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. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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STRETHAM AND THETFORD
Stretham is a village and parish on the southern border of the Isle, 4½ miles south of Ely. It lies at the point where the Cambridge road (A 10) is crossed by that from Earith and Chatteris to Soham and Newmarket (A 1123 and B 1085). The 'street' from which the village derives its name is the Roman road leading northwards from Cambridge, which, though now the main road entry into the Isle from the south, was in the Middle Ages of little importance compared with that over Aldreth causeway. It began to supplant the Aldreth road (see Haddenham) towards the end of the 17th century, and is shown in the English Traveller's Companion (1676) and the 1695 edition of Camden's Britannia. (fn. 1) In 1763 the task of bringing it up to contemporary standards was begun, with a gift of £200 from Alderman Riste of Cambridge, and completed some twenty years later at a cost of upwards of £7,000. (fn. 2)
The parish is roughly bounded on the south and east by the Old West River and the Cam, but the line does not everywhere exactly coincide with the present watercourses. Haifa mile north of the village a by-road leaves the main Ely road for Witchford. Stretham railway station (actually in Wilburton parish) is situated where this road crosses the Ely-St. Ives branch of the former L.N.E.R. The section on which the station lies dates from 1866. (fn. 3) The station has been closed for passengers since 1931, (fn. 4) but a considerable amount of goods traffic is still carried. The main line from Cambridge to Ely crosses the south-east of the parish, and has a signal box (Stretham Fen) and sidings, but no station.
In its present-day aspect Stretham is a typical village of the Isle. There is no 'great house', but there are several of medium size. There are also numerous 19thcentury terrace cottages of the kind seen in industrial towns, and equally numerous council houses, mostly well designed, grouped in two separate blocks at opposite ends of the village.
Several fires have occurred in the village. In 1696 damage assessed at £2,170 was so caused and a general collection made by brief. (fn. 5) A more serious fire broke out on May Day 1844 in the blacksmith's shop. The whole of 'Bell Street' was destroyed and damage done to the extent of £20,000. (fn. 6) In the autumn of 1850 four fires, the work of incendiaries, occurred at Stretham in as many weeks, 'by which property to a large amount was sacrificed'. (fn. 7) A detective from London made investigations, but the culprit was not discovered. (fn. 8)
In the Middle Ages the value of Stretham, in relation to that of other episcopal manors, was neither very high nor very low. It is worth noting, however, that it was one of the few villages in the Isle to indulge in the luxury of a stone spire for its church. (fn. 9) The erection of a fine cross and the presence of three guilds also point to some medieval affluence. After the Reformation Stretham seems to have advanced in size. In the 'censuses' of 1563 (fn. 10) and 1676, (fn. 11) which credit Stretham-withThetford with 119 householders and 428 communicants respectively, the parish stands eighth in size among the towns and villages of the Isle; in the ship money assessment of 1639-40 (£50 7s. 6d.) (fn. 12) it stands sixth. Owing to its geographical position Stretham had little share in the agricultural development of the Fens in the 18th and 19th centuries, which caused such rapid increases at, e.g., Doddington and Littleport. The population density (25 per 100 acres), however, is now high for the southern part of the Isle.
A market and two annual fairs were established in 1634, (fn. 13) and were in existence forty years later, when Ogilby described Stretham as 'somewhat scattering'. (fn. 14) At the beginning of the 19th century they had long been in abeyance. (fn. 15)
In the main road to the east of the church is a fine stone cross of early-15th-century date, the most perfect surviving example in the county. It stands on a brick base, which was substituted some years ago for the original flight of stone steps. The shaft rests on an octagonal base ornamented with quatrefoils, and the square head has a shallow niche on each face with a bracket for a figure. In spite of the great fire of 1844, Stretham has some interesting old houses. The Rectory (see below-Churches) is of some architectural importance. The following 17th-century buildings are noteworthy: the house 10 yards east of the Red Lion Inn, now divided into two; the house next the grocer's shop in Front Street; the two cottages at the corner of Read's and Chapel Streets. Mention may also be made of: Manor Farm, 18th century but with portions possibly of earlier date; Orchard House, 18th century; and Hylton House, Top Street, a Regency villa. A fine tower windmill, now sailless, stands at the north end of the village. (fn. 16) A parish room was erected in 1886. (fn. 17)
Mark Ridley (1560-1624), who became physician to the Czar of Russia, was born in Stretham. His father, who was rector, was a cousin of Bishop Ridley. (fn. 18) Another noteworthy rector was H. H. Baber (1775- 1869), philologist and Keeper of the Printed Books at the British Museum. He resigned his keepership in 1837 to devote himself entirely to his parish. He was one of the chief sufferers in the crop of fires that occurred in the village in the middle of last century. (fn. 19) Dr. Ralph Perkins, rector 1696-1727, was a great benefactor to Ely Cathedral Library and to various ecclesiastical charities. (fn. 20) Charles Thomas, rector 1728-71, is described by Cole as 'a man of Parts, but of an odd and whimsical Disposition'-a reputation illustrated by his will, which contained complicated instructions about his burial. (fn. 21)
Thetford or Little Thetford is a hamlet of Stretham for ecclesiastical purposes, but a separate civil parish with its own Council. The small village is situated on a side turning from the Ely road about 2½ miles south of the city. It presents a picturesque appearance from the railway, the main line running close to its eastern end. The name, Theod-ford, 'ford of the nation (road)', (fn. 22) suggests that the main road into Ely may at one time have followed the lower ground past Braham Farm, where there is an ancient earthwork, and into the city by Cawdle Fen Drove and Potter's Lane to the waterside, the medieval focal point of Ely. An area of 233 acres was transferred from Ely Urban District to Thetford under the Isle of Ely Review Order, 1933, thus increasing the population by 29. (fn. 23) A parish room was erected in 1887. (fn. 24) The Three Horseshoes Inn at Thetford is an 18th-century building of some interest, built on a slight curve. The Round House, now two cottages, is even more remarkable in its plan. It also dates from the 18th century and is of brick with a thatched roof of conical shape with a finial.
The open fields of Stretham, measuring 2,390 acres, were inclosed in 1837. (fn. 25) This was about half the total area of the parish. The fields were named Crouch Field (east and west of the Ely road), Whitecross and Brook Fields (respectively north and south of the Wilburton road), and Meadow Field (east of the Cambridge road). There were also open commons and fens. Snoot Common, Middle Common, Elford Closes, Chear Fen, and Lazier Fen lay at the extreme south of the parish, and Starlock Hay Fen Common and Holt Fen in the southeast. Most of these names survive. There were 78 allottees, of whom the chief were William Edwards Read (228 acres), George Gould Morgan, lord of the manor (173 acres), Thomas Waddelow Granger (142 acres), and the Ely Feoffees (135 acres).
The Thetford fields, measuring 693 acres, were inclosed in 1844. (fn. 26) This was about half the total area. The fields were named Stone Bridge, Middle, and Goldsmere Fields. Goldsmere Common, and Hall, Holt, and Reed Fens were also affected. The land was rather more evenly divided amongst the 42 allottees than in Stretham. The devisees of Mary Hammond (60½ acres) and William Yarrow (45 acres) received the largest shares, and 7 other proprietors received more than 20 acres apiece.
Two thousand acres in Stretham and Thetford Fens were flooded in March 1947. The damage suffered was severe. (fn. 27)
An estate in STRETHAM of 9 hides 24 acres, with two fisheries, was one of the benefactions of Ethelwold and Brithnoth to the church of Ely. (fn. 28) In 1086 Stretham was assessed at 5 hides. Three of these, comprising 4 ploughlands, were in demesne. Another 5 ploughlands were divided between 23 villeins, 12 of whom had 10 acres each; the remainder shared 1 hide. There were also 10 cottars and 2 serfs. Besides the usual meadows and pastures, there were fisheries producing 3,250 eels and 7s. 7d. in tribute. The estate, which had always been part of the demesne of the church of Ely, had been worth £6 when received, £12 T.R.E. and £9 in 1086. (fn. 29)
Stretham became an episcopal manor in 1109. It was one of the smaller ones, with no important tenants by military service, so that our main sources of information for its history during the Middle Ages are cartularies and bailiffs' accounts. In 1221 (fn. 30) 338 acres were in demesne, and in 1251 (fn. 31) 477½ acres, rated at 2 carucates. The arrangement of the fields is interesting. At both dates there were four comparatively small ones named from the points of the compass, representing perhaps a subdivision of an original two-field vill, but the two fields of 1221 known as 'Alvernercroft' and 'Brocfeld' do not reappear in 1251. It is possible that they were merged in 'Suthfeld', where the demesne increased from 60 to 158 acres. This field, however, was on the fen side of the vill and its increase may therefore have been partly due to reclamation. Another field, which appears in both cartularies, was called 'Hay', a precursor of the present Starlock Hay Fen Common south-east of the village. The lord's share of the meadow increased from 18 to 80 acres between 1221 and 1251. At the latter date the demesne was stocked with 20 cows and a bull, 20 sows and a boar, and 300 sheep. In addition more than 100 belonged to tenants. Stretham, being one of the manors on the landward side of the Isle, did not make much progress during the 13th century. Between 1221 and 1251 the free tenants decreased from 23 to 19, and the customaries holding a full virgate from 18 to 13. In each year, however, there were 7 half-virgaters, 9 cottars, and 1 'halfcottar'. In 1251 the marsh and fisheries produced £8 12s. yearly, and £1 14s. 4d. was due in rents. Stretham manor, like many others of the Bishop of Ely, seems to have reached its zenith as a source of profit about the beginning of the 14th century. The total receipts in 1286, 1298-9, 1302, and 1316 were £15 12s. 1d., £37 5s. 8d. (two years), £24 19s. 3d., and £17 19s. 7d. respectively. (fn. 32) Stretham seems at this time to have been about midway in the population scale among the episcopal manors in and around the Isle proper; in 1302 899 works were commuted. (fn. 33) The decline in value continued during the 14th century. In 1356 (fn. 34) the total receipts fell to £13 18s. 8d., of which £8 13s. 9d. came from a demesne of 347 acres. The fisheries, specified as those of Strethamere (held in severalty), 'Estewater', Hayfen, and 'Berlake', produced £3 19s. 8d., (fn. 35) but the 20 acres of 'fennemedwe' were flooded and worthless, as was the ruined manor house of Strethambury. The bishop's movable property was valued at £19 18s. In the middle of the 16th century the value had risen again; it was £44 7s. 2½d. in 1540-1 and £61 14s. 1d. in 1548-9. (fn. 36) At the latter date the manor house was let for £9 13s. 4d., the demesne for £2 1s. 6d., and the fisheries for £15 7s. 4d. The average gross annual receipts at the end of the 16th century were £50. (fn. 37) Between 1581 and 1600 a fresh survey was made of the manor, preparatory to detaching it from the possessions of the see. (fn. 38) Rents of assize yielded £16 15s. 6d. a year, but it was not certain how much land was freehold and how much copyhold. The total capital value of the manor was set down as £1,656 at forty years' purchase, but it was considered that the value might be increased. For example, the fisheries were let to Richard Arkenstall, nephew of the late Bishop Cox, at £40 a year; they were therefore of £1,600 capital value; but it was estimated that they were worth £40 over and above this sum. The Berrystead or manor house was valued at forty times its annual rent of £9 13s. 4d. and £100 over and above that sum, i.e. at £486 13s. 4d. The demesne, or what was left of it, was still let at £2 1s. 6d. Early in the reign of Elizabeth the actual tenancy of the manor house was in dispute. Bishop Redman (1501-5) had leased it to Thomas Gallon or Gallant for a term which was still unexpired in the latter half of the century, when Henry Gallant of Wilburton, Thomas's grandson, claimed it against Robert March of Ely. (fn. 39) March based his claim on a lease made about 1529 by Bishop West (1515-33) to Richard Goode, and argued that this lease cancelled the previous one. Goode had bequeathed his tenancy to his sons Thomas and Richard jointly, and the sale of his moiety by Richard the younger to Thomas produced further complications. (fn. 40) Judgement was given (1567) in favour of Robert March. (fn. 41)
During the episcopal vacancy of 1581-1600 the lessee of the manor was Richard Drake, (fn. 42) who seems to have sub-let it to Henry Vernon. The latter was reported in 1601 to be desirous of purchasing Stretham manor, of which he was tenant. (fn. 43) The actual grantee, however, in the same year, was Sir Miles Sandys. (fn. 44) Sandys was soon in dispute with his tenants over common rights, and a series of lawsuits occurred between 1605 and 1610. (fn. 45) Several documents referring to these suits were preserved in the parish chest, and have been published. (fn. 46) It is noteworthy that even at this late date copyholders had to plough for the lord in respect of each yardland 2 acres in wheat and barley. Sir Miles, however, withdrew his right to any other kind of day works and to heriots, and agreed to demand only fines certain on admission to a copyhold. (fn. 47) Copyholders were also allowed to sell the timber on their holdings, and to sub-let them. By decree of the Exchequer in 1607 Sandys was empowered to inclose his demesne, and 1,600 acres were to be set aside as common pasture for the tenants of the manor. Hole, Lazier, Chair, Stallock, and Hay (fn. 48) Fens are specified as being included in this settlement, as part of the 1,600 acres of common pasture. Two years later complaints were made that the number of working horses which might be fed on the commons was insufficient. It was then laid down that the tenant of every commonable house could pasture 5 such horses, with an extra 1 for every 15 acres, up to 60 acres, that he cultivated; the rector was allowed an additional 3 horses. A slightly lower scale was laid down in respect of Goldsmore Common in Thetford. In this case 3 horses were allowed for each tenement, with an extra one for every 15 acres up to 45 acres; the lord of the manor was allowed 5 horses in all. A further set of orders and by-laws made by the commoners of Stretham in 1622 defined their rights in greater detail. Each commoner was entitled to pasture 6 cows and 2 weanling calves, and an extra cow if he was in possession of a bull, in the 'heardwalke'. He might also pasture 8 working horses or mares with their foals in Starlock Hay Fen, which had become the horse pasture. Cattle might be hired to make up the permitted total, but joisting, or the pasturing of cattle from outside villages for money payments, was not allowed. (fn. 49) The ditch of Barlake, between the cow and horse pastures, was to be communally scoured each year. Cattle were not to be allowed on the horse pasture nor horses on the cattle pasture; pigs were not to be allowed on either. Chair, Hole, and Lazier Fens-apparently the commons set aside for cattle pasture-were not to be used for turf cutting. A scale of penalties was imposed. It varied from 2d. for letting swine into the pastures to 40s. for joisting and for trapping fish in 'netts or engines' in the breaches and gulls of the fen banks.
Sir Miles Sandys, with his son of the same name, levied a fine upon the manor in 1630. (fn. 50) The younger Sandys died without issue in 1654, (fn. 51) after which the manor passed, probably by purchase, to Sir Charles Sedley, the Restoration dramatist and wit. In conjunction with his wife Catherine (Savage), he was dealing with it in 1658. (fn. 52) After this date the descent becomes obscure. Cole states that Sir Walter Walker was joint lord with John Hampson in the following year. (fn. 53) Walker was a Judge of the Courts of Admiralty and of Probate; (fn. 54) his grandson of the same name was vouchee in a recovery of Stretham manor in 1694, (fn. 55) and died without issue before 1703. (fn. 56) In 1758 'Mr. Walker's estate' was purchased by the Earl of Hardwicke for £500. (fn. 57) During the 18th century the Lords Byron of Rochdale were in possession of a moiety of the manor. (fn. 58) William, the 5th baron, sold it in 1774 to (Sir) Charles Gould, (fn. 59) who inherited the other moiety which had passed through the Hampson and Harbord families. (fn. 60) He took the name Morgan on his elevation to the baronetcy, and the Stretham portion of his estates, comprising 1,213 of the 4,085 acres in the parish, (fn. 61) eventually devolved upon G. G. Morgan, sometime M.P. for Brecon. Morgan died in 1845, and his executors were recorded as holding manorial rights six years later. (fn. 62) In 1861 the lordship was divided between Lt.-Col. (afterwards Gen. Sir) G. H. S. Willis and the Revd. W. N. T. Marsh in the right of their wives, who were Morgan's two daughters. (fn. 63) Willis died without heirs in 1900, being then sole lord. (fn. 64) Manorial rights have since lapsed. (fn. 65)
LITTLE THETFORD was described as a berewick of Ely in Domesday Book. It was rated at 1 hide held in demesne; there were a villein with 6 acres and 4 cottars. The Thetford fisheries yielded 500 eels and 4½d. in tribute. The vill had been worth 20s. when received, 30s. T.R.E., and 40s. in 1086. (fn. 66)
In the 13th-century cartularies Thetford was treated as a part of Stretham, but the 'hayfen' of Thetford, a marsh lying between 'Bramemere' (fn. 67) and 'Averingmere', is expressly mentioned in 1251. Moreover one of the 1221 free tenants, and three of those of 1251, were described as 'de T(h)eford'. (fn. 68) Thetford first emerges as a separate manor in 1539, when Edmund Knyvett and his wife Joan (Burghden) made a settlement of it. (fn. 69) Thomas Knyvett was dealing with the manor in 1572, (fn. 70) and ten years later sold it to John and Oliver Thornton for £480. It then consisted of 20 messuages with tofts, gardens, and orchards, a dovecote, land estimated at 300 acres of arable, 100 acres of meadow, 100 acres of pasture, 200 acres of furze and heath and 2 acres of woodland, £16 in rents and foldage for 300 sheep. (fn. 71) Sir Roger Thornton died seised of the manor in 1631 (fn. 72) and his son Samuel made a family settlement the following year. (fn. 73) At this time Thetford manor was still reckoned to be subsidiary to Stretham; orders were made for its common pasture of Goldsmore in the same manner as at Stretham (see above). By 1676 John Childe was in possession of Thetford. (fn. 74) In his will (1681) he directed the manor to be sold, the proceeds to go to his son John (6 parts), his daughters Penelope and Mary (3 and 2 parts), and his relict Elizabeth (1 part). Between 1703 and 1707 John Childe the younger held it. (fn. 75) Later in the 18th century it was held by Elizabeth Fisher. (fn. 76) She mortgaged it to William Sharp for £100, (fn. 77) and with her second husband William Aldred sold it to John Drage in 1768. (fn. 78) Drage's representatives, the Revd. Dr. Nasmith and James Merest, were lords in 1808. (fn. 79) In 1851 Henry Pigott was recorded as the owner, (fn. 80) and in 1861 Eliza Pigott, G. S. Hill, and his wife Hannah Mary held the lordship jointly. (fn. 81)
The convent of Ely obtained some interests in Stretham and Thetford although the manorial rights had been assigned to the bishops. For example, in 1150 Bishop Niel confirmed the gift made by Wigan the priest in frank almoin of 2 acres 1 rood of land and 3 roods of meadow; at an unknown date Richard of St. Albans granted 4 acres and 1 rood of land in the fields of Stretham at a yearly rent of 4d., which rent was quit claimed to the convent by his son Henry. (fn. 82) A licence to acquire land in Thetford and elsewhere to the value of £10 was granted in 1387. (fn. 83) In 1541, when the conventual property was formally made over to the dean. and chapter, the Stretham portion was worth £2 17s. 8d. (fn. 84)
Denny Abbey also held land in Stretham. In 1558 a sixty-year lease was granted to Sir Robert Chester of inter alia fisheries in Stretham known as 'Weremere', 'le Cote', and 'Fourdewere', with their appurtenant ferries and osier holts. (fn. 85)
In 1303 Peter de Champvent held 42 acres of land in Stretham, Thetford, and Haddenham of the Bishop of Ely by suit of court every three weeks. (fn. 86)
The advowson of Stretham was not, like the manor, alienated from the see of Ely in 1600, but has remained with the bishops continuously to the present day. (fn. 87) During the confiscation of the temporalities of the see at the end of Bishop Lisle's episcopate (1358), a dispute arose between royal and papal nominees to the living. This was finally settled in 1378 in favour of Robert de Stratton, the papal candidate. (fn. 88)
The church was valued at £16 in 1217, £20 in 1254, (fn. 89) and £26 14s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 90) In 1555, however, the value, including the chapel of Thetford, had fallen to £22. (fn. 91) Shortly before 1851 the tithes of Stretham were commuted for land, (fn. 92) and at the end of the 19th century the glebe comprised 496 acres. (fn. 93)
In 1550 a cottage with a yard, and 4 acres in the common fields of Stretham, given for anniversaries, were granted to William Moryce and Edward Isaak. A rent of 6d. was saved to the dean and chapter; Robert Hytche was tenant at the time of the grant. (fn. 94) An acre of meadow devoted to the same purpose, of which the churchwardens were tenants, was in 1553 granted to John Butler and Thomas Chaworthe. (fn. 95)
In 1276 Thomas de Wymbych, rector, renounced all claims to tithes from the lands in the fields of Ely which were held by the men of Thetford. (fn. 96) The chapel of Thetford is not mentioned in the Taxatio, but the present building displays 14th-century work. Its dedication (St. George) suggests that it may have been newly built at that time. (fn. 97) An agreement between Richard Rysley, rector of Stretham, of the one part, and William Riplingham and eighteen other householders of Thetford, of the other, laid it down that the stipendiary in charge of Thetford chapel should have the tithes of the hamlet. (fn. 98) The inhabitants were, however, to attend the mother church at Stretham on St. James's Day (the dedication festival), and burial rights were to be reserved to Stretham. (fn. 99) Shortly before 1851 the Thetford tithes were commuted for a rent charge of £124. (fn. 100) Lands originally intended for the provision of lights and anniversaries in the chapel were sold to Richard Hill and Robert Don, the Elizabethan land speculators, in 1571. (fn. 101)
Another chapel called Haveringmere or Harrimere stood on the bank of the river south-east of Thetford. A presentation to this chapel is recorded in 1381. (fn. 102) It was included in a grant made in 1563 to Cecily Pickerell, widow, of Norwich, in satisfaction of a debt owed to her late husband by the Duke of Somerset. (fn. 103) In 1571 the chapel came into the hands of Richard Hill and Robert Don. (fn. 104) It is now commemorated in the names Chapel Hill and Harrimere Drain.
The church of ST. JAMES, STRETHAM, consists of chancel, north vestry, south organ chamber, clerestoried nave, transepts, aisles, south porch, and west tower and spire. The material is mainly rag and Barnack stone, and the roofs are tiled. The fabric, in so far as it is ancient, is mainly of early-14th-century date, except the east wall of the chancel which appears to belong to the end of the 12th century. In 1876 the church underwent a severe restoration. The chancel was practically rebuilt and the transepts, south aisle, and clerestory added. The work involved the destruction of the south porch and the provision of new roofs; the chancel was curtailed and the western portion thrown into the nave, and the window tracery renewed throughout in 14th-century style. A photograph of the church before restoration is preserved in the rectory. The cost of the work amounted to over £4,000.
The chancel has an east window of five lights with modern geometrical tracery, and there is a hood-mould terminating in heads. There are clamped buttresses which date from the end of the 12th century. The north-east and south-east windows are modern twolights with hood-moulds terminating in heads. The chancel communicates with the vestry and organ chamber by modern arches of 14th-century character which die into the responds. The modern chancel arch is two-centred and of two orders, the inner resting on corbels and the outer with continuous mouldings, and there is a hood on the west face. The south-east window has a lowered sill for sedilia. In the north wall is an oblong rectangular aumbry and to the west of it a tomb recess with an acutely pointed arch.
The modern vestry has a two-light window on the east and north and opens to the transept by a modern two-centred arch of 14th-century character. The modern organ chamber has a two-light window on the east and south.
The nave has arcades of four bays with an additional arch of larger dimensions to the east, opening to the transepts. The modern transeptal arches are of two orders with moulded caps and clustered responds. The north arcade is of early-14th-century date with twocentred arches of two orders and hoods terminating in well-carved heads; the columns are octagonal and the responds semi-octagonal with moulded caps and bases. The modern south arcade has round columns with moulded caps and bases and hoods terminating in heads. The modern clerestory consists of two-light windows with trefoiled heads. The fine tower arch of 14th-century date is acutely pointed and of three orders with continuous mouldings.
The transepts are entirely modern with the exception of a re-used 14th-century doorway in the east wall with a hood-mould terminating in heads. The north and south windows are of three cinquefoiled lights, and modern arches dying into the responds communicate with the aisles. There are gabled angle buttresses with one set-off. The north transept probably occupies the site of the 'exceeding handsome and elegant Chapel' noted by Cole in 1748 at the east end of the north aisle. It was said to have been a mausoleum of the Sandys family, and at that date was 'in great Squalidness and used for any Rubbish'. (fn. 105) After a period of use as the village school the chapel was demolished in 1770. (fn. 106)
The north aisle has three straight buttresses of considerable projection and a base course which is carried round the buttresses. The fenestration is entirely modern, the windows on the north being of three trefoiled lights under a square head and that in the west wall of two trefoiled lights with a trefoil above. The south aisle is entirely modern and the fenestration is similar to that of the north aisle, except that there are only two lateral windows instead of three. There is one buttress with one set-off.
The modern porch has inner and outer doorways with continuous mouldings and a hood; there are small straight-angle buttresses and three trefoil-headed lights on the east and west. Some fragments of 12th-century carved stones are built into the walls on the interior.
The tower is of three stages with angle buttresses having two set-offs, surmounted on the west by diagonal buttresses. The newel stair is contrived in the northwest angle and carried up to the parapet. The base course is carried round the buttresses. The west window has an acutely pointed head and is of three lights with flowing tracery. In the second stage there is a recessed lancet on the north, south, and west. The belfry stage has two-light windows with trefoiled heads and a quatrefoil above. The tower is finished with a plain parapet. The spire, which is of mid-14thcentury date, has two tiers of windows on alternate faces, the lower of two lights and the upper of one, all with crocketed gables.
The font is modern. The mid-15th-century chancel screen is of the rectangular type and of eight bays, with elaborate traceried heads. The two bays in the centre form the doorway, and there are two half doors. The wainscot has applied tracery, but the boarding is modern except in the case of the doors; the uprights are buttressed, and the base and top beams are modern. In the tomb recess on the north of the chancel is a slab with a French inscription in Lombardic lettering to Nicholas de Kingeston, rector at the end of the 13th century; there is the indent of a small brass demi-effigy. In the south transept, but formerly in the chancel, is a good brass effigy of a lady, which formerly had a triple canopy; the inscription is lost but it is known from Cole's account of the church in 1748 to commemorate Joan Swan, who died in 1497 and was the mother of two successive rectors of Stretham. There are two stone coffin lids with foliated crosses, now in the north transept. A handsome black marble slab commemorates Anne, wife of Dr. Brunsell, rector 1662-78, and sister of Sir Christopher Wren; it has a shield of arms with Brunsell impaling Wren. The other fittings are modern.
The plate includes a chalice and paten of 1686, and a paten given by Ralph Perkins, LL.D. (rector, 1696- 1727), in 1712. (fn. 107)
The tower contains five bells. The treble is a 20thcentury addition; the 2nd and 5th are by J. Warner of London, 1876, replacing bells (1591 and 1615) by Thomas and John Draper of Thetford respectively; the 3rd is by Joseph Eayre of St. Neots, 1766, and the 4th by Henry Penn of Peterborough, 1727. (fn. 108)
The church of ST. GEORGE, THETFORD, con sists of chancel, nave, north porch, and south vestry. The material is rubble and the roofs are covered with tiles. The fabric is of 14th-century origin. A century later new windows were inserted in the chancel. There was a drastic restoration in 1863, when the nave was slightly extended and the porch added. The vestry was erected in 1885. Until the 1863 restoration the nave was separated from the chancel by a solid wall with a doorway in the centre and a square squint on either side; above were three brackets, probably for supporting the rood and its attendant figures. The roofs were thatched.
The chancel has an east window of three cinquefoiled lights under a depressed head, with a hood terminating in heads. There are diagonal buttresses with one setoff, and similar buttresses on the north and south between the windows. The lateral fenestration consists of two windows on each side, of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above. There is an external base course and beneath the windows an internal string, which has been largely renewed. The two-centred chancel arch is modern. At the north-west angle there is a plain brick buttress, probably of 17th-century date. In the south wall is a plain piscina with a stone credence shelf, and a 14th-century door just west of the buttress.
The nave, which is wider than the chancel, has a large straight-angle buttress at the east end of the north and south walls and a similar one in the middle of the north wall. The east gable was rebuilt in brick in 1665, as appears from the date on the external face. The 14th-century north-east and south-east windows are of three cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above, under a square head. The north-west and south-west windows are of similar date and design, but of two lights. The west wall, though rebuilt when the nave was extended, retains much old material and a good 14th-century window of three lights with flowing tracery and a hood terminating in masks. The tracery has been renewed. Above are two recesses for bells. There are pairs of straight-angle buttresses, which are modern. The plain north and south doorways are of the 14th century and have continuous mouldings. There is an internal string-course, which has been much renewed.
The porch, which is entirely modern, has an outer doorway with roll mouldings dying into the chamfered responds and a small two-light window on the east and west with trefoiled heads and a trefoil above. The modern vestry, which is entered from the nave by the original south doorway, is faced internally with brick and has a modern two-light window in the east and south walls. There is an external doorway on the west.
The plate consists of a modern chalice and paten of silver and a modern brass alms-dish. (fn. 109)
The Rectory, to the south of the church, is a large structure of various dates. The material is brick and stone and the roofs are tiled. The oldest remaining portion is at the north end, and is of 14th-century date. It consists of a ground-floor room with a similar chamber above, and probably formed part of the medieval parsonage. The entrance consists of a stone doorway with a depressed head, and there are two small contemporary windows. The central portion of the house is probably of 16th-century date, but its appearance was greatly altered in the 18th century when new windows were inserted. Beneath the floor of the dining-room are some original oak joists. Early in the 19th century the house was extended towards the south and dormer windows inserted in the older portion. The interior has been completely modernized. In 1820 a faculty was granted for the demolition of the rectory dovecote, which 'is an injury and a nuisance'. The rectory barn was still standing at this date. (fn. 110)
Stretham had three guilds, of the Purification of the Virgin (1344), Corpus Christi (1350), and All Saints (1456). The two former made grants to disabled members of 3d. a week in victuals and 2s. a year in clothing 'as long as the goods of the gild last'. (fn. 111) A guild of St. George in Thetford is mentioned in a will of 1489. (fn. 112) Its hall was in 1571 sold to Richard Hill and Robert Don. (fn. 113) It was subsequently acquired by John Townsend, who at an unknown date gave it to the inhabitants of Thetford. Townsend desired that the chaplain of Thetford should have the use of a room in the building, but his wish was not realized. In 1837 the building was dilapidated and used as a workhouse and a school. (fn. 114)
During the Interregnum the Baptists of Stretham, of whom John Tabram was the most prominent member, were visited by brethren from the Fen Stanton (Hunts.) congregation. (fn. 115) In 1669 Dissenters of unknown denomination met at Stretham 'by stealth and in the night'. (fn. 116) Bishop Compton's 'census' of 1676 shows that 29 of the 428 persons of communicant age in Stretham were Nonconformists. (fn. 117)
A congregation of Baptists under a Mr. Clark met in the early 18th century, but ceased to be an organized body after his death (c. 1725). A generation later (c. 1760) itinerant Baptist preachers began to visit Stretham, holding meetings in a barn and later in a disused malthouse. A proper meeting house was built in 1772 and enlarged by the addition of galleries in 1799. Under Joseph Hewlett of Cambridge this congregation made rapid strides. It was organized on a regular basis in 1801, and the 14 original members were soon reinforced by 7 newcomers. Its doctrine was Calvinistic and it practised open communion. The meeting house of this body was rebuilt on a larger scale in 1818. (fn. 118) In 1851 there was a Sunday school. (fn. 119) The present Stretham Baptist Church dates from about 1935. A daughter church was built at Thetford in 1842 and rebuilt in 1867. (fn. 120) In 1672 the house of William Outlar in Stretham was licensed for Congregational worship, (fn. 121) but this branch of Nonconformity seems soon to have died out. (fn. 122) The Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in 1814 by public subscription; it was rebuilt in 1888. (fn. 123) The London Evangelistic Mission built a hall at Stretham in 1884; (fn. 124) this still exists, but does not seem to be used.
In 1579 Thomas Hitche was licensed to act as curate and schoolmaster in Stretham. (fn. 125) In the middle of the 18th century a school was held at the east end of the north aisle of Stretham Church, in a chapel which was pulled down in 1770 (see Churches). In 1789 there was a private school in the village, and nine years later there were two schools-one for infants, kept by John Sabbatin, a Dissenter with a 'harmless' reputation, and one for older children under Robert Hopkins, a Churchman 'of a fair and inoffensive character'. (fn. 126)
When the National Society made its report in 1846-7 there were said to be 244 children (fn. 127) receiving education. Most of them attended a Church school in Stretham held on weekdays, weekday evenings, and Sundays in hired premises. It would seem that many of the children attended part time, for the expenses amounted to only £67 18s. a year although a staff of eight was employed. (fn. 128) Lack of endowments (fn. 129) prevented any real progress; both in 1846-7 and in 1851 (fn. 130) the rector is mentioned as the sole private contributor.
This state of affairs lasted for another generation. In 1870 the schools at both Stretham and Thetford were still in hired premises. The latter was held in a room lent by the Townsend Charity, which was in such bad condition as to be 'disqualified for government inspection'. With the aid of local subscriptions of about £1,000, a grant from the Diocesan Board, the gift of a site by the rector, the Revd. Hugh Pigot, and contributions from the charities, (fn. 131) schools were built in both villages at a total cost of about £1,850. The buildings were designed by the well-known architect J. P. St. Aubyn, and in 1872, their first full year, cost £220 18s. 9½d. (Stretham) and £62 14s. 1d. (Thetford). They provided places for 200 and 75 children respectively. (fn. 132)
By 1889 the school population of Stretham had outgrown the existing resources and a School Board was set up. (fn. 133) The church authorities leased their school to this Board, which in 1894-5 enlarged it to take 256 children and built another school for 110 infants, some little distance away from the existing school. In 1910 the accommodation of the two schools was scaled down to 198 (mixed) and 100 (infants). In 1948-9 the senior children were moved to the Cromwell School, Chatteris, pending the erection of a Secondary Modern School for Ely Rural District. (fn. 134)
At Thetford, the school remained non-provided. Under schemes made by the Charity Commissioners in 1871 and 1950 it was endowed with £25 annually from Townsend's charity. In 1895 the building was enlarged to take 90 children, and in 1950 the school was given Voluntary (Controlled) status. (fn. 135)
In 1870 there was a private school in Stretham, kept by Dissenters and catering mainly for the children of tradesmen and small farmers, and a dame school in Thetford. (fn. 136)
In 1553 Richard Rysley, rector, gave a rent of £2 charged upon an estate at Upton (Hunts.), and 6s. 8d., paid through Christ's College, to the poor of Stretham. By 1837 the value of this charity had increased to £18 5s. 8d., which was given indiscriminately in money. Rysley also gave house property in Stretham, including the Chequers Inn and the blacksmith's shop, to the value of £14 10s. No documents relating to this part of the charity existed in 1837, (fn. 137) by which date the rents had risen to £81 7s. 6d., including £31 from the Chequers. After payment of taxes (£10) the residue was given in amounts of 5s. to those who could produce tickets signed by three feoffees of the charity. Under the Stretham Inclosure Act (fn. 138) this part of Rysley's charity was replaced by the allotment of 30½ acres in Starlock Hay Fen Common for the benefit of the school (see above).
In 1715 Thomas King and Alice his wife in return for £61 surrendered a moiety of 11½ acres to the churchwardens for the use of the poor. Martha Digby, by her will dated 1717, gave 10 acres of copyhold land in Stretham to the poor, and 3¾ acres of copyhold land in Thetford, for the benefit of six poor widows. In 1837 these two bequests produced £27 15s. Of this total £5 were given to about 50 poor persons in sums of 1s. to 4s., and the remainder to the widows.
In 1727 Lady Effingham Howard gave the interest on £50 stock to the poor of Stretham. In 1774 £70, secured on 6 acres in Stretham fields, had been lent to Edward Morden. In 1837 the interest on this loan was also devoted to indiscriminate poor relief.
At an unknown date John Townsend gave the guildhall (see above-Churches) and 3 roods of land in Thetford fields to the use of the inhabitants of the hamlet. In 1837 the common rights attached to the building brought in £12 and the 3 roods £2 yearly. The income after deductions was given in clothes, coals, beer, and money to non-paupers. (fn. 139) Since 1871 this charity has been devoted to educational purposes. (fn. 140)