Ramsey and District u3a


Our Chairman, Jane Cusworth, welcomed members old and new and visitors to our meeting. The usual housekeeping notices were read, with a reminder that tables and chairs in the foyer were reserved for those who were less able. Hand sanitiser is available and please wear masks, we need to remain vigilant as Covid numbers are still at a high. Jane was pleased to lay a wreath at the Ramsey war memorial on behalf of the R&D u3a. She thanked Dave Gilbert-Hill for acting as Chair for the October meeting. A copy of the latest Aspire magazine was available from the sign-in desk.

Our membership now stands at 182, The Christmas meeting will be a ticket only session. They will be on sale at £7 per person, there are a limit number of tickets available. The Chair thanked those who volunteered to help with tea and coffee. We need members to volunteer to serve on the committee, three members will be standing down from their duties in the New Year, please talk to committee members if you feel the need to join. We are hoping to host a meet and greet meeting early in 2022 so that new members can meet the Group Co-ordinator and group leaders. The 2022 holiday will be ‘Irish House Party’, 27th June to 1st July, reconvened from 2020. We hope to resume our day trips in 2022. Our R&D website is up and running, please consult it, have a look at the calendar to see when your favourite group is next meeting!

The Groups Co-ordinator then read out the Group news for this month. Most groups are now available. Currently, the walking group are unable to continue, as Maureen has been unable to find a group leader. A new group is about to form with Hillary leading, she will lead on spinning and dying wool, a sign-up sheet is available in the foyer. The mixed craft group led by Fran is looking for a new leader, we would like to thank Fran for her sterling work in leading this group from the start of our u3a.

Jane then introduced the speaker for this afternoon’s talk, Peter Scott, his subject “Bridges, Brewers and Barges.”

Peter started his talk by going back to the age of the dinosaur and explained that the area where St. Ives is now, was under water after the ice age glaciers melted and marine mammals ruled the seas. There are exhibits in the Norris Museum, which prove that such animals lived in this area. The glaciers formed our rivers and deposited soil and rocks, as the land dried out woolly mammoths, giant elks and wild dogs moved into the area, travelling from Europe across the land bridge, which was soon to be underwater after a tsunami, two to three metres high obliterated that crossing and we became an island.

The township was originally known as Slepe in Anglo Saxon England. In 1001-2, a peasant is recorded as uncovering the remains of Ivo of Ramsey, a Cornish Celtic Christian Bishop and hermit while ploughing a field. The discovery led Eadnoth the Younger, an important monk and prelate to found Ramsey Abbey. The importance of Ramsey Abbey grew through the Middle Ages as a centre for pilgrimage. In the order of precedence for abbots in Parliament, Ramsey was third after Glastonbury and St Alban’s. Its influence benefited the area as Slepe became St Ives and was granted a charter to become a market town, hosting one of the biggest in the country. It still remains an important market on the edge of The Fens.

St Ives was founded on the banks of the wide River Great Ouse between Huntingdon and Ely, it become an important centre for trade in East Anglia. The size and prosperity of the medieval town can be still seen in its street plan. In the early 15th century, St Ives Bridge was constructed across the Great Ouse replacing an earlier crossing at this point. The six-arch stone bridge was one of only four town bridges in England to have a chapel. In the Early Medieval period, this had been a strategic location on the Great Ouse because it was the last natural crossing point or ford on the river, 50 miles from the sea. A flint reef in the riverbed created a ford; which was reused as the foundations for the stonebridge. Throughout the medieval period, it was a source of income for the town as tolls had to be paid by all those wanting to cross, this especially applied to drovers bringing their livestock to market. The bridge was partially rebuilt after Oliver Cromwell knocked down two arches during the English Civil War to prevent King Charles I’s troops approaching London from the Royalist base in Lincolnshire. During the Civil war and for a period afterwards, the gap was covered by a drawbridge.

From the 17th to the mid-19th century, St Ives remained a hub for trade and navigation in this part of East Anglia. There were inns and bawdy houses to cater for the merchants, mariners and drovers who did business in the town. Goods were brought into the town on barges and livestock rested on the last fattening grounds before being sent to London’s Smithfield Market. However, with the arrival of Cambridge and St Ives branch line in the 1840s and improvements to the local road networks, commercial traffic on the River Great Ouse went into steady decline.

As an important market town, St Ives always needed large numbers of public houses: 64 in 1838 (1 for every 55 inhabitants), 60 in 1861, 48 in 1865 and 45 in 1899, although only five of these made the owners a living. As livestock sales diminished, so did the need for large numbers of pubs, falling to a low point of 16 in 1962. At that time, the Seven Wives on Ramsey Road was opened, so there are 17 pubs today.

St Ives Bridge is most unusual in incorporating a chapel, the most striking of just four examples in England. Also unusual are its two southern arches which are a different shape from the rest of the bridge, being rounded instead of slightly gothic. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the chapel was given to the prior to live in. The lords of the manor of St Ives changed hands several times, as did the chapel. During this period, it was in turn – a private house, a doctor’s surgery and a pub, called Little Hell. The pub had a reputation for rowdy behaviour, and it is believed the proprietor kept pigs in the basement. The additional two storeys added in the seventeenth century were removed in 1930, due to damage being caused to the foundations.

The Norris Museum was founded by Herbert Norris, who left his lifetime’s collection of Huntingdonshire relics to the people of St Ives when he died in 1931. The Norris Museum holds a collection on local history, including books written by its former curator, Bob Burn-Murdoch. The museum was reopened in August2017, following a £1.5m refurbishment and expansion made possible by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Its current director is Sarah Russell, and it is managed by the Norris Management Trust, made up of members of St Ives Town Council and the Friends of the Norris Museum.

Our chair thanked Peter for a most enjoyable afternoon and we broke for tea, coffee, and biscuits.

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Next Meetings

 The next general meeting will take place on Tuesday 14th December at the Community Centre, Stocking Fen Road, Ramsey, starting at 2.00pm. This will be our Christmas Party. There will be food and drink and entertainment from our in-house thespians and a singalong with our u3a choir!

Our first meeting in 2022 will be held on 11th January when our speaker will be Michael Brown his subject “Death in the Garden.”

Useful information

Saturday 11th December at St Thomas a’ Becket Church starting at 7.30pm a Tinsel and Brass concert with the Somersham Town Band. Tickets are £10 and available from Richard Hyde MBE at 01487 812220 or Jane Cusworth 01487 814984.

And Finally

Car Parking – Please remember to park your car considerately and use car sharing if you are able.

Christmas Cracker Jokes

 I got a Christmas card full of rice in the post today……

I was from my Uncle Ben

Why is it harder to buy Advent Calendars?

Because their days are numbered

What did Adam say the day before Christmas?

“It’s Christmas, Eve.”

Who beats his chest and swings from Christmas cake to Christmas cake?