This village of some 3,000 people
living within 1,044 hectares of land has seen some changes in this past 1000 years and
some things have gone for ever. No longer is there a place of execution to the east nor
are there any gallows in the west by Galley Hill.
Lying on the Via Devana, the Roman
road linking army camps at Godmanchester and Cambridge, Fenstanton was a Romano/British
villa, probably established to keep the natives in order after their attack on the forces
of the IX Legion Hispana retreating from an ambush at Cambridge by Boadicea's tribesmen.
The next military action by men of Fenstanton came in support
of Hereward the Wake. From his stronghold on the Isle of Ely Hereward was annoying the
Normans so King William I assembled a force in Cambridge to deal with the problem. He
summoned men from Huntingdon but they did not pass Fenstanton and escaped with their lives
by swimming across the river.
In the 17th.century, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who sailed to America on the Mayflower
was from Fenstanton. He was John Howland.
Most pilgrims were Separatists,
although John's religious beliefs are not really known. He was an "adventurer" rather than a
"saint" (this is what the separatists called themselves)
Henry and Margaret Howland
are buried at the parish church in Fenstanton and are parents of three
sons who came to America. John was the first, on
the ship Mayflower, 1620. Henry and Arthur followed a few years later.
Winston Churchill was a descendant of John's brother Arthur Howland.
Therefore, he is still a son of Fenstanton as a descendant of Henry
and Margaret and a cousin for the many descendants of John living in America.
There are several famous American descendants of John, including actor Humphrey Bogart;
Brooks, author of the Christmas carol "O Little Town of Bethlehem"; Jane Austin,
author; (not to be confused with Jane Austen!) Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, poet; Hetty Green, known as the "witch of Wallstreet" (a
financial tycoon), and many more.
American presidents descended from John Howland are:
Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H.W.
Bush and the current President
George W. Bush.
( Richard Nixon
Ford are descended from John's brother, Henry Howland.)
John Howland was married
to fellow passenger Elizabeth Tilley from nearby Henlow in Bedfordshire
in about 1623. She was 13 when she boarded the
Mayflower, the youngest child of John Tilley (a silk-weaver) and his wife Joan (Hurst)
Rogers. They left four older children in England.
One of the Tilley children to stay behind was Robert Tilley. Through his line
that stayed in England, there is a Ms.Joy Forster of Bromham, Bedfordshire, who has become
the first proven European line from an English family whose descendants never came to
America. Her special status means she is now a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants
Fenstanton receives frequent visits from members of the
and they have donated a bell to the parish church.
In the next century
there was the great landscape gardener Lancelot "Capability" Brown a gifted Northumberland man who bought the Lordship
of the Manor of Fenstanton and Hilton from the Earl of Northampton. "Capability"
was associated with laying out the grounds of Althorp, the ancestral home of the SPENCER
family and final resting place of Princess Diana. "Capability" and
wife are buried in the churchyard and in the north wall of the chancel is
a memorial to them.
The Doomsday Book (1086) mentions a church but the earliest part
of the present building is from the 14th century: the list of priests starts with Galfrid
de Sulvii 1264.
A pamphlet available from the Post Office shows the routes of
the public footpaths. Take the Permissive Path to Hilton Green with its maze and admire
the panoramic view of the Cambridgeshire countryside on the journey or go east along the
path by the Nature Reserve and count the varieties of waterfowl.
A stroll along the river bank is relaxing and at the Town Trust
field one can fish from the bank if so minded.
The Census is always an extremely important tool
for any historian. Whilst many of us are irritated with the occasional
need to complete those "dreadful official
forms" it is far more important than just providing a bureaucrat with
an easy set of figures to plan future needs for schools, hospitals, housing
etc. It provides us with a
snapshot of every village, town or city at midnight on a specific date telling
us who was residing at that specific moment, and is invaluable for anyone
tracing their family
The Census is recorded every 10 years and the
general growth of a village can be seen by monitoring the changes over these periods.
In 1841, Philip
BLENCH & James DRAGE were employed as Enumerators - the persons
charged with the formal responsibility of recording each and every
person resident in Fenstanton at
midnight on 6 June 1841
In their notes, they reports that there were 229 Inhabited
Dwellings, and 12 uninhabited and that there were 511 males and 521 females resident.
He comments ;
increase due to Match Sellers and Travellers at Private Lodgings,
6 males and
5 females. Computed decrease
consists of children visiting the Feast - 9 males and 12 females"
In 1851 according to the Enumerator, Mr James WRIGHT, the Census covers "The
Whole of the Parish including Houses on the South side of St Ives
Bridge to Derrys at the Cross Roads to Hammonds Farm and Red Hill
that at midnight 30 March 1951, there were 235 inhabited dwellings,
38 uninhabited and 1 building under construction,
and a head count of
520 males and 550 females, plus "persons in tents or in open air, 5 male and 6
Whilst the earlier Censuses are
somewhat rudimentary, the 1881 Census was more detailed, and enables
us to generate a clearer
of Fenstanton, at midnight on 3
In 1881 there are several families whose descendants still live in, or near to the
village. The total population was 1,063
boundary of the parish was along the centre line of the river Great
Ouse ending at the St. Ives bridge.
Thus The White Horse Inn at the foot of the bridge was within the parish
and the address of the
village doctor (Dr.Mence) is given as "White Horse". In the "White Horse
Tap" lived the Toll Collector. The manager of the Gas Works lived
along the London Road.
The village residents included:
- Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages
- Inland Revenue Officer, Excise Branch
- Road Surveyor
- Police Constable
- Schoolmaster and a teacher
- Postmistress, Butcher & Postmaster
- Rural Postman and a Rural Letter Carrier.
The Vicar was Henry Mottram, who was looked after by a Cook, a
Parlour Maid, and a Housemaid and the Congregational Minister was James Parr.
Farmers were obviously very significant, and 8 are recorded
farming land from 6 to 1057 acres and a further 7 farmers are listed without reference to
land. In all, there were 98 farm labourers and 29 general labourers working in these and
other nearby estates. Some were quite young, one of them 11 years old, three 12 and seven
Professions associated with farming are 2 Farm Bailiffs, 5
Threshing Engine Drivers, 5 Market Gardeners, 3 Shepherds, a Cattle Dealer and a Castrator
(presumably for animals?!)
Horses were an important power source and to tend to them were 2
Blacksmiths, 3 Saddlers, 2 Harness Makers 3 Wheelwrights, 4 Horse Dealers and 1 Horse
Breaker. A Carrier service was provided by Joseph Jacob.
Craftsmen are listed as 17 Carpenters, 11 Bricklayers 4 Tailors,
3 Bootmakers, 2 each of Painters. Coachmakers, Builders, Printers and Engine Fitters and 1
each Stonemason, Miller, Thatcher.
Tradesmen are shown as 5 Bakers, 2 Butchers, 2 Brewers, 2
Maltsters, 1 Cooper, a Coal Merchant and a Corn Merchant.
For the Ladies there were 11 Dressmakers, plus a Milliner, a
Seamstress, a Lacemaker and a Draper's Assistant.
Domestic servants including Gardeners, Grooms, Ostlers and
Billiard Marker totalled 75.
Various other workers were Charwomen
4, Clerks 7, 1 each Washerwoman, Laundress, Nurse, Insurance Agent,
Hawker, Miller's Agent & Leather
Public Houses were as important then, as now, but greater in number
Rose & Crown
There were 5 Paupers recorded living in the Parish.
Howland family information was kindly provided by Mrs Gail ADAMS, who is a descendant of
John Howland of the Mayflower and the Editor of the Howland Quarterly for the
Pligrim John Howland
Society, Leesburg, Virginia, USA
[...return to John Howland...]