History of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire

History of Ramsey in Huntingdonshire, UK, between 1100 - 1600

The settlers of this new township were often the pilgrims that came though the town. They often traded with the monks of Ramsey Abbey. There was a wharf built in Ramsey which became a Fenland port, enabling the transportation of large quantities of stone and building materials for the growing settlement of Ramsey. The settlers needed this material for building houses, buildings and other things because the wood on the island was depleting though the felling of the trees.

In 1143 the ‘infamous earl’ Geoffrey de Mandeville seized the monastery, expelled the monks and fortified the Abbey against the forces of King Stephen. When the monks got back the Abbey they started to repair the damage left by the earls followers. They started to repair the abbey in 1154. In 1163 with the intervention of the Archbishop Thomas the monks obtained redress from the earls son.

In the year 1200 Ramsey had grow sufficiently for the Abbot to obtain a grant of market on Wednesdays. This grant was confirmed by Henry III in 1267. At the same time he granted a fair on the vigil and feast of the Translation of St Benedict. This fair was to continue for the following two days. This fair only served the immediate neighbourhood as there was also a fair in St Ives. This was because in the medieval times Ramsey was not on a main traffic line. The income from the market and the fair went to the monks of Ramsey Abbey.

The wharf which was down the centre of the Great Whyte was quite extensive to build. The community thrived on The Mere supplying them with eels, fish and fowl, although the rights to The Mere were under the control of the Abbey. The street that runs to The Mere under the Great Whyte still runs to The Mere today.

Early traders in the town were weavers and cloth manufacturers, some of who were called before the abbot from time to time for overcharging their customers. In the town there were many  fishermen and tanners, but most trade seems to have been ale house keeping. This suggests that there were many travellers coming though Ramsey at this time. Records show that as many as 54 women at a time were brought before the courts for selling ale without due authority. Many people would have done this to earn money to pay for food and clothes.

During April of 1327 Edward III in his first year of his reign visited Ramsey along with his mother and Roger Mortimer. The towns people took the opportunity to complain to their monarch of the abbot’s treatment, even going as far as to call him a traitor. They accused him of taking a large part of the treasure of Hugh Le Despenser, who had recently been hung. They challenged the abbot’s right to the market of Ramsey. They also said that the abbot had unjustly withhold the towns folk from their common rights and other liberties. The Abbot appealed to the Bishop of Ely to support him in his appeal to the King against these charges. This sort of  rebelling was not an uncommon thing at this time. They rebelled against the power of the church, tithes and taxes. The government supported the church in its claims, but there were widespread riots and some bloodshed. There was no bloodshed in Ramsey but for the same reason there was bloodshed in  St Ives. The abbots accusation about the treasure of  Hugh Le Despenser might have been one of the reason for the town’s omission from the Doomsday Book.


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