Ramsey is today a small town on the former border between Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, occupying an 'island' of slightly raised land within the surrounding fenland at between 3m and 8m OD. Ramsey Abbey, founded in the tenth century, lies on some of the highest land to the east of the island. The medieval settlement, which appears to have grown up to the north-west of the abbey and its precinct, is not named in the Domesday Book, but was by 1200 AD granted a charter for a market to be held at the junction of High Street and Great Whyte and subsequently a grant for an annual fair to be held on the green near the church and the Abbey gatehouse. Ramsey did not, however, achieve borough status, seemingly remaining throughout the medieval period a market settlement occupying the cusp of the divide between large village and small town. Ramsey today is quite extensive, with significant amounts of twentieth century housing, especially in the north of the present village and along Hollow Lane, which skirts the southern side of the presumed monastic precinct boundary. The pre-modern settlement appears to have been arranged along two parallel streets, High Street (the main street leading to the abbey gatehouse) and Little Whyte, which ran either side of the market place. At the west of end of this is Great Whyte, a wide street either side of a stream which is now covered over and runs underneath the street. Several seventeenth century houses at the south end of Great Whyte are unusual in having survived fires which are documented as having destroyed other buildings in Little Whyte (in 1636 AD) and Great Whyte and High Street (1731 AD). Most excavation to date in Ramsey has focused on the remains of the abbey, with relatively little attention given to the town. Four minor watching briefs in the town, mostly along Great Whyte, produced limited evidence for medieval activity including two ditches interpreted as plot boundaries.
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