St. Ives Priory, Huntingdonshire

Benedictine Monks

There is very little remaining of St. Ives Priory and, indeed, it seems it was never the most extensive structure, always beholden to Ramsey Abbey despite holding the relics of the saint for whom town and priory are named.

The legend goes like this. Around about the year 1000 in the remote Huntingdonshire village of Slepe a ploughman in the service of the Abbot of Ramsey found some bones in his field. He then had repeated visions of St. Ivo (or St. Ive) who insisted that his discovery be conferred to Aednoth, the Abbot’s bailiff. Aednoth mocked the ploughman saying “Would you have us translate the bones of some low cobbler?”

The very next night Aednoth had a vision of his own and the saint, angry with his dismissal, said “Do you call me a cobbler? I will give you a pair of boots that will last you a long time!”. The next morning Aednoth arose with crippling gout and crawled to the Abbot to report the whole affair.

The monks at Ramsey rejoiced, the relics of St. Ivo were buried here in the new Priory and poor old Aednoth had gout until 15 short days before his death.

Moving on to actual fact, the Priory at St. Ives was established in 1017. It survived as a small cell of Ramsey Abbey for many years, gaining the monies from a few local parishes in the 12th Century. In 1207 the Priory was burnt down but it was immediately rebuilt and it became commonplace for the Prior of St. Ives to end up becoming Abbot at Ramsey.

In 1439 there were still three monks and the prior at St. Ives but by the Dissolution only the Prior was left. He was pensioned off and the Priory was closed down. The one wall which has survived has done so as it forms the boundary of a later house, but it is clearly medieval in character.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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