The Augustinian nunnery of St Mary Clerkenwell, London: excavations 1974–96


Barney Sloane


The development of the nunnery site is revealed in this study – from evidence for Iron Age occupation, the nunnery’s foundation in 1144 and the expansion of the early convent, through to its conversion in the 16th and 17th centuries to a close of large mansions surrounding the parish church. Drawing together the varied evidence, including illustrations made during the demolition of the nunnery church in 1788–9 and 18th-century surveys, has allowed detailed reconstructions of the church and cloister. Relatively wealthy, located in London’s medieval suburbs and with a dual role as convent and parish church, St Mary’s story contrasts with that of many other, poorer and more rural, nunneries.

Monograph Series 57

MOLA 2013. ISBN 978-1-901992-04-5. Hb 278pp + CD-ROM. 149 bl & wh ills.


"This book is an absorbing and detailed account of one of Islington’s lost institutions with a huge amount of informative material to engage both professional and interested lay person – certainly this reviewer."
Roger Simmons in Journal of the Islington Archaeological and History Society 2013

"The volume is attractively produced in the MOLA series format, with a useful interleaving of illustrations within the text. Standard archaeological plans are accompanied by good use of the antiquarian illustrations and reconstructions based on both the visual and archaeological sources. These will help the general reader to navigate some of the more technical sections, such as some descriptions of archaeological deposits and the specialist appendices. The line drawings are especially fine and remarkably consistent given the number of illustrators involved. It is extremely good value at £24 for 278 pages… Presentation of the evidence for St Mary Clerkenwell offers a welcome return on academic investment while also dealing with the rescue archaeology backlog. The principal author, Barney Sloane, a collaborator of Professor Roberta Gilchrist, doyenne of medieval nunnery studies, is well placed to present this site within the wider frameworks she has proposed."
David Baker in Antiquity 2014

"London is fast becoming the most important centre for monastic archaeology in Europe. Nowhere else has such a range of monastic sites been excavated in the past generation, or with such skill, and - for the most part - with such important results (now reported in nine MOLA reports). … This account of St Mary’s Priory is not just an exemplary archaeological exploration of a single nunnery site, it should also become a key source for the study of nunneries in general."
David Stocker in Transactions of London and Middlesex Archaeology Society 2013

"The report has been meticulously documented."
Ann M. Hutchinson in Rennaissance and Reformation 2015