Gargoyle from the village church


Artefacts from prehistoric times, traces of Roman occupation and a few Saxon remains all provide evidence of settlement in this parish. The Domesday record gives more precise information about land ownership and farming. Grantchester Church has some Norman stonework but is mainly of 14th and 15th-century construction. Corpus Christi College, as part of its endowment, became patron of the Parish Church of St Andrew & St Mary in 1352. A century later, King’s College acquired the Lordship of the Manor. Both colleges have maintained their influence over village developments.

Medieval Grantchester (probably called Grantasete at a time when Cambridge itself was known by the village’s present name) was laid out in three great fields, and three lesser ones. These were divided into long strips, most coming into the ownership of the nearby colleges of the university. The crops were the traditional ones of ‘oats, beans and barley’, and fertility was maintained by rotation and by grazing. It was hard to make much profit from the produce of these separate acres. On the Trumpington side of the river was the watermill mentioned in Chaucer. Later, Grantchester had its own corn mill, spanning the millstream at the lowest point of the village, and owned by Merton College, Oxford.

Many changes took place in the 19th century. The Enclosure Act brought a redistribution of land, so that farmers could gather their holdings into whole, rather than separate, areas. The landscape became the fields we now recognize – a great benefit for efficient farming though a loss to those with smallholdings. A new road was built across to the A603 (our Coton Road).In 1830 a National School was built to educate the children of the ‘labouring poor’ (now our Reading Room, the small thatched building attached to the Village Hall), and in 1867 larger premises were built across the road (now the Old School). With a growing population accommodation grew insufficient; especially when deposits of ‘coprolites’ were found in the fields and workers came in from elsewhere to mine them. A terrace of houses was built along the Broadway, and also a Baptist Chapel for those who had formerly been gathering in a small conventicle built of wood in the Coton Road. Inspired by the prevalent enthusiasm, the church too undertook a major building work: Grantchester Church acquired a south aisle and raised the roof of its nave.

The village’s association with the university developed as Fellows of colleges were, towards the end of the century, permitted to marry. But the university’s expansion also led to the growth of dense housing at the northern end the parish. This Newnham Croft area, known as New Grantchester, built its own St Mark’s Church and in 1911 was incorporated in Newnham and the borough of Cambridge.

Twentieth century developments included the dispatch of older children from the village school to Sawston Village College; the destruction of Grantchester Mill by fire in 1928; the erection of the Village Hall that same year; the closing of the Baptist Chapel and its conversion to an artist’s studio, and the end of Merton Farm in the 1960s; the end of Lacie’s Farm, which under Bob Vigus had become renowned for championship cattle, in 1992; and the increasing prosperity and new premises of Grantchester School, followed by its closure in 1982.

The new millennium was celebrated in style and with great hopefulness by villagers. An increase in the number of children encouraged improvements to their recreation ground (though it aggravates regrets for the loss of the school). Constant – and successful – efforts are made to cultivate the strong sense of community and pride is taken in conserving the attractive village environment.

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