Medieval Trumperter

The Medieval Fairs of St Ives

King John granting the Charter to St Ives in 1110


An ancient burial was discovered in open ground to the east of the old village of Slepe. The Abbots of Ramsey seizing the opportunity quickly decided that this must be the body of the Persian Bishop, St Ivo, who had died whilst visiting Slepe.  A priory was quickly established over the spot where the body was found. All that is left of the priory today is a few metres of the Priory Barn wall.

The discovery of the body and it's subsequent acceptance as being that of St. Ivo, ended the confusion on what to call the place, as it was then known as Slepe, Slepa and numerous other derivatives. But now it had a new name, that of St. Ives.

In early medieval times there was nothing to compare with religious relics to draw pilgrims and their money to a location. As the number of pilgrims increased a better way to get across the river was urgently needed and a wooden bridge was built across the River Great Ouse between the priory and the village and that explains the odd layout of the roads. After crossing the bridge one turns right for the priory and left for the village and Parish Church of All Saints. The road to Ramsey, and its Abbey, already in existence originates from the old village and not the bridge as it still does.

However public houses and other businesses grew up rapidly around the bridgefoot and in 1110 King John granted a charter to the Abbey of Ramsey to hold a street market, or rather fair as they were called in those days, and a suitable location was laid out as a wide road running east-west between the priory and the village. The St Ives Street Market still operates today nearly 900 years later in the same location.

The market quickly grew in size and importance and soon became one of the largest in the whole of the country (on Bank Holiday Monday's it still is). By the 1400's the old wooden bridge was replaced by the stone-built St Ives River Bridge and the famous Chapel of St Ledger which stands upon it. The next 250 years were rather uneventful until a certain farmer moved to the town.


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