Newnham is a village west of the River Cam in Cambridgeshire which has been absorbed into the City of Cambridge. The old heart of the village remains, and stretches still to the fields to the south towards Grantchester, though the encroachment of town and gown to the north leaves it contiguous with the city.
The village is best known for Newnham College, part of the University of Cambridge, and the Lammas Land, the meadows beside the river with a recreation ground and playground, on which young and old may stroll and disport themselves. The Granchester Meadows lie to the south.
The village and its area
Historically, Newnham was a hamlet centred on a mill on the River Cam, a short distance to the southwest of the city centre. There is no village high street as such, though Derby Street does a passable impression and there are a number of convenient corner shops in places.
The name of Newnham has been applied moe widely though to much of the west of the city, including the areas where several colleges are found, including [[Newnham College, Wolfson College, Robinson College, Selwyn College and Darwin College.
In modern times Newnham has become one of the most affluent areas of Cambridge.
Newnham Croft is the part of the village to the west of the old village centre and south of Barton Road. It is a tight knot of leafy streets beside the River Granta. Newnham Collage stands here, along with its accompanying student accommodation and appurtenant buildings. Between the houses and the river is the meadow known as Lammas Land, and to its south the not infelicitously named Paradise Nature Reserve.
The parish church is St Mark's, which stands on Barton Road. It is not an austere stone church but of mellow red brick, built in Church was built in 1901 to replace a small wooden church which had stood on an adjoining site, built in 1870 as Newnham grew rapidly. Until 1918, Newnham was originally part of the parish of Grantchester.
Newnham College is one of Cambridge's few remaining colleges exclusively for female students. It was founded in 1871 by Henry Sidgwick, and was the second college in the city for lady students, the first being Girton College. The co-founder of the college was Millicent Garrett Fawcett. It became a full and equal college of the University of Cambridge only in 1948.
The college buildings stand in Newnham Croft, in appearance the model of a Cambridge College though centuries younger than its brethren. The architect Basil Champneys was employed throughout this period and designed the buildings in the Queen Anne style to much acclaim, giving the main college buildings an extraordinary unity. These and later buildings are grouped around beautiful gardens, which many visitors to Cambridge never discover, and, unlike most Cambridge colleges, students may walk on the grass for most of the year.
The early hamlet of Newnham stood on the west bank of the River Granta, on an island of permanently dry land. The surrounding land was liable to flooding, particularly during the winter months. A permanent cut of the river leads to the Newnham watermill, whose predecessors have stood on the site since before the Norman Conquest, as the mill is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. The hamlet was linked to the town of Cambridge by a series of small bridges and fords over the various channels of the river. A road led to the nearby village of Grantchester.
In 1256, the Carmelite order of monks established a convent in Newnham, with a church, cloister, dormitory and other buildings. Over the next 50 years, the order gradually moved from a contemplative tradition, to more interactive religious practices. This, along with the fact that the convent was frequently cut off from Cambridge by winter flooding, led the order to move to Cambridge in 1292.
In the late 19th century, after the enclosure of the Cambridge fields, Newnham Croft was constructed — a middle-class suburb located partly within the Cambridge town boundary, and partly within the parish of Grantchester. In 1870, a church was built to serve the growing community, initially, the church as a daughter church to the parish of Grantchester.
From 1885, Sir George Darwin (son of Charles Darwin) lived in Newnham Grange (built in 1793), where he raised his children (including Sir Charles Darwin and Gwen Raverat). After the death of Sir Charles, son of Sir George, the building was acquired by the newly founded Darwin College.
In the 19th century Newnham was still quite isolated from the town of Cambridge, but the construction of the Fen Causeway across the Cam aand the meadows spurred growth and many more houses were built around the old village in the early twentieth century.
Newnham Croft was incorporated into the borough of Cambridge in 1911. Newnham was created as a separate parish in 1918.