According to the “Ramsey Abbey’s book of Benefactors” the Abbey had two towers, a smaller one at the front (west end) which could be seen from afar to people coming to the Island. The larger one was constructed in the centre of the four armed structure (made up of the nave, choir, and two transept arms) resting on four columns, connected by arches stretching from one to another in turn . If you look closely at the construction of Crowland Abbey central arch, what is left of it, you will find that it mirrors the description of the Ramsey’s central tower.
The nearest plan layout that fits this description is Ely Cathedral obviously Ely is a far more massive building now.
The conjectural layout in the book “Ramsey the Golden” by Trevor Beavis is more on the lines of Peterborough Cathedral, which shows two front towers and one larger central tower. However, there are two other conjectural layouts that exist, a 1967 plan by Phillip Dickinson and a more recent one by the Architectural Historian Tony Baggs.
Obviously over the period stretching from 974 AD to the Dissolution 1539 the Abbey must have seen many structural changes. Unfortunately there are no known plans existing of the Abbey at the time it was finally closed. At one time the Parish Church, which existed as the Abbey infirmary and hospitium, was thought to be the Abbey itself! This has been discounted now, because the real Abbey itself was a grander more imposing structure.
At the time of the Abbey there were two other Abbeys in existence fairly close proximity, Crowland Abbey, and Thorney Abbey. Perhaps it would worth looking at the shape and size of these two Abbeys to try and get some idea of the possible sizing of Ramsey Abbey!
I have finally put some ideas of size and shapes of the Fenland Abbeys mentioned together on this link.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Abbey site, and several manors was given to Sir Richard Williams alias Cromwell in A.D. 1540 for it is told a fee of £29 – 16s.
In 1737 what was left of the Abbey structure, which up until then had gradually disappeared after being sold off for building purposes to certain Colleges in Cambridge and many other structures around the County, is described in a manuscript now in the British Museum.
This reference is about the Refectory, it describes a building 24 yards long 8 yards wide. It had a building added in the north side towards the west, and a tower on the same side towards the east and stairs and bow window to the south.
This would appear to be beneath the dining room and drawing room (of what it doesn’t make clear) and was being used as the housekeepers room. At the west end of the corridor there was a carved stone which seems to have formed the top of Duke Ailwyn’s tomb.
Is also mentioned in Mr Willis’s History of the Abbey and also Mr Coles Manuscript dated 1774 which is in the British Museum. When they looked at the parish church and described it in great detail they mentioned an old tomb cover, which had been removed from the Abbey church after the dissolution. This stood upright in a sort of vestry at the bottom end of the North Isle. It was a very old and curios image in grey marble of what we must assume to be Duke Ailwyn.