The Staploe Hundred

The Staploe Hundred comprises the parishes of Soham, Isleham, Kennett, Fordham, Snailwell, Chippenham, Landwade, Wicken and Barway.The Staploe Hundred comprises the parishes of Soham, Isleham, Kennett, Fordham, Snailwell, Chippenham, Landwade, Wicken and Barway.

 

Notes on Currency

£ is the pound currency symbol.
1/2d is half a penny.
So £15-18s-10 1/2d is fifteen pounds, eighteen shillings, ten and a half pennies.
There were 20 shillings in a pound and 12 pennies in a shilling.

Currency value varied greatly in the late 18th century.

'Village History in the Staploe Hundred' published in 1967

There were two events that changed the lives of local people during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The first was the Reformation; the second was the Draining of the Fens. William Cole, writing in 1746, noted that 'to the West of the town (of Soham) lies the famous large mere which plentifully supplies the county with fish; it belongs to Lord Viscount Townshend, who caused it to be drained about 4 or 5 years ago at a very great expense, but which yet would very well have answered had not last year's rains overflown the banks and drowned it all again'. This was not the first time that man and nature had been at war in the local fens.

The fish from Soham Mere had been an important part of the livelihood of local people since before the Norman conquest; the Domesday Book account of fish and eels in the neighbourhood has been given. There were, however, always attempts to win more arable or grazing land by piecemeal enclosure from the flooded fenland by banking and ditching. Between 1594 and 1600 some part of Soham Mere was reclaimed in this way and there were quarrels over the reclaimed land. Before the drainage, Soham Mere covered 1,136 acres; there was a dangerous water passage to Ely through the mere. The first Bishop of Ely, Hervey who died in 1131, is said to have built a causeway from Soham to Ely through the flooded fenland. The first real change in local fenland conditions came with Vermuyden's great drainage scheme of the mid-seventeenth century. As part of this a twenty-four foot drain was cut from Soham mere to link it with the South Level drainage, and Downham Eau was drained by tunnels under the rivers. This took place about the mid-1660s. The drainage works which had begun in the 1630s met with local opposition from the beginning, for they meant a change in the way of life of fenland people. It was in about the year 1637 that two emissaries of the Secretary of State, sent to apprehend the persons found disturbing the drainage works, ran into trouble locally. "Near Wicken, they met Peter Jarvis, constable. He persuaded them not to adventure into Wicken, the people being prepared to resist, and those of Soame (Soham), Burrack(?), and Sopham (?) having agreed to help them. Ultimately, the messengers with the constable and the minister of the parish, entered the town, the messengers being on horseback. The people came out with pitchforks and poles, and gathered round a place where great heaps of stones were laid. Amongst them John Moreclark, a principle rioter, was charged to obey the Council's warrant. When the messengers approached him, he pushed at them with his pike. The people prepared to assist him and the women got together to the heaps of stones to throw at the messengers, who were scoffed at and abused by the whole multitude".

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