This is a prosperous village, and to a great extent a commuter village for professionals and others working in Cambridge or in London: the village was reckoned Britain's twenty-second richest village by The Daily Telegraph in 2011.
In 1841 Great Shelford parish, extending over 1,900 acres, has a population of 803. By the 2001 census, this had grown to 3,949.
Great Shelford has a wide range of shops and services, including two public houses, two restaurants, a library, several estate agents, two banks, a building society, a chemist, a dentist, a solicitor, an accountant, two cycle shops, a shoe shop, a delicatessen, a bakery and a garden centre. There is a weekly country market and monthly farmers' market.
The villages of Great and Little Shelford are served by Shelford Railway Station on the line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street. The old Great Shelford library has been demolished to be replaced by a new building which incorporates affordable housing by Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association.
A large country house in the village was used for a concert named 'The Tea Set' in October 1965, which featured performances from Pink Floyd, Jokers Wild and Paul Simon. The same house was also used as the location for the cover art of Pink Floyd's album Ummagumma.
The parish church is St Mary The Virgin.
The churchyard is like a wayside garden, the porch embowered in greenery and an ancient window framed with hanging blooms of wisteria. The church has been much as it is now since Thomas Patesle rebuilt it in 1307; we see him in brass in his Vicar's robes on the chancel floor. The tower was rebuilt with the original materials after its collapse in 1798
The church porch is two-storeyed with a splendid pelican in its fine vaulted roof. The spacious interior has tall arcades with mediæval clerestories over them and heads between the arches, and eight fine oak angels look down from the hammerbeams of the roof. There is a 15th-century screen with tracery in the north aisle enclosing an altar in memory of a soldier killed on the Indian frontier.
The church has been decorated in a style reminiscent of the worst excesses of the Oxford Movement; a niche for a statue of Mary watching the door, a painting above the Communion Table of two saints and a Roman soldier by the cross and a gleaming white sculpture of the Crucifixion with saints and angels under rich canopies. The chancel stalls are carved with wild roses, the sedilia with grapes and acorns.
There are a few fragments of old glass, fragments of Norman carving set in a wall, and above the chancel arch a mediæval painting of Doom, fading away.
Churches in the village are:
- Church of England: St Mary The Virgin
- Baptist: Great Shelford Free Church
Local manors and families
Several great estates shared the two Shelfords, notably that of the de Freville family, whose manor house survives (and was resold in 2005) at Little Shelford, and who were there as early as 1300. But all appear to have generally had absentee landlords who sold copyhold lands and generally let others on long renewable leases. Farming survived at Great Shelford well into the 20th century. Several Yeoman families of note, the Deans, Howling, and Tunwell families, farmed here for centuries.
Richard Tunwell (1645–1713) acquired land at Great Shelford, at first a mere acre of pasture, a copse and a close held copyhold from the Bury manor. When Freville's Manor was purchased [as superior proprietor] by William Freeman in 1701, the lands in Great Shelford belonging to the Manor were described as 142 acres of arable, 10 acres and a half a rood of meadow, 8½ acres of pasture, a sheepwalk or liberty of foldage and fold vourse for six store ewes, all by then in the occupation of Richard Tunwell. The Manor also had half an acre of meadow in Little Shelford which again was occupied by Richard Tunwell. A rent roll of the Manor of Granhams dated 1708 shows that Tunwell and his sons held copyhold land from that Manor as well. From 1678 onwards, Richard Tunwell served as a Juror on the Bury Baron Court. By 1705, as a landed proprietor, he had qualified as a parliamentary voter and the Poll Book for the election held in that year shows that he voted for Sir Richard Cullen and John Bromley.
The Killingworth family also owned land at Shelford, as when Richard Killingworth of Great Bradley in Suffolk, gentleman, made his Will on the 12 September 1586, he left the following legacies to the poor - of Fulbourne £10; Balsham (where his son John held the manor) £10; Great Shelford £5; Little Shelford £5; and Cambridge £20.
- Cricket: Great Shelford Cricket Club
- Football: Great Shelford FC
- Rugby Union: Shelford Rugby Club
Great Shelford Recreation Ground on Woollards Lane has been designated a Queen Elizabeth II Field.
The "Shelford Festival and Feast" takes place every year in the 2nd week of July. The Shelford Feast goes back to mediæval times. The Feast continued until the Second World War, the last one being held in 1938 until revived in 1994.
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about Great Shelford)
- History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cambridgeshire, published by Robert Gardner, Peterborough, 1851.
- Bullwinkle, Alan (February 1984). "The Tunwells of Fulbourn and Great Shelford". Cambridgeshire Family History Society Journal (Cambridge) 4 (5): 123–125.
- Mee, Arthur, The King's England: Cambridgeshire, New revised edition, London, 1965, p. 140.