[Transcribed and edited information mainly from Kelly's Directory of Cambridgeshire 1929]
"PRICKWILLOW is a hamlet and ecclesiastical parish, formed April 5, 1878, from Holy Trinity and St. Mary parishes, Ely, Littleport, Cambridgeshire, and Lakenheath and Mildenhall, Suffolk, and part of Norfolk, 4 miles north-east from Ely station on the Cambridge, Ely and Norwich section of the London and North Eastern railway and 4 south-east from Littleport, in the petty sessional division, union, county court district and rurl deanery of Ely, archdeaconry of Wisbech and diocese of Ely. This hamlet is on the river Lark, which rises at Bury St. Edmunds and here joins the river Ouse; the Lark is spanned within the parish by two bridges.
Owing to exhaustive draining, the soil in this district sinks nearly two inches yearly; the schools and vicarage and houses are built on piles. Two steam pumping engines and two oil engines are in the village and two in Burnt Fen; the average discharge is 150 tons per minute into the river Lark. There are several small landowners. The soil is fen; subsoil, clay. The land, which is all fen, is chiefly arable. The population in 1921 was 1,303 which extends into Suffolk."
A succession of pumping engines have been sited at Prickwillow; the Side Lever Steam Engine in 1831 was followed by the Beam Steam Engine in the 1880's (both of which are lost). This was replaced by the magnificent 1929 Mirrlees, Bickerton and Day Diesel, which was used until the 1970's when its work was taken over by modern diesel and electric pumps. This impressive machine is now the centrepiece of the Museum and can be seen working on special run days.
The Census Records for Ely Holy Trinity, of which Prickwillow is part, from 1841-1891, can be found in the Cambridgeshire Archives. In addition the 1851 Census for Ely Holy Trinity is available in full transcript form, on microfiche, from the Cambridgeshire Family History Society Publications list
"The church of St. Peter, built about 1868 on a foundation of wooden piles, is a cruciform edifice of brick and flint in the Early English style, consisting of apsidal chancel, nave with transepts, south porch and a central turret with short spire containing one bell, dated 1691, formerly in Ely cathedral; the stained east window is a memorial; the font of Italian marble, also brought from Ely cathedral, and said to have been designed by Sir Christopher Wren, is dated 1693; there are 350 sittings. There being no churchyard here interments take place at Ely. The registers of births and marriages date from 1873. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £325, with residence, in the gift of the vicar of Holy Trinity, Ely, and held since 1921 by the Rev. John King Cecil Payne A.K.C. There is a Baptist chapel, erected in 1875, and one for Primitive Methodists, erected in 1894. St. Peter's Hall, an old building, formerly a Wesleyan chapel, is now used for meetings of a religious and social character." [Kelly's Directory - Cambridgeshire - 1929]
Prickwillow Primitive Methodist Church
The church was built in 1894 and contains two foundation stones dedicated to the Edwards family. One stone was laid by Rev. A.W.Edwards and Mr. A.G.Edwards (Arthur and Albert George Edwards), and the other stone was laid by Mr. S.E Edwards of Manea on 18th September 1894. The church is currently being used as a residential building.
Prickwillow sits on the rodham of the Cam-Ouse which originally ran eastwards from Ely, meandering to Prickwillow before swerving west to Littleport. St, Peter's Church, which dates from 1868, was built on piles and due to the high water table, burials take place at Ely. The vicarage was built with two steps up to the front door but the sinking of the peat resulted in the building of many more. Plantation Farm and Peacocks Farm, to the east of the village off the A1101, were scenes of archeological digs in the 1930's that established the remains of Roman and three earlier levels of prehistoric human habitation.
The area near the new road bridge over the River Lark is pretty and well kept and close to the main points of interest in the village - the church, Prickwillow Pottery and the drainage engine museum. The museum was set up in 1982 to save the large diesel engine dating from 1922. The building originally housed a steam pumping engine and now, apart from the large Mirrlees diesel, contains other diesels, dating from 1919, recovered from local pumping stations and restored by volunteers. The Mirrlees is demonstrated on several days throughout the year. The Cambridgeshire Fens - BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
"This was once a tiny settlement beside the River Ouse, but when the course of this river was changed in 1829, Prickwillow was expanded over the silt banks of the old course. A school was built in 1862, and a church in1866, both on piles. It is six miles to Isleham across the fen and two windmills once drained it along with Soham Mere, but once the river was redirected towards Littleport a steam pumping engine was installed at the head of the drain in 1831. A second station was built beside it in 1880 and its steam pump was replaced by diesel in 1924." FEN and MARSHLAND VILLAGES - Anthony Day Published by S.B. Publications ISBN : 1 85770 041 4
BURNT FEN , 4½ miles distant, is a hamlet with a station, called Shippes Hill, on the Ely and Thetford section of the London and North Eastern railway. St James's Mission church, built in 1891, at a cost of £420, is an iron structure, consisting of chancel, nave and aisles, and affording 250 sittings.