RAMSEY, a market-town in the Northern or Ramsey parliamentary division of Huntingdonshire, England, on the south-western border of the Fen country, on branch lines of the Great Northern and the Great Eastern railways, 13 m. S.S.E. of Peterborough. Pop. of urban district (1901) 4823. The fine church of St Thomas a Becket is transitional between Norman and Early English, and has a beautiful Norman east end. The tower was built in 1672 of stone from Ramsey Abbey. An old oak lectern, dating from the middle of the 15th century, carries a chained copy, in a Tudor binding of brass, of Dean Comber's (1655-99) book on the Common Prayer, and a black-letter copy of Erasmus's Paraphrase of the Gospels. There are many interesting tombs in the churchyard, and the church register contains several entries relating to the Cromwell family, who removed hither from Huntingdon and owned the abbey estates till 1674. Of the ancient Benedictine abbey, the only remains are a part of a gateway, a lodge (a beautiful Perpendicular relic) and some buttresses, while some broken stone arches and walls remain of the conventual buildings. The modern mansion of Ramsey Abbey contains many documentary relics of the abbey, as well as an early monument representing the founder.
According to a 12th-century chronicle of one of the monks, the name Ramsey is derived from the words "ram," referripg to the tradition of a solitary ram having taken up its abode here, and "ey" meaning an island. Ramsey, however, was not completely insulated, like some of the monasteries of the Fen district. The abbey was founded by Ailwin, earl of the East Angles, in 969, and a charter of King Edgar granted lands and privileges for the purpose. Ramsey Abbey was noted for the school established within its walls, and for its library of Hebrew works. Its abbot was mitred. The lands were granted after the dissolution to Sir Richard Cromwell.
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