Isle of Ely

Last updated

Isle of Ely
EnglandIsleOfEly1890.png
Area
  1891239,259 acres (968.2 km2)
  1961239,951 acres (971.0 km2)
  Coordinates 52°24′N0°15.5′E / 52.400°N 0.2583°E / 52.400; 0.2583 Coordinates: 52°24′N0°15.5′E / 52.400°N 0.2583°E / 52.400; 0.2583
Population
  189163,861
  196189,180
History
  OriginLiberty of Ely
  Created1889
  Abolished1965
  Succeeded by Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely
Status Administrative county
(within Cambridgeshire)
GovernmentIsle of Ely County Council
   HQ County Hall, March
Isle Ely arms.png

The Isle of Ely /ˈli/ is an historic region around the city of Ely in Cambridgeshire, England. Between 1889 and 1965, it formed an administrative county.

Ely, Cambridgeshire Cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England

Ely is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, England, about 14 miles (23 km) north-northeast of Cambridge and about 80 miles (129 km) by road from London. Æthelthryth founded an abbey at Ely in 673; the abbey was destroyed in 870 by Danish invaders and was rebuilt by Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester, in 970. Construction of the cathedral was started in 1083 by a Norman abbot, Simeon. Alan of Walsingham's octagon, built over Ely's nave crossing between 1322 and 1328, is the "greatest individual achievement of architectural genius at Ely Cathedral", according to architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner. Building continued until the dissolution of the abbey in 1539 during the Reformation. The cathedral was sympathetically restored between 1845 and 1870 by the architect George Gilbert Scott. As the seat of a diocese, Ely has long been considered a city; in 1974, city status was granted by royal charter.

Cambridgeshire County of England

Cambridgeshire is a county in the East of England, bordering Lincolnshire to the north, Norfolk to the north-east, Suffolk to the east, Essex and Hertfordshire to the south, and Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire to the west. The city of Cambridge is the county town. Modern Cambridgeshire was formed in 1974 as an amalgamation of the counties of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely and Huntingdon and Peterborough, the former covering the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the latter covering the historic county of Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough, historically part of Northamptonshire. It contains most of the region known as Silicon Fen.

Administrative counties of England Former subnational divisions of England

Administrative counties were a level of subnational division of England used for the purposes of local government from 1889 to 1974. They were created by the Local Government Act 1888 as the areas for which county councils were elected. Some large counties were divided into several administrative counties, each with its own county council. The administrative counties were abolished by the Local Government Act 1972 and were replaced by the metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties of England.

Contents

Etymology

Its name is said to mean "island of eels", a reference to the creatures that were often caught in the local rivers for food. This etymology was first recorded by the Venerable Bede. [1]

Eel order of fishes

An eel is any ray-finned fish belonging to the order Anguilliformes, which consists of four suborders, 20 families, 111 genera, and about 800 species. Eels undergo considerable development from the early larval stage to the eventual adult stage, and most are predators.

History

Isle of Ely 1648 by J Blaeu Isle of Ely 1648 by J Blaeu.jpg
Isle of Ely 1648 by J Blaeu

Until the 17th century, the area was an island surrounded by a large area of fenland, a type of swamp. It was coveted as an area difficult to penetrate, and was controlled in the very early medieval period by the Gyrwas, an Anglo-Saxon tribe. Upon their marriage in 652, Tondbert, a prince of the Gyrwas, presented Æthelthryth (who became St. Æthelthryth), the daughter of King Anna of the East Angles, with the Isle of Ely. She afterwards founded a monastery at Ely, which was destroyed by Viking raiders in 870, but was rebuilt and became a famous Abbey and Shrine. The Fens were ultimately drained. This began in 1626 using a network of canals designed by Dutch experts. [2] Many Fenlanders were opposed to the draining as it deprived some of them of their traditional livelihood; acts of vandalism on dykes, ditches and sluices were common, but the drainage was completed by the end of the century. [3]

Fen type of wetland

A fen is one of the main types of wetland, the others being grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs. Along with bogs, fens are a kind of mire. Fens are minerotrophic peatlands, usually fed by mineral-rich surface water or groundwater. They are characterised by their distinct water chemistry, which is pH neutral or alkaline, with relatively high dissolved mineral levels but few other plant nutrients. They are usually dominated by grasses and sedges, and typically have brown mosses. Fens frequently have a high diversity of other plant species including carnivorous plants such as Pinguicula. They may also occur along large lakes and rivers where seasonal changes in water level maintain wet soils with few woody plants. The distribution of individual species of fen plants is often closely connected to water regimes and nutrient concentrations.

Gyrwas was the name of an Anglo-Saxon population of the Fens, divided into northern and southern groups and recorded in the Tribal Hidage; related to the name of Jarrow.

Æthelthryth Abbess of Ely

Æthelthryth was an East Anglian princess, a Fenland and Northumbrian queen and Abbess of Ely. She is an Anglo-Saxon saint, and is also known as Etheldreda or Audrey, especially in religious contexts.

The area's natural defences led to it playing a role in the military history of England. Following the Norman Conquest, the Isle became a refuge for Anglo-Saxon forces under Earl Morcar, Bishop Aethelwine of Durham and Hereward the Wake in 1071. [4] The area was taken by William the Conqueror only after a prolonged struggle. [5] In 1139 civil war broke out between the forces of King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. Bishop Nigel of Ely, a supporter of Matilda, unsuccessfully tried to hold the Isle. In 1143 Geoffrey de Mandeville rebelled against Stephen, and made his base in the Isle. Geoffrey was mortally wounded at Burwell in 1144. [6]

Morcar was the son of Ælfgār and brother of Ēadwine. He was the earl of Northumbria from 1065 to 1066, when he was replaced by William the Conqueror with Copsi.

Hereward the Wake 11th-century English rebel against the Norman Conquest

Hereward the Wake, , was an Anglo-Saxon nobleman and a leader of local resistance to the Norman Conquest of England. His base, when leading the rebellion against the Norman rulers, was the Isle of Ely in East Anglia. According to legend he roamed the Fens, covering North Cambridgeshire, Southern Lincolnshire and West Norfolk, leading popular opposition to William the Conqueror.

William I, usually known as William the Conqueror and sometimes William the Bastard, was the first Norman King of England, reigning from 1066 until his death in 1087. A descendant of Rollo, he was Duke of Normandy from 1035 onward. After a long struggle to establish his power, by 1060 his hold on Normandy was secure, and he launched the Norman conquest of England six years later. The rest of his life was marked by struggles to consolidate his hold over England and his continental lands and by difficulties with his eldest son.

In 1216, during the First Barons' War, the Isle was unsuccessfully defended against the army of King John. Ely took part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. During the English Civil War the Isle of Ely was held for the parliamentarians. Troops from the garrison at Wisbech Castle were used in the siege of Crowland and parts of the Fens were flooded to prevent Royalist forces entering Norfolk from Lincolnshire. The Horseshoe sluice on the river at Wisbech and the nearby castle and town defences were upgraded and cannon brought from Ely. [7]

First Barons War civil war in the Kingdom of England

The First Barons' War (1215–1217) was a civil war in the Kingdom of England in which a group of rebellious major landowners led by Robert Fitzwalter with a French army under the future Louis VIII of France, waged war against King John of England.The war resulted from King John's refusal to accept and abide by Magna Carta, which he had sealed on 15 June 1215.

Peasants Revolt Major uprising across large parts of England in 1381

The Peasants' Revolt, also named Wat Tyler's Rebellion or the Great Rising, was a major uprising across large parts of England in 1381. The revolt had various causes, including the socio-economic and political tensions generated by the Black Death in the 1340s, the high taxes resulting from the conflict with France during the Hundred Years' War, and instability within the local leadership of London. The final trigger for the revolt was the intervention of a royal official, John Bampton, in Essex on 30 May 1381. His attempts to collect unpaid poll taxes in Brentwood ended in a violent confrontation, which rapidly spread across the south-east of the country. A wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans and village officials, rose up in protest, burning court records and opening the local gaols. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom, and the removal of the King's senior officials and law courts.

Wisbech Castle

Wisbech castle is believed to have been a motte-and-bailey castle earthwork castle built to fortify Wisbech, historically in the Isle of Ely but now in the Fenland District of Cambridgeshire, England on the orders of William I in 1072. This was probably oval in shape and size as on the line still marked by the Crescent. The Norman castle, reputedly was destroyed during a devastating flood of 1236, the original design and layout is still unknown. It was rebuilt in stone in 1087. In the 15th century repairs were becoming too much for the ageing structure, and it was decided to create a new building, starting in 1478 under John Morton Bishop of Ely. His successor, John Alcock, extended and completed the re-building and died in the Castle in 1500. Subsequent bishops also spent considerable sums on this new palace. The Bishop's Palace was built of brick with dressings of Ketton Stone, but its exact location is unknown.

Administration

This plaque in Chatteris serves as a reminder of the Isle's county status The plaque on the Leonard Childs Bridge - geograph.org.uk - 277463.jpg
This plaque in Chatteris serves as a reminder of the Isle's county status

From 1109 until 1837, the Isle was under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely who appointed a Chief Justice of Ely and exercised temporal powers within the Liberty of Ely. This temporal jurisdiction originated in a charter granted by King Edgar in 970, and confirmed by Edward the Confessor and Henry I to the abbot of Ely. The latter monarch established Ely as the seat of a bishop in 1109, creating the Isle of Ely a county palatine under the bishop. An act of parliament in 1535/6 ended the palatine status of the Isle, with all justices of the peace to be appointed by letters patent issued under the great seal and warrants to be issued in the king's name. However, the bishop retained exclusive jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters, and was custos rotulorum. A chief bailiff was appointed for life by the bishop, and performed the functions of high sheriff within the liberty, who also headed the government of the city of Ely. [8]

Bishop of Ely Diocesan bishop in the Church of England

The Bishop of Ely is the ordinary of the Church of England Diocese of Ely in the Province of Canterbury. The diocese roughly covers the county of Cambridgeshire, together with a section of north-west Norfolk and has its episcopal see in the City of Ely, Cambridgeshire, where the seat is located at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity. The current bishop is Stephen Conway, who signs +Stephen Elien:. The diocesan bishops resided at the Bishop's Palace, Ely until 1941; they now reside in Bishop's House, the former cathedral deanery. Conway became Bishop of Ely in 2010, translated from the Diocese of Salisbury where he was Bishop suffragan of Ramsbury.

Edward the Confessor 11th-century Anglo-Saxon King of England and saint

Edward the Confessor, also known as Saint Edward the Confessor, was among the last Anglo-Saxon kings of England. Usually considered the last king of the House of Wessex, he ruled from 1042 to 1066.

Henry I of England 12th-century King of England and Duke of Normandy

Henry I, also known as Henry Beauclerc, was King of England from 1100 to his death in 1135. He was the fourth son of William the Conqueror and was educated in Latin and the liberal arts. On William's death in 1087, Henry's elder brothers Robert Curthose and William Rufus inherited Normandy and England, respectively, but Henry was left landless. He purchased the County of Cotentin in western Normandy from Robert, but his brothers deposed him in 1091. He gradually rebuilt his power base in the Cotentin and allied himself with William against Robert.

In July 1643 Oliver Cromwell was made governor of the isle. [9] The Liberty of Ely Act 1837 [10] ended the bishop's secular powers in the Isle. The area was declared a division of Cambridgeshire, with the right to appoint justices revested in the crown. Following the 1837 Act the Isle maintained separate Quarter Sessions, and formed its own constabulary.

Under the Local Government Bill of 1888, which proposed the introduction of elected county councils, the Isle was to form part of Cambridgeshire. Following the intervention of the local member of parliament, Charles Selwyn, the Isle of Ely was constituted a separate administrative county in 1889. The county was small in terms of both area and population, and its abolition was proposed by the Local Government Boundary Commission in 1947. [11] The report of the LGBC was not acted upon, and the administrative county survived until 1965. Following the recommendations of the Local Government Commission for England, on 1 April 1965 the bulk of the area was merged to form Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, with the Thorney Rural District going to Huntingdon and Peterborough.

Subdivisions

In 1894 the county was divided into county districts, with the rural districts being Ely Rural District, Thorney Rural District, Whittlesey Rural District, Wisbech Rural District, North Witchford Rural District, and the urban districts were Ely, March, Whittlesey and Wisbech (the only municipal borough). Whittlesey Rural district consisted of only one parish (Whittlesey Rural), which was added to Whittlesey urban district, in 1926.

The Isle of Ely parliamentary constituency was created as a two-member seat in the First and Second Protectorate Parliaments from 1654 to 1659. The constituency was re-created with a single seat in 1918. In the boundary changes of 1983 it was replaced by the new constituency of North East Cambridgeshire. Original historical documents relating to the Isle of Ely are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office in Cambridge.

Coat of arms

The Isle of Ely County Council was granted a coat of arms on 1 May 1931. Previous to the grant the council had been using the arms of Diocese of Ely: Gules, three ducal coronets, two and one or. In the 1931 grant, silver and blue waves were added to the episcopal arms, to suggest that the county was an "isle". The crest above the shield was a human hand grasping a trident around which an eel was entwined, referring to the popular derivation of "Ely". On the wrist of the hand was a "Wake knot", representing Hereward the Wake. [12]

Related Research Articles

The Fens Natural region in United Kingdom

The Fens, also known as the Fenlands, are a coastal plain in eastern England. This natural marshy region supported a rich ecology and numerous species, as well as absorbing storms. Most of the fens were drained several centuries ago, resulting in a flat, dry, low-lying agricultural region supported by a system of drainage channels and man-made rivers and automated pumping stations. There have been unintended consequences to this reclamation, as the land level has continued to sink and the dykes must be built higher to protect it from flooding.

Fenland District Non-metropolitan district in England

Fenland is a local government district in Cambridgeshire, England. Its council is based in March, and it covers the neighbouring market towns of Chatteris, Whittlesey and Wisbech; the last is often called the "capital of the fens".

Whittlesey Fenland market town in Cambridgeshire in England

Whittlesey is an English town 6 miles (10 km) east of Peterborough in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire. Including the neighbouring villages of Coates, Eastrea, Pondersbridge and Turves, it had a population of 16,058 at the 2011 Census.

March, Cambridgeshire Town and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England

March is a Fenland market town and civil parish in the Isle of Ely area of Cambridgeshire, England. It was the county town of the Isle of Ely which was a separate administrative county from 1889 to 1965. It is now the administrative centre of Fenland District Council.

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is the local territorial police force that covers the territory of the counties of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It provides law enforcement and security for an area of just under 3400 km² and population of nearly a million people in a predominantly rural county. The force of Cambridgeshire includes the cities of Cambridge, Ely and Peterborough, the market towns of St Ives, Huntingdon and St Neots, and the historic Fenland towns of Ramsey, Chatteris, Wisbech, Whittlesey and March. The constabulary's logo is a crowned Brunswick star with two wavy blue lines representing the two major rivers that flow the area, the Cam and the Nene.

The English county of Cambridgeshire has a long history.

Stanground, Peterborough residential area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom

Stanground is a residential area in the city of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire in the United Kingdom. For electoral purposes it comprises Stanground South and Fletton & Stanground wards in North West Cambridgeshire constituency.

Civil parishes in Cambridgeshire Wikimedia list article

A civil parish is a country subdivision, forming the lowest unit of local government in England. There are 263 civil parishes in the ceremonial county of Cambridgeshire, most of the county being parished; Cambridge is completely unparished; Fenland, East Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire are entirely parished. At the 2001 census, there were 497,820 people living in the 263 parishes, accounting for 70.2 per cent of the county's population.

Thorney, Cambridgeshire village in the United Kingdom

Thorney is a village about 8 miles (13 km) east of Peterborough city centre, on the A47 in England.

Benwick village in the United Kingdom

Benwick is a village and civil parish in the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, England. It is approximately 15 miles (24 km) from Peterborough and 30 miles (48 km) from Cambridge. The population of Benwick was recorded as 1137 in the United Kingdom Census 2011 with 452 households.

Wisbech is a former United Kingdom Parliamentary constituency. It was created upon the abolition of an undivided Cambridgeshire county constituency in 1885 and was itself abolished in 1918.

Wisbech St Mary village in the United Kingdom

Wisbech St Mary is a small village, 2 miles (3 km) west of the town of Wisbech the Fenland district of Cambridgeshire, England. and lies between two roads, the B1169 and the A47. The population of the civil parish at the 2011 Census was 3,556.

Hundreds of Cambridgeshire

Between Anglo-Saxon times and the 19th century Cambridgeshire was divided for administrative purposes into 17 hundreds, plus the borough of Cambridge. Each hundred had a separate council that met each month to rule on local judicial and taxation matters.

Thorney Toll village in United Kingdom

Thorney Toll is a hamlet in Fenland District, in the Isle of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. The hamlet sits either side of the A47 between Guyhirn and Peterborough. It is 12 miles from Wisbech. The population is included in the civil parish of Wisbech St Mary.

Huna of Thorney English saint

Saint Huna of Thorney was a seventh century Priest and Hermit. His influence in the Northumbrian and Anglian courts make him an important figure in the Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England.

Cambridgeshire (historic) Historic county of England

Cambridgeshire, archaically known as the County of Cambridge, is one of ninety-two historic counties of the United Kingdom. It corresponds approximately to the eastern half of the present administrative county of Cambridgeshire.

References

  1. Historia Ecclesiastica,IV:XIX
  2. "Cambridgeshire History & the Isle of Ely Timeline".
  3. "The Draining of the Fens". Visit Ely. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  4. Hereward and the Isle of Ely, BBC History, accessed 6 January 2008
  5. The taking of Ely, BBC History, accessed 6 January 2008
  6. The Isle of Ely and Civil War: Trevor Bevis, Hereward of the Fens, (Cambridgeshire Genealogy), accessed 6 January 2008
  7. "Wisbech and the civil war" . Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  8. Lewis, Samuel, Topographical Dictionary of England, Vol. II, London 1831
  9. "Fenland riots". www.elystandard.co.uk. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  10. Liberty of Ely Act, 1837 (7 Will 4 & 1 Vict c.53)
  11. "Town and county boundaries - First decisions of the Commission", The Times, 2 May 1947
  12. W. C. Scott-Giles, Civic Heraldry of England and Wales, 2nd edition, London, 1953

Further Reading

Fairweather, Janet (2005). "introduction". Liber Eliensis. Translated by Fairweather, Janet. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. pp. Xiii–xliv. ISBN   978-1-84383-015-3.