stonework from, the abbey mill. The work was requested by
English Heritage in advance of a programme of repair, and possible adaptation
to office use, of the building as part of a wider residential development of the
Osney Mill site.
The recording programme consisted of georectified photographic elevations of
the walls and metric survey of the roof trusses and rafters. The resulting
photographic elevations and roof drawings are reproduced in this report with
numbered phasing and labelling which is referred to in the descriptive text.
The surviving abbey building belonged to a range that once not only extended
north to abut the mill range but also extended south in an abutting range. This
incorporated at least two phases both with corner buttresses, gothic arched doors
and windows although it did also contain square headed windows that might be
later. Stylistically, the now lost southern range looked earlier, (perhaps 14thcentury)
than the existing range which it appeared (in historic views) to abut, but
which contained square headed windows and doors and a depressed arch
suggesting a 15th-century date.
The surviving building is faced with dressed stone on the east facade which faced
in towards the main abbey precinct but is solid rubble with no facing on the west
side. There are blocked upper windows to east and west suggesting there may
have been an upper floor but these are probably later insertions. There is no
definite proof for an early or an inserted upper floor, the interior has been
largely whitewashed and any infilled joist or corbel sockets do not show in the
The south truss of the fine raised arcade roof sits directly on the south wall and is
infilled with studwork, this construction may have been used because this range
was built against a pre-existing range or the truss was formerly open and part of
one longer building. Thus although the west wall is quoined at the corners and
seems to integrate with the east and west walls it may be a rebuilt or altered. If
the existing range had been built before the southern range one might have
expected the gable wall to be totally of masonry and not incorporating a timber
truss. There is a blocked doorway in the west wall and a window with later brick
quoins that may be an 18th-century insert built after the southern range was
The current infill in the north and south trusses is of modern softwood studwork
but the south and central trusses contain empty mortices in the soffits of the
collars and in the central truss tie beam. These were for earlier stud or stave
infill, which in the case of the central truss was an internal partition and in the
south truss was a division between the north and south sections of the range. The north truss was probably always open. There may also have been a loft floor or
some structure inserted in the southern bay, as there are mortices for two beams
or joists to be inserted between the central and south truss tie beams.
The primary function of the existing range is uncertain, it had a fine dressed
facade and moulded doors and windows and a fine roof so appears to have been
more than a storage range connected with the mill. The former southern part of
the range (when drawn in 1720) had doors and upper and lower windows in each
bay and some chimneys and appears to have been in later use, if not earlier, as
two-storey accommodation, possibly for canons. There is a reference to this
range being called the canons’ buildings. Some reconstructions have interpreted
this former southern part of the range as the bakehouse presumably because it
was near the mill and had a substantial chimneystack in the early 18th-century
historic view
The existing building was in poor order in the early 19th-century after the north
part connecting it to the mill had collapsed or been demolished but it was
patched up and a brick north wall added and the north truss closed. For a while
it was connected via Victorian brick additions to the main mill and possibly used
as part of the sawmill business, which was established in about 1824.
This survey was not commissioned as a condition survey. However some general
observations on the condition were made and have been included. The main
issues are probably the attached stone arch and the cladding of the north gable
.elements of the medieval roof.
This survey was intended to provide a record of the structure, in advance of and,
to inform an application for scheduled monument consent for repair and possibly
for a change of use. The scheduled monument is currently on the English
Heritage Buildings at Risk Register which indicates it is in need of some
conservation and repair and a secure future.
Outline planning permission has been obtained for development of the adjacent
former mill buildings and it is hoped to undertake repair of the monument and
possibly to convert it sympathetically to light office use or something similar.
Such use with minimum intervention to the historic fabric should ensure a future
for the building in which it would be used, maintained, accessible and
appreciated and still retain all its historic character and significance.
In June 2009 Oxford Archaeology (OA) carried out an archaeological evaluation within
a surviving building of Oseney Abbey at Osney Mill, Mill Street, Oxford. (Centred at
NGR: SP 5040 0590). The work was commissioned by W.H. Munsey Ltd in advance of
works to the building which is a scheduled monument. Sympathetic conversion of the
building to office use is proposed alongside residential development of the adjacent mill
The evaluation consisted of two small trenches designed to investigate whether any
significant archaeological deposits exist within 0.4m of the present floor level, this
specifically relates to proposed installation of a new floor and under floor heating
within the building.
The evaluation encountered possible medieval dry mortar floor deposits and trample
layers above them containing one piece of 14th or 15th century ceramic within 0.4m
below the existing floor. These were cut by some late post-medieval features of unknown
purpose and all overlain by a thick but loose organic silty layer containing some animal
bones with butchery marks. This might relate to processing of carcasses for use in the
adjacent bone mill in the early to mid 19th century. This deposit was cut by
construction of the brick plinth for the present floor later in the 19th century.
Between January 2011 and January 2012 Oxford Archaeology undertook a watching
brief during the construction of new flats, refurbishment of existing buildings and the
installation of a low head water turbine at Osney Mill, Mill Lane, Oxford (centred at
SP 5039 0588).
Evidence for the 13th-century reclamation of the river bank and details of the
construction of the medieval and later watermills was observed showing an
evolution from stone to brick built structures and two probable phases of mill race
channel. Continuations of the abbey range walls observed during previous works
and a possible precinct wall were also recorded.
Evidence for the post-dissolution use of the site was encountered, including both
industrial and agricultural activity, showing that both the mills and the yard were in
continuous use until the present day.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Oxfordshire
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 12 Jul 2022 14:23
Last Modified: 12 Jul 2022 14:23
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6419

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