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£200,000 goes to monastic sites in eastern England

The Heritage Lottery Fund is spending almost £200,000 on two projects for medieval monasteries in eastern England – the first two discover excavate the site of Ramsey Abbey and the second to promote Wymondham Abbey.

Students at Abbey College will receive a £24,800 grant to carry out an archaeological dig to establish the outline of the lost Benedictine monastic buildings at Ramsey Abbey.

The monastic site, created in AD 960, was one of the richest ecclesiastical establishments in the Fens during the medieval period. Today, little of the Abbey survives above ground and the interpretation of the remains is subject to much debate.

The new project, called Monks Down Under, will bring together the students with professionals from Oxford Archaeology East to carry out a programme of investigative works. With learning and participation at the heart of the project the participants will gain a host of new skills and practical experience through planning, excavating, recording, drawing and photographing the onsite archaeological activities. They will also visit museums and other historical sites, as well as attending workshops on a range of subjects such as ceramics and pottery through the ages, to enable them to learn more about the medieval period and the historic artefacts they may uncover.

The project, given a grant from the HLF’s Young Roots programme, will be managed by 15 young people with a further 60 involved in the various activities. They will learn from professional archaeologists how to carry out a geophysical survey to plan where to excavate the site and how to record what they find during the dig. Local schoolchildren and adults will have the chance to come and watch the young investigators in action at a special open day. The results of the project will be displayed at a special exhibition and feature on a DVD.

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said, “This is a fun and exciting way for young people to get directly involved in exploring the history right on their doorstep. Uncovering the fascinating history of Ramsey Abbey is a great opportunity to learn a wide range of new skills, to fill gaps in our knowledge about the site and to share findings with the wider community.”

Rachel Green, Community Co-ordinator at Abbey College, added, “The Abbey College site hides a wealth of information and many clues to its past. Our students are enthused and excited to discover more about what lies beneath their feet, the lives of those who may have lived and worked here and the impact such a building would have had on this community.”.

Meanwhile, Wymondham Abbey has been awarded £168,100 for the preliminary phase of a project to to increase the 900-year-old Abbey’s reputation as a major tourist and historic landmark.

The money will be used to bring the Abbey’s ruined St Margaret’s Chapel back into use and construct an extension on the building’s south side. Additional exhibition space will be created to allow for the Abbey’s archive to go on display which contains documents spanning 700 years and a 1613 King James Bible. A bridge will also be built to allow visitors to the ruins to walk into a 15-acre abbey meadow.

Canon Christopher Davies, the Vicar of Wymondham Abbey, said, “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. This thrilling news greatly encourages us and means we are a step closer in meeting our vision that the Abbey is more welcoming and accessible to everyone and that its place in the life of the community is strengthened.”

Robyn Llewellyn added, “This project has the potential to totally rejuvenate the much-loved Abbey and share its story with more people than ever, opening it up to new audiences and helping to maintain its important place at the heart of the community.”

Click here to read more about the Wymondham Abbey project

Sources: Heritage Lottery Fund, Norwich Evening News

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