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Godmanchester
Godmanchester Post Street.jpg
Post Street in Godmanchester,
with the tower of St Mary's Church
Area 1.983 km2 (0.766 sq mi) civil parish
Population 6,711 (2011)
• Density 3,384/km2 (8,760/sq mi)
OS grid reference TL245704
• London 56 miles (90 km)
Civil parish
  • Godmanchester
District
Shire county
Region
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town HUNTINGDON
Postcode district PE29
Dialling code 01480
Police Cambridgeshire
Fire Cambridgeshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament
  • Huntingdon
List of places
UK
England
Cambridgeshire
52°19′03″N 0°10′21″W / 52.3176°N 0.1725°W / 52.3176; -0.1725Coordinates: 52°19′03″N 0°10′21″W / 52.3176°N 0.1725°W / 52.3176; -0.1725

Godmanchester ( GOD-mən-CHES-tər) is a town and civil parish in the Huntingdonshire district of Cambridgeshire, England. It is separated from Huntingdon, 1.6 miles (2.6 km) to the north, by the valley of the River Great Ouse. Being on the Roman road network, the town has a long history. It has a waterside location, surrounded by open countryside of high value for its biodiversity but it remains highly accessible, with a railway line to London, the A1 road and M11/A14 which run nearby.

History

The town is on the site of the Roman town of Durovigutum. There is archaeological evidence of Celtic and earlier habitation prior to the establishment of a key Roman town and a Mansio (inn), so the area has probably been continuously occupied for more than 2000 years. The settlement was at a crossroads of Roman roads, with Ermine Street, the Via Devana (from Cambridge, between Colchester and Chester) and a military road from Sandy, Bedfordshire, all passing through. The Roman settlement was sacked by Anglo-Saxons in the third century. In contrast to Huntingdon, there have been vast amounts of archaeological finds in the centre of Godmanchester, which has two conservation areas with a large number of timber-framed Tudor houses, the largest being Tudor Farm, dating from 1600 and restored in 1995.

The mansio is mentioned in Godmanchester's name, which comes from Anglo-Saxon Godmundceaster, meaning a "town or Roman buildings associated with a man called Godmund". The location is likely to have been originally settled due to the gravel beds providing a ford across the River Great Ouse.

Godmanchester was listed as Godmundcestre in the Domesday Book of 1086 in the Hundred of Leightonstone in Huntingdonshire. The survey records that there were 26 ploughlands, with capacity for a further 31 and, in addition to the arable land, there was 160 acres (65 hectares) of meadows, 50 acres (20 hectares) of woodland and three water mills. By 1086 there was already a church and a priest at Godmanchester.

It was first chartered by King John in 1212, though it had been a market town and royal manor for some years.

In 2003 it had a population of about 5500 in 3500 homes, with the largest increase in population occurring between 1981 and 1991 (81%) and more modest growth since.

A former pronunciation, a contraction of Godmundceaster, is Gunecestre. It is also pronounced as Gumster.

Demography

Population

Since 1801, the population has been recorded every ten years by the UK census, the only exception being in 1941 due to the Second World War. In the 19th century, the population ranged from 1,573 (in 1801) to 2,438 (recorded in 1861).

Population figures since 1911 are:

Parish
1911
1921
1931
1951
1961
1971
1981
1991
2001
2011
Godmanchester 2,130 2,035 1,993 2,502 2,955 5,255 5,996 6,711

All population census figures from report Historic Census figures Cambridgeshire to 2011 by Cambridgeshire Insight.

In 2011, the parish covered an area of 4,900 acres (1,983 hectares) and so the population density for Godmanchester in 2011 was 876.5 persons per square mile (338.4 per square kilometre).

Culture and community

Godmanchester Causeway Dusk
The Causeway

There are several bridges across the Great Ouse to Huntingdon, but until 1975 Old Bridge, Huntingdon, a medieval bridge, was the only one. It is now used only for light traffic, and a parallel footbridge has been built for pedestrians. Construction of the A14 bypass means that heavy traffic now flows over a modern bridge.

Between Godmanchester, Huntingdon and Brampton lies England's largest meadow, Portholme, which remains an important flood plain but which has served as an equestrian racecourse and centre for early aviation.

About a mile south of the town centre, on the A1198 road at is the headquarters of the Wood Green Animal Shelters - a charity dedicated to re-homing unwanted pets.

Original historical documents relating to Godmanchester, including the original church parish registers, local government records, maps, photographs and the surviving borough charters, are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office Huntingdon.

In October 2003 BBC1's Songs Of Praise was hosted by the parish church of St Mary the Virgin and featured the new hymn tune Godmanchester written by the vicar, Peter Moger.

Landmarks

Chinese Bridge

Godmanchester Chinese Bridge
The Chinese Bridge

One of the town's best-known features is its Chinese Bridge which connects the town with a water meadow. Local legend has it that the bridge was built without the use of nails or any other fixings. An architect later applied to the council for permission to deconstruct the bridge to discover how exactly this had been accomplished. This being done, however, reconstruction proved impossible, as the bridge would no longer support its own weight. Today the Chinese Bridge is held together by nails. The claims are of course all false. Indeed, a bridge in Queens' College, Cambridge has the same urban myth. More likely the original nails corroded away, giving the appearance that no nails existed. With maintenance work carried out in the latter part of the 20th century, nails would have been applied to strengthen the structure.

The bridge was removed by crane on 9 February 2010. A new replica was built off-site in two parts and was installed on 15–16 February 2010.

Sport and leisure

The non-League football club Godmanchester Rovers F.C. play at Bearscroft Lane.

Transport

The A14 arterial road runs 1.0 mile (1.6 km) south of Godmanchester (connecting the West Midlands to the Haven ports of Ipswich, Harwich and Felixtowe and via the M11 to London. When this route opened in 2019, the former A14 carriageway, which cut across the north edge of the town, was reclassified as the A1307. The former A14 bridge across the River Great Ouse was repurposed for local traffic.

The town centre is approximately 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from Huntingdon railway station, a semi-major stop on the East Coast Main Line. The town of Huntingdon and railway station may be accessed on foot via the expansive meadow or by National Cycle Network route 51.

Huntingdon has at least 2 buses per hour in daytime plus school buses. At least one bus per hour links the town with Cambridge directly.

Notable people

  • Stephen Marshall ( 1594 – 1655), prominent non-conformist churchman, before and during the Interregnum,
  • Sir Oliver Cromwell (1562-1655), Uncle to the Lord Protector and ruler of England, Oliver Cromwell,
  • Sir William Prescott, 1st Baronet of Godmanchester, (1874–1945), Civil Engineer and Member of Parliament. Father of Sir Stanley Prescott, and grandfather of Sir Mark Prescott 3rd Baronet of Godmanchester a race horse trainer from Newmarket,
  • Fred Beart (1850–1895), cricketer, was born in Godmanchester,
  • Nigel Bonner (1928-1994), Antarctic marine mammal specialist, retired to Godmanchester and died there,
  • Timothy Machin (born 1948), cricketer, was born in Godmanchester,
  • Simon Thurley (born 1962), historian and presenter, grew up in Godmanchester,
  • Darren Bent (born 1984), England international and Premier League footballer played for Godmanchester Rovers F.C. as a youth.

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