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Dickinson Collection

Philip G M Dickinson, FSA, was a former County Archivist of Huntingdonshire and one-time Huntingdon Borough Archivist. He was widely known for his extensive knowledge of local history, palaeography and heraldry, and he designed the coat of arms for the new Borough of Huntingdon and Godmanchester when that was created in 1961.

Dickinson gathered together a large collection of notes on local history, including copies of maps and plans, newspaper cuttings, transcripts of records and so on; the collection was bequeathed to Huntingdonshire Archives upon his death in 1974 (acc.2272), and since then a handful of further papers have been received from his estate.

Search the 2272 Dickensian collection online.


Directories listed the major inhabitants of a town or a parish, and often included a short descriptive introduction about each place, giving details of churches, chapels, schools, population figures and so on.

They first appeared in this area in the early 19th century, and were usually published every two or three years until the Second World War.

Contemporaries found them most useful for their lists of tradespeople (they are often still called 'trade directories') and in this respect they were the forerunner of today's Yellow Pages.

Huntingdonshire Archives has an almost complete run of Post Office and Kelly's Directories for Huntingdonshire 1847-1940, as well as copies of earlier directories for the county, and many others for neighbouring counties.

Cambridgeshire Archives holds Post Office and Kelly's directories for Cambridgeshire, 1847-1937. The Universal British Directory, 1791-98 is one of the earliest Cambridgeshire directories but covers only Chatteris, Ely, Linton, March, Newmarket, Soham and Wisbech. Spaldings' and Kelly's Cambridge street directories are available for the period 1874-1975.

District Councils, 1894-1974

Under the Local Government Act 1894 urban sanitary authorities (boroughs, local boards of health and improvement commissioners) and rural sanitary authorities became Urban District Councils (UDC) and Rural District Councils (RDC) respectively. UDCs had slightly greater public health powers than RDCs.

For a copy of the 1894 Act and a commentary on the powers of district councils at that date, see Macmorran and Dill, The Local Government Act 1894 (London 1896), a copy of which is available for reference in the Record Office libraries.


Excluding the boroughs, the following UDCs and RDCs existed in Huntingdonshire:

  • Huntingdon RDC
  • Norman Cross RDC
  • Old Fletton UDC (created in 1905 from part of Norman Cross RDC)
  • Oundle RDC (covered Great Gidding, Little Gidding and Winwick until 1935)
  • Ramsey UDC
  • St Ives RDC
  • St Neots RDC
  • St Neots UDC
  • Sibson-cum-Stibbington RDC (administered by Barnack RDC until 1935 only, thereafter Sibson was in Norman Cross RDC)
  • Thrapston RDC (covered Brington, Bythorn, Keyston, Molesworth and Old Weston until 1935)

Huntingdonshire Archives holds a substantial series of records of many of these authorities, as well as some financial records of Barnack RDC, Peterborough RDC and Thorney RDC, held at present on behalf of Peterborough City Council.

Some records of UDCs and RDCs are still held by Huntingdonshire District Council. In 1974 all UDCs, RDCs and boroughs were abolished and their responsibilities were transferred to Huntingdon (later Huntingdonshire) District Council.

Some district council records have been catalogued and incorporated into our CALM online database.


Excluding Cambridge borough, the following UDCs and RDCs existed in Cambridgeshire:

  • Wisbech UDC
  • Wisbech RDC
  • March UDC
  • Whittlesey UDC
  • North Witchford RDC
  • Chatteris UDC
  • Ely RDC
  • Ely UDC
  • Newmarket UDC
  • South Cambridgeshire RDC
  • Chesterton RDC
  • Swavesey RDC
  • Caxton and Arrington RDC
  • Melbourn RDC
  • Linton RDC

In 1974 these authorities were abolished and re-organised as Fenland District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and South Cambridgeshire District Council alongside Cambridge City Council.

Minutes, committee minutes, accounts, rates, letter books etc. are among the extensive records of these authorities held at Cambridgeshire Archives.

Domesday Book

Domesday Book was drawn up in 1086 to register all taxable holdings in England. As many lands were exempt from taxation (land owned by religious houses in particular) the survey is not as complete as some think.

The original is at The National Archives, but we hold some transcripts and translations of the text for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire.


  • Farley edition (London 1783): this is one of the last copies - perhaps the last copy - of this edition, distributed by Parliament beginning in 1783 and taken over by the Record Commission in 1811. It was presented, unbound, by the House of Lords Record Office to Cambridgeshire Record Offices in 1985 and was then bound in 1985-86 in three volumes. Water staining on the corners of some pages may be damage from the fire which destroyed much of the Palace of Westminster in 1834. The history of the publication of this edition is described in Condon and Hallan, 'Government Printing of the Public Records in the Eighteenth Century' in The Journal of the Society of Archivists, vol. VII, pages 348-388. The edition is kept in the strongrooms; please ask a member of staff if you wish to see it.
  • Phillimore edition (ed. John Morris, 1975): a transcript and translation of Abraham Farley's 1783 printing; even its own introduction says the book may contain 'ineptitudes and mistakes' so use it with some care. Available in the searchroom.
  • Victoria County History of Huntingdonshire (vol. 1, 1926): a translation only, with an academic introduction by Professor F M Stenton. Available in the searchroom.
  • Alecto Historical edition: Huntingdonshire (1987-89, 3 vols): beautifully produced facsimile of the original Huntingdonshire entries, with translation, maps, indexes and an academic introduction by D R Roffe and F R Thorn.


  • Victoria County History of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely (Vol. 1, 1938): a translation only of the text and of the Inquisition Comitatus Cantabrigiensis by J. Otway-Ruthven with an introduction by L.F. Salzman.
  • Philimore edition (ed. J. Morris, 1981): a transcript and translation from Farley's 1783 text including notes of any discrepancies between this and the original manuscript.
  • Alecto Historical edition: Cambridgeshire (1987-1990, 3 vols): one of the most recent county editions, available in a limited series only. As well as colour facsimiles of the original manuscript and a full transcript, it includes a detailed introduction, a series of special studies on Domesday England and a detailed map of the county. There is a very informative introduction to the Cambridgeshire Domesday by R.E. Glasscock.

Driving licences

Driving licences were first introduced under The Motor Car Act of 1903 which became effective on 1 January 1904. The cost of an annual licence (for which no driving test was required) was 5 shillings. County Councils and County Borough Councils were the licensing authorities until 1965 when the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Centre was established.

Cambridgeshire Archives holds a series of Registers of Drivers Licences for the county of Cambridgeshire (excluding Huntingdonshire and the Isle of Ely) from 1904 until January 1928.

The volumes are surname indexed and give the address of the driver, plus home address for students, and include military men and other motorists from outside Cambridgeshire. They also give details of driving convictions. 

Ecclesiastical Census

In 1851 the government took a census of places of religious worship, including Anglican, Roman Catholic and Nonconformist churches.

The returns show the name and denomination of each building, the space available for worship, the attendance on Sunday 30 March 1851, and the average attendance for the previous year. The returns were purely voluntary, so some churches and chapels were not recorded.

Huntingdonshire Archives has a microfilm copy of the returns for Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough (the originals are at The National Archives in Kew).

Cambridgeshire Archives has a microfilm copy of the returns for Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely (the originals are at The National Archives in Kew).

Electoral Registers

The 1832 Reform Act enacted that the names of all those qualified to vote should be published annually; allowing for breaks during world wars, this has continued to the present day.

It must also be remembered that whereas today's electoral registers include the vast majority of the adult population, in the past the electorate was much smaller - in 1911 (for example) only thirty per cent of the population was qualified to vote.

Women over the age of 30 were not enfranchised until 1918, and those over 21 not until 1928.  Eighteen-year-olds were not entitled to vote until the 1969 Registration of the People Act.

Surviving electoral registers for the county of Huntingdonshire (and some for the Soke of Peterborough) are held at Huntingdon Library and Archives although it should be noted that survival is not as good as one might expect.

For further details on electoral registers held at Huntingdon, please consult the Voters Lists and Electoral Registers Handlist, which is in catalogue number 10: General Handlists, in the searchroom. 

There is a useful introduction to electoral registers in the Gibson Guide Electoral Registers since 1832 (FFHS 1990), available in our searchrooms. 

Electoral registers, Burgess rolls and Poll books for Cambridgeshire, 1722-1966,  are now available to search on

Electricity Company records

Records at Cambridgeshire Archives:

  • Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Power Station Company, including:
    • General meeting minutes, 1926-48
    • Directors' minutes, 1926-48
    • Shareholders' minutes, 1938-48
  • Cambridge Electric Supply Co. Ltd., including:
    • Directors' minutes, 1892-1948
    • General meetings minutes, 1892-1948
    • Directors' reports, 1893-1948
    • Memorandum and Articles of Association, 1892
    • Mains books (plans of electricity mains) c. 1933-35
  • Wisbech Electric Light and Power Company Ltd., including:
    • General meeting minutes, 1907-48
    • Directors' minutes, 1907-1948

There are also deposited public utility plans for lighting Cambridge, 1882 [Q/RUm 101-102]; 1889 [Q/RUm 118];  for Newmarket, 1892 [Q/RUm 122] and for Ely, c.1904 [Q/RUm141]

Family and Estate Collections

Notable families of landed gentry have lived in Huntingdonshire and Cambridgeshire for many years, and have often built up outstanding collections of local records relating to the administration of their estates and the history of their families.

Many of these records are now available for public consultation at Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire Archives.

In Huntingdonshire the larger collections are:

  • Bush collection of Cromwell family papers
  • Conington collection of Heathcote and Cotton estate papers
  • Fellowes estate of Ramsey and Abbots Ripton (Lords de Ramsey)
  • Feversham of Waresley (based however in Yorkshire)
  • Fielden family of Holme
  • Hinchingbrooke: Earls of Sandwich of Hinchingbrooke House, Huntingdon (Montagu family)
  • Huntly family of Orton Longueville
  • Linton family of Stirtloe
  • Dukes of Manchester of Kimbolton Castle (Montagu family)
  • Sismey family of Offord Cluny
  • Thornhill family of Diddington
  • Torkington family of Great Stukeley

In Cambridgeshire substantial collections are held relating to the following families:

  • Cotton family of Madingley and Landwade
  • De Freville family of Hinxton
  • Frost family of West Wratting
  • Hicks family of Great Wilbraham
  • Huddleston family of Sawston
  • Nash Woodham family of Shepreth
  • Ruck Keene family of Linton
  • Tharp family of Chippenham and Jamaica
  • Townley family of Fulbourn and Upwell
  • Yorke and Bambridge families of Wimpole Hall

Fellowes Estate

This is a large collection of family and estate papers relating to estates mainly in Ramsey and Abbots Ripton. The Fellowes family bought the Manor of Ramsey in 1737; Edward Fellowes was created Lord de Ramsey in 1887, and the family have held the manor ever since.

As well as records of the Fellowes estate itself, the family has deposited many earlier (though post-Reformation) records of the estate which they inherited. Other, even earlier records have been deposited by the family at the British Library.

The collection includes deeds of property in Ramsey itself for 1678-1930 as well as many neighbouring parishes: Fellowes family wills, settlements, estate papers etc. 1877-1951; papers about tenants' farms c.1925-1932 and cropping books with plans for farms in Ramsey, Abbots Ripton, Kings Ripton, Benwick, Stukeley, Upwood, and Woodwalton, 1822-47, 1860-71; many plans and sales particulars.

Most of the records were listed in detail by A E Fellowes in 1987, and accessions received since then have been added to this list as appendixes.

The catalogue for this collection is available online as part of the CALM database.

Frost family of West Wratting

West Wratting Park was acquired by the Frost family in the 1830s, the park itself having been largely the creation of Sir John Jacobs in the 18th century.

The estate passed to E.G.G. Frost, sometime high sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, who put the property up for sale in 1935 (Victoria County History, vol VI, pp.192-193).

The main sequence of papers held at Cambridgeshire Archives (289/) is limited to deeds from the 18th to 20th centuries. You can visit our online catalogue of West Wratting Park estate deeds for more details.

An itemised list is also available in the searchroom, including a family tree. A collection of family correspondence (553/), mostly late 19th and early 20th century, has also been listed in detail, including descriptions of the contents of E.P. Frost's autograph book (553/Z1).

Some supplementary deeds were received from a local solicitors (107/ [R70/72pt] ) although these have only been listed in very brief summary.

Fulbourn Hospital

The Lunacy Act and County Asylums Act of 1845 consolidated Lunacy Law in England and required the provision of a public asylum for all pauper lunatics by local authorities.

Fulbourn Asylum for the Borough of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely opened in 1858 after 12 years of wrangling and lengthy legal battles, as well as disputes over its design. It accommodated 250 patients.

The new regime imposed was fairly liberal; the prevailing approach to treatment was one of 'non-restraint'. At Fulbourn there would be neither 'belt, straightjacket, manacle, (or) strong chair'.

In the early days of the hospital patients were occupied with laying out garden paths and cultivating a skittle alley and bowling green. Practical outdoor activities such as gardening and farming, were seen as beneficial to the overall health of the patient.

In 1862 a cemetery chapel was opened. Paupers were often buried two to a grave. The burial ground continued in use until 1955. 

When Dr David Clark became Medical Superintendent in 1953, however, Fulbourn had come to be viewed as a dreaded institution, with the mentally ill kept behind bolted doors and attendants acting as virtual jailers.

His appointment initiated genuine change and improvement in mental health care. By the time Clark retired, patients were living in open therapeutic communities; the staff were partners in the proper provision of care and the hospital was internationally renowned as a pioneering centre of social therapy and rehabilitation.

Fulbourn is still in use as a mental health hospital and has been considerably enlarged over the years. In 2002, it became part of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

See also: The Story of a Mental Hospital: Fulbourn 1858-1983 David H. Clark, Process Press, London 1996


Cambridgeshire Archives has an extensive  collection of records, which include detailed patient records including admission registers, 1856-1949, alphabetical registers of patients, 1906-45, burial registers, 1901-54 and detailed patient notes, 1907-55. Please note that patient records are closed for 100 years.

There is a surname index to the admission registers, 1858-1905, an indexed transcript of the burial registers 1903-53 and a reconstruction of a missing burial register, 1884-1901.

Staff records include a good series of obligation books, 1867-1955 detailing length of service and occupation whilst annual reports, photographs, plans and published histories provide useful context.

The full catalogue of Fulbourn Hospital records is available online.

A collection of ephemera relating to Fulbourn Hospital, including photographs newspaper articles and remembrances from patients and staff is held at the Ida Darwin Hospital.

Gas Companies

Before the creation of statutory regional gas boards in 1950, gas supply was the responsibility of limited companies, each having Parliamentary approval for its service area.

Lists of local gas company records held by Transco plc, now National Grid Gas plc, can be viewed on the A2A website.

The Eastern Gas Board deposited the following records with Huntingdonshire Archives in 1972 (acc. 2116):

  • Huntingdon and Godmanchester Gas and Coke Co Ltd (GA1)
  • Ramsey Gas Light and Coke Co Ltd (GA2)
  • St Neots Gas and Coke Co (GA3)

Cambridgeshire Archives  holds records of:

  • Cambridge Gas Light Company: including management committee minutes 1865-67; minutes of shareholders, 1834-67; specification for Cambridge gas works, 1878.
  • Cambridge University and Town Gas Light Company: including Directors' meeting minutes , 1867-1940; shareholders minutes, 1867-1949; register of press cuttings and half yearly accounts, 1896-1921; share register c.1943-50.
  • Chatteris Gas and Coke Company: Directors' and shareholders' minutes, 1894-1938; finance committee minutes, 1933-37.
  • March Gas and Coke Company: Directors' minutes, 1860-1945.
  • Wisbech Gas Light and Coke Company: Directors' minutes, 1858-1942.
  • Ely Gas Company: Directors' minutes, 1885-1938.
  • Littleport Gas Company Ltd.: Director's minutes, 1889-1934; Memorandum of Association 1867.
  • Whittlesey Gas and Coke Company: Directors' minutes, 1907-27.

Some of these records have been listed and can be searched on our online CALM catalogue.

Gilbert Collection

John L Gilbert of Wansford was a noted local historian and naturalist. After his death in June 1985 most of his papers were deposited by his sister Miss Mary Gilbert, and some further deposits of notes have been made since then.

The collection consists mainly of local history notes on the Stibbington-Thornhaugh-Wansford area, and includes many glass negatives dating from the early 20th century.

Find more on our online catalogue of the Gilbert Collection.


Godmanchester was an ancient Crown demesne until 1212, when it was granted to the free men of Godmanchester and became a self-governing manor. In 1604 it was incorporated as a free borough under a charter of James I, which enabled Godmanchester to have a town clerk and a common seal.

The 1604 charter remained in force as the Governing Charter until the 1835 Municipal Corporations Act, with the exception of a brief period 1685-88.

The catalogue of Godmanchester Municipal Borough records is available online.

The 1835 Act replaced the old borough with an elected council. This was in turn abolished in 1961, and replaced by Huntingdon and Godmanchester Borough Council. 

Huntingdonshire Archives has an excellent collection of town records, stretching back to the thirteenth century; the records include many of the original charters themselves, court rolls and books, burgess rolls, views of frankpledge and minute books.

Many of the documents covering the 1278-1400 period are used and discussed in J A Raftis 'A Small Town in Late Medieval England' (Toronto 1982), while some early modern records are used in the same author's 'Early Modern Godmanchester: Survivals and New Arrivals' (Toronto 1990).

There is a brief and useful history of the borough in Philip Dickinson The Borough of Huntingdon and Godmanchester (Huntingdon 1969). Details of the oddities of the self-governing manor system can be found in the 'Victoria County History of Huntingdonshire', vol 2 pages 287-290 (London 1932).

The best popular account of Godmanchester's pre-1835 municipal history is still Robert Fox 'The History of Godmanchester' (London 1831). All of these works are available in the searchroom library.

See also

  • Huntingdon Borough
  • Huntingdon and Godmanchester Borough
  • Local Government