The Priory / The Abbey

29 Jul 2000
The Priory, Abbey Lane, Swaffham Prior, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
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The Abbey, Abbey Lane, Swaffham Prior, East Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire
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This information is taken from the statutory List as it was in 2001 and may not be up to date.


14/114 The Abbey (formerly listed at 1.12.1951 The Priory)


House, built over medieval undercroft, C13 and C18. Stone and brick with C20 pantile roof. The undercroft C13 has original walls of coursed clunch, possibly rebuilt or renewed in C18, with substantial areas of c1300 finely jointed and coursed knapped flint. The door and window openings are generally of Barnack limestone. The clasping buttresses are C18 but incorporate stone from the medieval building. The original lodging probably consisted of a first floor hall above the undercroft, which is in five bays and two aisles. The original door and window openings are more clearly visible from the interior, but in the North East wall there are sills of two, two-light windows and chamfered mullions and sills. The doorway in this wall has jambs of two chamfered orders but the arch has been rebuilt. In the early C18 the first floor was rebuilt in narrow yellow brick with red brick dressings. Pantiled roof with end parapets and a good, contemporary double cornice of sawtooth ornament. There is an attic storey. The first floor is framed by pilaster strips and divided from the undercroft by a band. There is a projecting, pedimented centrepiece of three recessed hung sashes with a round window to the pediment. The larger flanking bays each have one similar hung sash. At ground floor, the doorway is in a rusticated round headed arch flanked by two blind, round window openings. Inside the undercroft has quadripartite ribbed vaulting, chamfered, with the ribs springing from three octagonal columns with moulded capitals.

The responds have similar half-octagonal columns. In plan the undercroft was divided by a partition wall, probably without openings, between the second and third bays. The three bays to the North had three windows on the South West side, each with a two-centred and chamfered rear arch with a wide splay and ashlared quoins. On the North East there is an enlarged window opening and a similar two-centred rear arch to an original doorway. The columns of the arcade, and the responds, and the doorway jambs are all of Barnack limestone but the capitals, which are contemporary are clunch. In the two bays to the South East, on the North wall there are two, two-centred rear arches.

On the South side a locker with rebate for a door and sites for shelving. There are two similar lockers in the North West bays. The inglenook is a C18 insertion. The early C18 part of the house retains its original plan as well as a symmetrical baluster from the original staircase. The medieval undercroft is the only surviving building of a Benedictine nunnery founded in C12 by Isabel the Bolebec. It was probably a warehouse or storeroom for the Prioress's lodging which would have occupied the first floor hall above. In C18 it was acquired by William Hamond of Haling Park, Surrey who rebuilt the first floor.

R.C.H.M. (North East Cambs.), p100, mon. (2) W M Palmer: Benedictine Nunnery of Swaffham Bulbeck. C.A.S.

Proc XXI, (1931).

V.C.H. (Cambs.), Vol. II, p226

Listing NGR: TL5587663471


This is part of the Series: IOE01/1185 IOE Records taken by Bruce Knight; within the Collection: IOE01 Images Of England


© Mr Bruce Knight. Source: Historic England Archive

This photograph was taken for the Images of England project

People & Organisations

Photographer: Knight, Bruce

Rights Holder: Knight, Bruce


Brick, Clunch, Flint, Lincolnshire Limestone, Pantile, Medieval Benedictine Nunnery, Religious Ritual And Funerary, Nunnery, Religious House, Undercroft, Unassigned, Building Component, Building, Monastic Dwelling, Domestic, Clerical Dwelling, House, Dwelling, Storehouse, Monument (By Form)