The Fens

Old postcard of mine showing The Fens..... The Fens are a flat lowland, W and S of The Wash.
Extending c.70 mi (110 km) from north to south and c.35 mi (60 km)
from east to west, it is traversed by numerous streams. The area was
originally the largest swampland in England, formed by the silting
up of a bay of the North Sea. The higher places were sites of Roman
stations. The Romans attempted drainage and built a few roads across
the Fens; however, the area had become marshy by Anglo-Saxon times,
either from natural causes or from allowing Roman work to decay. The
first effective drainage systems were developed in the 17th cent. by
Cornelius Vermuyden, a Dutch engineer. Drainage and construction of
dikes and channels in the various sections or “levels” continued
through the 19th cent., but problems of land sinkage, water
accumulation, and periodic flooding existed throughout the period.
As a result of flooding in the 20th cent., a drainage-improvement
project (completed in the mid-1960s) was undertaken. The district is
largely under intensive cultivation. Agriculture is plentiful on the
fertile alluvial soils, with vegetables, fruit, and wheat being the
principal crops. Wildlife sanctuaries have been preserved.
The district is also called Fenland.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2000 Columbia University
Go to Cambs GenWeb pages - to read about Cornelius Vermuyden (1595-1683) and the Fen Reclamation.
And did you know that Malaria wasn't eradicated from the Fens until the 1920s? Speed skating on frozen Cambridgeshire Fens for the first time in 13 years - January 2010 I think my old school song says it all about living in the Fens:
"We are boys and girls of the Fenland Where the wind blows keen and free O'er the rich black soil of our farmlands From the waves of the Great North Sea. The larks hang singing above us On our broad untrammeled skies And naught but the level horizon Hides the distance from our eyes Hides the distance from our eyes. But as we set out on life's journey We see only part of the way Nor guess what of joy or of sorrow May be ours by the end of the day. This only we know we must meet them With gay courageous heart Determined in good times and bad times Unflinching to play our part Unflinching to play our part. We'll cherish the beauty around us In sight and sound and form We'll labour and joy in our efforts We'll shelter a friend in a storm And as we go onward and upward On life's adventurous way We'll echo the song we are singing At Hereward today At Hereward today."
It was written by Mr Alec Stockton (Stocky) the music teacher (date?) at the Hereward Boys' School, Robingoodfellow's Lane, March, and was sung every year at Speech Day. (I attended the Hereward Girls' School from 1963 to 1967.) My thanks to my childhood playmate, Margaret English + Fiona Davies and March Museum for helping me find the verses I'd forgotten!
Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, is the Fenland village where I was brought up, where my parents still live and where on a beautiful sunny day you can see the sun glinting on the stained glass windows of Ely Cathedral 20 miles away! No wonder the cathedral is called "The Ship of the Fens" or "The Queen of the Fens". There is now a book about the neighbouring fenland village of Three Holes. Other Fenland websites: The Drainage of the Fens The Fens The Fenland Museum, Wisbech History of the Fens Draining The Fens-1947 from the East Anglian Film Archive The Fenland Family History Society Christchurch History Notes My Cawthorn Family Home Page & Site Index Contact Details - if you think you have any information that will help me with my research and these webpages.
And don't forget to sign my Guest Book before you leave!
This page created 18 January 2001 & amended/updated 14:07 20/01/2018