Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for CAMBRIDGESHIRE

CAMBRIDGESHIRE, an inland county; bounded, on the NW, by Northampton; on the N by Lincoln; on the E, by Norfolk and Suffolk: on the S, by Essex and Herts; and on the W, by Beds and Huntingdon. Its greatest length, from north to south is about 50 miles; its greatest breadth, about 30 miles; its circumference, about 138 miles; and its area, 523,861 acres. The surface throughout the N, is mostly low, level, fen land, intersected by canals and ditches, and even elsewhere consists mainly of low flat tracts, diversified only by hillocks, Orwell-hill about 300 feet high, and the bleak bare range of the Gogmagog hills. The chief rivers are the Ouse, the Cam, the Lark, and the Nen. Alluvial and diluvial deposits form the fen-tracts throughout the N; chalk rocks form the tracts throughout the S; and middle oolite, lower greensand, and upper greensand rocks form small tracts along the Cam. Clunch appears about Burwell, and is the material of Ely cathedral; blue clay or gault abounds about Ely, and is used there for white bricks and earthenware; and Portland oolite appears in parts farther N.

The soil is very diversified, and generally fertile. That of much of the fens is a very rich vegetable mould; that of the fens about Wisbeach is a good loam; that of other parts of the fens is a strong black earth, incumbent on gravel; that of the chalk tracts is variously clay, loam, chalk, and gravel; and that of the highest and poorest parts of these tracts is so thin and incohesive as to be unsuitable for tillage. About one-third of the entire area is fenny; and the rest is variously arable, meadow, and pasture. The farms, for the most part, are small. The fens, in their several parts and different conditions, yield variously turf-fuel, hay, green crops, hemp, flax, and rich crops of corn. Other arable tracts yield excellent wheat, beans, turnips, and sainfoin. Dairy lands, about the centre, are famous for butter; and about Cottenham and Soham, for cream cheese. The heathlands are depastured by short wooled sheep; the fenpastures, by long wooled sheep; and the tracts of different kinds maintain great numbers of cattle, draught horses, pigeons, and wild fowl. Much produce, of various kinds, is sent to London. The only manufactures, of any note, are white bricks, coarse pottery, baskets, and reedmatting. Numerous canals intersect the fen-tracts, all cut originally for the purpose of drainage, but a number of them serving also for navigation; and a canal, called the London and Cambridge Junction, connects the Cam with the Stort, and through that with the Lea and the Thames. Railways, belonging to the Eastern Counties, the East Anglian, and the Great Northern systems, intersect all parts of the county. One comes in near Linton, and goes north-north-eastward, past Brinkley and Newmarket, toward Bury-St. Edmund; another deflecting from the former at Great Chesterford on the north border of Essex, goes northward to Cambridge, and thence north-north-eastward, past Ely, toward Lynn; another comes in at Royston, and goes north-north-eastward to Cambridge; another comes in from Bedford, and goes north-eastward to Cambridge; another goes from Cambridge, eastward, to the first at Brinkley; another goes from Cambridge, north-westward, toward St. Ives and Huntingdon; another, connecting with the last at St. Ives, goes east-north-eastward, past Ely, toward Brandon; another, also connecting at St. Ives, and going north-north-eastward, passes March, and proceeds to Wisbeach; and another goes from Ely north-westward to March, and thence westward toward Peterborough.

The county contains 152 parishes, part of another parish, and 3 extra-parochial tracts, besides the parishes and extra-parochial colleges of Cambridge. It is divided into the hundreds of Armingford, Chesterton, Cheveley, Chilford, Flendish, Longstow, Northstow, Papworth, Radfield, Staine, Staploe, Triplow, Wetherley, Whitlesford, Ely, Wisbeach, North Witchford, and South Witchford, the liberty of Whittlesey and Thorney, and the boroughs of Cambridge and Wisbeach. The northern section of it forms the Isle of Ely: and contains the hundreds of Ely, Wisbeach, and Witchford, the liberty of Whittlesey and Thorney, and the borough of Wisbeach. The registration county is more extensive than the electoral county; includes 114,735 acres from adjoining counties; excludes 17,590 acres; contains 571,758 acres; and is divided into the districts of Caxton, Chesterton, Cambridge, Linton, Newmarket, Ely, North Witchford, Whittlesey, and Wisbeach. The market towns are Cambridge, Ely, Linton, March, Thorney, Wisbeach, and parts of Newmarket and Royston; and the towns next in note are Caxton, Chesterton, Whittlesey, and Soham. The chief seats are Cheveley Park, Wimpole Hall, Bourne House, Waresley Park, Madingley Park, Gogmagog Hill, Abington Hall, Wratting Park, Branches Park, Croxton Park, Chippenham Park, Babraham, Papworth, Fordham Abbey, Hadley Park, Fulbourne House, Horseheath Lodge, Stetchworth House, Shudy-Camps Park, Sawston Hall, Milton, and Swaffham. Real property in 1815, £705,372; in 1843, £1,102,415; in 1851, £1,138,314; in 1860, £1,234,465.

The county is governed by a lord-lieutenant, a deputy, a high sheriff, and about 48 magistrates. It is in the Home military district, and in the Norfolk judicial circuit. The assizes are held at Cambridge; and quarter sessions at Cambridge, Ely, and Wisbeach. The police force, in 186, comprised 11 men in the borough of Wisbeach, 52 in the rest of the Isle of Ely, 34 in the borough of Cambridge, and 70 in the rest of the county; the crimes committed were 14 in the borough of Wisbeach, 49 in the rest of the Isle of Ely, 41 in the borough of Cambridge, and 56 in the rest of the county; the known depredators and suspected persons at large were 137 in the borough of Wisbeach, 499 in the rest of the Isle of Ely, 303 in the borough of Cambridge, and 305 in the rest of the county; and the houses of bad character were 51 in the borough of Wisbeach, 56 in the rest of the Isle of Ely, 54 in the borough of Cambridge, and 26 in the rest of the county. The prisons are houses of correction in Wisbeach and Ely, and borough jail and county jail at Cambridge. Two members of parliament are returned by the borough of Cambridge, two by the university, and three by the county. The county electors in 1868 were 7,060. The county is in the diocese of Ely, and constitutes the archdeaconry of Ely, and the deanery of Fordham in the archdeaconry of Sudbury. The poor-rates, for the registration county in 1863, were £119,899. Marriages in 1866, 1,228,-of which 222 were not according to the rites of the Established church; births, 6,067, -of which 460 were illegitimate; deaths, 3,582,-of which 1,260 were at ages under 5 years, and 126 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 13,398; births, 62,065; deaths, 38,447. The places of worship, in 1851, in the county proper, were 176 of the Church of England, with 52,917 sittings; 38 of Independents, with 12,195 s.; 72 of Baptists, with 17,897 s.; 3 of Quakers, with 440 s.; 2 of Unitarians, with 330 s.; 57 of Wesleyan Methodists, with 11,764 s.; 39 of Primitive Methodists, with 5,105 s.; 5 of Wesleyan Reformers, with 1,430 s.; 1 of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, with 550 s.; 5 of isolated congregations, with 1,298 s.; 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 2 70 s.; 3 of Roman Catholics, with 350 s.; and 1 of Jews. The schools were 188 public day schools, with 16,559 scholars; 398 private day schools, with 7,770 s.; 280 Sunday schools, with 24,006 s.; and 11 evening schools for adults, with 156 s. Pop. in 1801, 89,346; in 1821, 122,387; in 1841, 164,459; in 1861, 176,016. Inhabited houses, 37,634; uninhabited, 1,888; building, 74.

The territory now forming Cambridgeshire belonged first to the Iberians, and afterwards to the Iceni. It became part of the Roman province of Flavia Cæsariensis: and subsequently was included mainly in East Anglia, and partly in Mercia. The Danes overran it in 870; held it in subjection during 50 years; were driven from it in 921, by Edward the Elder; and again overran it in 1010. The Isle of Ely was a separate jurisdiction, under the name of South Girwa; and the rest of the county took the name of Grentebrigescire or Grantbridgeshire. The Isle of Ely made resistance to William the Conqueror; and held out against him till 1074. The county in the general, and Isle of Ely in particular, suffered severely during the civil wars in the times of Stephen, John, and Henry III.; and they stood strongly for the parliament in the wars of Charles I.-Icknield-street went along the southern border, past Royston and Hixton, toward Newmarket. Ermine-street went across the south-west, north-north-westward, from Royston, toward Godmanchester. The Via Devana went across the south centre, north-westward from the vicinity of Linton, past Cambridge toward Godmanchester. The Devil's Ditch goes across the south-east, a little west of Burwell. Traces of British earthworks occur at the Devil's Ditch and at Fleam Dyke. Roman coins, urns, and other remains, have been found at Cambridge, Ely, March, Soham, Chatteris, Wilney, the Gogmagog hills, and other places. Remains of Abbeys and priories occur at Thorney, Denny, Cambridge, Isleham, and Barham. Saxon or Norman bits of architecture occur in Ely cathedral and in Duxford, Stuntney, Ickleton, and other churches. Nine castles of note stood at different places; but all, except the gateway of one at Cambridge, have disappeared.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an inland county"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Cambridgeshire AncC
Place: Cambridgeshire

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