View of the excavation at Swavesey Priory

Opening a trench within the earthworks of Swavesey Priory

17th August 2012:

During July 2012 OA East carried out a small-scale excavation on some of the earthwork remains of Swavsey Priory, a Scheduled Ancient Monument in Cambridgeshire. The project was funded by the Cambridgeshire County Council Monument Management Project and supported by English Heritage, and its aim was to investigate the impact of rabbit burrowing on the monument and develop strategies to protect the site and allow horses to safely graze.

Swavsey Priory was a small Benedictine foundation. Comparatively little is known about the site, as no inventory of contents was made at the time of the Dissolution in the 16th century, and until our small investigation there had been no excavations. Consequently, the large quantity of finds recovered from the fieldwork are extremely valuable, and early analysis has already shown a surprising quantity of late medieval material, suggesting the continuation of high status activity on the site up to and possibly after the Dissolution.

The excavations have revealed that while the rabbit disturbance was extensive, the area was not as unstable or damaged as much as had been feared. This result enables the site to return to grazing and help in the long term preservation of the site. An open day held over the weekend attracted a lot of interest from local people, with around 150 people attending tours of the dig and displays of the finds.