Heritage > Counties > England


The home of the famous Cambridge University which for generations has turned out some of the finest academic minds in the world.

Cambridgeshire can boast the traditional beauty of the city of Cambridge, known as cycle city due to the profusion of bicycles preferred for travelling around there, and the more modern city of Peterborough.

Since 1974 the county has included the old independent county of Huntingdonshire with the town of Huntingdon.

The natural features of Cambridgeshire are the river Cam, famed for the Cambridge student's obsession with punting and the Isle of Ely, which can boast a fabulous 11th Century Cathedral and the hiding place of the famed freedom fighter Hereward The Wake.

Covering an area of 1,300 square miles and with a population of just 650,000 the county is mainly laid over to agrarian pursuits and indeed agriculture is by far the main financially productive activity.

Facts on the region

Origin of name: Originally called Grantebridge (the bridge over the river Granta, one of the sources of the Cam). The Norman name was Cantebruge (the Cam was first called the Cante). Cam is also a Celtic word ascribed to rivers and meaning crooked or winding.

Name first recorded: 1010 as Grantabrycgscir.

Motto: Per undas, per agros ("Through waves, through fields").

County Town: CAMBRIDGE A jewel of a city: dignified and spacious with beautiful college buildings and bridges.

Main rivers: Cam, Ouse, Nene

Highest point: Great Chishill at 480 feet.

Cambridgeshire's local government: The County of Cambridgeshire comes under a two-tier administration: Cambridgeshire County Council at the top level and four District Councils called Cambridge, East Cambridgeshire, Fenland and South Cambridgeshire. Thorney has Peterborough unitary council as its service provider.

The local landscape

It is part of the Fen country, a bowl of dark alluvial soil that is rich and fertile. Indeed this prime agricultural land was once regularly flooded and the Isle of Ely rising above its marshy surroundings was often marooned in water.

Local Towns and Villages

BURWELL Once a centre for barge-building and turf-making, this large village has attractive windmills and a fine church with an interior of clunch - hard East Anglian chalk.

CHATTERIS An ancient manor house stands on the site of a Benedictine nunnery built in 980 by Alfwen the niece of King Edgar in this town with a Domesday lineage.

ELY Has a Quay area - a reminder of its 'inland port' status before the Fens were drained. The 14th-century octagonal central tower of the cathedral, which replaced a square one destroyed by fire, took only 26 years to complete - that is fast for those days! It remains a marvel of 400 tons of masonry.

GAMLINGAY Mellow redbrick almshouses date from the year of the Great Plague (1665). A 15th century church also survives.

MELBOURNE A fine tithe barn, splendid Norman church and yew-lined avenues. Hard to imagine that the touring holiday originated from here, but Thomas Cook was indeed born here in 1808.

SAWSTON Has a claim to fame of sorts by being the first billage college to open in 1930.

SOHAM Five miles from Ely across the causeway a splendid 7th-century abbey was established a few years before Ely (and not rebuilt after the Danes destroyed it).

WISBECH Prosperous fruit and flower-growing area with an ancient castle and beautiful merchange houses.

WHITTLESEY Domesday entry. Roman roads and now Peterborough's eastern dormitory town.

Places to Visit

Elton Hall, Elton, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

Anglesey Abbey, Lode, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Island Hall, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire

King's College, King's Parade, Cambridgeshire


The history of aviation is enhanced with regular events at the open air museum at Duxford.

Many events all year, in and around the Cambridge colleges. In vacations visitors can stay cheaply in college rooms.

The annual spring boat race between Cambridge and Oxford is held on the River

Famous names from the region

Hereward the Wake fought bravely at Thorney and holed up in a final stand against the invading Normans at Ely. As 'the last of the English' he made the Capital of the Fens famous.

The poet Rupert Brooke put Grantchester on the literary map with a line about the church clock and its indication of tea-time "and is there honey still for tea?" The rectory is now home to novelist Jeffrey Archer and his wife Mary.

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