& the Isle of Ely

The Normans and on 1066-1154

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.




The Normans and on

5 Jan 1066 A.D.

Edward the Confessor' s reign of England ends.


6 Jan 1066 A.D.

Harold II Godwinson becomes King of England.


25 Sep 1066 A.D.

Battle of Stamford Bridge.


14 Oct 1066 A.D.

Battle of Hastings. Harold II of England killed in battle.


Dec 1066 A.D.

England surrenders to the Normans.


25 Dec 1066 A.D.

William I the Conqueror becomes King of England.


1066-71 A.D.

The Norman conquest of England saw their entry into Cambridgeshire uncontested but their heavy handed tactics soon caused discontent among the people and the last resistance to the Norman Conquest was at Ely.

Hereward the Wake came from Bourne, Lincolnshire and held moderate estates as an armed man. The replacement of the English abbot of Peterborough by the Norman Turold in 1070 A.D. caused misery for the populace and the loss of many lands to the Norman knights. Hereward joined the resistance movement on the Isle of Ely.

Armed Danes enter the Isle.

Hereward led any army Anglo-Danish army against the Normans but when king Sweyn of Denmark made peace with William in 1071 the Danish support disappeared. The Normans besieged Ely the main effort being concentrated on Willingham, at the southern end of the Roman causeway at Aldreth. Eventually the Bishop of Ely was persuaded to allow the Normans into Ely while the English were foraging for supplies. After a short battle at Aldrehda (possibly Aldreth) the Normans managed to invade the Isle and take control. So fell the last resistance to the Normans.



King William ordered details of the populace, lands and holdings throughout the land to be collected together, these form what we now know as the Domesday Book; fire sweeps through London after two years of plague.
The silt fens in the Domesday Book were the least populated part of Cambridgeshire; two families per 1,000 acres under a single plough team. This compared with 20 families and 4 or 5 plough teams in upland Cambridgeshire and 6 families and 2 teams in the southern fens. The only named village was Wisbech, small and poor. Most Cambridgeshire settlements still clung to the river valleys, chalk belt and fen edge.


9 Sep 1087

William the Conqueror's reign of England ends.


26 Sep 1087

William II Rufus becomes King of England.


2 Aug 1100

William II killed in hunting accident.


5 Aug 1100

Henry I becomes King of England.



Norman castles at Wisbech, Knapwell and Cambridge refurbished and a new fortress built at Castle Camps by the Earl of Oxford.
Richard de Clare appointed abbot of Ely.



Minster church at Ely completed, building began in circa. 1086.


The ground-plan of nearly all Cambridgeshire's churches is 12th century. These include the Holy Sepulchre, Cambridge, St. Bene't's at Hauxton, St. Botolph's at Isleham and St. Mary's at Bartlow (for its round tower and murals).



Ely becomes a bishopric, offices of abbot and bishop combined.
Hervey made Bishop of Ely



Nigel made Bishop of Ely


1 Dec 1135

Henry I's reign of England ends.


22 Dec 1135

Stephen becomes King of England.


1135-1154 A.D.

Feudal anarchy reached a peak under king Stephen (1135-54).


1139 A.D.

Nigel of Ely, Bishop in 1139, was obliged to surrender at Devizes castle and he came to Ely to raise the standard of revolution. Bishop Nigel re-fortified Alrehede Castle. As with Hereward, the bishop was joined and provisioned by certain eminent dignitaries. The King had no choice but to march against the troublesome prelate and set about besieging the Isle, viewing the matter as had the Conqueror, as being so serious that be himself personally supervised military operations.

According to Anglia Sacra the hub of the military focus was at Alrehede. A great many boats were made ready and a bridge built to convey the King's soldiers across the marsh to the IsIe The king encountered ponderous difficulties but eventually he set foot on the Isle, it is said through the treachery of an Ely monk who received as his reward the abbey it Ramsey. So fierce was the royal assault the Isle defenders threw away their weapons and hid themselves in the area's remote places. The Bishop and a few followers escaped and were given safe custody by the Empress of Gloucester. The King exercised control over the Isle of Ely and took measures to fortify the entrance at Alrehede. The Church at Ely suffered considerably and was subjected to reconfiscation, Nigel was restored to the Bishopric of Ely after the Angevin victory at Lincoln in 1141 but be was exiled when the King's fortunes revived.


1142 A.D.

In 1142 Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, with the Earl of Pembroke were ordered to the Isle of Ely to restrain a group of mischievous knights that had assembled there. According to Anglia Sacra he was met by tearful monks from Ely and he threatened them with plunder and death. The monastery's treasures were handed to the King for "sate keeping", but the King, impressed by the monks' pleas and the Pope's request to him to assist them, restored Nigel to the Isle and the renegade Earls were forced to hand back the Isle to the bishop.


1142-1143 A.D.

Stephen ordered the construction of castles between Ely abd the uplands, at Rampton, Burwell, Swavesey and possibly Cottenham.From 1142-43 peace reigned within the Isle but Bishop Nigel experienced a series of verbal attacks at the Council of Northampton. He went to Rome and appealed directly to the Pope. This proved to be a mistake on his part as in his absence the Isle of Ely was seized by Geoffrey de Mandeville and he promptly transformed it into a seat of resistance against the monarch. De Mandeville was unpredictable, alternately supporting the King and resisting the throne when it suited him. He was arrested at St. Albans at the end of 1143. Bishop Nigel, too, fell from the Kings favour, his visit to Rome being interpreted as an act of treason.

Geoffrey de Mandeville had paid particular attention to the strategic entrance to the Isle near Alrehede and also at Fordham in the east, a place which enabled him to communicate easily with his allies in East Anglia. He also strengthened his position in the Fens and established fortifications at Ramsey and at Benwick. These strongholds - a promomtory and a gravel ridge gave him suitable bases to launch attacks upon the upland and during this period he laid the whole countryside to deplorable waste. His extortionism grew worse and villages were brutally attacked. He built another fortress at Wood Walton. Even Cambridge and St. Ives were plundered and the surrounding countryside devastated. The abbot of Ramsey who bad been exiled worked strenuously to resist the violation of his and the people's rights but all to no avail. Geoffrey de Mandeville's insatiable greed was inspired from the secure position be enjoyed.


1144 A.D.

Eventually the King arrived with a large army to press the rebels who were forced to take refuge in the Fen wastes. While the King attended to one particular problem, de Mandeville caused another elsewhere. Finally the King established garrisons on the fen fringes. His castle at Burwell directly opposed de Mandeville's fortress at Fordham. Burwell castle was never completed and in its incomplete state was besieged by de Mandeville. It was there that he was mortally wounded by an archer and he died a few days later at Mildenhall


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