Godmanchester’s sign of the times

EIGHT hundred years after King John granted a charter to the town, Godmanchester has unveiled a new town sign – but it will not be officially marked until the Duke of Gloucester visits in September.

The sign, designed by architect David Stokes, is made up pictorially of the River Great Ouse, a soldier from the IXth Roman Legion Hispana, a Danish Longboat, St Mary’s Church, the iconic Chinese Bridge, the town seal and a ploughman to represent the large farming community that thrived here in the time of King James, said Alan Hooker, the town’s community association and 2012 committee treasurer.

“There are also two plaques fixed to the oak support post, which we have been told are unique among the 4,000 town signs in the country,” he told The Hunts Post. “They explain the reason for the current 800 celebrations being the granting of our charter by King John, making us freemen - there are six families remaining living in Godmanchester with a direct and continuous family line to that event - and the actual text of the charter is reproduced on the plaque for all to read.

“It goes on to describe the importance of the river Great Ouse in the town’s development, attracting the Romans, who built a fort to protect their road junction in Godmanchester that ran from London to Lincoln and York [Ermine or Earning Street] and the road from Colchester to Chester [via Devana].

“Godmanchester was also important to the Danes, who created the large water expanse on the causeway (the Mill Lade) for turning their longboats.

“There was reference to a church in the Domesday Book where St. Mary’s now stands, which is detailed on the plaque along with information on the Chinese Bridge and ploughmen of Godmanchester.”

Mr Hooker is pictured on the low trestle beside the new sign with, from left, front, churchwarden Jean Morgan and carpenter Neil Morris. Holding the large trestle steady are Town Councillor Richard Butcher and wife Patricia. On the high trestle are Stephen Spencer, chairman of the community association and 2012 committee, with Mark O’Callaghan from Heritage Conservatories, and two other former mayors, David Brown and Councillor Malcolm Cohen.