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Cambridge Borough

The borough was granted a coat of arms in 1575. The earliest surviving common day book of the borough covers the period 1564-77.

Much credit for rescuing the borough archives from centuries of neglect can be attributed to the town clerk 1849-66, C.H. Cooper (1808-1866), who used them extensively for his Annals of Cambridge (4 vols., 1842-52.).

In 1928-29, two local historians, W.M. Palmer and E.A. Barnard  were invited to list and report on them. Their bare list is in the confused order in which they found them and the descriptions are uneven in accuracy and detail, but despite these defects it remains useful.

The Municipal Borough of Cambridge was created in 1835. Its governing body was to be a Council comprising 10 Aldermen and 30 Councillors who elected annually from their number a mayor. The Borough was divided up in to five wards.

The Borough was accorded city status in 1951 and the current Cambridge City Council was created in 1974 following local government re-organisation. 

Records at Cambridgeshire Archives

The royal charters under which the unreformed borough was governed survive from 1207 and are still held by the City Council at the Guildhall.

The proceedings of the corporation that ran the town (called common day books) survive from 1544 onward, with a gap 1582-1610. Other principal records of the medieval and early modern borough include the Cross Book, into which important records were copied from the 14th century onwards, becoming a register of the admission of freemen who controlled the corporation, a record continued separately from 1758 onward. The Borough Treasurers' accounts exist for 1422-37, 1483-1505, 1757-1835 (other accounts are in the Bowtell Collection at Downing College). Other financial records - vouchers, taxation assessments, papers about fee farm rents, tolls and rents survive from the late fifteenth century and in greater quantity from the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including plague accounts from 1647.

Records relating to the corporation's property constitute the largest quantity of records relating to before 1836. These include deeds, agreements, terriers and plans, etc., from the early thirteenth century onward and a continuous series of lease books 1558-1842.

Other records relate to the corporation's legal proceedings over trade, to Stourbridge Fair, the mills and river, and with the university, elections of representatives to parliament (poll books), and dealing with the poor, vagrant and criminal. The minutes of proceedings of the full council (called Council and Assembly Books) have been deposited up to 1948. There are separate minute books of the several committees of the council from the mid-nineteenth century, in some cases up to 1950 (later volumes being retained at the Guildhall). There are also series of agenda and reports for 1850 and 1897-1946.

The records of the 1835 municipal borough and absorbed authorities are currently being catalogued as part of the Cambridge City Project which has been generously funded by the Cambridgeshire Family History Society. You can view the catalogue online.

The Cambridgeshire Regiment

The Cambridgeshire Regiment's continuous history, much of it as a volunteer organisation, began in 1860 with the formation of several Rifle Volunteer Corps that met throughout the County.

These were consolidated in 1880 into the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Rifle Volunteer Corps and in 1887 the Battalion became the 3rd (Cambridgeshire) Volunteer Battalion Suffolk Regiment.

Until 1908, volunteers attended training at their own expense. Notably, the Cambridge University Press fielded its own Company. Officers were usually drawn from local families, but since 1887 the Suffolk Regiment provided the Battalion's permanent staff and officers.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the Regiment was expanded and utilised in Europe continuously from 1915-1919. 77 Officers and 789 other ranks were killed during the conflict.

Between the wars the Regiment reverted to a single Battalion, and remained as such until the outbreak of war in 1939 when a second battalion, and several Home Guard Companies were formed. The 1st and 2nd Battalions both participated in the defence of Singapore until the general surrender of the British forces on 15 February 1942.

Upon re-formation of the Territorial Army in 1947, the regiment remained part of the Territorial Army until it was finally disbanded in 1967. From 1971 to the present day, a Cambridgeshire Company exists as part of the 6th (Volunteer) Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Records

Cambridgeshire Archives holds an extensive, but rather miscellaneous collection relating to the activities of the Cambridgeshire Regiment including order books, correspondence, service records, publications, press cuttings and photographs. There is a strong emphasis on the activities of the Regiment during the First and Second World Wars.

The research notes of the former Regimental Archivist, Major Hutt, include  personal papers and reminiscences of former Cambridgeshire Regiment soldiers. Much of this focuses on the defence of Singapore and subsequent captivity, for which very little in the way of official information has otherwise survived.

Some records have been incorporated into the online CALM catalogue.

The 'Military Sources in Cambridgeshire' guide is available for consultation in the Search room. The earlier history of the Regiment is well covered by Riddell and Clayton's 'The Cambridgeshires 1914-1918' (Bowes, 1934) whereas W. Taylor's 'With The Cambridgeshires at Singapore' (Bevis, 1971) and J.S Cosford's 'Line of Lost Lives' (Gryphon, 1989) both focus on the Regiment during the Second World War. The Territorial Association's 'We Also Served' (Heffers, 1944) provides a comprehensive assessment of the Home Guard's role in Cambridgeshire.

Census records

An official census has been taken every ten years since 1801 (with the single exception of 1941), although individuals' names have only been generally recorded since 1841.

The impetus behind the 19th century census appears to have been a central government need to discover statistical information about overcrowding and public health. Census returns are closed to public inspection for one hundred years, so the most recent census available in full is the 1901 one. The 1911 census has been released by genealogy websites www.findmypast.co.uk and www.ancestry.co.uk

The original census returns are at The National Archives in London.

We hold microform copies of the Huntingdonshire returns for 1841 to 1901, and for many neighbouring areas too, notably the Soke of Peterborough.

The whole of the Huntingdonshire census for 1841, 1851 and 1891 have been transcribed and indexed by members of the Huntingdonshire Family History Society.

The Record Office has some pre-1841 census lists for places in Huntingdonshire, including Alwalton 1811, Bluntisham 1821, and Kimbolton 1821 and 1831.

Cambridgeshire Archives holds microform of the Cambridgeshire returns for 1841-1901 and some neighbouring out-county parishes.

The whole of the Cambridgeshire census for 1841-1871 has been transcribed and indexed by Cambridgeshire Family History Society.

There are pre-1841 local census lists naming all inhabitants for Gt. Abington, 1686 and Hinxton, 1802.

Lists of householders only exist for various parishes including:

  • Balsham, 1811
  • Cambridge St. Benedict, 1749, 1815, 1821
  • Cambridge St. Edward, 1801, 1811, 1821
  • Cambridge St. Mary the Great, 1801, 1811
  • Downham, 1821
  • Ely, St . Mary, 1801
  • Gamlingay, 1798
  • Hildersham, 1810
  • Landbeach, 1781
  • Melbourn, 1831
  • Trumpington, 1786, 1811

The census is understandably a popular source for family and community history, and there is much literature available on it. The McLaughlin Guide The Censuses 1841-1891 is a concise introduction.

If you have more time on your hands you could read Edward Higgs 'Making Sense of the Census' (HMSO 1989) or the relevant chapters in Muriel Nissel 'People Count' (HMSO 1987).

Copies of these books (and many others with sections on the census) are available for reference in our searchroom libraries.

The Archives Service's own publication, 'Genealogical Sources in Cambridgeshire' (1992 plus recent updates), can tell you precisely which census returns are available for specific towns and villages.

Charities

Records at Huntingdonshire Archives

Many local village charities were administered by the parish church, and any surviving records may be found by consulting the relevant parish records catalogue in the searchroom.

Records of charities which have survived into more recent times may be found amongst modern parish council records. In towns charities tended to be adminstered by the borough corporation or the local board.

Notable collections of charity records held here include:

  • Buckden Parochial Charities
  • Catworth Town Lands Charity Henson Foundation (Glatton and Holme)
  • Huntingdon Municipal Charities
  • Huntingdonshire Clergy Charity
  • Somersham Feoffees Charity

Charity Commission

Records at Huntingdonshire Archives 

Before 1853 there had been a number of ad hoc royal commissions to investigate charities; the famous Charity Commission Report on Huntingdonshire charities was produced by one of these, in 1839. In 1853 the Commission was put onto a permanent footing and was given powers to appoint or remove charity trustees, and to vary a charity's purpose by amending its 'scheme'. The Commission still exists today: its records are public records as defined by the 1958 Public Records Act. Documents still held by the Commission may be consulted at its headquarters in Ryder Street, St James's, London SW1 6AH. 

Huntingdonshire Archives has copies of the Charity Commission Report for Huntingdonshire (1839) and for part of Northamptonshire (including Peterborough) (1830), as part of its library. They are available in the searchroom.

The Charitable Trusts Acts of 1853 and 1855 required every charity to submit annual accounts to the Charity Commission, who have since distributed these to county record offices. The Record Office therefore holds annual statements of accounts for charities in nearly every Huntingdonshire parish for 1900-1948 (acc. 3290). Annual statements of the Thomas Day charity in Tilbrook for 1923-24 were received separately (acc. 3332).

Church Commissioners

The Commissioners are a Church of England body, created in 1948 following the merger of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (responsible for the administration of the landed possessions of the Church of England) and Queen Anne's Bounty (established to augment the income of poor livings).

Estate records carefully collected by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have since been distributed to local record offices by the Church Commissioners.

Records deposited by the Church Commissioners include some tithe maps (accs. 1604-1611, since absorbed into the Map Collection), plans of parsonage houses 1849-1858 (acc. 1822) and some inclosure records (acc. 2878).

We also hold some records of Huntingdonshire estates deposited by the Commissioners' land agents (accs. 2866 and 3106.) 

Church of England

This is the branch of Christianity that is established by law in England, and is also known as the Anglican Church. Although Protestant in theology it considers itself part of the wider Catholic Church, the 16th century Reformation being interpreted as merely a break with Rome.

As the embodiment of the officially approved state religion, the Church of England has over the course of its history been responsible for many aspects of society now normally considered part of the role of secular civil government: at times these responsibilities have included the proving of wills, the relief of the poor and the elderly, the collection of rates, the upkeep of roads, the official recognition of marriages, and many more.

These functions created a wide variety of records which today offer a rich insight into the lives and beliefs of our ancestors.

The Church of England is 'episcopalian' in government, in that it governs itself by means of bishops. The area under the spiritual jurisdiction of a bishop is called a 'diocese.' 

Cambridgeshire Archives

The diocese of Ely was founded in 1109 covering the Isle of Ely and Cambridgeshire but excluding the parishes of Fordham, Ashley-cum Silverley, Burwell, Cheveley, Chippenham, Wood Ditton, Fordham, Snailwell, Soham and Wicken which belonged to the diocese of Norwich.

In 1837 the diocese was enlarged by the addition of the archdeaconry of Bedford, the county of Huntingdon, the archdeaconry of Sudbury and the Liberty of Bury St. Edmunds. West Suffolk and Bedfordshire were removed from the diocese in 1913 and two 'marshland deaneries' of North-West Norfolk added in 1914.

Cambridgeshire Archives holds parish records for the diocese of Ely and probate records of the Consistory and Archdeaconry courts of Ely but the Ely Diocesan Records including bishops' registers, visitation records, marriage licences and ordination papers together with records of the Dean and Chapter of Ely are deposited in Cambridge University Library, West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DR.

Huntingdonshire Archives

No bishops' records are held at Huntingdonshire Archives. Before 1837 Huntingdonshire was in the Diocese of Lincoln, the records of which are now at Lincolnshire Archives Office; after 1837 the area has been in the Diocese of Ely, the records of which are held at Cambridge University Library.

Huntingdonshire Archives is appointed under the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978 as the repository for records of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon, its deaneries and its parishes. In addition, we also have records of the parishes of Toseland and Yelling (Archdeaconry of Ely).

Civil Defence

During the Second World War County Councils had certain air raid and invasion preparation responsibilties. Surviving records of Huntingdonshire County Council's Civil Defence Department include maps of Luftwaffe bombfalls in the county, log books of the St Neots and Huntingdon incident report centres, spotters guides to German bombs and V-weapons, and Invasion Commitee files.

You can view the catalogue online.

Conington Collection

This is a large collection of deeds, manorial records, family and estate papers centered on the records of the Heathcote family of Conington Castle from 1752. The 19th century Heathcotes spent all their lives on their estate, 'bestowing on it all the personal care and outlay which a love of country life and a sense of duty would prompt. Without yielding to fads and whims, all that modern science and practice in agriculture sanctioned has been respected and made use of here' (Reminiscences of Albert Pell, 1908).

The collection also includes records of the Cotton family estates 1490-1760, the Mower/Moyer estates in Essex 1400-1651, and the manorial records of Conington, Leighton Bromswold, Upton, Great Stukeley and Little Stukeley manors. The records have been listed in great detail with CON reference numbers, and an index is available.

A online catalogue for this collection is available.

Coroners

Before 1889 coroners were appointed for boroughs, liberties and for one or more divisions of counties. From 1889 coroners have been County Council appointments, although they are Crown officials ('coroner' indeed comes from a corona, 'of the Crown').

There were five coroners' districts in Huntingdonshire (Hurstingstone, Leightonstone, Norman Cross, Toseland and the Liberty of Ramsey) but in practice a single individual sometimes fulfilled some or all of these posts. A single coroner for the whole county was formally appointed in 1952.

Access to Coroners records created within the last 75 years is restricted by the Public Records Act of 1958 and by subsequent relevant legislation. Anyone wishing to consult a particular record must contact the Archives Service beforehand, in writing.

The archives staff will not produce such records without the written consent of the  district coroner. Records older than 75 years, however, are open to public inspection. For details of more recent inquests you may be best advised to look at any surviving newspaper accounts of the proceedings.

The most concise introduction to coroners' records is the Gibson Guide 'Coroners' Records in England and Wales' (FFHS 1988), which includes a helpful glossary of terms encountered in the records. Alfred Fellows The Law of Burial (London 1940) reprints some of the Coroners acts.

Huntingdonshire records before 1952

Huntingdonshire Archives holds records of:

  • The Liberty of Ramsey 1875-1912 (acc. 2513)
  • Norman Cross District 1914-1937 (acc. 1906)

Records concerning the appointments of coroners can be found in (1) the records of Norman Cross District mentioned above, and (2) in the archives of the Clerk of the Peace. Please consult catalogue number 11: 'Quarter Sessions' for more details.

Correspondence of Major S G Cooke, Coroner and County Education Officer 1938-1941, is also available (acc. 268).

Some very early documents of the old Godmanchester borough coroner can be found in the borough records collection. Please consult catalogue number 15: 'Godmanchester Borough' Records for more details.

Similarly, some 17th century coroners' inquests can be found in the records of the Assize court. See catalogue number 11: 'Quarter Sessions', appendix 1, for more details.

Huntingdonshire records after 1952

Records of Huntingdon District Coroner are held here, but all records relating to deaths are closed under the 75 year rule.

All Peterborough District Coroner records are currently held at the Northamptonshire Record Office.

Cambridgeshire records

  • Cambridge Borough/City: includes inquisition books 1826-33, 1836-69,1959-69 inquisitions, 1836-72, 1885, 1940, 1945-89, inquests about fires 1850-58, register of deaths reported to the coroner, 1958-1999, post-mortem reports 1945-6, 1948-83
  • County of Cambridge (excluding Cambridge): includes inquisitions, 1922, 1925-39 [C/Co/P1-16] Coroner's daily record, 1894-1950 [C/Co/R1-6] register of deaths reported to the coroner, 1965-1982
  • Isle of Ely, Northern Division: includes notes of inquests 1914-1922, depositions, 1933-44, deposition books, 1926-44, inquisitions, 1939-68, 1971-87
  • Isle of Ely Southern Division: includes minutes of inquisitions 1782-1844, [ESCo/R1-6], depositions etc. 1782-1845 [ES/Co/P1-310]
  • Cambridgeshire Southern Division: includes sudden death reports, post-mortem reports and inquest papers, 1966-1989 [C92/401A], 1990-1991 [C95/1090-91]

Records of the Southern Division of the Isle of Ely and later records of the County of Cambridgeshire were destroyed following water damage in the 1950s.

County courts

County courts were created by an act of 1846 and soon proved to be very popular, as they sat often and could hear small civil cases (such as bankruptcy, debt, workers' compensation, divorce and so on) without going to the expense of electing juries.

Philip Riden discusses the courts briefly in 'Record Sources for Local History' (Batsford 1987). The courts' records are Public Records as defined by the Public Records Act of 1958 and are therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act and other relevant legislation.

Huntingdonshire Archives holds records of:

  • Huntingdon County Court 1847-1988 (CT1)
  • Peterborough County Court 1847-1954 (CT3)
  • St Neots County Court 1867-1930 (CT2)

Cambridgeshire Archives holds records of:

  • March County Court: minutes 1847-1948 (incomplete series) default minutes 1939-51.
  • Wisbech County Court: minutes 1851-1941 (incomplete series), default minutes 1930-34, 1939. [R88/102]

    Please note that we do not hold papers relating to divorce proceedings.

    Any enquiries regarding these should be directed to Cambridge County Court in the first instance.

Courts of Common Pleas

These were minor courts which heard lesser civil actions, such as debt recovery. Most of these courts disappeared after the 1873 reorganisation of the judicial system, but two courts (Huntingdon and Ramsey) appear to have kept going for at least a few more years.

The records of Ramsey court do not survive: they were last seen in the 1950s being pushed in a wheelbarrow down Ramsey High Street. The only surviving records of Huntingdon court are the minutes for 1752-1782 and the draft minutes for 1774-1775. 

These records are part of the Huntingdon Borough Archives, reference HB15-17. 

Cromwell collection

Oliver Cromwell was born in Huntingdon in 1599, and was baptised in the parish church of St John on 25 April. Between 1610 and 1616 he attended the Free School on Huntingdon Market Square (now the Cromwell Museum).

In 1630 he was appointed one of the Borough's Justices of the Peace, but he left the town following his unsuccessful opposition to the grant of a new town charter, and is reputed to have moved to St Ives, which he left in 1636.

Huntingdonshire Archives has a number of original documents relating to Cromwell's family, his baptism, and his time in Huntingdon and St Ives. 

Huntingdonshire Archives also has a number of printed books and articles relating to Oliver Cromwell, available in the searchroom. The Cromwell Museum (01480 375830) also contains some original documents relating to Cromwell and his family. You can search our online catalogue.

The Cromwell Collection at Huntingdon Library

The Cromwell Collection in Huntingdon was created in 2002 with the help of a grant from the Wolfson British History Programme.

The existing library collection was augmented with a substantial amount of new material and amalgamated with the library of the Cromwell Association. The resulting collection, together with the resources of the Cromwell Museum and Huntingdonshire Archives, provides one of the most comprehensive collections of material on Oliver Cromwell and his times outside academic circles.

The Collection is freely available to all regardless of their educational status. It is hoped that the material will be used by students of all ages who are studying this fascinating period of British history.

The catalogue of the Collection includes details of selected original documents as well as books from the library and museum collections and the Cromwell Association library. Oliver Cromwell is one of the most written about characters in history.

The Collection includes biographies of Cromwell by 50 different authors, as well as a wealth of material on the English Civil War in general. The Collection is designed to cater for all ages.

The Cromwell Museum sets out neither to celebrate or denigrate Oliver Cromwell's achievements but to interpret where possible his significance. The Museum is situated on Grammar School Walk in Huntingdon.

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