Bassingbourn is a village in southern Cambridgeshire. It stands just to the west of the village of Kneesworth, the two running into one another and sharing a civil parish. Kneesworth is on the ancient route of Roman Ermine Street (now the A1198), and the two ancient tracks, Icknield Way and Ashwell Street.
Bassingbourn Barracks stands to the north of the village along the main road.
The Greenwich Meridian passes just to the east of the parish.
The ancient parish of Bassingbourn was an approximately rectangular area of 3,381 acres. Its long nearly-straight western boundary mostly follows an ancient field path that separates it from Litlington, and its straight eastern boundary is formed by the Roman Ermine Street, dividing it from Whaddon and Kneesworth. Its southern boundary with Hertfordshire originally followed the ancient Icknield Way, but as Royston grew, part of the parish was transferred to Hertfordshire. The border now follows the A505 as it by-passes Royston.
The village of Bassingbourn built up just to the north of the ancient track Ashwell Street, a mile to the north of the Icknield Way. The Romans had previously built Ermine Street (the imperial highway linking London with York), which runs past the east side of the present barracks half a mile to the east of the village.
Listed as Basingborne in the Domesday Book, Bassingbourn takes its name from 'Bassa', an Anglo-Saxon who, some 1,200 years ago, with his band of followers settled by the 'bourn' or stream in this area.
After the Norman invasion in 1066, Comte Alan of Brittany was given the desirable manor of Bassingbourn, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. His descendant Warin de Bassingbourn, a supporter of King John in the baronial rebellion of 1212. He built a fortified manor house one mile west-southwest of the present barracks, now known as the John O'Gaunt Castle.
In 1511 a grand miracle play was held in the village, which throughout that century was also the site of an annual great fair.
The Royston-Hitchin Railway line opened in 1851, just crossing the very southern end of the parish.
An airfield in the north of the parish opened in 1938 and was used for three years for bomber training. Between 1942 and 1945 it was home to a USAF heavy bomber squadron, followed by a Royal Air Force air transport squadron, and between 1951 to 1969 by two RAF training squadrons. After 1969 it was a training depot for the Queen's Division and is now Army Training Regiment Bassingbourn.
The parish church in Bassingbourn has been dedicated to St Peter and St Paul since at least the 15th century. The present building consists of a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch and south chapel, and west tower. The present building dates largely from the 14th century, but incorporates some stonework of an earlier building. The west tower dates from the 13th century but was extensively rebuilt in the 19th century. The church was refaced in limestone in the 19th century.
Kneesworth has fallen into the ecclesiastical parish of Bassingbourn since the 15th century. It formerly had a chapel dedicated to St Mary Magdalen around 500 metres northwest of Kneesworth Hall. It was still being tended in the 16th century, but was sold in 1549, and no trace now remains. After that, the residents attended Bassingbourn.
The village has a number of facilities including several shops a surgery, a dental surgery, a garage and a sub-Post Office.
Bassingbourn has two remaining pubs: The Hoops, occupying a 17th-century building in the village, and The Pear Tree at North End. In the mid 18th century the village had four pubs, The Hoops, The Black Horse, The Bull, and The Bell. The Red Lion opened in the early 19th century, but closed by 1960, and The Bell was renamed The Black Bull in the 19th century before closing in the 1970s.
In Kneesworth, the Red Lion lies near the crossroads on the Old North Road and occupies a 17th-century building that was still a farmhouse in 1795. At the corner The Rose a 19th-century pub occupied a prominent position before being sold in April 1992. A former pub The Hoops was converted into a club in around 1910.
In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Bassingbourn's primary industry was coprolite mining, followed by Playle's abattoirs. However the largest employer now is Kneesworth House Hospital, a medium security psychiatric unit.
In the half century after 1570, Bassingbourn had usually a resident schoolmaster, not always licensed. In 1628 the vicar himself was teaching a school. In 1657 £9 a year was granted out of the rectory for the schoolmaster.
On the western edge of the village are located Bassingbourn Village College and Bassingbourn Community Primary School.
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- A. D. Mills (2003). "A Dictionary of British Place-Names". http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O40-Bassingbourn.html.
- ATR Bassingbourn
- "Bassingbourn-cum-Kneesworth". http://www.bassingbourn.org/.
- C.U.L., E.D.R., D 2/10, f. 191v.; B 2/23, f. 25v.; Cambs. Village Doc. 58.
- C.U.L., E.D.R., B 2/40A, f. 17
- Cal. S.P. Dom. 1656–7, 278.