MuseumFromHome: Drainage In The Fens

Like the Romans 1600 years before him, King Charles I believed that draining the Fens could increase the value of the land, and therefore the taxes he could expect to collect from the farmers.

Many local people, known as 'Fen Tigers' opposed the drainage of the fens which took away the common land they relied on to hunt and fish.

Draining the fens took hundreds of years to complete and is an ongoing challenge for the Environment Agency today.

In today's #MuseumFromHome post we'll learn all about how and why the fens were drained, the people that did the work and also have fun having a go at crafts and activities inspired by the drainage!

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Join us over on the Ely Museum Facebook Page to join in with the crafts this week as we make a fenland drainage dyke, hodding spade to cut the rivers and dykes and a modern digger, used to maintain the rivers and banks today!

Hodding spade templateDownload

Wind pumps were used throughout the fens to help move the water to higher ground. Originally they were powered by wind, but later pumps were powered by steam and diesel. Pumps are still used today to keep the fens dry

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You can see a real wind pump at Wicken Fen or visit a diesel pumping station at Prickwillow Museum too. THIS VIDEO, also available on Prickwillow's website, tells you more about draining the fens too.

This week, we asked our stormtrooper colleagues to help us explain fen drainage through the museums favourite medium: cake!

Download this document to learn more about our fen drainage cake and have a go at making your own!

Download the instructions here!Download

Listen to museum volunteer, Mike Rouse, read Powte's complaint aloud

Much of the digging during the drainage plans was done by Dutch and Scottish prisoners of war. Vermuyden struggles to recruit local people to help as so many people opposed his plans & challenges to the traditional fenland way of life.

Some of them wrote songs and poems to share their feelings about the drainage plans. Read one of them, 'Powte's Complaint', below or listen to museum volunteer, Mike Rouse, read it allowed above. Then help Cornelius Vermuyden write a job advert as he looks for more people to help work on his ambitious plans - you'll need to be persuasive to recruit the fenland folk!

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If you want to learn more about the fens, you can also try two of our previous #MuseumFromHome activities inspired by The Fens and by eels!