THE SITE of one of the most powerful Cistercian abbeys of pre-reformation England, the Abbey of St Mary Graces near the Tower of London, has been discovered during excavations at the site of the old Royal Mint.
Preliminary work by the Department of Greater London Archaeology has exposed as far as 250 feet of the abbey's walls, some of the remains of which are still standing to a height of 13 feet. Significant areas of the monastery and the abbey's ancillary buildings, including the refectory, infirmary, chapter house and Lady Chapel have also been uncovered.
The excavation offers a rare archaeological discovery because practically the whole of the abbey precinct in the heart of London is due for redevelopment.
It is standing with urban sites that small sections only are exposed as piecemeal office redevelopment takes place.
St Mary Graces was a relatively late Cistercian foundation, established in 1350 by King Edward III, but it rapidly rose to considerable preminance and wealth so that at the time of its dissolution at the hands of Henry VIII in 1538 it was one of the richest Cistercian haven's in the country.
Following this summer's successful preliminary dig it is hoped t hat a full scale excavation of the entire site may be undertaken next year.