This parish lies between Manea, Mepal, Witcham,
and Coveney, and is the only one of the various extraparochial areas in the Isle that survived as a civil parish
after 1933. (fn. 1) Its name is derived from Edward Welsh,
an employee of the Adventurers, who built a dam
across the Bedford River. (fn. 2) It has little history, though
Fortrey's Hall, the seat of the family of that name, lies
just within its borders. The hall is a 17th-century
building roofed with old tiles of local origin. The
Fortreys were refugees from Brabant in the 16th century, and became co-adventurers with the Earl of Bedford in the drainage of the Fens. The romantic career
of Sir James Fortrey, who died in 1719, is recorded on
a wall monument in Mepal church. (fn. 3) The area now
comprised in Welches Dam civil parish was formerly
common to the surrounding villages, and was much
affected by Vermuyden's drainage schemes, the Old
and New Bedford Rivers cutting right across it. In
1666 an award was made in a suit between the Dean
and Chapter of Ely, as lords of the manor of Witcham,
and the inhabitants of Coveney, Manea, Chatteris,
Wentworth, Witchford, Downham, and Ely regarding
1,900 acres in Byall Fen. The dean and chapter received thereunder 150 acres between the Downham
and Coveney portions of the Fen, 8 acres known as
Pennyes Pingle on the north side of the Old Bedford
River near Fortrey Hall, 41 acres in Widden Fen near
Witcham Hithe, 17 acres in Old Fen near Wentworth
Drove Way, 7 acres in Hale Fen between Coveney
Causeway and the Adventurers' Grounds, 10 acres in
Byall Fen Wash between the Bedford Rivers, 11 acres
in Dam Head, and certain small pieces of waste ground
totalling 14 acres. The value of this 258-acre allotment
was £17 11s. 2d. (fn. 4)
The Anglican mission church of St. Eanswyth dates
from 1909 and is served from Manea, where is the
nearest school. (fn. 5)
A Wesleyan chapel was built in 1822. In 1851 a
Sunday school had just been started. (fn. 6) The chapel was
closed during the First World War. (fn. 7)
Welches Dam acquired an unhappy notoriety in
1849, when 11 fatal cases of cholera occurred in a
parish that had had only 187 inhabitants at the time of
the last census. Most of the fatalities were amongst the
81 occupiers of a group of 16 cottages huddled against
the Old Bedford River bank and hence very damp. (fn. 8)
||Isle of Ely Review Order, 1933 (M.
of H. no. 76940).
P.N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 242.
||R. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 503,
giving the text of the inscription.
||D. & C. Mun., Ely, Cupbd. A.
||Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1933).
||Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1916, 1922).
Camb. Chron. 5 Oct. 1850.