SOHAM: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1835.
[Transcribed information from A Topographical Dictionary of England - Samuel Lewis - 1835]
(unless otherwise stated)
"SOHAM, a parish and market-town in the hundred of STAPLOE, county of CAMBRIDGE, 5 miles (S. E.) from Ely, and 69 (N. N. E.) from London, containing 2856 inhabitants. This was a place of some note at a very early period. About 630, St. Felix, first Bishop of the East Angles, is said to have founded a monastery here, which he made the seat of his diocese, prior to the removal of the see to Dunwich, and where his remains were interred, they were afterwards taken up and conveyed to Romney abbey, when the cathedral church was erected by Luttingus, a Saxon nobleman. This building, as well as the bishop's palace, was destroyed by fire, and the monks, who at that time were a nourishing society, were killed by the Danish army under the command of Inguar and Ubba, in 870. Before the draining of the fens, here was a large lake, or mere, over which was anciently a dangerous passage by water to Ely, but it was subsequently rendered more safe by the construction of a causeway through the marshes, at the expense of Hervey, Bishop of Ely. The town is situated on the east bank of the river Cam, on the verge of the county; the streets are irregularly built, and the houses of mean appearance. Horticulture is carried on to a considerable extent, especially in the article of asparagus the dairies are abundant, and cheese of a most excellent quality, and very similar to that of Stilton, is made here. A market, formerly held on Thursday, has been disused for more than a century; the present market is on Saturday; fairs are held on May 9th, for horses, cattle, and pedlary; and on the Monday before Midsummer, which is a pleasure fair; another, formerly held three days before Michaelmas, has been discontinued. The living is a vicarage, with the chapel of Barraway, in the archdeaconry of Sudbury, and diocese of Norwich, rated in the king's books at £32. 16. 5., and in the patronage of the Master and Fellows of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. The church, which is de dicated to St. Andrew, is a venerable cruciform structure, with a lofty square embattled tower, visible at a great distance; in the interior are several monuments. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, and Unitarians. The free school is endowed with the profits of an estate of moor land allotted for that purpose on the division of the commons, in 1685; the master's salary is abput £50 per annum; poor children are apprenticed from the same fund. Three almshouses were founded for poor widows, in 1502, by Richard Bond; and nine others, in 1581, by Thomas Peachey, but neither has any endowment, excepting an allowance for fuel. Some few vestiges of the ancient palace and cathedral church are yet visible, and several human bones were dug up at the east end of the street, near the church, a few years ago.""BARRAWAY, a chapelry in the parish of SOHAM, hundred of STAPLOE, county of CAMBRIDGE, 2i miles (S.S.B.) from Ely. The population is returned with the parish. The chapel is dedicated to St. Nicholas."
[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2010]