The museum site is part of a 12th century Benedictine Abbey. The Abbey became one of the most powerful in the country until Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539. It was sold to the Cromwell family who used it as a stone ‘quarry’. In 1657 a wood yard was built using the Abbey stone. The site was eventually purchased by the Fellowes estate with the buildings used as workshops and material stores. However by the 1940’s the majority were derelict.
The Museum was the brainchild of the Reverand Robert Gwynn, curate of Upwood, a small village 4 miles from Ramsey, who together with the vicar of Ramsey, the Reverend Jones, and a local farmer,Marshall Papworth, took a group of Sunday School children to a private agricultural Museum at Haddenham, Cambridgeshire. They were very impressed by the number of items and variety of the collection and the fact that everything had a local origin. They realized that there must be a wealth of historic items especially those peculiar to the Fens, lying around in fields, barns and houses in the Ramsey area and that unless something was done much of the areas local history could be lost forever.
In September 1977 a group of local businessmen, farmers and local people set up a committee to investigate the possibility of establishing a museum in Ramsey. A request for premises to the Hon John Fellowes resulted in its present site on land which is leased from the Fellowes estate.
An army of volunteers cleared the site as many of the buildings required extensive repair and renovation. Existing material, particularly the stone, was recycled to retain the original atmosphere.
All the stone buildings were originally roofed with thatch which had deteriorated beyond economical repair. Over 20,000 pantiles, donated by the public, were used instead. However in order to retain authenticity the reception building remained thatched. The Wood Barn was dismantled and rebuilt on stronger foundations. Its original use as a storage facility continues today.
The Whitehall Barn came from Whitehall Farm in Upwood and its reconstruction at the museum added a much needed indoor display space.
Entry to the museum by the public began in 1983. However, after further restoration and preparation of exhibits and displays, the Museum was officially opened by local authoress Sybil Marshall in 1988.
The interiors of the Trades Room and Stable Block were transformed.
Over the years more improvements have been made in landscaping and enhancement to building exteriors.
The displays have also expanded, to incorporate a wealth of memorabilia depicting rural life alongside an array of renovated machinery and vehicles.