Cambridgeshire is a county of colleges and great houses, astride wide fertile plains. Located on the western border of East Anglia, most of the county comprises the distinctive flat plain and fenland, reclaimed by man made rivers and drains, leading down to the Wash. Towards the south, the market town and cathedral of Ely stands on a slight hill, which in medieval times was surrounded by water, and gave it the nickname the 'ship of the fens'. The flat fenland runs further south to Cambridge the county's capital, famous for its University. The land then rises gentely to the south of Cambridge forming low undulating chalk downs, which include the Gog Magog Hills.
Much of the flat fens landscape is shaped by a vast region of wild wetlands, rivers and waterways created by centuries of water drainage and land reclamation. The Fens covers some 1500 square miles across the top of Cambridgeshire and west Norfolk, and support over 250 unique species of wildlife. Fenland eels have been trapped and eaten here for generations. They were once so important to the economy that during medieval times a bag of eels could be used in place of money and every village would pay its taxes in eels. They were commonly caught using hives made of weaved willow, once a tradional industry all along the river ouse, dating as far back as the first century. Today eels are an endagered species and can only be caught under licence.
'The shire for men who understand'
Cambridge - distance from London: 60 miles (95 km)
A1, A14, M11
Great Chishill, 479 feet (146 m)
Cam, Ouse, Nene
Cambridge Ale Cup - ale with spices and sherry, served with nutmeg-flavoured toast.
Cambridge Hot Milk Punch - hot milk with added rum and brandy.
Anglesey Abbey | Cambridge University | Clare Cottage | Ely Cathedral | The Fens | The Gog Magog Hills | Kimbolton Castle | King's College Chapel | Ramsey Abbey Gatehouse | Sacrewell Farm and Country Centre | Wandlebury Ring | Wimpole Hall
The name Cambridge is a mixture of both Anglo-Saxon and Brittonic. Originally called Grantebrige, 'the bridge over the River Granta'. The river was called the Granta before the Norman Conquest but was later renamed the Cam. Granta is a Celtic name whose meaning is associated with swamps or marshes. Cam is a popular Celtic river name, which means crooked or winding.
Originally the region was inhabited by the Iceni tribe, once lead by the famous Boudica during the uprising of Ad 60, who were later defeated by the Romans. The county of Cambridgeshire was created in the 10th century by Edward the Elder and Ethelfleda, following invasions by the Saxons and the Danes. During the Norman conquest, Hereward the Wake is known to have established a refuge camp at Ely, where he held out against the besieging Normans for a considerable time.
In the 13th century, schools of learning were established in Cambridge that eventually developed into the university. The first college 'Peterhouse' was founded in 1254 through a gift from Bishop Hugh de Balsham of Ely. Thomas Cromwell (Advisor to King Henry VIII) was a Chancellor of the University in 1535.
During the Baron Wars, the barons captured Cambridge Castle, driving out King John, who took refuge in Norfolk, first losing his baggage in the Wash, and then his life.
Cambridge played a great part in the Reformation: Erasmus taught Greek there in 1511, where the Cambridge Reformers (Tyndale, Cranmer, Latimer and others) were known to meet at the White Horse Inn to discuss their doctrines.
Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland) was born on 25 April 1599, in Huntingdon. Cromwell lead the Parliamentarian forces (New Model Army) against the Royalists during the Civil War. At the end of the civil war, the deposed King, Charles I, was held prisoner in Cambridge before his execution outside Whitehall.
Before its current technology and science industry, the county had a flourishing wool industry and was noted for its fine worsted cloth. Barley was grown for malt during the 10th century, and willow baskets were manufactured in the fen district. The 18th century saw extensive cultivation of saffron in the south, also paper was manufactured near Sturbridge.