Colourful history of Fenstanton includes infamous visitors
- Credit: ARCHANT
Fenstanton lies approximately two miles south of St Ives and has a population of 3242, according to the last census.
Historically, the village has been known as Stantun, Staunton and Stanton Gisbrit de Gant, and Fennystanton, but the name Fenstanton means 'fenland stone enclosure'.
The village lies on the Via Devana, the Roman road that linked the army camps at Godmanchester and Cambridge and was the site of a Roman villa, possibly designed to keep order after an attack on the forces of the IX Legion Hispana, as they retreated from an ambush at Cambridge by Boudicca's tribesmen.
The inhabitants of Fenstanton rose in support of Hereward the Wake. From his stronghold on the Isle of Ely Hereward led resistance against the Normans causing King William I to assemble a force in Cambridge to deal with the problem. Men were summoned from Huntingdon but they did not pass Fenstanton and escaped with their lives only by swimming across the river.
Fenstanton was listed in the Domesday Book in the Hundred of Toseland in Huntingdonshire; the name of the settlement was written as Stantone in the Domesday Book. In 1086 there was just one manor at Fenstanton; the annual rent paid to the lord of the manor in 1066 was 17 and this amount had fallen to £16 by 1086. The parish contained 33 households at this time, and by 1086 there was already a church and a priest at Fenstanton.
In the 18th century Lancelot "Capability" Brown, the famous landscape gardener, bought the Lordship of the Manor of Fenstanton and Hilton from the Earl of Northampton. Brown and his wife are buried in the parish churchyard and the chancel bears a memorial to them.
The village currently has two pubs, The Crown and Pipes and the Duchess, but in 1851, there were eight recorded: The Bell, the Crown, the George, the King William IV, the Rose & Crown, the Royal Oak, the White Horse, Woolpack and the Duchess.
Village Notes 1: The Church of St Peter and St Paul
The Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul dates back to the 13th Century, though there was an earlier church on the site listed in the Domesday Survey.
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The octagonal spire on the West tower dates back to the 14th Century, and the church is noted for its chancel, built by 14th-century rector William de Longthorne.
The east window, which is an impressive 17 feet wide, is unusual for a church of its size. The six bells date from the 17th and 18th centuries, the latest being hung in 1981, a gift from The Howland Society in America, descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims.
The village also has a Baptist and a United Reformed Church.
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Village Notes 2: Travellers and visitors
Fenstanton was the only village on the old Roman road from Cambridge to Godmancheste, which meant many people have stopped off and passed through over the years.
Historical records show some of the famous people include Boadicea, Queen of the Celtic tribe the Iceni, Hereward the Wake, Godson of Thayne Ulf, one time lord of the manor of Fenstanton cum Hilton.
Also, Queen Joan of Scotland lived on the site of the present Grove House and Queen Elizabeth I dined in the village at the palace of the Bishop of Ely.
Even Samuel Pepys is said to have refreshed himself in the village on his way from Peterborough to Cambridge. During Cromwell’s time, in 1644, many of his men were stationed in the village so it is more than likely that Cromwell too past through.
Fenstanton is reputed to be the ancestral home of Dick Turpin the infamous highway robber.
With thanks to John Deeks and Fenstanton Parish Council.