Karl Brockett delves into the history of Huntingdonshire

Many interesting archaeology discoveries were made as part of the upgrade of the A14.

Many interesting archaeology discoveries were made as part of the upgrade of the A14. - Credit: National Highways

This week's column looks at how very early man roamed the area of Huntingdonshire.

It seems people did not settle for long nor in any great numbers, but there are reports and signs of early tribal hunter-gatherer.

A flint working site was discovered at St Neots and an early campsite c. 6000BC at Hemingford and possibly the remains of an Iron age farm. 

The arm of the North Sea today known as The Wash extended much farther inland during prehistoric times.  Prehistoric tracks and other archaeological finds indicate a prolonged occupation of the area ringing the Fens, which were a swampy expanse.

The first charter to refer to Huntingdon is dated 650AD, and mention is made in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles of a Huntingdon town in 656AD.

It was the Anglo-Saxons defending themselves against the Danes that brought the town into prominence. The Dane Wars (ninth and tenth centuries) caused the town to be fortified by the Anglo-Saxons as chronicled in 917AD.

Although its strategic location was not lost on the Danes who when in possession built defensive earthworks against the Saxon kings. Finally in 1010 the Danes once more ravaged the whole county. 

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Once again Huntingdon’s strategic location put it in the path of war, being situated on a main north-south route, and having access to the river put it in the thick of the Civil War.

In 1349 the Black Death wreaked havoc in the county, claiming the life of Isabel de Ulleswit, prioress at the time

Also worth noting that St Ives was originally a village called Slepe. St Ives was granted an eight-day fair by Henry I in 1110 and developed in consequence until the fair was suspended during the Black Death epidemic in 1349

Escaping the worst of the Great Plague, Huntingdon goes into the 17th Century. With Samuel Pepys the diarist telling us of his meals at the Crown, or at the Chequers, of walking along the meadows, as a man of Huntingdonshire. Samuel Pepys knew the area well, and worked for a time at Hinchingbrooke House.

In 1664, Thomas Povey writes that Oliver Cromwell’s influence was still among the people. In 1656 George Fox the Quaker visited, and was well received, but in 1658 a Quaker was in gaol for conscience sake. 1593 saw John Samuel, his wife and daughter executed for witchcraft and in 1646 eight people died after being accused of witchcraft.

Many clues to our past have been discovered as part of the upgrade of the A14. These range from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages to Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods.

An Anglo Saxon flute was discovered in Huntingdonshire.

An Anglo Saxon flute was discovered in Huntingdonshire. - Credit: NATIONAL HIGHWAYS

 A variety of nostalgia can also be found on our Huntingdonshire Nostalgia group via Facebook.