Although one of the smallest towns in Cambridgeshire, Kimbolton was a very important market town during the medieval period. In the Saxon era, it is said that King Harold Godwinson owned a hunting lodge nearby and is believed to have worshipped at the local church.
Kimbolton High Street Looking South © Travel About Britain
Kimbolton is a quaint and charming place set in a rich wooded valley through which the River Kym (or Kim) runs. Its broad High Street is noted as one of the loveliest in England; dominated at one end by the Palladian castle/mansion of the Dukes of Manchester and at the other by the spire of the 13th-c Parish Church of St Andrew.
An important figure in local history was Geoffrey Fitzpiers (c.1162 - 1213), Earl of Essex, Lord of the Manor and advisor to King John. Geoffrey persuaded John to grant Kimbolton a market charter in 1200, transforming it from village to town status. The market prospered during the 13th-c and was complemented by an annual fair.
High Street Looking North © Travel About Britain
The town's wide High Street (originally the market place) boasts over 80 listed buildings. Now designated as a conservation area, it retains much of its original historical character. East Street, which runs parallel to the High Street, is also lined with many attractive older buildings.
A good number of fine timber framed house can be found around the town, many with 17th and 18th century frontages. There are also a number of historic inns, such as the "New Sun Inn" a lovely 16th-c establishment and "The Saddle", a public house of late 18th-c origin.
Another interesting building is Montagu house. A 17th-c building with a 19th-c facade, which has operated as a Draper's shop for hundreds of years. It was once the home of William Coleman, a local artisan, who was employed in the construction of Kimbolton Castle.
There are indications of a much older Norman motte-and-bailey castle on a hill southwest of the church, which is believed to be the site of the original fortifications for the town.
Just to the southeast of the current castle is the pretty little village of Stonely. It was the location of an 12th-c Augustinian Priory, which stood on high ground just outside the village. However, very little remains of these religious buildings today.
The original Norman castle has long since vanished. The site was purchased by Sir Richard Wingfield in 1522, who rebuilt it as an Elizabethan manor house. The building was later purchased by Sir Henry Montagu who became the first Earl of Manchester. The house was remodeled in 1707 for the 4th Earl, by the talented architect John Vanbrugh (the designer of Blenheim Palace and Castle Howard). This current building is quadrangular in layout (based around an inner courtyard), with a fine Classical exterior. The portico on the north side is the largest feature, with two vast Tuscan columns. The interior is quite sumptuous, boasting an impressive range of State Rooms, with fine painted murals and ceilings by the Venetian artist, Pellegrini. Robert Adam added the outer gate-house (visible above) and western gateway, around 1766. The castle stands in extensive parkland.
The castle's most famous resident was "Catherine of Aragon", Henry VIII's divorced queen. She was incarcerated here for the last 18 months of her life, until her death in 1536. Now a private school, the castle and grounds are only open to the public on a few Sundays each year.
Although recorded in the Domesday book of 1086, the church of St Andrew is today mainly of 13th-c origin with a later west tower and spire. Within are fine painted medieval screens and magnificent carved roof bosses. There are also many 17th-c monuments and inscriptions, dedicated to the earls, countesses and duchesses of Manchester. In the churchyard these is a interesting selection of table Tombs, dating back to the early 18th-c.
Near to St Andrew's is a Moravian church, erected in 1823. The only one of its kind in Cambridgeshire.
Location: High Street,