A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
Probably in the 970s Beorhtnoth, abbot of Ely, bought at Fordham from Grim son of Oswulf c. 2⅓ hides, shortly exchanged with Ulf for 2 hides at Milton. (fn. 1)
The largest manor at Fordham in 1066 and 1086 was one of 5½ hides belonging to the royal demesne. (fn. 2) From the mid 12th century it was assigned to support royal servants, who each received from the 1170s equal shares of its income, each coming at £10 to half the £20 total yield expected in the 1190s. (fn. 3) Though those parts were c. 1210 nominally serjeanties, owing no service, by the 1230s their possessors were reckoned to hold them by knight service, (fn. 4) a tenure reported later for both manors, until the 15th century. (fn. 5) Besides the land belonging to those two manors, the north-west of Fordham also contained from the 13th century much land held as freehold and by customary tenures of another Crown manor in Soham which became the Duchy manor there. (fn. 6)
The whole royal manor in FORDHAM was held by Ralph de Hastings 1154–62 (fn. 7) and by Lecelin de Trailly 1163–75, (fn. 8) after which half was assigned to Richard de Clare, tenant until 1192. His kinsman, Earl Gilbert de Clare, claimed it c. 1220. (fn. 9) In 1194 Richard I granted land at Fordham worth £12 as one knight's fee to his knight Alard the Fleming, (fn. 10) who held it until c. 1215. (fn. 11) In 1216 it was assigned to his brother and heir Geoffrey the Fleming, (fn. 12) who in 1227, going on crusade, settled it upon Robert le Norreys, who had married Mary, daughter of Geoffrey's son John, (fn. 13) and was lord c. 1235. (fn. 14) After Robert, long a favoured royal servant, (fn. 15) died in 1253, the Fordham manor passed by 1255 to Mary, (fn. 16) who probably died in 1285. She had assigned it at farm by 1279 to her surviving son and heir Robert le Norreys, (fn. 17) still lord in 1316. (fn. 18) The childless Robert in 1303 settled its reversion with its 200 a. of demesne upon Edmund Hengrave of Hengrave (Suff.), (fn. 19) his coeval, once Mary's ward, (fn. 20) who possessed Fordham by 1327. (fn. 21)
Sir Edmund Hengrave died holding it in 1334. His son and heir, Sir Thomas (d. 1349), (fn. 22) had in 1335 settled it upon his under-age son Edmund's marriage. (fn. 23) That Sir Edmund (d. 1379) settled life interests in the manor in 1362 upon his younger son and namesake and his betrothed, Mary, infant daughter of Sir Thomas Felton. (fn. 24) After Sir Edmund the son died in 1374, (fn. 25) his father conveyed Fordham in 1375 to Felton, who occupied it at his death in 1381, and his wife Joan. (fn. 26) Although Mary, placed in a nunnery, fled it c. 1385 to remarry, (fn. 27) Joan apparently kept that manor, (fn. 28) thenceforth styled FELTONS or HENGRAVES, (fn. 29) after 1600 more often simply FELTONS, (fn. 30) until she died after 1412. (fn. 31) The reversioner, Mary's brother-inlaw Sir Thomas Hengrave (d.s.p. 1419), had in 1407 settled the reversion of that manor on Joan Pond, shortly his second wife, who before her death in 1421 (fn. 32) released it to feoffees for the Lancastrian minister John Woodhouse, in possession in 1428. (fn. 33)
At his death in 1431 Woodhouse devised his Fordham lands in tail male to his fifth son Thomas, of age c. 1443. (fn. 34) When Thomas died without issue in 1452 it passed under their father's will to his second eldest brother John (fn. 35) (d. 1466). John's son and heir Edward, kt. by 1480, (fn. 36) died in 1487, leaving as heir his son Sir Thomas Wodehouse (fn. 37) (d. c. 1530). His son Sir Roger conveyed Fordham Feltons or Hengraves in 1531 to John Bowles of Wallington (Herts.). (fn. 38) At his death in 1543 Bowles left it to his dead eldest son Richard's son Thomas, (fn. 39) who in 1556 sold most of it to William Pooley of Icklingham (Essex) (fn. 40) (d. 1558). His son and heir Thomas Pooley sold that estate in 1564 with c. 240 a. of demesne to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 41) In 1633 the college bought from William Hinson another 47 a. of the demesne, which Thomas Bowles had sold in 1556 to Thomas Hinson, also 40 a. once belonging to the Veysys, bought by Hinson c. 1569. (fn. 42) Thereafter Trinity Hall had two Fordham farms, the smaller called Bishop Hall, which together were reckoned in the 1660s to cover 320 a. of arable. (fn. 43) In 1805 they included 22 a. of closes and 251 a. of open-field land, (fn. 44) for which 338 a. were allotted at inclosure in 1820. (fn. 45) Besides the Feltons manorial rights, comprising c. 1873 lordship over 35 a. of copyhold, the college then retained 354 a. of farmland, (fn. 46) as into the early 20th century. By the 1990s it owned altogether 528 a. in Fordham. (fn. 47)
Hengraves manor house, recorded c. 1334, may have occupied the site, apparently south of the later Church Street, where Feltons manor house stood c. 1375. (fn. 48) Trinity Hall had no farmhouses in the early 19th century. (fn. 49) In 1897 a large grey brick one was built on its allotted land south-east of the village. (fn. 50)
The other part, nominally half, of the former royal demesne manor had been granted in 1174 to Henry de Kemesek. (fn. 51) About 1190 he was succeeded as tenant by his son Arnulf, dead by 1191, leaving a son (fn. 52) with whose wardship the manor was possessed from 1197 by Henry de la Pomeroy (d. 1207) of Devon. Henry de Kemesek, Arnulf's son, of age in 1207, (fn. 53) was lord at Fordham until c. 1235. (fn. 54) His elder sons Tibbald and Henry dying without issue, (fn. 55) the manor had passed by 1242 to the youngest, Edmund, (fn. 56) who died in 1253, leaving his heir under age. (fn. 57) His elder son Henry also dying without issue, it came to the younger son Edmund, of age in 1268. (fn. 58) After he died in 1288, his widow Parnel had Fordham until after 1302 as part of her dower. Edmund's son and namesake (fn. 59) had died 1299 × 1300, leaving as heirs two young daughters Parnel and Isabel. (fn. 60) When that Parnel, married to her guardian Thomas 'de Gardinis', died without issue in 1313, the whole Kemesek inheritance came to Isabel and her husband Philip of Well. (fn. 61) She died in 1325 (fn. 62) and Philip in 1332. Their son William, newly of age, succeeded to their Fordham manor, (fn. 63) including 70–80 a. of demesne. Sir William Well, kt. by 1339, died in 1349, leaving as heir a daughter Joan, (fn. 64) already married, when of age in 1351, to Henry Coggeshall of Essex, kt. by 1367. (fn. 65) They perished together in 1375. The heir, their son Sir William Coggeshall, (fn. 66) came of age in 1379. (fn. 67) Still holding Fordham COGGESHALLS in 1412, (fn. 68) he left four daughters as heirs at his death in 1426. (fn. 69)
By 1428 Coggeshalls manor, so named into the 20th century, (fn. 70) belonged to John Tiptoft, lord Tiptoft (d. 1443). (fn. 71) It descended to his son John, earl of Worcester (ex. 1470) and grandson Earl Edward (d. s.p. 1485), then passed to the descendants of Earl John's eldest sister Philippa, lady Roos. (fn. 72) Initially it belonged to her elder daughter Isabel's husband Sir Thomas Lovell, who at his death in 1524 devised it to Isabel's sister Eleanor's grandson Thomas Manners, lord Roos, later earl of Rutland. (fn. 73) The earl sold Coggeshalls manor in 1541 to Edward North, who the same year conveyed it to trustees for Christ's College, Cambridge, in possession by 1546. (fn. 74) In the 17th and 18th centuries the college had c. 105 a. of demesne, (fn. 75) for which 115 a. were allotted at inclosure in 1820. (fn. 76) Its Fordham farm, totalling 124 a. in 1873, besides manorial rights, then over 32 a. of copyhold, had been held from the early 17th century to 1871 by local men on beneficial leases. (fn. 77) In 1920 the college sold one 77-a. farm to Cambridgeshire county council, apparently with the lordship. (fn. 78) To provide smallholdings, the council also acquired 136 a. of vicarial glebe south-west of the village in 1910 and from the Dunn Gardners the 316-a. Moor farm to its north in 1912, besides buying Lark Hall farm, 186 a., to its west in 1919, and remained, until sales in the 1990s, one of Fordham's largest landowners. (fn. 79)
To create Fordham's other manor of 1086 Count Alan, lord of Richmond, had combined 4½ hides, possessed in 1066 by two sokemen of Eddeva the fair and one of Earl Aelfgar. From the then tenant, Alan's steward Wihomarc (Wimar), (fn. 82) that manor, held until the 16th century of the honor of Richmond, (fn. 83) descended with the honorial steward's fee in the line of his elder son Warner until its extinction c. 1232 with Beatrice, wife of Hugh Malebisse. (fn. 84) It then passed to the Thorntons, descended from Wihomarc's younger son Roger. (fn. 85) By 1279 the Thorntons' heiress Mary had brought that manor, then apparently without demesne in Fordham, to her husband, Humphrey of Bassingbourn. (fn. 86) In 1298 the widowed Mary settled on her younger son Matthew property at Fordham, including a water mill and 20 a. of resumed tenant land, once Maud de Kemesek's. (fn. 87) The whole was called from c. 1400 BASSINGBOURNS manor. (fn. 88) Matthew of Bassingbourn, twice sheriff of Cambridgeshire and knighted by 1329, (fn. 89) died c. 1334–5, having in 1324 settled over 280 a. in and around Fordham on his son and heir John's marriage. (fn. 90) John, who in 1344 settled over 220 a. of his lands there in reversion upon his son Richard, (fn. 91) died, by then a knight, after 1348. (fn. 92) Sir Richard Bassingbourn (kt. by 1370) (fn. 93) had at Fordham c. 168 a. of demesne arable, probably into the early 1380s. (fn. 94) The manor presumably passed to his son, the impoverished Robert Bassingbourn (fl. from 1374, d. 1391), (fn. 95) after whose death half came to his sister Joan and her husband Walter Reynell, in possession in 1412. (fn. 96) Reynell's feoffees released half the manor in 1423 for John, lord Tiptoft. (fn. 97) In 1411 Maud, apparently Robert's other sister and coheir, and her husband Richard Athelwald released half Bassingbourns manor in Fordham in trust for William, a son (probably illegitimate) of Lord Tiptoft's father, Sir Payn Tiptoft. (fn. 98) Also then acquired for William was part of a large Fordham freehold, (fn. 99) covering c. 100 a. in the 1230s, besides 57 a. granted in 1255 by Mary le Norreys. (fn. 100) It had then belonged to the Wiggenhall family, who held part in the 14th century in chief by knight-service. (fn. 101) By 1422 Lord Tiptoft also possessed that half of Bassingbourns. (fn. 102)
The whole manor then descended with Coggeshalls to his son Earl John, (fn. 103) but was assigned, when the earl's son died in 1485, to another sister, Joan Ingoldisthorpe (d. 1494). In the partition of her lands among her daughter Isabel Neville's five daughters, Fordham Bassingbourns was assigned to John, son of Anne Neville (d. c. 1486) by Sir William Stonor (d. 1494). (fn. 104) When John Stonor died under age in 1499, it was inherited by his sister Anne, wife of Sir Adrian Fortescue. (fn. 105) In 1509 they sold the manor to Lady Margaret Beaufort. It was accordingly included in the endowment of her foundation of St. John's College, Cambridge. (fn. 106)
The college retained that estate with a manorial farm including, besides 24–8 a. of closes, c. 215 a. of arable, (fn. 107) for which 164 a. were allotted at inclosure in 1820. (fn. 108) St. John's still owned it in the late 20th century. (fn. 109) It added to the 189 a. which it owned c. 1910 (fn. 110) by purchase of land that had belonged until 1930 to the Fordham Abbey estate; it acquired in 1936 the 97-a. Lord's Barn farm and in 1946 half, 177 a., of Slate farm, respectively south-west and east of its earlier main holding. (fn. 111)
Bassingbourns manorial farmstead may originally have stood on the 3-a. Lord's Barn close north of the village, already part of the college's farm c. 1800. (fn. 112) After inclosure the college had by 1815 built a new farmstead on allotted croftland, where farm buildings already stood in 1820, west of the Isleham road and slightly north of the church. The new farmhouse was a substantial one of grey brick with a three-bayed east front and shaped end-gables, which remained Bassingbourns Manor farmhouse in the late 20th century. (fn. 113)
Substantial modern estates in Fordham derived from portions in that parish of medieval manors centred on Soham. Edward Bestney of Soham, who had acquired Netherhall Wygorns manor there from another Tiptoft coheir, (fn. 114) settled c. 110 a. of Fordham farmland perhaps attached to that manor, which were mostly held of Bassingbourns, in 1539 upon his daughter Joan's marriage to Simeon Steward of Stuntney (I. Ely). At his death in 1568 (fn. 115) Simeon devised all his Fordham land from Joan's death to his youngest son Nicholas, later a lawyer (d. 1634). (fn. 116) That land remained with Nicholas's descendants until the 19th century. His grandson Nicholas, cr. Bt. 1660 (d. 1710), of Hartley Mauduit (Hants), who owned 148 a. of fieldland in Fordham c. 1670, was succeeded by four generations of baronets, each named Simeon. It was probably the third Sir Simeon (d. 1816) (fn. 117) who after 1788 and probably before 1800 (fn. 118) sold that land to Robert Hayward, a Fordham farmer. In 1820 Hayward was allotted 219 a. for it, mostly west of the village, along with 81 a. for his own former holding and several others recently purchased, emerging with the second largest estate in the parish. (fn. 119) He died in 1830, leaving his Fordham land, subject to a life interest for his widow, to his daughter Mary Anne. In 1833 she married the Revd. Tansley Hall, curate of Fordham c. 1840, who under her will succeeded to 186 a., called Lark Hall farm, on her death, 1836 × 1838. Hall owned it until his death in 1893, (fn. 120) becoming a considerable benefactor to the church and parish, as was his mother-in-law Mrs. Mary Hyde Dix (d. c. 1860). (fn. 121) In 1900 Hall's executors sold the farm to an Exning farmer who resold it to the county council in 1919. (fn. 122)
The modern Block and Moor farms derive from 400 a. of fen occupying Fordham's northern and western projections, formerly intercommonable between Fordham and Soham, but in the late 17th century annexed in severalty to Sir Thomas Chicheley's Soham estate. (fn. 123) It remained attached to that estate until the Townshends sold it off c. 1805. By a sale of 1806, legally executed in 1817 by the Townshend trustees, Block farm's 205 a., all inclosed, in the west of Fordham went to Francis Glossop (fn. 124) of Isleworth (Mdx.), who died in 1835. Under successive trusts and wills, the farm passed in turn to his third son Charles (d. 1874), Charles's nephew Col. John James Glossop (d. 1886), and his nephew, the Revd. G. H. P. Glossop. In 1888 he sold it to F. A. Johnson of the neighbouring Wicken Hall, the tenant since 1876, who owned and occupied 229 a. in Fordham until 1910, when his land there was sold. (fn. 125) Moor farm, 205 a. of closes to the north, had similarly been sold, 1811–17, for the Townshends to the Revd. Robert Hele Selby Hele, after whose death in 1839 it was sold in 1841 to William Dunn Gardner (II). (fn. 126) The farm, enlarged by purchase in 1874, remained with his Fordham Abbey estate until its 292 a., including 37 a. in Soham, was sold in 1912 to the county council. (fn. 127)
The Abbey estate, the largest in Fordham from the 18th century to the early 20th, had been built up around the medieval endowment of Fordham priory, originally founded as a hospital c. 1205 by Henry, dean of Fordham, but assigned from the late 1220s to the order of Sempringham. To Fordham church's lands, partly appropriated after 1227, (fn. 128) Hugh Malebisse and his wife Beatrice had by 1230 added, besides extensive rights of common in Fordham and Soham, a water mill and its villein tenant's 14-a. holding. (fn. 129) The Gilbertine priory established at Fordham also received, to support 13 poor folk, 80 a. of the 130 a. once held freely by William son of Robert's predecessors. Other freehold gifts made by 1279, partly from the Kemesek and Norreys fees, had raised its total demesne in Fordham to 125 a., besides lordship over 24 free and unfree tenants occupying 23 a. (fn. 130)
The priory, commonly called by the 16th century Biggen priory, (fn. 131) a name transferred to the successor manor, BIGGEN, (fn. 132) survived until its suppression in 1538. Philip Parys of Linton, granted its whole Fordham property in 1540, (fn. 133) leased it out for 60 years in 1542, then apparently returned the priory estate to the Crown: (fn. 134) 'Fordham rectory' was held by Crown lessees until 1600, (fn. 135) as was the Biggen demesne in 1588. (fn. 136)
By 1618 Biggen manor had been acquired by Sir William Russell (d. 1654), since 1616 lord of Chippenham. (fn. 137) Probably in 1652 it was settled on his third son Gerard Russell, Whig M.P. for Cambridge in 1679, who dwelt at Fordham from the 1660s. (fn. 138) About 1670 he owned there c. 360 a., including 290 a. of arable. (fn. 139) Dying in 1682, he was succeeded by his elder son William, (fn. 140) also resident, (fn. 141) who died in 1701, almost ruined by extravagant living. His widow, Elizabeth Cromwell, was obliged to sell the estate in 1711 to Admiral Sir Charles Wager. (fn. 142) By 1722 he had sold the Biggen estate to Edward Harrison, who c. 1730 with his son-in-law, Lord Townshend's son Charles, sold it to William Metcalfe, lord by 1731. (fn. 143) Metcalfe, who occupied the Abbey from the 1740s, (fn. 144) died in 1785. His son and heir James, (fn. 145) sold the estate in 1790 to Francis Noble, who in turn sold it in 1808 to William Dunn Gardner (I). (fn. 146)
Following inclosure in 1820 Dunn Gardner owned 520 a. in Fordham, including c. 190 a. derived from recent purchases. (fn. 147) When he died, dwelling at Fordham Abbey, in 1831, the Abbey estate passed for life to his widow Jane (d. 1839). (fn. 148) In 1807 he had settled all his Cambridgeshire lands in tail on the marriage of his only daughter and heir Sarah to George Ferrers Townshend, son and heir of the second Marquess Townshend. (fn. 149) Proving incompatible she swiftly left him, eloping in 1809 with John Margetts, a St. Ives brewer, recently encountered at the Abbey. From 1823, since Sarah was not divorced from George Townshend, marquess since 1811, but disinherited and exiled, Margetts had her children by him ascribed to the marquess, usurping his family titles. (fn. 150) It was thus as 'Lord William Townshend' that Sarah's second surviving son (b. 1813) by Margetts succeeded in 1839 to the Fordham Abbey estate under the will of her father William Dunn Gardner, (fn. 151) whose name he took when declared illegitimate by private act in 1843. (fn. 152) William Dunn Gardner (II), at first domineering and unpopular, (fn. 153) owned the estate until his death in 1879. (fn. 154) By then he had considerably enlarged it by purchases, including in 1867–8 the freehold of 410 a. of the rectorial estate, held from 1826 by his grandfather on beneficial leases to which he had succeeded, (fn. 155) to cover altogether 2,338 a. in and around Fordham in 1873. (fn. 156) He also held on lease 316 a. of Trinity Hall's land there by 1857. (fn. 157) William's surviving son and heir Cyril, of age in 1895, who still owned c. 1,570 a. in Fordham in 1910, died without issue in 1911, leaving a life interest in the Abbey estate to his mother and former guardian Angelina. (fn. 158) She sold 372 a. of farmland in 1912 and 94 a. in 1919. (fn. 159) When she died in 1923, the rest was inherited by the aged Algernon Charles Wyndham Dunn Gardner (d. 1929), (fn. 160) of Denston Hall (Suff.), son of William (II)'s elder brother John. (fn. 161) Just before his death Algernon offered the Abbey estate of 1,140 a. for sale, (fn. 162) although the lordship of Biggen descended, with the family's other Cambridgeshire lordships, to his daughter Miriam, married by 1934 to H. C. Leader, a racehorse trainer. She died after 1977, having in 1972 sold her manorial rights to Mr. T. C. Clark of Soham, who still possessed them in 1997. (fn. 163) Herbert Sidebotham, the purchaser of the land in 1930, shortly sold off the remaining farms. (fn. 164) The Abbey itself with c. 245 a., mostly parkland, was sold, 1933 × 1937, to Maj. Thirlwall Philipson. (fn. 165) He sold that property c. 1953 to Mr. Holdstock, who in 1957 resold it to R. M. Smith (d. 1993). His son, Mr. J. M. L. Smith, possessed the Abbey, where he lived, and c. 270 a. around it in 1997. (fn. 166)
Of the buildings of the medieval priory, probably ditched round by the 1260s (fn. 167) and destroyed by fire c. 1419, (fn. 168) which presumably stood within the 33 a. of old inclosures stretching south from the village later included in the Biggen estate, (fn. 169) nothing remains above ground. The priory 'site' mentioned in the 1530s (fn. 170) was perhaps converted to a home for the manorial farmers, who had six hearths in 1664. Probably by 1666, Gerard Russell rebuilt it in brick, with slated roofs, to provide him then with ten hearths. (fn. 171) His house, called Fordham Abbey by 1682, (fn. 172) was replaced, presumably in the 1710s, by Sir Charles Wager, recently enriched by Spanish prizes. The large Baroque mansion, (fn. 173) whose style recalled that of Thomas Archer, was possibly completed by William Metcalfe. (fn. 174) Built of red brick it had façades to west and east of three storeys, the two lower ones tall, and eleven bays, the central three projecting slightly. The entrance front to the west had round-headed windows in those three bays, surrounding an elaborately carved, pillared doorway. Pilaster strips, widest at the ends, divided the window bays, of which the third in from each end was blank. To the south was a lower two-storeyed range, arcaded in front, of seven bays, which after the fifth bay turned west for three more bays, and was then continued west by a single-storeyed block for six more bays. That wing, perhaps the only one built of two intended, presumably contained the offices. A gabled, mostly two-storeyed, redbrick building south of that wing may have been the 17th-century house, or farm buildings. In front of the main block were two square garden-plots surrounded by low urn-topped walls, with small brick pavilions at their outer corners. A larger walled garden, whose large round grass-plat was centred on a sundial, extended west towards the iron railings along the road. (fn. 175) Two other large gardens, walled in red brick, lying south-east of the present house, may partly survive from the 18th-century layout of the grounds, as does a redbrick dovecot with a restored pyramidal roof some way to the north in the park. (fn. 176) Lawns behind the mansion stretched eastward to the river Snail.
James Metcalfe quitted the Abbey for Bath in 1786. (fn. 177) Francis Noble had it taken down, probably in 1796, when much woodwork, including a cedar staircase, was offered for sale. (fn. 178) Some 18th-century panelling was eventually transferred, along with a wide staicase in two flights with elaborately twisted balusters, to the house which Noble built instead, supposedly on the offices of the earlier building; its south wall incorporates earlier brickwork, including a 17thcentury platband. The new Abbey was completed by 1808. (fn. 179) Built of red brick, perhaps partly reused, the rectangular three-storeyed house with solid parapets and brick cornices has a seven-bayed west front, with a round wooden porch on Adamesque pillars, but only three bays at the rear, with wider windows, some, including the tallest one to the staircase, of Palladian type, and three to four bays, with segment-headed windows, some false, on the north side. The irregular south side has a later 19th-century water tower added towards its rear corner. Inside, the ground floor had two rooms, those to the north later combined, each side of a wide hall probably designed to fit the transferred staircase. Irregularities in the interior walling suggest that it has been partially reused from the earlier house, from which probably also survives the back staircase on the south side with its simpler 18th-century balusters. The house remained the Dunn Gardners' seat from the 1820s to the 1920s. (fn. 180) William (II) (d. 1879), regularly resident there in the 1860s and 1870s, (fn. 181) assembled in it a considerable, partly antiquarian library, sold in 1880. (fn. 182) An ornate Jacobean fireplace installed in the hall in the 19th century (fn. 183) was removed by Maj. Philipson. After 1957 R. M. Smith extensively renovated the house, adding a single-storeyed extension at the rear. (fn. 184)
The Abbey was by the 1880s surrounded by a well timbered park, covering c. 50 a. in 1929, which extended to the river Snail. (fn. 185) A westerly branch of that river, curving close to the house, perhaps on its original course, was eventually blocked. Its dry bed is still crossed by an elaborate iron bridge made by a Soham firm. From the mid 19th century the Dunn Gardners normally, to protect their shooting, rented from the parish 18 a. of charity land just east of the Snail, which were flooded by the 1880s. (fn. 186) They were later called the Breckland Roughs. The owners of the Abbey, still lessees of that land in the 1990s, had by the 1970s sublet it to the Cambridgeshire Naturalists' Trust for preservation of the reedbeds which covered the area. It was designated a nature reserve by 1984. (fn. 187)