We continue our Fens exploration after Fens 3.
It is Sunday and we again circle Ely to the south, this time to to the small village of Prickwillow and its Engine Museum. With a small group of visitors we learn more about the history the Fens and specifically the engines used to pump water, from an enthusiastic volunteer and video. It is remarkable that the whole area of he Fens would be inundated regularly by the sea without regular pumping. A marker at the museum shows that the high tide water level would be above our heads.
After the Fens were drained, the land gradually sank due to contraction of peat, so that the fields are now lower than the rivers that drain them – another incredible feature of this area.
The village of Prickwillow was established in 1830 as a tolling station on the River Lark. When steam power came along in 1860 a pumping station was established for drainage. The old pumping station has now become a museum, containing a number of old diesel pumps on display from around 1970s. Sadly there are no remaining steam pumps.
I note that several of the pumps on display are manufactured by the company WH Allen, for whom my father worked designing pumps. Maybe he had a hand in some of these!
After this education, we visit and savour the magnificent Ely cathedral, one of England’s great religious buildings. The medieval octagon tower is quite remarkable. Ely’s position as an island in the original Fens made it a natural focus for travel and trade.
Featured image shows Ely cathedral from nearby meadow.