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The Cambridge, Ely & King's Lynn Road


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This, the great fenland road, is measured from Shoreditch Church, London, and is ninety-seven miles in length. From that starting-point it goes along the Kingsland Road to Stoke Newington, and in four and a half miles comes to a junction with the Seven Sisters Road, where it meets the road by which most Londoners now would choose to set forth upon this highway. That route, preferable in these times, is from the Marble Arch and along the Edgware Road, and thence into St. John's Wood Road and Park Road, into Camden Town; thence proceeding by Parkhurst Road and onwards to the gloomy Seven Sisters Road.

Thence, by Tottenham and Edmonton, to Ponder's End and Enfield Highway, and thence past Enfield Wash to Waltham Cross. Here stands the Eleanor Cross, one of the three surviving of the original twelve of those erected by Edward I in memory of his consort, Queen Eleanor. The great gallows sign of the old Four Swans inn, stretching across the road, forms an effective background. A mile away to the right is Waltham, with its Abbey of Holy Cross, in which the unfortunate King Harold, who fell at the Battle of Hastings, was laid. To the left is Theobalds, that park at whose entrance is erected Temple Bar, removed from London in 1881.

Cheshunt, which succeeds to Waltham Cross, is very largely a district of rose-growing, and perhaps a larger one of tomato-growing, under glass. To the left is Cheshunt Great House, a gloomy old mansion on a mound, of the time of Henry VII. Passing Wormley and- Broxbourne, we come to Hoddesdon, where stands a famous inn, the old Bull.

Keeping to the right here, at a fork of the roads, we descend to Great Am-well and Ware. The town of Ware, on the river Lea, has always been greatly' interested in malting; but to most people Ware stands for "the Great Bed of Ware," a huge four-poster that used to be at the Saracen's Head inn, and is now at Rye House. All views, near and far, of the town disclose the nature of its trade, for groups of malt-houses, old and new, form a characteristic sight against the skyline. Several most interesting old houses of the seventeenth and eighteenth century maltsters survive along the left-hand side of the High Street.

Leaving Ware uphill, past the old Royston Crow inn, the road descends in two miles to Wade's Mill. By the roadside is a small obelisk bearing an inscription to the memory of Thomas Clarkson, who here, as a youth, knelt down and vowed to devote his life to the abolition of the slave trade. He was born in 1760, and died in 1846.

Beyond the hamlet of Collier's End we come to Puckeridge, where the ways to Cambridge divide. The left-hand route goes to Buntingford, and over the downs to Royston and Melbourn; the other through Braughing, Barkway, Barley and Fowlmere, the two meeting again at Harston in nineteen miles. We will first take the right-hand road, coming soon to "Braffing," as the name is pronounced locally. From hence the road begins to climb the downs, by way of Quinbury and Hare Street, to Barkway, where stands a great milestone of almost monumental proportions, six feet high, with a shield of arms. It is one of a series between here and Cambridge, provided from the income of a capital sum of 1,600 pounds left, 1586-99, by Dr. Mouse and Robert Hare of Trinity Hall. These milestones did not, however, come into existence until the years '1725-32. The black crescent upon them is the badge of Trinity Hall.

The village of Barley is quaintly enlivened by the sign of the Fox and Hounds, whose sign, straddling the road, bears the figures of fox and hounds and huntsmen. Haggard, unenclosed downs extend to Fowlmere. Here was a mere, or lake, long since drained. The village is typical of Cambridgeshire, with tall poplars and whitewashed cottages, heavily thatched Coming downhill into Harston, we join the alternative route. It is the more difficult way. Proceeding from Puckeridge to Bunting-ford, the road at once begins the long pull up over Royston downs. Cuttings here and there ease the gradients. Royston is a somewhat grim, narrow-streeted town, originating from a cross erected here in Norman times by the Lady Rohesia, with perhaps a hospice for travellers in this then lonely region. It was followed by a priory church. The greatest curiosity in Royston is the cave discovered in 1742 under the pavement at the cross-roads in the centre of the town. It is a deep, bottle-shaped excavation in the chalk, and is thought to have been the exceptionally eccentric cell of a hermit.

The name of Melbourn, to which we now come, is spelt without a final "e." This rustic village is the centre of a district largely devoted to the growing of greengages. From hence a dead level road leads to Shepreth, Foxton, and the junction of roads at Harston. From this point, through Hauxton, we come into the beautiful approach to Cambridge at Trumpington village. The street is broad and the rustic cottages are embowered amid noble elms. Past the classic bulk of the Fitzwilliam Museum we enter the University town, and by Hobson's Conduit and the Botanical Gardens to Peter-house, S. Catherine's, Queens' and other colleges, with the University Press; thence to the centre of Cambridge by King's Parade and Market Hill. This, which is not a hill, has for its centre Great S. Mary's Church. King's College Chapel is the most striking architectural adornment here. The " Backs " - that is to say, the backs of Queens', S. John's, Clare and King's Colleges - are the most beautiful feature of Cambridge, with their bridges spanning the quiet waters of the river Cam, or Granta.

Cambridge is left behind by way of the suburb of Chesterton. The fenland district, through which the road now goes for many miles, leads on through Waterbeach, Chittering and Stretham Bridge, into the Isle of Ely. This is an ancient Roman road, at one time a causeway through the fens. The Isle of Ely, in those times islanded amidst impassable morasses, was the refuge of Here-ward the Wake, "the last of the English," who in this fastness amid the bogs long bade defiance to William the Conqueror, whose road, built across the watery wastes, is on the left, and is now known as "Aldreth Causeway."

Stretham village is two miles beyond the bridge of the same name. The giant bulk of Ely Cathedral presently comes into view. The road, leaving Ely past the tiny suburb known as "Little London," proceeds across a park-like space and then descends to Chettisham station and level-crossing, to leave the Isle of Ely over the Ouse at Littleport, a place more populous than Ely itself, in spite of the " Little " in its name. Once across Littleport Bridge, the road turns left and goes parallel with the Ouse, which for the most part the traveller must take on trust, for great grassy embankments hide it and prevent it flooding the surrounding low-lying lands.

At Brandon Creek the Little Ouse is crossed, and Cambridgeshire is exchanged for Norfolk. In another two miles we have the village of Southery, looking very picturesque from Southery Ferry, whence it is seen to be built upon a hillock that once was an island. The straight watercourse soon passed at Modney Bridge is "Sam's Cut Drain." And so on past Hilgay and across the Wissey river, into Ford-ham. Between the two is Ryston railway station, and off to the right the curious wayfarer may by diligent questing find the ancient gnarled tree well known as "Kett's Oak." A stone tablet reclining against the tree tells the story of it; how the brothers Kett, in the rebellion of 1549, held open court here in that revolt of the peasants.

A beautiful old Tudor mansion, Denver Hall, is seen as we enter Denver. A mile or so beyond the village is Downham Market, a little town with two quaint inns, the Crown and the Castle. The villages along the remaining twelve miles to Lynn are numerous: Wimbotsham, Stow Bardolph, South Runcton, Setchey, West Winch and Hardwick Bridge. Here we come within the sphere of the old Dutchmen who traded largely with King's Lynn, and caused that seaport to assume in its architectural way a cousinship with the cities and towns of the Netherlands. The old Lynn Arms at Setchey well shows this influence.

At Hardwick Bridge the road swings round to the right and brings us to the imposing fortified old south gates of the once fortified town. This is the very front door of the old town and seaport.

The long street goes in a straight line to the Ouse waterside, where the heart of the ancient port is situated. It is a seaport that is not, and never has been on the sea, but merely along the broad estuary of the muddy Ouse. The older trade of the port was ever great in wines and also in timber from the Baltic; but perhaps its "Greenland fishery " (i.e.. whaling) was its chief interest. An echo of this is the old Greenland Fishery inn, in King's Staith Lane, running parallel with the waterside.

Here also are some of the houses of the old merchant princes, notably "Clifton's House," with its look-out tower, whence Clifton or his staff might look down along the channel of the Ouse and see haply if his ships were approaching home. Great and wealthy were those old merchants, as we can see from their monumental brasses in the churches of S. Margaret and S. Nicholas. The exquisite architectural gem, the Custom House, a seventeenth century work, designed originally as an exchange, is one of the chief artistic features of Lynn.

Among other places of interest in Lynn are Greyfriars Tower, Red Mount Chapel and the Guild Hall. The tower, consisting of a hexagonal shaft, once the central lantern of a church, is the sole remains of a thirteenth century priory. The chapel, an octagonal brick edifice, dates from 1483. The Guild Hall, formerly the hall of the Trinity Guild, has in its Assembly Room portraits of Nelson and Sir Robert and Horace Walpole, and here also is the celebrated goblet known as King John's Cup, but of the time of Edward III.

Eugene Aram, who had committed a murder at far-away Knaresborough in 1745, was arrested at Lynn, many years later, and convicted and hanged; and Lynn is associated with the affair only in this elusive fashion: made more memorable by the poet, who describes how "Two stern-faced men set out from Lynn, in the fog and heavy mist, And Eugene Aram walked between, With gyves upon his wrist."


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Pictures for The Cambridge, Ely & King's Lynn Road

OLD HERTFORDSHIRE TOWN OF WARE BY THE BANKS OF THE LEA
OLD HERTFORDSHIRE TOWN OF WARE BY THE BANKS OF THE LEA >>>>
SHOREDITCH CHURCH
SHOREDITCH CHURCH >>>>
TO CHESHUNT VIA WALTHAM CROSS AND THE SEVEN SISTERS ROAD
TO CHESHUNT VIA WALTHAM CROSS AND THE SEVEN SISTERS ROAD >>>>
AT BROXBOURNE, FAMOUS FOR ITS FISHING, ON THE LEA
AT BROXBOURNE, FAMOUS FOR ITS FISHING, ON THE LEA >>>>
THE GREAT MILESTONE OF BARKWAY AND THE BULL, HODDESDON
THE GREAT MILESTONE OF BARKWAY AND THE BULL, HODDESDON >>>>
CAMBRIDGE MARKET PLACE AND MELBOURN VILLAGE
CAMBRIDGE MARKET PLACE AND MELBOURN VILLAGE >>>>
THE CITY OF ELY AND STRETHAM VILLAGE CROSS
THE CITY OF ELY AND STRETHAM VILLAGE CROSS >>>>
THE ROAD THROUGH DENVER AND AN ALMOST DUTCH SCENE ON THE OUSE
THE ROAD THROUGH DENVER AND AN ALMOST DUTCH SCENE ON THE OUSE >>>>
SOUTH GATE OF KING'S LYNN
SOUTH GATE OF KING'S LYNN >>>>
AT DOWNHAM MARKET
AT DOWNHAM MARKET >>>>
IN OLD KING'S LYNN, FORMERLY ONE OF ENGLAND'S GREATEST SEAPORTS
IN OLD KING'S LYNN, FORMERLY ONE OF ENGLAND'S GREATEST SEAPORTS >>>>

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