|Soham shown within Cambridgeshire|
|Area||8.2 sq mi (21 km2) |
|• Density||1,324/sq mi (511/km2)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
Soham (//) is a small town and civil parish in the English county of Cambridgeshire. It lies just off the A142 between Ely and Newmarket. Its population was 10,860 (2011 census), and it is within the district of East Cambridgeshire.
The region between Devil's Dyke and the line between Littleport and Shippea Hill shows a remarkable amount of archaeological findings of the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. A couple of hoards of bronze objects are found in the area of Soham, including one with swords and spearheads of the later Bronze Age as well as a gold torc, retrieved in 1938. An extensive ditch system, not visible on aerial photographs, has been identified, as well as a wooden track-way 800 metres in length between Fordey Farm (Barway) and Little Thetford, with associated shards of later Bronze Age pottery (1935).
Felix of Burgundy 'Apostle of the East Angles'
St Felix of Burgundy founded an abbey near Soham around 630 AD but it was destroyed by the Danes in 870 AD. Luttingus, an Anglo-Saxon nobleman built a cathedral and palace at Soham around 900 AD, on the site of the present day Church of St Andrew's and adjacent land.
St Andrew's Church dates from the 12th century. Traces of the Saxon cathedral still exist within the church. In 1102 Hubert de Burgh, Chief Justice of England, granted 'Ranulph' certain lands in trust for the Church of St Andrew's. Ranulph is recorded as the first Vicar of Soham and had a hand in designing the 'new' Norman church. The current church is mainly later, the tower being the latest addition in the 15th century. This tower was built to replace a fallen crossing tower and now contains ten bells. The back six were cast in 1788, with two new trebles and two bells being recast in 1808. There are some pictures and a description of the church at the Cambridgeshire Churches website.
Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa 'The African'
The first black British author and anti-slave activist, Olaudah Equiano, also known as Gustavus Vassa, married a local girl, Susannah Cullen, at St Andrew's Church, on 7 April 1792 and the couple lived in the town for a while.
They had two daughters. Anna Maria was born on 16 October 1793, and was baptised in St Andrew's Church on 30 January 1794. Their second child, Joanna Vassa, was born on 11 April 1795, and was baptised in St Andrew's Church on 29 April 1795.
William Case Morris
The most famous son of Soham was William Case Morris "Dr Barnardo of Argentina" who made his mark many miles away in South America. Born in Soham on 16 February 1864, he and his father left Soham in search of a new life in 1872 after the death of his mother in 1868, finally settling in Argentina in 1874. William was horrified by the terrible poverty of the street children, which led him to found several children's homes in Buenos Aires. They are credited with saving thousands of youngsters from abject poverty and a life on the streets. Morris returned to Soham shortly before his death on 15 September 1932, and was buried in the Fordham Road cemetery. He is still one of Argentina's best-loved social reformers and is highly regarded, with a statue standing in Buenos Aires as well as railway stations, football stadia and a town, William C. Morris, Buenos Aires named after him. His legacy lives on with the Biblioteca Popular William C. Morris and 'Hogar el Alba' children's homes located in Buenos Aires which still help impoverished children.
Soham rail disaster
The town narrowly escaped destruction on 2 June 1944, during the Second World War, when a fire developed on the lead wagon of a heavy ammunition train travelling slowly through the town. The town was saved by the bravery of four railway staff, Benjamin Gimbert (driver), James Nightall (fireman), Frank Bridges (signalman) and Herbert Clarke (guard), who uncoupled the rest of the train and drove the engine and lead wagon clear of the town, where it exploded, killing Jim Nightall and Frank Bridges but causing no further deaths. Ben Gimbert survived and spent seven weeks in hospital. Although small in comparison to what would have happened if the entire train had blown up, the explosion caused substantial property damage. Gimbert and Nightall were both awarded the George Cross (Nightall posthumously). A permanent memorial was unveiled on 2 June 2007 by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester followed by a service in St Andrew's Church. The memorial is constructed of Portland stone with a bronze inlay depicting interpretive artwork of the damaged train and text detailing the incident.
In August 2002, Soham became the focus of national media attention following the disappearance and murder of two 10-year-old girls, Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who both lived in Soham. They disappeared from the family home of Holly Wells in Redhouse Gardens on the evening of 4 August and were found dead some 10 miles away, near RAF Lakenheath, on 17 August.
In December 2003, Ian Huntley, who had been employed as the caretaker at Soham Village College, was convicted of their murders. He had given newspaper and television interviews while the girls were missing, claiming to have seen them on the evening of their disappearance, and was finally arrested several hours before their bodies were found, following the recovery of clothing belonging to the girls on the school site.
The house in College Close where Huntley lived and admitted at his trial the girls died, was demolished during 2004.
Schools in Soham
- Soham Village College
- St Andrew's Primary School
- The Weatheralls Primary School
- The Shade Primary School, opened summer term 2014.
The A142 road runs past Soham, which is served by an hourly bus service Monday to Friday and a reduced service on Saturday. Soham railway station was closed to passengers in 1965, although the line remains open for goods and diversions. In January 2013 Network Rail released a five-year upgrade plan, which included reopening Soham railway station.
Sport and leisure
- Research Group (2010). "Historic Census Population Figures" (XLS). Cambridgeshire County Council. Retrieved 4 June 2010.
- "Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics. Area: Soham (Parish)". ONS. 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
- Hall, David (1994). Fenland survey : an essay in landscape and persistence / David Hall and John Coles. London; English Heritage. ISBN 1-85074-477-7., p. 81-88
- Lethbridge, T.C. (1934). "Investigations of the Ancient Causeway in the Fen between Fordy and Little Thetford". Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. XXXV: 86–89.
- This church's page at the Cambridgeshire Churches website
- Hogarelalba.com.ar, accessed 18 September 2009
- Dailymail.co.uk, accessed 18 September 2009
- Village history Soham Museum
- "Region to benefit from huge railways investment" East Anglian Daily Times, 8 January 2013
- Soham On-Line (used as a reference)
- Soham Town Council
- Soham Town Forum
- St. Andrew's Church
- Soham Museum
- Soham Roots local history and genealogy for the parish of Soham.
- Soham Grammarians The history, staff and pupils of Soham Grammar School which in 1972 became part of Soham Village College
- Soham Community Archive
- Remembering Equiano - Soham at the Time of the Abolition Soham Community History Museum & Soham Action 4 Youth
- 2001 Census