Car Dyke is a vast canal approximately 85 miles long stretching from the River Witham south of Lincoln to Waterbeach near Cambridge. There is a huge amount of uncertainty about when the canal was built, or its use, but it was present in the Roman period.
The canal follows the western edge of the fenland, hugging the 6m level, which was also thought to be the edge of the Iron Age coastline. The two main theories regarding the canal are that it was used for transportation, or for drainage. There is some suggestion that it was in place in the Iron Age, but there is little to support this theory. An alternative theory is that it marks a boundary line between large Roman Imperial estates to the west of the fen edge and Boudiccan tribes in the east. This idea would date the structure to as early as 60AD.
Car Dyke is still extant in several places in and near Peterborough. Frank Perkins Parkway follows the line of Car Dyke for several miles before it gets to Eye, where it turns sharply to the west and continues along the edge of Paston, Gunthorpe and Werrington until it reaches Peakirk. From Peakirk much of the canal is only discernible using crop marks, regaining its structure again in Lincolnshire. Much of the visible structure is scheduled, but can be walked along. Some of it exists within private property and cannot be accessed.
The journal 'Fenland Notes and Queries' was first published in April 1889 and printed in Peterborough by George Caster. The journal, published quarterly, was created to bring together facts and stories relating to the fens. The information was provided by a large group of contributors, many of them clergy, some women and some anonymous. The fenland area covered by the journal included the counties of 'Huntingdon, Cambridge, Lincoln, Northampton, Norfolk and Suffolk.' (1)
Intended to be of interest to antiquarians, the journal also proved popular with 'others interested in the history and folklore of the district.' (2) The journal, or magazine as it was termed, was compiled into volumes, the first covering the years 1889 to 1891. In total seven volumes were created, the last completed in 1909. The first issues were edited by W. H. B. Saunders, who was succeeded by Rev. W. D. Sweeting of Maxey.
Thankfully all of the volumes are available to read online and can be searched easily for places and people. There are many references to Peterborough and surrounding villages which can tell us more about life in the past. In Volume Seven the lyrics and notes are written relating to a May Day Garland Song which it was claimed was 'sung by the children when carrying the garlands round the city'. (3) The recording of songs is an often forgotten element of recording and one of the many features that makes the volumes so valuable.
(1) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, preface
(2) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol I, Ed W. H. Bernard Saunders, Publisher G. Caster, 1991, p2
(3) Fenland Notes and Queries, Vol VII Ed. Rev. W. D. Sweeting, Publisher G. Caster, 1909, p24-25
Car Dyke is a vast canal approximately 85 miles long stretching from the Ri…
The journal 'Fenland Notes and Queries' was first published in April 1889 a…