Long ago Coldham formed part of an estate within the parish of Elm. It never rose above the status of hamlet and its decline is accentuated by the loss of its railway station and chapel. The Anglican church has since been converted to a private residence. Coldham literally means a cold estate. Nothing ancient remains but the hamlet was mentioned in 1300. Inhabitants were obliged to manage the estate and ascertain that several dykes and embankments served their purpose and water controlled so as to not to overflow into neighbouring land. In pre-drainage times the land around Coldham was perpetually wet and reclaimed with great difficulty. It rightly earned the title of "Dearbrought Land." Between 1570 and 1580 the governor of Wisbech castle instructed that a few land drainage engines powered by the wind be erected. These were placed in the Elm and Coldham Fens. In 1592 a Mr. Mostart attempted to drain Coldham Fen. He perfected a drainage engine that had never been seem in the kingdom before. This particular engine, well documented in Queen Elizabeth the first's time, proved successful and was the forerunner of many more. The wind engines stood near Friday Bridge and on the bank of the River Ay or Ea (meaning water). Elm Leam is of course no more but it is shown on maps notably of Coldham of 1605, 1684 and 1735.

The Coldham watercourse was known as Crike or Creek and connected with March Creek Fen and Elm Gale Fen.

Land surrounding Elm including Coldham suffered serious flooding, with loss of human life and stock and crops ruined. As a result Elm and district became "greatly impoverished and likely to be overthrown". Attempts to improve the situation took place and the "Little Bill" of 1607 involving 6,000 acres known as "The Ring of Waldersea and Coldham" involving a drainage system of ditches forming a rough circle witnessed an improvement in the area.

The "ring" is commemorated in the Ring's End, a hamlet near Guyhirn.

Written by Trevor Bevis


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