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Godmanchester Post Street.jpg
Post Street in Godmanchester,
with the tower of St Mary's Church
Godmanchester is located in Cambridgeshire
Location within Cambridgeshire
Area1.983 km2 (0.766 sq mi) civil parish
Population6,711 (2011)
• Density3,384/km2 (8,760/sq mi)
OS grid referenceTL245704
• London56 miles (90 km)
Civil parish
  • Godmanchester [1]
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPE29
Dialling code01480
AmbulanceEast of England
UK Parliament
List of places
52°19′03″N 0°10′21″W / 52.3176°N 0.1725°W / 52.3176; -0.1725Coordinates: 52°19′03″N 0°10′21″W / 52.3176°N 0.1725°W / 52.3176; -0.1725

Godmanchester (/ˈɡɒdmənɛstər/ GOD-mən-ches-tər)[2] is a town and civil parish in the Huntingdonshire district of Cambridgeshire, England. It is separated from Huntingdon, 1.6 miles (2.6 km) to the north, by the valley of the River Great Ouse. Being on the Roman road network, the town has a long history. It has a waterside location, surrounded by open countryside of high value for its biodiversity but it remains highly accessible, with a railway line to London, the A1 road and M11/A14 which run nearby.[3]


The town is on the site of the Roman town of Durovigutum.[4] There is archaeological evidence of Celtic and earlier habitation prior to the establishment of a key Roman town and a mansio (inn), so the area has probably been continuously occupied for more than 2,000 years.

The remains of a neolithic temple circa 2900BCE, aligned to the Beltane sunrise, were documented between the town and the village of Hemingford Abbots.[5] The location is likely to have been originally settled due to the gravel beds providing a ford across the River Great Ouse.

The settlement was at a crossroads of Roman roads Ermine Street, the Via Devana (from Cambridge, between Colchester and Chester) and a military road from Sandy, Bedfordshire. The Roman settlement was sacked by Anglo-Saxons in the third century. In contrast to Huntingdon, archaeological finds have been extensive in the centre of Godmanchester, which has two conservation areas of early recognition,[6] including many timber-framed Tudor houses, the largest being Tudor Farm, dating from 1600 and restored in 1995.

The town's prosperity over the centuries has been closely tied to its strategic position on the old Roman Road from London to York. In the Middle Ages, the Danes dug the Mill Lade allowing development of an inland port.[7]

The place was listed as Godmundcestre in the Domesday Book of 1086 in the Hundred of Leightonstone in Huntingdonshire.[8] The survey records that there were 26 ploughlands, with capacity for a further 31 and, in addition to the arable land, there were 160 acres (65 hectares) of meadows, 50 acres (20 hectares) of woodland and three water mills, a church and a priest.[9]

Godmanchester was the first chartered by King John in 1212, though it had been a market town and royal manor for some years. King James granted a second Royal Charter in 1604.[10]

Farm Hall, on West Street, was used as a bugged detention centre for German nuclear scientists as part of Operation Epsilon, from July 1945 to January 1946.[11]

In 2003 Godmanchester had a population of about 5,500 in 3,500 homes, with the largest[12] increase in population occurring between 1981 and 1991 (81%) and more modest growth since.

Toponymy and pronunciation of place name[edit]

Godmanchester war memorial

A rendering of Godmundceaster as Gunecestre occurs in formal text in 1399.[13] A minority of visitors, former residents and residents continue to pronounce the place as Gumster, though this has long-since been superseded by Godmunchester, with stress identified in the summary section IPA pronunciation guide to this article.[14][15]

A typical pronunciation was performed by the indie band The Howl and The Hum in their song "Godmanchester Chinese Bridge".

The Roman castra is mentioned in Godmanchester's name, which comes from Anglo-Saxon Godmundceaster, referring to a Roman fortified place or army camp. The Saxon King Guðrum c.835–890, also known as Gormond or Guthrum the Old, is reputed to have given his name to, and (in one account) settled in, the Burh. This was after Alfred the Great imposed Christianity and made him lawful sovereign of East Anglia; according to William Camden's Britannia from 1594.[16] These events would be contemperaneous with the Treaty of Wedmore.

Other references simply note that a title such as Godmund is a typical of Saxon name.[17] A rather less plausible suggestion for the origin of the town name is the Norse translation of godi and mund, meaning priest and protection of the gods.[18]


Godmanchester was in the county of Huntingdonshire until 1965 (also an administrative county from the creation of those entities in 1887). From 1965, the town was part of the new administrative county of Huntingdon and Peterborough. Since 1974, the former, relatively diminutive, county of Huntingdonshire has been a part of the administrative county of Cambridgeshire.[19]

The highest tier of local government is Cambridgeshire County Council, locally represented by two county councillors serving Godmanchester and Huntingdon East (electoral division)[20][21]

The second tier of local government, the planning authority and council-tax collecting body, is Huntingdonshire District Council, a non-metropolitan district, locally represented by two councillors elected for an eponymous ward.[20][22]

The third and lowest tier of local government is Godmanchester town council. The council comprises 17 councillors, including a mayor and a deputy mayor.[23]

At Westminster, Godmanchester is represented in the Huntingdon seat in the House of Commons since 2001 by Jonathan Djanogly (Con).[20]



Since 1801, the population has been recorded every ten years by the UK census, the only exception being in 1941 due to the Second World War. In the 19th century, the population ranged from 1,573 (in 1801) to 2,438 (recorded in 1861).[24]

Population figures since 1911 are:

Godmanchester 2,130 2,035 1,993 2,502 2,955 5,255 5,996 6,711

All population census figures from report Historic Census figures Cambridgeshire to 2011 by Cambridgeshire Insight.[24]

In 2011, the parish covered an area of 4,900 acres (1,983 hectares)[24] and so the population density for Godmanchester in 2011 was 876.5 persons per square mile (338.4 per square kilometre).

Culture and community[edit]

The town has a waterside location surrounded by open countryside of high value for its biodiversity, agricultural land value, scenic beauty and landscape quality[25]

The Causeway, which overlooks the River Great Ouse
The Causeway

There are several bridges across the Great Ouse to Huntingdon, but until 1975, Old Bridge, Huntingdon, a medieval bridge, was the only one. It is now used only for light traffic, and a parallel footbridge has been built for pedestrians. Construction of the A14 bypass means that heavy traffic now flows over a modern bridge to the south of the town.

Between Godmanchester, Huntingdon and Brampton lies England's largest meadow, Portholme,[26] which remains an important flood plain, but which has served as an equestrian racecourse and centre for early aviation.

To the North and East of the town are West and Eastside Common (SSSI), and Godmanchester Nature Reserve. These commons are intersected by The Ouse Valley Way and Pathfinder Way[27] long distance footpaths, and the route of a disused railway which connected the demolished Godmanchester Station and St Ives.

South of the town centre are the headquarters and a large operational shelter of veterinary/rescue charity Wood Green Animal Shelters.

A number of small businesses, plus DHL and Coop warehouses are situated on the southern edge of the town, on Chord Business park, Roman Way Industrial Estate and Cardinal Business Park.

Original historical documents relating to Godmanchester, including the original church parish registers, local government records, maps, photographs and the surviving borough charters, are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office, Huntingdon.

In October 2003, BBC1's Songs Of Praise was once again (previous transmission 1976) hosted by the parish church of St Mary the Virgin and featured the new hymn tune Godmanchester, written by the then vicar, Peter Moger.[28]


Chinese Bridge[edit]

One of the town's largest public works of art and of landscaping is its Chinese Bridge, which connects to a water meadow. Local legend has it that the bridge was built without the use of nails or other fixings. The bridge was removed by crane on 9 February 2010. A new replica was built off-site in two parts and was installed on 15–16 February 2010.[29] Today the Chinese Bridge does feature nails. The claims are believed to be false; a bridge in Queens' College, Cambridge, had the same urban myth. Expert commentators write that the original nails had corroded away, masking their presence.

Twin towns – sister cities[edit]

Godmanchester is twinned with:

Sport and leisure[edit]

The non-League football club Godmanchester Rovers F.C. play at Bearscroft Lane, whose teams play in various regional divisions.


The A14 arterial road runs 1.0 mile (1.6 km) south of Godmanchester (connecting the West Midlands to the Haven ports of Ipswich, Harwich and Felixtowe and via the M11 to London. When this route opened in 2019, the former A14 carriageway, which cut across the north edge of the town, was reclassified as the A1307. The former A14 bridge across the River Great Ouse was repurposed for local traffic.[30]

The town centre is approximately 1.1 miles (1.8 km) from Huntingdon railway station, a semi-major stop on the East Coast Main Line. The town of Huntingdon and railway station may be accessed on foot via the expansive meadow or by National Cycle Network route 51.

Huntingdon has at least 2 buses per hour in daytime plus school buses. At least one bus per hour links the town with Cambridge directly.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Godmanchester Town Council – Town Hall, Post Street, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire. PE29 2NB". gmccouncil.com. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  2. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20160917142328/http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/guide-wrongly-corrects-the-pronunciation-of-godmanchester-to-gumster/story-29722906-detail/story.html
  3. ^ https://www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/media/2780/godmanchester-neighbourhood-plan-examiner-final-report.pdf title=Report on Godmanchester Neighbourhood Plan 2017-2036 for Huntingdon District Council 30 August 2017
  4. ^ Rivet, A.L.F.; Smith, Colin (1979). The Place-Names of Roman Britain. London. p. 354.
  5. ^ Keys, David (23 March 1991). "Godmanchester's temple of the Sun". New Scientist.
  6. ^ "Conservation Areas in Godmanchester (c) Stuart Bond 2002". godmanchester.net. Archived from the original on 9 January 2006.
  7. ^ P & K Sneath, Godmanchester A Celebration of 800 Years, Pg34 EAH Press 2011, ISBN 978-0-9560384-4-9
  8. ^ Ann Williams; G.H. Martin, eds. (1992). Domesday Book: A Complete Translation. London: Penguin Books. p. 1349. ISBN 0-141-00523-8.
  9. ^ J.J.N. Palmer. "Open Domesday: Place - Godmanchester". www.opendomesday.org. Anna Powell-Smith. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  10. ^ P & K Sneath, Godmanchester A Celebration of 800 Years, Pg34, EAH Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9560384-4-9
  11. ^ Bernstein 2001, p. 60
  12. ^ "Population - godmanchester.net (c) All rights reserved 1998-2006 - The authoritative site about Godmanchester and its residents, more than 330 pages about the town, forums and events". Stuart Bond.
  13. ^ "Fifth entry, seen at the end of the first line, the home of Robert Bocher, accused of taking animals from the plaintiff". Plea Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas, Michaelmas Term, 1399. National Archives; CP 40/555.
  14. ^ "Guide wrongly corrects the pronunciation of Godmanchester to Gumster - Cambridge News". 17 September 2016. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 9 November 2017.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  15. ^ Candida Lycett Green, England: travels through an unwrecked landscape (1996), p. 74: "GODMANCHESTER Huntingdonshire... As a child I was taught to pronounce it 'Gumster'."
  16. ^ Camden's Britannia newly translated into English, with large additions and improvements ; publish'd by Edmund Gibson, Camden, William, 1551-1623., Gibson, Edmund, 1669-1748. pg 421-322. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo2/B18452.0001.001/1:63.17?rgn=div2;submit=Go;subview=detail;type=simple;view=fulltext;q1=Gormoncester
  17. ^ http://epns.nottingham.ac.uk/browse/id/53282b41b47fc407a900034a
  18. ^ https://www.gutenberg.org/files/57846/57846-h/57846-h.htm paragraph 31-32 from Project Gutenberg's, Byways in British Archaeology Walter Johnson, 2018
  19. ^ Local Government Act 1972
  20. ^ a b c "Ordnance Survey Election Maps". www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk. Ordnance Survey. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  21. ^ "Cambridgeshire County Council: Councillors". www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk. Cambridgeshirte County Council. Archived from the original on 22 February 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  22. ^ "Huntingdonshire District Council: Councillors". www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk. Huntingdonshire District Council. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  23. ^ "Godmanchester Town Council: Councillors". www.gmccouncil.com. Godmanchester Town Council. Archived from the original on 6 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  24. ^ a b c "Historic Census figures Cambridgeshire to 2011". www.cambridgeshireinsight.org.uk. Cambridgeshire Insight. Archived from the original (xlsx - download) on 15 February 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2016.
  25. ^ https://www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk/media/2780/godmanchester-neighbourhood-plan-examiner-final-report.pdf Report on Godmanchester Neighbourhood Plan 2017-2036 for Huntingdon District Council 30 August 2017
  26. ^ "Portholme Godmanchester (c) Stuart Bond 2002". godmanchester.net. Archived from the original on 27 May 2012.
  27. ^ https://ldwa.org.uk/ldp/members/show_path.php?path_name=Pathfinder+Long+Distance+Walk
  28. ^ "St Mary the Virgin, Godmanchester - Archived Event". Archived from the original on 20 August 2008.
  29. ^ Godmanchester Community Association The Bridge magazine, 2010
  30. ^ "New link road for Huntingdon Town Centre is open". 31 October 2020.

External links[edit]