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Huntingdon, Huntingdonshire

Historical Description

Huntingdon, a municipal borough, a market-town, the head of a union and county court district, and the county town of Huntingdonshire. It stands on the river Ouse, Ermine Street, and on three lines of railway, viz.-the G.N.R., the G.E.R., and the M.R., 59 miles N from London. The Ouse is navigable from it to the sea, and the railways give it communication with all parts of England. A six-arched bridge connects it, across the Ouse, with Godman-chester. Either it or Godmanchester occupies the site of the Roman Dnrolipons. It was known to the Saxons as Hun-tandene, and at Domesday as Huntedone, and these names are supposed to be forms or corruptions of Huntersdown. A castle was built at it in 917 by Edward the Elder, a mint was in it before the Conquest, and no fewer than fifteen. churches were anciently in it or near it. Tosti, a Danish nobleman, probably the brother of Earl Harold, was made Earl of Huntingdon. Earl Harold himself acquired that title after Tosti's death, and raised the force of the surrounding country to the aid of his father, Earl Godwin. Waltheof, the nephew-in-law of William the Conqueror, was made Earl of Huntingdon after the Conquest; and David, the brother of Queen Matilda, afterwards David I. of Scotland, also was made Earl of Huntingdon, and renovated or rebuilt the castle of Edward the Elder. The castle was forfeited by Bruce of Scotland, was given by Edward I. to the Clintons, but has-now completely disappeared. The eminence on which it stood, is still called Castle Hill, and commands a fine view. The town again gave, and continues to give, the title of Earl to. The family of Hastings. Henry of Huntingdon the chronicler, Prior Gregory a Hebrew scholar, and Oliver Cromwell the Protector, were natives.

The environs are very pleasant, and they include the Earl of Sandwich's noble mansion, Hinchingbrooke House, which belonged to the Cromwells and gave entertainment to James I. on, his first journey from Scotland. The town comprises one principal street nearly a mile long, and several streets branching right and left. The drainage was long so bad as to create much malodour, but has been corrected since 1862. The town is fairly well paved, and has an abundant supply of water from works belonging to the corporation. It received a charter from King John, and is now governed by a corporation consisting of a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who also act as the urban sanitary authority. It formerly sent, in conjunction with Godmanchester, two members to Parliament, but in 1867 the number was reduced to one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, both boroughs were merged in the county. The town formerly had a goodly number of churches, but there are now only two old churches and four parishes, known as All Saints', St John's, St Mary's, and St Benedict's. All Saints' Church stands on the N side of the market-place; is chiefly Late Perpendicular of the early part of the 16th century; was mainly renovated, partly rebuilt, in 1862; comprises nave, chancel, and aisles, with a tower; presents a picturesque appearance,. broken with buttresses, battlements, and pinnacles, and enriched with a good deal of carving and panel-work; has new-windows of stained glass, and contains some interesting old. monuments. Robert Cromwell, father of the Protector, was buried in this church in 1617. St Mary's Church occupies the site of a Black canonry founded in 973; was rebuilt in' 1608-20, and restored in 1862; and comprises nave, chancel, and aisles, with a tower. It contains some remarkable and interesting monuments, a stone pulpit, and an Early English font. It was restored in 1876. A church, which is a perpetual curacy without a parish or endowment, dedicated to-St John the Baptist, was built in 1845 at the expense of Lady Olivia B. Sparrow, and is a handsome edifice in the Norman style. The living of All Saints, with St John the Baptist, is a rectory in the diocese of Ely; net value,-£175; the living of St Mary's, with St Benedict's, is a vicarage of the net value of, £150. There is a Nonconformist church in the High Street, which was erected in 1868 at a cost of nearly £12, 000, which is used both by Baptists and Congregationalists, and there are also Roman Catholic and' Wesleyan chapels. The Black Canonry, on the ground now-occupied by St Mary's Church, was removed in the time of Henry IL, by Eustace de Lovetot, to a site without the town; became the burial-place of the Earls of Huntingdon, and' was given at the dissolution to Richard Cromwell. An Augustinian friary was founded in the town about 1285, but has disappeared. A leper's hospital, or almshouse, dedicated to St Margaret, was founded by King Malcolm, and was given to Trinity Hall, Cambridge. The Grammar School, in-connection with an hospital dedicated to StJohn, was founded in the time of Henry II. by David Earl of Huntingdon, is well endowed, was partially rebuilt in 1863 and restored in 1876, has a scholarship at St Peter's College, Cambridge, and had Oliver Cromwell for a pupil. Walden's Charity was founded in 1079 by Lionel Walden, and has an endowment. The Literary and Scientific Institution in High Street was built in 1842 at a cost of £2000; contains an octagon room' 30 feet in diameter used for the library and museum; and contains also a room 68 feet by 27, which is now used for amusement and recreation in connection with the library. The militia barracks are in St John's parish, and form a quadrangular block of brick buildings, with a spacious drill ground and sheds. The Town and County Hospital is in St Mary's parish, was built in 1853 and enlarged in 1863, and has forty-two beds, with extensive accommodation for out-patients. Eight almshouses, for widows above sixty years of age, were founded by St John's Hospital Charity. The workhouse stands within the borough, and has accommodation for 284 inmates. The town has a head post office, two banks, some good hotels, is a seat of assizes and county courts, and a place of election for the southern division of the county. There are oil and flour mills, an iron foundry, a manufactory of patented perforated bricks, two large breweries, and some very extensive nurseries. A weekly market is held on Saturday, and fairs are held on the Saturday before Michaelmas day, the Tuesday before Easter, the second Tuesday of May, and the third Saturday of Nov., but they are now falling into desuetude. There is a large racecourse, situated about a quarter of a mile from the market-place, and races which extend over two days are held in Aug. The entire area of Huntingdon is 1074 acres; population, 4346. The area of the parish of All Saints is 19 arces; population, 359; of St John, 475 acres; population, 1579; of St Mary, 569 acres; population, 1686; and of St Benedict, 11 acres; population, 722.

Huntingdon or Southern Parliamentary Division of Huntingdonshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 25, 420. The division includes the following:-Leightonstone-Alconbury, Alconbury Weston, Barham, Brampton, Brington, Bnckworth, Bythorn, Catworth (Great), Catworth (Little), Coppingford, Covington, Easton, Ellington, Gidding (Great), Gidding (Little), Gidding (Steeple), Godmanchester, Graffham, Hamerton, Hartford, Huntingdon (All Saints), Huntingdon (St Benedict), Huntingdon (St John), Huntingdon (St Mary), Keyston, Leighton, Ludding-ton, Molesworth, Old Weston, Spaldwick, Stow, Stnkelev (Great), Stukeley (Little), Thurning, Upton, Winwick, Wool-ley; Toseland-Abbotsley, Buckden, Diddington, Eynesbury, Gransden (Great), Hailweston, Kimbolton, Midloe, Offord Cluney, Offord Darcey, Papworth (St Agnes), Paxton (Great), Paxton (Little), St Neots, Southoe, Staughton (Great), Swineshead, Tetworth, Toseland, Waresley, Yelling.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHuntingdonshire 
Poor Law unionHuntingdon 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


The four churchyards in Huntingdon, closed by Order in Council in 1854, are laid out with borders and beds of flowers.

The Cemetery, in the Priory road, is tastefully laid out and beautifully planted with shrubs and flowers: there are two chapels, forming a single group of buildings, constructed of Norfolk rubble, with stone dressings, and at the north-west angle is a small bell turret with spirelet; there is also a porter's lodge and a board room.

Church Records

The register of St. Mary's dates from the year 1593 and that of St. Benedict from 1574. The register of the united parishes begins in 1692.

The register of All Saints' dates from 1558, and those of the parish of St. John the Baptist, brought here at the demolition of the church of that name, date from 1585: the celebrated entry of the baptism of Oliver Cromwell occurs in the register of St. John's under the date 1599, and there is a mention, about twenty years later, of his having done penance for some improper conduct. The name of Cromwell frequently occurs: mention is also made in the registers of the resting of the body of Mary, Queen of Scots, within the church, on its way from Peterborough Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, to which latter place it was removed by order of her son James I. In the year 1668 the parishes of All Saints and St. John were united.


Church of England

All Saints (parish church)

The church of All Saints, originally built in the Norman period, is now chiefly Late Perpendicular, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, south porch and a small embattled western tower of Perpendicular date, with pinnacles, containing a clock and 6 bells: there are several stained windows, and a pulpit of richly-carved alabaster, with an elaborate railing of metal work, and a stone base: the font is of carved stone supported on columns of jasper, Irish and foreign marbles; the stalls are of carved oak, walnut and cedar, and there is a reredos of carved oak, and a richly carved rood screen, erected in 1898: the vestry has been enlarged and ornamented with some good carving: Sir Henry Cromwell, called "the Golden Knight," ob. 1612, and his two wives were buried here, and Robert Cromwell, father of the Protector, was buried in the church, June 24, 1617: the church was restored under the direction of the late Sir G. Gilbert Scott R.A. when new oak roofs were fixed: there are sittings for about 430 persons.

St. John the Evangelist

The chapel of St. John the Evangelist, now attached to the parish church of All Saints, was built in 1846 by the late Lady Olivia Bernard Sparrow, upon the site of the old theatre, and consecrated in 1866, and is a plain edifice of white brick in the Norman style, with a western turret containing one bell: at the east end is a reredos of carved stone surmounted by an elegant rose window: the seats are arranged longitudinally: the interior has been re-decorated, a new organ erected, and the windows filled with stained glass: there are 100 sittings.

St. Mary (parish church)

St. Mary's church is said by Speed to have been the mother church of Huntingdon: it occupies the original site of the Augustinian priory, and seems to have been used first as a parochial church on the removal of the priory to the east end of the town in the reign of Stephen: in July, 1607, the tower collapsed, but in March of the following year the restoration of the church was commenced, and was finished in 1620; it is a fine structure, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave, aisles. south porch and an embattled western tower, dating chiefly from the 13th century, with crocketed pinnacles and buttresses, enriched with panelling and niches, and containing a clock and 8 bells, recast and completed by the late Mr. Matthew Edis Maile, for several years churchwarden: the tower and the south porch were restored and a new vane supplied in 1913, entirely at the expense of the Venerable Archdeacon of Huntingdon; the nave is divided from the aisles by arcades of four arches on each side, supported by round and octagonal columns, some of the piers, as well as the chancel, exhibiting portions of Early English and Decorated work: the nave and the chancel roofs and the stalls in the chancel are of oak: the stained east window, a triplet, was the gift of Archdeacon Vesey in memory of his father, brother and infant daughter; there are other stained windows, one of which, on the south side of the chancel, was erected by their children to John William, 7th Earl of Sandwich, d. 1884, and Lady Mary (Paget), his first wife, d. Feb. 20, 1859: the stone pulpit was the gift of the late Earl of Sandwich: the Early English font consists of a plain octagonal basin, resting on clustered shafts: the whole building was restored and reseated in 1876, under the direction of the late Sir A. W. Blomfield M.A., A.R.A. architect (d. 1899), at a cost, exclusive of special gifts, of over £2,000: there is a remarkable monument to the family of De Carcassonett, erected in 1749, and one erected by the officers of the 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment, later the first battalion East Surrey Regiment, to the memory of their comrades who fell in the Crimean war: the reredos was erected in 1896, as a memorial to the Rev. Miles Atkinson M.A. late vicar (1881-95): the church has sittings for 550 persons.


Wesleyan chapel, High Street

The Wesleyan chapel, in High street, erected in 1878, is an edifice of brick with stone facings, seating about 500 persons. The Wesleyan manse, erected at a cost of £600, was opened in August, 1906.


Trinity Union chapel, High Street

Trinity Union chapel, in High street, erected in 1868 at a cost of nearly £12,000, serves both for Baptists and Congregationalists, and is a large structure principally of Ketton stone, with dressings of Bath stone, in the Early Decorated style, consisting of apsidal Chancel, nave, aisles and a tower with spire, reaching a total beight of 181 feet: an organ was erected about 1885, at a cost of £1,000: there are about 850 sittings: in the basement, besides class-rooms. library &c. there is a large schoolroom.

Roman Catholic

St. Michael the Archangel

The Catholic church at New Town, dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, is a plain structure of brick, with stone facings, erected in 1901 by C. Temple Layton esq. of Brampton: there are 150 sittings: the presbytery was built in 1878.

Directories & Gazetteers

Transcript of the description for Huntingdon from Pigot & Co. Directory of Huntingdonshire, 1839

We have transcribed the entry for Huntingdon from the following:

Land and Property

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

Postal districtPE29
Post TownHuntingdon