A charming riverside market town of Saxon origin. Similar to nearby St Ives, it owes its name and prosperity to a medieval monastory that once existed near the river. St Neots Priory, dedicated to a Monk from Glasonbury Abbey of that name, was founded here in the 10th-c by Earl Leofric. It was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539 and subsequently disappeared. However, recent excavations, near the point where Hen Brook joins the River Great Ouse, have uncovered some of its foundations.
River Great Ouse, St Neots © Travel About Britain
Henry I granted St Neots with a charter for a market and fair at the start of 12th-c. These together with the construction of the first bridge over the river in 1180, led to the towns expansion and increased prosperity. Sadly the ancient stone bridge, which crosses over into Bedfordshire, was replaced by the current concrete structure in the 1960s.
The town was an important paper-making centre during the 19th-c. The first machine-made paper was developed here in 1798. Some of the original mill buildings can still be seen by the river.
One of the most architecturally important buildings in the town is Brook house, an elegant Georgian residence (circa 1700) with sash windows and a hipped roof. Apart from the parish church, oldest building in town is a jettied timber-framed premises in the High Street, currently occupied by Freemans the Jewellers.
The core of the town centres around a broad and spacious market place - one of the largest in England. A traditional Market has been held here every Thursday since its inception in 1135. Near the centre of the square is a large cast iron street lamp set on a stone plinth, called the Day Column. It was erected in 1822 by local brewer John Day, to provide lighting in the square. The only remaining parts of Day's once extensive brewery are an 18th-c Oast House and Maltings near the river front.
St Neots Market Square © Travel About Britain
Lining the square are some very characterful 17th and 18th century properties. A number of ancient inns (relics of the coaching days) include the 17th-c riverside Bridge Hotel and the similar aged Cross Keys. Many others can be found in the narrow back streets leading off, such as the King's Head in South Street and Ye Olde Sun Inn (circa 1680), which has low ceilings and traditional oak beams.
The Great Ouse meanders to the west of the town. Once busy with cargo barges, it is now just the haunt of pleasure craft and anglers. A lovely riverside park runs the length of the town on the far bank. The park forms part of the Ouse Valley Way; the Huntingdonshire section of which runs for several miles through rich meadowlands and nature reserves from Earith down to Eaton Socon. Occasionally, a Heron can be spotted swooping over the river - probably the descendants of a Heronry that was once located just north the town, near Little Paxton.
The beautiful ironstone and pebble parish church of St Mary is one of the largest medieval churches in the county. It is set back some way from the town centre, and has a fine 130 ft high tower with high solid pinnacles. Inside, the roof beams are adorned with carved animals including harts, griffins, wyverns, hares, camels and rams.
One of the last battles of the Second Civil War took place in the market place at St Neots, on July 10th 1648. Where a group of 300 Royalists, under the Earl of Holland, were routed by the Parliamentarians, under Colonel Scroop.
Restored in 1968 by a local trust. This village
lock-up (or Cage) was used in the 1820s as a local
holding cell for drunken behaviour and other minor
offences, before the accused were taken to court
Opening times: open
at various times, see website for details.
Location: School Ln, Eaton Socon, Saint Neots PE19 8HN
Set in the former magistrates courts and police station. It tells the local history of the town from prehistoric times to present day.
Opening times: Tue
to Sat, 11am to 4pm - Admission
Location: 8 New St, Saint Neots PE19 1AE
Tel: 01480 214163
A full equipped marina providing both long and short stay moorings. Includes boat chandlery, boat sales and boat hire. Restaurant, tea rooms and art gallery.
Location: above Eaton
Socon lock on the river Great Ouse at St Neots in Cambridgeshire.
Tel: 01480 473 456