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All Saints' Church, Cottenham
Grid reference: TL450675
Location: 52°17’11"N, 0°7’28"E
Population: 6,200  (est.)
Post town: Cambridge
Postcode: CB24
Dialling code: 01954
Local Government
Council: South Cambridgeshire
South Cambridgeshire

Cottenham is a village in Cambridgeshire, due north of Cambridge and close to the Fens. Before the fens were drained in the 19th century Cottenham was on the last contour before the waterlogged marshes, and the little cathedral city of Ely was the nearest substantial dry land to the north, around 12 miles to the northeast.

South from Cottenham runs the B1049 to Histon and thence to Cambridge, while to the north the road runs over the empty fen, Smithey Fen, across the Great Ouse to Wilburton. The A10 Cambridge to Ely road is to the east.

About the village

Cottenham has a fairly wide range of amenities in the village, including three churches, two GP surgeries, a dental surgery, a library, a general store, pharmacy, junior school, and Cottenham Village College which is a secondary school and adult education college. There are numerous small businesses.


The Methodist church closed in November 2007, and has been refurbished as a Community Centre.[2]


The Great Fire of Cottenham

The village of Cottenham fell victim to a great many fires over the centuries, but none so devastating as that which occurred on 4 April 1850. Starting in the High Street around 8.30 in the evening, the flames spread rapidly and though there was no loss of human life "a vast quantity of poultry and pigeons and a good many pigs were destroyed." Forty to fifty cottages burnt down as well as the Black Horse and White Horse inns and the Wesleyan Chapel which was housed in a barn on what is now Telegraph Street.

Damage caused by the fire, from Lambs Lane Corner

The arsonist was believed to be one William Hayward, who was lodging at the Lamb Inn whilst doing casual labour for Thomas Graves on the boundary of whose property the fire had started. The landlord of the Lamb was quick to report that Hayward had said to him "I have been a match for old Graves ... damn and blast the fire: I wish it would burn half Cottenham down." Suspicions were fuelled the morning after the fire when the landlord woke to discover Hayward had left town. A hasty case was brought against Hayward for referral to the coming assizes but, presumably for want of hard evidence, the bill was ignored by the Grand Jury.


Archaeological sites of interest within the parish include a stretch of the Roman canal, Car Dyke.

A trench excavated by the ACA team from the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Gary Marriner, discovered evidence of Neolithic occupation in the village.

Bullocks Haste is believed to be the remains of a significant Romano-British settlement, thought to have been a major port. The course of the Car Dyke also passes through this site.

Sport and recreation

King George's Field was named as a memorial to King George V, and is home to Cottenham United Football Club, Cottenham Cricket Club and a bowling green.

The village has a racecourse which is used for several point-to-point horse racing meetings each year, usually in the winter months. The Grand National Hunt Steeple Chase, now held at the Cheltenham Festival, was staged there in 1870 and 1877.[3]

The Village College provides a gymnasium, sports hall and field, and tennis courts for the community. This is where the great Yorkshireman Scott Jackson was first recruited by Newcastle United before going on to become the Magpies' third leading goal scorer with 187 in three seasons at St James' Park. Cottenham is also home to the Cottenham Renegades, North Cambridge's only rugby-for-pleasure club.


All Saints' Church sits at the end of this long village, and according to local legend and tradition has a strange tale attached to it. The villagers of times gone by wanted to build the church in a more centralised part of the community. The townsmen started the task, but it was said that the stones mysteriously started being transported back to their original site, so afraid, the locals decided to leave the church where originally intended.

Notable residents

John Coolidge, was born in Cottenham and baptized there in September 1604 and later emigrated to New England. Among his many notable American descendants is U S President J Calvin Coolidge. The family home is believed to be the thatched cottage adjacent to the Church.[4]

The grandmother of the diarist Samuel Pepys lived in Cottenham; the house in the northern area of the village bears a plaque.

Thomas Tenison, Province of Canterbury#Archbishop of Canterbury between 1695 and 1715, was born in Cottenham in 1636.

Cottenham village design statement

Cottenham was one of the first villages in the United Kingdom to produce a 'Village design statement', which was one of four pilot projects, the others being Stratford-on-Avon, Cartmel in Lancashire and Down Ampney in Gloucestershire. These were promoted as "exemplars", together with written guidance training and advice for other communities wishing to take up the initiative.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Cottenham)


  1. All Saints, Cottenham - Cambridgeshire Churches
  2. Cottenham Community Centre
  3. Stevens, Peter, History of the National Hunt Chase 1860-2010. ISBN 978-0-9567250-0-4
  4. Coolidge, Emma Downing, Descendants of John and Mary Coolidge of Watertown, Massachusetts, 1630, Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1930