Cambridgeshire, England


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 N to S, is about 50 miles, its greatest breadth about 30 miles, its circumference about 138 miles, and its area 549,565 acres. The surface throughout the N is mostly low, level fenland, 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 Nene. Alluvial and dilluvial 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 Wisbech 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, though the production of the latter has been much diminished of late years. The heath-lands are depastured by short-woolled sheep, the fen pastures by long-woolled sheep, and the tracts of different kinds maintain great numbers of cattle, draught horses, pigeons, and wild fowl. The produce of the county consists for the most part of corn, cattle, sheep, butter, hay, fruit, cabbages, beans, potatoes, carrots, mangold-wurzel, cole-seed, asparagus (from Ely), osiers, and reeds for thatching.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5
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Archives and Libraries

Cambridge County Record Office
Shire Hall
Castle Hill
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 717281

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

List of Registration Districts in Cambridgeshire from 1837 to 1974.

Directories & Gazetteers

The Historical Directories web site have a number of directories relating to Cambridgeshire online for the period 1833-1915, including:
Kelly's, Pigot, Slater, Harrod.

Historical Geography

A listing of the Hundreds in Cambridgeshire, with the parishes contained in them.

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cambridgeshire is available to browse.


Old map of Cambridgeshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)

Old map of Cambridgeshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)

Parishes and places

The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.


The population of the entire county in 1871 was 186,905; in 1881, 185,594; in 1891, 185,822; in 1901, 184,759, and in 1911, 198,074.

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Cambridge, 1575 and 1619 is available on Heraldry page.