& the Isle of Ely


Note: All entries in this colour cover other areas as well as Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely and can be regarded as general historic information.






Martin Heton made Bishop of Ely.

A Bill was passed to allow the recovery of many hundred thousand acres of marshes but all that happened was some marginal reclamation notably in Ely, Elm and Soham.


24 Mar 1603

Elizabeth I's reign of England ends.


25 Mar 1603

Union of Crowns.



Union Jack designed.


May 1603

James VI of Scotland crowned James I of England.
The arrival of the Stuarts made little difference to Cambridgshire. James I of England visited the county frequently, coursing hares around his hunting-lodge at Royston. The Earl of Somerset was arrested there, for murdering Sir Thomas Overbury. The Gunpowder Plot created some minor ripples, as a Catholic seminary (Nicholas Bastwicke) was imprisoned in Cambridge Castle for 'dangerous words'. A brief visit by James to the university in 1615 occasioned little more than a ban on smoking and learned entertainments swilled down with wine. The principal Jacobean legacy was the fine wooden puIpits, panels and screens adorning many Cambridgeshire churches including outstanding examples at Great Eversden and Great Shelford.


Dec 1603

Bubonic plague kills a quarter of London's population.


6 Nov 1605

Guy Fawkes discovered plotting to blow up Parliament.



Deterioration of existing drains creates new flooding.



Lancelot Andrewes made Bishop of Ely



King's Ditch in Cambridge had become an evil-smelling dry sewer and to clear this problem the Vicar's Brook was diverted by local worthies including the famous Hobson of Hobson's Choice, who ran a coach service between his Cambridge and London inns. The resulting conduits removed Cambridge's last fortification.



Cambridge University, a Protestant one seemed to be becoming a Puritan one. Violence remained common. One affray between student of Trinity and St. John's led to whippings, deprivation of degrees, and even imprisonment for participants.



Deterioration of existing drains creates new flooding which led to Wisbech becoming an island.


23 Apr 1616

William Shakespeare died.



Nicolas Felton made Bishop of Ely



Founding of the Plymouth Colony at Cape Cod by emigrants on the Mayflower.



Bubonic plague decimates London's population.


27 Mar 1625

The reign of James VI of Scotland (& I of England) ends.


28 Mar 1625

Charles I becomes King of Great Britain.



Draining of the Fens - An experienced embankment engineer, Vermuyden was employed in 1626 by King Charles I of England to drain Hatfield Chase in the Isle of Axholme. Jointly financed by Dutch and English capitalists, Francis, Earl of Bedford and 13 Adventurers, the project was a controversial undertaking, not only for the engineering techniques used, but also because it employed Dutch, rather than English, workmen. The fenmen, men who made their living from fish and fowl in the Fens, attacked the Dutch workers. An agreement was finally made in 1630 to complete the project, the engineer had to employ English workers and compensate the fenmen for the loss of hunting and fishing rights; Vermuyden contracted to drain the Great Fen, or Bedford Level in Cambridgeshire, under an arrangement by which he would receive 95,000 acres of the drained lands, during this period the major contribution to the drainage were the Old Bedford River and the Forty Foot Drain: the project, completed in 1637, drew objections from other engineers, who claimed the draining system to be inadequate.



John Buckeridge made Bishop of Ely



Joseph Oddy became a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He also lost his 'living' as Vicar of Meldreth at the time of the Restoration in 1660. He moved to Willingham, where the vicar, Nathaniel Bradshaw, had been ejected, but formed a church in his own house and was able to preach and pastor the flock for some of the time, when he wasn't in Cambridge Castle. Oddy and Francis Holcroft preached all over the fens, and whilst imprisoned in the Castle, they were let out by the friendly gaoler to preach at night. On the 'Declaration of Indulgence', in 1682, he moved to Cottenham until his death in 1687.



Francis White made Bishop of Ely



Holcroft, Francis - He was a fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, who had lion-like courage and was the first founder of churches on congregational principles. The words 'Apostle of Cambridgeshire' are on his tombstone. In 1655 he accepted the 'living' at Bassingbourn and conducted the church on congregational lines, holding to the doctrine of the gathered church.

In 1660 he lost the 'living' at Bassingbourn. Oliver Cromwell had been against the Established church, and whilst he was Lord Protector of England the nonconformists gained precedence in the University. Shortly after Cromwell died, Charles II was restored to the throne, who was a Catholic and he restored 'the Rights of the Established Churches' in 1660. (Holcroft lost his position within Cambridge University, which was linked with being the Vicar at Bassingbourn).

In 1662 he was officially silenced under the 'Act of Uniformity' and in 1663 he was imprisoned in Cambridge Castle for preaching at Great Eversden. He was sentenced to leave the country by exile or suffer death as a felon. A friendly gaoler let him out to preach in Eversden Woods and in Barns at Willingham, Cottenham, Haddenham, Orwell, Histon, Quy and Milton. He established thirty churches in South Cambs alone, even though most of the time he and Joseph Oddy were imprisoned in Cambridge Castle. There is a plaque to Holcroft in Eversden Village Hall, but all reference to him has been deleted from the church records at Bassingbourn - a solemn covenant was made with right hands raised.



Pepys, Samuel - Diarist, naval administrator, and MP. He is best known for his diary, kept from 1600 until 1669, which provides a remarkable documentary Of Charles II's London. It was written in Thomas Shelton's system of shorthand, in six volumes, and was first deciphered in 1819.



Royal postal sevice first made available to the public by King Charles I.



Matthew Wren made Bishop of Ely. Charles I was an Arminian. denying the Calvinistic doctrine of absolute predestination and was determined to remove the excesses of the Protestant Reformation, something which would bring him into conflict with the university, town of Cambridge and diocese. Bishop Wren was an Arminian and was used by Charles to wage the campaign locally. This led to local resentment of the various expedients employed and in the late 1630's was matched by protests against the king's fiscal policies, and his refusal to call parliament. The collecting of monies occasioned violence. Collectors met resistance at Melbourne, Babraham and other villages. As the monies were not forthcoming and the rebellious Scots were being invited into the north of England, Charles reluctantly called a parliament.

New flooding in proved the 'Bedford Levels' not to be effectively drained. This led to bankruptcy for many of the Adventurers. The Duke of Bedford had to sell estates in Devon to meet his debts. Vermuyden was more fortunate as Charles I decided to complete the project personally and appointed him as technical adviser. The civil war saw Charles I's plan vapourise.



Production of first commercial steam engine.



Oliver Cromwell, a notorious opponent of Bishop Wren, was selected as M.P. for Cambridge in the Short Parliament of 1640.



Impressing of crews for the Royal Navy made illegal.


30 Dec 1641

First clash between Roundheads and Cavaliers.


Feb 1642

Parlliament orders Cambridgeshire to drill soldiers and purchase arms. Cambridgeshire was strongly parliamentarian. An attempt was made at Ely by one of Bishop Wren's ministers to read the royal proclamation. Some fenmen joined Charles's army, enough for Ely and Wisbech to receive garrisons of parliamentary troops. More joined the parliamentary side.


23 Oct 1642

Start of English Civil War.


Dec 1642

The Eastern Association formed by Oliver Cromwell, a military league established at Cambridge between East Anglia, Hertfordshire and Huntingdonshire. The Association created a large, well equipped army with high morale and religious zeal.



In 1642, during the English Civil War, Parliament ordered the dykes broken and the land flooded in order to stop a royalist army advance.


Feb 1643

The royalist Lord Capel marched on Cambridgeshire but was repelled by the Association. The Association was active throughout 1643-4, and its troops participated in the victory at Martson Moor (January 1644).



Excise Duty introduced by Parliament to finance the Cilvil War.



The end of the war did not end the county's significance in national and army politics. As negotiations between Charles and the two main factions in parliament, the Presbyterians and Independents, dragged on, the army became increasingly restive. In March 1647, Fairfax established the army headquarters at Saffron Walden, disobeying parliamentary injunctions to disband without pay. The army itself camped on Thriplow Heath. Eventually, army leaders decided on a bold move. Cornet Joyce with a troop of horse captured Charles from Holmby House in Northamptonshire, bringing him to the generals in Cambridgeshire. He spent several days at Childerley, the guest of Sir John Cutts, progressing finally to Newmarket by way of Chippenham Hall. The initiative proved ineffective. It tooks months of fruitless argument, a civil war between England and Scotland, and a series of local royalist risings (including ones at Ely and Linton) before a solution was reached - by removing the king's head.


Sep 1647

Puritanism leads to 13 witch-burnings at Ely during the assize there.


30 Jan 1649

Charles I beheaded.


31 Jan 1649

Charles II becomes King of Great Britain.



In 1649 Vermuyden was commissioned to reclaim the Bedford Level. After the Civil War the work continued with the actual labour provided by Scottish prisoners of war captured at the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and Dutchmen captured at a naval battle two years later. Some 40,000 acres were drained by 1652 and the New Bedford River cut.



Collier, Jeremy - British Anglican cleric, a Nonjuror, who was outlawed 1696 for granting absolution on the scaffold to two men who had tried to assassinate William III. His Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage 1698 was aimed at the dramatists William Congreve and John Vanbrugh.


3 Sep 1651

Charles II flees to France.



Scottish and Dutch war prisoners are worked as slaves to complete the drainage of the fens.


16 Dec 1653

Oliver Cromwell declared Lord Protector.



General Post Office (GPO) founded.


29 May 1660

Charles II restored to the throne.



A congregation of 72 Quakers were arrested at their Jesus Lane Meeting House, Cambridge.



The Corporation Act introduced (restricting offices of state to members of the Church of England).



The Act of Uniformity saw the re-establishment of episcopy under King Charles II.


May 1662

Cambridge Corporation was suspended and 22 Puritan members were expelled, including the mayor, Thomas French.



The Conventicle Act outlawed Nonconformist worship in gatherings of more than 5 people.
Under the act dozens of warrants were issued by one Cambridge J.P. alone, for surprising and arresting conventicles. The principal sufferers were Cambridgeshire's large Baptist, Presbetyrian and Congregational communities. Scores of dissenters were rounded up, fined or even imprisoned for their beliefs.

Soham Mere, which had been the largest fen lake, had been drained completely and was now grassland.



The Five Mile Act barred Nonconformist ministers from major towns.


Dec 1665

Plague kills 20% of London's population.


2 Sep 1666

Great Fire of London.



Benjamin Laney made Bishop of Ely



First Test Act (requiring all holders of offices to repudiate Catholicism and Dissent).



Quaker Monthly Meeting for Sufferings established
Peter Gunning made Bishop of Ely



Second Test Act (barring all Catholics from parliament).



Penny Post started in London.



William Penn left England and founded Pennsylvania.
Foundation of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea by King Charles II for veteran soldiers.



Francis Turner made Bishop of Ely


6 Feb 1685

Charles II's reign of Great Britain ends.


7 Feb 1685

James II (VII) becomes King of Great Britain.


9 Nov 1688

William of Orange invades England.


11 Dec 1688

James II (VII) flees the country.



Toleration Act re-introduced a level of toleration of Nonconformists(excl. Catholics & Unitarians).
Bill of Rights passed to protect Members of Parliament from court action.


28 Jan 1689

James II's reign ends.


14 Feb 1689

William III and Mary II King & Queen of Great Britain.



Introduction of Stamp Duty.



Simon Patrick made Bishop of Ely



Foundation of Bank of England.


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