History of Kimbolton

Limited archaeological finds in the vicinity of the airfield suggest that there may have been a small Roman settlement, but Kimbolton's name is Anglo Saxon, meaning "Cenebald's Ton" (or estate). The physical setting will have dictated the site of the present village - the protection of the small surrounding hills; the route crossing; the river crossing;the gravel terraces overlaying the clay to encourage building.

By Domesday the population was about 500, second only in the county of Huntingdonshire to Huntingdon itself. The Lords of the Manor were responsible for the steady development during the mediaeval period - the enlargement of the church, the relocation of the castle and the layout of the town. This plan was probably the result of the market charter granted in 1200 by King John to the then Lord of the Manor, Geoffrey Fitzpiers,Earl of Essex; from this period dates Newtown (first mentioned in 1279) and the diversion of the main road through the High Street Market Place, hence the notorious bends. East Street, previously known as Back Street, acted as the service area for the market.

CastleKatherine of Aragon's brief sojourn at the castle (1534-1536) following her divorce from King Henry VIII, coincided with one of a series of rebuilds which it has undergone, the most significant of which, by Vanbrugh and Hawkesmoor in the early 18th century, left much the same appearance as we see today. Other notable inhabitants of the castle include Sir John Popham, the presiding judge at the trials of Guy Fawkes and Sir Walter Raleigh, and the second Earl of Manchester, who led parliamentary forces in the Civil War, until Cromwell's succession. The Manchester family, having lived in Kimbolton since 1615, finally sold the castle to Kimbolton School (an early Tudor Grammar School) in 1950, and the surrounding estate to Boots pension fund in 1976. 

TrainKimbolton Castle had another claim to fame, it being the name given to a loco built in 1927. The Kimbolton Castle was a B17 4-6-0 locomotive, built for LNER and was one of about 70 in the Class which served both on the Great Central (Marylebone - Manchester) and the Great Eastern (East Anglia) lines until the 1960s.

Locomotive 'Kimbolton Castle' (right) about 1955 at Crescent Junction, Peterborough, believed emerging from Nene carriage sidings (The Wharf) preparatory to running on the 0938 service from Peterborough East to Lowestoft, which 61633 would work as far as Norwich. (Photo and info. courtesy of Bill Becket)

CastleThe Robert Adam-designed Gatehouse to the Castle lies at the eastern end of the High Street, and is pictured to the right.

It is impossible to chart accurately the population of Kimbolton although it must have undergone a very gradual build up from the 11th century population of around 500 to reach 1266 by the 1801 census. Improvement in medical knowledge led to a national expansion reflected in a local population of 1653 by 1851, but the agricultural depression from the later 19th century led to the inevitable depopulation of an area so closely tied to farming. Many from Kimbolton emigrated and in recent years their descendants have started to travel from Australia,Canada,South Africa and New Zealand to visit the place they still regard as the family 'home'. One notable former Kimbolton resident was William Fernie,who emigrated to Canada via Australia and established the city of Fernie (soon to be the home of the winter Olympics) in British Columbia,Canada. William's father was a surgeon of Kimbolton as was his grandfather. His father is buried in Kimbolton cemetery and his grandfather in the churchyard.

Old photo of Kimbolton   Old picture of Kimbolton

The shrinkage in population continued until only 700 remained by 1931, and this number scarcely altered until the 1960s. 

Street    Street

Over the last forty years building developments at Aragon Place, Castle 

St. Andrews ChurchGardens,Constable Leys,Ashfield,Hunter's Way and Maurice Close, together with infilling at Stonely, have steadily increased the population. The newcomers have, however, been housed in buildings far more luxurious than the "one up, one down" dwellings that proliferated to accommodate the bulge of 1851 and we do hope that they feel part of what remains a close and friendly community.

Today, Kimbolton,its very wide street reflecting its previous use as a market place, retains old and charming houses and its church, set in the heart of the place,is of the 13th to 15th centuries, although the font is a Saxon relic. King Harold probably worshipped at the original church on this site when he visited his nearby hunting lodge.

The church, St Andrew's, is at the western end of the High Street and it boasts the only Tiffany window in a parish church in the country. The window was designed by artist Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the founder of Tiffany's jewellers in New York. It depicts the twin daughters of Consuela Yznaga, widow of the 8th Duke of Manchester, and was made in 1901. The church itself is situated in a pretty churchyard with cedar trees and historic box tombs dating back to the 18th century, and is surrounded by attractive houses and cottages.

Kimbolton's Market Charter TranslationKimbolton's Market Charter

Below is shown a copy of Kimbolton's Market Charter, which dates from AD 1200. This confers upon Kimbolton the right to hold a fair for three days around St Andrew's Day (this has now become the 'Statti' Fair) and to have a street market each Friday.

Please select the images for a larger view. A translation from the old English is on the left.

Kimbolton's Market Charter