Ramsey is a quintessential English market town full of heritage and historic buildings, nestling in the stunning open countryside of seemingly never-ending skies. Not only that, but its main street covers a secret which unlocks the key to the history of the town! You can visit over a dozen heritage attractions, enjoy the great outdoors or simply come to wander, take tea or a pub lunch and browse in our independent shops.
Ramsey is a small, heritage-rich market town that grew up around its Abbey, once one of the most important monastic institutions in England. By the 12th century there were 80 monks in a prospering town with a weekly market and an annual three day fair. This all changed with the Dissolution in 1539 and Ramsey’s fortunes waned until the fens were drained in the 17th and 18thcenturies. Many people were drawn to the rich, reclaimed agricultural land, including the Fellowes family, whose ancestor, Lord De Ramsey, still lives on his estate near Ramsey today – the venue of the annual festival, The Secret Garden Party.
You can still catch glimpses of the splendour that was once the Abbey at the Abbey Gatehouse, Lady Chapel and St Thomas a Becket church.
Both the town and the Abbey have associations with the Cromwells, notably the Lord Protector’s uncle who remained steadfastly loyal to the Crown. His summer residence was at the Abbey and he is buried along with many other Cromwells, at the parish church of St Thomas a Becket.
Water has played an interesting part in Ramsey’s history. In medieval times Ramsey was an island and, after the fens were drained there were docks at each end of the town connecting the river that ran down the centre of the Great Whyte. The river was covered in 1852 which explains why the Great Whyte is an unusually long and wide street.
You can see where the river goes under the town by taking our Waterways Trail (downloadable from www.discoverramsey.co.uk) for a stroll through history.
Since the 1900s Ramsey’s centre has remained largely unaltered and retains its market town feel with family run shops and cafes.The centre of Ramsey was designated a Conservation Area in 1975 and 60 properties are included on the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. There are also two scheduled ancient monuments – Ramsey Abbey and Booth’s Hill. (See the Historic Town Trail downloadable from www.discoverramsey.co.uk)
Things To Do
Ramsey Rural Museum
With tea Room, toilets, book shop, archives, exhibits and parking, Ramsey’s Rural Museum is features a series of beautifully renovated farm buildings housing exhibits showcasing country life. There is a free play tent for children and you should allow at least two hours for your visit. Light refreshments are provided either in the Tea Room or alfresco in the courtyard. Picnics welcome.
Open (April to October inclusive), Thursday 10.00am-5.00pm, Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays 2.00-5.00pm. www.ramseyruralmuseum.co.uk
Ramsey’s gem of a recently restored secret garden
Discovered by chance almost 20 years ago, the Walled Kitchen Garden is now an enchanting secret in the heart of Ramsey. Dedicated to growing fruit, vegetables and flowers with links to Cambridgeshire, this exciting restoration project is maintained by volunteers under the guidance of the Ramsey Abbey Walled Kitchen Garden Trust. Open (April to October inclusive), Sunday & Bank Holiday Monday 2.00-5.00pm, free admission. www.ramseywalledgarden.org.uk
Abbey House & Gatehouse
Abbey House began life as a manor house built by the Cromwells in the 16th century. Since then the house has undergone many changes. It was extended by Sir John Soane and extensively altered by Blore in the 1800s. In 1938 after the death of Lady Diana Broughton, its owner, the house became the school. The Lady Chapel is open to the public (see below).
The remains of the Abbey Gatehouse (NT) is all that is left of the oldest English and, once great, Benedictine abbey at Ramsey. An ornate carved exterior with a glorious oriel window, is all that survives of the gatehouse, to visit the Abbey Gatehouse and Lady Chapel, contact the National Trust 01480 301494 or visit the first Sunday in the month from April to October from 1pm – 5pm.
Ramsey’s Mortuary Chapels
An attractive and unusual Victorian Gothic building in a beautiful setting, the Mortuary Chapels and Cemetery is a tranquil and fascinating place. The striking, Victorian chapels house a unique viewing window, where relatives could view their loved ones without risk of infection. Wander through the grounds and imagine all those who lived here before us and then come back and visit the chapels and the archive work in progress. Open April to October, 1st Sunday in the month 2pm – 5pm.
Home of the popular Ramsey 1940s weekend held in August, the camp is a unique site as the clock is turned back. An original search light battery unit, the Camp is situated on the outskirts of Ramsey and holds events all year round, most famously in August when the ten acre site attracts thousands of visitors to the 1940s weekend. The grounds, NAAFI, parade of shops and drill hall hold events all year round. www.ramsey1940s.co.uk
Fenland Light Railway
A narrow gauge railway with steam, petrol and electric locos, the Fenland Light Railway has a gift shop, café, toilet and parking and runs a regular service in Ramsey Mereside (See website for timetable.) Run by volunteers, determined to have affordable rides available to all, the Fenland Light Railway offers a friendly afternoon out for all the family. www.fenlandlightrailway.co.uk
Ramsey is a gateway for visitors to the Great Fen, a developing landscape of 3,700 hectares around two existing National Nature Reserves, Holme Fen and Woodwalten Fen. The Countryside Centre at Ramsey Heights hold family events in the school holidays and the Great Fen has self-guided walks and interpretation boards at different points over the site including bird hides and points of both natural and historical interest along the way. See the fascinating Holme Post and Rothschild Bungalow on stilts! See their website for details. www.greatfen.org.uk
Ramsey has two golf courses, fishing and a swimming pool. There are several B &B s and Hoseasons log cabins for those who wish to stay a while and a great variety of cafes, pubs and restaurants. There are 4 gentle walks on the website as well as driving trail linking the great Peterborough Cathedral with Ramsey Abbey.
Although Ramsey does not have a cinema or theatre there is always something on in the town from family events and days out to folk, festivals and drama in the evening. See the events calendar for details.