Welcome to the village of Fenstanton in Cambridgeshire. We have no idea what name the village had prior to the Saxon period, it is more than likely that it was not named. In a period when people were born, lived and died in the same place, chances are that a village did not need a name. We shall never know for sure. I am sure that the Romans had a name for the Celtic village with its Imperial Mansio that they passed on the Roman Road from the fort at Cambridge to the Fort at How Hill, south of the river at the ford. But if they did, there is no mention of this in the surviving records.

It was the Saxons who put the name to our village. As trade and travel became more common it was necessary to know where you were going and where you had come from. Village names were usually either the name of the founder or a topographical name and ours was the later. The name literally means ‘the stoney place in the fen’ which is an apt description of the village location beside the old Great Fen. The first recorded appearance of the village name was in a charter dated 1012.

Fenstanton has a long and fascinating history. It was and still is, the only village that is on the old Roman road from Cambridge to Godmanchester. Many famous people have passed through the village, including Boadicea, Queen of the Celtic tribe the Iceni, Hereward the Wake, Godson of Thayne Ulf, one time lord of the manor of Fenstanton cum Hilton. Queen Joan of Scotland lived here on the site of the present Grove House and Queen Elizabeth I dined in the village at the palace of the Bishop of Ely. Even Samuel Pepys refreshed himself in the village on his way from Peterborough to Cambridge. During Cromwell’s time, in 1644, many of his men were stationed in the village so it is more than likely that Cromwell too past through.

Fenstanton is reputed to be the ancestral home of Dick Turpin the infamous highway robber and John Howland one of the original passengers on the Mayflower in 1620. Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown bought the manor of Fenstanton cum Hilton in 1768. Although he never lived here, he and his wife are buried in the church.

With thanks to John Deeks

Click here for British History On-line: Fenstanton

Click here to access historical and archeological maps of Fenstanton

Old Fenstanton: a collection of photographs

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Click here to view 1940’s video of Fenstanton

Capability Brown

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown bought the Manor of Fenstanton and Hilton in 1767. At this time he was working for (amongst many others) the Earl of Hardwicke at Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire. Brown was High Sheriff of Huntingdonshire in 1770.

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John Howland

Born: 1599, Fenstanton

Died: 1672, Kingston

The man who populated America

Millions of Americans are descended from Joh Howland – among them notable figures including former US Presidents George Bush and George W Bush. Franklin D Rooseveld, Dr Spock, Humphrey Bogart, and the Baldwin brothers, Alec, Stephen, Billy and Danny to name a few…

Man servant to John Carver. Married fellow Mayflower passenger Elizabeth Tilley. They had 10 children who all survived until adulthood. In 1626 (probably thanks to an inheritance via his wife) he had enough money to help buy out the original joint-stock funders along with Bradford, Brewster, Standish, Alden and Allerton. He was elected assistant to the Governor in 1633/34/35. In April 1634 he was appointed head of Plymouths trading post in Kennebec. Following an incident and the death of a trader Howland withdrew from public office for 6 years until becoming deputy for the Plymouth Court. He died in 1672. Elizabeth lived until 1686 and died in Swansea,

Click here for the John Howland Society website

Click here for details of the Mayflower 400 year commemorations

The Fenstanton Witch, by MR James