The adjoining parishes of Borough Fen and Newborough share a common history dating back even beyond the original “Borough Great Fen”, the vast wetlands area common to all the parishes owned by the Abbots of Peterborough.
Bronze Age barrows indicate early settlement on the slightly higher ground to the west, and later Iron Age occupation at Peakirk Moor. During the Saxon and Medieval periods Borough Fen lay permanently underwater, a haven for wildfowl, fish and eels which provided a staple diet for its population.
Attempts to drain the fenland became a reality in the 17th century, when the Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden’s plans were set in motion. One of the earliest dykes cut was the Highland Drain, which runs parallel to the Thorney Road and forms part of the boundary between the two parishes. An Act of Parliament in 1812 forced the sale of land in Borough Fen to pay for drainage, and at the same time, allocated parcels of land in the parish to its common tenants. Further land sales were made under the Enclosure Act of 1822, with some of the proceeds funding the modern parish of Newborough in the southern part of Borough Great Fen.
The rural parishes of Newborough and Borough Fen are mostly farmland. Up to around 1900 the land was mainly pasture, with grazing for sheep and cattle, and pink feet and grayland geese were a common sight right up to the beginning of World War II. More efficient drainage systems have led the way to mixed and arable farming and today the main crops are cereals and sugar beet. However, with the decline of sugar refining in the area, Oil seed rape and more recently Linseed have taken over.
The Borough Fen Duck Decoy is one of the oldest still in use in Britain. The earliest known reference to the decoy dates from 1670 when a Mr Williams, acting for the Earl of Lincoln, was granted permission to take water by ditch from the nearby River Welland for the pond. The decoy remained in the hands of the Williams family until the death of Billy Williams in 1958.