About the Village of Elm
Elm undoubtedly one of Cambridgeshire's prettiest villages. Elm Village has a rich variety of historic buildings and picturesque gardens. Once surrounded by orchards and still scattered with attractive mature trees, the villages name surprisingly did not derive from the Elm tree itself but is recorded as 'Aelm' in the Anglo Saxon chronicle of 656AD.
Draining the Fens
Originally Elm Village and the surrounding area, (being so close to the sea) was a vast salt lagoon. Over the centuries many attempts were made to reclaim the land but these were not really effective until the Dutch engineer 'Cornelius Vermuden' was commissioned to formulate a drainage scheme in 1630. The twenty foot, Forty Foot and the Sixteen Foot Drains were cut and the tidal One Hundred Foot Drain known as the New Bedford River was begun. Thousands of acres of rich agricultural land were reclaimed. During medieval times Elm Village was partially drained by the Elm Leam which coursed from south of March, passing through Coldham and Friday Bridge towards Elm Church before linking with the River Ouse on the outskirts of Wisbech. A short length of this medieval stream still exists today in Friday Bridge and forms an attractive frontage to some new houses.
The Elm Village Church of 'All Saints' is a fine example of early Gothic design, parts of which date back to the 13th century, when flood water swept across the area, causing the walls of the church to collapse. Only the Early English tower and North doorway built on stronger foundations survived, to which was added a new church in exactly the same style in the 14th & 15th centuries. The double hammer beam roof which was raised in the 15th century is adorned with carved angles, dragons, flowers and two rowing boats at sea, surely a reminder of the villages watery past. The churchyard has some fine chest and table tombs and a row of outstanding headstones on the north side of the church. The Vicarage is said to be haunted by a monk named Ignatius who died 750 years ago. He was denied a peaceful grave for falling asleep on watch duty and failing to warn villagers of approaching flood water.
Elm is one of the largest parishes in the Fenland District covering 6,000 hectares of rich agricultural land. The parish is made up of the villages of Elm, Friday Bridge and the smaller settlements of Coldham and Ring's End which together with a number of scattered and isolated properties has a total population of about 3,500.
The Importance of Agriculture
The rich silty soil around Elm is ideal for growing fruit and market garden produce. Between the wars trainloads of fruit pickers came to Elm Village from the London area to enjoy working holidays and the local produce.
Elm Village has several houses of historic interest. The most important being Elm House which is a Grade II listed building dated 1630 with late 18th century fašade. The Sportman Public House built in the late 17th century was probably once the service wing to Black Horse Cottage adjoining. Two attractive thatched cottages can also be seen in the area close to the church.
Present Day Elm
As we enter into the next millennium it can be said that Elm is a thriving village. It has a number of small businesses and shops, a primary school, several pubs and a strong community spirit.
Content courtesy of the information board situated in the rest area opposite the Elm Village Post Office