Little Ouse & Brandon Creek


The former church of St John, Little Ouse, was closed in May 1979 and is now a private residence. For more information see

The war memorial was removed from the church upon its sale can now be found in Littleport St George. The excellent Roll of Honour website has details at Please note the J L Peacock entry which links to Southery and Wallington....

More can be found on Littleport St George at with references to the 1816 Littleport Riots, which linked to the troubles in Downham Market at the same time, and to William Harley.

In Kelly's Directory of 1883, Little Ouse was described as 6 miles north north east from Littleport station and 10½ south east from Downham Market. It was an ecclesiastical parish, formed by Order in Council in 1866 from detached and outlying portions of the parishes of Hilgay, Feltwell and Littleport and the entire parishes of Feltwell Anchor and Redmore, both formerly extraparochial. It was in the rural deanery and diocese of Ely and the peculiar archdeaconal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ely. The church of St John was in the Early English style, of flint, with stone dressings, having chancel, nave, vestry, organ chamber and tower with bells and clock, and was built at the sole expense of the late Revd Canon Edward Bowyer Sparke (1805-1879) who was Rector of Feltwell from 1831 until his death. He was the son of Bowyer Edward Sparke (1759-1836), Bishop of Chester 1809-12 and Bishop of Ely from 1812 until he died, aged 76, who amassed a considerable fortune during his lifetime. Nepotism was common in the church at the time and was, indeed, one of his stronger Sparke’s suits. So many of Bishop’s family were to be found within the ecclesiastical heirachy of the diocese that it was said to be possible to find one’s way through the Fens by the light of the Sparkes in the stubble. He presented his son-in-law Henry Fardell (1795-1854), for example, to the living of Wisbech in 1831. Fardell was briefly at Bexwell in 1823 and also held the living at Waterbeach. Pluralism was increasingly frowned upon but still widespread.

The large scale OS map covers Brandon Creek and Little Ouse at the time: Note the Anchor and Black Horse pubs but the map does not extend far enough east to include the Waterman's Arms on the opposite bank. Note also the map includes the revised Norfolk-Cambridgeshire county boundary. The Primitive Methodist chapel (built 1910?) and the Board school (erected 1889 - it was used as a refuge in the floods of 1915 and 1916) on the Anchor side of the river are not shown. The school was closed in 1952 and is now a private residence. The river is then crossed with an iron footbridge.

Feltwell Anchor Primitive Methodist chapel as a private residence today, and in the floods of 1915.

Kelly's (1883) continues.....

Little Ouse church was situated on the south bank of the Little Ouse river about 2 miles above its confluence with the Great Ouse. The register dates from the year 1868. The living was a vicarage, value about £300 yearly, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely and held since 1882 by the Revd John Frederick Taylor Morse BA of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The vicarage, adjoining the church, was a substantial building of red brick. Here were two chapels for Primitive Methodists. There was an iron footbridge over the river. On the Cold Harbour Drove there was a mission room, and the vicar held services there on Sunday evenings. The principal landowners were E Clough Newcombe, the trustees of Joseph Little, and William Luddington, James Luddington and Henry Tansley Luddington Esqs. The soil was peat and sand; subsoil, clay and gravel. The chief crops were wheat, beans, oats and roots. The area was 12,042 acres; and the population in 1881 was 921. Parish Clerk, John Rivett.

Letters through Downham cleared at 4pm. Southery & Littleport were the nearest money order offices. No collection on Sundays.

Brandon Creek post cleared at 4.45pm & on Sundays at 10am

There was a National School near the church, on the south bank of the river, opened in 1870 (see OS map for location). William Henry Emmett was master. Initially this was an iron structure of poor quality and was not improved until a new building was put up in 1927. Littleport School Board school was located in Cold Harbour Drove (Black Horse Drove) on the west side of the Ouse and Miss E Rodgers was mistress.

Feltwell Anchor and Fenfarms, formerly extraparochial, now formed a parish called Feltwell Anchor which belonged ecclesiastically to the district of St John, Little Ouse. It was situate in the Fens, on the north bank of the Little Ouse, 7 miles west of Lakenheath railway station, in the Western division of the county, Grimshoe hundred, Thetford union and county court district. Mrs. Newcombe was lady of the manor and the principal landowner. The soil was peat; subsoil, clay; the chief crops were wheat, beans and oats. The area was 102 acres; rateable value, £122; and the population was 47. Letters through Downham Market; Southery was the nearest money order office. By 1921 the population had risen to 67.

Redmere, Redmore in the Directory, formerly extra-parochial, was now a parish, but was attached ecclesiastically to the district of St. John, Little Ouse. It was 3½ miles north from Mildenhall Road railway station (at Shippea Hill) in the Western division of the county (Suffolk), the half-hundred of Clackclose and Ely union and county court district, situated on the south bank of the Little Ouse. It consisted of two farms, a public house and a few cottages. In 1871 the whole parish of Redmere was sold. William Luddington Esq bought a portion which he still owned, and J. Little Esq bought another part. He, dying in the year 1874, devised his farm to Harold Archer Esq and Miss Luddington. The principal landowners were W Luddington and Harold Archer Esqs and Miss Luddington. The area was 625 acres with a rateable value of £491. The population in 1881 was 39. Letters through Downham & Mildenhall. The nearest money order office was Lakenheath and Brandon was the nearest telegraph office.

Brandon Creek was much more of a community than it is now with its own shop as well as The Ship Inn and Methodist chapel.

c1915 in the floods.....

The building in the centre, now demolished, was the Brandon Creek stores; Jack Barrett proprietor – grandson of Elijah Barritt. George Catlin (see below) ran the shop in 1883 although he was designated only as ‘ag lab’ in the 1881 census for South Hilgay. ‘Henery’ Preston then was ‘horsebreaker’. Gillett Taylor’s shop was in Black Horse Drove.

Southery's Primitive Methodist chapel was at Brandon Creek, opened in 1875

Revd John Frederick Taylor Morse BA [vicar of St John’s]

Elijah Barritt, wheelwright (see below), Brandon Creek, South Hilgay; George Catlin, shopkeeper, Brandon Creek; Henry Tansley Luddington, farmer; James Little Luddington, farmer (see earlier notes on Wallington Hall); Joseph Little Luddington, farmer; John Luddington Peacock, farmer, South Hilgay; William Crabb Peacock, farmer, South Hilgay; Henry Pope, engine driver to Burnt Fen commissioners; John Porter, wheelwright, Brandon Creek; Henry Preston, The Ship, Brandon Creek; William Sallis, farmer; George Smith, farmer, Feltwell; Robert Starling, Feltwell; Gillett Taylor, shopkeeper

Elijah Barritt (1843 -1904)

Elijah Barritt lived at Rose Cottage on what is now the old road at Brandon Creek – his initials remain on the end walls of the building as tie-ends. He expanded his wheelwrights business in later years to become a general builder. The Primitive Methodist Chapel at Black Horse Drove (1897) was one of his larger projects (the OS map link, above, only extends far enough west to show the location of the Wesleyan chapel in Black Horse Drove which was built in 1843). The Barritt family history was thoroughly researched by Ron Barrett, now deceased, but there is a Barritt/Barrett Society which used to meet regularly in his honour and is an excellent source of family history information, much of which is published on the internet at . This instances the burying of a horse's head doused in beer, an old pagan ritual, at the start of work on the chapel. Essentially, Elijah was one of eleven children born to Robert Terrington Barritt and his wife Sophia (nee Attlesey) who lived on Feltwell Fen. Many of them married into other local families. Elijah and his brother William, for example, married two Porter sisters. Another brother, John, was born in the stables (now demolished) at The Ship Inn on 21 January 1853. The heavily pregnant Sophia was rowed there in the serious floods of that month but there was no room at the Inn. Does this sound familiar? Sophia lived into her eighties and died in 1902. Her small headstone is clearly visible by the path leading to the north east gate at St Mary’s in Southery. Her husband died in 1877 and was buried at St John’s, Little Ouse. The Barritts have connections worldwide. Elijah’s sister Sophia was buried in Vancouver and Elijah’s son of the same name died in Burnaby BC in 1955, aged 72 (see map below). There are relatives in Australia, too. ‘Barritts’ became ‘Barretts’ by family decree at some point but the different spellings are often interchangeable. W H Barrett (1891-1974), author of ‘Tales from the Fens’, was Elijah Barritt’s nephew.

In his will of 1904, Elijah bequeathed to his son Frederick William, 3 acres of freehold land at Ragmore, Southery; to Ezekiel, Fern Cottage and garden, Southery; to Job, a leasehold cottage in Hilgay plus £100; to Abel, Rose Cottage with wheelwright’s shop, cottage and garden in Southery; to Hezekiah, two leasehold cottages with bakehouse and grocer’s shop at Brandon Creek plus £40; to David, Wellfair Cottage and garden in Southery; to Joshua, freehold cottage and five acres of land at Ragmore Drove, Black Bank, Southery; and to Jane, Waunch Cottage and garden, Southery. He made provision for his wife Jane by ensuring his children paid her an annuity and she to live at Bridge Cottage rent free for life. Jane died in Southery in1920, aged 78, and was buried alongside her husband at St Mary’s.

Rose Cottage, Brandon Creek, built 1884

Elijah Barritt's grandfather, Samuel, lived on Feltwell Fen as the map from Ron Barrett's website locates. The map also serves to locate the extent of 'South Hilgay'. Its remoteness from the parish church in Hilgay village often led to marriages in Southery - with the rector's permission, of course. Phineus Fletcher makes a particular point of this. The shaded area to the south of the Little Ouse river was transferred to Cambridgeshire in 1885.

Of the eleven children of Robert and Sophia, Elijah was the third oldest. The third youngest was John, born in the stables at the Ship in 1853. He went to London in search of work and married Maria Watts Gooding

Elijah's brothers John and Thomas - the family likeness is strong. John and Maria were married in St Luke's Church, Victoria Docks in 1879 and brought up their family of five in Canning Town. Maria was born in Harwich and died in January 1939, aged 88, eleven months before her husband. They would have been married for sixty years in the July.

An incidental link of interest is the birth of William Harley in Littleport in Victoria Street, Littleport in 1835. He appears to have emigrated to the USA around 1860 with his wife Susan (nee Scotting) who sadly died young, perhaps in childbirth. William remarried and a son, William Sylvester, was born in Milwaulkee in 1880. William Jnr went on to create the Harley Davidson empire from very humble beginnings if the first factory is anything to go by.

William Sylvester Harley The first Harley Davidson factory (1903)

Continuing Kelly's Directory 1883, we find:

James Feetham, Farmer & The Anchor

John Hollox, Beer retailer at the Black Horse

William Rayner Gillett, Farmer, Redmere

James Mott, Beer retailer at The Waterman’s Arms

The Waterman’s Arms, Redmere from the north west

The Waterman’s Arms (a derelict brick, wood and corrugated iron structure in 2008) must have depended on passing river trade as well as that generated by the few cottages in the parish of Redmere, or South Hilgay as it was formerly. It lies on the south side of the Little Ouse about three kilometres east of the village of the same name. It is reachable by a narrow lane that hugs the river bank and peters out into an unmetalled track for the last few hundred metres. There is only access from Shippea Hill along the river bank. Closure was around 1956.

In the years 1861-1911 the population of Feltwell Anchor ranged between 47 and 70 while that of Redmere rose as high as 44 in 1891, in nine inhabited house.

Details of the licensed premises in Little Ouse include:

The Black Horse. A beerhouse, closed in 1919, it stood about a kilometre further upstream from the Anchor on the same side of the Little Ouse River. A comparable location to the Dog & Duck on the Hundred Foot Bank in its remoteness so it must never have generated much trade. John Hollox was landlord in the censuses of 1871-1891.

The Ship at Brandon Creek (Covered by under Southery)

William Richard Creek (‘Creek’ and ‘Crick’ are often interchangeable in the records) was landlord in 1845 and before – shown in the baptismal register for 1836 as ‘smith and publican’ - followed by William Thornhill until the mid 1860s. William was born in Billinghay, Lincolnshire, in 1802 and his wife Mary came from Worksop – very much strangers for the time in Southery. The William Porter in the 1871 census was William Galloway Porter who emigrated to America shortly afterwards and settled in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he was buried in 1902. His wife Esther (nee Godbolt) was from Feltwell and was also buried there in 1910. William Preston, landlord from 1879-1883 was also a horsebreaker and later took on the Spread Eagle at Barton Bendish. Tom Blanchflower was landlord 1965-1973. The Ship dates from 1645 apparently. Legend has it that, shortly after its construction, the landlord and his wife were murdered by three Irish prisoners of war working on the New Bedford Level who were subsequently hanged. Whether Mark Twain stayed at the Ship in the early years of the 1900s is open to speculation. Photographs on display in the bar show the Ship in past years and also show the smithy that formerly occupied the west end of the building. Tom Blanchflower was landlord 1965-78, later a record breaking cyclist of some standing. Contrary to local rumour he did not turn away Cliff Richard - the kitchen was closed but cold food was provided. Thanks to David Meacock, who lives locally, for additional information (see below).

The Ship was a favoured haunt of William 'Chafer' Legge (1838-1909), renowned storyteller made famous by WH Barratt and others, and grandfather of Ally Legge whose life is highlighted in the Southery section. Chafer lived in Common Lane, Southery, and was a carpenter and wheelwright by trade. He was also an excellent skater in his youth. His brother Levi was a horse slaughterer. Please see Judith Legge's excellent portrait at

Did he stay or did he not? Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain (1835-1910) pictured c1900. Sadly, there appears to be no supporting evidence that he did stay at the Ship. A Barratt special fen tale perhaps but from where did he get the idea? Nevertheless, one mustn't let the truth stand in the way of a good story! Should there be any further information available, local Brandon Creek resident David Meacock would be delighted to know. He knows more than anyone about the Twain saga and can be contacted through the author.

The Ship Inn with the Little Ouse River in spate. Note that the stables on the south side were demolished some time after 1928.

Present day map of Michigan, showing Kalamazoo in the south west.....

The headstone for William Galloway Porter and his wife Esther (nee Shadbolt, in Harrison Cemetery, Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Their daughter Mary (1874-1930) married Arthur Crooks and is buried in Kalamazoo County's Riverside Cemetery

The Anchor

Closed in 1968 the Anchor was long in the hands of the Feetham family and relatives from the mid 1840s until around 1907. Initially William Feetham, then his son James and his wife Caroline (nee Boughen), then Daniel Barnes, married to Elizabeth, sister of Caroline. Nothing like keeping it in the family! William also farmed 126 acres in 1851 and 1861.

The Black Horse. A beerhouse, closed in 1919, it stood about a kilometre further upstream from the Anchor on the same side of the Little Ouse River. A comparable location to the Dog & Duck on the Hundred Foot Bank in its remoteness so it must never have generated much trade. John Hollox was landlord in the censuses of 1871-1891.