A Timeline of Soham History

1792 AD - Olaudah Equiano Marries Susannah Cullen at St. Andrew's Church

Perhaps the most famous marriage at St. Andrew's Church, Soham in Cambridgeshire was between Olaudah Equiano (The African) and Susannah Cullen (Spinster of the Parish of Soham) on the 7th April 1792. Slavery was still in force at the time of their marriage . Olaudah Equiano otherwise known as Gustavus Vassa was the African slave who gained his freedom and became an activist for the abolition of slavery in the 18th Century. He wrote his celebrated Autobiography - 'The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African 1789' which is still available to buy to this day. Evidence to suggest that the couple took up residence in Soham comes from the fact that both of their children were born here. He had two daughters Anna Maria Vassa born on 16th October 1793 and was baptised in St. Andrew's Church on 30th January 1794. His second daughter, Joanna Vassa was born on 11th April 1795 and baptised in St. Andrew's Church on 29th April 1795. Susannah was always thought to have died during Joanna's birth, however, records show that she died a year later, and was buried in Soham as Susanna Vassa, wife of Gustavus the African on 21st February 1796, aged 34. Gustavus died on 31st March 1797, aged 52, his death occurred in London, but the whereabouts of his burial is unknown. Sadly Anna Maria died a few months later on 21st July 1797, aged just 4 Years and is buried in St. Andrew's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge where there is a commemorative plaque in her memory. Joanna Vassa inherited a sizable estate from her father equivalent to £100,000 in todays money. She went on to marry the Reverend Henry Bromley and they ran a Congregational Chapel at Clavering near Saffron Walden in Essex, before moving to London in the middle of the nineteenth century. Joanna died in March 1857 at the age of 61 and is buried along with her husband in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. It's not yet known whether Joanna had any children. The Slave Trade was finally abolished on British ships 10 years after the death of Olaudah Equiano, in 1807. It took a further forty years to see the abolition in the British colonies.

C.1830 AD - Steam Pumps

The introduction of the Steam Pump c.1830 marked a turning point in fen drainage. One Steam Pump could do the work of many windmills and exceed the quantity and speed of water carriage to a level never before imagined. The successful drainage of the fens was now assured.

1834 AD - Vicarage Enlarged

The Reverend Henry Tasker enlarged and improved St Andrews house at a cost of £3,000, a move which the patrons, Pembroke College, viewed as a liability to future incumbents.

1857 AD - A Girls School

The Reverend Henry Tasker raised adequate funds to build the National Girls School in Bull Lane, now Clay Street.

1878 AD - Soham Grammar School is Founded

The all boys Grammar School had its origins in the Soham Free School and became Soham Grammar school in 1878 and occupied premises on Churchgate Street. The existing Churchgate Street building dates from around 1880 and is built on an area called the Hempland and on the site of the original school.

1879 AD - The Railway Arrives in Soham

19th Century AD - William Case Morris 'Dr Bernardo of Argentina'

The most famous son of Soham was William Case Morris who made his mark many miles away in South America. Born in the town on the 16th February 1864, he and his father left Soham after the death of his mother in search of a new life, eventually settling in Argentina. William was horrified by the terrible poverty of the street children, which led to him founding a network of children's homes across Argentina saving thousands of youngsters from abject poverty and a life on the streets. He returned to Soham a poor elderly man where he died on the 15th September 1932 and is buried in the Fordham Road cemetery.


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