Details of St Neots lost priory revealed

NEW details of one of St Neots most historically important sites have been revealed during an archaeological study in the town. Outlines of walls belonging to the lost priory were found last week in the car park of Priory House and Waitrose. Ground penetr

NEW details of one of St Neots most historically important sites have been revealed during an archaeological study in the town.

Outlines of walls belonging to the lost priory were found last week in the car park of Priory House and Waitrose. Ground penetrating radar equipment was used on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to identify some low bearing walls and a secondary wall.

The work also discovered outlines of some of the priory's rooms which could help the town's historians identify what they were used for.

The search for the foundations of the priory is part of St Neots Town Centre Initiative's plan to get more people interested in the town's history.


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John Davies, chairman of the initiative, said: "The remains of the priory have been found where we hoped they would be following archaeological work in the 1960s.

"But the findings from the survey will be analysed and provide us with a lot more detail to back-up our previous guesswork."

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The latest data will be used to build up a computerised picture of the priory as well as to update a leaflet on the building and form the basis of an exhibition to take place next year.

It was carried out by Peter Masters, a geophysicist from Cranfield University, and was the second phase of investigations into the priory which was built in the Middle Ages.

Historians believe it is possible there was a monastery located on that site before the Danish invasion in the ninth century. It is probable the building was destroyed by the Danes in 1010, but a few monks remained there until the Conquest.

What is known is that in the early 14th century there was a priory on the site, believed to have been home to between 12 and 15 monks.

Town historian Peter Ibbett said although the analysis of the results could take months, early indications suggest the outline of the building was larger than they first thought.

"The aim was to see if modern archaeological techniques can add to the work carried out in the 1960s to give a better understanding of the site which gave rise to the town of St Neots," he said. "Historians have long argued or tried to guess where the lost priory actually stood. There are some good estimates but we are looking for proof.

"From initial talks with the radar investigation team it seems the priory buildings were large then they originally thought. Once the results have been analysed we will be able to begin building up a picture of the interior of the building."

The next stage of the project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cambridgeshire County Council, St Neots Museum and St Neots History Society, will highlight the information discovered during the radar investigation.

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