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DENNY ABBEY

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Denny Abbey and the Farmland Museum are located in Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. The abbey was established on the site in 1159 as a dependent priory of Ely cathedral. The Benedictines began to build a small church of cruciform plan but in 1170 it became the property of the Knights Templars who modified the church and added a further building. Unlike other examples, the Templars did not turn Denny into a normal preceptory. Instead, it became a home for the aged and infirm members of the Order. Following the decline of the Knights Templars, the site was acquired by the Franciscans who established a nunnery from about 1339. Beside a new church, they built a refectory and domestic claustral buildings to provide segregated accommodation for the nuns and guests and apartments for the Countess of Pembroke, the Order's principal benefactor. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 by King Henry VIII and was then sold to Edward Elrington who is thought to have dismantled some of the buildings before exchanging the estate with the king for other land. By the 1540s the church had been converted to a farmhouse. The Crown held ownership of the abbey until it was passed to the City of London in 1628 in exchange for debts incurred by Charles I. The estate changed hands many times over the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and in 1929 Pembroke College bought the estate before placing it in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1947.

Excavations undertaken at the west end of the Templar church in 1971 revealed remains of a 13th century garderobe or privy, while others conducted between 1984 and 1985 in the refectory uncovered the internal arrangements of the nuns' dining hall. English Heritage took guardianship of the site in 1984 and by the early 1990s it was still in use as a working farm. By this time, some newer buildings were also part of the farm complex. In 1997 the Farmland Museum moved to the site where it remains in 2010.

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