A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely

January 1973
31 black and white, 5 line illustrations
372 pages
30.5x20.8 cm
Victoria County History
ISBN: 9780197227176
Format: Hardback
Victoria County History

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely

Volume V

Edited by C. R. Elrington

This volume contains the histories of 25 parishes in west Cambridgeshire and eight articles on sport. The parishes form the hundreds of Longstowe and Wetherley. On the west they lie along the Old North Road, which has affected the changing shape and fortunes of some of the villages, while on the east the closeness of Cambridge has been influential through the ownership of land and livings by the colleges and, in modern times, through the spread of satellite housing. The soil is mostly a heavy clay that was not easily drained, and the existence in Wetherley hundred of five deserted village sites may attest the difficulties of cultivation. One site, however, was that of Wimpole, moved to make apark around what became the county's finest country house, once the seat of the Chicheleys and later of Edward Harley, earl of Oxford, and of the earls of Hardwicke. A few other places stand out from their neighbours, Bourn with its Norman castle-site, Caxton as a small market town and coaching centre which prospered until the decline of the Old North Road, and Rupert Brooke's Grantchester. The parishes tend to be small, with nucleated settlements. Much land remained in open fields until the eighth century, and several villages retain extensive greens. During periods of agricultural depression the inhabitants suffered acute poverty; coprolite-digging between 1855 and 1885 brought some prosperity. Modern agriculture includes large-scale arable farming, fruit-growing, and market-gardening. Light industry, cement-works, and radio-telescopes vary the rural scene. Of the sports whose history is told in the volume, racing takes pride of place since Cambridgeshire includes Newmarket Heath. The presence of the university underlay the development of rowing, football, and cricket, while the county's geographical characteristics have given peculiar importance to wildfowling and skating.

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