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History of Ramsey

Ramsey is an old town with a long history. The town has grown around the Abbey, work on which started in 969AD, the Abbey being dedicated in 974AD. At this time Ramsey was an island in the fens. In 1110 Henry I granted Ramsey Abbey permission to hold a fair during Easter week in the Manor of Slepe on the banks of the Ouse just where it entered the fens. The fair attracted visitors from all over England, and also from a number of famous European cities. Typical items for sale at such fairs included hides, furs, wool and jewels.

The Abbey grew very quickly and was soon one of the most powerful in the country. Like many surrounding settlements, it was damaged significantly the black death of 1348-50, the grain production being roughly halved on the manors of Ramsey Abbey. Further trouble came in 1381, when the Abbey was attacked by revolting peasants, irritated by legal villenage.

The current church of St Thomas à Becket was built in around 1180. The most peculiar thing about this building is that it was not originally built as a church at all; instead it appears that it was built as a hospitum - either a guesthouse or possibly a hospital. This was certainly dissolved before 1291, and an unconfirmed dedication date for the parish church of 1237 appears in the literature.