Grunty Fen is brought to life in a talk by a historian

Grunty Fen

Grunty Fen - Credit: Archant

The history of the people of Grunty Fen will be brought to life in a talk by a Cambridgeshire researcher, lecturer and historian.

Mike Petty is unravelling stories of the land in a talk on the low-lying basin which was one of the last areas of Fenland to be drained in the 1860s and was followed by inclosure in 1860.

It was a wasteland common to seven parishes and used for pasture - anybody could turn one to 1,000 sheep out there to pasture.

Once enclosed each parish was granted land for allotments. It was an expensive process but landowners benefited when in 1864 a railway line was built from Ely to Stretham, Wilburton, Haddenham and Sutton, later extended as far as St Ives.

In 1858 a barrister fought for allotments in Grunty Fen for the poor.

In 1879 four acres was used as a cricket field at a yearly rent of £6, while in 1931 passenger services ended on Grunty Fen line.

In 1940 Grunty Fen allotments were ploughed for the war effort.

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Mr Petty said documents from 1908 show people would tie mud-boards on their feet and go out and gather basketfuls of eggs from coots, terns, moorhens and others.

Grunty Fen was a resting place for gypsies who set up their camps on the lower slopes before the dampness became too prevalent, he said.

Find out more in the talk on Friday November 6 at Ely Methodist Church from 10.30 to noon.