Ramsey Abbey

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Ramsey Abbey is a former Benedictine abbey located in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, England, southeast of Peterborough and north of Huntingdon, UK.



Ramsey Abbey was founded in 969 by Saint Oswald, Bishop of Worcester through the gift of a local magnate, Æthelwine. The foundation was part of the mid-10th century monastic revival (when Ely and Peterborough were also refounded). It paid 4000 eels yearly in Lent to Peterborough Abbey for access to its quarries of Barnack limestone.

A Prior and twelve monks formed the original foundation. The Abbey itself was then situated on a peninsula of gravel, known as Bodsey Island, with the impassable fen to three sides. The chapel was replaced by a large, stone-built church over the next five years and thus remained until the Norman Abbot created a much grander project in the 12th century. It was thought to have been founded by Earl Ailwyn (Æthelwine), an effigy of whom is thought to be within the Abbey dating from 1230.

Considerable damage was inflicted upon the Abbey by Geoffrey de Mandeville in 1143; he expelled the monks and used the buildings as a fortress.

At the time of the Dissolution in 1539 there were still 34 monks.

In the order of precedence for abbots in Parliament, Ramsey was third after Glastonbury and St Alban's.[1]

The abbey prospered until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Stone from the abbey was used to build Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, King's College, Cambridge and Trinity College, Cambridge. The Abbey lands were sold to Sir Richard Williams (alias Cromwell).[1]

The Abbey today

The town's parish church of St Thomas Becket was built ca. 1180-90 as a hospital, infirmary or guesthouse of the abbey. It was originally an aisled hall with a chapel at the east end with a vestry on the north side and the warden's lodgings on the south, but both these have been demolished. The building became the parish church ca. 1222.

Today, what remains of the abbey gatehouse forms a part of Abbey College.[2]. Ramsey Abbey house - the former 17th century home of Sir Henry Cromwell, is currently used to house 6th form facilities and to accommodate lessons.

The Abbey Gatehouse (a National Trust property), the Almshouses, and the parish church can still be seen.[3]

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