The History of Houghton and Wyton in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Houghton and Wyton in Cambridgehsire.

The Villages of Houghton and Wyton

Thatch cottages, water meadows, river locks and watermills, a picture of rural England, Houghton and Wyton were separate estates before the time of William the Conqueror, and were given to Ramsey Abbey in 969, confirmed as a gift in 974 by King Edgar. The village was known as Houlton in the 10th Century according to the records of Ramsey Abbey, and Hoctune in the 11th Century. The name means "farm on a hill" with its present spelling appearing in the 15th Century.

After the dissolution of monasteries the now combined manor of Houghton and Wyton was granted to Princess Elizabeth, (later Queen Elizabeth I), whilst Queen Elizabeth granted the manor to Helen, Marchioness of Northampton for her lifetime in 1574, after which it reverted back to the crown.

King Charles I sold the joint manor to Robert Dixon and William Wallys during 1625. At some point it came into the possession of the Earls of Manchester of Kimbolton Castle, before being owned in 1651 by Robert Bernard of Brampton Park. From him it passed through his descendants to become the property of Lady Olivia Bernard Sparrow in the 19th Century, on her death it reverted once more to the Earl of Manchester.

Back through history agriculture was the main occupation with the picturesque cottages of the farm workers still standing, small by modern standards, but part of the old world charm of Houghton and Wyton.

The wonderful water meadows beyond the mill and river lock are one of the most beautiful remnants of our rural heritage, and an important part of the villages’ history. The villages were enclosed in 1773, this was when all the little individual strips of land farmed were re-formed into larger fields and redistributed, usually at the cost of the small peasant farmers. This single act transformed the landscape making the modern day layout unrecognisable to the people of the 1700s. Theses larger fields were also drained more effectively, and the modern farm was brought to Houghton and Wyton. Thankfully the water meadows were common land, protecting them from being redistributed.

The Domesday mentions in the survey of 1086 that both Wyton and Houghton had parish churches despite only being a mile apart. The records show a priest in Wyton, but no mention is made of a living in Houghton, suggesting that the one priest served both parishes. This was the arrangement right up to 1874, when 2 priests were appointed, this went on for approximately 120 years, when it reverted to a single priest for both settlements.

In 1934 the two parishes were united under the Huntingdon Review Order, part of Hartford was also brought into the parish making a total area of 3788 acres.