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escaped tlie massacre, and wlio establislied themselves as secular priests,
under the government of provosts, for nearly a century.

In 970, Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, having purchased from
Edgar the whole of the Isle of Ely, repaired or rebuilt and munificently
endowed the Monastery, placing in it an abbot and regular monks, to
whom Edgar granted the secular jurisdiction of two Hundreds within and
five without the fens, with many important privileges, which were subse-
quently confirmed by Canute, and increased by Edward the Confessor,
who here received part of his education. In the reign of Henry I., the
tenth and last abbot, Richard, obtained from that King permission to
establish an episcopal see at Ely, and this was soon after carried into
effect, and the diocese included the county of Cambridge. At the disso-
lution of the monastery, Henry VIII. altered the ecclesiastical establish-
ment of the see, and by charter converted the Conventual into a Cathedral
Church, which was dedicated to the Holy Trinity. He endowed with
the site and a portion of the revenue of the dissolved priory. Under
his charter, as re-modelled by Charles II., the establishment consists
of a Dean, eight Canons or Prebendaries, five minor Canons, eight lay
Clerks, a Schoolmaster, Ushers, and twenty-four King^s Scholars.

Ely Cathedral, begun in 1081 and never entirely completed, is a splendid
cruciform structure, displaying through almost imperceptible gradations
the various changes of ecclesiastical architecture from the Norman till
the latest period. The plan differs from other Cathedrals in the length of
the nave, which is continued through an extended range of twelve arches,
and in the shortness of the transepts, which have only a projection of
three arches. The nave and transepts are in the Norman style ; the choir
is partly in the Early English and partly in the Decorated style.

The interior of the Cathedral is singularly elegant, and derives a simple
grandeur of effect from the judicious arrangement by which the various
styles of its architecture are made to harmonise.

The choir, partly in the Early and partly in the Decorated English
style, is separated from the nave by three of the western arches, which
were originally part of it, and now form an ante -choir ; the eastern part, or
present choir, consisting of a range of six arches, is lighted by a double
range of windows, and forms one of the richest specimens of the Early
English style extant. The roof is beautifully groined, and the inter-
sections embellished with flowers and foliage of elegant design.

The exterior of the Cathedral, with its lofty tower, presents a grandly-
imposing appearance when viewed from a distance. The west front,
though incomplete from the want of the south wing of the facade, is
strikingly magnificent; the lower part is in the Norman style, with a

I



130 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGU^ND.

handsome octagonal turret at the southern extremity, a projecting porch
of early English architecture, a lofty, massive, and highly-enriched tower
with angular turrets of Norman character, in its lower stages, and in the
upper of Early Enghsh. From the intersection of the nave and transepts
rises a noble octagonal lantern, which is considered one of the finest
compositions in the Decorated English style. The Lady Chapel is an
elegant edifice in the later Decorated style; the groining of the roof and
the series of niches surrounding the interior are of exquisite beauty. The
Chapels of Bishops Alcock and West are elaborately decorated with a
profusion of architectural embellishments, but inferior in general effect
to other portions of this beautiful structure. The length of the
Cathedral is 535 feet from east to west, and the breadth 190 feet from
the extremity of the north to that of the south transept. There are
scanty remains of the cloisters and chapter -house, and the refectory has
been converted into a residence for the Dean.

We walked through the silent streets of the old city, so dull and
deserted, past the old ivy-grown Deanery, and reached the glorious fane.
We entered reverently, for the faith of a past age is embalmed there, a
faith active in old times when tyranny or rapine drove timid souls to look
up to a higher justice, and seek refuge in the tranquil cloister. The
ancient temple is growing young again with a new beauty revived by
modern taste and skill. As we looked up to the beautiful octagonal
lantern which replaced the fallen spire, we thought of the legend of the
pious Etheldreda, whose virgin life is there emblematised in sculpture.
She was a maiden of royal race, who lived in the 7th century. Twice she
was wedded, but only in name ; first with Tombert, a noble of the East
Angles, she lived a maiden wife for three years ; and when he died. Prince
Egford sought her hand. With him she hved a maiden wife for twelve
years. Then she was again a virgin widow. She passed the rest of her
life in devotion, and when she died she was buried in the common ceme-
tery of the nuns of Ely. Sixteen years after she was re-interred in a fine
marble tomb in the Cathedral. No signs of decay were visible in her
pure body, and from the spot where she had lain a fountain sprung up as
a memorial to later ages.

Ely contains about 7000 inhabitants, most of whom hve in houses of a very
inferior description. The road from the railway- station leads through the
worst part of the city, presenting long streets and rows of mean houses
that impress the mind with the idea of squalid poverty, contrasting
strangely with the grandeur of the Cathedral and the Palace. The
vicinity of the railway, and the bustle it has introduced into the formerly
quiet city, have been the means of improving the condition of the in-
habitants. Many of the better houses are built of stone, but the town



A DESCRIPTION OP CAMBRIDQESHIBE. 131

presents few architectural ornaments^ except the Cathedral. Seen from
the railway-station by daylight^ Ely is an amphibious-looking place —
houses^ meadows^ and water strangely intermingled^ and masked and
fringed by willows. Oobbettj in his "Eastern Tour/' says: "I was
particularly desirous to have a little political preaching at Ely_, the place
where the flogging of the English local Militia^ under a guard of German
bayonets, cost me so dear " — a thousand pounds fine and imprisonment in
Newgate. To us, in these days of penny newspapers and free discussion,
it seems hardly possible that such an incident could take place in the
present century.

LITTLEPOET

Is a large village and parish on the banks of the river Ouse, five miles
(north) from Ely. The area is 16,136 acres, about 800 of which are high
land, and the remainder fen. The chief crops are wheat, barley, oats, and
beans. The Church is a fine specimen of Early English architecture j the
lofty tower is remarkable for the beauty of its outline. In 1857 the
Church was enlarged by the addition of a double-nave and aisle on the
north side; it now seats a thousand people. The living is a vicarage,
yearly value £1907, with house, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely. There
are Chapels for Baptists, Methodists, and other Dissenters. There is a
Church Sunday School and other schools. Population, 3728.



A market-town and chapelry, in the parish of Doddington, Union
and Hundred of North Witchford, Isle of Ely, county of Cambridge, 31
miles (north by west) from Cambridge, 80 (north) from London. The town
is situated on the banks of the navigable river Nene, by which communica-
tion is obtained with Cambridge, Lynn, Peterborough, and other places.
The market, granted to Sir Alexander Peyton in 1671, is on Friday,
chiefly for butcher's meat ; and there are two fairs, each of which lasts three
days, commencing on the Monday before Whitsuntide, and on the second
Tuesday in October. Manorial courts are held in the Guildhall, a modern
and commodious edifice, situated in the High-street ; and the place is
within the jurisdiction of the Court of Eequests for the recovery of debts
under 40s. throughout the Isle of Ely, held here once a month. The
Chapel, dedicated to St. Wendreda, a very ancient structure, with a spire
at the west end, was erected about the year 1343, at which period an
indulgence was granted by the Pope to all who should contribute to it ;
in the interior are several monuments. A school was founded in 1696,
by William Neale, Esq., and endowed with 33J acres of land in White's
Fen; and National Schools were erected in 1827. There are charities for



132 HISTORY OP EASTERN ENGLAND.

the poor yielding a rental of £470, of wMcli part is applied to purposes
of instruction. Between this town and Wisbeach, urns enclosing burnt
bones, and a vessel containing 160 Eoman denarii of different Emperors,
were discovered in the year 1730.

WISBEACH

(St. Peter and St. Paul), a seaport, borough, market town, and parish,
and the head of a union, in the Hundred of Wisbeach, Isle of Ely, county
of Cambridge, 43 miles (north) from Cambridge, and 94 (north by east)
from London. This place is of great antiquity, and is noticed in a charter
by which in 664, Walfhere, son of Penda, King of the Mercians, granted to
the Abbey of Medehamstead, now Peterborough, " the lands from Eug-
well, five miles to the main river that goeth to Elm and to Wisbeach." In
the Norman survey, it is mentioned under the same appellation, which it
retained till the reign of Edward I., from which period till the time of
Henry VI. it was invariably written " Wysebeche." The name is sup-
posed to be derived from the river Ouse, then called the Wise, and from
the Saxon " bee," signifying either a running stream, or a tongue of land
at the confluence of two rivers, which, previously to the diversion of their
streams, was descriptive of its situation at the confluence of the Ouse with
the river None, From the date of Walfhere^s charter, little is recorded of
the history of this place till the year 1000, when the manor is said to have
been given to the Abbot and Convent of Ely by Oswi and Leoflede,
daughter of Brithnod the first Abbot, on the admission into that Monastery
of their son Ailwin, afterwards Bishop of Elmham. William the Con-
queror in the last year of his reign erected a strong castle here, which
he placed under the command of a governor, styled a constable, with a
strong garrison, to keep the refractory barons in submission, and to check
the ravages of the outlaws, who made frequent incursions from the neigh-
bouring fens into the upland parts of the county. In 1190, Eichard I.
granted to the tenants of Wisbeach Barton Manor exemption from toll in
all towns or markets throughout England, which privilege was confirmed
by King John, who in 1216 visited the town, .and is supposed to have
taken up his residence in the Castle, on leaving which that monarch,
attempting to cross the Wash at an improper time, lost all his carriages,
treasure, and regalia. The greater part of the town, together with the
Castle, was destroyed in 1236 by an inundation of the sea, but was soon
afterwards restored ; and the Castle subsequently falling into dilapidation^
Bishop Morton, towards the close of the fifteenth century, erected on its
site another of brick, which became an episcopal palace of the Bishops of
Ely. In the reign of Elizabeth, the Castle was appropriated to the con-
finement of State prisoners, and during the protectorate of Cromwell it



A DESCRIPTION OF CAMBRIDGESHIRE. 133

was purchased by TliurIoe_, afterwards his secretary, who made it his
occasional residence. After the Eestoration, it again reverted to the
Bishops of Ely, and was sold in 1793 ; all remains of it have disappeared
in the recent improvements of the town, which is at present the most
flourishing place in the Isle of Ely. The town is situated on both
sides of the river now called the Nene, over which is a massive
iron bridge of large span; the streets are regularly formed, the
houses are in general well built, and on the site of the ancient
Castle, which was purchased by an architect and taken down in 1816,
a handsome crescent of more than fifty houses has been erected .
the town is well paved and lighted with gas. From the late improvement
in the system of di'aining, a great portion of previously unproductive land
in the vicinity has been brought into a high state of cultivation, and on
every side are seen fertile corn-fields and luxuriant pastures. A per-
manent Literary Society was established in 1781, who have a library
containing more than 3000 volumes ; and there is also a Theological
Library, in which are many valuable works of the most eminent of the
old divines. There are a Eeading-room and a neat Theatre; Assemblies are
held in rooms appropriately fitted up ; and a commodious building has
been erected, in which are hot, cold, and sea-water baths, furnished with
dressing-rooms and every requisite appendage. About a century since,
the principal articles of trade were oil (for the preparation of which there
were seven mills in the town) and butter, of which not less than 8000
firkins were sent annually to London. The importance of the place as a
seaport has much increased of late years, and the trade has been greatly
augmented ; the principal exports are corn, rape seed, long wool (of which
great quantities are sent to the clothing districts in Yorkshire), and timber,
which is brought to this place from the county of Northampton, and it is
now one of the principal places of export for wheat in the kingdom ; the
chief imports are wine, deals, and coal. The na^dgation of the river
^.bove the town was many years since greatly improved by a straight cut
from Peterborough, forming a communication with the upland country,
and supplying Peterborough, Oundle, and Northampton with various
commodities; and below the town very extensive works have been
executed by the Commissioners of the Nene Outfall, which have greatly
benefited large tracts of land in the neighbourhood, and made the naviga-
tion to the sea perfect ; vessels of large burden now approach the town,
and load and unload at the quay and granaries. In 1839, the tonnage
duties were paid on 97,119 tons; the number of vessels above fifty tons
registered at the port was fifty-six, and their aggregate burden 5200
tons. In 1794, a canal was cut from the river at Wisbeach to the Old
Nene at Outwell, and thence to the Ouse at Salter's Lode Sluice^ opening'



134 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND.

a way to Norf olk^ Suffolk^ and the Eastern Counties. A packet arrives from
Peterborougli every Tuesday and Friday, and departs every Wednesday
and Sunday morning. The Market is on Saturday ; there are Fairs, held
on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and the Saturday before Lady-day^
for hemp and flax ; a considerable Horse Fair on the Thursday before Whit-
Sunday, numerously attended by the London dealers ; and a large Cattle
Fair on August 12th, at which 3000 head of cattle have been brought for
sale ; the Market and Fairs are held by the Corporation on lease from the
Bishop of Ely, who is lord of the manor. The Market Place is a spacious
open area. In the year ending September 1st, 1845, the quantity of
corn sold was 250,000 quarters. Vessels of 400 tons enter the port, and
37,410 registered tons of shipping cleared inwards in 1867. The number
of vessels entered inwards was 133 from foreign ports ; tonnage, 24,615.
Coast vessels, 228; tonnage, 12,795.

The guild of the Holy Trinity, established in 1379, being found at the
time of the dissolution to have supported a Grammar School, and main-
tained certain piers, jetties, and banks, " against the rage of the sea,^^ was
in 1549 restored by Edward VI., who also gave the inhabitants a charter
of incorporation, which was renewed by James I. in 1611, and confirmed
by Charles II. in 1669. The Corporation at present consists of a Mayor,
six Aldermen, and eighteen Councillors, under the Act of the 5th and 6th
of William IV., cap. 76. The borough is divided into two wards. The
Mayor and late Mayor are Justices of the Peace, and the number of other
magistrates is three. The Quarter Sessions for the Isle of Ely take place
here and at Ely alternately ; Petty Sessions for the division are held here ;
and there is a Court of Eequests for debts under 40s., at which the
number of suits determined annually is 600. The Town Hall is em-
bellished with the town arms, a painting of Edward VI., and portraits of
Dr. Jobson, the late vicar, who was a considerable benefactor to the town,
and Thomas Clarkson, the strenuous advocate of negro emancipation.
The Shirehall is annexed to the gaol, which was re-built in 1807. The
parish comprises 5750a. 3r. 12p., of which about 2887 acres are arable^
and 2792 pasture. The living is a vicarage, with Wisbech St. Mary
annexed, valued in the King^s books at £26 13s. 4d. ; patron. Bishop of
Ely; impropriators. Dean and Chapter of Ely; the great tithes of both
parishes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £1840, and the
vicarial for one of £2175; the appropriated glebe contains 15| acres,
valued at £28 per annum, and the Vicar's, 51^, worth £120 a-year. The
Church is a spacious ancient structure, partly Norman, but chiefly in the
Decorated English style, with a lofty square embattled tower in the later
style ; it has two naves under one roof, divided in the centre by a beautiful
range of light clustered pillars, with pointed arches, and from their



A DESCRIPTION OF CAMBPJDGESHIIJE. 135

respective aisles by low massive pillars and circular Norman arches. Tlie
north, aisle of the chancel is in the Decorated style, and there is a fine
window of the same character at the west end of the south aisle of the
nave. A handsome Chapel of Ease, of octagonal form, was erected in
1828, on the opposite side of the river, in the Old Market, at a cost of
£9364, raised by subscription among the inhabitants, to meet a liberal
offer of Dr. Jobson, who conveyed in fee a real estate of more than £5000
in value as an endowment to the minister, to whom the rents and profits
are given in perpetuity. The Chapel was opened for divine service on
the 13th of January, 1831, and contains about 1100 sittings, of which
300 are free ; the preferment is in the gift of trustees, and the net income
is £200. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends,
Independents, Johnsonians, Wesleyans, Presbyterians, and Unitarians.
The Free Grammar School is of very ancient foundation, and the appoint-
ment of a master in 1446 by the guild of the Holy Trinity is still on
record; its original endowment has been altered considerably, till the
master's stipend now amounts to £200 per annum. There are four by-
fellowships of £10 per annum each, belonging to the school, founded at
Peter House, Cambridge, by T. Parke, Esq., in 1628, and two scholar-
ships for youths of Wisbeach, worth £70 per annum. Archbishop
Herring, the present Bishop of Kildare, was educated at this school.
There is a National School endowed with lands, the produce of which
amounts to £55 per annum. A fund for lending money to tradesmen,
free of interest, was bequeathed by Mr. John Crane, of Cambridge, in
1652, which was increased by a gift of £300 from Mr. Wilham Holmes.
There are several almshouses and many valuable charities. The Poor
Law Union comprises twenty-two parishes, thirteen being in Norfolk
and nine in Cambridgeshire.

THOENEY ABBEY (ST. BOTOLPH),

A market town and parish in the hundred of Wisbeach, Isle of Ely,
distant eighty-six miles (north) from London. This place derived its
original name of Ankeridge from a monastery for hermits founded here
662 by Saxulphus, Abbot of Peterborough, who became its first prior.
The edifice having been destroyed by the Danes, the site lay waste until
972, when Ethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, established upon it a
Benedictine Abbey in honour of the Virgin. The only remains of this
Abbey are portions of the parochial Church, a gateway, and some frag-
ments of the old walls. The Church, built about 1128, is partly in the
Norman style, with portions of later English.

The Market, granted in 1638, is on Thursday, and Fairs are held on
July 1st and September 21st for horses and cattle. Upwards of 3000



136 HISTORY OF EASTERN ENGLAND,

sheep are sent annually from this district to the London Market. There
is a canal navigation to the Eiver Nene. A colony of French refugees
settled here about the middle of the 16th century, having been employed
by the Earl of Bedford in draining the fens. A school-house was erected
by a member of the house of Eussell. The present Duke of Bedford
allows the master a salary of £20, and his Grace supports about a dozen
families in alms houses.

WHITTLESEY,

A village (once a market town) containing the parishes of St. Andrew
and St. Mary, forming a union of itself, in the Hundred of North Witch-
ford, Isle of Ely, distant six miles from Peterborough. This place, called
Witesie in Domesday book, is supposed to have been a Eoman station,
from the traces of a military way and the numerous relics of antiquity
discovered in the neighbourhood. The village, which is bounded on the
north and south by branches of the Eiver Nene, is a large place, but its
former market has been long since discontinued. There is a Public
Library and News Eoom, supported by subscription.

The living of St. Andrew^s is a discharged vicarage, in the patronage
of the Crown. The Church is a fine handsome structure, with a stately
tower crowned with turrets. The living of St. Mary's is a discharged
vicarage. The Church is a fine edifice, with a lofty tower of peculiar
elegance, surmounted by a slender enriched spire of good proportions.
Another Church has been erected, at an expense of £1400, by gi-ant of
the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, on a site given by the Childers' family.
There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and
Calvinistic Methodists, also two endowed Schools.

BEDFORD LEVEL,

The name given to a flat expanse on the eastern side of England,
amounting to 450,000 acres, comprising the greater part of the marshy
district called the Fens, the whole Isle of Ely, a portion of the south of
Cambridgeshire, 30,000 acres of Sufiblk, 63,000 acres of Norfolk, 57,000
of Huntingdon, about 8000 of Northamptonshire, and the south-eastern
portion of Lincolnshire. The extent of the whole district is sixty miles in
length, and about forty miles in breadth. The boundary on three sides is
of an irregular form, something like a horse shoe, with the opening termi-
nated by the sea on the north. This district has, within historic periods,
undergone remarkable changes. In the time of the Eomans, a.d. 45, it
was a dense forest, which, as a stronghold of the Britons, those invaders
destroyed. It then became a swamp, through which the lazy waters of
the Ouse, the Nene, and the Welland, crept to the sea. In the thirteenth



A DESCRIPTION OP CAMBRIDGESHIRE. 137

century^ the sea liere^ as in other parts of north-west Europe^, burst its
boundaries, and the inundated land became a swamp. The first attempt
to drain this morass seems to have been made in the year 1436, when
ditches and embankments were formed at great expense. These, however,
were swept away during the ensuing winter by the flooding of the river
Ouse. Another partial attempt at drainage was made by Bishop Moretonin
the reign of Henry VII., but this also proved a failure. An Act was passed
in the forty-fourth year of Queen Elizabeth for efiecting its reclamation ;
but the first effectual attempt at reclaiming the land was not made
until 1634, when many embankments and canals were constructed at a cost
of one million sterling. Francis Earl of Bedford, the principal owner,
and thirteen others, entered into an agreement with Charles I. to drain
the Level, on condition of receiving 95,000 acres of the reclaimed land.
Three years after the agreement of the Earl of Bedford andhis partners, after
an outlay of £100,000 on the part of the company, the contract was annulled
on the fraudulent plea that the works were insufficient -, and an offer was
made by King Charles to undertake its completion, on condition of receiving
57,000 acres in addition to the amount originally agreed on. This unjust
attempt was frustrated by the breaking out of the Civil War, and no further
attempt at drainage was made till 1649, when the Parliament reinstated
the Earl of Bedford^s successor in his father's rights. After an addi-
tional outlay of £300,000, the adventurers received 96,000 acres of re-
claimed land, according to the contract, which, however, fell far short of
re-paying the expense of the undertaking. In 1664 a royal charter was



Online LibraryA. D BayneRoyal illustrated history of eastern England, civil, military, political, and ecclesiastical .. (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 70)