Ramsey Abbey

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Ecclesiastical site

There are no visible remains

NameRamsey Abbey
Alternative NamesRameseia
Historic CountryHuntingdonshire
Modern AuthorityCambridgeshire
1974 AuthorityCambridgeshire
Civil ParishRamsey

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)

Gatehouse Comments

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)

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL291851
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 13 (slight)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 225
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 289
  • RCHME, 1926, An inventory of the historical monuments in Huntingdonshire p. 207-9 no. 3 (plan) online transcription
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 251 online copy


  • Dickinson, P.G.M., 1967, 'St Ives Chapel; Ramsey church, Abbey and Gatehouse' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 124 p. 245 - 247

Guide Books

  • Bevis, T., 1993, Ramsey the Golden: A glimpse of an illustrious fen monastery

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 104 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription > http://web.archive.org/web/20101229213751/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/speight.htm])
  • Dugdale, William (Caley, J., Ellis, H. and Bandinel, B. (eds)), 1817-30 (originally pub. 1655-73), Monasticon Anglicanum (London) Vol. 4 p. 142
  • Stubbs, W. (ed), 1879, Historical works, the Chronicle of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry II, and Richard I, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (Rolls series 73) p. 128 online copy
  • Marcay, W.D., 1886, Chronicon Abbatiae Rameniensis (Rolls Series 83) p. 331-2
  • Potter, G.R. (ed), 1955, Gesta Stephani (Nelson) p. 109


  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 33 online copy
  • Atkins, R. and Macaulay, S. with Spoerry, P. and Shepherd Popescu, E., 2008, Ramsey Abbey: Excavations at Ramsey Abbey School, Cambridgeshire, 1998-2002 Excavation Report
  • Cambridgeshire Extensive Urban Survey: Ramsey. Draft Report 29/01/2004. online copy
  • Macaulay, S., 1996, Late Saxon and Medieval Archaeology at Ramsey Abbey, Cambridgeshire An Archaeological Evaluation