An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Huntingdonshire. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1926.
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65. RAMSEY (D.c.).
(O.S. 6 in. (a)X S.E., (b)XI S.W.)
Ramsey is a small town 9 m. N.N.E. of Huntingdon. Owing to an extensive fire in 1731 few old buildings remain in the town. The principal monuments are the Parish Church, which is of peculiar interest since it appears to have been originally a hospital, Ramsey Abbey, Bodsey House and the Biggin Malting.
a(1). Parish Church of St. Thomas of Canterbury (Plate 113) stands at the E. end of the town. The walls generally are of uncoursed rubble but parts of the E. end, of the tower, W. end of both aisles and part of the S. wall of the S. aisle are of ashlar; the clearstorey is rendered in Roman cement. The roofs are covered with tiles and lead. The whole church, consisting of Chancel, Nave, North and South Aisles and N. and S. Chapels, was built about 1180. The N. and S. chapels were apparently destroyed before the insertion of a window of c. 1310 in the S. wall of the chancel. The N. and S. aisles were largely reconstructed if not re-built late in the 15th or early in the 16th century, when the S. aisle appears to have been heightened. There is literary evidence of the projected addition of a tower in 1538, but it was not until 1672 that the West Tower was actually built, within the lines of the nave; it largely consists of re-used material, probably from the abbey. A S. porch was destroyed in 1843 and the church was generally restored in 1844 and again in 1903 and 1910. There is a modern North Vestry on the site of the destroyed N. chapel.
The detail of the arcades and capitals are of considerable interest. Among the fittings the lectern is noteworthy.
From the unusual features of the plan it appears almost certain that the building was designed as a hospital, infirmary or guest-house or at any rate was built on the plan of such a building and not on that of a parish church; it conforms in every particular, including the lack of a tower, to the most normal arrangement of a large mediæval hospital, the 'nave' forming the hall of the establishment and the 'chancel' the chapel. It is quite possible that the hospital became a parish church in the 14th century when occurs the earliest reference to such a building at Ramsey or even earlier. It would appear that Bury was, originally, the mother church of the district. The plan of a very similar building has been recovered at Sawtry Abbey where it stood S.W. of the claustral block and probably served as a guest-house. It may also be compared with the Newark Hospital at Leicester.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (about 20 ft. square) has an E. wall (Plate 112) divided externally into three bays by pilaster-buttresses dying on to a thicker wall below the windowsills; the buttresses and the wall around the lower windows are faced with ashlar; there are three round-headed windows in the lower range of two plain orders externally and with roll-moulded splays and rear-arches; above the middle window is a vesica-shaped window of similar detail; in the gable is a round-headed opening of two plain orders, now blocked but formerly lighting the space above the vault; across the E. face of the N.E. buttress is a raking chase for the roof of a building formerly extending further E. The N. and S. walls have a corbel-table with plain rounded corbels. In the N. wall is a doorway with no ancient features. In the S. wall is a window of c. 1310 and of two pointed lights with a trefoiled spandrel in a round head with a moulded label and mask-stops; further W. is a late 16th- or early 17th-century doorway with stop-moulded jambs and flat four-centred arch in a square head. The chancel has a quadripartite vault (Plate 113) of rubble with plain square diagonal ribs springing in the eastern angles from restored attached shafts with cushion-capitals and on the W. from the side-shafts of the responds of the chancel-arch; the crown of the vault drops towards the N. and S. in the manner known as Angevin. The chancel-arch is two-centred and of two plain orders with a moulded label and scrolled stops on the W. face; the responds have grouped shafts forming one group with the responds of the nave-arcade; the main shafts are of curious tri-lobed form and all have scalloped capitals with a common grooved and chamfered abacus, segmental on plan; the moulded bases rest on a round plinth continued under the respond-bases of the nave-arcades. The space above the vault has no trace of a floor and does not appear ever to have been used.
The North Vestry is modern but has a 15th-century window re-set in the N. wall; it is of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred head with a moulded label and casementmoulded jambs; this window was formerly in the E. wall of the N. aisle where the opening still remains. The vestry stands on the site of an original chapel of two bays with a stone vault; of this vault the round shaft in the S.E. angle remains with its cushion-capital and two voussoirs of the diagonal vault-ribs; in the middle of the wall is the capital of the respond of the cross-arch between the bays; it has a main and two side shafts with cushion-capitals, uniting in a half-octagon above and with a grooved and hollow-chamfered abacus. In the S.W. angle are remains of the vaulting-shaft, now in a recess. The stump of the E. wall of this chapel remains adjoining the N.E. buttress of the chancel.
The South Chapel was destroyed in mediæval times; it was similar in plan and extent to the N. chapel, but the respond and vault-shafts of the former vault are better preserved; the N.E. shaft has a capital of water-leaf type as are the capitals of the respond, which retains all its shafts; the N.W. shaft has a scalloped capital and is of tri-lobed form; it probably formed part of the chancel-arch and nave-respond group, the shafting being continued through the existing E. wall of the S. aisle.
The Nave (93¼ ft. by 19 ft.) is now of seven, but was formerly of eight bays, the westernmost bay and part of the seventh being occupied by the later tower. The N. and S. arcades (Plate 114) of c. 1180 have two-centred arches of two plain orders with a chamfered label; the piers all differ on plan, but the pairs on the N. and S. correspond; the first pier is of four grouped tri-lobed shafts, the second of eight grouped round shafts, the third is round, the fourth square with four attached and keeled shafts, the fifth octagonal, the sixth of eight grouped and keeled shafts; the seventh is embedded in the tower-wall but appears to have been round; the first pier on the S. has been partly defaced and partly restored. The capitals (Plate 111) all differ and are as follows—on N. (a) water-leaf type, (b) crude leaf-ornament, (c) part scalloped and part leaves with bead-ornament at top, (d) leaves with volutes, (e) part scalloped and part leaves with volutes, (f) crude leaves with volutes, (g) defaced and buried in wall; on S. (a) leaves with volutes at angles, (b) simple leaves, (c) leaves with volutes, (d) water-leaves, (e) scalloped, (f) water-leaves, (g) simple fluting. The abaci are alternately square with rebated angles and round; the E. responds form one group with the chancel-arch but the scalloped capitals are at a lower level and have an abacus, segmental on plan; only the E. part of the springing of the eighth arch remains embedded in the tower-wall. Above the second pier on each side is a blocked opening, with a two-centred head, marking the position of the former rood-loft, the chases for which remain on the S. side. The clear-storey has on each side seven windows of 15th-century character and each of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a cement label.
The North Aisle (12¾ ft. wide) has buttresses with moulded offsets and a modern embattled parapet. In the N. wall are seven 15th-century windows, each of three cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label; the 15th- or 16th-century N. doorway has stop-moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with blank shields in the spandrels and a moulded label. In the W. wall is a window similar to those in the N. wall; the wall is of ashlar and was perhaps re-built with the W. tower.
The South Aisle (12¾ ft. wide) has buttresses like the N. aisle and a modern embattled parapet; over most of the buttresses are the stumps of pinnacles below the existing parapet; the upper part of the S. wall is mainly of rubble, and appears to be a heightening. The E. and W. windows and the seven windows in the S. wall are all similar to the windows in the N. aisle; the 15th-century S. door-way has jambs and a four-centred arch of two orders, the outer chamfered and the inner splayed; it has a modern moulded label. The W. wall was perhaps re-built with the tower.
The West Tower (13¾ ft. by 14¾ ft.) was built in 1672 and is of four stages, ashlar-faced and with an embattled parapet and crocketed pinnacles at the angles. The tower-arch is two-centred and of four orders, the inner chamfered and the rest plain with a chamfered label; the responds are semi-cylindrical with two small attached shafts and have moulded bases, scalloped capitals and moulded abaci; the N. capital has leaf-ornament in addition; the work is all of late 12th-century date re-used. The W. doorway is also late 12th-century work re-set; the round arch is of four orders, the inner plain and the rest moulded; the jambs are also of four orders, the inner chamfered and the rest each with a free shaft with rich foliated capitals of varying design, moulded abaci, bands and bases; the lower part of the jambs and one upper shaft have been restored. Above the doorway externally is a sunk rectangular panel with a moulded frame and the inscription "Take heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is. S. Mar.13.33." Higher up is a round raised panel. The second stage has in the W. wall a re-used 15th-century window of two cinque-foiled lights in a four-centred head with a moulded label. The third stage has in the W. wall a window, made up of moulded stones and with a moulded label. The bell-chamber has a re-used 12th-century string-course at the base and in each wall a window of two lights made up of late 12th-century and 13th-century moulded and carved stones.
Fittings—Bells: six and sanctus; sanctus, uninscribed and probably old. Bell-frame inscribed "1672 Nevill Jones and Thomas Wallis, Churchwardens." Books: Erasmus' Paraphrase of the New Testament and Comber on the Common Prayer; the latter chained to the lectern and bound in wood-boards with leather cover and brass clasps and plates each engraved with a Tudor rose, binding 16th-century. Brass Indent: In N. aisle— partly under organ, of foliated cross with flowered stem, 14th-century. Coffin-lids: In tower— forming lintel of belfry-doorway, coped slab with remains of 'omega' ornament, 13th-century. In churchyard, forming stile on W. side, coped slab with foliated cross and double 'omega' ornament, 13th-century. Cross: In churchyard—E. of chancel, churchyard-cross with stone shaft, 9 ft. high, with stop-chamfered angles, octagonal to square base with moulded edge, 14th-century, head of cross missing. Door: In doorway to tower-staircase—of three battens with strap-hinges and iron handle-plate, 17th-century. Font: of dark grey marble, hexagonal bowl with lower edge shaped for six angle-shafts, plain shafts, late 12th- or early 13th-century, middle shaft modern. Lectern (Plate 32): of oak, square post with moulded and embattled capital, four buttresses each with traceried supports, carved crockets and diagonal pinnacles; double book-rest with moulded ridge and crocketed tops to gables, 15th-century, base, one buttress, four figures and most of book-rest modern. Locker: in N. vestry—in S. wall, rectangular with rebated reveals, probably 13th-century. Monuments: In churchyard—on S. wall of chancel, (1) said to be to Prebendary Robins, 1673, stone, set in wall, with the word "Resurgam"; S.E. of chancel, (2) to Henery Bellamy, 1702, and Rebecca, his wife, 1683, and other later names, panelled tomb with double coped top slab. Painting: In nave—over easternmost arch of N. arcade, figure of bearded man in orange red cloak, upper part of arm bare and holding hand to forehead, wing of angel on right, possibly the angels and shepherds, background diapered with rosettes probably late 13th- or early 14th-century. Piscinae: In chancel—with moulded jambs and two-centred head, two quatre-foiled drains in marble slab, 13th-century, probably re-set. In N. vestry—in S. wall, recess with chamfered jambs and square head, fitted with projecting drain, partly restored, above it a recess or locker' with three plug-holes for fixture, probably 13th-century. Plate: includes cup and cover-paten of 1568 with bands of incised ornament, cover much damaged and with the name "Ramsaye." Cup and cover-paten, probably of 1638, but the stamp reversed, former inscribed "the gift of Elizabeth Margetts." Flagon of 1712 with inscription and shield-of-arms. Scratchings: On stonework of tower, various initials, probably those of contributors to the tower. Sedilia: In chancel—base of seats with piers between, upper parts removed and sills modern. Miscellanea: Built into tower—portions of cusped panelling, moulded and foliated capitals, cornice-mouldings, large 14th- or 15th-century boss from a vault, carved with the Annunciation, etc. In vicarage garden—numerous moulded stones including a mid 12th-century carved capital.
b(2). Homestead Moat, at Worlick, 1¾ m. N.E. of the church.
a(3). Ramsey Abbey, house, gatehouse, walls and earthworks, stands on the S. of the parish churchyard. The Benedictine Abbey of Ramsey was founded in 969 by Ailwyn and dedicated to S.S. Mary and Benedict. Of the mediæval structure nothing now survives except a rectangular building of mid 13th-century date incorporated in the house and probably the former Lady Chapel and a portion of the Gatehouse. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539 when it passed into the hands of Sir Richard Williams (alias Cromwell). Most of the buildings were then pulled down and it was probably his son Sir Henry Cromwell who began the conversion of the surviving building into a house. The alterations which perhaps belong to two periods include a large extension westward with a tower at the N.W. angle, a porch and a tower at the N.E. angle and perhaps the raising of the main building, which was divided into storeys. The building was very extensively altered in 1839 when the N. front was largely masked by a narrow addition and an outer porch built; there is a modern wing at the W. end and a large modern bay at the E. end.
The remains of the Lady Chapel have good 13th-century detail and the house also contains a fine 13th-century effigy. The surviving part of the gatehouse is also a rich piece of 15th-century detail.
The House is now of three storeys with a basement; the walls are faced with rough ashlar and the roofs are covered with slates. The supposed Lady Chapel forms the E. part of the building and originally stood free on the E., N. and S. but was attached to a building, probably of earlier date, at the W. end of which the thick eastern wall remains. The arrangement seems to bear a close analogy to that of the former Lady Chapel at Peterborough, in which case the earlier wall would be that of the N. transept of the church. The building is of six bays divided by buttresses with tabled offsets and stop-chamfered angles. On the two E. bays of the S. wall are remains of an original string-course. Judging from the buttresses the building originally stopped at the base of the top storey, which is probably a 16th-century addition. The building (68 ft. by 23 ft. internally) has otherwise been completely altered except in the basement which has an internal wall-arcade (Plate 116) of moulded trefoiled arches with moulded labels and formerly resting on free shafts with moulded and foliated capitals and moulded bases; this arcade has been much mutilated and in parts destroyed by added walls and alterations; at the E. end there are two bays of arcading in the middle and one at each end of the wall the intervening spaces being left blank; the arcading appears to have been continuous on the side walls except in the fourth bay from the E. where on each side there is a doorway; the N. doorway has chamfered jambs and four-centred head probably of the 16th century; the S. doorway, much mutilated and now blocked, is original and had a moulded two-centred arch and defaced label; in the blocking is a 16th-century window. The W. wall retains only parts of three bays of arcading at the S. end. Above the arcade there are remains of a moulded string-course and no doubt the upper walls were pierced with large windows, no trace of which now remains. The existing windows are mostly modern but many of them no doubt reproduce the design of the late 16th- or 17th-century windows; they all have square-headed lights with transoms except to the top floor and basement; an original window on the N. side is now visible only in the modern corridor. The 16th-century additions have windows of similar character. The two towers are each of four storeys. The porch in the middle of the N. front is concealed by modern additions except the gable with three pinnacles and a two-light window below it. The whole of the main block of the building is finished with a modern pierced parapet.
Inside the house at the end of the modern corridor is preserved a grey marble effigy (Plate 115) of the second half of the 13th century; the figure is in civil dress with a long cloak, his left hand is raised to the cord of his cloak and the right hand holds two keys and a small wand of raguly form; the head has curled hair and a beard and the feet rest on a lion; above the head is a gablet or recumbent canopy of trefoiled form surmounted by angels holding the soul in a sheet; on either side are gabled pinnacles carried on foliated corbels and the edges of the slab are enriched by leaf-crockets. In a passage in the basement is preserved a late 16th-century oak door (Plate 160), said to have been brought from Biggin House; it has a round head with radiating panels and panels, forming an oval design in a square, below; in the middle is an oval boss with the initials H.C. in ironwork and a half-round iron handle; the moulded ribs dividing the panels are nail-studded.
The Gatehouse (Plate 117) stands N.W. of the house and is a partly ruined building of two storeys; the walls are of stone faced with ashlar. It was built probably late in the 15th century and now forms a lodge. The gateway itself formerly stood across the modern roadway on the W., but of this only the E. wall remains, together with parts of the flanking turrets on the N. and S. The lodge forms the adjoining block on the E. The N. front has a moulded plinth, but the top of the building has been destroyed; the octagonal turret has richly panelled faces with cinque-foiled and sub-cusped heads and an embattled cornice between the storeys. The eastern block has a similar cornice between the storeys and an altered two-light window to the ground-floor, with a square moulded label; the upper storey has a square oriel window of slight projection and of two cinque-foiled lights on the face; the window rests on moulded and carved corbelling supporting a band of quatrefoils and a moulded and enriched string; the angles of the window were carried up as pinnacles, but the top has now been destroyed. The face of the wall flanking the window-head has a rich band of sub-cusped quatrefoils surmounted by a moulded cornice with carved bosses. This bay of building is flanked on the E. by a buttress with moulded and embattled offset and a panel with a cinque-foiled and sub-cusped head on the face; beyond the buttress only the core of the wall is left, and against it has been built a modern gateway. The rear or S. front has been generally similar to the N. front, but the turret has been completely ruined and the lower window has been cut down to form a doorway; the upper stage of the E. buttress partly remains on this side and has a niche in the face with a moulded pedestal. The W. side retains part of the jamb of the N. arch of the gateway and a shaft, perhaps a vaulting shaft, in the adjoining angle; only a fragment of the lower jamb of the S. arch remains; in the wall is a doorway, now blocked, with a four-centred head and label. Inside the building are two doorways with pointed heads, and the mid 17th-century S. door has a head made up of moulded and carved woodwork. The main room has a dado of 17th-century panelling.
The Walls enclosing the grounds on the N. are probably of the 16th century and incorporate large quantities of re-used moulded stones; near the stables are some good pieces of 12th-century detail.
The extent of the precinct is probably indicated by the banks and ditches shown upon the plan. On the S. side of the enclosure is an earthwork of doubtful purpose, known as Booth's Hill. It consists of an 'island' of irregular oval shape, with a mound about 12 ft. high near the middle of it. This mound has been altered for the building of an ice-house.
Condition—Of house, good, much altered, of gatehouse partly ruinous.
a(4). Biggin Malting and moat, 1 m. W. of the church. Biggin House was built probably in the 16th century on the site of a mediæval hospital. The main buildings have been entirely destroyed, but a long range of out-buildings (Plate 166) called the Malting remains in a ruinous condition to the N.W. of the site of the house. The building is of two storeys and the walls are of yellow brick with red brick dressings. It was built, probably, in the second half of the 16th century and consists of a long range (165 ft. long) running E. and W. and a shorter range extending S. at the E. end; there are indications of a former range further W. on the same side. There are a number of modern openings and cross-walls. The walls generally have a plinth and the buttresses, which are irregularly spaced, have tabled tops. A moulded brick string is carried over the lower window-heads as a label; the upper windows have a similar label but no string-course. The original windows are of one or two four-centred lights in square heads; they are mostly blocked; there are traces of two original doorways in the second bay from the W. of the main block. On the E. side of the S. wing are traces of a projecting bay or turret.
The Moat is a quadrangular enclosure surrounding the site of the original house.
Condition—Of Malting, ruinous.
a(5). Bodsey House and moat, nearly 1½ m. N. of the church. The House (Plate 130) is of two storeys; the walls are of stone and brick with some timber-framing and the roofs are covered with tiles and slates. There was a hermitage at Bodsey, dependent on Ramsey Abbey, at any rate from the 13th century. The main block of the existing house is of stone and appears to date from the early part of the 14th century and was probably the chapel with a range of lodgings running N. from it. In the 16th century this building was turned into a house and much altered; in the 17th century the main W. wing was added and there is a smaller W. wing of doubtful date. The former chapel has been much re-built and probably shortened at the E. end but at the S.W. angle are two original buttresses with tabled heads and offsets. In the S. wall are two blocked windows with pointed heads. The E. wall is of 16th-century brick and has a square label as though for a former window. In the W. wall is a doorway of re-used stones. The 17th-century chimney-stack has diagonal pilaster-strips and a square base. The original range of lodgings has in the E. wall two small windows each of a single square-headed light. Opposite one another at the S. end are two original stone doorways with chamfered jambs, two-centred arches and moulded labels. The 17th-century wing has a large chimney-stack on the N. side, of stone at the base, and with three diagonal shafts. There is a similar chimney-stack at the N.E. angle of the main structure. Inside the building some of the rooms have chamfered ceiling-beams and one room has also a moulded beam. The doorway between the chapel and the lodgings has an original moulded rear-arch of stone; the main arch has been mostly cut away. On the first floor of the W. wing is a stone fireplace with stop-moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with a moulded shelf above. In the garden of the house is a fragment of tracery.
The Moat only remains on the S. side of the house.
Condition—Of house, good.
The following monuments, unless otherwise described, are of the 17th century and of two storeys, timber-framed and plastered; the roofs are covered with tiles or thatch. Several of the buildings have chamfered ceiling-beams.
Condition—Good or fairly good, unless noted.
High Street. S. side
a(6). Rose and Crown Inn, 250 yards W. of the church, has a back wing of brick bearing the initials and date E.H. 1661. Inside the building is a moulded ceiling-beam with shaped ends.
a(7). Cottage, No. 75, adjoins (6) on the W.
a(8). House, two tenements, W. of (7), has been refaced with brick but the timber-framing is still exposed on the western tenement.
a(9). George Hotel, 25 yards W. of (8), is of two storeys with attics; the walls are of brick. The front part of the house appears to have been re-built, but the back wing and staircase-block are original. The original chimney-stack at the end of the back wing has two diagonal shafts on a rectangular base with a moulded capping. Inside the building the staircase of c. 1630 has a small well, heavy turned balusters, square newels with faceted ball-terminals and acorn-pendants, moulded strings and rail.
a(10). House, 120 yards W. of (9), has been largely re-built but set in the E. wall is a stone tablet with the inscription "Aug. 13 1653 for 1 doz. of beer I. Legg. . . . . e me here."
a(11). House, standing back from the road 50 yards S.W. of (10), has been refaced with brick but has an original chimney-stack with grouped shafts set diagonally on a square base. The house is of T-shaped plan with the cross-wing at the E. end.
a(12). Range of four tenements in yard on E. side of Schoolhouse Lane, nearly 500 yards W. of the church; the walls are now of brick and the roofs are covered with corrugated iron. The central chimney-stack is original and has grouped shafts set diagonally on a square base.
Great Whyte. E. side
a(13). Cottage, at S. corner of New Road, 350 yards W. of the church.
a(14). Seven Stars Inn, 300 yards N.N.W. of (13), has an original moulded ceiling-beam.
a(15). Cottage, two tenements, 70 yards N.W. of (14), has an original chimney-stack with grouped diagonal shafts on a rectangular base.
a(16). Cottage, N.W. of (15) was built, probably, in the 16th century. The upper storey projects in front and inside the building is an original moulded ceiling-beam.