Category Archives: Features
Queen Philippa of Hainault – One time owner of Soham Manor

King Edward III of England, included the whole of Soham manor, reunited as part of the royal demesne, in the dower of his queen, Philippa of Hainault.

Philippa, who retained Soham until her death in 1368, leased her manor from c. 1340 probably until the 1360s to the neighbouring priory of Ely. In 1370 the king granted a life interest in Soham to the military commander Sir Robert Knolles and his wife Constance. Read More

Richard 1st – One time owner of Soham Manor
Tomb effigy of King Richard 1st of England. This image was taken by Soham Heritage and Tourism member: Elizabeth Johnston in May 2014 at Rouen Cathedral, France.

From 1194 Richard I usually assigned the Soham manor, or its income, sometimes in two equal shares worth £19 each, to those whom he wished to favour or oblige; among them were Adam, butler of his ally Adolf, archbishop of Cologne, (1194-5, 1199-1200), William of Ste.-Mére-Eglise, later bishop of London, (1195-6), and Ilbert de Carency (1198-9). Read More

Sir Philip Basset


Sir Philip Basset – Medieval knight and more…

Sir Philip Basset was a knight of Soham in Cambridgeshire and also a Constable of Colchester, Corfe, Devizes, Haddleigh, Oxford and Sherborne Castles, who had risen to the very top of Medieval society. Basset was also a keeper of the Tower of London.

By 1233 one of his brothers, Gilbert, also conveyed land to Philip from their late elder brother Thomas’s estate. Both Basset siblings, had helped to free Hubert de Burgh from captivity in Devizes Castle in Wiltshire. In return for this service, Hubert gave him 176 acres of his demesne in Soham Cambridgeshire with lordship over its numerous tenants. In 1238-9 he was also granted lands in Soham and Fordham by Peter de Bendenges and his wife Burga. By 1245 Philip had obtained a license to build a chapel in Soham and hold services therein. Unfortunately, there are no details as to where this chapel was constructed within the town. By 1262 John de Burgh and Hawise his wife, had also leased lands in Soham to Philip too, for a term of 16 years.

Having been outlawed by the famous Earl Marshal, for freeing Hubert de Burgh, it took one year and the death of the said Earl, to be pardoned again on 8th June 1234.

When King Henry III left for France in November 1259, Philip was later made Justiciar of England on 24th April 1261. Hugh Despencer, was Bassett’s son in law and they seem to have acted in this Justiciar role concurrently. One notable event happened on 13th May 1264 however. Philip fought at Lewes with the most determined gallantry. When his son in law, Despencer, entreated him to surrender he replied, “I will not yield so long as I can stand upright.” Philip was as good as his word. He didn’t surrender, nor was he made a prisoner until his body had been covered with wounds.

After a public career of nearly 40 years, Philip Basset died on 29th October 1271 and was buried at Stanley in Wiltshire. His daughter Aline, sole heiress and widow of Hugh Despencer soon remarried, choosing Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England. During his life, Philip established a reputation for integrity unequalled in the era in which he lived.

Sir Philip also features in our up coming Soham Tourist Guide with his heiress daughter and her famous husbands…

Reverents Rust and Ram

Rev. Rust

Grave marker in Fordham Road, Cemetery, Soham for Rev Rust, his wife and daughter.

Rev. John Cyprian Rust – Vicar, Councillor, Governor, Philanthropist, Writer and Fund Raiser. Born in 1841, the son of a Baptist turned Anglican clergyman Cyprian Thomas Rust, he eventually became the vicar of St Andrew’s Church for 53 years. In 1914 he also became the Chairman of Soham Parish Council and a Governor of Barway School as well as the Church School in Clay Street. During WW1 he also formed a club to send much needed items to the men fighting at the front.

In 1879 he won the Seatonian prize for his poem Antioch. His sermon at the second World Esperanto Congress (Geneva 1906) was the first known Christian preaching in the language. In 1907 he also translated and in part edited, authored and composed the first Esperanto-language hymn publication – Ordo de Diservo.

He became chairman of the Anglican committee which in 1912, produced the standard Esperanto “Londona” version of the New Testament. Rev Rust is buried in Fordham Road Cemetery Soham, bedside his wife and infant daughter

His Esperanto Hymn

Estu nun laudata Dio, Ciam, cie,
kaj de cio,
Sur la tero, de I’ homaro,
De I’ ciela angelaro.

Dio, la vivdona fonto,
La beninto kaj benonto,
La benoto kaj benito,
Patro, Filo, kaj Spirito.

Spine of Rust’s bible donated to Soham Heritage and Tourism

Inside page of Rust’s Bible with his hand writing and date of 6th December 1917.





Dedication Plaque

Snippets which mention
Rev J C Rust

One: Another convivial occasion was the dinner in 1912 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of PCDS (the college debating society) H Barrs Davies, as President, was in the chair with the Master as the chief guest. The Vice Chair was taken by the Rev J C Rust, who had been President in 1863. There was a good gathering of ex-Presidents including several Fellows of the college. An extract that mentions Rev Rust from – The book of Adventures by S C Roberts.

Two: A special Anglican Church service, selected and translated from Prayer Book and Bible for use in England by Rev J C Rust. British Esperanto Association

Three: On Wednesday morning the parish church was filled to overflow with a large number of parishioners and inhabitants of neighbouring villages, to witness the marriage of Mr. Arthur Bland, son of Mr. A. Bland, of Larkhall Farm, Fordham, and Miss Elizabeth Mary Taylor, eldest daughter of Mr. J. Taylor, of Soham “Places”. Among the wedding guests we noticed – Mrs. J. Taylor (mother of the bride), Mrs. Bland (mother of the bridegroom); Mrs. W. Jugg, Mrs. Rust, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. G. Townsend, Miss Gifford and Miss Green, Mr. H. Taylor, Mr. R. Cockerton, Mr. Wm. Cockerton, T. B. Whiting, Esq, J.P., Mr. Gifford, Mr. A. Bland, Mr. Maconochie, Mr. W. Jugg, Mr. Wright, Mr. E. Taylor, Mr. G. Townsend, Mr. Green, and Mr. A. Cook. The bride arrived with her father soon after twelve o’clock wearing a dress of white moire and lace. She was attended by four bridesmaids, viz. Misses Florence and Constance Taylor (sisters of the bride), dressed in manoe moire, and Miss Annie Taylor, and Miss Gifford, in lemon moire. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. J. C. Rust, vicar, assisted by the Rev. J. Bell, vicar of Fordham. The Wedding March, was played by organist while the procession was leaving the church, and the bells struck up a merry peal. The numerous bridal presents included the following: –

Silver tea and dessert spoons, large and small forks, and sugar tongs, Mrs. Taylor. Japanese screen, &c., Mr. Taylor. Silver liquor stand, Mrs. Bland. Silver inkstand, Dr. Cockerton. Silver nut crackers and picks, Miss Cockerton. Salad bowl, Mr. Maconochie. Silver teapot; Mr. and Mrs. Turner. Silver tea caddy and spoon, Mr. and Mrs. Cooke. Silver Apostle spoons, Mr. A. C. Cooke. Workbag fitted, Mrs. Edis. Silver cake-basket Mrs Jugg. Silver salver, Miss F. Taylor. Silver salts and spoons, Mr. Eillis Taylor. Dessert set, Miss C. Taylor. Silver cruets, Mrs. R. Taylor. Silver toast rack and plague, Miss A. Taylor. Cheese stand and flower basket, Mr. Villis K. Taylor. Silver serviette rings, Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Granger, and Mrs. Morbey. Silver salt spoons, Mrs. N. Day. Silver tea spoons, Mr. And Miss Green. Silver sugar basin, Mr. Bye. Cheese stand, Mr. and Mrs. Enoch. Cream and sugar dessert stands, Mr. Wright. Leather work basket, Miss Rickards. China painting, Miss C. Bent. Antimacassars, Miss A. Bent. Silver cake basket, Rev. J. Bell. Silver inkstand, Mr. and Mrs. G. Townsend. Carver and steel, Mr. J. Gifford. Silver cruets, Mr. H. Westley. Dessert dish, Miss Day. Flower stand and silver fish carver, Messrs. H. W. and A. Gifford. Silver nut crackers, Mrs. Banks. Work basket fitted, Mr. Titterton. Jewel case, Mr. and Mrs. Robinson. Water jug and salts, Mrs. Hills. Flower basket, Mr. and Mrs. Edmunds.

There were also several presents, &c., from the Lark Hall labourers. The bride and bridegroom left for London via Ely at 4 p.m., and a ball was given at the Place in the evening.

Four: 1901 Apr 17 – A disastrous fire occurred at Soham vicarage. It is really in two parts, the old portion, used by the servants, being connected by a passage with the new wing in which the Rev J.C. Rust and his children were sleeping. The seat of the fire was in the old portion in a room used by the sons of the vicar as a carpenter’s shop. The cook and the housemaid were awakened by stifling smoke and clad only in their night attire, climbed on the roof. Practically the whole of the old wing was gutted, the furniture as wells as the belongings of the servants being destroyed

Five: An interesting wedding was solemnised at the Parish Church on Saturday by the vicar (The Rev. J.C. Rust), the bride being Miss Ada Hobbs, the second daughter of Mr Herbert Hobbs, of Station Road, and the bridegroom Mr Arthur Peacock, fourth son of Mr Robert Peacock, Bushel Lane. The bride, who was neatly attired in a blue costume, was given away by Mr Joe Peacock, the only bridesmaid in attendance being Miss Ida Hobbs, her sister. Following the ceremony about 20 guests were entertained to the wedding breakfast at the home of the bride’s parents, the happy couple afterwards leaving for their future residence.

You can view more information and snippets of Rev Rust on the: soham1914-2014 facebook site.


Rev. R A Ram

The Reverent Ralph Adye Ram M.A. from Mepal Rectory, was born at Ipswich on 26th January 1845. He was educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Ipswich and finally at Corpus Chrisiti College, Cambridge. In 1867 he obtained his BA, 2nd class and Tripos MA in 1870. Ram was ordained Deacon in 1869 and priest in 1870 by the Bishop of Norwich. He was the rector of Mepal from 1903 having formerly been curate of St Stephen’s , Norwich (1869 – 73), then St Peter’s, Croydon 1873 – 77. Another accolade was becoming Headmaster of Holbeach Grammer School in 1877 – 91. What has this to do with Soham I hear you cry, well he became the curate of St Andrew’s Church, Soham, under Rev Rust in 1984 until 1903.

Ram married in 1875, the daughter, Annie Davies, of the Rev. W H Johnstone, Vicar of Berden, Essex. They had three daughters.

Fen & Lodes

A Fen is the local term for an individual area of marshland or former marshland and also designates the type of marsh typical of the area.

Fenland primarily lies around the coast of the Wash, Read More

Anna and Etheldreda

Anna or Onna, was king of East Anglia from the early 640s until his death. He was a member of the Wuffingas family, the ruling dynasty of the East Angles. He was one of the three sons of Eni who ruled the kingdom of East Anglia succeeding some time after Ecgric was killed in battle by Penda of Mercia. Anna was praised by Bede for his devotion to Christianity and was renowned for the saintliness of his family: his son Jurmin and all his daughters – Seaxburh, Aethlthryth, Aethelburh and possibly a fourth, Wihtburh – were canonised. Read More

St Felix and his Soham Abbey?
St. Felix Stained Glass Window

St. Felix

St Felix – an extract from the 1884 Soham Parochial Magazine.

There is only a vague and uncertain indication of the existence of Offa, or Uffa, called the first king of East Angles. By one account, there was one Uffa who landed in 526, another who founded the kingdom in 571. We learn from Bede that from Uffa of 571, The East Anglian kings were called Uffingas, that is, sons of Uffa; but their annals have been almost wholly lost. Read More

Dissimilar Chapels

Soham’s Cemetery Chapels


One of the last outbreaks of cholera in the country took place on Soham’s East and Qua Fen Commons. This led to demands for better drainage throughout the parish and all the cemeteries were full, so it was decided to create a new cemetery for the parish. On April 14th 1855, agreement was reached to purchase three acres of high, dry gravel ground on the road from Soham to Fordham. Tenders were sent out to construct and design the new cemetery, a custodians house and a pair of dissimilar chapels. Several designs were put forward but the designs by Mr Wheeler of Greys Inn Terrace, London were eventually accepted. Read More

The de Burgh Brothers

The de Burgh Brothers


Hubert de Burgh

Hubert and Geoffrey in detail

Hubert De Burgh entered the service of Prince John by 1198, and from then until 1202 rose in importance in John’s administration. He served successively as count of Mortain, chamberlain of John’s household, an ambassador to Portugal, sheriff first of Dorset and Somerset and then of Berkshire and Cornwall, custodian of the castles of  Dover and Windsor, and then custodian of the Welsh Marches . For these services, he was granted a series of manors, baronies, and other castles, and became a powerful figure in John’s administration.

In 1202, de Burgh was sent to France by King John, to assist in the defense of Poitou against King Philip II of France. De Burgh was appointed castellan of the great castle of Chinon in Touraine. After almost all of Poitou had fallen to the French king, de Burgh held the castle for an entire year, until he was captured during the ultimately successful storming of the castle in 1205. He was held captive until 1207, during which time his royal appointments and grants of land passed to other men. Following his return to England, de Burgh did however acquire fresh offices in John’s administration. He also acquired lands scattered throughout  East Anglia, the southwest of England, and elsewhere, making him once again an important baron in England.

De Burgh remained loyal to King John during the barons’ rebellion in the last years of his reign. De Burgh and Philip d’Aubigny brought together the king’s troops at Rochester, but then John made peace with the rebels. In the Magna Carta of 1215, de Burgh is listed as one of those who advised the king to sign that charter, of which his brother Geoffrey de Burgh, Bishop of Ely, was a witness. De Burgh is also listed as the person who would act on the king’s behalf if the king were out of the country. Soon after the issuing of the Magna Carta, de Burgh was officially declared Chief Justiciar of England.


King John Magna Carta seal

When Henry III came of age in 1227 de Burgh was made Governor of Rochester Castle, lord of Montgomery Castle in the Welsh Marches and Earl of Kent. He remained one of the most influential people at court. On 27 April 1228 he was named Justiciar for life. But in 1232 the plots of his enemies finally succeeded and he was removed from office and soon was in prison. He escaped from Devizes castle and joined the rebellion.

The marriage of Hubert de Burgh’s daughter Margaret (or Megotta as she was also known) to Richard of Clare,  the young Earl of Gloucester, brought de Burgh into some trouble in 1236, for the earl was as yet a minor and in the king’s wardship, and the marriage had been celebrated without the royal licence. Hubert, however, protested that the match was not of his making, and promised to pay the king some money, so the matter passed by for the time. Eventually the marriage came to an end, by way of her death.

Soham Manor acquisition

In 1200 King John gave the whole manor to Alan, son of Henry, a Breton count, who was deprived for disloyalty in 1202. John’s chamberlain, the future justiciar Hubert de Burgh, who received the whole royal manor in 1203, kept it longer. When created earl of Kent in 1227, Hubert was formally confirmed in hereditary possession of the king’s Soham manor, to be held as one knight’s fee. Although Henry III seized Soham when he dismissed Hubert in 1232, it was restored to him when he was pardoned late in 1234. Within four months Hubert had rewarded Philip Basset, who in 1233 helped free him from captivity in Devizes castle, by giving him 176 a. of his Soham demesne with lordship over numerous tenants, who held 465 a. there. In 1242 each lord of Soham held his manor as ½ knight’s fee, Hubert in chief, Philip of Hubert. After Hubert died in 1243 and his widow and joint tenant Margaret of Scotland in 1259, his part of that Soham manor descended to his son John de Burgh, who was granted free warren there in 1260. In 1273 Edward I induced John to sell him the reversion of Soham among other estates, retaining a life interest.

De Burgh married three times:
Firstly to Beatrice de Warrenne, daughter of William de Warrenne.
Secondly in September 1217 to Isabella, Countess of Gloucester, daughter and heiress of William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester.
Thirdly to Princess Margaret, sister of King Alexander II of Scotland.

Hubert de Burgh died in 1243 in Banstead in Surrey, and was buried in the Church of the Friars Preachers (commonly called Black Friars) in Holborn, London.


de Burgh Crest

Geoffrey de Burgh

Geoffrey was the brother of Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent, and William de Burgh,  Lord of Connacht. He was born no later than 1180 or so, based on his appointment as archdeacon in 1200.

Geoffrey was cannon of Salisbury Cathedral and a treasurer of the Exchequer before being named Archdeacon of Norwich in 1200. He was elected to the see of Ely in 1215, but the election was quashed by Pope Honorius III before May 1219 due to a competing election with Robert of York. The pope quashed both elections, and ordered a new election, where the monks elected John of Fountains, who was a Cistercian and the abbot of Fountains Abbey.

Geoffrey was once more elected to Ely in June 1225. He owed his election to his brother Hubert, who was Justiciar at the time. He was consecrated Bishop of Ely on 29 June 1225 and died between 8 December and 17 December 1228. He was buried in Ely Cathedral in the north choir. Beside his brothers, he also had a nephew, Thomas Blunville, who Hubert had elected to the see of Norwich in 1226. He was buried in Ely Cathedral, to the left of the choir stalls along the side passageway. No surviving tomb or monument exists today.

Beaker People

The Beaker Period

While the Neolithic cultures were flourishing, fresh bands of continental immigrants entered Britain. These were the Beaker people, so named from their distinctive pottery. They evidently landed at various times and places on the south and east coasts, whence they spread over most of the country, penetrating, and probably dominating, the Neolithic societies. Beaker people ranged extraordinarily widely over the Continent, but those who reached Britain seem to have come mainly from northwest Europe. .

Most of our fragmentary knowledge of the Beaker people comes from their burials. Unlike the Neolithic settlers, they buried dead in individual graves, a practice which has remained ever since, in one form or another, and the prevailing burial rite in this country. Most Beaker burials are inhumations, sometimes under round barrows, accompanied by a few grave goods.

The Beaker people are further distinguished from the purely Neolithic societies because they introduced into Britain the use of metal artefacts. Knowledge of metalworking, first in copper, and later in bronze, had been spreading through Europe from its place of origin in the Near East while the British Neolithic pottery already described was in use, but metal objects have never been found with that pottery. A very few primitive metal goods have, however, come from British Beaker burials. It is generally believed that the Beaker people did not themselves make these goods but imported them from Ireland and the Continent. They are therefore often regarded as a Neolithic rather than a Bronze-Age group.

Other evidence shows that the Beaker people kept livestock and cultivated flax and cereals, growing much more barley than wheat. They were perhaps the first inhabitants of Britain to use woven fabrics. Archery played an important part in their lives. Little is known of their dwelling-places; but the wide diffusion of their pottery suggests a mobile and energetic people, and their grave goods indicate fairly extensive trading activities.

Beaker Pottery Find

The most characteristic and extensively studied item in the Beaker people’s equipment is their pottery. Beaker pottery is flat-based and usually of good quality ware, sometimes polished on the outside and almost always decorated with impressed ornament in patterns which may often have originated as copies of basketry and wooden vessels.

One such ‘beaker’ was found in Clipsal’s field in Soham and is now housed in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

bronze age beaker from soham

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