image for Town item typeGodmanchester

Town

Address

Town Centre,
Godmanchester,
Cambridgeshire,
PE29 2QU

Details

In the Roman period Godmanchester was geographically very important - with Ermine Street (London to York), Via Devanar (from Cambridge) and a military road (from Sandy) all meeting at the river crossing. The pentagonal layout of the walled Roman town still survives in the street plan of today. Excavations have revealed two of the gates, a town hall (basilica), an inn (mansio) with baths and a number of temples to various gods.

The town was sacked at the end of the 3rd C. by the Anglo Saxons. The topography of the recreation area you see today derives from the three mills built by the Danes during the Viking era, with three mill races and a harbour in front of the town. Norman Godmanchester was a wealthy Royal Manor and a thriving market town. In 1212 King John gave the town its first Charter and a measure of self-government. It was a place of importance throughout the Middle Ages. Through the 1604 Charter of Incorporation, Godmanchester attained Borough status, with two bailiffs, twelve "assistants" and a grant for a horse and cattle fair. This prosperous town with its many half-timbered buildings was expanding rapidly.

A 17th C. reference called it a "very great county town" yet, despite that, Godmanchester has always had more of a village character, enhanced by extensive open space providing excellent recreation. The parish church is in several styles - the tower of 1623, for example, represents the perpendicular style. The 15th C. choir stalls could have come from either Ramsey Abbey or Huntingdon Priory. The best of the 19th C. studios, such as Kempe, Morris and Burlison and Grylls, created the Victorian stained glass windows. The Queen Elizabeth School, founded in 1559 with its gabled porch, and extended in the 19th C. is now for community use. There is a small museum within. The Town Hall, built in 1844 in the Jacobean style and extended in 1899, also accommodates the Senior Citizen's Club. Godmanchester's most famous landmark, the Chinese Bridge of 1827, is close by.

Other features of Godmanchester include the 1600 Tudor Farm - the largest and most important surviving timber framed building, restored in 1995. In the town centre, Godmanchester's most important 18th C. building is the riverside mansion, Island Hall, built in 1749 for the Receiver General for Huntingdonshire. It has its own Chinese Bridge and ornamental island. Groups may visit by prior appointment. Also, to the west of the town, there is Farm Hall. This elegant house, built in 1746 for the Recorder of Huntingdon, has a stately avenue of poplars and a formal canal separating it from the river.

Directions

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Map reference: TL 248705  Lat: 52.31894 Long: -0.16993