Torre Abbey, Devon (TAC02)

Remains of Torre Abbey (© MoLAS)

Clients: Torbay Council

Author: Chris Thomas

Site supervisor: David Saxby

Works in 2004 at Torre Abbey for Torbay Council were undertaken to provide a mitigation strategy for the main Heritage Lottery funded scheme to renovate the museum there, which is due to commence in summer 2005. The west and south ranges of the Premonstratensian abbey survive, although much altered in the 16th–20th centuries when they were the residence of the Cary family. The church and east range survive only as ruins.

The client and English Heritage identified a number of areas where excavation or demolition might affect areas of the abbey with unknown significance and ‘opening-up’ works have been carried out in all these areas. Parts of the above-ground structure include the east wall of the west range (the abbot’s hall and parlour) where the outline of two cloister roofs and a number of windows have been identified, two late 16th-century staircases that possibly led up to a main staircase where the boiler room now lies and parts of the altar to the late 18th-century chapel.

The below-ground works were supervised by David Saxby with a team of one or two archaeologists. The areas were mostly sited in the cloister although one other trench was excavated west of the west range. The three trenches in the cloister have located the eastern and southern walls of the inner cloister wall; this will allow the former cloister space to be opened up as part of the main scheme. They have also uncovered a number of medieval drains, some incorporated into the cloister walls. One such took water from the lavabo which still survives in the east wall of the west range.

A second piece of work, carried out by Dave Mackie and Joe Severn, was to provide a full two-dimensional survey of the abbey and its grounds, both as an aid to the archaeological and survey works, and as a long-term landscape management tool. The survey located the exterior plan of all the buildings plus all the ruins as well as paths, boundary walls and other major features.

This site report is extracted from MoLAS 2004: annual review

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