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Newmarket Local History Society (page 10)

A copyright extract from Volume II of the Newmarket Local History Society's two-volume publication 'The History of Newmarket and its Surrounding Area', edited by Sandra Easom and published in the year 2000

Early life in Towns and Villages Around Newmarket

Life has changed over the years, not only in Newmarket but in the many villages which surround it and also the towns within easy travelling distance. These communities have necessarily had a dynamic effect on each other and on the lives of each other's inhabitants. Therefore, it is necessary to look at major features of each community and some important events in order to obtain a fuller picture and understanding of Newmarket's past.
A Slice of Life
The NLHS Two Volumes has entries from some late 19th/early 20th century trade directories. These directories were widely used to obtain information, particularly trade information, in the days before telephone directories or other forms of address listings existed.
Such directories are a valuable source for local and social history. They are a relatively complete record of a town at a particular time, its residents (only those of any social standing are mentioned in detail), buildings, shops, professions and tradesmen. Such directories can also be a record of the justice and education systems of the time as they list courts, schools, numbers of pupils, etc.
Newmarket Local History Society has not attempted to edit these directory entries in any way - believing that all the information in them is of value - except to condense them by restricting entries to those concerning Newmarket and its surrounding towns and villages. In this sense, these documents are truly a slice through the life of the community at the time.
Additional Information
Ashley: Was first recorded as Esselie manor. In 1066 it belonged to Thane Wluin. By 1086 it was the property of Evrard (Everard, son of Brientius). In 1166 it was recorded that 'Ralph de Gines (Guisnes) holds 1 fee of the barony of Earl Aubrey (de Ver)'. In 1228 the manor is first called Ashley. In 1243, a member of the de Gisnes family, Robert, still 'holds in Ashley 1 fee of the barony of Hugh de Ver, Earl of Oxford'.
In 1276, records state that 'The master of the hospital of Chippeham holds view of frankpledge in the vill of Asle and Wilnesle: the master of the Templars has 33 acres of land in these vills'.
Ownership got more complicated in 1284-86; 'John de Gymes holds Assele of William de Laneham and John de Beauchamp for 1 fee and they hold it of the Earl of Oxford'. Also, Robert de Ver, Earl of Oxford, gave to the Hospitallers 2 fees in Assele and Silverle which the heir of Geoffrey Arsic holds. 1302-3, 'The prior of the hospitallers holds half fee in Assele of Hugh de Ver and John de Beauchamp; John de Gynes, Henry Honeman and their partners hold half fee there of the same Hugh and John'.
The de Vere family gave the manor to the Knights Hospitallers and in 1540, as their possessions were dispersed, it passed into the hands of Sir Edward North.
The manor of Silverley was held by tenants of the de Veres and it too passed to Sir Edward North. Only the tower of the church remains there now.
Barrow: Barrow stands on a hill which invited the settlement of people from early times. The hill is naturally shaped to collect rainwater, adding to its attraction. The earliest known record of Barrow comes from 950 A.D., when the village was known as Barewe. It has also been known as Barou. It belonged to Edward the Confessor.
Picot, Sheriff of Cambridge, held the village for the King. The village then consisted of: 6 villeins, 4 smallholders, 2 slaves, 2 ploughs (men), 1 freeman who had 30 acres of freeland together with 60 goats, 40 sheep and 16 pigs. A church with 17 acres of freeland was included in the manor (see below). The value of the manor was reckoned to be 10, which meant a taxable value of 7d.
By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086, the population and the size of the village (area 1 league by 8 furlongs) had increased: 15 villeins, 10 smallholders, 1 slave, 3 ploughs, 1 mill, 1 freeman with 30 acres of freeland together with 60 goats, 100 sheep and 40 pigs. The church still had 17 acres of freeland but the value of the manor had grown to 20.
Ownership of the manor passed from the Crown to William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, when he married Isabella, daughter of Richard de Clare, Earl of Strigul. It was given to him by King Richard I. Before he died, William tried to make provision for his soul by giving Barew's tithes to the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds.
Abbot Sampson of St Edmund's Abbey appointed one Thomas Barewe to adminster the manor and to collect its taxes. Thomas's daughter Maud married Hamond de Passelwe (descendant of Ralph de Paselwe, the Sheriff of Suffolk who built Barewe church),
In 1242, their daughter Katherine married Sir William Gifford. The couple were given a part of Barewe known as Alderfield. William died in 1310 and Katherine inherited the entire estate by 1318. At this time, Barewe was about 2550 acres. Katherine sold the estate to Bartholomew Badlesmere. He owned it for one year until his execution for his part in a revolt against King Edward II in 1322.
At this time, the King granted the manor to Hugh Despenser. He held the manor for 4 years until his execution in 1326. The manor reverted to Elizabeth, widow of Bartholomew Badlesmere.
Elizabeth's son, Giles, had no children, so the manor passed to one of his sisters, Margaret, who was married to John Tibelot. Their granddaughter, Elizabeth, married Sir Rodger Wentworth. The manor remained in the Wentworth family until it was sold to Sir Clements Heigham in 1540. His family name originated from the nearby village of Higham.
The village probably had a wooden Saxon church in 950 but the present stone, parish church of All Saints dates, in part, from the Norman period. Its initial construction was begun by Sir Ralph Passelewe around 1100. It was continued by Sir William Gifford, both of whom were lords of the manor from 1189 and the building saw continued improvements over the centuries. The church is probably at a distance from the village because of relocation of villagers to houses elsewhere in the manor at the time of the Black Death in the mid-14th century. Barewe was granted a weekly, Saturday market and an annual fair in 1267. The fair was to be held on the 3 days before the feast of St John the Baptist (24th June). Sir William Gifford built a moated hall in 1286. This was probably a stone building. Also, it was just at this time that it became fashionable to have fireplaces set into the wall of the building rather than in the middle of the hall. It would possiblty have been a 2 storey building with exterior buttresses for strength. The remains of Barewe Hall were to be found in the village until the late 18th century.
Prior to this, the family had lived in a manor house which came to be known as Feltons when it was leased out in 1274.
Feltons was sold to a successful merchant, Sir Thomas Kytson in 1538. He became Sheriff of London. When the Abbey at Bury was dissolved, Kytson acquired Hengrave, Saxham and Risby, together with the Priory of Fornham St Genevieve, ox pastures in Great Barton and the Closes of Fresnel, Le Comping and the Slade. So, in this way, in 1525 Kytson came to commence the building of Hengrave Hall. It was built with stone from the dissolved abbeys of Bury, Ixworth and Burwell. The hall was finished in 1538 - the same year that he bought Feltons. Sir Thomas died at Hengrave in 1540. His family sold Feltons to John Heigham, son of Sir Clements Heigham,. In 1565. Sir Clements probably often had the Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor to stay at Barewe Hall as she was frequently in Bury St Edmunds. Sir Clements was made Speaker of the House of Commons. His son John was a supporter of Queen Elizabeth I when she ascended the throne.
The village has a large green with a variety of old and new houses arranged around it.
Barton Mills: Is a very old site of human habitation. There is a Bronze Age barrow on Chalk Hill on the Newmarket Road, 1 miles south-west of the village. It was excavated and reconstructed in 1923. There was a central cremation and three burials within it. The cremation had food vessels and cinerary urn pottery and a necklace made of bone. Originally, there were four barrows in a row. Two were excavated in 1869 and yielded two burials and a cremation and some Beaker pottery.
In old texts, the village appears as Barton Togrynd (two grind) and takes its name from a watermill which was located in front of the Bull Inn on the Lark River. The other was a windmill which ceased use before the water mill. There was also a fuller's mill and this, together with the other mills, were once owned by the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem.
The Bull was an old coaching inn, which may be seen from the modern A11 road. The inn stands at the edge of the village and, in recent years, has fallen into some disrepair. It was of particular importance to the travellers of the 18th century. Queen Victoria stayed there just before she succeeded to the Throne. The Bull said of itself that it was 'the annual resort of the Nobility and Gentry in the sporting season'.
The diary of Parson Woodford records that he stayed at the Bull on April 13th 1775. He was travelling from London to his home in Norfolk. He had set off from the Turks Head in the Strand in the early morning; his transport was a coach and four horses. At the Bull-faced Staff in Epping Forest, the horses were quickly changed and he continued to Harlow. He then caught a chaise, with fresh horses, to Newmarket. There he paused for dinner. Another chaise took him to the Bull at Barton Mills, yet another to Thetford and then he went to Attelborough, where he arrived at 11 p.m. He recorded not only his thanks to God but that 'these are the best roads I ever travelled'!
The High Street contains some very old houses. One of them is 'Lord Mayor's Cottage', which is named for a man who became Lord Mayor of London. Another property in the village, 'The Dhoon', was once the home of Sir Alexander Fleming.
Barton Mills, or Little Barton, stands on the River Lark and barges unloaded near there in the 18th century. This, and the coaching traffic on the Newmarket to Norwich road, combined to make Barton Mills a busy village. Even in 1920 boats still navigated Barton Lock.
The parish church of St Mary dates from 13th-14th century. There was also a Baptist chapel which held its baptismal services in the River Lark in the mid-19th century. Crowds of people gathered for these from all around the area; one of these was the Squire of Herringswell, Squire Hale.

Bottisham: The village appears in old records in a variety of different spellings: Bodekesham, Bodichessham, Bodegesham., Bottlesham, Botlesham, Bodkysham, Botkysham, Bottesham, Botesham, Botsham and Botsam. The earliest spelling is probably Bodeke, relating to the name of the Saxon lord.
Groups of Saxon homesteads were located in the Bottisham area, the geography of which varied from Fen edge to arable farming land and marshy summer grazing.
Before the Norman Conquest, the land belonged to Earl Harold and Bottisham residents were freeholders living in homesteads grouped into hamlets. Abbot Athelstan of Ramsey Abbey licensed a farm of about 400 acres in Bottisham in 1047 to the monk Ailric (a relation).
After the Conquest, the manor passed to Walter Giffard who 'gave a tithe of this demesne and one tenant at Bothingesham to the priory of Longueville' around 1150.
An 'ADVOWSON' held by a patron, and subject to civil law, gives the right to nominate, or present, the ecclesiastical benefits of the parish. The advowson of Holy Trinity Church, Bottisham, must have been worth a great deal because it was the cause of a lot of dispute between Walter Giffard and his wife Ermengarde, and Richard de Clare. 'At Michaelmas 1164, the honor of Giffard was taken into the King's hands.' In other words, a charter was granted to Giffard by King Henry I. It was confirmed by his son, King John, and was later overturned in favour of De Clare by John's son, King Henry II, in 1222.
In 1179-80, Henry II confirmed to the canons of the Park of Crandon (Nutley) the church of Bodingesham (given by Walter Giffard).
The Augustinian Priory and its church, St Mary of Anglesey, later earned the right to the advowson and appurtenances of Bottisham. However, the prior of Anglesey was required to make an annual payment in silver to St Mary of Nutley in keeping with the earlier agreement.
Further proof of the importance of Bottisham is found in the church. Several dignitaries from the Abbey were buried in the Nave. When a new Nave was constructed in 1307, the tombs were moved and laid in a straight line beneath the new foundation of the south wall of the new aisle.
During the Middle Ages, there was a Jewish quarter in Bottisham. The Jews lived behind the Plough Inn. There is no known record of whether the Jewish quarter was destroyed in the racial riots of the early 13th century (such as the one in Bury st Edmunds - see entry in this chapter).
Before the draining of the Fens, Bottisham Lode lay to the north of the village.
Bottisham had a camping ground for playing the early version of football. It was located next to the church chancel and later became the playing field of Bottisham Primary School.
In 1389, Bottisham had a strong gild system. There were seven gilds in the village. Six of these contributed to the repair of the church roof and chaplains were employed by the gilds. Gild members acted as officers, church wardens, manorial officers, jurors and taxation officials. A warden and stockholder had goods for use of the gild members.
Records show payment in kind to the gilds, e.g. 4 bushels of barley, 2 pounds of wax and contributions to the street light. During the reign of Richard II, twenty-eight men and one woman were named as wardens or stock holders. There were 300-400 taxpayers in Bottisham at this time. Of these, 392 paid poll tax in 1377. Members of the Bishop of Ely's household also lived in Bottisham.
William de Bottlesham (prior of Anglesey and later Bishop of Rochester), was born in Bottisham (died 1399). John de Bottlesham (Master of St Peter's College, Cambridge, and Bishop of Rochester) was a benefactor of Cambridge University who died in 1404. Also born in Bottisham was Nicholas of Bottlesham (Carmelite doctor of 'Ye Sorbon' and Prior of Carmelites in Cambridge on his return from Paris). He died in 1435.
These 'worthies' were mentioned in Fuller's 1880 'Worthies of Cambridgeshire': 'Bottisham is a small village . pleasantly seated in pure air, having rich arable on the one, and ye fair heath of Newmarket on the other side thereof. It hath been the nursery of refined Wits . Let all England shew me if you like three eminent men which one pretty village did produce. Let Bottisham hereafter be no more famed for its single Becon, but for these 3 Lights it afforded'.
The Alington family (also spelt Allington or Alyngton) who played a part in the history of Newmarket also founded St Mary and St Martin chantry, which was at the east end of the north aisle of Bottisham Church. The Alingtons were benefactors of Anglesey Abbey. Chaplains came from the Abbey to perform services and to pray. William Alington was described as 'Lord of Bottisham Hall'. Several members of the family were buried at Bottisham. The family connection remained until the title became extinct in 1705. Two members of the Alington family, a father and son, both named William, both became Speaker of the House of Commons. William the elder was elected in 1429 during the reign of King Edward IV.
The Argentine family were also important to Newmarket history. A member of the Argentine family, Elizabeth, who was to become sole heir to all the family's property, married an Alington. John Argentine was born in Bottisham in 1443. He was physician to the king and cultivated a close friendship with Edward IV. He was the last attendant of the young princes in the Tower of London, who were murdered in 1483. The Argentine Arms may be seen in Bottisham Church (3 silver cups on a red shield). These relate to Sir John Argentine presenting a cup of wine to King Richard II at his coronation in 1377. He later became physician to Henry VII's elder son, Prince Arthur, who died before he inherited the Throne (his brother Henry VIII succeeded him). John influenced Henry VII in putting finances into the completion of King's College Chapel in Cambridge.
During the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Bottisham lands went to the ownership of the King. The Advowson of Holy Trinity Church, Bottisham, was given by the King to Trinity College, Cambridge. Anglesey Abbey became the property of John Hynde, who became a chief justice of the King's bench in 1546.
When King Charles I escaped from his captors in 1646, he apparently cut off his hair and beard and disguised himself as a servant to John Ashburnham, who was Groom to the King's Bedchamber. They escaped through Royston and stayed for the Tuesday night at 'a common inn in Botsham' (the George Inn, Bottisham Place?).
A John Salisbury from Bottisham, who died in 1639, 'did some time before his death give Ten Pounds to the Towne of Bottsham for ever'. The money was to be used for teaching three poor children in the village.
The Jenyns family were also important to the history of the village. Dame Elizabeth died in 1728 and her husband, Sir Roger, 'by her desire settled the schooling of 20 poor children; and as his addition, the clothing of them and a school to teach them and others in for ever'. This is commemorated in the church by a wall tablet depicting a child in the distinctive uniform of the school which was built in 1730. It became the village reading room in 1839.
In the same year, the Bottisham National Church School was built for 150 children. (It later became a Community and Youth Centre in the 20th century.) There were 3 classes, one of which was for infants. Discipline was strict and the vicar had a great influence in the school and in the church Sunday school. There are stories of the church verger who had 3 rods of different lengths which he used to keep order among the children in the small gallery, now the organ loft, of the church. (Thus no-one was out of his reach!)
There was a school house which was demolished in 1914. There was also a private school, which was run by Miss Hollins in Bleak House. Her sister, Mrs Hinton, taught at another school near the former toll on the Newmarket Road. The Church School closed in 1937, when Bottisham Village College opened on May 6th of that year. Miss Hollins' school closed in 1947.
A census of 1801 recorded that Bottisham parish had 179 houses with a population of 864. In 1831 there were 1302 people there. The Act of Inclosure (Enclosure) for Bottisham in the early 1800's changed the life and appearance of the village. The Act itself was passed on 1st August 1801. Many land workers who did not own land lost the right to farm to support their families. A number of people were forced to emigrate. On 1st November 1802, Common Rights tenures ceased. The final Act was hung on the church door in 1808.
Brinkley: The village was originally part of a manor comprising Carlton with Willingham and Brinkley. It was called Carlentone. Before 1066, different parts of the manor were held by Thane Tochi, Earl Algar and Earl Herald and various sochmen. By 1086, the major landowners were Count Alan de Ver, William de Warene and Hardwin de Scalers. Those who held land from them were Wilhomarc, dapifer of Count Alan, Walter de Grantcurt, the Abbot of Cluny and two knights. Three hides of Carletone, originally owned by Earl Herald, appear to be what is now known as Brinkley. By 1086 these were the propery of the Countess Judith, who also owned Kirtling.
Walter de Grantcurt probably gave his land in Carlton to the Abbey of Cluny. After 1130, King Stephen confirmed to the Abbey of Cluny 40 acres of land at Welingham of the gift of Fredebart; land by Carleton which Roger Suriz held and land which Walernus held, given by Richard son of Hardwin de Scalariis. Also, during the reign of King Stephen, William de Mohun III married 'a lady named Godehold (who may have been the sister of Roger de Toeni. Brinkley may have been her maritagium or dowry) who brought to him as her inheritance or portion the manor of Brinkley in Cambridgeshire'.
In 1202, 'John de Moun proffers 20 marks for seisin of his land of Brinkele which his brother William gave him, but had been siezed into the King's hands. In 1205, Seisin to be made to Walter de Evermeu of his land of Brinkele, which Harbert, the King's Chamberlain, gave to him'.
A jury declared in 1208 that 'Godehold de Moion was seized in her demesne as of fee of the vill of Brinkley and that Reginald de Moiun is her next heir'. A dispute arose in 1234 between William de Mohun and William le Breton touching customs and services claimed by the former against William le Breton in Brinkele and Wivilingham.
An important event in 1253: 'Grant to William de Mohun of market and fair at Brinkele'. The market was on a Wednesday and the fair took place at Michaelmas for 3 days. This was followed by 'Grant to William de Mohun of market on a different day and fair at Brinkele' in 1261, when market day became a Tuesday. In the same year, 'William le Breton held at his death 56 acres in the fields of Brinkele of William de Moun; and other land in the fields of Willingham and Karleton held of the same William and Lawrence de Willingham. John his son, aged 28, is his heir'. In 1285, 'John de Mohun held at his death inter alia, 1 fee in Brynkelegh which Andrew de Mohun held of him'. In 1339, the Ely Register records the name of the village as Brynkeleye. The name of the village betrays its antiquity. It is probably Scandinavian in origin and means 'a field or meadow on the edge of a hill'.
Burrough Green: Before 1066, the land known as Burch and, later, Burg, belonged to Lady Eddeva. By 1086 it was held by Count Alan de Ver and nineteen persons were listed as living there. In 1163, Henry II 'confirmed to the monks of Sibton land of the fee of Philip de Bruc in the heath of Sudhed and land in the county of Suffolk'. By 1166, Thomas de Burc or Burg appears in the records. He also held land in the Swaffhams.
Between 1189-1199, Richard I granted to the monks of Wardon view of frankpledge in Bury and Dullingham.
We learn in 1194 that Thomas de Burg is the seneschal of the Countess of Richmond. In 1201, the same Thomas was pardoned 133 which an English Jew was demanding under a charter of Robert de Cokesfield 'and Adam his son, whose heir Thomas has'.
Thomas de Burg 'held 2 fees in Bureg and Swafham of the honour of Richmond' by 1212. An entry of 1235 records that 'The custody of the son and daughter of Philip de Burg, brother of Thomas de Burg which son is heir of Thomas, with his marriage and custody of his land, was delivered to John de Kirkby for 700 marks'. In 1282, the Prior of the Hospital of Jerusalem was among the land holders in Burg. Thomas de Burg died without having had children of his own, before 1287. His heir, Thomas, became the ward of Henry, Earl of Lincoln, in 1288. In 1302-03, this second Thoms held land in Burg for the Earl of Brittany,. Apart form the de Burghs, the other family which was important in the village's history was the Ingoldesthorpes. The tombs of both families are found in the Parish church. By 1377, 29 people were listed as paying tax. Over the centuries, the population continued to rise and there were 34 households in Burrough Green by the mid-16th century. The name of the village was recorded as Burrowe in Ely Registers of 1606. By 1728, a census recorded 200 residents. This figure remained relatively stable and in 1971 268 inhabitants appear on records.
About an extra 50 acres of land became part of Burrough Green because of the Dullingham Enclosure Award of 1810. Enclosure seems to have taken place privately as the Confirmatory Act was passed in 1815.
Remains of an ancient earthwork still exist in Parkwood. (The old name of Burc, Burk or Burg designates a fort.) The land here is somewhat higher than much of the surrounding countryside - up to 300 feet above sea level.
There is old woodland recorded from the early 15th century which includes Parkwood and Oakwood. A site of Special Scientific Interest is a chalk pit found near Underwood Hall, which is rich in fossils.
Brandon: Brandon is another site of ancient habitation. It was, for many centuries, the centre of the East Anglian flint-knapping industry. Apart from flint for building, Brandon produced gun flints. A load transported to London in 1824 contained 269,100 flints. Flints were also used for fire-lighting. Brandon stands on the Little Ouse river which used to be a vital trade link for the town before the advent of the railway. In bad weather, or on festival days, a light was put on top of Brandon Church to guide boats and barges on the river. It was possible to sail to Thetford in the 17th century. The river has also been called 'Rebech River', 'Brandon Creek' and 'Brandon River'. Fire broke out on 14th May 1789 and many dwellings were burned down. Appeals for help went to other parishes. Names of those who lost their houses were published, together with the value of the house and goods they had lost. For example: Francis Diggon, Saddler, loss of 381 . John Neal, cordwainer - 11 . Mary Richards, widow, 8 . William Eagle, servant, 4.
Archaeological excavations at Fenhouse Farm yielded evidence of large Roman buildings. Terra sigillata of the 1st and 2nd centuries has been found in the area.
St Peter's parish church dates from the 13th/14th century. The town originally grew up along the main road, but underwent development and growth in the latter part of the 20th century.
Burwell: Village life has existed here for thousands of years, at least from the Bronze Age. The Domesday Survey recorded a number of names for the village; Buruelle, Buruella and Burewell among them. A 13th century document records it as Borewelle. Old maps often show the village as Burwells. This may be because the village existed in two sections known as High Town and Low Town; these are joined by The Causeway - an ancient avenue of trees. This is said to have been a walk taken by monks living in a cell at Newnham (an area south of Hythe Lane) to the churches of St Mary and St Andrew (now gone) nearby, slightly to the north-east.
The terms 'Hythe' and 'Causeway' tell us of how Burwell used to be - a hythe being a place where boats were loaded. A causeway is a dry path across a wet or marshy area. The Fen came up to Burwell and waterborne traffic came to the village. The Burwell Fen Drainage Act in 1846 permitted the drainage of the boggy land to the west of Burwell.
The chronicles of Ramsey Abbey record that at the end of the 10th century 'Alfgar, the patron of Burwell living, gave the Abbey land at Burwell and added it to his gift of the church'. Apparently, in 1077 William the Conqueror confirmed that the possessions of the Abbey included Burwell. The Abbey provided chaplains for the parish until 1305, when the first priest was appointed. St Andrew's Church was under the jurisdiction of Fordham Abbey until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Abbey estates passed to the King at the Dissolution. These, along with the Abbot's manor house, now the Old Priory (which still has its tithe barn) were sold to Sir Edward North and then to Cambridge University. St Andrew's Church fell into disrepair in 1646 after the two parishes were united and was demolished in the early 19th century. A school was built on the site around 1864. A mission chapel in the village kept the name of St Andrew.
An earlier Saxon church stood somewhere on the churchyard of the present St Mary's Church. The present Church was completed in 1464.
Burwell Castle is discussed in the earlier chapter on the Normans and the name of Geoffrey de Mandeville is remembered in the names of some nearby houses. The remnants of the castle site and its spring are near Springclose.
Although Burwell's primary industry has been agriculture, over the centuries other industries, which have died out now, have been important. Peat was dug from the Fen and chemical fertiliser was made from phosphatic nodules found beneath the surface of parts of the Fen soil. These have been used up. Cement was made from chalk on the east side of the parish. Burwell brick has a characteristic pale yellowish colour. It can be seen in many buildings in and around Newmarket. The local soft stone, CLUNCH, was quarried for building. The quarrying stopped around 1955.
Bury St Edmunds: Formerly called Beodricsworth by the Anglo-Saxons and, from 1065, St Edmundsbury or St Edmundsburgh. The town lies at the confluence of 2 small rivers, the Linnet and the Lark. There is a wealth of Roman remains in the countryside around Bury, but no direct evidence of a Roman settlement there has ever been found. However, the rivers provide one of the few steep hillsides in the area, which would have been a good site for a vineyard, with shelter from the north and the east. There is ample evidence of occupation in Anglo-Saxon times.
Around 902 A.D., the remains of the martyred King Edmund were taken to the monastery at Beodricsworth, which had once been home to King Sigebert when he abdicated in favour of a monastic life (see the Impact of Christianity). The body was placed in a wooden church of split oak beams. The area of sanctuary around the shrine, called the BANLEUCA, remained the town boundary until 1934.
As reports of miracles attributed to St Edmund grew, pilgrims came to the shrine and the monastery grew around it. Eventually, one of the five most powerful Benedictine abbeys in Mediaeval England dominated the town.
This was an important place in Mediaeval times, when thousands of pilgrims flocked there to pray and to make offerings, which caused the Abbey to have enormous wealth and power prior to the Reformation. The Abbey was also the owner of large estates in six different counties.
At the times of Viking invasion, the presence of the Abbey was a source of strength and comfort to the East Anglian people. During the time of Swein Forkbeard's invasion, however, the Abbey sent its saints' relics to London, not just from piety but to protect the Abbey's assets! When Swein Forkbeard died suddenly, it was widely believed that St Edmund has struck him down.
King Cnut gave generously to the Abbey, hoping to win favour with the English people and their saint. He paid for the community of Benedictine monks to tend the shrine. In 1020, Uvius became the first Abbot of St Edmundsbury and the new church was consecrated in 1032 - which was the year that King Cnut came to lay his crown on the altar as a sign of repentance and reparation for his father's sins.
King Edward the Confessor exempted the Abbey from royal taxes and gave it jurisdiction over 8 hundreds (see chapter on Local Government), which was almost all of western Suffolk. He also added the manor of Mildenhall to the Abbey lands. In fact, the King held St Edmund in such reverence that he always insisted on walking the last mile to the Abbey.
There were 5 gates to the town and each one contained a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary, in which a light burned continuously. The town wall extended from the West Gate to the North Gate. The rest of the town was surrounded by the rivers with an earthwork and a dyke flanking the South Gate. The East Gate adjoined the Abbot's Bridge and guarded the ford and footbridge on the road to the coast. Southgate Street was widened in 1970 and the roadworks revealed a mediaeval bridge spanning the Linnet River which closely resembled the Abbot's Bridge.
Hostels stood outside each gate to accommodate the pilgrims and visitors. These relieved the accommodation pressure for the main Abbey and provided accommodation for wayfarers who arrived late (Mediaeval town gates were closed at night).
By 1121, the Abbey was renowned as a centre of culture and learning. Its scriptorium produced some wonderfully illustrated manuscripts. Some of these may be seen in the British Museum, Oxford and Cambridge. Other examples are in New York and the Vatican in Rome. The Bury Bible was the work of the master craftsman, Hugo. It is now in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
The Abbey had a mighty spire and it was stressed by an early writer that 'the 3 highest points in Christendom were St Peter's in Rome, Cologne Cathedral and Bury Abbey Church'.
During the period of strife with King John, the Barons met together with Cardinal Langton in the Abbey on 20th November 1214 to swear an oath that they would compel King John to ratify the Magna Carta (see chapter on The Foundations of Law and Justice).
By the 13th century, St Edmundsbury had developed as a commercial and marketing centre independent of the Abbey. It was one of the leading cloth manufacturing and agricultural centres in the country and there was increasing resentment on the part of the townsfolk at the control, enforced by royal arms, which the Abbey had over them.
During the internal wars of the reign of Henry III, after the Battle of Evesham in 1265 and the overthrow of Simon de Montfort, fugitives sought sanctuary in Bury and also stored their loot there. There was a scandal and after an enquiry, the Abbot had to pay 266 13s 4d in fines.
In 1293, discontent among the townsfolk erupted into minor riots, but it was not until 1305 that a Royal Commission allowed the town to elect its own aldermen (unless the Abbot could show reasonable objection). They could also appoint gate keepers for all but the East Gate which adjoined the Abbot's Bridge. However, by 1315 the town was fined for taking up arms against the Abbot's bailiffs, flogging monks and throwing stones at workmen on the roof of the church.
After the deposition of Edward II, anarchy followed for a time. The townsfolk seized their chance. The many frictions over the years erupted into a riot on 15th January 1327.
Three thousand townsfolk revolted. They attacked the Abbey and looted it and compelled the Abbot, Richard de Draughton, to sign a charter of liberties. The Abbot escaped to London, where he repudiated the charter. This caused more violence in the spring and summer of that year.
On October 18th, the monks retaliated and attacked the townsfolk during a service in the parish church. The townspeople took revenge and almost razed the Abbey to the ground. (It took almost 20 years to rebuild the gateway.) Twenty-two of the Abbey's manors were also devastated before the Sheriff of Norfolk put an end to the uprising. He hanged or outlawed leaders of the revolt and sent 30 cartloads of prisoners to Norwich for trial. A 14,000 fine was imposed on the burgesses of the town.
People from all levels of society were involved in the revolt. It demonstrated the feelings in society which were later to lead to the Dissolution of the Monasteries and the Reformation (see chapter on the Impact of Christianity). Some of the outlaws managed to kidnap the Abbot and smuggle him through London to Brabant, as a hostage, to force remission of the enormous fine. The Black Death plague of 1348/49 took a great toll of human life in the town and the country as a whole. There were shortages of men, both monks and villeins, to work the monastic lands. A national system of leases led to the Peasants' Revolt. The Plague Stone may be seen in Risbygate Street. It marks one of the old town boundaries. There is a depression in the top of the stone. During the plague this was filled with vinegar. Coins were put into the vinegar as payment for food etc which was brought to the town boundary. The vinegar was believed to disinfect the coins and by the lack of contact between people it was hoped to halt the spread of the disease. Bury townsfolk revolted again after the Plague. The abbacy had been in dispute for 3 years, so the townsfolk seized, and executed, Chief Justice Sir John de Cavendish, the Prior of the Abbey, John de Cambridge and the Collector of Dues, John of Lakenheath. When the Government suppressed the Peasants' Revolt in 1381, a national amnesty was declared. The only town which was excluded from this was Bury. This was to be the final riot. The burgesses had to pay a fine of 2000 marks and a pledge of a further 10,000. They were to finally achieve their aims a long time later at the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Unusually during the 15th century, the monastery at Bury underwent a revitalisation, unlike many of its contemporaries. King Henry VI often stayed with Abbot Curteys, whom he counted as a friend. In 1447, a year after the Abbot's death, Parliament was summoned to sit in the Abbey refectory. Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, who was staying at St Saviour's Hostel, was summoned to appear before the House on a charge of high treason. Next morning, before his trial, he was mysteriously found dead in his bed. On 20th January 1465, a fire broke out in the monastery's western bell tower. It seems probable that the shrine of St Edmund and his remains were more or less cremated then. The monks set about raising money and re-constructing the Abbey over a period of many years. We know the dimensions of the Abbey Church. They were recorded in 1479 by William of Worcester: 'length 505 feet, Transept 241 feet, West Front 246 feet (larger than that at Lincoln, which measures 180 feet), breadth of Nave, 83 feet.
The last great ceremony to be performed in the Abbey was the funeral of Mary Tudor in 1533. She was Duchess of Brandon, Dowager Queen of France, sister to the King and Grandmother of Lady Jane Grey. Her remains were later moved to St Mary's Church, Bury.
In 1539, on November 4th, the Abbot and prior and 41 monks signed the deed of Surrender during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Most of the Abbey buildings and its treasures were removed. The monks were all awarded secular livings or pensions but the Abbot, John Reeve, did not live long enough to draw even one payment. This was perhaps because he was given a house in Crown street within sight and sound of the destruction of his beloved Abbey.
In 1550, the Edward VI Grammar School, one of the first of its kind, was set up to replace the educational aspect of the Abbey.
Today, the only remains of the Abbey are the Norman gateway and the gateway in Angel Hill, together with some substantial ruins inside the enclosure of the Abbey which now forms the town's park. The park is renowned for its beautiful floral displays.
MOYSE'S HALL is now a museum. The name is Mediaeval and the house is referred to in the Chronicles of St Edmund's Abbey in 1328, which is the earliest reference to Moyse's Hall, and suggests that the building may have been a tavern:
'About midnight on St Helen's Day (August 18th) of this year, Thomas de Thornham with many fugitives and outlaws came to the town of St Edmund and forcibly seized the keys of all the gates, and no man of the town hindering them, they hastened to Moyse' Hall (ad aulam Moysii, in Latin) to breakfast, killing Roger Peasenhall a servant of the Abbey on the way. The men of the town being rejoiced at their coming, made them a famous breakfast with many gifts.'
During the early Middle Ages, the word 'hall' had much the same meaning as 'house'. It was common for houses to have the names of their owners. This would make the name consistent with that of a 12th century Jew's house. However, Mose and Moyse are surnames which are common in Suffolk and, together with Mois, Maus and Moes, they are common to Mediaeval East Anglia.
Local tradition asserts that Moyse's Hall was either a Jewish House or a synagogue (place of worship). There has been some debate as to whether the house was built by a Jew or whether an English Christian with one of the above surnames was responsible. Early merchants' houses were often built of stone for security and protection against fire. The only thing we can be sure of is that it dates from around 1180 A.D.
The chronicler, Jocelyn de Brakelond, stated that Abbot Samson, who was Abbot from 1182-1212, both bought and built stone houses in Bury in which to house scholars.
Moyse's Hall is mentioned again in 1474 in the will of Andrew Scarbot. The house remained in the private ownership of various families until it was sold to the Feoffees of the Guildhall Trust in 1626. This was a charitable trust established by the Mediaeval Candlemas Guild.
After the Dissolution of the Abbey, the Trust assumed an important role in the governing and maintenance of the town. They decided to convert Moyse's Hall to the town gaol, workhouse and bridewell, or house of correction. Thus it housed both innocent, poor people and wrongdoers. We know from records that the Feoffees bought rye straw for the inmates' beds and linen cloth for bedding. Tools were brought in for them to work with or to repair. Bread and beer were purchased as staple foods but a record states ' .to buy breade, they had noe worke that day beinge Sundaye nor nothinge to eat upone Sundaye.'
By the 1730's the number of inmates was too great for the building and the workhouse moved elsewhere. Moyse's Hall was then referred to as 'the Bridewell'. There was another prison on the west side of Cornhill which had formerly been used by the Abbot. It was used as a prison until 1804. At this time, a new gaol was opened on Sicklesmere Road. Serious offenders were housed in the prison while minor offenders (drunkards, vagrants, prostitutes, etc) went to Moyse's Hall.
Some parts of the building were sold off in 1812. By 1836 Moyse's Hall became the station of the newly-formed Police Force in Bury. Parts of the building were still used to house offenders.
The Police moved to a new station in St John's Street in 1892. It was at this time that it was first suggested that Moyse's Hall should be used as a museum. In the event, it seems that part of the building became a parcels and enquiry office of the Great Eastern Railway for some time.
In 1894, ownership of Moyse's Hall was transferred to the Borough Council, who proposed to turn it into a fire station, and it seems that for some time it was used to store fire-fighting equipment. This was not new as in 1779 the guildhall Feoffees gave permission 'for the making of a proper place for keeping one of the fire engines in some commodious part of the premises under the Bridewell'.
However, the pressure to use the building as a museum finally prevailed and in 1899 Moyse's Hall first became a museum.
The house continues to present us with some puzzles as to its origins. It is built of stone and most houses of the period were made of timber with wattle and daub. Some richer Jews in the cities did build stone houses for themselves. This was because they were more secure (Jews were usually pawnbrokers and money lenders). Such a house was a good investment and could command a high rent if let out. Also, many of the Jews had originated in France where stone houses were commonplace.
The house fronts on to the ancient market and was in an excellent trading position. There is no record of exactly where the Jewish community of Bury St Edmunds lived, but there is a local tradition that Hatter Street, off Abbeygate Street, was once called 'Heathen Street' because it was home to the Jews. An idea may also be gained from 13th century London. There, the Jewish community lived along two sides of the Chepe, or market square, and in Norwich it was near the cornmarket. Synagogues were set back, away from markets.
Moyse's Hall was featured in a book by Rudyard Kipling as the Jew's house in 'The Law and the Treasure'.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Some Jews had come to England with William the Conqueror. They appeared to choose to stay in London until the time of King Stephen, when they began to move into the provinces. Certainly, they were established in Norwich by 1144.
Jews were only present in Bury St Edmunds for half a century at most. They were not popular people in Mediaeval society. Christians shunned and reviled them as the people who had put Jesus to death (and seemed to miss the fact that Jesus had been born a Jew). Also, people resented their wealth and that they were often in debt to Jews whose money they had borrowed. Many stories were made up about them and they were accused of all kinds of wrongs. In a number of places around the country where there were significant Jewish populations, violence and sometimes murder occurred. Large scale slaughters of the Jews, which happened in some cities, were known as POGROMS.
The depth of feeling in society is reflected in the complaints of Jocelyn de Brakelond that William, the Sacrist of the Abbey, gave sanctuary in the Abbey pittancy to Jews' wives and children during the war (1177?).
On Palm Sunday in 1190, Crusaders slaughtered 57 Jews in Bury. Later that year, Abbot Samson obtained a royal licence to exclude the Jews from Bury. The grounds that he gave to get the licence were that the Jews were lieges of the King and not of the Abbey. This constituted a royal infringement of the Abbey's lordship of the town.
However, prior to this, the Abbey had not shrunk away from borrowing money from Jurnet of Norwich and Isaac fil Rabbi Gotce of London.
OTHER RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION
During the reign of Queen Mary, who was staunchly Roman Catholic, 12 Protestants were martyred for the faith within Bury.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, who was a staunch Protestant, 2 Puritans, Coppin and Thacker, were hanged for distributing Puritan literature. There is a memorial to them in a churchyard in Whiting Street.
THE CIVIL WAR AND LATER
In 1642, the County Committee met in Bury to raise and equip troops for Parliament. It also made provision for the treatment of the wounded. In 1644, the infamous Witch-finder-General, Matthew Hopkins, found no less than 40 people to accuse in Bury.
Three fairs were held every year in Bury on Angel Hill. The oldest one, Bury Fair, was granted by King Henry I and it lasted 6 days. It was said to take a month to build and a year to clear away. By the 15th century the Bury Fair had become an event of national importance. Mary Tudor is said to have erected her own pavilion in the Abbey courtyard when she attended it.
In 1721, it was said 'the diversions of this fair are raffling till it is time to go to the comedy, which is acted every night; which being ended, the company goes to the Assemblies which are always in some gentleman's house or other during the Fair. The author Daniel Defoe was also an enthusiastic visitor to the fair, which had continued annually for centuries. The event was abolished, as were many others, by Act of Parliament in 1871.
In 1734, the town gates were pulled down to allow freer access to the town. The Corporation built a playhouse into the upper part of the Market Cross. A large coaching inn opposite the Abbey Gate was pulled down in 1779 and replaced by 3 smaller inns. The noted author Charles Dickens made mention of the place in his work. This was a time when the town underwent considerable development as the gentry built elegant town houses for themselves.
In 1800 an assembly room, called the Athenaeum was built on Angel Hill. It has a beautiful ballroom. Such places were very fashionable at the time in the retreats of the noble and wealthy such as Bath and Brighton. Local tradition has it that there is a labyrinth of passages below Angel Hill. A botanic garden was laid out inside the Abbey Gate. Also, in the early 1800's, the Theatre Royal (see chapter on Pastimes) was built in Westgate Street. The Abbey was quietly decaying at this time and few showed an interest in it. National curiosity about Bury was stirred when Thomas Carlyle wrote about the town and the Abbey in his 'Past and Present'. It was too late to save the St Margaret's Gate of the Abbey, which was pulled down when the Manor House was built in Honey Hill.
A new Diocese was created in 1913 and the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich was enthroned in the Cathedral Church of St James on March 25th 1914.
In the depression which followed the First World War, some local farmers persuaded a Hungarian company to use a Government subsidy to build a new sugar beet factory in 1924. This provided a ready market for a crop which fitted well into East Anglian farming.
Another traditional industry of Bury is brewing beer. Many of the smaller firms amalgamated in the 1920's to form the large Brewery in the town centre. This is the Greene King Brewery today,
Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Bury continued to undergo development, particularly on its outskirts. It is now a large and thriving town with twice weekly markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays, which draw in traders and buyers from a wide area. The stock market, which used to be held on Wednesdays, closed in the late 1990's. Tourism now forms a significant part of the town's economy. Agriculture is still a significant form of employment in the area.
There is still a wealth of interesting old buildings in the town. The Corn Exchange no longer serves in that function but it is still used for a number of things, such as craft fairs. The Chemist's shop across the street from the front of the Corn Exchange has served as a pharmacy since 1781. Near to this there is a 15th century Tudor House with a figure of Henry VIII on a vertical corner beam.
The Guildhall survives. It has a 13th century porch. The Guildhall was designed and built by Jankyn Smith as a gift to the town in the 15th century.
Cambridge: The town is famed for the many colleges which compose its world-renowned university. However, the town is much older than this. Evidence has been found of occupation of the area from Palaeolithic times. There are signs by the Late Bronze Age that the area may have been beginning to act as a local power base.
During the Iron Age, farming settlements were widely established in the Cam Valley. This was a time of population growth. As we have seen in the earlier chapters, British Iron Age society was tribal. The tribes in the Cambridge area were the Trinovantes, the Catuvellauni and the Iceni.
Wandlebury Hill Fort, 3 miles south-east of Cambridge, held sway over the Icknield Way and the approaches to Cambridge from that direction. There were also circular fortifications in Arbury Camp (to the north) and War Ditches in Cherry Hinton (to the east).
A major village, with a defended enclosure, of the Late Iron Age was present on Castle Hill in Cambridge. The occupation of the area at this time covered a larger site than the later Roman settlement.
The British settlement, known as CAERGRANT, was mainly on the banks of the River Granta (the upper part of the river is still known as the Granta and the lower part of the river is now called the River Cam - hence Cambridge).
As the site fitted all the ideal Roman criteria for a settlement - a river crossing, the meeting place of several roads, a good defensive position and the surrounding area with a variety of agriculture - there came to be a Roman town on the site, probably called GRANTACAESTER, in the first century A.D.
A fort was built soon after the Roman Conquest and potteries, metal working sites and other local industries sprang up, together with villas for the wealthy and cemeteries for the departed.
The Romans made use of the existing trackways. Four roads converged near the Cambridge river crossing. The Romans paved part of these tracks with cobbles and gravel and often added drainage ditches. By the 4th century, roads only entered the town by means of the 4 gateways that went through the walls constructed at the time.
The road into the Fens was known as Akerman Street and many important buildings and numerous villas were sited along there.
The end of the Roman town is a mystery. There is no archaeological evidence to show burning and no indications of a violent end. Some 15-30 cm of 'black earth' separated the Roman remains from Anglo-Saxon ones during archaeological excavations, showing an intervening period of some length between times of occupation of the site. By the end of the 7th century, there is the first written reference to the town. In 695 A.D., Aetheldreda's sister, who had succeeded her as Abbess of Ely, sent messengers 'to a little ruined city called 'Grantacaestir' for a stone coffin to bury her in, and there one (Roman) was found'.
Cambridgeshire was a battle zone during the times of strife between Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. During the 8th century, Cambridge was under the control of the powerful Mercian King, Offa.
In 875 A.D., the Anglo-Saxon chronicle explains Vikings 'went from Repton to Cambridge with a great host, and remained there a year'.
The following years of Danish rule had a great impact upon the development of Cambridge and its surrounding areas. The Vikings created a fortified inland port. In 917, Edward the Elder reconquered Danelaw and the area passed back into Saxon hands. A number of Saxon villages sprang up.
More Viking invasions came in the 11th century. Men of Cambridgeshire are recorded as standing bravely against them when the East Angles fled. However, 'the land 3 months ravaged and burned; and they even went into the wild Fen, and they destroyed men and cattle and burned throughout the Fens. Thetford they burned and Cambridge'.
One of the first bridges in England was sited not far from the present Magdalene Bridge. The subsequent changes of name show how important this bridge was, bearing in mind the conditions of the Fenland at the time. The bridge enabled trade and communications to the Continent via the Wash and the south of England.
By 875 A.D., the town was known as GRANTABRYCGE and by 1142 it was CANTABRIEGGE. It later became CANTABRIGGE and then CAMBRIGGE. This last form was in use until about the 16th century. Until the 10th century, most education was in the hands of the Church as we have seen in the chapter on Education. However, by this time autonomous universities were coming into being on the Continent. Padua, Bologna and Paris were three of the most famous.
Early in the 12th century, the Canons of St Giles had established themselves in a new priory at Barnwell. On the site of the present St John's College was the Augustinian Hospital of Saint John. The Nunnery of St Radegund stood on the site of the present Jesus College. A group of Franciscans also settled in Cambridge in 1224. In 1209 a number of 'clerks' arrived from what is now the other great, older, English university town, Oxford. However, this movement between the towns provides evidence that schools were already in existence in Cambridge before that date.
Surprisingly, 13th century students wandered from place to place. A riot in Oxford would mean a migration of students to Cambridge (and vice-versa)! The students followed continental practice and grouped themselves together according to nationality. Even within England, the River Trent was the dividing line between northern and southern students and the factions waged battles (Welsh and Irish were seen as southerners).
'TOWN AND GOWN RIOTS', colloquially known as 'ragging', were a common feature of Mediaeval Cambridge. They could start from a small incident, such as the imprisonment of a fellow student for a small misdemeanour, and turn into full-blown plunder, fire and destruction riots. Matthew Paris wrote 'Strifes, fights, spoilings, breaking open of houses, woundings and murder betwixt the burgesses and the scholars of Cambridge and that in the very Lent that, with the holy time holy persons also might be violated. The noise thereof ascended to the ears of the King with great complaint'.
In 1261 the northerners were defeated and removed themselves to Northampton, where they combined with some Oxford students to found a university at Northampton.
Students were an important part of Cambridge life even in 1231. King Henry III issued a series of writs. He empowered the Sheriff to punish insolent clerks and students with the approval of the Bishop, the Chancellor and the Masters of the University. A different writ forbade clerks who were not under the tuition of a master to remain in the University. A third writ specified that the rents of lodgings should be controlled by 2 Masters and 'Two good and lawful men of the Town'.
Hugh de Balsham, Bishop of Ely from 1257-1286, was concerned with the education of the ordinary priest and not just the religious orders. He attempted to introduce secular scholars for the first time in 1281. This was at the dwelling place of the secular brethren of the Hospital of St John. This was not a success and the secular scholars had to move to the other end of the town, where the Augustinians gave them St Peter's Church (later site of St Mary the Less), together with 2 neighbouring hostels. So, the first Cambridge college, Peterhouse, came into being. In 1318 Pope John XXII proclaimed the town a STADIUM GENERALE.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, a trade fair was held on Stourbridge common. The proceeds from this were granted by King Henry III in 1229 to the monks of Barnwell Priory for the maintenance of their leper colony.
Goods from all over the Continent went by ship to King's Lynn and then by barge to Cambridge, where they were unloaded at the town hythes. Pack mules then took them to Stourbridge common.
During the widespread Peasants' Revolt of 1381, Cambridge was involved in much bitter violence. There were lots of disputes involving the interests of the University, Barnwell Priory, Government officials, landowners and the townsfolk.
During the strife, it was actually the Mayor who led the attack on Barnwell priory and the town burgesses were bound over not to obstruct the King's peace.
In addition to Cambridge's regular market and the trade of the Cambridge merchants, there were four annual fairs held outside Mediaeval Cambridge. One of these, known as the Stourbridge Fair, came to be known internationally as Britain's greatest commercial gathering. Its origins are uncertain, except that King John granted a market to Cambridge's leper hospital in 1211.
Two other fairs, Reach Fair (see entry for Reach in this chapter) and Midsummer Fair, are still annual events. Midsummer Fair was granted to Barnwell Priory in 1211 and was held from June 22nd - 25th. The burgesses of the town started to take over this fair in the Middle Ages and came to control it after 1506. It was so commercially successful that it was extended to a fortnight in length in the early 18th century. By the mid-19th century its popularity had declined and it went back to 4 days' duration.
In 1714 attractions at the fair included Punch, a giant, a dwarf, wild beasts, dancing dogs, three-legged cats and a female rope dancer!
The fourth fair, the Garlic Fair, was held in mid-August (the Festival of the Assumption) and remained a minor event, but it also ran for a very long time. It was granted to the nuns of St Radegund's in the mid-12th century and was held within the nunnery grounds initially. Later, it moved to the junction of Park Street.
A stream rises in springs near Great Shelford, known as 'Nine Wells'. The Master of Peterhouse, Andrew Perne, suggested in 1610 that it should be diverted into Cambridge as part of a complicated system of waterways introduced into Cambridge in the 17th century.
The conduit, which was on Market Hill, was relocated to Brookside in 1855. It was known as 'Hobson's Conduit'. The name commemorates Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), the university carrier, who worked between Cambridge and London. He became famous in The Spectator journal and in Milton's epitaph.
Steele of The Spectator wrote, 'Mr. Hobson kept a stable of forty good cattle (horses), always ready and fit for travelling; but when a man came for a horse, he was led into the stable, where there was great choice, but he obliged him to take the horse which stood next to the stable door; so that every customer was alike well-served according to his chance and every horse ridden with the same justice: From whence it became a proverb, when what ought to be your election is forced upon you, to say, "Hobson's Choice"'.
Over the centuries, many monarchs have made their way to Cambridge but they usually visited there whilst staying at Newmarket. An exception was the young Queen Elizabeth I who was on her summer 'progress' in August 1564. She had announced her intention of staying for a few nights in King's College. Until then she had been travelling from stately house to stately house at a steady 3 miles per hour. Their owners considered it a singular (if costly) honour for the Queen and her court to stay with them.
Detailed instructions were given of how the visit was to be conducted and the whole of Cambridge buzzed with excitement. She stayed there from the 5th to the 10th of the month. The Queen rode into Cambridge surrounded by lords and ladies. She was dressed in black velvet and wore a gold-spangled hat. All the church bells rang. The churchwardens of Great St Mary were later fined for not ringing their bells for the Queen. A silver cup was the town's gift to the Queen. It was filled with 'angels' - coins then worth 10 shillings (half the value of a pound).
The next royal visitors arrived on Tuesday, 2nd March 1613, and stayed for 2 days. They had ridden over to Cambridge from the royal court which was at Newmarket. They were Prince Charles, aged 12 (later to be Charles I) and his new brother-in-law Frederick V, aged 16, Elector Palatine of the Rhine (usually called 'The Palatine' or 'The Palsgrave' in England). They had numerous courtiers of different nationalities with them. The princes were each presented with a gilt goblet by the Mayor of Cambridge at the Dolphin Inn.
Between March 7th-11th 1615, King James and Prince Charles were in the town. Again they journeyed from Newmarket. It had been an exceptionally hard winter; the great frost had begun in January and snow had lasted many weeks, making travel dangerous. It was thus more difficult to prepare the town for the royal visitors' arrival. They stayed in Trinity College. Whilst the King was in residence, no-one was allowed to go to an inn and tobacco was forbidden as King James had authored 'a Counterblast to Tobacco'. Another order gave a warning against 'The fearful enormity and excess of apparel seen in all degrees, as namely strange pekadivelas (lace collars, also known as piccadills, which gave their name to Piccadilly in London), vast bands, huge cuffs, shoe-roses, tufts, locks and tops of hair, unbeseeming that modesty and carriage of students in so renowned a University'. The royal party returned to Newmarket but came back to Cambridge in more clement weather in May of the same year after hunting in the Thetford area.
King James made 2 more visits to Cambridge from Newmarket. One was on March 12th 1623 and the other on December 8th-17th 1624 with Prince Charles. At the time of the second visit, negotiations were being made for the marriage of Prince Charles to Princess Henrietta Maria of France. The Duke of Buckingham was the King's closest confidante and Sir Edward Conway, Secretary of State, wrote to him to explain that it had been decided that it would be best for the King to meet the French Ambassadors at Cambridge rather than Newmarket. 'The place must be Cambridge, Newmarket being able to bear nothing of grace' (a reference to the rather humble town and first palace). The then King Charles I and his court were in Newmarket in early 1828. The king decided to make his first visit to the town as Monarch March 1st - 3rd.
Cheveley: It was originally King's Land. Its early Mediaeval name was Cavelai or Chavelai (1086). By 1186 it is recorded as 'the king's demesne of Chalvelega. During the reign of Henry II, the manor was the property of one Roland de Dina. He gave the manor to Robert de Vitre on his marriage to Roland's sister, Emma.
The manor passed through different hands, but by 1287 the records show the manor to be the property of Roger le Bygod, Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England.
Chippenham: Chipeham or Cypeham manor was held for King Edward by Orgar the Sheriff until 1066. By 1086 the manor was in demesne. It came into the possession of Geoffrey de Manneville (Mandeville) and he and Rohaise, his wife, gave the church of Chippenham to the Abbot of Walden around 1135.
During the reign of King Stephen, Pain de Beauchamp and (or) Rohaise, his wife, gave Brend manor in Chippenham to the nuns of Chicksand. In 1163, Henry II confirmed to the monks of Sibton 13 cartloads of peat annually 'in the marsh of Ciepham, given by the Countess Raheis'.
By 1184, the manor was owned by William de Mandeville, the Earl of Essex, who gave the manor to the Hospitallers. King John confirmed this in 1199. The church still belonged to the monks of Walden and the land given to the nuns of Chicksand remained their property. In 1205, Simon Norman de Clipshale granted land in Cipeham to Robert, Prior of the Hospitallers, and the Prior, in turn, rented the land to William de Brinchele for 1 mark a year. A weekly market was granted to the Hospitallers in 1226. The master of the Hospitallers installed a gallows in Chippenham in 1279. Clare: The remnants of a large castle, which is pre-Norman, are found in the town. It covered about 20 acres and had an outer and inner bailey surrounded by a moat and a wall. The keep stood on a mound about 60 feet high. William I made Clare one of the 95 lordships in Suffolk and gave it to Richard Fitz Gilbert. The castle became the baronial seat of the Earls of Clare. After 3 or 4 generations, the lack of a male heir meant that the estate passed to three sisters, one of whom, Elizabeth, was called the Lady of Clare. She founded the second oldest Cambridge college, Clare.
A priory was founded near the castle in 1248. It was home to Augustinian canons. On the Dissolution, it was given to Richard Friend by Henry VIII. It then became Richard's private house. The priory church became a barn.
The enormous parish church of St Peter and St Paul is believed to have been built by the Clares in the 13th century. Despite its fragile appearance, because of the vast amount of glass in the building, the tower walls are actually 4 feet thick.
Dalham: The village contains many old and interesting buildings, many of which are thatched. The parish church of St Mary in part dates from the 14th century. It is approached from the village by a steep wooded road or by a footpath which crosses a field under a mature avenue of tress. In the churchyard there is an obelisk to General Sir James Affleck, 1833.
Beside the church is Dalham Hall, which is a red brick building built in 1704-5 by Bishop Patrick of Ely. It stands above most of the village, which is in a valley and borders both sides of the River Kennet running through it, which seems to be no more than a stream at this point.
Past residents of the Hall include the Rhodes brothers Cecil and Francis, whose grandfather once owned the Hall. Cecil is particularly well-known for his exploits in Africa. Also raised above the other side of the village, to the south-west, is a white-painted smock mill, five storeys high, with sails. The mill has a pepper-pot cap with a gallery round it. This is no longer a working mill but, in the days that it was, it had a fan-tail and four patent sails which drove three pairs of stones. The Affleck Arms public house is named after the family which owned a lot of the parish. Local legend makes note of the fact that the church spire and Oliver Cromwell both came to a sudden end on the same day. Dullingham: Dullingeham or Dulingham or Dullingham was held in parts, before 1066, by Earl Algar, Lady Eddeva (Aediva), Earl Herald and sochmen of the king, together with 'a man' of Orgar and Wichinz, the man of Earl Harold and a number of other sochmen. By 1086, the land ownership had passed to Count Alan de Ver, the Abbot of St Wandregisil, Hardwin de Scalers and Countess Judith. Two knights were tenants of Count Alan.
Between 1150 and 1200, 'Robert Malet released to the monastery of Thetford his right in the church of Dullingham; Alan son of Ralph de Burgo, Philip son of Roger to Burgo and Alice his wife, Richard son of Peter le Brun, Ralph and Philip le Brun and William son of Ralph son of Mathers gave lands in Dullingham; Theobald and Henry de Scalers confirmed the grant of Robert their Father; Baldwin de Segeni and Geoffrey son of Edwi also released lands in Dullingham to the same monastery'.
Between 1189 and 1199, Richard I granted to the monks of Wardon view of frankpledge in Burg and Dullingham.
Elmswell: The Abbey of Bury St Edmunds had a mansion, known as the Grange, here. It was said to be magnificent and King Henry VI visited the Abbot there in 1433. As the Abbey had a number of country houses, the Grange was not in frequent use.
The village church was almost completed in 1433, having taken 100 years to build. There is a memorial to Sir Robert Gardener, Chief Justice of Ireland in the 16th century. He built an almshouse in the village for 3 poor widows from Elmswell and 3 from Woolpit. He also gave land to the almspeople with a load of firewood each winter. He also left other legacies for the poor without houses.
Ely:
In earlier chapters, we have already looked at the geography of the Fen landscape and how it was only possible for people to build on raised islands when the Fen was marshland. Neolithic and Bronze Age people hunted in the Fen. The Fen then became less hospitable and there is no evidence of Iron Age people living anywhere except on higher ground around the Fen margins. The course of Fenland rivers in pre-Roman and Roman times were different from today. They are straighter now because they have been altered to improve drainage. The Romans made a road called AKERMAN STREET across the Fens to higher ground where Ely now stands. The road continued at least as far as Littleport. They also made a canal, the 60 mile long CAR DYKE, which ran from Ramsey to the River Witham at Lincoln. It connected the Cam and Ouse rivers and thus enabled water-borne traffic to go from Cambridgeshire to Lincoln and York by joining with other waterways.
East Anglia was then, as now, the region where most of the country's grain was grown and these waterways enabled supplies to be taken quickly to the Roman outposts in the north. It has been suggested by several historians that the Fenland was an Imperial Roman estate.
After the end of the Roman occupation, the Fenland reverted to a waterlogged waste of meres and watercourses with scattered islands here and there. Some of them were only just above the water level. The Anglo-Saxons chose to live only on the high ground and the Fen margins, but they hunted in the Fen itself. The Fen was ridden with fever. The people who lived in the area, Britons who had retreated from the invading Romans and Saxons, were known as the Gyrvii, and were the only ones who could find a way through the swamp, channels and tracks. The Isle of Ely was situated near the boundaries of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and East Anglia. We have already looked at St Aetheldreda, the Saxon princess who had such a great influence in the history of Ely, in the chapter on The Impact of Christianity. Because of her marriage to Tonbert, a Fenland earldorman, or prince of the South Gyrvii, Etheldreda was given Ely as part of her dowry in 652 A.D. We have also seen in the chapter on Hereward and The Battle of Ely that recent archaeological excavations have uncovered the village of Cratendune, which existed before Ely but near to where the city now stands.
According to tradition, Ethelbert had built a Christian church in Cratendune in 607 A.D. This is why Aetheldreda selected a site about a mile to the north of the village, on her own land, to build her double monastery for both nuns and monks in 673 A.D.
Cratendune was abandoned as people moved to be near the monastery and Ely began. The monastery flourished until 870 A.D., when it was burned by marauding Vikings. It lay in ruins for 100 years until it was refounded by Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, who had purchased the land after obtaining permission from King Edgar.
Royal rights were given to the Benedictine monastery along with the rights of 2 hundreds at Wicklaw in Suffolk (now Woodbridge) and the hundred of Mitford in Norfolk. The new monastery was consecrated in 970 A.D. by St Dunstan.
By Mediaeval times, Ely was to own all the land between Stretham and Wisbech, a large chunk of West Suffolk, together with some manors in south Cambridgeshire. The Bishop also had a palace at Holborn and a house in Dover Street, London.
Ely was famed for its singing and its treasures as England was in a period when craftsmanship was flourishing and its monasteries were centres of art. King Cnut gave favours to Ely and a poem concerning one of his visits was recorded: 'Merie sungen the muneches binnen Ely The Cnut ching rew ther by. Rowe ye cnites noer the lant, And here we thes muneches saeng.' Which translates:
'Merrily sang the monks of Ely As Cnut the king rowed by. Row nearer the land, knights, And let us hear these monks sing.'
The Danish raids came again, but this time Ely survived unscathed. Later came invasion by the Normans, which we have looked at in the chapters of that name and concerning Hereward the Wake.
When the monks of Ely betrayed Hereward and the other Saxons, William did not reward them. He exacted heavy penalties from them including having to melt down or sell almost all the gold and silver objects in the church. This was a lot of precious metal as Ely was the second richest monastery in England at the time of the Domesday survey. The colossal yearly income of the monastery has been calculated to have been 768 17s 3d.
An attempt was made to drain Deeping Fen during William the Conqueror's time, but it was not a success, so the Fens were to remain a wilderness for several hundred more years.
A Norman castle, which has vanished, was built on Cherry Hill in Ely. It was also used in the wars between King Stephen and Matilda, but not afterwards.
The first Bishop of Ely, Herve le Breton, was also head of the monastery in 1109. This is the reason that there is no Bishop's throne in Ely as in other cathedrals. As Abbott, the Bishop occupied a stall on the south side of the choir entrance.
Ely became a powerful and wealthy place. The Bishop nominated the chief justice for the Isle of Ely, who could hear all the criminal and civil pleas and cases could be transferred from the King's courts at Westminster to the Bishop's court at Ely.
The monks provided medical and hospital services to the community, though it was not the sort of medicine we practice today! (See chapter on Health and Medicine) A hospital at Ely is mentioned in 1109. They were also skilled in painting, sculpture, architecture, metalwork, including goldsmithing, and writing. They produced wonderfully decorated manuscripts and were skilled in other crafts.
The large estates the monastery owned also demanded farming, husbandry, fish-farming, cultivation of wines, brewing and managerial skills. Abbots and bishops were learned people and were often given positions of authority in the state. Ely, for example, provided several chancellors for the kings in the Middle Ages. Even after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, except for the period of the Civil War, Ely had a succession of High Church Bishops. As we have seen in the chapter on Transport, until recent times the roads across the country were not easy to travel. Water was a preferred way to go and it was the most common way to travel in the Fenland.
During the Middle Ages, monks built Ely Quays by reclaiming and building up the marshy sides of the river to make formal wharves. They also made several subsidiary cuts to the north-west which allowed boats to land their goods away from the main thoroughfare. This encouraged trade to the town and the abbey benefited from increased rents and tolls. Traffic congestion was also eased. Warehouses and other specialist buildings grew up along the waterside. Waterborne transport continued to be very important until the advent of the railways in the 19th century. In 1753 a boat for both passengers and goods left Cambridge for Ely every Tuesday and Friday and then returned the next day. Today, most of the hythes the monks built have disappeared, but Broadhythe survives to some extent.
A weekly market was held outside the monastery gates and, from the beginning of the times of the Bishops, annual fairs were held.
A Mediaeval main road, the VIA REGIA (King's Way), ran across the River Ouse at Aldreth. Apart from the waterways, this was the main road into Ely for the next 700 years.
During the 13th century, as in the times of Hereward the Wake, Ely once again became a refuge for those in fear of their lives. The Baron's war of 1264-1265, led by Simon de Montfort against Henry III, meant that the rebel barons had severe fines placed upon them before they could recover their estates. Those who could not pay were often forced to flee to Ely. They were not finally dislodged until 1267 as approaches to the town had been neglected, possibly as a protection against attack.
No Mediaeval buildings survive in Ely; the earliest are Tudor. However, a detailed survey of the city was taken during the reign of Henry V in either 1416 or 1417, near the time of the Battle of Agincourt. The survey gives the names and measurements of every property in the city and the name of the occupants. The monastery disappeared, as did all the others, during the Dissolution. Robert Steward was the last Prior and then the first Dean of Ely. His elder brother was the great-grandfather of Oliver Cromwell, who figured later in the stories of both Ely and the nation as a whole. During the Protestant persecution by Queen Mary, two Protestants from Wisbech, William Wolsey and Robert Pigot, were burnt at the stake in Ely. Queen Elizabeth I seized all the property of Ely and only handed a portion of it back to the Bishop. Also, during the Queen's reign a scheme was undertaken to drain the Fen on a large scale by an Act of Parliament in 1600. Local people opposed this as it would alter their way of life and take away the living they made from fishing and wild fowling.
Presumably the methods of fowling did not change greatly over the centuries. The noted author, Daniel Defoe, visited Ely in 1724 and wrote quite a detailed account. There was quite an industry in catching wild fowl in huge traps called 'decoys'. They were so profitable that it cost between 100 and 500 per year to rent a decoy. Tame decoy ducks were released into feeding grounds and allowed to become accustomed to being fed there. The ducks were allowed to fly off and bring back wild ducks with them. The lure was food in netted enclosures. The netted ducks were taken out and killed, but the tame ducks either avoided the trap or were spared to work for their masters again. Apparently, up to 3,000 birds per week were sent from St Ives to London.
By 1724, fish from Ely were sent by road to London. The fish were packaged in water butts with the water being changed at stopping points along the route. The fish included tench, pike, perch and eels.
James I also took a great interest in the drainage of the Fens. He called in the Dutch engineer Vermuyden, but the King died before progress was made. It was 5 years later that the Earl of Bedford, Francis Russell, and 13 other 'Adventurers', who also supplied the capital to fund the scheme, finally enabled Vermuyden to begin work.
Oliver Cromwell, of whom we see more in the chapter on the Civil War, had moved to Ely by this time. As an MP he successfully opposed the Earl of Bedford's company which had been trying to claim land as a reward for completing the drainage work. Cromwell wished to defend the rights of the people whose livelihood was affected by the drainage.
In 1638, a number of Ely men pretended to have a game of football and broke down the dykes at Whelpmore, such was the feeling of local people.
During the Civil War, Cromwell conducted the defence of Cambridgeshire from Ely. In 1645, the Royalists were at Huntingdon and many Parliamentarians fled to Ely for refuge. Cromwell said of his Governorship of Ely, 'I will make the Isle of Ely the strongest place in the world. I will make it a place for God to dwell in'.
During the time of the Commonwealth or Protectorate, drainage of the Fens began again. The land that was reclaimed was used to grow crops, but it was soon found that to keep this land it would be necessary to drain it. Water was pumped by windmills from dykes and ditches into the rivers and main drains. The windmills were not very efficient and were replaced by steam pumps in 1820 and then diesel engines in the 20th century.
By the mid-18th century, the fabric of the ancient cathedral was in a poor condition in several places. Contemporary commentators said that the interior was rather shabby by this time. A Mr. Essex, the architect of some of the Cambridge colleges, was called in to survey the buildings and found some of it to be in a dangerous condition. Repairs were carried out between 1750 and 1757 and, at the same time, some of the interior was redesigned. For example, the High Altar and choir stalls were relocated in an attempt to move the choir to a less draughty position. As there was no heating in those days, one of the lay clerks had actually died through the cold.
However, these were just repairs to the building and not refurbishment and the Hon John Byng, later Viscount Torrington, wrote of the cathedral in his diary on 5th July 1790: 'I think it is a shabby, ill-kept edifice. I mean the inside, for the outside is very lofty and fine, only sadly disfigured by the northern side of the west front, being down; the chapels are daubed over by a whiting; and the stalls and altar are of paltry taste'. He was not impressed with the way that the service was conducted either. He later says of the town, 'The town is mean, to an extreme; for if any man chuses to observe, he will find that castles and religious houses were the safeguards and comforts of the country; those withdrawn, their dependencies must decay; what must the decrease of genteel residence occasion in the country?' He recorded the fact that he ate at the Lamb Inn in Ely. The bill was Dinner and Ale . 1/- (a shilling), Wine . 1/2 (1 shilling 2 pence). We have to guess whether or not the dinner pleased him!
The roads to Ely were finally improved after an Act of Parliament in 1763. James Bentham had proposed making turnpike roads in the Isle of Ely and, after the Act was passed, a road to Cambridge was constructed.
The fish trade was still important in Ely in the late 18th century. Parson Woodforde of Weston Longville near Norwich kept a diary. He recorded several times that his friend Mr De Quesne, a Prebend of Ely Cathedral, had sent him gifts of Ely fish. On December 14th 1786, Woodforde received 'a brace of fish, called Eel-Pouts, a small fish the size of a very small Whiting'. On Good Friday, April 2nd 1790, Woodforde received 'A score of fine Smelts', which he had for dinner.
The New Barns estate near Ely was occupied in the late 18th century by Mr. Tattersall, the horse dealer, who was so influential in the history of Newmarket. The Prince Regent was sometimes a visitor there and a famous racehorse gave its name to Highflyer Farm.
As the Napoleonic Wars continued for over 20 years from 1793, there was a constant threat of invasion and plans were made to re-flood the Fens if this should happen. The Isle of Ely would become a place of refuge again and some people actively laid plans to this effect should the French land.
In the chapter on Economy, we looked at the crisis in agriculture at this time, which had been brought about by the Napoleonic Wars and the Enclosure of farm land. The price of corn rose, but wages did not. In desperation, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1816, the labourers of Littleport took up arms.
They raided the homes of the wealthy and forced money from others and then marched on Ely. They were armed with scythes, pistols, guns and a very intimidating wagon on which were mounted 4 punt guns.
The alarmed residents of Ely armed themselves and some were sworn in as special constables but, in the end, they decided not to fight. The scenes of looting and robbery were repeated by the protesters and a drunken riot developed.
The aims of the rioters were unclear, but they demanded 'the price of a stone of flour a day'. They returned to Littleport, where soldiers were summoned and some of them made a stand against the troops who came after them.
Bishop Sparke of Ely, who was the last Bishop of Ely to exercise civil jurisdiction over the area, set up a Special Commission to try 80 of the rioters. Five were hanged, another 5 received transportation for life, and the rest were imprisoned for different lengths of time.
The executions were very unpopular and people were needed to keep the crowds of sympathisers under control As no one would supply a cart to take the condemned to their execution, the Bishop had to buy one for 5 guineas. A memorial tablet in St Mary's Church, Ely, records the sentiments of the authority of the time: 'Let their awful fate be a warning to others'. However, 18 years after these riots, there was an outbreak of hayrick burning in the area because of continuing dissatisfaction. An odd note to this is that sometimes the ricks were set on fire by members of the fire brigades. They would then have to extinguish the fires and would receive pay for their efforts!
In 1809, five men of the local militia were sentenced to receive 500 lashes of the whip each. They had been ringleaders of a mutiny protesting about the stoppage of pay for their knapsacks. The mutiny had been forcibly brought to an end by 4 squadrons of German cavalry, who were stationed at Bury. The journalist William Cobbett had made strong comments upon the events in the Weekly Register. As a result, he was prosecuted for libel by the Government and was fined 1,000 and given two years' imprisonment.
Cobbett visited Ely on Thursday, 25th March 1830. He recorded the visit in his book Rural Rides. His comments (abbreviated) are interesting: 'Arrived at Ely, I first walked round the beautiful cathedral . It is impossible to look at that magnificent pile without feeling that we are a fallen race of men . Ely is what one may call a miserable little town, very prettily situated but poor and mean'.
A new kind of industry changed Ely's economy in the mid-19th century. Certain fossils, COPROLITES, which were actually fossilised dung, were discovered to be good for burning. Labour was needed to dig up the coprolites and wages rose. The price of local land also rose to, sometimes, as much as 150 per acre.
This corresponded with the building of the railway. The Eastern Counties Railway main line from London to Norwich via Ely was opened on July 30th 1845. Another line from March to Peterborough followed in 1846 and the line to King's Lynn opened in 1847.
Both of these factors contributed to the population growth of Ely. The census returns record the following population figures: in 1801, 3,948; in 1841, 7,041; in 1871, 9,805; and by 1891, 8,689.
The cathedral underwent renovation during the mid-19th century. The twelve hundredth (bisexcentenary) anniversary of the founding of the Abbey by St Aetheldreda was celebrated on her feast day, October 17th, in 1873. There were special services and celebratory lunches and many other events.
Dean Merivale gave an address on St Aetheldreda's day and emphasised the great period of time through which the Abbey had continued - over a longer period than most of the great empires of the world had lasted. St Aetheldreda's work still continued but it had adapted to suit the needs of different people at different times.
During the 20th century Second World War, Ely was again a place of sanctuary. Many school children were evacuated from London and Ely received little damage at the hands of the Luftwaffe. An RAF hospital was built on Lynn Road and later became a hospital for the city (NB despite its small size, Ely is actually a city because of the presence of the Cathedral.)
Ely continues to be the centre of an important arable farming community. In the late 20th century and into the 21st, it has become a tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world. However, it still manages to retain its rural town atmosphere and is only at its busiest on market days. Ely market is still a large and thriving concern and attracts local people from a wide area on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Eriswell: The village shows evidence of the vanished Fen edge in the alignment of its buildings, which may be viewed from the churchyard. It was, until relatively recently, sandwiched between the Fen and Breckland, with its drifting sands which would often cover the road. Part of the parish church of St Laurence dates from the 13th century.
There is also a grey brick Methodist Chapel which was built in 1839. The flint-clad Old Church of St Peter became part of a farm building at Eriswell Hall Farm.
During the Middle Ages, there were 2 settlements in the area now called Eriswell - Eriswell cum Chamberlains. In Domesday times, Chamberlains was called Cocklesworth.
There were extensive rabbit warrens in the village and these supplied some 25,000 rabbits annually to London during the Napoleonic Wars. The warreners who tended them lived in a fortified stone tower to protect them from poachers.
In 1661, the SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL IN NEW ENGLAND received its Royal Charter and subsequently bought Eriswell. It has the distinction of being the first village in England to support missionary work abroad. Money from the rents went to support the work.
The NEW ENGLAND COMPANY (so-called because of its dealing with America) built the village school, which later became the village hall. The letters N.E.C are to be seen on a number of village buildings. The village also had visitors from other cultures long before many places. A Native American boy was brought there to be an apprentice carpenter, but he sadly died after only 2 years and was buried there.
The MAHARAJAH DULEEP SINGH was a more famous inhabitant. He had already bought the Elveden Estate (1863) when he acquired Eriswell from the New England Company. The Maharajah was a friend of Queen Victoria who, by her request, left his Sikh religion to become a Christian. He was also the friend of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). They shot game birds together on the Maharajah's estates in Icklingham, Eriswell and Elveden and sometimes slaughtered as many as 1,500 pheasants in a day.
The Maharajah was badly treated by the India Office of the Civil Service and consequently reverted to his old religion and fled to Russia on a forged Irish passport. Whilst, there, he attempted to organise a Russian invasion of India via the Khyber Pass (intent on regaining his Kingdom).
Surprisingly, he maintained his friendship with the Queen throughout his life. Although he died in Paris, he is buried in Elveden.
The older village cottages in Eriswell are mainly of flint with a yellow or red brick trim.
Exning: As we have seen in earlier chapters of this book, Exning is an ancient village.
It was firstly King's land, Esselinge manor. In 1066, seven sochmen of Aediva (Eddeva) the Beautiful held the manor. Then it passed to Godric. By 1086, Wilhomarc held it for Count Alan de Ver, Earl of Oxford.
In 1158, the Count of Flanders had 65 worth of land in Exning. Records state that, in 1162, 'Danegeld of 36 shillings (13 hides) was pardoned on the king's demesne of Exening, county of Cambridgeshire'. There is no evidence that any part of Exning was in Cambridgeshire after this date. It was reported in 1189 that 'Arnulf de Demeseke, Derekin de Acra and other knights of the County of Boulogne have 63 of land in Exning this year. In 1212 'the Sheriff of Suffolk is to deliver the manor of Ixning to Reginald de Dammartin, Count of Boulogne'. Oddly, after so many years of history, Exning got a Parish Council for the first time in 1999. In 2000 it received the honour of being named as Village of the Year for the Forest Heath District Council area. The contest focussed on community involvement and activities rather than being a contest of appearances.
Gazeley: There were several Mediaeval manors in the Gazeley area, of which Desning Hall was one. The Domesday book records this as Deslingham. The Icknield Way crosses the village to the north-east, suggesting the village probably has ancient origins. There was once a huge common field stretching to the north and east of the village. A tower mill stood to the west of the field (the remains of which are incorporated into a house) half a mile from the parish church in the Kentford direction
The parish registers date from 1544. However, it is known that during the Mediaeval uprising in Bury St Edmunds (see the entry for that place), two Gazeley men were involved in the kidnapping of the Abbey Prior and the Chief Justice, JOHN OF CAVENDISH. One of these, ROBERT TAVELL, was hanged for his crime in St Neots.
SIR ROBERT VERNON thought it his right, as lay rector of Gazeley, to claim the great tithes of Kentford, amounting to a value of 5 6s 8d. Sir Robert had resolved the matter to his own satisfaction by sending his servants armed with swords and staves (large sticks) to reclaim the tithe corn. Consequently, in 1619 MR. THOMAS HARCOCKE brought a court action against Sir Robert to reclaim the corn.
Herringswell: This was formerly a fishing village as its name implies. It must be remembered that the tidal Fen once lay to the north of the village. The herring fishery business strongly opposed the drainage of the Fen, rightly supposing the loss of its livelihood.
The lord of the manor was the Earl of Arundel. For some obscure reason it was the custom that, whenever he passed through the village, he was offered a gammon of bacon held on the tip of a lance.
1853 saw the birth of one of the village's noted inhabitants, Aaron Frost. He lived to the then great age of 84. He started work at the age of 12. He was known as 'The Whistling Shepherd' because he could imitate the songs of many birds. Another hobby was carving walking sticks. He also memorised whole chapters of the Bible by heart.
In February 1869, Herringswell church burned down, but was later rebuilt.
Higham: Lies about 7 miles from Bury St Edmunds. The village has 3 greens, designated Lower, Middle and Upper. The church, which has a distinctive round tower, lies on Lower Green. Its appearance is reminiscent of much older Norfolk churches, but Higham Church was built in 1861.
The village grew after the opening of the Newmarket to Bury railway line in 1854 (closed 1967). It had its own station with a refreshment room called 'The Seven Mile Tavern'.
Originally, Higham was a hamlet belonging to Gazeley. The manor was Higham Hall, the centre of which was the Upper Green. One of the manor's previous owners was HORATIO TOWNSHEND, a Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk. He was one of the men sent to the Hague in the Netherlands to ask Prince Charles to return to England to become King Charles II.
A toll house lies at the junction of the slip road which is the main approach to the village from the main A14. A little further into the village is Higham Forge.
The BARCLAY family, who began Barclay's Bank, have owned the farm land around the village for a considerable time. Robert Leatham Barclay was High Sheriff of Suffolk in 1921.
Icklingham: The eastern boundary of Icklingham is the Icknield Way. Another Pilgrim's Path runs across the area. The village is thought to have been the Roman settlement of Camboricum and many Roman remains have been discovered around there. The joint parishes of St James and All Saints' which form Icklingham have made use, over the years, of the abundant Roman bricks and tiles. Apparently, the Roman settlement extended for about half a mile near the River Lark.
There is a visible 25 acre square called Kenfield, which may be a corruption of Campfield. A number of interesting artefacts have been discovered there such as coins, kitchen utensils and a lead cistern, which could have held 16 gallons of water.
Near the point where the village boundary meets those of Eriswell and Elveden, Lord Iveagh erected a memorial in 1921 to honour the Great War dead from the 3 parishes.
The West Stow reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village is near Icklingham.
Isleham: Until 1066, Gisleham manor was held for the King by Wlwin, his huntsman and 12 sochmen under Turbert.
After this time, ownership of the land became much more complicated as we see in the following passages:
In the reign of William II or Henry I, Emma de Port (daughter of Hugh (?) de Port and wife of William de Percy I 'gave to the monks of Whitby 1 carucate in Isleham and 1 carucate in Sneileswell. Around 1175 William Fitz-Alan gave land in Isleham to the monks of Shrewsbury. 1212, William Fitz-Alan, late Sheriff of Shropshire, holds Isleham in chief.
1214 The land and marriage of William Fitz-Alan are granted to Thomas (de Erdington?) for the use of his daughter for 5,000 marks. Perhaps tragedy followed, for in 1218 'Grants to Rohaise de Cocfeld late the wife of Thomas de Erdington, of the dower of Mary, daughter of the said Thomas, who was the wife of William Fitz-Alan in Meleham.
By 1236, Walter de Donestanvill held two-thirds of the vill of Iselham by serjeanty of the honor of Meldham (Norfolk). Robert son of William holds fee for the Bishop of Rochester and has 1 hides; the prior of Ely holds 1 hide in alms. In the same year there is a mention of Little Isleham.
In 1279 it was recorded 'Great Isleham: The vill of Isleham used to be in the King's hands; it is not known how master Giles de Briddeport held it of the gift of Rosia de Dunstanewyll, who held of the heirs of William Fitz-Alan of the honor of Meleham by serjeanty . The Bishop of Rochester holds the church of St Andrew of Great Isleham . the Abbot of St Jacut of the Isle in Brittany holds a messuage with the chapel of St Margaret and 5 score acres of land by the gift of the ancestor of Alan son of Ferlant in the vill of great Isleham and the tithes of the said manors of Isleham and of the demesnes of the Abbot of Shrewsbury there (96 acres) . the Prior of Ely holds 6 score acres of land there . William de Sauston holds a messuage and 5 score acres of land etc there of Matilda de Someri.
In Little Isleham Matilda de Somery, Thomas de Burgh and Walter son of Robert have tenements which are held of the honor of Richmond.
Kennet: The manor of Chenet was, until 1066, held by Thane Tochil (Thobillus) and the sochman Godric. By 1086, the manor had passed to Nicol (Nicholas de Kenet).
In 1163, Henry II confirmed to the monks of Sibton land between the road of Kenet Ford and the road of Frekeham Ford; and on the other side of the water (of Kenet) land which was of the fee of Nicholas de Kenet which he gave in alms.
During 1200 and after, Nicholas de Kenet was a minister of King John in various affairs. We move on to 1243, when 'Peter de Kenet holds 1 fee in Kenet of the barony of Warenne. In 1272 the 'liberty of Hugh le Bigod of Kenet' is mentioned.
The Earl Marshall is recorded as having 'gallows etc' in Kenet in 1276 and by 1279 it is recorded that 'he holds the vill of Kenet with the advowson of the church and does one suit at the court at Castelhacre; he has tenements in the vill of Kentefayre'.
The 1299 it was recorded 'Nicholas de Kenet held the manor of Kenet with certain liberties and enfeoffed Hugh Bigod, father of Roger Bigod, the now Earl of the said manor etc'.
We move on to 1302, when 'Surrender to the King and regrant to Roger Bygod, late Earl of Norfok etc, and Alice his wife, by way of settlement of inter alia the manor of Kenet, county Cambridgeshire'. 1302-3 'Roger Bygod, Marshal of England, holds 2 fees in Keneth of the Earl of Warenne'. Kentford: This settlement grew up because of the Icknield Way and the River Kennett which flows through the village. In 1182, ABBOT SAMPSON of Bury St Edmunds Abbey stayed in the village on his way back to town after his election as Abbot on Palm Sunday.
The TOWN BOOK is an ancient village record. Village land (called Town Lane) was leased out and records of this can be found in the book. An entry from 1738 records: 'John Mullinger, yeoman of Kentford to hold, occupy and enjoy the Town Land' . (the terms being for 3 years and a rent of 6 in two equal payments at the church feasts of the Annunciation and St Michael. John was not allowed to use wood except for fencing. The wood was for the use of the village) 'and the said John Mullinger to oblige himself to lay every year upon the Town Land ten loads of stable muck or dung'.
It is believed that Kentford once had a packhorse bridge, similar to that in Moulton, which has now vanished.
The breeding of racehorses is a main occupation in and around Kentford today. The Meddlar Stud is located in the village (See Famous Names in Newmarket - entry for Felix Leach).
Kirtling: In 1066, Earl Herald held Chertelinge manor. In 1086 the manor was recorded as Quetelinge. In 1177 'a fine of 40s was imposed on Kirtlinges but the amount was pardoned to Roger de Portes'. By 1236: 'Ralph de Thoni holds Kertlinges (which he appears to have obtained in 1216 from Richard de Munfichet) by serjeanty of the King there are 10 hides and in that vill there is no suit of sheriff's aid'. A mandate was delivered to the sheriffs of Essex, Hertford, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hereford, Worcester, Devon and Wiltshire 'to Permit the serjeants which were of Ralph de Thoeny to plough and sow the lands late of the said Ralph'. By the next year, a grant was made to Petronella, Ralph's widow, to hold all of Ralph's lands at farm until Ralph's heir (presumably their son) came of age. In 1242 Queen Eleanor was granted custody of the land until the heir came of age. In 1251 the King 'presents to the church of Kertling in his gift by reason of custody of the land and heir (died 1251) of Ralph de Thoeny'. In 1264 'The castle of Kertling, late of Roger de Tany is committed during pleasure to Henry de Hastinges'. Following Henry's death, also in 1264, the manor passed to Matilda, Countess of Gloucester, in 1265.
In 1276 the manor passed back to the possession of the de Thoeny's; ' Ralph de Tony holds the barony of Kertlynge of the King'. It is recorded in 1284-86 'Ralph de Thony holds Kertlynge of the King by socage;. As we move on to 1306, 'Alice de Beauchamp, Countess of Warwick, is lady of the vill of Kertlinge'. Alice was the daughter of Ralph de Tony of Flamstead and the sister and co-heir of Robert de Tony.
Lakenheath: In 1941 the RAF established an air base. The United States Air Force has had a base there for many years, but the base is still known as RAF Lakenheath. Of course, Lakenheath's history goes much further back in time (see chapter on Anglo-Saxons concerning archaeological excavations in Lakenheath). Coins which were nearly 2,000 years old were discovered on the Lakenheath Hall Estate. There were 3 gold coins and 459 silver ones.
Lakenheath Lode has been filled in, but it once allowed boats to reach the village. This connected with the Great Ouse River.
In the Middle Ages, there was a Lord of the Manor of Lakenheath. One of these lords was Alan of Walsingham, who designed the Octagon in Ely Cathedral. In 1341 Lakenheath was in the Fen. Alan owned 200 acres of wheat, 57 acres of oats, 27 acres of barley and 3 acres of peas. In another hamlet called Underley, he had 1,000 sheep and another 50 acres of wheat and barley. He was thus a wealthy man and these figures give some idea of the importance of various crops at the time.
John Wesley preached in Anchor Lane in the 18th century.
Landwade: A large Roman building was discovered 1 miles north-west of Exning and miles south-west of Landwade church on the east side of the former railway, and was the subject of two archaeological excavations in 1904-6 and 1957-8. It was of tripartite plan and had flanking corridors and a block to the north containing a hypocaust and bath. There was evidence of four phases of building over three centuries. There were two wells which contained pottery from the 1st - 3rd centuries A.D. (some had been imported from the Nene Valley). A group of burials with pottery and glass beads were also discovered.
The first records of the manor at Landwade appear in 1166, when we are told that Earl Aubrey de Ver holds '3 fees of the honor of Richmond' there. In 1195 'Christiana who was the wife of Godard Ruffus, Gerard and Irilda his wife and Agnes, daughters of the said Christiana, release to William le Brun their right and inheritance in the whole land of Little Landwathe, to hold for 3 shillings rent'. In 1262 'John de Burgh, the elder, leased to Philip Basset land inter alia in Laguad for 16 years'. By 1269, 'The Prior of Fordham holds the chapel of Landwathe which belongs to the church of St Andrew of Borewelle .'
Mildenhall: The River Lark and the weekly market formed the basis of the town's prosperity. In the days before road travel was easy or railways existed, river traffic passed through between Bury St Edmunds and Lynn. The Riverside Hotel backs on to the mill stream. It was formerly the home of local solicitor Mr. Stutville Isaacson and later became a private school The Parish Church is dedicated to St Mary and St Andrew and has some fine wooden carvings inside. The market cross still stands in the Market Square.
Mildenhall is a popular place for shopping and, in some cases, for living with American servicemen and their families from the Lakenheath airbase choose to live there rather than on the airbase.
Moulton: The village's original name was Muletuna (meaning market town). It contains many old and interesting buildings, many of which are still thatched. The large village green borders the River Kennet, which was once a much-used waterway and vital to the transport of goods in the area
The magnificent 15th century PACKHORSE BRIDGE has four arches with pointed tops, reminiscent of church arches. The bridge testifies to the former size and importance of the now-diminished river which flows through it. Strong packhorses were once a vital way of transporting goods overland. The walls of the bridge are low to allow clear passage for the packs on the horses' backs. Up to 50 horses might travel together. They were led by a packman or SUMPTER astride the lead horse. There is another narrow, 15th century, flint bridge further south.
The earliest parts of the parish church of St Peter date from the Norman period.
A solitary grave may be seen on the crossroads where the Moulton to Chippenham road crosses the Newmarket to Kentford road. This is the final resting place of a gypsy boy called Joseph. All that is known of him is that he was an orphan who tended sheep. He was accused of stealing a sheep and hung himself. Those who pass the spot regularly will notice that there are always different flowers on the grave. It is thought that those responsible for this kindness are passing gypsy folk.
Reach: Once on the edge of the Fen, this village was the opposite end of the Devil's Dyke to Woodditton. Reach was one of Cambridge's inland ports from Mediaeval times until the 19th century. Hythes and basins were dug out to accommodate the trade. Timber and iron from Baltic countries were main imports. Exports were corn and clunch, which was quarried in a wide local area. Later, by the 18th century, coal, wine and bricks had been added to the list of imports.
Reach was give a charter in 1201, although there may have been a market there before the Norman Conquest. The fair was held at Rogationtide (May Day) for three days. A Fair Green was made in the village by levelling part of the dyke. Horse trading was a traditional part of the fair. Reach fair is still a popular local event every May.
Saxon Street: Was called Sextone manor and was owned by Thane Wlwin in 1066. In 1086, the manor was held by Evrard (Everard, son of Brientius). During 1155-62 'confirmation to Thetford (Abbey) of tithe of land in Cauelei (Cheveley), half the tithe which (Hubert de Montyecanesio?) has in Silvreslei (Silverley) 10s of land in Freeton (Foxton) and land which Richard, son of Osbert and Adelicia, his wife, and Hugh, their son, gave in Diton'.
Silverley: Once called Severlai and, later, Selverlegh and Silverleye. The land was the property of Thane Wlwin in 1066 but it was in demesne by 1086. Around 1135, Aubrey de Ver gave Silverley church to Hatfield Regis priory. It was recorded in 1279 that 'Geoffrey Arssik is lord of Selvirle and hold of the Earl of Oxford for 2 fees; he has as free tenant the master of the hospital of Chipinham, who holds 12 score acres of land in alms by the gift of Geoffrey's ancestor; the Prior of Spinney holds the same extent of land there and the Prioress of Teford; Alice relict of Reginald Arssik holds a messuage there; William Randulf holds lands there'. In 1302-3 'The prior of the Hospitallers holds 2 fees in Silverle of the Earl of Oxford.'
Snailwell: Snellewelle manor belonged to the demesne of the church of Ely but then Abbot Leofsi pledged it to Archbishop Stigand. It was held until 1066 by the Archbishop and 6 of his sochmen. By 1086 'Hugh holds of the fee of the Bishop of Bayeux', that is, the manor.
During the reign of Henry I, Emma de Port gave 1 carucate of land in Sneileswelle to the monks of Whitby. The manor passed to the de Percys and in 1175, after the death of William de Percy, Sneleswell was 'assigned to the pourparty of the Earl of Warwick and fee of the fee of Adam de Port with the service of Thomas'.
In 1195 'William de Coleville and Agatha his wife demanded against Aubrey de Capella, tenant, in a plea of warranty of charter the whole vill of Snelewell and all the land which Geoffrey de Capella held in Mildehale on the day he set forth for Jerusalem, to be held for Agatha's life for her dower, rendering yearly to Aubrey 50 shillings. By fine in the King's court Aubrey granted to William and Agatha for her life, a third part of Snellewelle with the chief messuage etc'.
In 1234 'William de St John demands from William de Percy the service of one knight for the land in Sneilwell which William de Percy holds of him, which service William de Percy does not acknowledge but he acknowledges service of fee. William de St John releases his claim to fee'. Later, in 1230, there was another law suit between William de St John and William de Percy touching fee in Snailewelle.
We move on to 1268, when 'Walter de Stivechworth lost his lands at the time of the disturbances in the Realm and the King gave his lands, except Papworth, to William la Zuche and John de Tybetot, namely a moiety to each. By the King's licence William has surrendered his moiety in Sneylewell, Fordham and Hyselham, to the said Walter'.
By 1279, 'Alice la Blunde holds 1 fee in Sneilwell. The rector of the church of St Andrew the Apostle in Sneilwell holds 4 score acres of land for parsonage by the gift of the Bishop of Ely; Alice la Blunde holds 1 fee there of John de St John and he of the heirs of Henry de Percy, who hold in chief of the King; William de Tuamhill holds a messuage there of the Master of the Hospital of Chippenham'. Stetchworth: The manor of Stwiceworde (Sticeworde, Stiuicesworde) belonged to the church of Ely before 1066. Goduin, the Abbot's man appears to have had care of it. Seric de Odburevilla took some of the demesne farm of the Abbot and put it into the manor of St Wandrille. Records also indicate that Lady Eddeva had some of the land (and Grim took care of this for her). By 1086 the manor was valued at 12 and ownership had passed to Count Alan de Ver and Hardwin de Scalers.
It was recorded in 1185 that Agnes de Valuines, aged over 60, had a manor in the Radfield Hundred worth 15. This may have been the manor of Stetchworth.
By 1236, 'Henry son of William holds 1 hide in Steuchewrthe of the honour of Richmond by socage'. In 1252, 'Grant of free warren to the Prior and convent of Ely in Steuechewurth'. Also 1282, 'Philip de Patemere holds 1 hide in Steuechewrthe of the honour of Richmond'.
Swaffham Bulbeck and Swaffham Prior: In old records the name was spelt 'Suafam'. It comes from the old English meaning the Swabian Home. The earliest document recording Swaffham dates from 907 A.D. There were probably two separate villages by 1086. Swaffham Bulbeck took its name from the de Bolebec family. Swaffham Prior probably refers to the priory of Benedictine nuns at Swaffham in the late 12th century.
Before and after the Conquest, there was a rather complicated multiple ownership of the land. Before 1066, land was in the possession of Ely church, Lady Eddeva, The King, and their servants and sochmen. By 1086 ownership had passed to Count Alan de Ver, Hardwin de Scalers, Walter Giffard and also Aubrey de Ver. There were a number of tenants.
In 1185, it was recorded that 'The daughter of Walter de Bolebec is of the King's gift; she is aged 10; the vill of Swafham is of the barony of Walter de Bolbec and his daughter is heir thereof; it has been given in dower to the wife of Gilbert Basset'. In 1185 the girl, Isabel, was a ward of Earl Aubrey, who married her to his elder son Aubrey, afterwards Earl of Oxford. She was descended from Hugh de Bolbech, who had held land of Walter Giffard in 1086. In the records of 1207, there is a rather curious entry,. An Isabella de Bolebed 'proffers 300 marks and 3 palfreys (horses) not to be constrained to marry and for royal warranty against all her lords that none of them should constrain her to marry'. The same Isabella 'has licence to levy an aid from her tenants in county Buckingham, to levy the said fine of 300 marks'. Isabella was the sister of the Walter de Bolebec named in 1185, the father of Isabel.
In 1236, there is a reference to show more than one Swaffham; 'Hugh de Crawdene holds 1 fee in the other Swaffham of the fee of Hamon Pecche'.
In 1279, records show 'The fee of Gilbert Pecche and the fee of William de Kyrketot in Swafham Prior; the fee of Reginald de Eylesham and that of John de Burthon in Swafham Bolebeck'. In the same year we read that 'The Prioress of Swafham holds the church of Swafham Bolebek by the gift of the ancestors of the Earl of Oxford'.
Near to the village of Swaffham prior is Gallows Hill. This is the site of an excavated Anglo-Saxon cemetery (see chapter on the Anglo-Saxons) and is a prominent chalk hill which was set back from the, then, Fen edge. A skeleton and artefacts from the excavation may be seen at Burwell Museum.
To the north of the burial site, on the former Fen edge, are the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Several inhumations were found there. Within sight of the hill, near the Devil's Dyke, there are the remains of 5 ring ditches, which may have been prehistoric burial mounds.
The name 'Gallows Hill' indicates that this may have been the site of a Mediaeval gibbet (where criminals were hanged); however, there are no written records to show this. The site and evidence of a Romano-British temple were also found near to Swaffham Prior.
Tuddenham: This village once had a watermill, which is now redundant and has changed use. The mill stream was made navigable by Lord Bristol in the 1890's. Originally, the village was sited between the River Lark and Herringswell Fen. In the Second World War, Tuddenham was an airfield. An RAF squadron from there was lost.
Westley Waterless: Weslai, until 1066, was owned by the church in Ely and part was held by 7 siochmen of the Lady Eddeva and part by 2 sochmen of Earl Herold. By 1086, the owners were Count Alan de Ver, the Countess Judith and Hardwin de Scalers. Two knights also held land there.
In 1230, Gilbert Burnel and John le Waleys were parties to a suit respecting a small tenement in Westlegh, county of Cambridge.
During the time of Edward I, Walter de Crek purchased the manor of Westlegh Waterles from John de Burg. The Abbot of Wardon had land here. In 1299, 'the liberties of John de Crek, son and heir of Walter de Crek, in Westlegh Waterles' were recorded.
Woodditton: The village name means 'wood by the ditch end' because one end of the dyke which runs through Newmarket is to be found there. The area was King's land (Ditone or Duntun Manor) prior to the Conquest, but was in the possession of the Church of St Aetheldreda of Ely by 1066. Then 'Archbishop Stigand took it away, the men of the Hundred know not why'. The village was divided into two manors after the Norman conquest; there were known as Ditton Valens and Ditton Camoys.
In 1086 it was recorded that 'William de Nouers (Nieuers, Noderes) holds it at farm from the King'.
In the time of King Stephen, Droard, son of Cade, was recorded as the lord of Ditton. He and his wife, Wimarc, gave the church of All Saints in Ditton to the monastery of Thetford 'for the souls of Stephen, county of Brittany and William, Earl of Warenne'.
In 1194, the manor's name was recorded as Dittune. It changed ownership over the years, but in 1284-86 it was recorded that 'Robert de Valeynes holds Ditton Valoynes and a third part of Newmarket of John de Cameys for 3 fees and John holds of the Earl of Brittany'.
In 1400, the revenue from Ditton Valens alone was more than three times that of Newmarket for the respective lords of the manor. However, as Newmarket expanded and changed its economic role, Woodditton maintained agriculture as the basis of its economy. Surplus grain and produce were possibly sold off in Newmarket market and the town was also the place where justice was dispensed for the whole area.
Life continued much the same in Woodditton for many centuries. An 1881 census showed that out of 140 men able to work, 107 were agricultural labourers. Even at this time, the lord of the manor still directed many things. In the past, families tended to stay in the same place for generations and so some surnames came to be associated with places. Woodditton surnames are: Woollard, Cates, Swann and Symonds.
Woodditton gained a school, built by public subscription in 1847, which was later enlarged by Colonel Harry McCalmont, who owned the estate at the time, in 1900. It then had 200 pupils. The school closed down in 1983, but it only had 5 pupils on the register at the time.
The First World War brought many changes, not the least of which was the loss of 36 Woodditton men - a large proportion of its men for a small community.
When Colonel McCalmont died, the estate was sold and dispersed. Many people found new employment in Newmarket as grooms, footmen or gardeners. Transport had improved and Newmarket had become more accessible for work and shopping. Prior to this, anyone wanting to get to town had had to walk or get a lift on a cart - perhaps the one carrying milk churns to the station.
Many old Woodditton cottages have been modernised. One group of 7 cottages once housed over 50 people. It was common to sleep 8 children to a room (families were larger in the past). The smallest child was next to the sloping roof rafters to minimise the risk of 'head banging'. Today, these 7 cottages have become 3, which house just 8 people. In 1921, all the properties were valued at 235. Today's market value would be well in excess of 160,000.
The village is separated from its neighbour, Stetchworth, by the Devil's Ditch earthwork.
Woolpit: It is said that the village name derives from the pits that were there to trap wolves. There is another strange tale connected to the wolf pits which concerns green children, from a world beneath, which are supposed to have come out of the pits!
Also, many pilgrims visited a spring called Lady's Well in a meadow by the church. The spring was said to have healing properties, particularly for sore eyes.
The village has a mixture of timber, thatch, flint and brick buildings. The Swan Inn and the Bull are listed as being of special architectural and historic interest.
Worlington: The village lies a short distance from Mildenhall. It contains a number of very old buildings; at least one house dates, in part, from the 13th century. The train route once ran through it to Mildenhall and there was a halt in Worlington near The Royal Worlington and Newmarket Golf Club which opened in 1893. The railway line closed in June 1962. a mile from the parish church in the Kentford direction

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