Elm is one of the prettiest villages in Cambridgeshire, very un-Fenlike and similar to picturesque villages of Suffolk and Essex. Set in the flat fens it is well endowed with fine trees and old building. The name, anciently Eolum and Elum is not thought to derive from the elm tree, but refers to a large area of marsh in Anglo-Saxon times long before the village came into being in the early 13th century. The village is not mentioned in the Domesday Book. The 13th century is abundantly evidenced in the architectural style of All Saints' Church. The Early English tower exemplifies this style particularly well. Inside there are about a dozen carved angels occupying hammer-beams in the roof, the remnants of a once glorious assembly of the angel host which was deliberately mutilated during the years of Reformation in the mid 16th century. It is probable that local zealots performed this wanton act, the official iconoclasts not venturing into the Fens for fear of contacting the ague.
At one time Elm had a river known as the Elm Leam which commenced a winding route through the marsh from Creek near March. It ran through Friday Bridge towards Elm where a bridge spanned it opposite the church. Until a few years ago part of the Leam existed alongside the road but it was transformed into landscaped ponds between the two villages. In 1350 mention was made of 'the great bridge near the church'. A medieval surveyor ordered that the Leam be not less than ten feet in depth. It played an important role in the drainage of the land and road between Friday Bridge and Elm.
Centuries ago Elm was about a mile distant from the Wash and boats played a major role in the inhabitants' livelihood. The church roof shows carved boats. There are also carved dragons and a pelican with its young. The village nestles attractively around the church and green. Wisbech famous for its Georgian Brink is about 2 miles away. Seventeenth century and Regency houses enhance the environs of Elm and an increasing number of modern residences have been built recently. This reflects the popularity of Elm among incoming residents.
Written by Trevor Bevis