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Ramsey Abbey

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Ramsey.
In the historic county of Huntingdonshire.
Modern Authority of Cambridgeshire.
1974 county of Cambridgeshire.
Medieval County of Huntingdonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL291851
Latitude 52.44836° Longitude -0.10296°

Ramsey Abbey has been described as a certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site.

There are no visible remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


An excavation was carried out on the area of a proposed building at Ramsey Abbey School. Late Saxon buildings on earth-fast post construction, possibly used for iron smelting, were recorded, followed by a 12th-14th century timber framed building with drains flowing east into a fish or eel pond. A short lived defensive ditch possible associated with the Anarchy period ran across the site. The site was then covered by post-medieval dumping and the footings for two walls. This evidence suggests that the excavation area lay within the monastic outer court. (Cambs. HER ref. Macauley, 1996)

A second phase of excavation was undertaken to the N of the first area, in advance of the construction of an extension. Four main phases of Late Saxo/Saxo-Norman to medieval activity were revealed. The earliest remains, dating from the 10th or 11th centuries, included two or three small timber buildings in the extreme south of the site with an adjacent boundary ditch, which may represent the early settlement focus of the abbey. These buildings were replaced by a short lived large enclosure containing an internal watering hole, with some evidence for iron working nearby. Further boundary ditches were recorded in the centre of the excavation area, with another building to the N. A large defensive ditch of more than 4.6m wide and nearly 2m depth, with an associated bank, may date to the Anarchy period, during which time the house was captured, looted and fortified by Geoffrey de Mandeville. A trackway leading to a large building, interpreted as a possible storehouse, was also revealed, together with additional structures to the N and E. At a later date, a lode was constructed, running for over 45m in a N-S orientation, with a butt end to the south. The lode was up to 8m wide and 1.45m deep, with a flat base and was fed by drainage ditches. Adjacent to the lode, features representing a possible crane were identified, which would have been used to off-load goods on the western side of the lode. At the dissolution the lode was backfilled with domestic rubbish from the abbey, and demolition rubble was strewn across the site. The area reverted to agricultural use until becoming part of the grounds of Ramsey Abbey School in the 20th century. Notable finds included a lead token, with a letter R on one face and a design of a bird pecking at a fish on the other. A nationally important collection of late medieval floor tiles were also recovered. (Cambs. HER ref. Atkins and Macaulay, 2008)

Fortified in some fashion in 1143. Grade 1 listed C13 gatehouse survives converted into house but this is an ordinary precinct gatehouse. PastScape records Abbey and gatehouse but not C12 fortification. (See Ramsey Booths Hill which may be remnant of C12 fortification)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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