ALTHOUGH Huntingdonshire is one of the few counties for
which no county history has hitherto been published, yet
collections of materials for such a history have from time to
time been made. The earliest of these collections is contained in
four manuscript volumes apparently collected for the Cotton family
during the first half of the seventeenth century, as the volumes bear on
their covers the Cotton arms and contain copies and extracts of documents
largely relating to the Cotton estates. They doubtless came into the
possession of the Earl of Carysfort through the marriage in 1673 of the
daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton with Sir Thomas Proby, and are still in
the library of Col. D. J. Proby, Lord Carysfort's great-grandson, at
Elton Hall, Huntingdonshire. About 1668 Richard Astry, M.A., an
alderman of the town of Huntingdon, who died in 1714 at the age of 83,
made a collection of topographical and heraldic material relating to the
county. This collection is now in the British Museum (Lansdowne MS.
921). It is thought to have been made for Sir Robert Cotton, as a small
part of the volume is in his handwriting.
A prospectus for a History of Huntingdonshire (fn. 1) was issued by
Rev. Benjamin Hutchinson, M. A., prebendary of Lincoln, vicar of Market
Rasen in Lincolnshire and Kimbolton in Huntingdonshire, about 1794.
The History, with a map and other plates, was to be published by subscription and to include the natural history and antiquities of the county
with a translation of the part of Domesday Book relating to Huntingdonshire. Hutchinson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1795,
when he was described as 'a gentleman well skilled in several branches
of natural history.' His contributions to the Society consisted of two
papers on meteorology. He was rector of Kimbolton from 1791 to
1794 and of Holywell and Needingworth from 1788 to 1804. In 1795
he was also rector of Rushden in Northamptonshire and chaplain to the
Duke of Bedford. We find that the Rev. Richard Relhan, F.R.S.,
author of Flora Cantabrigiensis, who died in 1832, supplied him with a
considerable list of the flora of Huntingdonshire (see below, p. 38).
Hutchinson apparently never published a history of the county, but he
made very large collections for the purpose.
In the Gentleman's Magazine for November 1814 (vol. lxxxiv,
pp. 445-6) there is an announcement of a proposed History of Huntingdonshire by John Symmons, Esq., of Paddington House, London. For
this purpose it is said Symmons had purchased Hutchinson's collections
and the heraldic material of Rev. Robert Smyth; the Earl of Carysfort
had also presented him with three folio volumes of collections. John
Symmons was apparently the son of Rev. Charles Symmons, poet and
biographer; he was called to the Bar and published translations of the
classics. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1794 and died
in 1842. So far as can be ascertained he never published a history of the
county. The Hutchinson collections which he purchased, afterwards
came into the possession of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the historian of Wiltshire,
and were sold by auction in January 1888, but their present resting place
has not been traced. The Rev. Robert Smyth is described as of Woodstone, Huntingdonshire; his collections have been distributed. (fn. 1) The three
folio volumes presented by the Earl of Carysfort to Symmons are three of
the four volumes above referred to as still in Elton Hall library and must
have been returned by Symmons when he gave up the idea of publishing
a history of this county. These three volumes are inscribed inside the
cover 'Presented by the Earl of Carysfort September 1814,' a date
which connects them with the announcement in the Gentleman's Magazine,
and in one volume there is a note of its return to Lord Carysfort.
The editors desire to express their thanks to the many helpers who
have lightened their task in preparing this volume for the press. They
would particularly mention their gratitude for the sympathetic and
practical interest shown in many ways by Col. D. J. and Lady Margaret
Proby, which has so greatly facilitated their work. For help on the
articles on natural history the authors have individually made acknowledgment, but the editors would like to record their thanks to the Marquess
of Huntly, P.C., LL.D., for giving access to the herbarium made by his
mother, the late Dowager Marchioness of Huntly; and to his sister
Lady Ethelreda Wickham for various collections of notes on the botany
of the county, collected by her mother. Special thanks are accorded to
Mr. H. Willoughby Ellis, F.E.S., F.Z.S., for the lists of Coleoptera which
he has supplied and for his assistance in many other ways, and to Mr.
Karl Jordan, D.Ph., of the Tring Museum, for his assistance to Mr.
The editors also wish to acknowledge the information and help
generously given them with regard to the archæological articles and
otherwise by Canon W. M. Noble, M.A., Mr. S. Inskip Ladds, A.R.I.B.A.,
Mr. G. Wyman Abbott, F.S.A., Mr. J. W. Bodger, F.L.S., Mr. J. B.
Garrood, M.D., Mr. G. Fydell Rowley, D.L., J.P., Mr. C. G. Tebbutt,
J.P., Lieut.-Col. Louis T. D. Tebbutt, D.L., Mr. J. P. Maule, clerk of
the peace for the county, Mr. J. W. Winter, town clerk of Huntingdon,
the editors of The Peterborough and Hunts Standard, The Peterborough
Advertiser, The Huntingdonshire Post, and The St. Neots Advertiser.
They also tender their thanks to Mr. R. G. Collingwood, M.A., F.S.A.,
the Society of Antiquaries, the British Academy and the British Archæological Association, the controller of the Oxford University Press and
the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum for permission to reproduce
photographs and drawings.