Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for HUNTINGDONSHIRE, HUNTINGDON, or HUNTS

HUNTINGDONSHIRE, HUNTINGDON, or HUNTS, an inland county; bounded on the NE, the E, and the SE, by Cambridgeshire: on the SW, by Bedfordshire; on the W, the NW, and the N, by Northamptonshire. Its outline has considerable indentations and saliences, but may be described as irregularly four sided. Its length, from NE to SW, is 32 miles; its breadth, from NW to SE, varies from 20½ to 34 miles; its circuit is about 125 miles; and its area is 229, 544 acres. The north-eastern part is chiefly fen, belonging to the basin of the Nen; while the south-western part is higher land, belonging to the basin of the Ouse. The chief heights are some on the S bank of the Nen; a range from Bedfordshire to near Huntingdon, on the right bank of the Ouse; and an offshoot of the heights of Cambridgeshire. The surface, though nowhere presenting bold or striking features, shows a large amount of pleasing soft scenery. The Nen runs, for about 13 miles, along the north-western and the northern boundary; the Ouse runs about 21 miles, chiefly through the interior but partly on the boundaries; and both are navigable here by large boats. A number of streams, cuts, and drains traverse the fens to the Nen; and some of them also are navigable. Two considerable streams, and several small ones, fall into the Ouse; yet they and the rivers and their feeders fail, in many parts, to afford the inhabitants a tolerable supply of water. Three large lakes, called Whittlesea, Ramsey, and Ugg meres, were in the N; and the first was several miles in extent, and afforded excellent sailing and fishing; but all three have, within a recent period, been entirely drained. Numerous pools and marshes also were in the fens; and many of these, with the tracts around them, have likewise, of late years, been completely drained. The substance of the small hills in the SE is mainly ferruginous sand; that of much of the central tracts is Oxford clay; that of a few portions in the north is stone brash; and that of nearly all other parts is some variety or other of alluvinm. The soils are of many kinds, ranging from strong deep clay, through loam and loamy gravel, to sandy gravel and poor peat; but even very bad kinds are capable, by skilful treatment, of bearing good crops. The fens are mostly bare of trees, but abound with willows; and after being drained, they form very fertile land. The higher tracts are mostly in tillage; and the meadows feed and fatten many cattle, for exportation to the great towns. Estates are large; and farms commonly range in rental from £50 to £500, and let yearly. Wheat yields averagely about 3½ qrs. per acre; barley, 5 qrs.; beans 3 qrs. Oats, turnips, rape, and mustard, also are grown. The cattle number about 12, 000, and are of the Lancashire, the Leicestershire, and the Derbyshire breeds. Sheep number about 220, 000, yielding about 4, 950 packs of wool; and are chiefly of the Leicestershire and the Lincolnshire breeds. Hogs and pigeons are reared; and water fowl and eel used to be plentiful. Manufactures and handicrafts exist chiefly in brick making, paper making, brewing, malting, tanning, iron founding, lace making, madder making, and rush work; but they employ comparatively few hands. The Great Northern railway goes northward through the centre of the county; the Cambridge, St. Ives, and Thrapston railway goes westward nearly through the centre; the St. Ives and Wisbeach goes along the north-eastern border; and the Northampton and Peterborough railway, and also slightly the Peterborough and Ely railway, impinge on the northern border. The aggregate extent of highways is about 496 miles. The county contains 98 parishes, parts of 5 other parishes, and 3 extra-parochial tracts; and is divided into the boroughs of Huntingdon and Godmanchester, and the hundreds of Hurstingstone, Leightonstone, Norman-Cross, and Toseland. The act of 1844, for consolidating detached parts of counties, transferred part of Catworth township from Huntingdonshire to Northamptonshire, and annexed a small portion of Everton parish, lying between Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, to Huntingdonshire. The registration county gives off thirty parishes to Northamptonshire, one to Lincolnshire, and two and part of another to Cambridgeshire; takes in seven parishes from Cambridgeshire, and seven from Bedfordshire; comprises 205, 366 acres; and is divided into the districts of Huntingdon, St. Ives, and St. Neots. The county town is Huntingdon; the towns with upwards of 2, 000 inhabitants are Huntingdon, Godmanchester, St. Ives, St. Neots, and Ramsey; and the markettowns are these and Kimbolton, except that Huntingdon and Godmanchester count as one. The chief seats are Kimbolton Castle, Horton Hall, Elton Hall, Hinchingbrook House, Waresley Park, Brampton House, Upwood, Alconbury House, Alwalton, Conington Castle, Cromwell Place, Diddington Hall, Gaines Hall, Gransden Park, Great Stukeley Hall, Hemingford House, HolmeWood House, Paxton Hall, Paxton Park, Priory Hill, Ramsey Abbey, Ripton Hall, Riversfield, Staughton House, Stirtloe House, and Washingley. Real property in 1 815, £325, 964; in 1843, £401, 684; in 1860, £427, 083; of which £428 were in gas works, £270 in railways, £700 in canals, and £23 in fisheries. Huntingdonshire is governed by a lord lieutenant, a high sheriff, four deputy lieutenants, and about forty magistrates. It is in the home military district, and in the Norfolk judicial circuit; and it lies all within the diocese of Ely. The assizes and the quarter sessions are held at Huntingdon; the county prison also is there; and the Hunts, Beds, and Herts Counties lunatic asylum is in Stotfold parish, Beds. The police force, in 1864, comprised 52 men, and cost annually £3, 577. The crimes, in that year, were 57; the persons apprehended, 40; the known depredators or suspected persons at large, 284; the houses of bad character, 27. One member is sent to parliament by Huntingdon borough, and two by the rest of the county. Huntingdon is the county place of election; and there are two polling places. The county constituency in 1868 was 2, 999. The poor rates for the registration county in 1863 were £33, 529. Marriages in 1863, 412, -of which 73 were not according to the rites of the Established church; births, 2, 090, -of which 139 were illegitimate; deaths, 1, 373, -of which 562 were at ages under 5 years, and 32 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 4, 260; births, 20, 114; deaths, 11, 765. The places of worship within the electoral county, in 1851, were 96 of the Church of England, with 23, 568 sittings; 7 of Independents, with 2, 074 s.; 30 of Baptists, with 8, 095 s.; 3 of Quakers, with 840 s.; 2 of Moravians, with 480 s.; 34 of Weslcyan Methodists, with 6, 272 s.; 11 of Primitive Methodists, with 1, 219 s.; 1 of Bible Christians, with 150 s.; 1 of Brethren, with 500 s.; 9 of isolated congregations, with 1, 756 s.; and 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 60 s. The schools were 95 public day schools, with 6, 631 scholars; 135 private day schools, with 2, 552 s.; 130 Sunday schools, with 9, 444 s.; and 4 evening schools for adults, with 60 s. Pop. in 1801, 37, 568; in 1821, 48, 946; in 1841, 58, 549; in 1861, 64, 250. Inhabited houses, 13, 704; uninhabited, 523; building, 49. The territory now forming Huntingdonshire was inhabited, in the ancient British times, mainly by the Iceni, partly by the Cattieuchlani; was included, by the Romans, in their Flavia Cæsariensis; and was divided, by the Saxons, between Mercia and East Anglia, and called by them Huntandunescyre. The earldom of Huntingdon, even in the Saxon times, but especially from the Conquest till the time of Edward I., seems to have figured largely for the whole county, and to have been a considerable power; and it is alleged, though on no very good authority, to have been held or at least claimed, for some years, by the celebrated but legendary and equivocal character, Robin Hood. The county made no particular figure in subsequent history, yet shared in some of the most stirring events. The Romans had a camp at Chesterton, and stations called Durolipons and Durobrivæ, the former at Huntingdon or Godmanchester, the latter at Water Newton on the Nen; and their roads Erminestreet and Via Devana traversed the county. Castles of the middle ages were at Huntingdon and Kimbolton; great abbeys were at Ramsey and Sawtry-St. Judith; a priory was at St. Ives; and Norman churches, which have left remains of their architecture to the present day, were at Alwalton, Conington, Hartford, and LeightonBranswold.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an inland county"   (ADL Feature Type: "countries, 2nd order divisions")
Administrative units: Huntingdonshire AncC
Place: Huntingdonshire

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