Ramsbury High Street heart of the community
The main influences on the character of the village are its position in the valley of the River Kennet and its location on the route of the old London to Bath and London to Bristol coaching roads. While the footprint of the village and its major streets was largely established prior to the Norman Conquest, the present appearance is more recent. The High Street, for instance, as seen today is a product of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Several major fires are attested to have devastated the village in 1648, 1781 and 1862 and the subsequent replacement of large numbers of houses simultaneously has created a uniformity which is still evident.
In addition to the current collection of shops, pubs etc the numerous former shops and pubs in the High Street, together with other public buildings such as the Memorial Hall, the Library, former chapels and theatres, emphasise the historic importance of the High Street as a commercial centre. The number of “former” premises reflects changing consumer habits and illustrates the greater demand for housing.
The Church of the Holy Cross, which dates from the 13th century and stands on the presumed site of the Saxon cathedral, is set back behind the north side of the High Street.
It has been theorised that the current High Street was originally subsidiary to Back Lane as a thoroughfare through the village. The presence of transverse wall foundations under the High Street may suggest that it is of more recent development than Back Lane, and the latter also appears to form a more direct extension of the Marlborough Road leading in from the west. However, it is clear that in recent centuries the High Street has been the dominant location for public activity, with Back Lane dominated by a few substantial houses and landholdings.