EMAS Lecture – April 29 2022

Bob Cowie

Syon Abbey revisited: reconstructing late medieval England’s wealthiest nunnery

The lecture will be on April 29th at 6.30pm
in the Bertrand Russell Room, Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL.

Bob Cowie is a field archaeologist who has worked with MOLA, Birkbeck (University of London), Time Team, and Richmond Archaeological Society to investigate Syon Abbey and its wider setting. He oversaw the archaeological recording at Syon and wrote up the results for publication in the Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society (Volume 71 – 2020) and has summarised them in an article in Current Archaeology (Issue 382, January 2022).

Bob has provided the following abstract of his lecture.

Syon Abbey was a rarity. Founded by Henry V and built by Henry VI, it was medieval England’s only Bridgettine house, and as such it was a double house, with segregated female and male communities. By the time of its closure, it was England’s wealthiest nunnery and tenth-richest religious house.  Most of the abbey was demolished in the late 1540s to make way for the Duke of Somerset’s new residence, Syon House.  The layout and appearance of the abbey was soon forgotten, although decades after its closure it was immortalised by Shakespeare, together with the neighbouring monastery of Shene Charterhouse, as ‘two chantries where the sad and solemn priests still sing.’ (Henry V, IV.i). In 2003 Time Team found the site of the abbey church and nearby Bridgettine buildings.  These discoveries provided the impetus for more leisurely and extensive excavations by Birkbeck, University of London, which began in 2004 and radically changed our understanding of a nationally important archaeological site.

As is the case for all lectures, this one is free of charge for EMAS members, while a fee of £3 is payable by non-members in cash at the lecture.

Since the lecture room has a limited capacity, we would be grateful if you could send an email to secretary@emasarchaeology.org to let us know that you are planning to attend. We hope to see you there.