[Transcribed and edited information from The Victoria County History series- 1932]
"RAMSEY was the largest parish in Huntingdonshire; it lay on the border with Cambridgeshire. It consists almost wholly of fen-land which falls in many places to only 3 ft above ordnance datum. To the south, however, the land rises to 44 ft at the Bury boundary. Most of the land is rich fen-land soil is under cultivation; there is comparatively little pasture and no woodland. It forms part of the Middle Level of the Fen-land area which has been gradually drained over hundreds of years. The principle crops are market garden produce, particularly potatoes, celery and sugar beet.}
The parish boundaries formerly ran through marshes and meres of the fen-land and were not, thus, clearly defined. Since the reclamation of the fens, they have become limited by streams and drains. On the north and east, they follow the county boundary which, having been also the divisions between the lands of the abbey of Ramsey and those of the abbey of Thorney and the Bishop of Ely, were in the 14th century for a long time questions of dispute. There is still a detached portion of the parish at Higney in Woodwalton parish, and Hepmangrove, formerly a part of Ramsey parish, was attached to Bury (q.v.) about the time of the Dissolution.
The early priviledged area of the abbey was BANLIEU
(banleuca, leucata, leugata or lowy), nominally the distance of a league (2-3 miles) around the abbey. The first mention of the leugata or banlieu is in an undated charter of Henry I of 1100-2, which was confirmed by his grandson Henry II in another undated charter, probably of 1155. The origins of Ramsey Abbey are lost in time. However, it seems to have been with the grant of Edgar, confirmed by Edward the Confessor, which confirmed rights of sanctuary and exemption from episcopal and secular, but the definition of the area and rights probably belongs to the Norman period.
The town of Ramsey is situated on what was originally an island surrounded by Bury Fen on the south and Stocking Fen on the north, and was approached by a causeway on one side only. The abbey stood on the highest part of the island some 23 ft above sea level. It is not on a Roman road but is some seven miles east of Ermine Street. Until the end of the 12th century, the town was quite unimportant; it is not mentioned in the Domesday survey of 1086, and appears not to have had a parish church. By 1200 the town had grown sufficiently to make it worthwhile for the abbott to obtain a grant of market on Wednesdays. However, the market only served the local area because of the town's location on the edge of the Fens. By the time of the middle ages, the fair was largely agricultural but there were weavers and fullers with others who were connected with the cloth trade. Tanner, too, was a popular surname in the town.
By the 15th century, the market place had become built over when Little Whyte (which occupies part of it) appears. A fire appeared at Little Whyte on 29 August 1636 when many tenements were burned down. The Great Whyte (formerly known as the Whyte -Wythe, le Withe, le Wigthte) turns northward from Little Whyte. The names go back to the 13th century. The town developed into modern time as a centre for the local agricultural industry.
The abbey was gradually rebuilt in the 12th century following its near destruction by forces opposed to King Stephen. Additions were made during the 13th century and into the 14th century, and the gatehouse was rebuilt in the 15th century. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539, the monastic buildings were sold off as a source of building materials, much of it being used by colleges at Cambridge. The towers of Ramsey and Godmanchester parish churches were also built of them. The use of the abbey as a quarry continued well into the 17th century. All that is now left is a fragment of the Great Gate of the monastery which when perfect must have been a fine specimen of a 15th-century gatehouse; it is now used as a lodge.
The civil parish was divided in 1860 when the parish of Ramsey St Mary was formed; the balance of St Thomas's parish being known as "Ramsey Town". "