Great Whyte Tunnels
Up until 1852 the Great Whyte was an open river called the Bury Brook, which flows from Broughton through Wistow and then on to Bury just below the Church on the hill, then on to Ramsey. The Bury Brook today is no more than 10-15ft wide in places and where it goes underneath the Bank it is even narrower. For more information of the building of these Tunnels go to my Tunnel website at this link.
In Medieval times this would have been a bigger flowing river, because the fens as we know them now, were not drained and Ramsey itself was an Island cut off from the higher land going West towards Bury, by the river. Looking at old maps going back to the 1600’s we can see that Whittlesea Mere was the largest of the freshwater meres followed closely by Ramsey mere. The course of the old river Nene flowed out of Whittlesey mere into Ugg mere then on into Ramsey mere. In between these last two meres there were two smaller lodes (rivers) flowing back into Ramsey, the Bill lode and the High lode, they met with the Bury Brook flowing from the other way. This would have made a bigger river in Ramsey Great Whyte.
All the stone for building the Abbey would have travelled by Medieval Stone-Barges from the Quarry at Barnack near Stamford all the way across Whittlesey mere and on into Ramsey via the old Nene. Then they would have sailed up the lode named New Road now and into the outer precinct of the abbey, where it was unloaded by a crane. You can see the lode and the crane marked at point C on this drawing.
From the 16th century until the 1840’s the river flowing through Ramsey would bring most of the goods needed by the local people, these were transported on boats called Fen Lighters. They would dock along the Great whyte.
Below is a slide show that shows the exposing of the main Tunnel, in August 21014 for maintenance work. It runs for 2000ft along the Great Whyte in Ramsey, it was built to cover the Bury Brook river in 1852. From the Jubilee Clock onwards to the Mill at the North end of the Town another two Tunnels were added, one either side of the main Tunnel,
This was the first time in over 160 years that it could be seen by the people of Ramsey.