WORK to discover St Neots past will begin in October when radar equipment will be used to uncover the mysteries of the town s lost priory. Lying untouched for hundreds of years underneath a section of the Waitrose car park, more legend is said to surround
WORK to discover St Neots past will begin in October when radar equipment will be used to uncover the mysteries of the town's lost priory.
Lying untouched for hundreds of years underneath a section of the Waitrose car park, more legend is said to surround the medieval priory than facts.
However, all that looks set to change.
St Neots Town Centre Initiative has secured a £20,000 Heritage Lottery Grant for a ground radar study to identify the remaining foundations of the priory.
The project will involve Cambridgeshire County Council archaeology, St Neots Town Centre Initiative, town historian Peter Ibbett, curator of St Neots Museum, Anna Mercer and members of St Neots History Society.
It will take place in a section of the Waitrose car park where three 13th century column bases of the priory lie under man-hole covers.
The use of radar technology means no digging will need take place.
John Davies, chairman of the town centre initiative, told The Hunts Post it is an "exciting and interesting project".
He said: "The old priory made St Neots an important centre in the middle ages. But there is very little visible to show where this hugely important building was situated.
"The ground penetrating radar investigation will allow us to trace the foundations of the priory to try to confirm all the guess work about its exact location, size and alignment. It will start in mid October and last about two days."
According to British History Online, the priory dates back to between 972 and 975, making it a little later than Ramsey Abbey. It is also probable that it was destroyed wholly or in part in 1010 but that a few monks remained there until the Conquest.
Mr Davies said: "The priory was the economic powerhouse of the town. It would have had an infirmary, the prior's house and accommodation for up to 20 monks. There might even have been some industry on the site, like a bell foundry."
Excavations in 1993 revealed part of the medieval priory and 40 burials, including that of a priest.
The work is phase two of the History Matters Project, which is a three-part £150,000 initiative to uncover the heritage of St Neots. Phase two will also include an investigation into a long barrow that was discovered in the Tesco area of Eynesbury and dates back to 3500BC. A long barrow is a mound of earth that consists of a collection of tombs. Only 300 are known to exist in the UK.
Phase one took place in 2006 and was an archaeological dig at the Loves Farm development. Phase three will include exposing sections of the priory and setting up information boards.