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CHAPELRY OF PARSON DROVE

Parson Drove, originally a township and chapelry of Leverington, became a separate ecclesiastical district under the Leverington Rectory Act (1870)…..The parish consists in effect of the fen end of Leverington; it has no separate manorial history
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The scattered village is situated about 6½ miles west of Wisbech and 4½ miles south-west of Leverington.
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Fendyke Bank, the great bank stretching from Cloughs Cross on the Lincolnshire border southwards to Guyhirn, is one of the most important in the district. For many hundreds of years it was the bastion of defence against the fresh waters coming down from the upland counties, and the landward counterpart to the old sea bank on the east side of Leverington. Fendyke protected the whole district on the north side of Wisbech which includes Tydd St. Giles, Newton, Leverington, Guyhirn, and Wisbech St. Mary. Its importance cannot therefore be exaggerated, and the most stringent measures were taken to ensure its safety. The obligation to maintain the bank was imposed on the landowners in the protected parishes.

A great breach was made in the bank in 1437, when 13,400 acres were flooded through the default of one Thomas Flower, the owner of 24 acres in Wisbech High Fen. (fn. 5) Further breaches occurred in 1570 (fn. 6) and in 1770. At the latter date a gap 130 yards wide was made, probably at Abel’s Gull. Parts of the country-side were flooded to a depth of 6 feet, and were not brought back into cultivation for three years. So sudden was the disaster that some fled for their lives to Thorney Abbey and the higher lands around. (fn. 7)

The Fendyke may be said to mark the boundary between the ‘peat’ and ‘silt’ portions of the parish. The former, comprising Parson Drove Fen, has always been less highly valued and was formerly used mainly as sheep pasturage; it is sparsely populated. The latter, which is the area of ancient settlement, forms part of the Wisbech fruit-growing and market-gardening district.

The 2-mile road called Parson Drove or Parson Drove Gate, along which the nucleus of the village is built, was formerly a green drove and wider than it is now. The inclosure of pieces of common land beside the road has brought it down to its present width; a small strip of common remains at the western end, and the former extent of the rest of the commons is still clearly visible. A fence used to stretch across the eastern end at Gates End Bridge, to prevent cattle straying upon Overdyke Bank.

Pepys, who visited Parson Drove on 17 and 18 September 1663, described it as a ‘heathen place’ where he had to sleep in a ‘sad, cold, stony chamber in a miserable inn’. His visit was made in connexion with the affairs of his deceased aunt Beatrice, relict of John Day of Wisbech, (fn. 8) who held much property in Leverington, especially in Outnewlands Field and Fen Croft. (fn. 9) ‘Uncle Perkins’, mentioned by the diarist as then living in Parson Drove in a poor way, was the husband of Jane Pepys, the diarist’s aunt. (fn. 10) The inn in which the diarist lodged was the Swan which in 1834 belonged to Charles Boucher, a brewer, who altered it drastically. Pepys, who was very susceptible to environment, reacted unfavourably to the Fens. The roads, houses, living conditions, even the gnats from undrained swamps, come in for severe criticism.

From: ‘Wisbech Hundred: Chapeiry of Parson Drove’, A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4: City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds (2002), pp. 197-200. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?com.... Date accessed: 17 September 2006.

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References

  • 1663