Sitting on what was once an island in the Fens, and surrounded by marshy land, this amazing Abbey has had a very turbulent history.
Ramsey Abbey was founded as a Benedictine Monastery, and it held 42 manors in seven counties, demonstrating how lucrative it was at its height, earning the nick name Ramsey the Rich. It was a major centre of learning in England and had a really good reputation. Its library was vast and included many Hebrew books.
Ramsey was one of the Abbeys suppressed during the Dissolution. Owing to its rich holdings, it was granted to Richard Cromwell, and stayed in the Cromwell family for a while, including being used by Oliver Cromwell, during the English Civil War.
The mound to the south may be a Medieval earthwork built by Geoffrey de Mandeville when he ran ravage across the fens and took the abbey, killing the monks. Known to history now as the Scourge of the Fens, you can read more about him tomorrow.
All that remains is the fifteenth century Gothic gatehouse which was once used as a prison.
969 Founded. Site given by Ailwine to St. Oswald, Bishop of Worcester.
991 Visited by Bishop Oswald.
993-1008 Aednoth was Abbot of Ramsey. Killed at the Battle of Essenden.
1008-1016 Wulsi was Abbot of Ramsey.
1016-1020 Wythman was Abbot of Ramsey.
1020-1043 Ethelston was Abbot of Ramsey. Killed by an Irish servant.
1043-1080 Alfwin was Abbot of Ramsey.
1080-1087 Alsi was Abbot of Ramsey, previously of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury.
1087-1091 Herbert de Losinga was Abbot of Ramsey.
1091-1102 Aldwin was Abbot of Ramsey – the last English Abbot.
1102-1107 Bernard of St. Albans was Abbot of Ramsey.
1107-1111 Aldwin was Abbot of Ramsey.
1114-1133 Reginald was Abbot of Ramsey.
1133-1161 Walter was Abbot of Ramsey.
1143 Seized by Geoffrey de Mandeville who evicted the monks and fortified it.
1154 Repairs completed. They were need after damage caused by Geoffrey de Mandeville. Great Tower built.
1161-1178 William was Abbot of Ramsey.
1163 Archbishop Thomas Becket obtained compensation for damage afflicted on the Abbey by Geoffrey de Mandeville, from his son.
1180 Church of St. Thomas à Beckett was built.
1180-1200 Robert Trionell was Abbot of Ramsey.
1192 New shrines to St. Felix, first Bishop of East Anglia and the two Saxon princes, St. Ethelred and St. Ethelbreth.
1200-1202 Eudo was Abbot of Ramsey.
1202-1214 Robert de Reading was Abbot of Ramsey.
1214-1216 Richard de Selby was Abbot of Ramsey.
1216-1231 Hugh Foliat was Abbot of Ramsey.
1231-1253 Ranulf was Abbot of Ramsey.
1253-1254 William de Akolt was Abbot of Ramsey.
1254-1267 Hugh de Sulgrave was Abbot of Ramsey.
1267-1285 William de Godmanchester (Gurmecestre) was Abbot of Ramsey.
1276 New refectory completed by Abbot Hugh de Sulgrave.
1277 Abbot Hugh de Sulgrave made a new water channel to the Abbey and built the Hall and South Gate.
1285-1316 John de Sawtry was Abbot of Ramsey.
13th C Gatehouse.
13th C Mid: Lady Chapel built or rebuilt.
1316-1342 Simon de Eye was Abbot of Ramsey.
1330 Queen and princess Eleanor stayed for 2 days.
1330-1342 New Presbytery built by Abbot Simon de Eyre.
1334 Edward III, his Queen and their household stayed for 14 days.
1342-1349 Robert de Nassington was Abbot of Ramsey.
1349-1379 Richard de Shenington was Abbot of Ramsey.
1379-1396 Edmund de Ellington was Abbot of Ramsey.
1381 Attacked by peasants.
1396 Land put aside for the rebuilding of the Lady Chapel.
1396-1418 Thomas Butterwick was Abbot of Ramsey.
14th C Special wardens maintained the Lady Chapel.
1419-1434 John Tychmerch was Abbot of Ramsey.
1434-1435 John Crowland was Abbot of Ramsey.
1435-1468 John Stow was Abbot of Ramsey.
1468-1473 William Whittlesey was Abbot of Ramsey.
1473-1489 John Warboys was Abbot of Ramsey.
1489-1506 John Huntingdon was Abbot of Ramsey.
15th C Gatehouse rebuilt.
1506-1507 Henry Stukeley was Abbot of Ramsey.
1507-1539 John Lawrence (alias Warboys) was Abbot of Ramsey.
1535 Visited by Thomas Bedyll, one of Henry VIII’s commissioners.
1536 Visited by Thomas Bedyll, one of Henry VIII’s commissioners.
1539 Dissolved – Sir Richard Williams sold parts of it off for building materials.
1540 Granted to Sir Richard Cromwell.
16th C Gonville and Caius College, Kings College, and Trinity College were mostly built out of materials from the Abbey.
1600 c: Gatehouse converted into a house.
1627 Sir Oliver Cromwell lived in the remainder of the house.
1804-1806 Gatehouse altered.
1839 Gatehouse altered and enlarged.
1970 Field Investigation.
1998 Geophysical Survey by Cambridgeshire County Council Archaeological Field Unit.
2005-2006 Excavated by Cambridgeshire County Council Archaeological Field Unit.
2009 Explored through a series of test pits.
2012 Geophysical Survey.
References & Bibliography
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DeWindt. A. R., & DeWindt. E. B. 2006. Ramsey: The Lives of an English Fenland Town, 1200–1600. The Catholic University of America Press.
Duchess of Cleveland. 1889. The Battle Abbey Roll with some accounts of the Norman Lineages. Vol III. William Clowes and Sons, London. Electronic edition Linton, MA, http://www.1066.co.nz/library/battle_abbey_roll3/chap02.htm.
Dugdale. W. 1676. The Baronage of England. T. Newcombe.
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‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The abbey of Ramsey’, in A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 1, ed. William Page, Granville Proby and H E Norris (London, 1926), pp. 377-385. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/hunts/vol1/pp377-385.
King. E. 1994. The Anarchy of King Stephen’s Reign. Oxford University Press.
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Neilson. N. 1899. Economic Conditions on The Manors of Ramsey Abbey. Sherman & Co.
Nicholas. K., & Smith. D. M. 2006. English episcopal acta: Ely 1109-1197, Volume 31 of English Episcopal Acta, Ed Karn, N.. Oxford University Press.
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