Abbey Gatehouse

The Gatehouse, shown above, is part of a very grand structure of the late 15th century. The element which survives at Ramsey is the eastern pile incorporating what was perhaps the porter’s lodge and a room above. The great arch sprang from the western face of this block and may have been abutted by a smaller arch for pedestrian traffic and a substantial building to the west. The arch itself was removed to Hinchingbrooke by the Cromwells in the 16th century where it was incorporated with more ancient material to form the gateway to their house. The rich panelling, blank tracery and ornamental cornices of the Abbey Gatehouse are typical of 15th century Perpendicular Architecture at its most sophisticated. It is interesting both stylistically and as an index of the wealth of Ramsey Abbey towards the end of its life.

The ground floor room of the Gatehouse contains some valuable masonry fragments from major buildings of the Abbey. These include several fine vaulting bosses and an assortment of capitals and other pieces of moulded masonry. Most important of all is the 13th century purbeck marble effigy of a layman (believed by many to be the founder, Ailwyn). It is an extremely fine piece of carving and an interesting example of retrospective medieval funerary sculpture analogous to the series of monuments to former bishops commissioned for Wells Cathedral c.1200.

The Gatehouse was also spoken of as a prison, it was in all probability, a porters lodge, with a dungeon underground. In the West wall facing the road was a part of one of the iron spikes to which rings were attached for the purpose of securing prisoners, who might be disposed to escape. Such irons in a more perfect state are still to be seen in Battle Abbey Sussex.

The donor of the property in 1952, Henry Rogers Broughton, was the brother of Huttlestone Broughton, 1st Baron Fairhaven, and father of the present Lord Fairhaven. It is one of a series of properties associated with the Fairhavens over which the Trust has control. Major the Hon.Henry Broughton gave the Gatehouse to the Trust in memory of his wife Diana, a descendant of the Earls de Ramsey. The Trust also owns Houghton Mill, Houghton, Huntingdonshire, some ten miles from Ramsey. This 18th and 19th century mill is on the site of an earlier structure which was once owned by the Abbots of Ramsey. (Ref 11)