A Brief History of Whaplode Drove

Farming and salt working went on in the Fens before the Romans came to Britain, and there was probably a settlement here at that time.  Archaeological evidence indicates that this settlement became more important in Roman times.  Finds around the village suggest that the buildings here were more permanent than at the normal Fenland site, and aerial photographs show tracks converging on the village.  It was perhaps a small market centre.

A rather crude Romano-British altar shaped like a huge dog’s bone was found in the churchyard in 1938 and is now in the church porch.  It is made of Northamptonshire stone and was probably used in the worship of pagan gods, and is another indication that this was a more substantial place than others round about.  Nobody seems to have lived here in Saxon times; at least they left no evidence behind them if they did.  This is normal for the area, and may have been because flooding made it uninhabitable.  Flooding could have been the result of drainage being neglected.

The site of the village was settled again with the reclamation of the land around from the fen.  The people of Whaplode reclaimed land to the south in stages:  first they built Hurdletree Bank/Raven’s Bank, then Jekil’s Bank.  Finally in 1241 the common bank was built.  The line of this is now marked by the B1166 road from Shepeau Stow to Holbeach Drove.  The common itself remained open until an Enclosure Award in 1819.

Croyland Abbey held land in the Postland and Aswick area and had a Grange (outlying farm) at Aswick, which probably encouraged a hamlet to grow up nearby at Whaplode Drove.

A drove is a road along which cattle are driven.  Thus Whaplode Drove was the settlement by the road which the people of Whaplode used to drive their cattle to pasture.

The building line of the older houses on Broadgate is well back from the road.  This may be a relic of the time when a good broad roadway was needed for driving cattle.

There is an early reference to a Parochial Chapel for the ‘easement of those who guard the rivers and ring the bells as a warning’, but the first dated mention of a church here is from March 1322.  At that time Croyland Abbey established a chantry (an endowment for a priest to say Mass) ‘in our chapel in le Broddedrove near Aswyk’.  ‘Broddedrove’ can only be Whaplode Drove (cf modern Broadgate).  The church must have been here some time by then.  It was build of wood with a thatched nave and tiled chancel.

The present church dedicated to St John the Baptists dates from 1821, although the chancel was enlarged and a porch added in 1907-8 when the Rev Reginald Page was Vicar.  He had also overseen the building of the Church Room in 1903.

There were three Methodist Chapels within the ecclesiastical parish at one time, but the only one still functioning is that at Dowsdale.

Another important building is the Elizabethan Centre which was opened in 1981 having been first mooted in the Coronation Year of 1952.  It hosts many community events including the very well supported pantomimes.

Whaplode Drove is a very friendly village which inspires a lot of loyalty, and hopefully it has a long and successful future ahead.

Whaplode Parish Council would like to thank the ‘Local Village Guide & Directory’, from which this article was taken, and the author Cyril Hearn, for their kind permission to reproduce the article in this website.