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Burwell, Cambridgeshire

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Title: Burwell, Cambridgeshire  
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Burwell, Cambridgeshire


St. Mary's Church in Burwell, a Grade I listed building dating from the 12th century.
Burwell is located on the eastern edge of Cambridgeshire, 4 miles from Newmarket in neighbouring Suffolk. It is in East Anglia, in the East of England.
 Burwell shown within Cambridgeshire
Area  24.7 km2 (9.5 sq mi) [1]
Population 6,309 [2]
   – density  255/km2 (660/sq mi)
OS grid reference
   – London 56.6 mi (91.1 km)  SSW
Civil parish Burwell
District East Cambridgeshire
Shire county Cambridgeshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Cambridge
Postcode district CB25
Dialling code 01638
Police Cambridgeshire
Fire Cambridgeshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament SE Cambridgeshire
Website Parish Council
List of places

Burwell is a large[3] fen-edge village and civil parish in Cambridgeshire, England, about 10 miles (16 km) north east of Cambridge. It is situated on the south-eastern edge of The Fens, a large area of relatively flat former marshland which lies close to sea level and covers the majority of Cambridgeshire and neighbouring Lincolnshire. The fens to the west of the village are drained with the help of the man-made Cambridgeshire Lode waterways, including Burwell Lode which has been important in the growth of the village.


  • History 1
    • Etymology 1.1
    • Early settlement 1.2
    • Early history 1.3
    • Burwell Castle 1.4
    • The Barn Fire on Cuckolds Row 1.5
  • Governance 2
  • Geography 3
    • Climate 3.1
    • Clunch quarry 3.2
    • Priory Wood 3.3
  • Population 4
  • Culture and Community 5
    • Carnival 5.1
    • Twinning 5.2
  • Transport 6
  • Education 7
    • Burwell Museum 7.1
  • Religious Sites 8
    • Church of England 8.1
    • Baptist Church 8.2
    • Trinity Church 8.3
    • Others 8.4
  • Sport 9
  • Media 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
    • Notes 12.1
    • Sources 12.2
  • External links 13



The name "Burwell" is of Anglo-Saxon origin and refers to a fort (burh-) located close to a spring (-well).[4] The first record of the name in the area dates from 1060[5] and the village is recorded in the Domesday Book under the spellings Burewelle, Burwella and Burwelle.[6] A spring is situated in the south of the village close to the remains of 12th century Burwell Castle,[4] although there is evidence of prior settlement on or near the castle site.[7]

Old maps sometimes label the village as the plural "Burwells",[8][9] which refer to either Burwell St Mary[10][11] and Burwell St Andrew[12] parishes or the split between the High Town around the churches in the south of the village and the newer North Street and Newnham parts of the village which were separated by a causeway.[4]

Early settlement

There is evidence of human activity in the vicinity of Burwell since [15] but the majority of activity in the area at the time seemed to be on the actual Fen to the west of the village, where the discovery of a large number of flint and stone tools on a raised piece of ground suggests that there was already settlement in the parish before the onset of the Bronze Age.[16] During the Neolithic, peat had begun to form on the fens around the village which has partly buried prehistoric sites.[5]

Activity on the fen continued into the Bronze Age,[17][18] as did activity close to the spring[19] but they were joined by increasing activity on the heath in the south of the parish, where barrows are known to have existed.[20] The southern part of the parish is also the highest ground within it, and is close to the ancient Icknield Way.[21]

As Burwell entered the [15] and a settlement was uncovered in 2005 on the eastern edge of the village.[23]

Settlement close to the spring continued after Roman colonisation of Britain, as evidence for a Roman settlement has been found 500 yards north of St Mary's Church.[24] Various Roman archaeology has been found around the village, including pottery,[25] a hoard of vessels and bowls,[26] a lead vat,[27] and coins possibly relating to a villa on Ness Road, north of the village.[28] Evidence for another villa in the same area comes from roof tiles dating from the 2nd century[29] although the findings around the village cover the 2nd – 4th centuries. Reach Lode on the north-west edge of the parish is likely to be of Roman construction,[30] as was the original Burwell Lode which has since been replaced[31]

Early history

The village is located at the head of Burwell Lode, a man-made waterway which connects it with the River Cam. The present course, created in the mid 17th century, replaced an older route which was probably Roman in origin.[32] The lode splits into two at the village, and each branch served a series of basins, warehouses and wharves, which were located at the bottom of long strips of land, with the merchants' houses at the other end of them.[33]

The village and the lode became more important with the opening in the 1850s of the Burwell Chemical Works, owned by T. T. Ball. By the 1890s, it had become the Patent Manure Works, was owned by Colchester and Ball, and around 10,000 tons of goods each year were shipped along the lode, using three steam tugs and a large fleet of lighters. Prentice Brothers Ltd built barges in the village until 1920, and continued repairing them there after they bought the fertiliser factory in 1921. The factory was later owned by Fisons, and boats continued to be used to move the fertiliser to Fenland farms until 1948. Commercial use of the lode ceased in 1963, when the traffic in sugarbeet stopped.[32]

Burwell Castle

The village is the site of an unfinished castle, situated in Spring Close.[nb 1] The final wall was knocked down by the Fire Brigade testing a fire hose in the 1930s, but the dry moat is still clearly visible. The castle was built during "The Anarchy", the internal conflict of the mid 12th century in the reign of King Stephen. Although a settlement had been reached such that the throne would pass to Henry II on Stephen's death, the Barons of the time took the opportunity to fight their own battles.

Among these Geoffrey de Mandeville was particularly troublesome and, after turning against Stephen, had set up an impregnable base around Ely. From his base he would attack local towns, such as Cambridge, and so the king ordered castles be built to surround Geoffrey. The few sites at which it is known such castles were to be constructed include Rampton (Giant's Hill), Ramsey (Booth's Hill) and Burwell.

At Burwell, a moat had been constructed and the stone keep partially built when Geoffrey attacked and was mortally wounded. His revolt thus collapsed and the castle was left unfinished. The narrow lane running along the side of the church next to Spring Close, where the Castle is located, is named "Mandeville".

The Barn Fire on Cuckolds Row

On 8 September 1727, a puppet show visited Burwell and put on a show, held in a barn on what is now Cuckolds Row, near the centre of the village. After the barn had filled with an audience from Burwell and surrounding villages, the doors were nailed shut to prevent further people getting in, a simple act which was key to the tragedy which resulted.

One person who could not get into the barn sat with a candle lantern and peered in to watch the show. However, the person accidentally knocked the lantern into the barn, setting fire to the hay within. With no way to escape, 78 people (51 of them, children) perished in the ensuing blaze.

The deceased are buried in the churchyard of St. Marys parish church, at the opposite end of the High Street, with a gravestone engraved with a blazing heart with angels' wings. On 8 September 2005, a plaque was unveiled at the site of the barn in memorial of the fire.[34]

The Ipswich Journal of February 26, 1774 reported that "It is reported that an old man who died recently near Newmarket who just before his death confessed that he set fire to a barn at Burwell, Cambridgeshire on the 8th of September 1727 when no less than 80 persons lost their lives and that having an antipathy to the puppet showman was the cause of him committing the action."[35]


Burwell is a parish and thus has a parish council to deal with matters within the village. These include the maintenance and provision of both village halls, the recreation ground, playgrounds, and allotments. The Parish Council convenes at the Jubilee Reading Room on The Causeway.[36]

Burwell parish falls within Burwell ward and provides three councillors[37] to the local East Cambridgeshire District Council which convenes at The Grange in Ely. A larger Burwell electoral division also provides one councillor[38] to Cambridgeshire County Council which convenes at Shire Hall in Cambridge.

Francis Pym, local MP 1961–1987

The village falls within the South East Cambridgeshire constituency, which has been a Conservative stronghold since formation in 1983. James Paice became the local MP in 1987 and held his seat at the 2010 general election. His predecessor as local MP, Francis Pym, served as Foreign Secretary between the Falklands War and the 1983 general election and lived in the village.[39]

Cambridgeshire falls entirely within the East of England constituency for European Parliament elections, which elects seven MEP's.[40]

Local government boundaries have varied somewhat over the years. At a parish level, the boundary followed Devil's Dyke through the neighbouring village of Reach bisecting it until it was formed into a new parish in 1961.[4] The other boundaries of the parish have also changed slightly several times over the years, most obviously on the south-eastern edge, where part of the Parish including part of Newmarket Racecourse[41] was lost to Newmarket when the boundary was adjusted to follow the A14 bypass in 1993.[42] The boundaries with Newmarket and Exning parishes are also the boundary between the county of Cambridgeshire and neighbouring Suffolk.

As with the rest of England, a system of Hundreds used to cover Cambridgeshire until the 19th century. Burwell covered the south-western edge of the Staploe Hundred, which also included the nearby parishes of Chippenham, Fordham, Isleham, Kennett, Landwade, Snailwell, Soham and Wicken.

East Cambridgeshire District Council only came into being in 1974 with the Newmarket Rural District which had existed since 1894. Between 1875 and 1894, this was part of a larger Newmarket Rural Sanitary District which also encompassed the Moulton Rural District in neighbouring West Suffolk.

The boundaries of Cambridgeshire itself have also changed somewhat over the years, with the current county only coming into effect in 1974, in the same 1972 Act which created East Cambridgeshire district. Before Huntingdon and Peterborough joined the county in 1974, Burwell fell within Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely which covered the southern and eastern parts of the modern county. Between 1888 and 1965, the village also fell within a smaller administrative county of Cambridgeshire, covering only the southern part of the modern county.



Climate data for Cambridge 1971–2000 average
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.0
Average low °C (°F) 1.3
Average rainfall mm (inches) 45.0
Source: Met Office

Clunch quarry

Up until the early 20th century the building material known as clunch (a soft rock which is one type of chalk limestone) was dug in Burwell. Remains of the open quarry can be seen either side of Bloomsfield. Clunch was used to build many of the houses in Burwell and remains the name of the local community magazine.

Priory Wood

Burwell has a small area of woodland. Planted in 1998 as a community project to commemorate the coming millennium, it is owned and maintained by the Woodland Trust. The official name comes from an ancient priory which stood nearby also giving its name to some of the local roads, such as Priory Close and Abbey Close.[43]


Historical population of Burwell[nb 2]
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Population 1,250 1,324 1,518 1,668 1,820 2,187 1,987 2,106 1,949 1,998 1,974
Year 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 2,144 2,108 2,257 [nb 3] 2,364 2,734 4,032 4,257 4,531 5,833 6,309

Census: 1801–2001[44] 2011[2]

Culture and Community


The village hosts an annual carnival in June which raises money for charity. A parade travels from St Margaret's Field in the south of the village to Burwell Village College (Primary)'s school field, where stalls and fairground rides are present.[45]


The village is catchment areas of both Bottisham and Soham Village Colleges, which provide education at secondary school level (11–16 yrs).


Burwell Station in 1963. Closed to passengers in 1962, goods in 1965.

Road access to Burwell is primarily through the B1102 Cambridge to Mildenhall road which runs the length of the village, and from the B1103 which links the village with Newmarket. The A14 passes along the southernmost edge of Burwell parish on the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border, but cannot be accessed without leaving the parish.

Public transport is provided by way of Stagecoach in Cambridge bus route 10 running through the village between Cambridge and Newmarket.[47] Stagecoach took over what used to be Cambus in the mid-90's, Cambus itself had only split from the Eastern Counties Omnibus Company in 1984. Eastern Counties had absorbed Burwell and District in 1979, the local bus company having provided transport to nearby Cambridge, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds as well as further afield destinations such as Great Yarmouth and Felixstowe.[48][49]

Between 1884 and 1965, Burwell had a railway station in the south of the village on the Cambridge to Mildenhall railway. The station closed to passengers in 1962, and although nothing of the station remains, its presence is still acknowledged in the names of the streets Railway Close and Station Gate on the site of the former station. There was also a halt on Newmarket Road to the south-east of the village. The B1103 still goes over a railway bridge on the site.[50]

To the north of the village, temporary tramways provided access from the nearby Ipswich to Ely Line to the local brickworks, situated near the lode.[51]

Burwell Lode is navigable up to the edge of the village at Anchor Lane. The Lode joins Reach Lode in the north-west corner of the parish before they confluence with the River Cam at Upware, 5 miles from Burwell.[52][53]


Burwell contains a nursery,[54] a Montessori[55] and a playgroup[56] for pre-school age children. The old school house on the High Street, a listed building dating from 1864,[57] is now a private residence.[58]

Children attend Burwell Village College (Primary) up until the age of 11 and then go to the secondary schools of either Soham or Bottisham.

Burwell Museum

Rural history museum depicting life through the centuries on the edge of the Cambridgeshire fens. Opened in 1992, it is housed in a collection of interesting buildings, some are reconstructed from other sites (such as the 18th century timber framed barn) and others are built in the local style using mainly reclaimed materials (such as the wagon sheds/granary display area). The neighbouring Grade II* listed windmill, Stevens' Mill, is also part of the Museum and can be visited when the Museum is open.[59]

Religious Sites

St Mary's Church, Burwell

Church of England

Burwell has a large parish church located on the High Street in the south of the village. Dedicated to St Mary the Virgin, the church is of a Perpendicular Gothic style in construction, and dates back to the 15th century, although some parts of the building are older.[60] There is a regular congregation of around 50 to 70 people attending Sunday morning services. The current vicar as is Revd Dr Eleanor Williams, who took over from Revd Stephen Earl in April 2011.

Baptist Church

As well as the parish church, at the northern end of the village, Burwell has Baptist Church. It is similar in congregation size to St Mary's, and has a membership of around 50. The church is currently in a ministerial interregnum with previous Minister Revd Kevin Burdett leaving at Easter 2013.

Trinity Church

Located near to St Mary's, Trinity is a small church founded by the merger of the Methodist and United Reformed churches in 1988. It has a regular congregation size of around 20.


The nearest Roman Catholic church is Our Lady and St Etheldreda in neighbouring Newmarket. In addition, the village has a number of former churches converted for residential or commercial use. Burwell also has a large cemetery located on Ness Road, with a small chapel located on the site.


Burwell Swifts F.C. play football in Division 1A of the NMC Cambridgeshire Football League, with a reserve team in Division 3B.

Burwell Tigers F.C. play football in Division 5A of the NMC Cambridgeshire Football League.

There are also two youth football clubs; the Burwell Swallows[61] and Burwell Tigers.[62]

Burwell Cricket Club[63] is based on Tan House Lane, with a 1st XI in the East Anglian Premier League.


The village of Burwell is served by a variety of different media sources. The community magazine Clunch[64] deals with news on a village level. The village is also within the catchment area of the Cambridge News and Newmarket Journal[65] newspapers, as well as radio stations BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Heart Cambridgeshire. For regional television, Burwell is in the BBC East and ITV Anglia regions.

See also



  1. ^ grid reference
  2. ^ Figures up to and including 1951 include the part of Reach formerly in Burwell parish
  3. ^ No census 1941 due to World War II


  1. ^ Office for National Statistics: Land use statistics. Figure for entirety of Burwell ward including surrounding farmland.
  2. ^ a b "Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics. Area: Burwell (Parish)".  
  3. ^ "Burwell". English Church Architecture. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c d British History Online: 'Burwell', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10: Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (north-eastern Cambridgeshire) (2002), pp. 334–341. URL: Date Retrieved 13 October 2010
  5. ^ a b "Cambridgeshire County Council – The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire: An Extensive Urban Survey: BURWELL, Pg 5 Summary" (PDF). Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Domesday Book". National Archives. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Cambridgeshire County Council: Extensive Urban Survey: Burwell Archived 31 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Antique Maps: Cambridgeshire, Jan Jansson, c.1646 showing Burwell as "Burwells"
  9. ^ Antique Maps: Cambridgeshire, Richard Blome, 1715 showing Burwell as "Burwells"
  10. ^ Antique Maps: Cambridgeshire, Emanuel Bowen, 1777, showing Burwell as "Burwell or Burwell St. Mary"
  11. ^ "A Vision of Britain Through Time: Burwell St Mary". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  12. ^ "A Vision of Britain Through Time: Burwell St Andrew". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  13. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Palaeolithic axe find, Burwell Castle". Heritage Gateway. 3 December 1992. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  14. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Mesolithic axe, Hightown Drove". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Cambridgeshire HER: Prehistoric and Roman remains, Reach Road, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  16. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Probable Neolithic settlement, Hallard's Fen, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  17. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Bronze Age palstave and spear, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  18. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Late Bronze Age hoard, Burwell Fen". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  19. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Bronze hoard, St Mary's churchyard, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  20. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: "The Beacons" Bronze Age barrow". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  21. ^ Cambridgeshire County Council – The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire: An Extensive Urban Survey: BURWELL Page 9: "The south-eastern corner of Burwell reaches the ancient Icknield Way." ... "Part of Burwell Heath reaches a height of over 50m in the southern corner of the parish."
  22. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Iron Age ditch systems, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  23. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Iron Age settlement remains, Newmarket Road, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  24. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Roman settlement, N of Burwell Church". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  25. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Roman finds and features, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  26. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Roman hoard, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  27. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Roman vat, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  28. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Metal detecting finds, High Ness Farm, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  29. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Possible Roman settlement site, Burwell". Heritage Gateway. 26 March 1952. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  30. ^ "Cambridgeshire HER: Reach Lode". Heritage Gateway. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  31. ^ "Cambridgeshire County Council – The Historic Towns of Cambridgeshire: An Extensive Urban Survey: BURWELL" (PDF). Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  32. ^ a b The Canals of Eastern England, (1977), John Boyes and Ronald Russell, David and Charles, ISBN 978-0-7153-7415-3
  33. ^ The River Great Ouse and tributaries, (2006), Andrew Hunter Blair, Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson, ISBN 978-0-85288-943-5
  34. ^ Ceremony to mark tragic blaze" Cambridge Evening News, 13 September 2005""". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  35. ^ "1773 Ipswich Journal newspaper archive". Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  36. ^ "Burwell Parish Council". Burwell Parish Council. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  37. ^ East Cambridgeshire District Council. "East Cambridgeshire District Council – District Councillors: Burwell Ward". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  38. ^ "Cambridgeshire County Council: 2009 Results, Division View, Burwell Ward". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  39. ^ Burke's Peerage: PYM OF HAZELLS HALL "FRANCIS LESLIE PYM, MC (1945), of The Tan House, Burwell, Cambridge..."
  40. ^ "East of England Brussels Office – East of England MEPs". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  41. ^ Stredder Family Genealogy. Map of Cambridgeshire published 1830 shows "Race courses" partly within the southern edge of Staploe Hundred, in Burwell parish.
  42. ^ British History: Staploe Hundred 4th para: "At the same time the part of Newmarket Heath at the southern end of Burwell, apparently south of the line of the Newmarket bypass, was also transferred to Suffolk, Burwell's boundary to the north-east of that area being also somewhat straightened."
  43. ^ "Woodland Trust Priory Wood Management Plan 2012-2017" (PDF).  
  44. ^ "Historic Census Population Figures" (XLS). Cambridgeshire County Council. 2010. Retrieved 9 October 2010. 
  45. ^ UK2.NET. "Burwell Carnival". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  46. ^ "British towns twinned with French towns". Archant Community Media Ltd. Retrieved 2013-07-11. 
  47. ^ "Cambridge Route 10/10A details". Stagecoach Bus. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  48. ^ "Burwell and District Bus Company". The Cambridge Time Traveller. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  49. ^ "Burwell & District Motor Service: 1922–1979". 9 June 1979. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  50. ^ """OS Map showing Burwell & Exning Road stations, the latter labelled "Halt. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  51. ^ "; The Coprolite Industry". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  52. ^ "Inland Waterways Association: River Cam". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  53. ^ UK Statute Law Database: SCHEDULE 1 TO THE ANGLIAN WATER AUTHORITY ACT 1977 PART 3: 5. (l) applies to Burwell Lode and refers to a navigation authority which is responsible for keeping the Lode navigable.
  54. ^ "Red House Day Nursery". 8 August 2008. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  55. ^ "Spring Close Montessori". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  56. ^ "Burwell Early Learners". 22 September 2010. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  57. ^ "The Old School House 30 High Street Burwell, Cambs CB25 0HB". East Cambridgeshire District Council. 
  58. ^ "10 charming converted schools for sale". Daily Telegraph. 
  59. ^ "". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  60. ^ "St Mary's Burwell: St Mary's History". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  61. ^ Burwell Swallows Football Club
  62. ^ Burwell Tigers F.C Archived 28 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  63. ^ "Burwell Cricket Club". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  64. ^ "Clunch". Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  65. ^ "Newmarket Journal". Newmarket Journal. 8 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 

External links

  • Burwell Village College (Primary)
  • Burwell Museum
  • Burwell Village Twinning Association
  • St Mary's Church website
  • Cambridgeshire Churches: St Mary's, Burwell
  • Baptist Church website
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