Westwick: Introduction

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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'Westwick: Introduction', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds, (London, 1989) pp. 107-108. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol9/pp107-108 [accessed 24 April 2024]


THE small civil parish of Westwick lay between Oakington and Cottenham 6.5 km. (4 miles) NNW. of Cambridge. (fn. 1) The hamlet stands on a minor road between those two places. The ground falls from 11 m. (36 ft.) on the road and at the north end is barely 6 m. (20 ft.) above sea level. It lies on gault in the south, a ridge of Lower Greensand along the road, and Kimmeridge Clay in the north. (fn. 2) A northward-flowing brook forms the western and northern boundary. Most of the eastern boundary follows the medieval road from Cambridge to Ely. (fn. 3) By the 19th century it was a farm track called Cuckoo Lane, (fn. 4) in the 20th named Gun's Lane to the south and Rampton Drift to the north of Lambs' Cross, where it intersects with the Oakington-Cottenham road. About 3 ha. (7 a.) east of Rampton Drift, arable land belonging to Westwick in 1315, was transferred to Cottenham in 1985, reducing the area of Westwick from 135 ha. (333 a.) to 132 ha. (326 a.). At the same time the parish was joined with its western neighbour to form the new civil parish of Oakington with Westwick. (fn. 5) The Oakington-Cottenham road crosses the brook by Westwick bridge, recorded from 1279, (fn. 6) and in the late 14th century repaired by the villein works of the abbot of Crowland's manor of Oakington. It was rebuilt c. 1835 in gault brick. (fn. 7)

Westwick's name implies that it originated as a daughter settlement of Cottenham, (fn. 8) and in the late 11th century its main tenurial links were with that vill. (fn. 9) Westwick was too small and probably too late a settlement to have its own church, and the distance from Cottenham led it in the late 13th century to be drawn by stages into Oakington parish, whose church lay much nearer. Westwick people began to be buried at Oakington in the late 13th century when the chaplain of Cottenham refused to bury them, allegedly for fear of death, and by 1315 they were attending all services at Oakington and having their children baptized there. Apart from the lord Robert de Lisle, two thirds of whose demesne tithes were payable to Barnwell priory, the inhabitants were by then paying tithes to Oakington, having presumably withdrawn them from the rector of Cottenham when they deserted his church. Crowland abbey's possession of the tithes as impropriator of Oakington was vindicated in 1316. (fn. 10) Thus, although Westwick remained in the same hundred as Cottenham, and later in the Middle Ages and occasionally afterwards was treated as part of Cottenham for civil purposes, (fn. 11) it was ecclesiastically within Oakington parish from 1316, the tithes being commuted in 1838. (fn. 12) The inhabitants disputed their liability to church rates in 1730 and the early 19th century. (fn. 13)

In 1086 there were probably four resident households, including that of the Norman settler Robert, who had no other recorded estates. (fn. 14) By 1279 the hamlet had grown greatly and included 20 or 21 families. (fn. 15) Depopulation in the later Middle Ages (fn. 16) and afterwards reduced the number of houses to 10 in 1674, of which 5 had one hearth, 3 had two hearths, and 1 had five hearths, besides the manor house. (fn. 17) By 1794 there were only 5 families, comprising 28 people, (fn. 18) but numbers rose steadily to a peak of 20 families and c. 80 residents in the 1870s, (fn. 19) then fell to 13 families in 1891. There were 12-15 families in the hamlet from then until the 1980s, though the number of inhabitants continued to fall after 1891, standing in 1981 at only 33. (fn. 20)

Earthworks between Westwick Hall Farm and the brook are the site of Belbouches manor house (fn. 21) and perhaps of part of the medieval hamlet. (fn. 22) None of the surviving dwellings is earlier than the mid 19th century. Extensive farm buildings west of the Hall (fn. 23) were removed when Westwick Hall Farm was built north of the road in 1868 in gault brick with red and blue brick decoration and a matching barn. (fn. 24) John Linton put up a row of eight cottages in 1875 to house some of his labourers, replacing earlier dwellings. (fn. 25) Apart from the Hall, (fn. 26) the only other houses in 1987 were two converted from 19thcentury cottages, a small villa built in 1914, (fn. 27) and a modern detached house. All the dwellings line the south side of the road, apart from Westwick Hall Farm and the Hall, which is set back on the south at the end of an avenue of trees. A manorial dovecot recorded in 1597 and 1764 (fn. 28) was perhaps the circular dovecot surviving in 1905 (fn. 29) but later demolished. Shortly after inclosure in 1856 the Lintons built an outlying farmstead and cottage at Cuckoo hill in the north. (fn. 30) Rebuilt after a fire in 1876, (fn. 31) it was taken down after 1901. (fn. 32)

Westwick never had a public house, though the New Inn next to Oakington station just across the boundary was occasionally said to be in the parish. (fn. 33) Some social activities were organized in the late 19th century by the Lintons for the workers on Westwick farm (fn. 34) and in the 20th the inhabitants looked to Oakington as their village. (fn. 35) No school, nonconformist chapel, or charity is known.


  • 1. Maps used include O.S. Maps 6", Cambs. XXXIV. SW.; XL. NW. (1886 and later edns.); 1/10,000, TL 46 NW., SW. (1981-3 edn.); 1/25,000, TL 46 (1955 edn. with revisions to 1970); 1/50,000, sheet 154 (1980 edn.). This account was written in 1988. See above, Cottenham, intro., map.
  • 2. Geol. Surv. Map 1/50,000, solid and drift, sheet 188 (1974 edn.).
  • 3. Above, Cottenham, intro.
  • 4. e.g. C.R.O., Q/RDc 78, f. [1].
  • 5. B.L. Add. MS. 5845, ff. 74, 75; Census, 1891-1971; S. Cambs. Par. Order (1984).
  • 6. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 407.
  • 7. C.U.L., Queens' Coll. Mun., Box 6, bdle. 2, accts. 3- 5 Abbot John; C.R.O., Q/RDc 48, p. 31.
  • 8. P.N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 154; Ravensdale, Liable to Floods, 15.
  • 9. Below, manors.
  • 10. B.L. Add. MS. 5845, ff. 66v.-80v.
  • 11. e.g. Feud. Aids, i. 153; Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 69; P.R.O., E 179/84/437, f. 55v.
  • 12. C.R.O., P 127/27/1.
  • 13. Ibid. P 126/5/1, pp. [31, 174-5].
  • 14. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 396, 398.
  • 15. Rot. Hund. ii. 407-8.
  • 16. No separate figure for 1327: Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 69-71.
  • 17. Below, Analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments.
  • 18. Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 132.
  • 19. Census, 1801-81. The figures published for 1851 included 3 households in Oakington; Westwick then had 15 (not 18) families and 63 (not 77) inhabitants: P.R.O., HO 107/1759/186/1, ff. 99v.-101.
  • 20. Census, 1891-1981.
  • 21. Below, manors.
  • 22. Cambs. Arch. Rec. 08148.
  • 23. C.R.O., P 126/27/1; ibid. Q/RDc 78.
  • 24. Date on bldg.; D.o.E. list.
  • 25. Date on bldg.
  • 26. Below, manors.
  • 27. C.R.O., R 86/9, specifications for ho. (uncat.); cf. below, econ. hist.
  • 28. P.R.O., CP 25(2)/94/861/39 Eliz. I Trin. no. 4; Camb. Chron. 7 July 1764.
  • 29. East Anglian, N.S. xi. 370.
  • 30. P.R.O., RG 9/1018, f. 107v.
  • 31. Camb. Chron. 5 Aug. 1876, p. 4.
  • 32. O.S. Maps 6", Cambs. XXXIV. SW. (1903 and 1938 edns.).
  • 33. e.g. C.R.O., R 57/18/20/1.
  • 34. Camb. Chron. 5 Jan. 1861, p. 8; 4 Oct. 1862, p. 5; 1 July 1887, p. 4 (all from card index in Cambs. Colln.).
  • 35. Camb. News, 20 Sept. 1965; Camb. Ind. Press, 5 Nov. 1970; 23 June 1977; Camb. Evening News, 8 Feb. 1973.