Mepal

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Mepal
Cambridgeshire
Access road to Fortrey Hall Farm - geograph.org.uk - 1189109.jpg
Road to Fortrey Hall Farm, Mepal
Location
Grid reference: TL441808
Location: 52°24’22"N, 0°7’1"E
Data
Population: 982  (2001)
Post town: Ely
Postcode: CB6 2
Dialling code: 01353
Local Government

Mepal ˈmiːpəl is a village deep in the Great Fen in Cambridgeshire. Mepal is part of the Isle of Ely and is found just north of the A142 road between Ely and Chatteris.

History

The Old Bedford River in flood

First recorded at the start of the 13th century Mepal's history has always been tied up with that of The Fens and the village is less than 39 feet above sea level at its highest. One of the smaller villages of the Isle of Ely, Mepal lies at the western end of the Isle on what was once the shore between the fenland and the higher ground of the Isle.[1]

The Old Bedford River and the New Bedford River (also known as the Hundred Foot Drain) run very close on the northwestern side of the village, and the only important bridges of the rivers are found in Mepal. The old and new rivers, originally modified by the Victorians, offer the main drainage route for the Fens and retain a major flood plain between the two river beds. The flood plain typically floods between November and March of each year.

A major fire devastated the village in the 19th century, leading to a drop in population from 510 to 397 between 1861 and 1871. There are thus very few remaining buildings dating from before the 19th century.[2]

Listed as Mepahala at the start of the 13th century, the village's name is Old English and appears to mean "Meapa's nook"[3] after an otherwise unknown farmer in a forgotten age.

RAF Mepal

Mepal retains the historical pride of being the home of 75 Squadron RAF, which was operational between 1943 and 1945. It held the enviable post of being the prior home to No. 75 'New Zealand' Squadron which was equipped with Lancasters. 75 Sqn flew the highest total operations for the whole of RAF Bomber Command, 8017 in total. Mepal is visited on an annual basis by previous members of the Squadron and their families, as part of remembrance.[4] A museum jointly dedicated to RAF Mepal and RAF Witchford is located in the nearby village of Witchford.[5]

Church

Mepal church

The parish church, dedicated to St Mary, dates from the 13th century and has been largely unaltered since. It is notable as the only church in the Isle of Ely without either tower or spire.[2]

Village life

The village of Mepal retains a pub (The Three Pickerels), a post office and a primary school. Former public houses include the Cross Keys, in which Clement Freud lived when he was Member of Parliament for the Isle of Ely in the 1970s and early 1980s.[1]

Buses connect Mepal on an two hourly basis (Monday-Saturday; there are no buses on Sundays) to Chatteris, Ely and Cambridge.

Mepal Recreation Field on Witcham Road is a Queen Elizabeth II Field.

See also

Village sign, with Cornelius Vermuyden's wooden bridge and sheep aboard a boat

Outside links

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("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Mepal)

References