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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THE MIDDLE AGES
There is archaeological evidence of prehistoric settlements in the neighbourhood of Ely, (fn. 1) and under Roman occupation an important road (fn. 2) passed through the later site of the city, but the history of Ely really begins with the religious settlement, traditionally about a mile from the present city, at a place called Cratendune, which gave its name to the later Cratendon field. (fn. 3) This church is said to have been founded by the Saxon King Ethelbert and to have disappeared before the onslaught of Penda, King of Mercia. The second attempt at religious settlement was that of Etheldreda, who eventually decided on a site nearer to the river and began her foundation about the year 673. (fn. 4) Almost from the outset a community of lay folk must gradually have gathered around the rising monastery, sharing its fortunes during the centuries which followed. Destroyed by the Danes in 870, it was refounded a century later and re-endowed by King Edgar. Threatened with Danish invasion again in 1010, Ely apparently held its own and a few years later welcomed King Canute in person. He revisited Ely on various occasions, treating the monks with peculiar favour; a period of marked prosperity followed. (fn. 5) The frequent visits of princes, noblemen, and statesmen to their abbot-kinsmen publicised the strategic and other advantages which Ely offered and helped to popularize the shrine of St. Etheldreda, thereby encouraging the growth of the city itself.
The part which Ely played as the last stronghold against the Norman invaders is discussed elsewhere, as is its important role during the tempestuous era of baronial and monarchical struggles in the 12th and 13th centuries. (fn. 6)
Whilst the geographical situation of Ely made it from the beginning a place of refuge, it was accessible enough to those who could command the approaches. Hence the care of the chief causeways was always of primary, concern to the. monastery-especially the causeway leading from the islet of Stuntney to the east of the main island on which the city stood, and the two causeways of Aldreth and Earith on the west. (fn. 7)
It would seem that the great political disturbances, of which Ely was repeatedly the vortex, were essentially baronial activities of outsiders and not initiated by the allegedly fierce fenmen themselves. (fn. 8) But prolonged experience of war and devastation must have toughened the fibre of Ely townsmen, though it also taught them to find protection beneath the shade of the monastery walls or behind the men at arms of warlike bishops. Certainly there was much to discourage initiative: the citizens were dependent on an abnormally powerful lordship, political as well as manorial, until well into the 19th century. Within the city and its environs organization was rigid compared with the northern part of the Isle, (fn. 9) though there were certain advantages enjoyed by the home manors: they suffered less continuously from absentee lordship than did those at a distance from the centre. Moreover, when marked distress existed at Ely it was within daily reach of the Almoner's aid-not slight aid in this monastery's heyday. (fn. 10) Extensive building activities, especially during the second quarter of the 14th century, spelt full, if arduous, employment for citizens, and more than one wealthy bishop went down to posterity as a munificent donor to the poor. (fn. 11) Moreover, the issue of indulgences to those who contributed aid at times of disaster did afford very real succour to the town. (fn. 12) It was the ecclesiastical authorities of Ely who organized roads, bridges, and primitive drainage, (fn. 13) and who provided an educational ladder (fn. 14) for the gifted few: in later ages such activities were even more marked. Feudalism so paternal could neither easily be outgrown nor overthrown. Citizens, moreover, were early accustomed to the outward and visible signs which gradually inspired respect for law and order-though they might later inspire resentment: at Ely were held manorial courts for the township itself, gatherings of officials from the distant manors, courts for the hundred and courts of justice for the whole Isle. The courts, indeed, carried on activities elsewhere the function of borough courts. (fn. 15)
Nevertheless Ely was not isolated from the normal disruptive influences of a growing money economy: these influences appeared fairly early. There were markedly prosperous citizens, frequent buying and selling of old property and of new assarts from the waste, and beginnings of commutation of payments in kind by the 13th century. (fn. 16) The Black Death hit the monastery with severity: (fn. 17) it would have been miraculous had the citizens escaped. An official note of 1350 records the many uncultivated lands of the city- propter ingentem mortalitatem hominum. (fn. 18) It may well be that in the years which followed, bishop and prior had to exert more than a little pressure to secure a continuance of the heavy service of earlier times. (fn. 19)
The Revolt of 1381 (fn. 20) saw Ely the centre of a far more violent uprising than in the rest of the shire. All the major motives existed here in concentrated form: the political power of great landowners, the oppressiveness of landlords, the growing economic control of administrators were personified in bishop and prior and their subordinates. The burden of the new Poll Tax set the tinder smouldering; the spark from risings elsewhere lit the flame. Robert Tavel of Lavenham provided a link with the wider movement, as did John Michel, an Ely chaplain who had been with Wrawe in Suffolk. The main leaders at Ely were local men- Richard de Leycester of 'Bocherisrowe', Robert Buk, a fishmonger, and Adam Clymme. (fn. 21) Clymme called upon the peasantry to refuse customary services and to behead lawyers, and made mysterious reference to the potency of the 'Great Society'. Leycester demanded the abolition of traitors to king and common folk- perchance here with some suggestion that episcopal courts usurped the powers of the Crown. On Saturday, 15 June, the revolt began: on Sunday Leycester, defying ecclesiastical authority, mounted the cathedral pulpit 'on behalf of the King'; on Monday the bishop's prison was the object of attack; the same day Leycester and Buk seized and executed Sir Edmund Walsyngham, a justice, placed his head over the town pillory and destroyed sundry rolls and documents. (fn. 22) From Ely bands of rebels moved on to other parts of the Isle. William Combe was appointed to hold the famous Stuntney Bridge, welcoming there Robert Tavel from Suffolk. On Tuesday the rebels marched to the abbey of Ramsey, there to meet their doom. Tavel was beheaded: the end of the rising was in sight. He was followed to scaffold or gallows by the principal leaders, but towards the rest a conciliatory policy prevailed.
There were sharp epidemics in the 15th century (fn. 23) and there were frequent floods, but no further serious unrest showed itself in medieval times. Ely citizens were aware of the prevailing crimes of lollardry and magic, but were duly warned: the victims of the law were outsiders. Their forced parade around the marketplace, bareheaded and barefooted, carrying the mystic plates and books and wand, (fn. 24) or bearing faggots and candles, (fn. 25) lent colour to the drabness of native virtue: Ely was not too deeply concerned.
Ely is fortunate in the preservation of medieval surveys. Those of 1086, 1251, and 1416 depict development at three significant stages. In 1087 the settlement is purely rural; in 1251 it is still largely rural, though with marked urban beginnings; in 1416 the city is laid out much as in modern times, yet with the early possibilities of normal municipal development unfulfilled.
In 1086 Domesday Book (fn. 26) recorded Ely as assessed at 10 hides, with land for 20 plough-teams: 5 hides were in the demesne, with 5 plough-teams and capacity for a sixth. There were 40 villeins, each holding 15 acres; they shared the 14 plough-teams. There were 28 cottars and 20 serfs. The fisheries rendered 3,750 eels, the tribute of fish amounting to 2s. 3d. There were adequate meadows and pasture for plough-teams and cattle. There were also 3 arpents of vineyard. (fn. 27) In all, the manor was worth £30; when received it had been worth only £20, though in the time of King Edward its value was £33.
Stuntney (fn. 28) appears in Domesday Book as a berewick of Ely, assessed at 1½ hide, with land for 3 plough-teams and the necessary meadow and pasture. It maintained 6 villeins, 5 cottars, and 3 serfs. Its great value to the abbot was its render of 24,000 eels and 18s. tribute in fish annually. Altogether the berewick was worth £10 14s.-over a third the value of Ely itself. At this date Little Thetford (Liteltedford) (fn. 29) was also a berewick of Ely, with 1 villein and 4 cottars there. Chettisham, the hamlet which, together with Stuntney, for long was and still is appendant to Ely, had not yet been assarted from the waste.
Including the abbot's servant, holding the little islet of Haneia, (fn. 30) and excluding the monastic inmates, there were 108 working members, or perhaps householders, recorded in the vill of Ely and its dependent settlements. There may have been unrecorded fishermen, but, on the analogy of the later medieval surveys of the city, other unspecified members of the community, such as swineherds and smiths, were almost certainly included in the cottar class.
The Survey of 1251 (fn. 31) begins with the manorial demesne land: much arable land and pasture had been won from the waste since 1086. There were 240 acres 'in the field called Gruntifen', and 60 acres in Cratendon. Eleven other fen areas are enumerated, concluding with 35½ acres in 'the new assart of Chettisham'. (fn. 32) The total area of plough-land is stated to be 1,524¼ acres. (fn. 33) Here 10 plough-teams were occupied. (fn. 34) Of meadowland 11 blocks are specified, providing a total of 260 acres, of which 33¼ were newly assarted; 6 acres were covered with thorn-bush and 9 were enclosed for vini-culture. (fn. 35)
Wide areas of marshland stretched beyond and between arable land and meadow. The bishop's wastes of Ely merged into those of other townships, much intercommoning being practised. Cawdle Fen and 'Cloggesmere', 'Cowfen', Grunty Fen, 'Blythinghalefen', Middle Fen, Padnal Fen, and 'Northfen' are enumerated. (fn. 36) Over specified fens the bishop, (fn. 37) and occasionally the prior, enjoyed exclusive privileges; the rest were commonable. Interesting features are the ditchinclosed holding of 'Brame' (Braham Farm), (fn. 38) in the Cawdle Fen area; the early settlement on the far side of the Ouse, between 'Cloggesmere' and the Great Bridge; and a part of 'Cowfen' held in severalty by the prior.
The seignorial stock at this date consisted of 500 sheep, 20 cows and 2 bulls, 100 pigs and 2 boars. The lord enjoyed fold of sheep of villein and even cottar tenants. There were 2 windmills, let at farm: (fn. 39) all rentpaying, customary tenants and cottars owed suit of mill. For fishing rights in 4 of the extensive stretches of mere and weir eel-renders had been commuted, (fn. 40) and partially so in the fifth. The total fishing rental amounted to 56s. 4d. in money and 14,500 eels per annum.
There were 5 messuages occupied as knights' fees, (fn. 41) one of which, by gift of the bishop, was now held by the monks and was situated beyond their vineyard. These holders owed ward and suit of court and were required to notify the other knights within the bishop's liberty concerning the place and time where wardship was due. About 200 holdings were occupied by freemen or their sub-tenants: only 16 freemen held any appreciable amount of land. (fn. 42) Of the free holdings some 20 were mere stalls or booths, the beginnings of a shopping quarter, (fn. 43) mainly occupied by butchers; 12 other messuages and plots were held at the low rental of 4d. per annum; a further 13 very small holdings, rented at 2d. or 4d., lay 'across the water', (fn. 44) 30 town holdings were rented at 6d., 21 at 8d., 71 at 1s. per annum, and 19 at more irregular sums between 1s. and 2s. About a dozen messuages were shared by 2 householders; several were shared by more. (fn. 45) Some free tenants had, by 1251, built up considerable town property, composed of numerous messuages and plots. Agnes Fitzpayne and her 2 sisters thus held 10 messuages in different parts of the town, in addition to their own dwelling; they also held 18 'ware' acres of arable land, and portions of river meadow and newly assarted pasture. (fn. 46) Salomon, the famous goldsmith, (fn. 47) had 5 holdings in different parts of the town. The almoner, sacrist, and pittancer held between them 17 town tenements. (fn. 48) The educational ladder gave access to free tenure for Hugh the Chaplain, son of a city smith. Many of the lesser monastic and episcopal servants were city residents: the porter, gate-keeper, groom, the blood-letter, cook, and John of the refectory, also the bishop's baker and his surveyor of sedge-duties thus occupied freehold premises appurtenant to their respective offices. (fn. 49) Four freemen held messuages for service as coroners; (fn. 50) one for the hereditary duty navigandi episcopum. A larger holding was attached to the office of carrier of the bishop's equipage from Soham to Ely. (fn. 51) Other monastic employees, of higher status, had acquired independent property: Salomon the goldsmith was the most noteworthy. Both payment and receipt of money, for one purpose or another, were common among all tenant classes at Ely, as recorded in 1251. Strong seignorial pressure-easily increasable in periods of anarchy- could alone have obstructed widespread commutation here. Though all tenants paying money-rents were classified as freeholders in 1251, (fn. 52) the survival of very considerable seignorial claims upon them does seem to indicate an earlier status of villeinage.
By this date free holdings varied considerably not only in size, but in the liabilities attaching to the several small parcels of which some were composed. In certain instances it was categorically stated that a free tenant had acquired sundry formerly servile holdings which, though now rent-paying, still owed dues and services not universally demanded here. The prior held two messuages 'free from the service which had previously been owed'. Moreover, the considerable proportion of craftsmen who held at stereotyped rents of 6d., 8d., or 12d. per annum is perhaps indicative of earlier commutation. (fn. 53) About a quarter of the free holdings were liable for one day's digging in the bishop's vineyard; (fn. 54) a few gave 3 days' arable service annually and 3 days' carting; in one instance piece-work was required-tilling 3 acres of demesne annually; some free tenants paid marriage fines and heriot. Omnes censuarii et consuetudinarii owed multure; all free tenants owed suit of court. (fn. 55)
The diminutive size of many of the single holdings does not imply an impossible subsistence level. Apart from the fact that some tenants had more than one holding, most small freemen had a town messuage and plied a craft; others, as already stated, held some monastic or episcopal office.
Ely was better located for commerce than for industry but there were conspicuous rudimentary developments which might have led to the normal growth of guild organizations. In 1251 fishing and water-carriage employed many townsmen: the monastery was now purchasing a large part of its eel-supply. Moses, one of the hereditary fishermen, paid 3s. a year for his boat on the mere near Prickwillow and shared a tenement in the town; Henry, another fisherman, had a tenement across the river and a booth against the vineyard wall. William Mackerell, John the pilot, and John the steersman bore suggestive names. Still more interesting are glimpses of that suspect figure of medieval days, the 'mere merchant': Symon mercator et participes sui shared a messuage. Two other merchants had important tenements, whilst Reynold 'le seler' and William 'le achatur' were obviously traders. Other names show the variety of crafts already plied locally; in some cases there were several representatives of a craft-e.g. in the building, tanning, baking, and upholstery trades. The skilled cordwainer was even distinct from the humble cobbler. A whole row of 16 stalls appears under the heading 'the butchers' stalls'. (fn. 56) There was also a spacious marketplace. Most of the glass purchased by. obedientiaries still came from abroad even a century later, but there was a local glazier (fn. 57) in 1251. There was also a dealer in such foreign products as spices. Other trades mentioned are those of plumber, carpenter, quilter, tailor, sauce-maker, dyer, and webster. 'Master Alan of Swaffham' and 'Master Roger', two of the three masons, probably represent the highly skilled professionals brought in from a distance, but they were settled residents at this date. Nicholas and Everard Palmer recall the magnet which Ely proved to the pilgrim. Other townsmen bore place-names, indicative of the part played by immigration in the growth of this City of Refuge. It was ingress in the main from neighbouring regions.
As the record passes from free to villein and cottar tenantry, the atmosphere changes from mainly urban to rural. The two latter classes together formed less than half the working population of Ely. (fn. 61) There were 50 villeins, of whom 33 are graded as full holders of 18 acres; 13 as half-holders of 12 acres; 4 as holders of 6 acres each. There were also 95 tenants of cotlands, normally of 1 acre. (fn. 62) In this last group appear the plough-reeve, the two smiths, a swineherd, a webster, and that interesting figure the appleward-testifying to the early significance of fruit-growing here. (fn. 63) From the full holders 2 or 3 days' regular week-work was required, according to the season, but additional services, apart from boon-work, were numerous. There was much work in cutting, stacking, and carrying of sedge, digging and clearing of specified lengths of drain, (fn. 64) hurdle-making, sheep-washing and shearing, cutting, carrying, and malting of barley, and transporting by river and road. (fn. 65) Many of these labours formed no substitute for regular week-work. (fn. 66) When duties were nominally fixed by the day, the equivalent in piecework was often specified. Ale and food-one loaf and two herrings per man per day-were usually supplied only for boon-work. Fines and fees, both in money and kind, were exacted: tallage, leyrwite, merchet, heriot, and commuted geld. Suit of mill was enforced and the sale of male breeding-stock forbidden. Three hens at Christmas and 30 eggs at Easter were demanded from each full tenant. The common use of money (fn. 67) is noteworthy: 6 days' harrowing per team was required, but this was wage-paid service-12d. or one sheep, and 8d. or 2 cheeses per team. Moreover, all villein tenants were liable for the monetary levy of 3d. per annum towards plough-repairs. Half-holders were subject to a similar body of regulations, save that their services and dues were proportional to their holdings. One-acre cottars gave only 1 day's week-work, but even they rendered additional services and payments in money and kind, less in amount, but largely of the same nature as those of villein tenants; (fn. 68) they were, however, excused carrying service, but provided a substantial part of the labour required in the lord's vineyard. The whole township of Ely, 'whether doing service to the Prior or the Lord Bishop', was required to 'make and maintain two furlongs of the causeway of Alderheye'. (fn. 69)
The labour regulations suggest meticulous organization, adapted to fenland circumstances and to the heavy demands of a community of consumers and a powerful lord. The services were not light and the courts were active to enforce them. Even on the very doorstep of this stronghold of the church no feast-days were to be observed as holidays, save one day at Christmas, and then only if it fell upon a normal working day. This picture of feudal exaction, however, has another side. To all tenants, in time of sickness, unpenalized leave of absence was granted, up to one month if before August, or fifteen days if subsequently. (fn. 70) Widows, moreover, were encouraged to retain their husbands' holdings and were exempted from payment of heriot for 30 days. Bishop Hugh of Northwold was not above turning the episcopal screw, demanding that the whole villeinage of Ely should ditch and fence his park at Downham, without abatement of normal duties. But Eleans had become familiarized with the organs of law and order to some purpose: 'the jurors say that they have never done this, nor are they lawfully bound so to do'. (fn. 71) Even the bishop's court had two facets.
Approximate population statistics derived from the survey, omitting residents in the claustral precincts, show some 345 householders or tenement-holders, living in Ely in 1251-a threefold increase since Domesday.
In the interim between this survey and that of 1416 the Poll Tax returns of 1377 perhaps afford the most satisfactory demographical source of information for Ely. Some light, however, on the city's development half a century earlier is thrown by the returns for the Lay Subsidy of 1327, (fn. 72) recording the name of each tax-payer and the sum paid by him. Only 96 people in the city, together with 14 in Stuntney, paid this tax, (fn. 73) at a date when the number of tenement holders must have been more than three times this figure. Few cottars or humble craftsmen would have possessed the movable goods which even 7d., the lowest sum levied, implies. Indeed, remarkably few of the taxpayers bore occupational names, (fn. 74) compared with the citizens enumerated only 50 years earlier. Five people paid over 5s.: Agnes Springenhait paid 12s. 8d.-the highest sum of all; the master of St. John's Hospital paid 10s. 1¼d.; the two holders of demesne farms, Simon de Keten and John de Brame, paid 10s. 11½d. and 10s. 8d. respectively; Roger Mariner, also obviously prosperous, paid 10s. 9d. Of the rest, 11 paid between 5s. and 10s., 31 between 2s. 6d. and 5s., 9 between 2s. and 2s. 6d., 17 between 1s. 6d. and 2s., 23 between 1s. and 1s. 6d., and 15 paid under 1s. The total sum raised was £16 9s. 7½d. If these figures be compared with the corresponding groups at Wisbech, the higher percentage of Ely taxpayers in the wealthy and very prosperous groups and the much lower percentage in the very lowest group are noteworthy. (fn. 75) A comparison with a purely rural area- the hundred of Staploe (fn. 76)-reveals these distinctive features even more markedly. The total sum contributed by Ely amounted to over four-fifths of that paid by Cambridge and bore an even higher ratio to the contribution of urban Wisbech. (fn. 77)
The Survey of 1416 (fn. 80) depicts the medieval city, street by street, tenement by tenement, duly ascribing ownership to bishop or prior. (fn. 81) Upon a plan constructed on this data (fn. 82) could be superimposed one of the twentieth century with remarkable ease. Many of the medieval names are readily recognizable today.
The major gateways of the conventual enclosure and the walls of its buildings, above which towered the priory church, formed the most striking features of the narrow streets and tenements which huddled beside the precinct walls. Ely Porta, Steeple Gate, Sacrist's Yard Gate, Almonry or Monks' Gate, and a smaller gate in Broad Lane giving entrance to the monks' vineyard, (fn. 83) seemed integral parts of the city life. The little booths and tenements of this part of the town had increased in number since 1251, but the chief centre of activity had obviously moved to the wharves and quays and the streets leading thence to the higher ground of the older settlement. The focal point of this older part was St. Mary's church, built between 1198 and 1215. (fn. 84) To the north and north-east of the church lay the village green. (fn. 85) It was bounded by Highrow Street, (fn. 86) by the churchyard and the abbey precincts, (fn. 87) and by the western end of the abbey church. Upon this green the main roads converged. On it stood the 'chantry on the green', (fn. 88) as in 1251. A more striking landmark lay just to the west of St. Mary's church-the great Sextry Barn or grange, (fn. 89) in 1251 a fairly new structure. Here were stored the corn-tithes of the tenantry. A little farther along the road leading to the western outskirts of the town was the Hospital of St. John. (fn. 90) The whole conventual precincts formed a large enclosed area-the college and park of post-Reformation days. It was bounded on the east side by Fore Hill, which led up from the river to the market-place and continued thence under the name of Steeple Row (fn. 91) or High Street; reaching the village green at Kilby's corner. (fn. 92) The north-east boundary of the precincts, formed by Highrow Street, curved round to the Sextry Barn. This stood at the corner of 'Swalugh' Lane, or Walpole Lane, (fn. 93) which formed part of the western boundary of the enclosure, emerging into Back Hill. Broad Lane branched off at right angles to Back Hill, thus linking Back Hill and Fore Hill and completing the perimeter of the enclosure.
The newer part of the town consisted of a series of small streets running more or less at right angles to the river, between it and Broad Lane. Castle Hythe, (fn. 94) Monks' Hythe, Broad Hythe, and Stock Hythe were the most important of the medieval wharves. (fn. 95) Castle Hythe lay at the corner of Back Hill, some little distance from the river bank. (fn. 96) A continuation of Back Hill crossed the river by a bridge, becoming the famous causeway leading to the island hamlet of Stuntney and ultimately to Soham. (fn. 97)
In Broad Lane was a storehouse belonging to the monastery; (fn. 98) a better known storehouse, called 'Seg wyk', gave its name to a street near the river. (fn. 99) Another landmark was the Red Cross, (fn. 100) opposite Braye's Corner, (fn. 101) which formed the angle between Akyrman Street (fn. 102) and the Littleport Road.
The monks had retained their old vineyard and gardens within the precincts, but an extensive enclosure on the east of the city, entered from the south-east corner of the market-place, was cultivated as the bishop's vineyard. It was bounded to the north by Brayes' Lane, which led to the suburb of Newnham, in the Prickwillow direction. The bishop's home manor of Barton lay mainly on the western side of the town.
One well, in Broad Lane's End, was recorded in 1416, and there were probably others. (fn. 103) There were at this date two mills mentioned as being the property of the bishop. The 'old Mill' dominated the road leading from Newnham towards Turbutsey; the other mill stood between Broad Lane's End and the south gate of the priory. (fn. 104) The 'Bocherie' was a little to the north-west of the market-place, on the north side of which was the almoner's granary. In addition to. the stalls in the 'Bocherie' and along the wall of the priory vineyard, there were seven shops built against the almonry wall. (fn. 105) The market-place was now a prominent feature of town life, under episcopal control.
Particulars respecting the population and its housing, as given in 1416, are interesting but very ambiguous at times. There were apparently about 457 occupied premises in the city, outside the ecclesiastical precincts: 262 belonged to the bishop and 195 to the prior and monastic obedientiaries, of whom the almoner, sacrist, and infirmarian were the most considerable holders. These numbers seem to represent about 520 householders. (fn. 106) The size of certain tenements, gardens, and orchards suggests a considerable increase of very prosperous citizens since 1251. (fn. 107) On the other hand, overcrowding of the 'cotsetle' (cotsetella) class is obvious. Some 33 tenements (fn. 108) were shared by two or more families living 'under one roof (sub uno tecto): in 10 of these cases 3 or more householders were so sheltered. A larger share of this poor property belonged to the prior and obedientiaries than to the bishop. There were 18 'little cottages' occupied by single families. The various stalls or booths do not appear to have been residential. There were a dozen or so unoccupied premises.
The nomenclature of the citizens in 1416 does not reveal very striking developments since 1251, though the variety, some 333 different names, is noteworthy. Many persons still bore neighbouring place-names. David Llanlidan and three men named Morgan (fn. 109) represent a Welsh element. Some 60 names are occupational, a few of which are purely rural in connotation- Hayward, Herdman, Coherd, Oxherd, Schereman, Shepherd, Thresshere. The name Taillour is borne by 7 tenants, Smythe by 6, Barber 6, Chaloner 6, (fn. 110) Wryght 4, Mason 3, Miller 3, and Baker 3. There are 2 representatives of each of a number of other crafts. The fisherman and boatman still figure in various guise. Skilled monastic crafts are suggested by Brevetour and Orfreyser. (fn. 111) Glovere and Bladesmythe have now appeared; the Goldsmyth family is still in evidence; there is only one Mercator. Not all who bear a craft-name at this date actually follow that craft: John Plomer, for example, is a baker; but John Cut, the butcher, is surely happily named!
In the Middle Ages there was always much activity, both by road and river, connected with the transport of sedge, corn, eels, and fish from the ecclesiastical manors. Even by the 13th century the two latter commodities were finding their way first to the open market. (fn. 112) Fruit-growing had begun early: viniculture may have produced poor quality grapes, but it was sufficiently successful to encourage extension: the 3 arpents of 1087 had grown to 6 monastic acres in 1272. (fn. 113) In addition to the bishop's city vineyard, 9 acres of waste had been inclosed for this purpose before 1251. (fn. 114) The monastic vineyard produce was not marketed, but certain obedientiary gardens provided surpluses for sale. (fn. 115) Town gardens and orchards had increased by the 15th century: (fn. 116) Brayes' orchard was by then a landmark. Of other commodities coming to Ely buildingmaterials comprised the largest share. Luxury goods, too, were an early monastic demand and even to the townsman such products were familiar.
There were numerous sources of supply accessible to Ely. The important port of Lynn was but 30 miles by water. There were the fairs of Bury, Reach, St. Ives, and Stourbridge, as well as Ely's own fairs. From Bury and Newmarket came clothing-materials; from Reach, via the Ouse and its tributary, came clunch, flints, and 'skirt-land' timber. (fn. 117) From Barnwell Fair came wheels and other goods; from Boston large supplies of lead and wax; from St. Ives canvas; and from the great international fair of Stourbridge came a great variety of goods, including the products of the Far East. (fn. 118) Bricks, tiles, and pottery were early produced in and around Ely: (fn. 119) they were also brought from Wisbech, Wiggenhall, and Lynn. (fn. 120) Heavy stone came mainly by water: by river and coast to Lynn and thence by river to Ely. (fn. 121) Swaffham, Burwell, Reach, and the quarries of Peterborough supplied suitable clunch for internal sculpturing. Rubble was available locally. (fn. 122) Timber of many varieties reached Ely: oak came by water from Stourbridge and Reach and from Chicksands Priory, in Bedfordshire. Iron, steel, and lead came largely via Stourbridge, tin via Lynn, nails via Reach, Lynn, Newmarket, and even Derby. (fn. 123) Glass still came largely from abroad, through Yarmouth. (fn. 124) Rope-making was a local industry by the 14th century. (fn. 125)