The Society of Friends was founded by George Fox during the mid-17th century. The name 'Quaker' was first applied to Fox and his group by a JP in Derby in 1650, when Fox, who was on trial, ordered the court to 'tremble at the word of the Lord'.
Fox visited Huntingdon in 1656 and successfully converted the Mayor's wife. She was just the first of thousands of converts, as the Quaker movement proved to be very popular in Huntingdonshire (always a county which enjoyed nonconformity anyway).
Quakers reject the concept of priesthood, so their meetings tend to lack the rituals found in other churches, and their buildings are plain.
Quakers kept detailed records of the births, marriages and deaths of members of their congregations, which they carefully copied out when ordered to surrender them to the government in 1837. For the Huntingdonshire area, these copies (known as Quaker Digests) are now held at Cambridgeshire Archives. We have a transcript of the births 1631-1837; transcripts of the marriages and deaths are underway.
The original registers (the ones surrendered to the government) are now held at the Public Record Office in Kew: we have microfilm copies of them here at Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire Archives.
The Courts of Quarter Sessions were the meetings of two or more Justices of the Peace to hear and determine criminal cases, to remit capital offences (or other serious felonies) to the next Assize Court, and to administer local government.
JPs met at least four times each year (hence 'quarter' sessions). Their work was increasingly overshadowed by administrative responsibilities which, in 1889, were transferred to the newly created County Councils.
Quarter Sessions courts were abolished on 1 January 1972 under the 1971 Courts Act, and their jurisdiction transferred to Crown Courts.
- Sidney and Beatrice Webb's English Local Government Vol 1: The Parish and the County (1906) is a good place to start.
- F.G.Emmison's Guide to the Essex Record Office (1969) usefully goes through all the major classes of records created by the Court (and shows incidentally what can survive in a well-run county).
- Philip Riden's Record Sources for Local History (1987) ties in Quarter Sessions records with those created by other organs of government.
All these books are available for reference in our searchrooms.
Huntingdonshire county, Huntingdon borough (until 1836) and the Liberty of Peterborough all had separate courts of Quarter Sessions.
Original records survive here only from 1734 onwards, and not in any real quantity until 1815. There are some 16th and 17th century records at the British Library. The lack of earlier records has been blamed on a Guildhall fire about 1754, but some of the problems are due to the slapdash way in which Huntingdonshire's local government (and occasionally its record-keeping) has traditionally been administered. For many years Huntingdonshire's Clerk of the Peace did not even reside in the county. If there was ever one set of enrolled inclosure awards and maps (for instance) it was broken up over the years, with many copy awards and maps being added, so the provenance is often uncertain.
Nevertheless, the records as a whole provide a valuable and irreplaceable source of information on life and government in Huntingdonshire during the nineteenth century.
Huntingdon Borough Quarter Sessions
Some records of this Court survive as part of the Borough records collection: they include the minute books, 1765-1836 (with gaps). The Municipal Corporations Act 1835 abolished this Court, so that from 1 May 1836 all cases were heard at the County Sessions.
Liberty of Peterborough Quarter Sessions
The records of this court are held at Northamptonshire Record Office.
Huntingdon and Peterborough Quarter Sessions
Huntingdonshire and Peterborough Quarter Sessions had separate judicial courts until 1964, when a new Commission of the Peace was issued, creating one court for both areas. Huntingdonshire Archives holds the Court proceedings for 1965-1971, case files 1965-1971, and the Clerk's general files. Some of these files cover the pre-1965 period. Liberty of Peterborough Quarter Sessions papers inherited by this Court were transferred to Northamptonshire Record Office in 1973.
The county of Cambridgeshire, the Isle of Ely and the Borough of Cambridge all held separate courts.
Cambridgeshire Quarter Sessions
Records have survived poorly compared to many counties. There are Order books (formal summaries of the court's proceedings) for 1660-72, 1689-96 and 1699-1965 and sessions rolls or bundles, 1730-1958. These may include presentments, indictments, lists of jurors and calendars of prisoners.
Isle of Ely Quarter Sessions
Courts were held alternately at Ely and Wisbech until the county was merged with Cambridgeshire in 1965. Order books survive at Cambridgeshire Archives,1801-1965 also Special sessions minute books (dealing with financial matters) 1774-1807, 1823-1845 and Sessions files 1890, 1893, 1920-1965.
Earlier records among the Ely Diocesan Archives at Cambridge University Library include draft minutes of the court, 1740-47 and files 1607-1775 (gaps.)
Cambridge Borough Quarter Sessions
Order books 1733-1847, 1863-1945, minutes 1758-1761, 1767-1812, files etc. 1677, 1795, 1809-88 (gaps.)
Catalogues for many of our Quarter Sessions records are available for searching online, as part of the Access to Archives (A2A) project.
Companies applying to build railway lines and stations had to deposit copies of their plans with the local Clerk of the Peace. The plans showed the route of the proposed line, and the property through which the line would pass.
As with other records of the Clerk of the Peace, these plans have now made their way to Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Archives and can be searched on our on-line catalogue.
There is a brief account of the usefulness of railway plans in Philip Riden's 'Local History for Beginners' (Batsford 1983).
Rate books can be informative in indicating periods of occupation or ownership of individuals, numbers of occupied buildings, when buildings were first occupied, or altered, date when street names came into use, introduction of street lighting and mains water supply etc.
They also provide prime economic data on the financial demands on local government presented by the relief of the poor, church maintenance and public health measures such as sewerage, etc.
Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire Archives hold many local authority rate books from the mid-19th century onwards. They vary greatly in detail, but at the very least they include lists of householders and the amount of rate paid.
Regional Hospital Boards
The East Anglia Regional Hospital Board was set up in 1947, one of 14 regional boards which were to be responsible for the organisation and administration of the new National Health Service. It covered Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, the Isle of Ely, the Soke of Peterborough, West Suffolk, East Suffolk and Norfolk.
The following records of the East Anglian Regional Hospital Board are held at Cambridgeshire Archives:
- minutes 1947-74
- minutes of Committee of Chairmen of Hospital Management Committees 1948-72
- minutes of Establishment Committee 1947-49
- minutes of Finance & General Purposes Committee 1948-49
- minutes of Mental Health Committee 1948-49
- minutes of Planning Committee 1948-49
- minutes of all committees 1949-74 [R83/042]
Regional Health Authorities
In 1974 Regional Hospital Boards were replaced by Regional Health Authorities.
Records of the the East Anglian Regional Health Authority held at Cambridgeshire Archives include:
- minutes, 1973-1994
- agenda, 1973-1991
- Regional Team of Officers minutes 1975-1985
- Directors' and Public Regional Health Authority minutes, 1990-1994
- Steering Committee on Wray Service minutes 1973-1980
- Librarians' Group minutes 1973-1981
- Education Librarians' Sub Committee minutes 1978-1987
- Health Care Librarians of East Anglia Group minutes 1984-1990
- East Anglia Committee for Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education Libraries Sub-Committee minutes 1978-1987
- Information Group minutes 1978-1983. [R95/061]
In 1994 the East Anglian Regional Health Authority was merged with Oxford to form the Anglia and Oxford Regional Health Authority.
Strategic Health Authorities
In 2002 Strategic Health Authorities replaced Regional Health Authorities. The Cambridgeshire area became part of the Norfolk, Suffok and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority, reorganised in 2006 as the East of England Strategic Health Authority.
Edmund Keene, Bishop of Ely, purchased Catley Park in Linton in 1772, transferring the land to his son Benjamin Keene, who continued to acquire property in Linton and Hadstock.
Charles Edmund Ruck Keene proposed enclosure of Linton parish in 1837, from which the family acquired a further c.670 acres, the estate subsequently being sold by Charles' son in 1904 (Victoria County History, vol.VI, pp.85, 94).
The collection (240/[R59/5]) comprises manorial papers and title deeds, including some deeds from outside Cambridgeshire, from the 17th to 19th centuries, with rentals and terriers from the 16th century, and some inclosure and family papers. An itemised list is available in the R58&59 searchroom catalogue.
The records are in part complementary to those of the Bird family of Linton (R55/10), each collection containing papers relating to Sir Thomas Sclater and Linton manors.
The Archdeaconry of Huntingdon contains five rural deaneries. We have records of three of them. Individual parishes have regularly moved from deanery to deanery.
Huntingdon Rural Deanery:
- minutes 1918-1977 (accession 4401)
- Leightonstone Rural Deanery: records 1866-1969 (accession 3415)
- St Neots Rural Deanery: records 1861-1988 (accession 4119 and others)
In an attempt to consolidate the rather fragmented and piecemeal responsibilities for public health, the Public Health Act 1872 divided the whole country into two kinds of sanitary district, urban and rural.
In Huntingdon and Godmanchester the municipal corporations were the urban sanitary authorities. In St Neots the Improvement Commissioners (set up in 1816) acted as the u.s.a. until the creation of an elected Local Board in 1876, when it absorbed part of Eynesbury. In St Ives the Improvement Commissioners (set up in 1847) acted as the u.s.a. until the creation of the Borough of St Ives in 1874. In Ramsey an elected Local Board was set up in 1872. In 1881 St Ives u.s.a. absorbed parts of Fenstanton and Hemingford Grey.
The rest of Huntingdonshire was divided into rural sanitary districts, based on poor law union areas, and in which the boards of guardians acted as the authorities. Only three such r.s.d.'s were wholly within Huntingdonshire: Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots.
In 1894 the rural sanitary districts were renamed Rural Districts, and the urban sanitary districts were renamed Urban Districts, and were all governed by elected authorities.
Huntingdonshire Archives holds records of:
- St Ives Improvement Commissioners
- St Neots Local Board
- Ramsey Local Board
- Huntingdon Rural Sanitary Authority
- St Ives Rural Sanitary Authority
- St Neots Rural Sanitary Authority
For records on Peterborough area sanitary districts (including the are later to become Norman Cross RDC) contact Northamptonshire Record Office.
The Elementary Education Act 1870 required parishes, or groups of parishes, with inadequate voluntary school provision to establish school boards, and to raise a rate to pay for new schools. Few boards had to be created in Huntingdonshire as the county's voluntary educational provision was already strong. The boards were abolished in 1902, and their responsibilities inherited by the County Council; but their records often remained with the schools themselves, or with local parish councils.
Huntingdonshire Archives holds records (mainly minute books) of:
- Godmanchester School Board
- Hartford School Board
- Helpston (Soke of Peterborough) School Board
- Hemingford Grey School Board
- Houghton and Wyton School Board
- Maxey (Soke of Peterborough) School Board
- Northborough School Board
- St Ives School Board
- Yelling School Board
Records of school boards held by Cambridgeshire Archives are included in the 'Handlist of School Records'.
Government grants were made available before 1904 for new school buildings: plans for these were submitted to the government's Education Department, and have since been distributed by the National Archives to county archive offices.
At Huntingdonshire we hold 118 plans, covering 33 individual Huntingdonshire schools (accession 1133).
Building grant plans for schools within the former counties of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely are listed in the handlist of school records below.
The sheriff was a figure of some importance during the early Middle Ages, but by the nineteenth century (when Huntingdonshire shrievalty records survive) the office had become a ceremonial one only. There was one sheriff for both counties of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. His main duty by this time was to attend Assize Court sittings; most of his day-to-day work was in practice undertaken by an undersheriff, often a local solicitor. There is a short chapter on the work of the sheriff in Sidney and Beatrice Webb, 'English Local Government Vol 1: The Parish and County' (1906).
Shrievalty records held here include Sheriffs and Undersheriffs' appointments and declarations 1879-1921; writ books 1935-1954; account books 1923-1951; jurors lists 1950-1961. These came to the Record Office as part of the Clerk of the Peace's records, and were given an HCP/11 reference.
An album of ceremonial photographs of the shrievalty of Granville Proby in 1935-36 has been deposited here (accession 4181). We also hold the sheriff's quietus for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire 1702-3 (accession 2710).
Catalogues of nearly 100,000 documents held at Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Archives are now available online as part of our CALM database.
We suggest you try entering likely search terms into the AnyText field, such as 'Vassa', 'Slaves', 'Slave', 'Slavery' and so on.
Records of many local groups, societies and associations have been deposited with us, including those of local sporting clubs, agricultural societies, womens institutes and civic groups.
We welcome gifts or deposits of non-current records from local societies. If you are the secretary of such a society, and you have old documents you believe may be of interest to historians, then please discuss depositing them with a member of staff.
Under the Local Government Act 1888 the Soke of Peterborough became a separate administrative county, distinct from the rest of Northamptonshire.
The County Council took over many of the administrative responsibilities of the Quarter Sessions Court; but this formal change hid a great deal of continuity, as Justices of the Peace were often elected Councillors, the Clerk of the Peace became the Clerk to the County Council and so on. The County Council came into being on 1 April 1889 and expired on 31 March 1965, after which it was replaced by Huntingdon and Peterborough County Council.
During its life the County Council gradually acquired more and more powers, such as taking over the functions of school boards in 1902, boards of guardians in 1930, various town planning and housing responsibililties from 1929.
The easiest way to get a grasp on all these functions is to read 'The Jubilee of County Councils 1889-1939', which summarises County Council responsibities in a readable and informative manner. Other secondary sources worth consulting are Philip Riden, 'Record Sources for Local History' (Batsford 1987) and R M Jackson, 'The Machinery of Local Government' (Macmillan 1965).
All these books are available in the Huntingdonshire Archives office library. We also have texts and commentaries on many of the relevant Local Government statutes from 1888 onwards.
The County Council exercised its various functions through committees which frequently had their names and powers changed. Huntingdonshire Archives holds the surviving minute books of many of these committees and sub-committees, as well as some departmental records.
A great variety of sports is represented in the archives from football and cricket to shooting and ice-skating, the 'sport of the Fens'.
The extent of the records can vary, however, from just a single photograph or programme to a complete archive of minutes, accounts, score books, fixture and membership lists.
The St Ives Improvement Act was passed in 1847, setting up a statutory Improvement Commission to deal with problems of public health and highways maintenance.
The Commission became an urban sanitary authority under the 1872 Public Health Act, and then became St Ives Municipal Borough Council when that was created in 1874. The borough was abolished in 1974, and most of its powers were inherited by Huntingdonshire District Council.
Huntingdonshire Archives holds the minute books of the Improvement Commissioners 1847-1875, the minutes of the municipal borough 1874-1974, and some committee minutes of St Ives borough 1875-1967.
Rev. Peter Sutton was a noted local historian and antiquarian, as well as Rector of Hamerton 1964-1977. He transcribed and indexed a great many records of Hamerton and its area, including Leighton Bromswold, Buckworth, Great Gidding, Little Gidding, Old Weston, Upton, Steeple Gidding, Coppingford and Winwick.
His transcripts included some parish registers 16th-20th centuries, BTs, censuses 1841-1871, and many other documents.