Looking back at the history of the Great North Road and Huntingdon Market Square

Huntingdon town centre. 

Huntingdon town centre. - Credit: CAMBS ARCHVES

The Great North Road - much of which is now the A1 - was apparently the longest road in the UK at 660 kilometres or 410 miles long.

It connected London to Edinburgh and passed through many important boroughs and counties before the new construction of the A1 by-passed many of our villages and towns.

The A1 was designated by the Ministry of Transport in 1921, although the old Great North Road dates back to Roman times. 

The Great North Road was used by travellers and those trying to make a living and it provided many stopping points along the way. Its close proximity to Huntingdonshire meant this area had a huge number of pubs and coaching inns for weary travellers.

Also worth noting is Norman Cross, at Yaxley, marks the site of the place of confinement of several thousand French soldiers during the Napoleonic wars.

Highwayman Dick Turpin, is said to have travelled on horse back from London to York on the old Great North Road and is believed to have stopped off at a Huntingdonshire couching inn.

Huntingdonshire was chartered in 1205 by King John and Huntingdon is also the birth place of Oliver Cromwell who was born in 1599.

Find out more about the infancy of flying on Portholme Meadow 

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Huntingdon Town Hall, now on the Market Square, was a municipal structure on Market Hill and a Grade Two Listed building

The first building on the Market Square was a 17th Century court house. The markets at that time were held within the assembly room.

Although I believe it was demolished to make way for the current building we see nowadays, which was  although it had been enlarged in 1817. I believe the main staircase was used from the earlier court house.

Also on the Market Square is the statue of the Thinking Soldier, sculpted by Kathleen Scott and this was unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Huntingdonshire, the Earl of Sandwich on November 11, 1923.

Karl Brockett, chairman of the Huntingdonshire Community Nostalgia Group.

Karl Brockett, chairman of the Huntingdonshire Community Nostalgia Group. - Credit: KARL BROCKETT

Hopefully, I have sparked some interest in this column for everyone to enjoy or maybe some people are keen to further investigate our community history and nostalgia.

There are plenty of photos of on our Huntingdonshire Community Nostalgia social media page. We are a voluntary community nostalgia organisation. You are welcome to take an look and add photos or see our archived photos and stories.