Ramsey Abbey
Ramsey Abbey is a former Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 located in Ramsey
Ramsey, Cambridgeshire
Ramsey is a small Cambridgeshire market town and parish, north of Huntingdon and St Ives. For local government purposes it lies in the district of Huntingdonshire within the local government county of Cambridgeshire....

, Cambridgeshire
Cambridgeshire is a county in England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the northeast, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west...

, England, southeast of Peterborough
Peterborough is a cathedral city and unitary authority area in the East of England, with an estimated population of in June 2007. For ceremonial purposes it is in the county of Cambridgeshire. Situated north of London, the city stands on the River Nene which flows into the North Sea...

 and north of Huntingdon
Huntingdon is a market town in Cambridgeshire, England. The town was chartered by King John in 1205. It is the traditional county town of Huntingdonshire, and is currently the seat of the Huntingdonshire district council. It is known as the birthplace in 1599 of Oliver Cromwell.-History:Huntingdon...

, UK.


Ramsey Abbey was founded in 969 by Saint Oswald
Oswald of Worcester
Oswald of Worcester was Archbishop of York from 972 to his death in 992. He was of Danish ancestry, but brought up by his uncle, Oda, who sent him to France to the abbey of Fleury to become a monk. After a number of years at Fleury, Oswald returned to England at the request of his uncle, who died...

, Bishop of Worcester
Bishop of Worcester
The Bishop of Worcester is the Ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury, England. He is the head of the Diocese of Worcester in the Province of Canterbury...

 through the gift of a local magnate, Æthelwine. The foundation was part of the mid-10th century monastic revival (when Ely
Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral is the principal church of the Diocese of Ely, in Cambridgeshire, England, and is the seat of the Bishop of Ely and a suffragan bishop, the Bishop of Huntingdon...

 and Peterborough
Peterborough Cathedral
Peterborough Cathedral, properly the Cathedral Church of St Peter, St Paul and St Andrew – also known as Saint Peter's Cathedral in the United Kingdom – is the seat of the Bishop of Peterborough, dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, whose statues look down from the...

 were also refounded). It paid 4000 eel
Eels are an order of fish, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera and approximately 800 species. Most eels are predators...

s yearly in Lent
In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

 to Peterborough Abbey for access to its quarries of Barnack
Barnack is a village and civil parish in the City of Peterborough unitary authority of Cambridgeshire, England. It is located in the north-west of the district, only four miles south-east from Stamford in Lincolnshire. According to the 2001 census, it had a population of 851 people. Barnack's...


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
Geoffrey de Mandeville, 1st Earl of Essex
Geoffrey de Mandeville II, 1st Earl of Essex was one of the prominent players during the reign of King Stephen of England. His biographer, the 19th-century historian J. H...

 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
Glastonbury Abbey
Glastonbury Abbey was a monastery in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. The ruins are now a grade I listed building, and a Scheduled Ancient Monument and are open as a visitor attraction....

 and St Alban's.

The abbey prospered until the Dissolution of the Monasteries
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The Dissolution of the Monasteries, sometimes referred to as the Suppression of the Monasteries, was the set of administrative and legal processes between 1536 and 1541 by which Henry VIII disbanded monasteries, priories, convents and friaries in England, Wales and Ireland; appropriated their...

. Stone from the abbey was used to build Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Gonville and Caius College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England. The college is often referred to simply as "Caius" , after its second founder, John Keys, who fashionably latinised the spelling of his name after studying in Italy.- Outline :Gonville and...

, King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

 and Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. The Abbey lands were sold to Sir Richard Williams (alias Cromwell).

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.

The Abbey Gatehouse
Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse
Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse is a National Trust property located in Ramsey, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, England. It is the remains of a former Benedictine abbey, Ramsey Abbey....

 (a National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

 property), the Almshouses, and the parish church can still be seen. Today, what remains of the gatehouse forms a part of Abbey College
Abbey College, Ramsey
Abbey College is a comprehensive secondary school in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire about 10 miles from Huntingdon and Peterborough, offering education for 11 to 18 year olds within its area. The school also offers courses for post-16 and has had a specialist Technology College status since 1999...


Ramsey Abbey house - the former 17th century home of Sir Henry Cromwell, is currently used to house 6th form facilities and to accommodate lessons.

Part of the gatehouse was removed by the son and heir of Sir Richard (Sir Henry Williams (alias Cromwell)
Henry Williams (alias Cromwell)
Sir Henry Williams, alias Cromwell was a Knight of the Shire for Huntingdonshire and a grandfather of Oliver Cromwell.-Biography:Sir Henry Williams, of Welsh descent, the eldest son and heir of Sir Richard Williams, was highly esteemed by Queen Elizabeth I, who knighted him in 1563, and did him...

) to form the main gateway to Hinchingbrooke House
Hinchingbrooke House
Hinchingbrooke House in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, was built around an 11th century nunnery. After the Reformation it passed into the hands of the Cromwell family, and subsequently, became the home of the Earls of Sandwich, including John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, reputedly the "inventor" of...

 in Huntingdon, his newly built winter residence.


  • Saint
    A saint is a holy person. In various religions, saints are people who are believed to have exceptional holiness.In Christian usage, "saint" refers to any believer who is "in Christ", and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or in earth...

     Felix of Burgundy
    Felix of Burgundy
    Felix of Burgundy, also known as Felix of Dunwich , was a saint and the first bishop of the East Angles. He is widely credited as the man who introduced Christianity to the kingdom of East Anglia...

     - his remains were moved here during the reign of Cnut the Great

External links

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