Saxon and Normans

There is little in the geophysics that indicate Saxon occupation. This is not unusual as the Saxons tended to build in wood and the signs that buildings existed (for example post holes) are found in excavation not geophysics maps.

However we know that the Saxons were here. The documentary evidence is clear. There is an entry in the Domesday book of 1086 for the abbey, (Interestingly there is not an entry for the town). The Liber Benefactorum of Ramsey Abbey which was compiled in the mid-twelfth century contains a history of the abbey from foundation to the post conquest and other details such as benefactors.

The OAE test pit excavations of 1996 at the north eastern corner of area 4 found two distinct demolition layers of Saxon and Saxo-Norman deposits. The lower layer contained late Saxon pottery (St Neots and Thetford ware dating from 900-1150) , the layer above contained building stone and pottery dating from 1200-1350, but also pottery (Stamford and St Neots ware dating from 900-1150). In one pit was found possible early-mid Saxon period.

The excavations of 1998 and 2002 found evidence of a group of timber framed buildings. Postholes and beamslots suggesting 3 separate buildings. The largest of them 10M long with possible internal partitions and an external porch. The finds were sparse but the pottery contained St Neots-type ware (850–1150), Grimston Thetford ware (1000–1200) and East Anglian Early Medieval ware (1050–1200). The OA East report discusses the possibility that these buildings formed part of an eastern and northern range around a courtyard. The most easterly building (the large 10m long one) is perhaps a Hall or Dormitory. The second building could be a latrine.

Sometime after the Norman Conquest, there seems to be a change in layout. In the 1998 trenches an enclosure ditch was found cutting through the other features. Another building was also found. The pottery found in this layer, early Medieval, Ely-type ware and Shelly ware, date these features to the first half of the twelfth century. Also found were examples of waste from metalworking. This would hint at the existence of a nearby smithy.

To date these are the only remains from the early history of the Abbey to be found. Excavations in the High Street of Ramsey in 2004 shown that there are also some Saxo-Norman remains in the town