3 FEN DITTON
(O.S. 6 ins. aTL 45 N.E., bTL 46 S.E., cTL 55 N.W.)
The irregularly-shaped parish lies on a low ridge of chalk
between the River Cam on the west and an area of fen
on the east, formerly drained by Quy Water. Unlike
Horningsea, Fen Ditton is not referred to in Domesday
Book and the fact that the boundary between the two
parishes was only finally determined in 1412 (Ely Reg.
Fordham fo. 237–238) perhaps implies that the area was
originally a single unit. Ditton was the property of the
ealdorman Aelfgar who left it by will (946– c. 951) to
his daughter, Aethelflaed, with the intention that it
should become church property on her death (D.
Whitelock, Anglo-Saxon Wills, no. II; Prof. Whitelock
and others are uncertain whether Fen Ditton or Wood
Ditton is intended, but Reaney ('Place-names of
Cambs.', 142) and Swayer (Anglo-Saxon Charters, R.
Hist. Soc., 1968, nos. 1483, 1494) accept the identification of Fen Ditton). She left it by will (962–91) to the
church of Ely (Whitelock, op. cit., no. XIV), with a life
interest to her sister Aelflaed (ibid., no. XV; cf. Liber
Eliensis II, 64 (Camden Soc. III, XCII, 137)). On the
division of the property by Bishop Hervey (1109–31)
Ditton became one of the episcopal manors and so
remained; in 1251 Bishop Hugh of Northwold obtained
a grant of free warren at Ditton (Cal. Chart. Rolls, I,
367). The 14th-century episcopal palace survives within
an earlier moat (5). Royal letters are dated from Ditton
on several occasions during the 13th century (e.g. Cal.
Pat. Rolls, 1232–47, 223–4). On the E. of the parish an
area of fen was formerly intercommoned with Quy,
Horningsea and Bottisham but is now divided between
them. Most of the common fields had been enclosed
before the enclosure award of 1807. The southern part
of the parish has been recently incorporated in the
Borough of Cambridge.
Fig. 47 Fen Ditton, Village Map
The primary settlement probably stretched along the
edge of the flood-plain of the Cam and is now represented by habitation reaching from the Hall (2) to
Biggin (5). The focus of occupation moved in the late
Middle Ages from the riverside to an east-west orientation along the line of Fleam Dyke on the flattened bank
of which are several large houses, mostly of the 17th
century; behind the houses was a back lane shown on
the Enclosure Map of 1807. Buildings at Green End,
where there is a small green, reflect the early riverside
settlement but those buildings which survived air
bombing in 1940 are mostly 18th- or 19th-century.
A road formerly ran along the edge of the flood-plain
from the Paper Mills crossing (TL 473594), passing W.
of the Hall (2) and the Church (1), and through Green
End to Horningsea. Of the wharves which it served the
largest was adjacent to the Barn (3), a building which
seems to have had the dual use of storage and 'town
house'. The road was diverted E. of the Hall by the time
the gardens were completed in the early 17th century,
and this was in turn superseded by a new road further
E., possibly in the 18th century although the earliest
building on it is dated 1836 (18).
b(1) Parish Church of St. Mary Virgin (Fig. 48;
Plate 22) stands on high ground close to the western
termination of Fleam Dyke. It consists of a Chancel,
Nave with Aisles, South Porch and West Tower. The walls
are of 'Barnack' and stone rubble with clunch, 'Barnack'
and other limestone dressings; the roofs are lead-covered. Some stones have a 12th-century character
but no structure of that date survives. The W. tower
although rebuilt has an early 13th-century origin and
the chamfered sub-bases of the chancel arch may denote
the extent of the nave of that date. The building of the
N. aisle in c. 1300 was followed by that of the chancel
which may be ascribed to the episcopacy of Bishop
Hotham (1316–37) on the evidence of heraldic glass
formerly in its windows (Cole, History of Fen Ditton,
C.U.L., Add. MS. 6980, 19; B.M. Add. MS. 5834, 395).
The nave arcades, clearstoreys, S. aisle and S. porch
belong to the 15th century. A vestry, N. of the chancel
and presumably contemporary with it, was removed
in December 1844 (Churchwardens' Accounts, 1770–
1867). In 1881, under J. L. Pearson, R.A., the W. tower
was rebuilt, apparently reproducing the early features,
and at the same time the chancel and N. aisle were
considerably restored. The remainder of the church was
repaired in 1888–9. The churchyard wall is built in a
variety of materials including coursed rubble and some
pieces of medieval moulded stonework.
Architectural Description—The Chancel (39 ft. by 18 ft.) of
the early 14th century has an E. angle buttress on the N.,
S.E. diagonal buttress, and two S. side buttresses, all of two
weathered stages with flint flushwork in the form of a cross in
the upper stage; those on the S. have stop-chamfered arrises.
Two buttresses on the N. denote the limits of a former vestry
which stood against the first bay; two shaped corbels to take
the upper wall plate of this building survive. The chancel has
an E. parapeted gable and plain eaves. All the openings are
early 14th-century, much restored. Internally, a moulded
string follows the level of the window sills on the E. and S.
but stops against the E. jamb of the last window on the N.;
the string which is in new stone on the E. and S. returns
vertically over a 14th-century recess (see Piscina (1)) suggesting
its re-alignment; the string on the N. differs slightly in profile
and is original. The E. window has five cinque-foiled lights with
flowing tracery and label with head stops, inside and out. The
first bay on the N. is blank and no doorway to the former
vestry on the N. is traceable. In the second bay is a blocked
window with label and head stops, and moulded rear-arch;
below is a doorway, blocked internally, with continuouslymoulded jambs, label and head stops. To the W. a window
with two transomed trefoiled lights has quatrefoil in the head,
label and head stops, and moulded rear-arch; the plain openings
below the transom are rebated 'low-sides' (Plate 22). The
three windows on the S. each have two cinque-foiled lights,
flowing tracery and label with head stops; the first has an
internal embrasure (see Sedilia) and the third is taller and
transomed for rebated 'low-sides'. The 15th-century chancel
arch is of two moulded orders, the outer continuous with a
wide hollow and double ogee mouldings and the inner, with
hollow chamfer, and carried on three-quarter round attached
shafts with semi-octagonal and moulded capitals and bases.
The chamfered sub-bases are probably 13th-century.
The Nave (50¾ ft. by 17¼ ft.) has N. and S. four-bay arcades
of the 15th century. The treatment of the orders and mouldings
repeats that of the chancel arch. The first bay on the N. is
narrower to accommodate the rood stair which has upper and
lower doorways with chamfered jambs; the stair, whose treads
survive, has an upper opening, possibly a window, into the N.
aisle, with chamfered jambs and pointed segmental head. The
base of the second pier is carved with two small quatrefoils on
adjacent faces, possibly hacked-back dog-tooth of the 12th or
13th century. The clearstorey, also 15th-century, has on N.
and S. four windows each of two trefoiled lights, sunk spandrels in a square head with pointed segmental rear-arch. At
the E. end on the S. a blocked opening, rectangular and
chamfered externally with a pointed segmental rear-arch, was
probably a window to light the rood loft.
The North Aisle (14½ ft. wide) of c. 1300 has been much
restored. It has two side and two lateral buttresses, each of two
weathered stages. The E. window of three lights is modern.
The first three windows in the N. wall each have two cinque-foiled lights, quatrefoil between vertical bars in the head,
pointed segmental rear-arch, and modern label and stops; late
14th-century. The fourth and the W. windows each of two
uncusped lights with Y-tracery, pointed rear-arch, label and
mask stops, and the much-restored N. doorway of two stop-chamfered orders, moulded label and head stops, are contemporary with the aisle.
Fig. 48 Fen Ditton (1), The Parish Church of St. Mary Virgin
The South Aisle (14¾ ft. wide), of the early 15th century, has
an ashlar parapet with grotesque-head gargoyles on the string.
The openings are restored but the reveals are original and are
contemporary with the aisle. The E. and W. windows have
three cinque-foiled lights, labels, casement-moulded splays and
vertical tracery. In the S. wall the first and second windows of
three ogee cinque-foiled lights with casement-moulded splays
have quatrefoil tracery in a four-centred head with a label; the
third and fourth are similar but of two lights with a quatrefoil
between vertical bars in the head. The central doorway has
moulded jambs and two-centred inner and square outer head
with sunk quatrefoils in the spandrels.
The West Tower (14¼ ft. square) of the early 13th century
was rebuilt in 1881, the original features being reproduced or
retained and reset. It is of three stages with plain parapet, angle
buttresses rising to the bell chamber, modern gargoyles and a
small lead-covered spirelet. The tower arch is of three chamfered orders, the outer stopping at the impost on the E. and
dying into the side walls on the W., and the two inner carried
on semi-octagonal responds with moulded capitals and
chamfered bases; the E. label is enriched with dog-tooth.
Above the tower arch, and showing externally, is the weathercourse of the former, presumably 13th-century, steeply-pitched
nave roof. The N. and S. side arches are generally similar to
the tower arch but are lower; the respond on the N.W. is
incorporated into the tower-vice. Two weathered lateral
buttresses protrude into the N. and S. aisles. The W. window,
a single uncusped light with wide inner splays, is set within a
wide wall-arch with an internal label enriched with dog-tooth.
The tower-vice is entered from the N. aisle by a diagonallyset doorway with a square head. The second stage of the tower
has a small cinque-foiled light on the W. and in each face of the
bell chamber is a window of two uncusped lights with a
quatrefoil in the head. Supporting reused timbers of the
ringing-chamber are stone corbels carved with large flowers
or demi-angels holding shields charged with a cross, the arms
of Lisle of Wilbraham (a fesse between two chevrons), the See
of Ely (three crowns), and Avenell (a fesse between five annulets);
The South Porch is contemporary with the S. aisle but contains much reused material, some possibly 12th-century; a
faculty was given in 1872 for its rebuilding but in the event
the work may have been less extensive. The plain parapet rises
slightly over the S. archway which has been entirely renewed.
The Roof over the chancel, of scissor-braced rafters, is 14th-century. That over the nave, of the 15th century, is in four
bays with moulded tie beams, wall-posts and curved braces,
king posts axially braced to the ridge supporting common
rafters throughout, and moulded cornices; the wall-posts rest
on contemporary stone corbels carved with grotesque beast-heads. The N. aisle roof of single pitch in five bays has moulded
principal rafters and central purlin; the S. aisle roof, also 15th-century, is similar to that on the N. but retains fewer original
Fittings—Bells: six; 1st dated 1623, attributed to William
Haulsey on evidence of letter-form (Plate 65). Bell frame: old,
reset. Books: Geneva Bible, 1560, bound with incomplete
Prayer Book, in early 17th-century binding. Bracket: over S.
door externally, small square moulded bracket for image, 15th-century. Chest: oak, flat-topped, front with fluted stiles, crossbearer feet, 17th-century. Coffin lid: loose in S. aisle, 2½ ft.
long, carved with foliated cross, 13th-century (Plate 40). Door:
to S. aisle, cased in modern wood, with old wood-cased lock
mechanism and large key, perhaps medieval. Font (Plates 37,
39): octagonal, clunch with lead-lined bowl, each face with
spurred quatrefoil panels enclosing demi-angels carrying
shields, three of which are mutilated, the other five bearing
the arms of: See of Ely (three crowns), the Trinity (a pall within a
border with four roundels at the intersections), unidentified (Greek
cross), Bohun (a bend between six lions passant), Arundel
(quarterly 1 and 4 a lion passant in bend, 2 and 3 checky); the lions
on the two last-mentioned shields are shown conventionally.
Beneath the bowl are paterae, woman's head with square
head-dress, lions' heads and leaves; the octagonal stem which
has two trefoiled panels in each face stands on a flared base, and
in turn on a stepped plinth of 1872 (C.U.L., Ely Faculty Reg.).
On heraldic evidence the font may be dated within the Ely
episcopacy of Thomas Arundel, 1374–88.
Monuments and Floor slabs. Monuments: on N. wall of chancel
—(1), of Richard Willys, 1625, Jane (Henmarsh) his wife,
February 1628, Anne (Wylde) wife of Sir Thomas Willys
Bart., 1685, Sir Thomas Willys Bart., 1701, Sir John Willys,
1704, Sir Thomas Willys, 1705, Sir Thomas Willys, 1724,
two black marble tablets flanked and separated by white
marble strips on which are shields of Willys, Willys impaling
Henmarsh, Willys Bart. impaling Wylde, Willys Bart.
impaling Savage, and other blank shields (Plate 49). In S.
aisle—(2), of John Bones, 1813, white marble composition
against grey marble obelisk background with two female
mourners and an urn on a tall pedestal decorated with a portrait bust in an oval, inscription tablet below and shaped apron
with arms of Bone(s) and signed 'J. Bacon, London' and
'S. Manning ft.' (Plate 51); (3), of James Bones, 1766, Mary his
wife, March 1774, marble tablet surmounted by urn, early
19th-century; (4), stone tablet with inscription as (3) but in
bolder lettering, mid 18th-century.
Floor slabs: in chancel—(1), of William Willys, 1676,
'Collonell of Horse in the service of King Charles the first',
black marble ledger with arms of Willys quartering Henmarsh and another; (2), of Edward Curtis, 17; (3), P.C.I.G.,
1760, referring to one of three children of Dr. Gooch (rector
1752–1804) the eldest of whom was buried by Cole (B.M. Add.
MS. 5809, 17); (4), A.S., 1748; (5), of Jane Cornwall, 1712,
black marble ledger with arms of Cornwall impaling Malet.
In churchyard—(6), ledger with obliterated inscription and
shield of arms; five 17th- and 18th-century headstones with
winged cherubs' heads, swags and skulls, three to Wrangle
family (Plates 52, 54, 55); stunted obelisk to James Goodwin,
1806; two early 19th-century tomb chests.
Niches: in chancel, flanking E. window, a pair with ogee
cinque-foiled heads and traces of colour, 14th-century; in S.
aisle, a pair flanking E. window, with sub-cusped cinque-foiled
ogee heads, recorded as having black-painted scroll-work when
revealed in 1889, early 15th-century.
Piscinae: in chancel—(1), moulded E. jamb of recess, probably a 14th-century piscina but mostly masked by the string-course which returns vertically over it. In S. aisle—(2), with
moulded jambs, cinque-foiled inner and square outer head,
segmental dish to drain, early 15th-century. Plate: includes a
cup (ht. 8¾ ins.) with locative inscription in Latin, modern
lip, London 1690; stand paten (diam. 9¼ ins.) inscribed 'I H S'
and wording as on cup, London 1690; cover paten (diam. 5¾
ins.) inscribed 'I H S', London 1690. Sedilia: in chancel within
embrasure of first window on S., the low sill forming a bench,
the nosing of which is continuous with string-course. Screen:
at Messrs. Rattee and Kett, Hills Road, Cambridge, numerous
fragments of early 15th-century wooden screen including
buttressed uprights with cusped and sub-cusped branches on
two levels, the upper two-centred and the lower depressed;
probably the chancel-screen referred to by Evelyn-White
(Churches of Cambs., 63) in 1911, by which time the lower part
had already left the church. Tables: in S. aisle—(1), with
turned and fluted legs, top rail enriched with gouged arcading,
corner scroll brackets, later top, Elizabethan. In nave—(2),
oak, with turned legs, plain stretchers and plank top, early
18th-century. Miscellaneous: loose in chancel—(1), small clunch
shield charged with Passion-emblems, perhaps 15th-century.
In N. aisle—(2), fiddle, early 19th-century. In ringing-chamber
of tower—(3), two fragments (Plate 37) of a clunch frieze with
demi-angels, partly gilded, holding scrolls in a buttressed
setting, the top surface having a quatrefoil sinking, late 14th-century; part of the reredos under E. window of chancel
referred to by Cole as being discovered in 1772 behind wainscotting (History of Fen Ditton, C.U.L., Add. MS. 6980, opp.
23, 30); the sinking may be to receive a candlestick-base. (4),
fragment of frieze with quatrefoils, medieval; (5), carved
fragments including head stops, arm of an effigy in mail, stiff-leaf carving and foliated capital for an engaged shaft, all 13th-century; partly-gilded clunch head, 14th-century. In vicarage
—(6), clunch head with crown, late 13th-century (Plate 37).
b(2) The Hall (Figs. 49, 50; Plate 82), consisting of
house and earthworks, lies S.W. of the church on low
ground adjacent to the river. It is mostly of two storeys
and attics, red brick in various bonds, and the roofs are
tiled. Some of the brickwork cases timber-framing.
Fig. 49 Fen Ditton (2), The Hall
Existing elevations with conjectural restorations
Fig. 50 Fen Ditton (2), The Hall
The House incorporates part of a medieval building,
stylistically of the early 15th century, which may be
associated with the inheritance of the manor of Muschets
by Lawrence Cheyne in 1418; the enfeoffment of the
manor to Lawrence's father, William, took place in
1377 (Christ's College Muniments, Misc. B/6). In 1619
the estate passed to Thomas Willys of Horningsea and
his son, Richard (d. 1625), but no work appears to
have been done to the earlier house before the fourth
decade of the century. Richard's son, Thomas, moved
to Fen Ditton in 1637 having sold his previous property,
Balls Park, Hertfordshire, in that year. On the evidence
of heraldry on an overmantel the internal fittings must
have been completed before 1641 when Thomas was
created a baronet. The alterations of about 1635
included the enlargement of the house to an irregular
U-plan in which the brick-cased medieval range formed
the central portion of a symmetrical S. front (Fig. 49).
Although the E. cross wing has an asymmetrical façade
and peculiarities in the plan, it is apparently of one
date; an intention to complete the design with an open
loggia of four bays may be postulated. Having passed
through various hands in the 18th century, the house
was sold in 1821 to Joseph Truslove, a surveyor, who is
presumably responsible for the removal of the western
half of the house and the refenestration of the surviving
half. The S. elevation of the house before being curtailed is illustrated in the Gentleman's Magazine, Dec.
1801 (see also Country Life (Sept. and Oct. 1964), 764
and 834). An early 19th-century watercolour by Relhan
(C.A.S. watercolours) shows the house with the W. part
standing but unroofed.
The 15th-century house had two storeys with a single
continuous roof of five bays; a hall, perhaps on the
ground floor with a large room over, probably occupied
the central part, with a parlour in the E. bay. There
seems to have been a further building on the E. end,
perhaps an oratory. Licence for an oratory granted to
William Muschet in 1345, and renewed in 1350, can
only refer to this structure if it had survived the general
rebuilding of the 15th century (Cole, History of Fen
Ditton, C.U.L., Add. MS. 6980, opp. 9). The arrangement at the service end is not known but the butteries
were probably in a single bay on the W. A particular
feature of the 17th-century house is the three-bay
arcaded loggia in the E. range; the arches are now
blocked. Conjectural restorations of the 17th-century
house are shown in Fig. 49. For brevity, the work
carried out in the 1630s is referred to as 'c. 1635'.
The main E. front (Plate 82) is in three bays with dutch gables
to the attics, the centre having a semicircular head and the
outer ogival sides with flat tops. The roof has two noncontinuous ridges with a rectangular chimney stack at the
junction; the S. dutch gable thereby takes a longer transeptal
roof than the other two. No window has woodwork earlier
than the early 19th-century. The ground stage, in four bays,
has a brick plinth and first-floor brick entablature of rudimentary character; the three N. bays, occupied by the former
loggia, are separated by brick pilasters with moulded brick
bases and capitals below the entablature; the two N. bays
which have elliptical-headed arches with brick keys have
been infilled; the third bay, originally uniform with the others,
is now masked by a modern bay window. In the final bay is an
original window opening with later woodwork. Above is a
platband with ogee-moulded brick. At first-floor level the S.
window is set in the blocking of an original and wider opening
but the wall above the former loggia has been refaced and the
later windows are asymmetrically-placed. The attic storey has
a two-brick platband and three windows, unblocked in recent
times, with brick labels.
The complex N. front includes the gabled return of the E.
range which has blocked first-floor and attic windows with
brick labels; the partly rebuilt gable is plain. A stair block in
the angle between the E. and medieval ranges has a gabled
roof running E.—W., and two original stair-windows, the
lower with a brick label; a similar label on the W., now inside,
indicates a former window to the lower flight. Later buildings
mostly mask the medieval range. A 17th-century rectangular stack with two diagonal shafts rises from the S. wall.
The S. front (Plate 82) comprises the brick-faced remnant of
the medieval range, a projecting bay now used as a porch and
the gable end with the set-back return face of the E. range. The
roof is hipped on the W. The windows are all 19th-century or
later and only the ground-floor and attic windows respect
original openings. The medieval range and porch are of two
storeys with first-floor platband. The porch has an 18th-century
door-case with six-panelled door, flat hood carried on shaped
brackets and reused 17th-century run-through panelling on
the soffit; the former dutch gable has been removed and two
windows with plastered surrounds and brick labels on the W.
return face have been blocked. The S. end wall of the E. range
is in two planes, the larger having a dutch gable with corbelled
kneeler on the W.; a string-course below the parapet unites
both planes and the narrower has a small two-light ground-floor window, now blocked and possibly of the 17th century.
The W. front, built after the removal of the W. part of the
house in the early 19th century, continues the platband which
encircled the 17th-century house.
Inside, the Drawing Room (Plate 90) has run-through panelling of c. 1635, in softwood, with frieze panels carved with
arabesques. On the N. are two doorways, one blocked, having
run-through panelling with cut-out decoration above. The
central W. door is early 19th-century. The fireplace overmantel of three bays has a central panel with eared and jewelled
surround, side panels carved with round headed arches, and
turned and jewelled pilasters. Panelling in the S.E. corner of
the room is a later insertion. The axial ceiling beam is ogeemoulded with wave-and-roll stops.
The Dining Room, originally part of the loggia open on the
E., has 17th-century oak run-through panelling in six heights
and other panelling including some having shallow arcading
with floral sprays in the spandrels; the panelling on the S.
may be in situ but the remainder is reset. The S.E. door has
eight panels in a moulded frame with run-out stops. The floor
has stone flags. The Garden Room, also part of the loggia, has a
cased axial beam. Piers carrying the arcade project into the
room on the E. Dado-height run-through panelling is reset
and possibly modern.
The Staircase (Plate 88) of c. 1635 rises on the N. side of a
square well, in six half-flights to the attics where it returns on
the S. as a decorative landing. It has a closed string, turned
'hour-glass' balusters, moulded handrail, square newels with
central reeding, turned finials and pendants. The string and
fascia (Plate 89) to the landings have elaborate cut-out
arabesque-work and pierced and fretted fringe between the
turned pendants. Beneath the second flight is a balustrade of
rectangular open-work with shaped cresting; the pattern is
repeated in the triangular infilling of the first flight. In the
S.E. angle is an 18th-century corner cupboard with semicircular head, the upper part glazed and the lower part with
doors. A wooden archway of c. 1635 on the S. has a four-centred head carried on brackets, and a central pendant.
The medieval range of two storeys has been sub-divided, and
curtailed on the W.; it is now approximately two and a half
bays long, the E. bay being originally closed on both levels.
The haunched wall-posts of the timber-framed structure
survive on the S.; the axial beam, cross beams and wall beams
have ogee-and-hollow mouldings, but the E. cross beam is
pegged for a studwork partition removed in the 17th century.
In the N. wall is a plastered segmental-headed brick fireplace
of c. 1635, with a formerly external stack, the chamfered
plinth of which exists in an adjacent room.
Fig. 51 Fen Ditton (2), Roof truss
Upstairs, the Library over the Drawing Room has two axial
beams with ovolo mouldings and roll-and-hollow stops. The
frieze, probably the remains of complete panelling of c. 1635,
consists of panels carved with fleurs-de-lis and pomegranate
sprays, and separated by brackets decorated with arabesques;
below the cornice are shaped dentils. Wider frieze panels on the
E. and S. reflect former larger window openings, and an
extraneous panel on the E. is carved with cut-out circles. The
plain fireplace has a wooden overmantel (Plate 85) with two
rectangular panels each with inner panels and subdivisions,
separated by shaped and ornamental pilasters. The door of
c. 1635 has twelve panels with moulded stiles and rails. Two
rooms to the N., probably unified originally, have stop-chamfered axial and wall beams; in both rooms are doors
with seven panels and cocks-head hinges. In the S. room the
run-through panelling has been partially rearranged. The
fireplace contains an early 19th-century iron grate with serpentine fluting; the wooden overmantel of c. 1635, probably
reset, is in three heights and contains in the centre the arms of
Willys, without the badge of Ulster, flanked by confronting
lions rampant in ovals, and below, two enriched arcades
between fluted pilasters.
Fig. 52 Fen Ditton (3)
First-floor Plan and Section of Barn
The upper floor of the medieval range has at the E. end a
small room partitioned out of the former chamber over the
parlour. The E. wall (Plate 75) has exposed studs with 17th
century painting of yellow pigment on the wood and white
with black borders on the pan. In the centre are two blocked
openings marked by top and bottom rails; the later painting
extends over the blocked areas. Also in the E. wall are two
trefoils cut out of shaped bricks; these features and the blocked
openings are perhaps associated with an oratory standing on
the E. of the medieval house.
Three trusses of the 15th-century roof survive: the first on
the E. is a gable, the second is closed, the third is open. The
trusses consist of ogee-and-hollow-moulded tie beams
originally arch-braced, crown posts and braces to collar purlin;
the open truss (Fig. 51) has additional braces to the collar, and
the crown post is elaborated by side fillets beneath the braces;
the carpentry is of high quality and scantling substantial.
Where discernible the collar-purlin braces are numbered
X to VII from the E., showing that the range had originally
a five-bay roof; the Roman numbering is indicated on the
drawing to show the position of the trusses (Fig. 50). Assuming a uniform system of roof-bays, the fourth truss would
coincide with the existing W. wall of the house, and the fifth
with the W. wall of the post-medieval cellars, perhaps pointing
to a three-bay hall with a total length of about 27 ft. A parlour
may be conjectured within the wider E. bay between closed
trusses (X and VIII/IX); the numbering on the collar-purlin
braces would indicate that the W. bay was in continuation
with the rest of the roof, but there is no evidence concerning
Earthworks. Aligned with the 17th-century S. front of the
house, in a pasture field, are the remains of a formal water
garden which probably dates from the late 17th or early 18th
The site consists of a slightly sunken rectangular area, 170 ft.
by 210 ft., bounded at the N. end by a 2-ft. scarp and on the
E., S. and W. by the remains of long shallow ponds, now dry.
All these ponds were originally filled by diverting water along
a narrow ditch across the S.E. part of the field. An avenue of
trees flanks the canal and is continued N. across the sunken
area where it widens out towards the house; the present trees
are not older than the early 19th century, by which time the
original garden was out of use (C.R.O., Enclosure Map, 1807;
Baker's Map of Cambridgeshire (1821)).
b(3) Barn (Fig. 52; Plate 81), originally of two storeys
throughout, has a tiled gabled roof. It is timber-framed, with
later weather-boarding, on a plinth of mixed stones; it is
probably 16th-century. The high standard of its carpentry
suggests that the lower compartment only was used for
storage and that the main rooms on the first floor were set
aside for other use such as a guild hall or 'town house'. The
plank-and-muntin construction, although not a form known
regionally for exterior walls of houses, is to be found in highquality storage buildings (see R.C.H.M., Cambs. I, Tadlow
(5)). Evidence survives for a first-floor entrance on the E.
presumably by way of an external staircase and porch.
The building is in three bays each sub-divided by central
posts into which middle rails are pegged; the ground floor was
originally undivided, but on the first floor the S. bay was
partitioned off. The plinth and wall of the centre bay below the
top rail has been subsequently removed. A jetty with curved
brackets on the N. indicates the original first floor, but
internally the floor has been renewed at a lower level. The walls
are of carefully-wrought plank-and-muntin construction
(Fig. 53); on the ground floor the planks are set in grooves
slightly back from the internal wall face, but on the first floor
the planks, of which none survive, were fixed in a rebate flush
with the studs. Nothing of the original external treatment
remains but outer grooves in the studs may be fixings
for plastered infilling. The sole-plate has wide horizontal
mortices for floor beams aligned below the posts. In each
surviving bay on the E. and W. is a ground-floor window of
three lights with diamond mullions and grooves for shutters in
the middle rail. On the S. later alterations have removed
evidence of openings. On the first floor the unevenly-spaced
windows on the E. and W. are of four lights with diamond
mullions, shutter-grooves and rebated sill-boards; a similar
window survives in the N. gable wall. There is indication in
the arrangement of mortices in the top rail of the E. centre
bay of a door opening, presumably from external stairs. The
three-bay collared roof has cambered tie beams with braces
to the posts, and crown posts braced to the collar purlin. The
plaster infilling of the closed truss between the S. and centre
bays survives above collar-beam level; the partition below the
tie beam was of plank-and-muntin construction and had a
doorway at its E. end.
Methods of jointing the timbers exhibit a degree of ingenuity:
the top rails were joined by tabled scarfs with mortices that
allow for horizontal pegging (Fig. 4); the cross beams were
tenoned and notched to the haunched posts in such a way
as to prevent outward spreading; the joists were secured to the
cross beams by haunched tenons (Fig. 53).
Fig. 53 Fen Ditton (3)
b(4) Old Rectory (Fig. 54; Plate 93), is an amalgamation of
structures: a central range, of two storeys and attics, red brick
partly casing timber-framing, with tiled gabled roof; a N.
cross wing, of two storeys, white brick with tiled roof, half-hipped on the E. and hipped on the W.; a kitchen wing on the
N., of one and two storeys, timber-framed, partly brick-cased,
with tiled roof; a S. wing, of two storeys, partly timber-framed and plastered, partly in white brick with tiled roof,
the W. half of which is hipped and the E. half has transeptal
Fig. 54 Fen Ditton (4), Old Rectory
The house has a complex development from the 16th to the
19th century and complete interpretation has not been possible. The S. wing incorporates part of a 16th-century structure
formerly jettied on the E. and S.; later in the century the jetties
were under-built. Much of the rest of the house is 17th-century
in origin but has no logical connection with the S. wing. The
central range, originally framed, was probably of single-room
depth; perhaps also of the 17th century is the N. cross wing
and the kitchen wing beyond. Cole in 1775 records that the
'middle part' was built during the incumbency of Dr. Davies,
Master of Queens', rector 1711–32, but this probably refers
to refronting in brick; the widening of the central range and
the consequent adjustment to the roof may have taken place
at the same time. Cole in 1775 (History of Fen Ditton, C.U.L.,
Add. MS. 6980) wrote that it was 'finished in so untoward a
manner in most part of it in Respect to Doors, Chimneys,
Staircase etc. that it has afforded constant Amusement . . .'
and that expensive improvements were carried out by Dr.
Gooch, rector 1752–1804. These latter cannot be detected; the
panelling and staircase are stylistically earlier. During the 19th
century, and mostly after 1850, the S. wing was extended to
the E., and the N. cross wing and the kitchen wing were cased
in white brick.
The central range has a S. elevation (Plate 93) in five bays
with ground-floor sash windows, first-floor wooden mullionand- transomed windows with later casements below the
transoms, moulded and dentilled cornice, and hipped dormers;
the central door has six fielded panels and traceried oval fanlight between console brackets supporting a modern pediment.
The W. elevation is generally similar to that on the E. but the
N. bay has been masked by a modern turret, the doorway in
the fourth bay is a recent adaptation and the upper windows
are without transoms.
The N. cross wing, of white brick probably encasing timber-framing, has been reconstructed at the W. end. The E. wall
has been refronted so as to continue the platband of the central
block. The roof is inaccessible but the S. eaves appear internally
in the service stairwell indicating an earlier date for the wing
than the stairwell. The kitchen wing to the N. retains some
17th- or early 18th-century iron window frames with their
furniture. The S. wing is mostly brick-cased and all the openings are 19th-century.
Inside, the central range has some exposed stop-chamfered
ceiling beams the arrangement of which suggests that the
rooms on the E. are 17th-century and that the room on the
W. is an 18th-century addition. The entrance hall has on the
N. a large fireplace with brick sides and roughly-cut bressummer with fixing-marks for a spit engine. The main staircase, rising in three short flights to the first floor, has square
newels, moulded handrail, heavy turned balusters and closed
string, and belongs to the early 18th century. The room S. of
the hall has panelling in two heights with chair-rail and
bolection-moulded surrounds to fielded panels, and a moulded
cornice. Generally the doors have bolection-moulded architraves of the early 18th century. A bedroom has 18th-century
panelling brought from St. Andrew's Street, Cambridge, in
1939. The service stair, in the space between the stair turret
and the N. cross wing, reaches to the attics and is similar in
design to the main stair. In the attics, some 17th-century runthrough panelling has been reused. The roof has staggered
Internally, the S. wing has against the S. wall brick recesses
of two and a half arches with four-centred heads and raised
sills; the half arch may have extended to the W. as a complete
arch, and a further arch may have existed on the E. where a
doorway now is. The wall with these recesses is 16th-century
and is an underbuilding to a former jetty. A doorway in the
originally external E. wall, has a four-centred brick head; a
stop-chamfered dragon-beam rests across the angle between
the E. and S. walls. The E. wall of the N.W. room has been
rebuilt flush with the formerly jettied first-floor wall; the
room-height has been increased with a false ceiling about two
feet below the wall plate; in the roof space the framing with
enlarged-headed posts survives on the E. and W.
b(5) Biggin (TL 48736175; Figs. 55, 56; Plate 72),
sometimes known as Biggin Abbey, stands on a formerly
moated site (see below) on the edge of the river floodplain. The main house is of two storeys with cementrendered walls of clunch and freestone, and a gabled
asbestos-covered roof. An adjacent house of one storey
and attics has red brick walls and gabled tiled roof.
The Biggin, which had been the property of the
bishops of Ely since the 12th century, is first mentioned
by name in c. 1260 (Reaney, 'Place-names of Cambs.',
142). In 1276 Bishop Balsham was granted a licence to
enclose and crenellate his manor of Ditton (Cal. Pat.
Rolls, 1272–81, 140). The existing building, which dates
from the late 14th century, consists of a residential range
of two storeys, the more important room being on the
first floor; an additional building on the S., possibly a
range containing the butteries, had been removed by
the 17th century at the latest. The external walls and
the ground-floor ceiling beams and one first-floor
partition of the 14th century survive, but other internal
partitions are post-medieval.
Fig. 55 Fen Ditton (5), Biggin
The building has a rendered plinth on the N., E. and W. The
N. gable wall has lateral buttresses of three weathered stages,
the limestone ashlar of which is partly visible; a side buttress
shown by Cole in 1768 (Plate 72) on the E. has been removed
(History of Fen Ditton, C.U.L. Add. MS. 6980). The S. gable
wall has a massive projection, mostly of brick, on the W.,
possibly masking a former wall at right angles or a lateral
buttress; the S.E. angle of the house is plain but shows signs
of disturbance and refacing.
The E. wall, in three bays, has openings with internal splayed
jambs on each floor. At the S. end a doorway with square
head and early 19th-century wooden frame is in the position
of a pointed-headed doorway illustrated by Cole. Two
windows to the N. have modern woodwork but Cole shows
each opening as having two lights with arched heads and a
label. The three first-floor windows are not in the positions
noted by Cole but inside, between the centre and S. windows,
is the S. jamb of a former window which may belong to the
central one shown by him; it has a casement moulding. In the
N. wall is a blocked rectangular ground-floor window of two
lights with clunch cinque-foiled heads and label; above, part of
the internal sill, continuous-moulded jambs and pointed head
of a large blocked window, remain. These two windows are
masked by the addition of a 17th-century internal chimney
stack and a winding staircase with stone treads, possibly
reset, in the N.E. angle of the house. Against the W. wall is an
external chimney stack, weathered on both sides at first-floor
level; it is shown as brick-built or brick-faced in Relhan's
watercolour (Plate 72) but on grounds of form and function
it may be accepted as original (C.A.S. watercolours). The fireplace opening is traceable internally on the ground floor.
Flanking the stack are two original square-headed windows;
the internal splays of that on the N. alone remain but the head
of a two-light window exists on the S. Above the latter is a
blocked rectangular window of two lights with cinque-foiled
heads, embattled transom and casement-moulded jambs
(Plate 75); to the N. is a rectangular window with original
N. jamb and head which is shown by Relhan as having two
trefoil-headed lights and a label. The partition between these
two last-mentioned windows must be almost in the position
of an original one. The S. wall, considerably thinner than the
rest, has a blocked ground-floor opening with splayed jambs.
At first-floor level are two 14th-century doorways: that on the
E. is the wider but only the splayed jambs survive; that to the
W. has a two-centred head and is blocked. Scratched on the
splay of a ground-floor window are three lines of lettering, of
the 15th or 16th century.
The adjacent house to the S. is 17th-century with an internal
chimney stack. In the main room is a reused cross beam intersecting with a 17th-century axial beam; the cross beam
(length 14¾ ft.) which is stop-chamfered at both ends, repeats
the form of the beams in the main building and is presumably
Moated site (Fig. 58). The building stands in the N.E. corner
of a former moated site (Class A1(b)) occupying an almost
square area of about 5 acres with a ditch up to 30 ft. wide. The
ditch has recently been almost entirely destroyed and now only
the W. side exists as a 3-ft. W.-facing scarp, together with
traces of the N.E. corner. It is shown as complete on the
Enclosure Map of 1807. The reference to the enclosing of the
manor in 1276 may relate to the construction of this moat.
Fig. 56 Fen Ditton (5), Biggin
b(6) Poplar Hall Farm (Fig. 57; Plate 108), Class H, of two
storeys and attics, tiled and gabled roofs, is framed and
cement-rendered. It was probably built in the second half of
the 17th century and its original plan survives to a large degree.
The entrance front, on the E., is symmetrical except for the
off-centre doorway. The main range, whose roof-ridge is
slightly higher than those of the gabled cross wings, has a
central gable with verges continuous with the eaves. All three
gables have moulded barge-boards. Two chimney stacks, at
the junction with the wings, are rectangular with pairs of
round-headed recesses on the E. and W. The windows are all
late 19th-century; the doorway has a fielded-panelled door and
flat hood of c. 1800 but the original entrance may have been
below the central gable. The W. front is partly masked by
outshuts between the cross wings; the N. wing is half-hipped.
Inside, the chimney stacks are enclosed by chimney bays at
either end of the main range; the S. stack is cut through by a
19th-century passage axial with the present entrance. The
centre room has a plain chamfered axial beam and the cross
wings each have a cross beam in the main E. rooms; the N.
wing also has a stop-chamfered axial beam on the W. In the
S. wing, a 17th-century oak staircase which rises in two return
flights has a closed string, square newels with simply-moulded
finials and pear-shaped splat balusters (Plate 80). Elsewhere are
some 17th-century plank doors. The collared roof has clasped
b(7) House, Class T, of one storey and attics, white brick,
with mansard roof, tiled on lower slope and pantiled on upper,
has a contemporary outshut at one end; early 19th-century
b(8) House, Class I, of two storeys, mixed construction,
cement-rendered, with gabled roof, is probably 18th-century.
Fig. 57 Fen Ditton (6), Poplar Hall Farm
Fig. 58 Fen Ditton (5, 6) and Horningsea (30, 31)
b(9) Houses, two dwellings, of two storeys, framed and
plastered, with slated and tiled gabled roofs, are adjoining
buildings but are aligned differently to conform with the
street-curve; each has a continuous jetty on the W.; the jetty
of the S. house is supported on curved brackets. They may be
early 17th-century. The S. house, comprising one main compartment, has a later S. chimney stack of clay bat with white
brick top, and evidence for an original W. window with
shutter-groove; inside, a stout stud partition on the N.
supporting the end of an axial beam incorporates a cased arch
brace below the tie beam.
b(10) House, Class T, of two storeys, attics and cellars, has
white brick walls, sash windows and a slated gabled roof. The
attic storey is defined on the W. by three blind windowrecesses above a platband. On the S. gable is a brick dated
'1828', and inside are two floor-tiles with the incised date
'1828' and another with the initials 's.s.c.'.
b(11) Hall Farm, includes: five-bay Barn with two transeptal
entrances, framed and weather-boarded on red brick plinth,
tiled and gabled roof, probably an 18th-century reconstruction
of a former two-storey barn of the 17th century; red brick
Granary, of two storeys, now a stable, possibly 18th-century;
timber-framed 19th-century Building, of one storey and attics,
built largely of reused materials.
b(12) Terrace of six double-depth houses and a shop, is of
two storeys at the front and one with attics at the rear. It has
white brick walls, tiled and gabled roof, and is early 19th-century. The contemporary shop is a single-storey lean-to at
one end; its window to the street has been reduced in size.
b(13) Former School, single storeyed, of white brick and
slated gabled roof, bears a reset stone panel on the N. front
inscribed 'National School, erected A.D. 1844'. It was built at
a cost of £244 (Parliamentary Papers (1845) vo. 35, 704) and
replaced a school hitherto held in the rectory barn (National
Society for Religious Education records). The N. front has
four windows with segmental heads and iron frames; the
centre opening has been altered and may have been blind.
The gables have ventilators. Originally the range, which has
two fireplaces, was probably divided by a light partition;
further accommodation was added on the S. in c. 1870.
b(14) Flendish House, of two storeys, cellars and attics,
with walls of red, yellow and white brick, partly used as casing,
has a main range with gable-end chimney stack, and is probably late 17th-century. A wing at right angles was added on the
S., perhaps early in the 18th century. The N. wing containing
kitchen and pantries is early 19th-century.
The main range has red brick gables and timber-framed side
walls cased in yellow brick. The S. addition has a gable wall
with flush chimney stack with rectangular base and three
modern diagonal shafts, diaper patterning in the upper part
of the gable and two small window openings on each floor,
three of which are blocked. The E. and W. walls have brick
casing which overlaps the S. gable wall; the openings on the
E. and W. are contemporary with this casing. Inside, the main
range has a stopped ovolo-moulded axial beam in the W. room
and a chamfered axial beam in the E. room; the room in the
S. addition has an ovolo-moulded axial beam with hollow
stop. Various pieces of reset panelling, a six-panelled door and
a vertically-panelled door, all of the 17th century, remain.
The roof has collars clasping purlins.
b(15) House, Class T, of two storeys, white brick, with
slated gabled roof, is early 19th-century; it has a former outshut at the rear which has been increased to two storeys. The
sliding-sashes are original.
b(16) House, of two storeys and attics, with tiled gabled
roofs, has an L-shaped plan consisting of a late 16th-century
timber-framed range, at right angles to the street, and an early
17th-century addition in brick on the E.; an outshut in the
angle, although renewed, has a 17th-century origin. The main
range, which was partly cased in white brick in the mid 19th
century, is jettied at the S. end and has a rectangular chimney
stack in two stages in red brick; the sash windows are coeval
with the casing. The E. addition has two blocked window
openings on the S. and a chimney stack, formerly external,
on the N. Inside, the main range has in the S. room, rebated
and ovolo-moulded intersecting beams and panelling in two
heights with frieze panels carved with arabesque ornament,
and on the S. wall, five arcaded panels, possibly once an overmantel. Doorways on the N. each have moulded and carved
surrounds with enriched over-panels, one having a carved
overthrow. Against the E. and S. walls and integral with the
panelling is a 17th-century settle with cornice and arms
(Plate 86). The N. room has an axial beam, possibly reused.
The room in the E. addition has a chamfered axial beam and
17th-century oak panelling in five heights with frieze panels
enriched with jewelling and separated by leaf-ornamented
console brackets. Below the beam are fluted pilasters with
base-panels decorated with lozenges. The overmantel (Plate 85)
is composed of three arcaded panels, fluted pilasters and
bands of horizontal decoration. Two former, high-level,
windows on the S. are reflected in the panelling. Upstairs,
some moulded door surrounds with carved over-panels, and
a panelled door, of the 17th century, survive.
b(17) House, now inn, of one storey and attics, framed and
plastered, partly brick-faced, has white brick chimney stacks
and recently-tiled half-hipped roofs. The building may have
originated as a late 18th-century Class-J house to which was
added a Class-I structure in c. 1800. Inside, an early 19th-century fireplace has a reeded surround with angle-roundels.
b(18) House, Class U, of two storeys and cellar, has slated
and gabled roof, white brick walls with some clay bat at the
rear. The keystone over the arched entrance doorway is
inscribed 'JC 1836'. On the first floor the rooms are divided
by lath and plaster partitions. (Demolished 1969)
b(19) House, of one storey and attics, has brick walls and
tiled gabled roof. The house has been curtailed at the W. end
and close to the W. gable a large chimney stack with rectangular base and diagonal shafts emerges from the roof. The grey
brick walls are later additions; the plan and roof-pitch suggest
that the house incorporates an open hall into which the stack
and upper floors were added in the 17th century. No features
earlier than the 17th century were seen. (Access restricted)
b(20) Houses, a pair, of one storey and attics, lit by flush
gabled dormers, framed and plastered, with thatched gabled
roofs, are probably early 18th-century. They originated as a
Class G-house which was increased for dual occupation by an
addition on the W. of uniform design, and a single-storey
adjunct on the E., possibly later in the century.
b(21) Mulberry House, of two storeys, framed and partly
plastered but mostly brick-cased, has gabled and pantiled roofs.
The main range on the S. contains ceiling beams which appear
extraneous, suggesting that the house originated as an open
structure of the 17th century and was converted to a Class-J
house early in the 18th century. In the early 19th century the
S. wall was cased in white brick; later in the century a wing
was added on the N., and the W. front unified by brick casing.
The chimney stack, of modest size, may have been reduced
to serve a single fireplace so giving space for the present simple
early 19th-century stair. In the W. room a chamfered cross
beam, which rests on a scarcely-adequate ledge in the post,
has redundant mortices for joists; a chamfered axial beam
also has structural features suggesting re-use.
b(22) House, of two storeys and attics, framed and plastered,
partly brick-cased, with tiled gabled roof, is probably early
17th-century. The main range, of Class-J plan, has a continuous jetty on the N. At the W. end a cross wing with an end
jetty on the N. appears on constructional grounds to be
contemporary with the main range. The jetties have been
boxed-in and the window openings have later or modern
woodwork but the cusped and enriched barge-boards with
decorated apex pendant on the N. gable of the wing are
Inside, the two larger rooms of the main range have
intersecting beams. The N. room in the cross wing has large
plain panels in two heights, and the staircase, on the S., has
moulded handrail and turned balusters; both are early 18th-century. Upstairs, the main room has panelling in two heights
with plain panels and heavily moulded cornice; the fireplace
(Plate 91) of cast iron and sheet brass is a Dutch importation;
it has a surround of delft tiles and a wooden frame, originally
marbled or grained, and an over-panel with landscape painting
in the oriental taste; these fittings are early 18th-century. The
roofs have collars clasping purlins and the principal rafters
have enlarged ends at the ridge. Fittings include a dresser and
an iron hearth-crane, both 17th-century, and a fireplace with
reused delft tiles.
b(23) Home Farm, of two storeys, timber-framing now
brick-cased, with gabled tiled roof and red brick chimney
stacks, was built in the first half of the 17th century on a Class-J
plan. A small projecting wing at the E. end of the main S.
front is marginally later. A large external chimney stack was
built on the E. in the early 18th century and there are modern
additions on the N., partly on the site of former cellars. The
windows are modern casements. Internal fittings are early
17th-century unless otherwise specified.
Fig. 59 Fen Ditton (23), Home Farm: Balusters
The two main rooms, in the centre and on the W., are
separated by back-to-back fireplaces, with entrance lobby on
the S. and staircase on the N. The W. room has an axial beam
cased with boards incised with lozenge decoration and supported on the W. by a fluted pilaster with Ionic capital. The
run-through panelling, partly renewed, in four heights has a
frieze of panels with lozenge decoration. The overmantel
consists of four panels, with arcading and enriched arches and
spandrels, supporting a moulded and chip-carved cornice; the
fireplace is flanked by fluted and chip-carved pilasters with
Ionic capitals. Doors flanking the fireplace have run-through
panelling and over-panels decorated with radial fluting (Plate
90). A corner cupboard with glazed doors and shaped shelves
is early 19th-century. The centre room has an axial beam with
a fluted Ionic pilaster on the E. The run-through panelling,
partly reset, includes dado panels incised with lozenge pattern,
or guilloche and floral ornament. The overmantel (Plate 86)
has two medallions with Renaissance-type heads, and linenfold panels, probably 16th-century, reset. A corner cupboard
is late 18th-century. The E. room, originally unheated, has a
chamfered axial beam. The stair has tapered and pierced splat
balusters of the 17th century (Fig. 59). The small S. wing is
constructed with timbers similar to those in the main range,
but is probably secondary. On the first floor of the house
there is run-through panelling with decorative friezes. A fireplace, now masked, has reveals with blue delft tiles.
Pigeon house, rectangular, of brick and tile, with later upper
floor, is 18th-century. Barn, framed and weather-boarded, with
thatched roof, is aisled and of four bays; 18th-century.
b(24), b(25) Houses, of one storey, brick walls and mansard
roofs, are early 19th-century. Their plans approximate to
Class I but the entrances are at the end of the long wall and not
opposite the stack.
b(26), b(27), b(28) Houses, Class G or J, of two storeys, or
one and attics, framed and plastered, gabled or half-hipped
roofs, mostly thatched, are 17th-century.
b(29), b(30), b(31), b(32), b(33), b(34), b(35) Houses, Class S, in
groups of two, three or six, of two storeys, or one and attics,
in timber-framing, clay bat or white brick, are early 19th-century. (31) is probably the pair of cottages referred to in
August 1817 as 'lately erected' (C.R.O., Fen Ditton Court
Rolls 132/M37). (Plate 111).
Prehistoric and Roman
a(36) Bronze Age burial (about TL 480599), found in 1876
near Wadloes Footpath, now Ditton Walk, and perhaps within the present City boundary. A plain urn of biconical form
containing burnt bones was found. (C.M.; Fox, A.C.R., 41,
pl. III, 1)
c(37) Roman settlement (TL 50356008; Fig. 60), lies in the
extreme E. of the parish, in the angle between the section of the
Fleam Dyke and Quy Water, ½ mile N.W. of Quy Bridge, on
chalk at 25 ft. above O.D. Interpretation of the air photographs is made difficult by the existence of subsequent crop
marks resulting from field banks removed in the 19th
century (cf. 25-inch O.S. map (1885); C.R.O., Enclosure Map,
The site consists of a rectangular enclosure 500 ft. long and
200 ft. wide orientated N.W.-S.E. There are a number of
internal divisions, one at least extending beyond the main
enclosure at its S. corner. The long sides of the enclosure
extended S.E. and there are fragments of three other linear
features in the same area. No finds have been made on the
site, but its form and position suggest that it is of Roman date.
(Air photographs in N.M.R.)
Medieval and later
For earthworks at The Hall and moat at Biggin see (2) and
(5) above. For Fleam Dyke (northern section) see p. 144.
Fig. 60 Fen Ditton (37), Roman Settlement
c(38) Pagan-Saxon burials (TL 50605940), found in 1957
during road works at the S.E. end of Fleam Dyke (northern
section) apparently in the upper levels of the ditch-fill of the
Dyke. They consisted of an unknown number of male and
female skeletons together with six spear heads, a sword, two
shield-bosses, a knife, four brooches, parts of two pairs of wristclasps and a buckle. Another shield-boss was found in 1963
and two spear heads and a cruciform brooch are also recorded.
(C.M.; C.A.S. Procs. LI (1958), 1–5; LVI and LVII (1964),
b(39) Former Wharf (TL 48156036), at the extreme W. end
of Fen Ditton High Street, consists of an artificial cut, 35 ft.
wide and 6 ft. deep, extending S.E. from the River Cam for a
distance of 50 yds., at which point it forks: one branch, 20 ft.
wide, continues S.E. for a short distance; a second branch of
the same width curves S. and S.W. for a distance of 125 yds.
before it becomes a narrow drainage channel. In the angle
formed by the fork is a roughly rectangular area of about half
an acre in the S.E. corner of which stands the late medieval
building (3). The main cut and its extension have the same
alignment as the ditch of Fleam Dyke (northern section) and
may have originated from it. No documents referring to
commercial activity at this wharf have been traced.
A similar rectangular open area of land, on the riverside
260 yds. to the N. and immediately S. of the Plough Inn
(TL 48186060) (39a, on Fig. 47), still common land, may
be the site of a similar wharf.
b(40) Settlement remains (TL 48296078–48266058), formerly
part of Green End and E. of the Plough Inn, on lower chalk
at 30 ft. above O.D., consist of three large rectangular plots,
each covering some two acres. They are bounded on the W.
and S. by the modern road, on the E. by the line of a hedge
and are separated by low N.-facing scarps 1–2 ft. high. At
the W. ends of the two S. plots are large sub-rectangular
depressions up to 80 ft. long and 40 ft. wide, probably the
sites of former houses. The N. plot has been extensively cut
into by chalk quarrying but two well-marked raised platforms
survive. The smaller, 30 ft. square and 2–3 ft. high, is at the
W. end; the larger, 100 ft. long by 40 ft. wide and bounded
by low banks lies in the N.E. corner and is orientated N.E.S.W. The site had already been abandoned by 1807. (C.R.O.,
Fig. 61 Fen Ditton (41), Fen Drainage
(41) Fen drainage (Fig. 61) in the parishes of Fen Ditton,
Horningsea and Stow cum Quy. The drainage in these parishes
is described together as much of their fenland was intercommoned and without precise parochial boundaries until
the 19th century.
Probably the earliest system of drainage in the area is mid
17th-century, and related to a rectangular block of land
allotted to the Adventurers in 1637; originally a single lot of
about 100 acres, it lay W. of the present Stow cum Quy Fen
(centred TL 513633) near Fen Head and adjoined the Adventurers' Land in the modern parish of Lode. The allocation
followed earlier attempts at drainage which was not achieved
until 1665–6 (C.R.O., R59/31/9/1A and 6); at this date the
land was drained, together with that to the N.W., by way of
White Lake Stream (see Lode (33)). Before 1800 the remaining
fenland was enclosed and drained except for a large area
(centred TL 515625) which was left as common for the poor of
these parishes (C.R.O., Map of Swaffham and Bottisham Fens,
1800). This operation had started before 1726 when allotments in High Fen, Stow cum Quy (TL 507626), were in
existence (C.R.O., R52/6/1), and by the end of the century
land N.E. of Clayhithe, in Horningsea (TL 510655), was also
That fenland which was outside the jurisdiction of the
Bedford Level Corporation, and latterly of the Swaffham and
Bottisham Drainage Commissioners, was also drained and
divided in the 18th century. The Rough Fen, in Fen Ditton
(TL 501625) was ordered 'to be laid and kept several' in 1705
(C.R.O., 132/M26), and by 1723 Low Fen (TL 507612) and Hoe
Fen (TL 505607) had been enclosed (C.R.O., 178/84).
The boundaries of the Adventurers' Lands are traceable; the
18th-century drainage schemes survive although considerably
obscured by later ditches and by coprolite digging.
(42) Cultivation remains. The common fields of the parish
were finally enclosed in 1807 (C.R.O., Enclosure Map and
Award); as this was the last stage of enclosure, relatively small
areas of land were involved. Field-names indicate that there
had been five open fields: Abbots Ditch Field, E. of the village;
Swansbridge and Little Fields, S. of the village; Leadenwell
Field in the S. of the parish (now within the City boundary);
and High Ditch Field, W. of Quy Bridge.
Long low banks up to 400 yds. in length and 30 yds. in
width, apparently the remains of headlands between furlongs,
survive in five places. Those at TL 502597 and 505591 lay in
High Ditch Field and those at 494604 and 496601 in Abbots
Ditch Field. (Commercial air photographs in N.M.R.)