Cambs County Council beats off American interest to buy historic papers on drainage of The Fens

PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 August 2009 | UPDATED: 09:13 02 June 2010

Part of the newly acquired set of papers

Part of the newly acquired set of papers

By Kerry Russ HISTORIC papers offering glimpses into one of the greatest engineering triumphs ever- the draining of the Fens- have been bought by the county council. The newly obtained papers were purchased at auction thanks to major donations from the ML

By Kerry Russ

HISTORIC papers offering glimpses into one of the greatest engineering triumphs ever- the draining of the Fens- have been bought by the county council.

The newly obtained papers were purchased at auction thanks to major donations from the MLA/ V & A Purchase Grant Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries.

Local individuals, academics and societies also contributed towards the fundraising which enabled the auction purchase of the papers for around £30,000

"We beat off interest from American libraries to purchase these documents and keep them in the county to which they relate," said Christine May, the county council's archives and local studies manager.

The principal papers concern the involvement of Sir Miles Sandys in the Fen Project of 1600-63. Sir Miles, First Baronet (1563-1645), of Wilburton within the Isle of Ely, was deputy governor of the Bedford Level Corporation, and as such was a key player in the fen drainage project.

Almost all the official records of the Bedford Level Corporation were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in1666, and therefore the newly acquired papers provide a unique study of the early stages of the drainage project.

Details include the accounts for the construction of the original 21-mile long new channel known as the Bedford River and papers about the very fraught first stage of the project.

Ms May said: "It was his position as a significant Cambridgeshire landowner that gave Sir Miles Sandys his interest in the fens project and this group of papers sheds considerable light on one of the great engineering projects of 17th century England, its practicalities, financing and social impact.

The existing archive of the Bedford Level Corporation is the most significant housed with Cambridgeshire County Council's Archives and is the most important archive of land drainage within the United Kingdom - the collection takes up some 124 metres of shelf space!


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Wisbech Standard. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Wisbech Standard