Sawtry Abbey Moat in Huntingdonshire

The Ground Plan and description of Sawtry Abbey Moat in Huntingdonshire


Sawtry Abbey Moat

Ground plan of Sawtry Abbey, Huntingdonshire

Ground plan of Sawtry Abbey, Huntingdonshire


The site of Sawtry Abbey, near the village of Sawtry eight miles north of Huntingdon, occupies a kind of promontory or tongue of land at the extreme north-east corner of the Monks’ Manor of Sawtry Judith. Within this tongue of land an irregular quadrangle, averaging 1,200 ft long by 750 ft. wide, was enclosed by a fosse; the fosse remains on all sides except on the north-east where it is probably represented by a modern hedge and ditch. At the south corner, part of the ancient fosse was filled up and a building erected on its site, a new fosse being dug to enclose the building.

On the extreme north is a deeply sunk square area which has been identified as a reservoir with a terrace on one side of it; just south of this, another terraced plot may have been a garden; still farther south, three trenches appear to be docks with quays between them. Outside the fosse, on the south-east side, is a wide and deep outer trench which, however, could never have held water, connecting with the boundary dyke of the Abbey property at its southern end. This boundary dyke continues round the site at some little distance from the fosse, until at the north corner it joins the Monks’ Lode which gave the Abbey communication by water with Whittlesey Mere.

On the west and north-west a similar boundary dyke, also connecting with Monks’ Lode, enclosed the Abbey on those sides; but at the south-west corner, the actual line of the outer trench is uncertain. In the foundation charter of the Abbey, Earl Simon, the founder, expressly states that he ordered the monks to make ditches ‘ round their places and habitations’; and thus we obtain a definite date for these fosses, the Abbey having been founded about the year 1147-8.