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feet. In those parts which formerly constituted the fen islands, there are
great masses of gravel, sand, and drift clay.

The soil is chiefly arable, and produces abundant crops of corn, more
particularly in the fen district. It has been estimated that about one-
fourth of the fen lands actually in cultivation is sown with cole seed, the
plant being mostly eaten off by sheep. Hemp and flax are cultivated to
a considerable extent in the parishes of Upwell, Welney, Outwell, Elm,
and Wisbech. The parishes of Chatteris, Mepal, Sutton, Swavesey, Over,
Wellingham, Cottenham, Rampton, Landbeach, Waterbeach, Stretham,
Littleport, Ely, Soham, and Fordham, constitute the principal dairy
district, a great quantity of the butter produced in which is sent to London.

Between Chesterford and Cambridge the land is in a high state of
cultivation, the surface is varied and undulating, and affords a pleasing
prospect to the eye. All the beauties of English landscape scenery are
presented in the wild copse, the mossy dell, the russet grove, the meadow
in which the fragrant clover, or the gay buttercup, or the blooming heath,
or the modest daisy, mingle with the bright green of the grassy sod, and
form one of rural nature's verdant scenes grateful to every sense.

Gog Magog Hills, near Cambridge, are the highest in the county,
ranging to the south-east, and commanding an extensive prospect.
Thirty-three Churches may be seen from their summit, scattered through
a great extent of country in Essex, Hertfordshire, and Cambridgeshire,
and adorning the landscape with their antique architecture, their gothic
towers, and their spires that " point to heaven." There is a triple
entrenchment on the summit of these hills, with two rude circular ditches,
which some antiquaries suppose to be remains of a Roman camp. Roman
coins have been found there.

At the time of the Roman invasion (a.d. 45), this county formed part
of the country of the Iceni, being, according to Whittaker, inhabited by
a tribe of that people called the Cenomanni. In the first division of this
island by the Romans, it was included in Britannia Superior, in the
second in Britannia Prima, and in the last in Flavia Caesariensis.

The Romans seem to have thickly populated the district of the fens.
Numerous remains of their roads and villas, as well as many coins and
much pottery, have been found. Several of these great lines of road
passed through the level land now called Cambridgeshire, and may still


be traced. Two of these crossed eacli other in the Roman station at
Cambridge, and are usually called by antiquaries, "" The Akeman Street "
and " The Yia Devann." Another traversed the fens from Denver in
Norfolk to a place near Peterborough. The ""^Erming Street" and
" Icknield Way " pass for some distance through Cambridgeshire, but
they were probably tracks made by the Iceni. The Romans formed great
embankments against the sea, along the shore of the Wash, from Lynn
by Wisbech into Lincolnshire, which are still very conspicuous, although
now at a considerable distance from the coast. They also seem to have
had a navigable canal along the edge of the fens, in continuation south-
wards of the '' Car Dyke."

While mentioning Roman antiquities in the fens, we should notice the
four great boundary ditches, each of which extends for several miles,
across the open chalk district from the fens to the ancient woodland. Of
these, the "Dbvil's Ditch," upon the Newmarket Heath, is the best
known. It is also the largest, although one of the others is longer. Its
length is about seven miles, and it consists of a ditch with a rampart on
one side formed of the excavated soil. The height of the bank is about
eighteen feet above the level of the county, thirty feet above the bottom
of the ditch, and twelve feet in width at the top.

The whole of the upper district, or county proper, of Cambridgeshire is
traversed by numerous brooks, which combine to form the River Cam.
One of the chief tributaries of this river (called the Ree) rises on the
boarders of Hertford, Bedford, and Cambridgeshires ; the other, named
the Granta, has its source in Essex. These waters combine at a short
distance from Cambridge, and flowing by Ely to Littleport, in the ancient
channel of the Great Ouse, are thence conducted by a cut into the Little
Ouse, and, together with that stream, reach the sea at Lynn.

The Great Ouse rises at a spring called Ousewell, near Brackley, in
Northamptonshire, passes through Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire,
and descending by Huntingdon, enters Cambridgeshire at a place called
the Hermitage, in the parish of Haddenham, near Earith, where it
formerly divided into two branches by falling by Earith, below Stretham
Mere, where it received the River Granta from Cambridge, passing on to
Ely and Prickwillow, where the Mildenhall river falls in ; united with this,
it runs to Littleport, Chayre, Welney, and Sprewsnest Point, and so on to
Downham and Lynn, below which port it falls into the sea.

The River None, which has its head near Catesby, in Northamptonshire,
flows through Peterborough and on to Wisbech, below which town it
divides the counties of Norfolk and Lincoln, and falls into the Cross Keys
Wash, or Metaris Estuarium, which is in the jurisdiction of the Port
of Wisbech.


Norfolk is separated from Cambridgesliire on the south-west by the
"Wisbech Canal and the Well river^ which flows through the two parishes of
Outwell and Up we 11^ parts of which are in the two counties.

" The Fens " include a district that extends into the six counties of Cam-
bridgeshire, Norfolk,, Suffolk, Lincolnshire, Huntingdonshire, and North-
amptonshire. The fen district is bounded on the north-east by the
German Ocean, and on all the other sides by high lands, which encompass
it in the form of a horseshoe. Its area by actual survey has been found
to be 400,000 acres. The Isle of Ely is included in the " Bedford Level.''
This tract of land was once a forest, then a morass ; and now, by the
industry of man, large, portions of it are converted into rich pastures and
fertile corn fields. In this fen land, which spreads over parts of Norfolk
and Cambridgeshire, there are accumulations of silt, drifted matter, and
bog earth, carried to their, present position by the old courses of the river,
and some of which accumulations began before the Christian era. Geolo-
gists inform us that after removing these accumulations by artificial
means, they found below gravel beds, sand banks, stumps of trees, masses
of drifted wood, and sometimes skulls and skeletons of wild animals, no
longer inhabitants of this island.

No doubt the fens included forests where in times of peace the Britons
resorted to be instructed in the Druids' lore, and where, after the Romans
invaded the island, they sought for shelter and protection. The Romans
made roads through marshes to facilitate the march of troops and the
intercourse between one part of the island and the other. Civilisation
followed the formation of roads, and Henry of Huntingdon, writing in the
middle of the 12th century, describes the country as being "very pleasant
and agreeable to the eye, watered by many rivers which run through,
diversified with many large and small lakes, and adorned with many woods
and islands." . William of Malmcsbury, who lived about the same period,
says : " The Lordship of Thorney abounded in lofty trees, fruitful vines.*
and productive orchards, and that it had no waste land in any part. It
was also adorned by many handsome edifices. * * * What shall I say,"
exclaims the old historian, " of the beautiful buildings of which it is so
wonderful to see the ground amidst those fens to bear ? " No doubt
large numbers of the Anglo-Saxons settled in Cambridgeshire at an early
period, and built all the towns. The district contains many traces to prove
that towns and villages which anciently existed on the level had been
suddenly overwhelmed by some violent cause, and their place covered with
water. Repeated attempts were made to drain it ; the first on record was
in 1436 ; but nothing effectual was done till the then Earl of Bedford and
some other parties, in 1634, at an expense of £100,000, partially accom-
plished the drainage of the Isle of Thorney, which, wnth the exception of


a hillock where an abbey had been built, was all under water. It was
out of compliment to this nobleman that the tract of land was called
"The Bedford Level." His son and successor carried the work of
draining still further, and in 1664 he obtained a Royal Charter, incor-
porating the undertakers for the drainage (to whom 95,000 acres were
granted), and framing regulations for the management of the land
reclaimed. This Corporation is still kept up, and consists of a governor,
six bailififs, twenty conservators, and a commonalty, who have power to
impose and levy rates for keeping up all the works erected and made
through the fens.

For a considerable distance between Cambridge and Ely, the fen land
has been much benefited by the gault or blue clay being dug up and
spread over the surface. Large portions of the reclaimed land afibrd
fine pasture fields for the various breeds of cattle that are to be found in
every parish. Great numbers of sheep are also kept in the fens, the
breed preferred being a cross between the Leicestershire and Lincolnshire.
Between Cambridge and Ely there is a wide expanse of pasture land
covered with flocks. The pastures are intersected by rows of trees,
rendering the country picturesque. The poet Tennyson has desci-ibed a
scene in the fen country, simply and faithfully, though some people think
it the quintessence of the prosaic : —

Upon the middle of the night,
Waking she heard the night-fowl crow ;
The cock sung out an hour ere light.
From the dark fen the oxen's low
Came to her, without hope of change.
In sleep she seemed to walk forlorn,
Till cold winds woke the gray-eyed morn
About the lonely moated grange.

About a stone cast from the wall
A sluice with blackened waters slept,
And o'er it many round and small,
The clustered marish mosses crept.
Hard by a poplar shook alway,
All silver green with gnarled bark ;
For leagues no other tree did mark
The level waste, the rounding grey."

The Isle of Ely, and some portion of the other lands, form a part
of the great level of the fens called the Bedford Level, from the
efforts made by the last Earl and the successive Dukes of Bedford
to promote its drainage. During the Roman dominion in Britain,
this extensive district seems to have consisted chiefly of wet forests,
intersected by stagnant rivers and marshes. That it was not altogether
a morass at that time is proved by the great reiads made through it


by the Eomans. These are now covered in some places by many feet
of peat soil, so that they are only to be seen when deep drains are cut
in the mosses. Afterwards^ during the Saxon, and more especially
during the Norman, period the whole was flooded by the silting up of
the outfall of the rivers. This state of things became worse and worse
till, in the seventeenth century, the whole district had become a number
of islands, surrounded by an almost constant flood of water. Since that
time, great efforts have been made continuously to reclaim the flooded
lands j and this has been nearly effected by embanking the rivers and
other streams that convey the upland waters, and pumping the fen water
into them by the aid of steam power, which has superseded windmills.
The singular changes which took place in this district during its neg-
lected state may be illustrated by the fact that at one period the rivers
None, Ouse, and Cam, which poured their waters on to the level, all found
their way to the sea at Wisbech ; that subsequently, by the formation
of a cut, which still conveys the latter two, conjointly by the Little Ouse,
to Lynn, the three took their course to that last-mentioned town, and the
Nene became so sluggish as to have no definite channel, but fomid its
way through various tortuous drains. At the present time the Nene alone
flows by an artificial course to Wisbech ; and the old channel of the
great Ouse, from Littleport to Wisbech, is so completely filled up as to
be only traceable by a bed of silt, and a slight but broad depression of
the land. The Ouse formerly flowed from Earitli, near which place it
enters this county, to a spot some miles to the south of Ely, to be
joined by the Cam ; but is now conducted by a great artificial cut, called
the Bedford river, in a direct course of more than twenty miles to
Denver in Norfolk, thus leaving many miles of its ancient channel
nearly dry.

The county for civil purposes is divided into the Hundreds of Arming-
ford, Chesterton, Cheveley, Chilford, Ely, Fiendish, Longstow, North-
stow, Papworth, Kudfield, Staiue, Staploe, Thriplow, Whitterley,
Whittlesford, Wisbech, North Witchford and South. It contains the
city of Ely, the town and University of Cambridge, the towns of Linton,
March, Thorney, and Wisbech, and part of Newmarket and Royston.
Three knights are returned to Parliament for the shire and two repre-
sentatives each for the borough and University of Cambridge. At an
early period the Isle of Ely was made a separate district with an inde-
pendent jurisdiction.

The county is in the Norfolk Circuit, and' with the Isle of Ely is in the
jurisdiction of the London Court of Bankruptcy. For Parliamentary
purposes, the two divisions form one district, returning three members to
Parliament, having the place of election at Cambridge, and polling-places


at Cambridge, Caxton, Chatteris, Ely, Linton, Long Stanton, Marcli,
Newmarket, Royston, Soham, Whittlesea, and Wisbecli. The greater
part of both districts is in the diocese of Ely, except a few parishes in
the diocese of Norwich. There are 165 parishes in the diocese.

The following is a list of the Hundreds in the county, with the parishes
ie each Hundred : —

Hundred of Armingford : — Abington in the Clay or Abington Pigotts,
Bassingbourne, Croyden-cum- Clapton, East Hutley, Guilden Morden,
Litlington, Melbourn, Meldreth, Royston, Shingay, Steeple Morden,
Tadlbw, Wendy, and Whaddon.

Hundred of Chesterton : — Chesterton, Childerley, Cottenham, Dry
Drayton, and Histon.

Hundred of Cheveley : — Ashley-cum-Silverley, Cheveley, Kirtling,
Newmarket, All Saints, and Wood Ditton.

Hundred of Chilford : — Babraham, Castle Camps, Great Abington,
Great Bartlow, Hildersham, Horseheath, Linton, Little Abington,
Pampisford, Shudy Camps, and West Wickham.

Hundred of Ely : — Downham and Littleport.

Hundred of Fiendish : — Cherry Hinton, Fen Ditton, Fulbourn All
Saints, Horningsea, and Feversham.

Hundred of Longstow : — Bourn, Caldecote, Caxton, Croxton, Eltisley,
Gamlingay, Great Eversden, Hardwicke, Hatley St. George, Kingston,
Little Eversden, Little Gransden, Longstow, and Toft.

Hundred of North Witchford : — Chatteris, Doddington, March St.
Mary and St. Andrew, Whittlesley.

Hundred of Northstow : — Girton, Impington, Landbeach, Lolworth,
Long Stanton All Saints, Long Stanton St. Michael, Marlingley, Milton,
Oakington, Rampton, and Waterbeach.

Hundred of Papworth : — Boxworth, Conington, Elsworth, Fen Drayton,
Grancley, Knapwell, Over, Papworth St. Agnes, Papworth St. Everard,
Swavesea, and Willingham.

Hundred of Rudfield : — Balsham, Brinkley, Burrough GrecE, Carlton-
cum-Willingham, Dullingham, Stetchworth, West Wratting, Westley
Waterless, and Weston Colville.

Hundred of South Witchford : — Coveney, Grunty Fen, Haddenham,
Manea Chapelry, Mepal, Sutton, Stretham, Welches Dam, Wentworth,
Wilburton, Witcham, and Witchford.

Hundred of Staine : — Bottisham, Great Wilbraham, Little Wilbraham,
Swaffliam Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, and Stow-cum-Quy.

Hundred of Staploe : — Burwell, Chippenham, Fordham, Isleham,
Kennett, Landwade, Snailwell, Soham, and Wicken.

Hundred of Triplow : — Foulmere, Foxton, Great Shelford, Harston,


Hanxton, Little Shelford, Newton, Stapleford, Thriplow, and Trump-

Hundred of Wetherley : — Arrington, Barrington, Barton, Comberton,
Coton, Grantcliester, Harleton, Haslingfield, Orwell, Shepretli, and

Hundred of Whittlesford : — Duxford, Hinxton, Ickleton, Sawston, and

Hundred of Wisbeacli : — Elm, Leverington, Newton Outwell, Parson
Drove Chapelry, Tborney, Tydd St. Giles, Upwell, Wisbeacli St. Mary,
and Wisbeacb St. Peter.

City of Ely :— Ely College, Ely St. Mary, Ely Trinity, and Ely West-
moor Fen.

Borough of Cambridge : — All Saints, Holy Sepulchre, Holy Trinity, St.
Andrew the Great, St. Andrew the Less, St. Benedict, St. Botolph, St.
Clement, St. Edward, St. Giles, St. Mary the Great, St. Mary the Less,
St. Michael, and St. Peter.

The County Lunatic Asylum, situated at Fulbourn, is a handsome
building in the Elizabethan style, erected at a cost of £40,000. It will
accommodate about 310 inmates.

The County Prison and House of Correction is situated on Castle Hill,
in the parish of Chesterton, and was erected in 1804 on the site of the
old Castle.

The Jails for the Isle of Ely are at Ely and Wisbech. That at Ely was
built in 1843, on the model of Pentonville Prison.


Cambridge is a University, Borough, and Market Town, having separate
jurisdiction, and forming a Union and Hundred of itself in the County of
Cambridge, on the river Cam, 51 miles (north by east) of London. As it
is situated in a fenny district, it owes its chief attractions to the number,
variety, and magnitude of the buildings connected with the University.
The town, which is about a mile in length, and nearly a mile in breadth,
lies chiefly on the south-eastern side of the Eiver Cam. The streets are
generally narrow and crooked, but on the whole the town has been much
improved by the erection of new buildings.

The town of Cambridge obviously derives its name from the Eiver
Cam, anciently the Granta, which name is still preferred by old Cantabs.
In the Domesday Book the town is called Grente Bridge. It stands on
level ground, chiefly on the right side of the river, which is crossed by
an iron bridge of one arch, erected by public subscription in 1823. There
are few public buildings here of much interest independently of the
University and the Churches. The University Church is St. Mary's, near


the centre of the town. It was begun in 1478j and not completed till

The Anglo-Saxons appear to have built the town of Cambridge at an
early period, and many of them settled there in the seventh century. The
first well authenticated fact stated by historians is the burning of the
town by the Danes in 871. The desolated site was chosen by the
invaders as one of their principal stations. In 875 three of their generals
wintered here with an army, and they occupied this station occasionally
tiU 921. In 1010 the town was again destroyed by its old enemies, the
Danes, who left few people in it. Whilst some of the English nobility
held the Isle of Ely against WiUiam I., that king built a castle on the
site, as is supposed, of the Danish fortress ; but if so, it appears to have
been on a more extended scale, for it is stated in Domesday Book that
twenty-seven houses were destroyed for the purpose.

The town, though a borough by prescription, was first incorporated by
Henry I. in the early part of his reign ; and twenty -four charters, none
of which, however, with the exception of that of the 5th of Eichard II.,
caused any material change in the municipal government, were granted
previously to the charter of the 7th of Charles I., under which the
officers of the corporation consisted of a Mayor, four Bailifis, twelve
Aldermen, twenty-four Common Councillors, and two Treasurers ; others,
not named in the charter, were a High Steward, a Recorder, a Deputy-
Recorder, four Councillors, two Coroners, a Town Clerk, Deputy-Town
Clerk, and subordinate officers. The Government is now, under the Act
of the 5th and 6th WiUiam IV., c. 76, vested in a Mayor, ten Aldermen,
and thirty Councillors.

The town is a polling-place for the election of knights of the shire, for
which it is also the principal place of election. The borough has returned
members to Parliament since the twenty-third of Edward I. The right of
election was formerly vested in the freemen not receiving alms ; but by
the Act of the 2nd of Wilham IV., c. 46, the non-resident freemen were
disfranchised, and the privilege was extended to the £10 householders of
the borough, and by the Reform Act of 1867, to all householders. The
privilege of sending two representatives was conferred on the University
by charter of James I. The right of election is vested in the members
of the Senate, and the Vice-Chancellor is the returning-officer.

At Cambridge, the religious houses were numerous. The most ancient
was that of Augustine Canons, founded near the Castle in 1092 by Picot,
the Sherifl", and augmented on its removal to Barnwell by Payne Peverel,
standard bearer to Robert, Duke of Normandy ; its revenue at the dis-
solution was valued at £351 15s. 4d. Some remains of the conventual
buildings have been converted into farm offices. The Benedictine


Nunnery of St. Rhudegund appears to have been founded about the year
1130. It was originally dedicated to Mary, but was re-dedicated to St.
Rhudegund by Malcolm IV., King of Scotland, who augmented its
revenues, and rebuilt the Conventual Church about the year 1160, the
remaining portion of which forms the Chapel of Jesus' College. For the
purpose of founding this College, Henry YII. granted it to Bishop
Alcock, having escheated to the Crown, in consequence of its being
deserted by the nuns. The Monastery of the Grey Friars, or Franciscans,
the site of which is occupied by Sidney Sussex College, was founded
about 1224, and was very flourishing. The Bethlemite Friars settled in
Cambridge in 1257 in a house in Trumpington Street, of which they had
procured a grant. The Friars de sacco, ov penetentia Jesu Chr ist i, setthd
in the same street in 1258, and the order was suppressed in 1307.

The brethren of St. Mary settled in the parish of All Saints, near the
Castle, about 1274. The Priory of the Black Friars, the site of which is
now occupied by Emanuel College, was founded before 1275. The
Augustine Friars are supposed to have settled here about 1290. Their
Convent was founded by Sir Geofiry Pitchford, in the parish of St.
Edward. The White Friars, or Carmelites, the site of whose Convent is
occupied by the garden of the Provost of King's College, settled first at
Chesterton, then at Newenham, about 1249, from which they removed in
1316 to a spot of ground just within the walls, given them by Edward II.
Bishop Fitzwalter, in 1291, founded a small Priory of Gilbertines, who
occupied the old Chapel of St. Edmund, opposite to Peterhouse.

The town is divided into four distinct wards, named respectively Bridge
Ward, Market Ward, High Ward, and Preacher's Ward ; and comprises
the fourteen parishes before named, containing as many churches. There
are meeting-houses for Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists,
Independents, and the Society of Friends. The Free Grammar School,
situated near Corpus Christi College, was established in pursuance of the
will of Stephen Perse, M.D., senior Fellow of Caius College, who in 1615
bequeathed property producmg £180 per annum for its erection and en-
dowment. There are several day schools for the children of the poor. The
General Hospital or Infirmary, commonly called Addenbrooke's Hospital,
situated at the entrance into the town from London, was founded by John
Addenbrooke, M.D., Fellow of Catharine Hall, who in 1719 bequeathed
about £4000 to erect and maintain a small physical hospital. Mr. John
Bowtell, of Cambridge, by will dated in 1813, bequeathed to the institution
£7000 Consolidated Bank Annuities, and about £4000 have been expended
in the erection of two extensive wings. The annual income from rents,
stock, and contributions is upwards of £3000. There are almshouses for
upwards of fifty-four persons, founded and endowed by different individuals.


The Castle, built in the reign o£ William I. on the site of a Eoman
station, afterwards occupied as a Danish fortress, was in early times an

Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 70)