Fenland is a low, flat, marshy area. Much of the soil is rich, brown silt and the rest is a partially carbonized vegetable matter known as peat, which is used for fuel when dried, its depth may vary from a few inches to twenty feet. The fen covers a great part of county Cambridge in addition to adjacent counties where the land gently slopes down to meet the sea.
The known history of this area goes back many thousands of years, to the days of flint and bronze and from that time to the present there is evidence, to a greater or 1esser degree, that some draining was done.
There were three types of villages in England: 1. The Peat Fen Village. A few were built on the isles or higher more solid ground but the majority were around the borders of the Fen. 2. The Forest Village was built by the Forest People who sought the shelter of the woods. They spread their villages apart and hid their outlying farms and huts away in forest clearings, or tucked them in the forest fringe astride a stream. 3. The People of the Field have, for the most part, spaced their villages evenly – one every couple of miles or so whichever way you look. This is how the inhabitants have parceled out their heritage since Saxon times.
It was about 1600 when the fourth Earl of Bedford spent 100,000 lbs., brought a Dutch engineer, Vermuyden to superintend the work and on his advice a canal seventy feet wide and twenty-one miles long (the “New Bedford River”) was cut; and twenty years later a supplementary and parallel channel (the “New Bedford River”) was made along side it. This made the Fen like an enormous draining-board, guiding the trickles from crocks which had been placed above to drain into the sink or Wash below. As the water drained off, the peat dried and shrank and the “rivers” stood above ground level running between high, unnatural banks. As the waters slowed, the currents could no longer make headway against incoming ocean tides and the outfalls were fast closing up.
The only way to make water run uphill is to use a pump. By 1748 there were hundreds of windmills turning, lifting fen water into the rivers. These mills were supplemented later by steam. Through this drainage an area eighty miles long and ten to thirty miles broad was added to the farmland of England. (This area never touches the 50 foot mark and more often than not lies under the 30 foot mark in elevation – from that down to sea level.)
On the fringe edge of Fenland and with an elevation of 45 feet above sea level is the village of Long Stanton. It is based on the one street arrangement, typical of Fen villages – one street in the village, which in this case, is three miles long..
It was here in the village of long Stanton with its two churches, All Saints’ and St. Michael’s (the latter having a thatched roof) that we found the first mention of our Phypers’ ancestry.
On the 7th of February, 1621, Mary Phypers, widow, of Long Stanton made a will by word only. In it she mentions leaving
“my eldest son Richard Phypers, one penny; my son Henry Phypers, one flock of bees; my son William Phypers, ditto”
and in addition several grandchildren are mentioned. The will was proved 12 March 1624
The fact that Mary bequeathed only “flocks of bees to members of her family does not indicate that she was destitute and without means. A Son may “hold” land in England but no man “owns” it save it be the King. It is a country of large properties and most large properties are “settled land.” This means that by the terms of some deed or will the land is not to be sold, mortgaged or given away; the apparent owner is only a “tenant for life.” On his death the property will pass usually, to his eldest son. This keeps the land in the senior line of the family to the exclusion of females and younger sons.
The widow of a tenant is usually provided for on the property during her life-time and daughters and younger sons receive small sums of capital or portions which are charged against the estate.
As yet, we have not found the will of Mary’s husband John, so we do not know just what he had in the way of property to pass on to his family. However, his Son, William, left a will in which he mentions leaving his son John “land bought from my brother Richard” whom Mary mentions in her will as her eldest son. The leases on the land could be sold at any time to anyone and evidently Richard had more land than he wanted or could manage and as a result sold leases to certain parcels of it to his brother William.
Long Stanton, Haddenham, Cottenham, Oakington ( the latter being Hocing’s “tun” mentioned in “Beowulf”), Madingley, Histon, Cambridge, etc., were all “home” to members of the Phypers family.
Many of the male members served both church and state. We find them as church wardens, poor-law overseers, town constables, etc. The church warden is elected by his fellow parishioners. His duties consist of supervising the care of church and grounds. All records, monies, silver plate, etc., are given unto his personal care for safe keeping. The poor-law overseers were to look after the members in need and particularly to see that transient poor families were speeded on their way so that their keep would not be a burden on the parish of which they were not members. A family moving from one parish to another took with it a letter stating its destination and from whence it had come.
Here is the abstracted will of Anthony Phypers who was church warden at Long Stanton St. Michael’s from about 1688 to 1699. (The name of the child from whom we descended is underlined):
“Anthony Phypers of Long Stanton, yeoman (land holder), dated 8 May 1713. To my son Pryor Phypers 5 lbs. at 21. To my son Anthony Phypers, land etc. after the decease of my wife, Ann Phypers. To my son, John Phypers 30 lbs. at 21. To my son, William Phypers, 30 lbs. at 21. To my daughter, Mary Phypers, 30 lbs. at 21, or marriage. My wife sole executrix. Witnesses: Rartle Ellwood, Ann Easey, Thomas Edwards. Proved 1 August 1713.”
The will of Ann Phypers, widow of the above Anthony:
“Ann Phypers of Longstanton, widow, dated 7 July 1730. To my son, Anthony Phypers 5 lbs. To my son, John Phypers 5 lbs. To My son, William Phypers, 60 lbs. (which with the 30 lbs. given him by the will of his father makes 90 lbs.) Residue to my son, Prior Phypers, sole executor. Witnesses: Mary Edwards, Thomas Edwards. Proved 17 May 1740.”
90 lbs, wou1d be in pound sterling in l740 - about $500, and a fortune at that time. Evidently William put it to good use for, according to his father’s will, he did not inherit land and yet his own will (abstracted) reads:
“Abstract of the will of William Phypers of Maddingley, county Cambridge, the elder, farmer, dated May l775. In my lifetime I have provided for my daughter, Ann, wife of Richard Matthews of Histon, farmer, and I have secured to my youngest son, Chapman Phypers, the payment of 150 lbs. To my eldest son, William Phypers, I give all my goods, chattles, stock, implements of husbandry, hay, cattle, money, securities and all my personal effects, and I make my son, William Phypers, sole. Executor. Witnesses: Thomas Lombe, Meadows Taylor (clerk to Mr. Lombe). Proved by the executor 23 Dec. 1778.”
Madingley is located some three miles northeast of the town of Cambridge. It is a small village of approximately 400 inhabitants and stands at an elevation of 81 feet above sea level. At the time our William Phypers was holding land in that area, there were forests nearby from which the land had been wrested gradually over a period of several hundred years.
On the 9th of May l775, William Phypers married Eleanor Taylor at Madingley. To them were born 9 children: 6 daughters and 3 sons. Among these nine were twins, boy and girl. Shortly after the birth of their youngest daughter the family moved to Dry Drayton, a small village some five miles northwest of Cambridge.
Dry Drayton is a struggling village with a population of about 400 and an elevation of 139 feet.
“Drye Drayton, so called, not from the drynesse of the soile, but for that it standeth in the upland and champion countrie, thereby to distinguish it from the other Drayton, which taketh appellation from the Fenns.” (From an early History of Dry Drayton.)
The parish contains 2389 acres, 3 rood and 2 poles. It is chiefly arable or pasture, with very little wood. The population consists of small tradespeople, tenant farmers and agricultural laborers.
The church is a fifteenth century structure with a square tower, set among green fields. The churchyard surrounds it on all sides, but the larger portion lies to the East. The Phypers’ Burial Plot is next the Church on the East. It is here, among a number of Phypers’ headstones, we find stones marking the graves of William and Eleanor Phypers, three of their daughters and a granddaughter.
“When the chancel was re-extended to its original dimensions, some graves were enclosed within its precincts, so that the bodies of the departed rest immediately beneath the communion-table, while their headstones are outside, directly below the east window.”
So when Gabriel blows his horn he’ll find some members of the Phypers clan coming out from under the table!
There was a parish school for small children providing them with an opportunity of learning to read and write - especially those youngsters from poorer families who did not have the privilege of attending a private school,
The manor house stood in the middle of the village in what was called Drayton Park. The area. Contained several acres of rolling lawns, fruit trees, flowers and a well from which the citizenry obtained drinking water. There are at least twelve ponds in the village and no fewer than eight in the surrounding areas fringed with willow and wild hyacinth, reminding the villagers of wetter soil not too long ago.
The dwellings consisted mainly of thatched and white-washed cottages, either in batches of two or three beneath the same roof, or detached, and nearly all within five minutes walk of each other and the church. But the Vicar wryly states this nearness does not get them into their seats on time for Sunday Services.
William Phypers dated his will 26 July 1793.
“Abstract of the will of William Phypers of Dry Drayton, yeoman. To my wife Eleanor Phypers all my effects whatsoever, personal effects, stock, household goods, crops, money and bonds, and she to be sole executrix. Witnesses: William Butteris, William Fiske, Edward Mann. Proved by the executrix 7 Dec. 1793.”
The Vestry Book at Dry Drayton lists Eleanor Phypers as a substantial contributor to the parish and church funds.
There is a farm in the little village still known as Phypers Farm with a two-story home, Part of the first floor of the house has been made into the village store in recent years. It would be from this home that the second child and daughter of William and Eleanor, S arah, was married to Samuel Webb, 6 January 1801.
When Eleanor departed this life at the age of 87 years, her will distributed her property among her living children.
“Abstract of the will of Eleanor Phypers of Dry Drayton, co, Cambridge, dated 21 Dec. l835. To my daughter Sarah Webb, widow, for her life or widow-hood an annuity of 5 lbs. To Eleanor, my daughter, wife of John Wratten of Chesterton, shopkeeper, 20 lbs. To my daughter, Kitty, Male (widow of John Male) 20 lbs. in twelve months. Hawing already made my son, William Phypers, sufficient provision, I give the residue to my sons, Thomas aud Chapman, and to my daughter, Lydia, to be equally divided, and I make them executors. Proved by the executors 20 Oct. 1839.”
As stated above, Samuel Webb and Sarah Phypers were married by license at Dry Drayton in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, 6 January 1801 by John Sheepshanks, Curate. Samuel listed his occupation as “butcher” on the bond and allegation filed when he and Sarah obtained their license to marry. Parish registers show three children were born to them: Marianne, christened 31 Ju1y 1802 and buried 20 Feb. 1803, Dry Drayton; William, christened 19 August 1804 and died 1 Feb. 1892, Lehi, Utah; and Lydia., christened 18 Sept. 1808 and buried 7 June l827, Dry Drayton. We have a picture of Lydia’s grave stone in the Dry Drayton churchyard.
This briefly brings you through the Phypers line to William Webb, and although his sister, Lydia, reached maturity, he was the only child of Samuel Webb and Sarah Phypers to marry. His story will be kept until a later date. The following quotes were taken from the History of Dry Drayton by Rev, F. A. Walker:
“The weekly wages of the farm 1abourer are thirteen or fourteen shillings, with an increase at. the period of the annual harvest.”
“Memorandum. - That all afterwards are to be buried in woollen, and yt which is made of sheep’s wool only, according to the Act of Parliament made ye year for burying in yt manner, from ye first day of August, 1678, upon forfeiture of five pounds for every neg1ect.
“Thos. Fow1er, Curate,
“Wm. Fuller, Xrchwardens.*
Compiled by: Ina W. Richardson, Webb Family Genealogist – Sept. 3, 1962
882 South l4th East, Salt Lake City 5