New display at The Higgins Bedford showcases archaeological finds from Warden Abbey

You'll get a chance to see how the abbey may have looked c1370

By Reporter
Monday, 11th October 2021, 4:40 pm

Warden Abbey Revealed - a new archaeological display showcasing the grandeur of one of the most influential Cistercian houses in medieval England - opens next week at The Higgins Bedford.

Warden Abbey was founded by Walter Espec in 1135, and populated by monks from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire.

In its heyday, the abbey was home to over 100 monks. They were supported by about 300 lay brothers, who ran its farms, mills, warrens, woodlands, and urban properties across seven counties and the City of London.

Early 14th century floor tile in the shape of a Lion’s head, Warden Abbey (Courtesy of the Southill Estate)

The abbey prospered thanks to the wool trade, and the monks rebuilt their church in the early 14th century. Warden Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537, and the buildings were demolished, leaving nothing above ground.

This display highlights the research carried out by the Old Warden History & Heritage Society, which, set alongside the results of a geophysical survey by MOLA (Northampton), reveals new and exciting information about Warden Abbey.

These have been combined by former English Heritage artist, Peter Dunn, to create a reconstruction painting showing how Warden Abbey may have looked c.1370, after the east end of the church had been rebuilt.

The original painting will be on display alongside a selection of archaeological artefacts recovered from excavation at Warden Abbey, including architectural fragments, floor tiles and stained glass.

Section of the tile pavement found at Warden Abbey. Reconstruction by C. Marshall and E. Baker (Courtesy of the Southill Estate)

Warden Abbey Revealed opens on Tuesday, October 19 and runs until October 2022 and is free to visit.