CAMBRIDGESHIRE


This extract is from "Kelly's Directory of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk & Suffolk 1929".
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CAMBRIDGE is one of the eastern counties, and is inland, though its borders reach within a few miles of the sea and the great inlet called the Wash, and include the ports of Wisbech and Ely : it shelves gradually down from the upper sources of the Ouse, in chalk country, to the lowlands of the rivers, and contains within its bounds the Isle of Ely and much other marsh ground. The upper part of the shire lies between the Ouse and Cam, the two heads of the Ouse : the lower part lies between the Ouse and the Nene, and is watered by their channels : these streams run into the Wash.

Cambridgeshire runs very nearly north and south, between 52 deg. 1 min. and 52 deg. 45 min. north latitude, and 0 deg. 31 min. east and 0 deg. 16 min. west longitude from Greenwich, Cambridge being nearly the same longitude as London. In shape the county is oblong, the southern part being wider than the northern : the greatest length is about 51 miles north to south, and he greatest breadth 32 miles, but at Ely the breadth is not more than about 15 miles. On the north it is bounded by Lincolnshire; on the east by the Wisbech canal, the rivers Welney, Croft, Ouse and Lark, and the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk; on the south by Essex, Herts and Bedfordshire; on the west by Huntingdonshire and the Catwater stream.

The parish of Redmore was by an Order or the County Council transferred from Norfolk to this county and its name altered to Redmere, and by an Order of September, 1895, the portion of the parish of Welney formerly in this county was transferred to Norfolk. By Local Government Board's Provisional Orders Confirmation (No. 14) Act, 1895, the parishes of Great Chishall, Little Chisall and Heydon were transferred from Essex to Cambridge. In the same year part of Papworth St. Agnes was transferred from Hunts, part of Royston added to Herts, and part of Wood Ditton to Cambridgeshire.

By these alterations the whole county now comprises 553,241 acres and may be arranged under two great divisions - the Isle of Ely in the Marsh Lands, with 238,073 acres, and Cambridgeshire proper, with 315,168 acres. The population of the whole county in 1871 was 186,906; in 1881, 185,594; and in 1891, 185,822.

The population of the administrative county of Cambridgeshire was in 1901, 120,264; in 1911, 128,322, and in 1921, 129,602, viz.: males, 61,978; females, 67,624. The population of the administrative county of the Isle of Ely was in 1901, 64,495; in 1911, 69,752, and in 1921, 73,817, viz.: males, 36,478; females, 37,339. thus, the total population of the whole county was in 1921, 203,419.

Cambridgeshire first belonged to Iberians, and afterwards to a British tribe called the Iceni, and being overrun by the Romans was by them included in the province of Flavia Cśsariensis. The Romans had a town or settlement at Cambridge. On the retreat of the Romans it was held by the Welsh, but when they were driven out it was settled by the same English Waring and Frisian clans as Norfolk and Suffolk, being most probably known as Westfolk. When the present kingdom of England was formed the land took the name Grantbridgeshire; in 870 it was wasted by the Danes, who destroyed Cambridge and the minsters of Ely, Soham and Thorney. In 875 the invaders again occupied the country, and obtained afterwards a permanent settlement amongst the East English; but in 921 an army of these settlers surrendered at Cambridge to King Edward I, surnamed the Elder. In 1010 a fresh swarm of Danes, under King Swain, again burned Cambridge. On the accession of William the Norman to the English kingdom, almost the only part of the land which resisted him was the Isle of Ely, where gallant Hereward held out for nearly seven years, until 1074, when he was overpowered.

The northern part of the county, including the Isle of Ely, is for the most part fenland, and comprises nearly half of the Great Level of the Fens, called the Bedford Level, which covers in all 680,000 acres of rich land; the remainder of it is in Norfolk, Lincoln and Hunts; this area, which was drained in the first instance by Sir Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutchman, about the year 1629, and subsequently reclaimed and drained by successive engineers, is still only preserved by great care and watchfulness; in place of hedges the fields are separated by ditches which communicate with wider cuttings, and these again flow into the natural water-courses of rivers, which carry off the drainage; steam engines have largely taken the place of windmills for pumping the water from ditches into larger drains, and these are provided with sluices to regulate the supply of water for navigation, as the great drains are used as canals; in parts provision is made for excess water in rainy weather by what are known as washlands, notably those some 20 miles in length from Earith (Hunts), across Cambridgeshire, to Denver sluice (Norfolk), situated between the Hundred-feet (or New Bedford river), constructed after 1649, on the south and the Old Bedford river (dating from 1630) on the north : these washlands are flooded when the upland waters come down too fast to be discharged by the rivers and cover about 5,000 acres, affording rich pasture land. The black poplar, ash and alder are about the only trees of any size that flourish in this district, and at one time the fens were the resort of many species of wild fowl, but these latter have considerably diminished through the operation of draining. Sedge-cutting is one of the remaining industries, and at certain seasons the gathering of the couch-grass (Triticum Repeus), which grows abundantly; of late years a large acreage has been devoted to potato growing and this affords considerable employment.

The Great Fen offers subjects of interest to the naturalist, the geologist and the engineer, and this Great Level, the Middle Level and the South Level, Cambridgeshire being comprised in the last two; the corporation of the Bedford Level superintends the drainage of the large district called the South Level, and has offices at Ely; of the meres or inland lakes Whittlesey was the largest, but this was drained by the Middle Level Commissioners and brought under cultivation; and at Thorney, near here, great improvements in this direction were made under the supervision of the Duke of Bedford, whose ancestor, Francis, Earl of Bedford, in 1634, undertook the charge of the great drainage operations.

On the southern border of the shire the Gog-Magog and other hills rise to a height of about 300 feet. The upland is watered by the Ouse and its branches; the Ouse enters the shire on the west from Huntingdonshire, and passes through the city of Ely on the East, proceeding to Downham and the sea at Lynn, in Norfolk : above Ely it receives the Cam, running down from Cambridge, where it is navigable, and just above which it is joined by the Rhea, from Hertfordshire and the south-west; below Ely the Ouse receives the Lark or Mildenhall river from Suffolk, navigable from Bury, and the Croft or Welney, from the borders of Norfolk : the Ouse is navigable for shipping up to Ely; the name of this river is Iberian, and is one of the very common names given to rivers by the Celts, like Thame, Dour and Dee: there is an Ouse in Cambridgeshire, Buckinghamshire, Sussex and Yorkshire; an Oise (anciently Axona) in France, an Auser and an ∆sar in Italy and an ∆ous in Greece. The Nene is another of these names; the lower part only of this river passes through Cambridgeshire, where it splits into three channels, which have been much changed by drainage works : one channel is called the Catwater or Shire Drain, and runs between Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire; a second, called Morton Leam, passes south to Wisbech, whence it is navigable to the sea; and the third, under the name of the Old Nene, or Whittlesea Dyke, flows by Whittlesea and March to the Ouse or Welney, at Salter's Lode Sluice.

Cambridgeshire in respect to the annual amount of rainfall is one of the driest counties of England. The average of about 22 inches yearly. Observations of the rainfall are daily made at about thirty stations in the county. Most rain falls with south-west winds, while those from the south-east are the driest; in the months of the year, December and January have the dampest atmosphere; May and July the driest. In the fen district, the atmospheric conditions often present marked peculiarities : here the mirage is not of unfrequent occurrence, when places which under ordinary circumstances are below the horizon become visible, being tilted up in the air, as it were, by refraction. Moist air, a warm day and the sun low in the heavens, are stated by Mr. Skertchly to be necessary for the production of this phenomenon.

The soil generally is fertile, corn being raised in the uplands as well as in the lowlands, and there is grazing in the latter. The produce consists of wheat (the Burwell wheat having a high reputation as seed), and other corn crops, cattle, sheep, Cottenham cheese (the production of which has much diminished), butter, fruit, hay, coleseed, osiers, cabbages, beans, potatoes, asparagus from Ely, reeds for thatching, chalk, lime and turf for fuel (much used); mangold wurtzel and carrots are grown in large quantities on the fen lands; the produce is chiefly sent to London from the ports of Lynn, Ely and Wisbech, and from Cambridge and other towns by railway. In the Cottenham and Willingham districts and around Wisbech much fruit is grown, especially strawberries, gooseberries, apples and plums, and sent to London and Manchester markets.

Oolitic clays form the western part of Cambridgeshire : the river Carn runs along the centre in a valley, formed by the greensand and gault clay, while to the south and east of the river all is chalk, which rises in the Gog-Magog Hills and Royston Downs to heights of from 300 to 500 feet. These chalk hills are a continuation of the Chiltern Hills of Buckinghamshire. In the north of the county we have a portion of the fen land which encircles the Wash, a level tract intersected by great dykes or drains.

According to the Mines Department Report and Statistics for 1927, the only minerals raised were, chalk, 217,242 tons; chert and flint, 1,441 tons; clay, 577,053 tons; gravel and sand, 4,792 tons, and limestone, 190 tons.

Brewing and malting are trades. Brick-making is carried on to some extent, the chief material used in building being brick. Lime-burning for manure employs many persons, chiefly in the southern parts, and coprolite works give employment to a few persons. The number of millers is considerable, and much corn is ground up and oilseed crushed. Basket making, for which osiers are worked up, and mat-making occupy many persons. As there are so many navigable cuts and drains in the county, the employment of bargemen and boatmen is large, and many persons are engaged in ship, boat and barge building. Printing and bookselling employ many persons, chiefly at Cambridge where books are printed at the University and other presses. There are paper and parchment works.

Race horses are trained on the Downs near Newmarket.

The county is well provided with railway communication to all parts of England. The lines mostly belong to the Great Eastern and Great Northern sections of the London and North Eastern, including two trunk lines to London. Cambridge is a great railway centre, and communicates with London via Hitchin, by the Great Northern section, and through Essex and Herts by the Great Eastern section, and northward to Ely and March, which are also centres. The Great Eastern section has the principal lines in the county; one goes from Cambridge eastward through Newmarket and Bury St. Edmunds to Haughley junction, where it joins the main line to Norwich and Ipswich; a second line leaving Cambridge runs north-east to Ely and Thetford, with a branch though Fordham and Mildenhall; another line runs from Newmarket to Ely, and thence to St. Ives and to March; and another from Cambridge to St. Ives. whence it returns into the county to March and Wisbech; and from March a short line runs to Peterborough, connecting with the London, Midland and Scottish line.

There is a line from Cambridge to Hitchin on the great Northern section, and a line of the London, Midland and Scottish Company crosses the Great Northern section at Sandy, and through Bedford to Bletchley and Oxford.

The Midland and Great Northern Joint Railway runs from Peterborough through Thorney to Wisbech, Sutton Bridge and King's Lynn and then on throughout Norfolk, embracing Cromer, Norwich, Yarmouth and terminating at Lowestoft.

The old high roads are the Old North Road, from London to York and Edinburgh, by Royston, with a branch to Cambridge; the London, Norwich and Newmarket Road, with a branch to Cambridge; and the Cambridge and Huntingdon Road, which joins the Great North Road. A branch of the Great North Road runs through the Isle of Ely by March and Wisbech.

The southern part of the county is crossed by the old Roman road of Icknield Street (which was also a British road of the Iceni) from Newmarket to Royston, and by Ermine Street from Royston to the north-west. The Via Devana, another of these ways, passed through Cambridge towards Godmanchester, where it met the Ermine Street, and another through Ely to Cambridge; most of these have now been obliterated or diverted.

Cambridgeshire, under the name of Grantbridgeshire, was divided previously to Domesday Survey in the same manner as now. The Isle of Ely, in the north part of the shire, which of old formed two hundreds, now forms five - Ely city, with 16,742 acres; Ely, with 25,925 acres (exclusive of the city of Ely); Wisbech, with 61,157 acres; North Witchford with 86,275 acres; and South Witchford, with 37,462 acres.

In the rest of the shire are hundreds of Northstow, in the north midland, with 19,651 acres; Staplow (anciently Staplehow) in the north midland, with 40,775 acres; Cheveley (Newmarket), in the east, with 12,905 acres; Radfield, in the south-east, with 23,869 acres; Staine, in the south-east midland, with 18,917 acres; Whittlesford, in the south, with 11,078 acres; Flendish (anciently Flamingdike), exclusive of Cambridge, in the south midland, with 11,906 acres; Thriplow, in the south-west, with 16,160 acres; Chilford (Linton), in the south-west, with 22,364 acres; Armingford or Royston (named from the ford of Ermine Street), in the south-west, with 29,287 acres; Wethersley, in the south-west midland, with 16.160 acres; Longstow, in the west, with 25,500 acres; Chesterton, near Cambridge, in the south midland, with 15,847 acres; and Papworth, in the west midland, with 26,923 acres.

The county is in the South Eastern circuit.

Cambridgeshire includes two shires or separate jurisdictions, the shire proper and Ely. The shire proper has its county town at Cambridge, where the assizes and quarter sessions are held, and is divided into six petty sessional divisions, viz.: - Arrington and Melbourne (sittings at Arrington and Melbourne), Bottisham (sittings at Bottisham), Cambridge (sittings at Chesterton), Caxton (sittings at Caxton), Linton (sittings at Linton), Newmarket (sittings at Newmarket). The Isle of Ely has separate coroners.

The autumn and winter assizes are held at Cambridge; the summer assize is held at Wisbech. The April and October sessions for the Isle of Ely are held at Ely; the January and July sessions at Wisbech; the Isle of Ely has four petty sessional divisions, viz.: - Ely and South Witchford (sittings at Ely), North Witchford, Chatteris Sub-Division (sittings at Chatteris), March Sub-Division (sittings at March), Whittlesey and Thorney (sittings at Whittlesey) and Wisbech (sittings at Wisbech). Cambridgeshire is joined with Huntingdonshire in the shrievalty.

County Courts are held at Cambridge, Ely, March, Newmarket and Wisbech, in Circuit No. 35. Cambridge has jurisdiction in Bankruptcy cases.

The county has 169 civil parishes (131 parishes in Cambridge proper, and 38 parishes in the Isle of Ely) and 180 Ecclesiastical parishes and parts of 13. The greater part is the Diocese of Ely, forming the archdeaconry of Ely, which is subdivided into the rural deaneries of Barton, Bourn, Cambridge, Camps, Cheveley, Fordham, North Stowe, Quy and Shingay; four parishes are in the diocese of Norwich and three in that of St. Albans.

The Isle of Ely (which is the northern portion of the county) forms, for ecclesiastical purposes, part of the archdeaconry of Wisbech, which is divided into rural deaneries of Ely, March and Wisbech.

The municipal boroughs are Cambridge and Wisbech, the former of which has a separate court of Quarter Sessions.

The chief towns are:- Cambridge, with its celebrated university, population in 1911, 40,027. In 1912 the municipal borough of Cambridge was considerably extended and the population increased to 55,812. In 1921 the population of the borough was 59,264. Ely, with the episcopal establishment and railway station, population in 1921, 7,690; Wisbech, in the Isle of Ely, with an export trade by water, and supplying a great part of the district with coal and timber, 11,321; March, in the Isle of Ely, an ancient town and a great railway station, 8,960; Thorney, in the Isle of Ely, formerly famous for its abbey, which is still a fine structure, 2,165; Chatteris, in the Isle of Ely, 5,084; Soham, which had anciently an abbey, 4,737; Whittlesea, in the Isle of Ely, also formerly possessing an abbey, 4,201; Whittlesea or Whittlesey, has flax scutching and oil mills. Linton, a small town in the south, 1,446. Newmarket is in the administrative county of West Suffolk.

The ecclesiastical edifices of the Isle of Ely are remarkably handsome.


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