Impington: 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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'Impington: Introduction', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds, (London, 1989) pp. 129-131. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]


IMPINGTON lies immediately north of Cambridge, its parish church 4.25 km. (c. 2½; miles) from Magdalene bridge. (fn. 1) From the late 19th century new building created a residential and industrial area astride the Histon boundary and the parish gradually lost its separate identity, though it retained its administrative status in 1987. New housing physically joined the old village to its neighbour only in the 1970s. The two parishes were inclosed together in 1806.

Impington covered 1,668 a. in 1891. (fn. 2) The ancient boundary with Milton and Chesterton partly followed medieval arable strips. In the south-east it follows the Roman Akeman Street, locally called Mere Way. (fn. 3) A south-western tongue of the ancient parish reached the Cambridge-Huntingdon road, also Roman in origin (fn. 4) and a turnpike between 1745 and 1874. (fn. 5) In 1912 an area of 694 a. belonging to Chesterton until 1911 and briefly in Milton was transferred to Impington; 570 a. of it, partly built over, was given to Cambridge in 1934, leaving Impington extended by two small areas on the south. The south-west tongue, 82 a., was transferred to Girton in 1953. (fn. 6) After adjustments of the boundary with Histon in 1985 (fn. 7) the parish covered 715 ha. (1,768 a.). The remainder of this account is concerned with the ancient parish before boundary changes, though the growth of settlement in the late 19th and 20th century is treated elsewhere. (fn. 8)

The parish is crossed by the railway between Cambridge and St. Ives opened in 1847, the road from Cambridge to Histon and the bypass built east of it in 1963, and the Cambridge northern bypass opened in 1978. The village was approached both before and after inclosure by roads from Histon green, from the Cambridge road, and from Milton. (fn. 9)

The land, loam and stiff clay over gault and gravel, (fn. 10) rises very gently from just above 8 m. (25 ft.) in the north to 23 m. (75 ft.) by the turnpike. The parish was almost entirely agricultural until the late 19th century when the establishment of the Chivers jam factory at Histon, straddling the parish boundary, led to residential development and the planting of orchards. There is no record of ancient woodland, but the park of Impington Hall south of the village has given the centre of the parish a well-wooded aspect since the 18th century. (fn. 11)

The population was already small before the Black Death, with 24 peasant families in 1086, (fn. 12) c. 45 landholders in 1279, (fn. 13) and 32 taxpayers in 1327. (fn. 14) Numbers had fallen further by 1377, when there were only 57 inhabitants aged over 14, the seventh lowest population recorded in the county. (fn. 15) The village remained small until the 19th century, rising from only 14 families in 1563 (fn. 16) to 35 households and 80 adults in the 1660s, (fn. 17) then falling to 24 families and c. 90 people in 1728. (fn. 18) In 1801 there were 22 families and 92 people. Numbers rose to 273 in 1851 and untypically for the district went on rising in the late 19th century and the early 20th as new houses were built outside the village. The only decades in which the increase was less than 10 per cent were the 1870s and 1880s. In the 1890s the population increased by half to stand at over 600 in 1901. The old parish had c. 1,000 inhabitants by 1931 and further increases brought it to 2,000 by 1981, about a third of the total for Histon and Impington together. (fn. 19)

The medieval village was presumably near the church, which stands with Burgoynes Farm in a large enclosure circled by roads. The southern stretch, along the Histon-Milton road, was called High Street in the 19th century (fn. 20) and Burgoynes Road in 1986. Three quarters of the outer side of the enclosure were lined by irregular tofts in the early 19th century. (fn. 21) Several were then empty and a more regular pattern may have been obscured by the shrinkage of the village in the late Middle Ages and the late 17th century. Other tofts were perhaps destroyed when the park was made in the late 16th century.

At least one house stood at Little Green on the Cambridge road in the 1580s (fn. 22) and several of the 30-35 dwellings in the mid 17th century may have been there. In 1674 a relatively large proportion of the houses were substantial: 8 had four or more hearths, 10 had two or three, and only 13 had a single hearth. (fn. 23)

By 1801 there were only 18 inhabited houses; most were in the village but some cottages were scattered along Cambridge Road. (fn. 24) The number trebled to 54 in 1851, when there were 19 in the village and 29 by the road, the settlements being distinguished as Great and Little Impington despite the reversal of sizes. New building in the late 19th century was almost entirely along and near Cambridge Road. In 1871 there were 58 dwellings there, 19 in the village, and 14 elsewhere in the parish. Outlying farmhouses built in the 19th century included Woodhouse Farm (earlier Hog's Hall) and another farm in the south before 1851 and the Elms on Milton Road by 1871. In the 1860s seven cottages were put up on other farms outside the village. (fn. 25)

The parish included part of the medieval hamlet of Howes north of the Cambridge-Huntingdon road. (fn. 26) Old inclosures there covered c. 40 a. in 1806. (fn. 27) An inn by the road, called the Black Bull or How House, had a bowling green in 1676 and survived until the 1870s. (fn. 28) Its site and land further back from the road were later occupied by nurseries (fn. 29) and eventually by part of a Girton housing estate. A second close by the road was bought in 1849 by Charles Lestourgeon, a surgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, who in 1852 designed and built Howes Close, later called Howe House, as his residence. (fn. 30) A later occupant was the politician Sir John Gorst, M.P. for Cambridge University. (fn. 31)

The other public houses in the parish were all on Cambridge Road. (fn. 32) The Chequers was recorded by 1765 and closed c. 1910. (fn. 33) In the late 19th century and the 20th residents of Impington shared the social amenities of Histon, (fn. 34) many activities after 1939 taking place at Impington village college. (fn. 35) The village Feast was said in 1982 not to have been held for many years. (fn. 36)

A 20-a. irrigation lake was created in the late 1970s north of the Cambridge northern bypass. From 1984 it was stocked for anglers (fn. 37) and in 1983 a 120-bed hotel was opened overlooking it. (fn. 38)

Samuel Pepys was a relative of the Pepys family which owned Impington Hall in the 17th century. His diary recorded four brief visits to the house in 1661-2 in connexion with his uncle's will. (fn. 39)


  • 1. This account was written in 1986 and revised in 1987. Maps used include O.S. 6", Cambs. XXXIV. SW.; XL. NW. (1886-9 and later edns.); 1/10,000, TL 46 SW. (1983 edn.); ½5,000, TL 46 (1955 edn. with revisions to 1970); 1/50,000, sheet 154 (1980 edn.). See above, Histon, intro., map.
  • 2. Census, 1891.
  • 3. I. D. Margary, Roman Roads in Brit. 208-9.
  • 4. Ibid. 210-12.
  • 5. Above, Girton, intro.
  • 6. Census, 1921-51.
  • 7. Above, Histon, intro.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. 72C.R.O., Q/RDz 6, pp. 336-7.
  • 10. Geol. Surv. Map 1/50,000, solid and drift, sheet 188 (1974 edn.); Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1869).
  • 11. B.L. Add. MS. 5805, f. 97.
  • 12. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 367, 395.
  • 13. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 463-5.
  • 14. Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 67.
  • 15. East Anglian, N.S. xii. 238-41, 255-8, esp. 255.
  • 16. B.L. Harl. MS. 594, f. 199v.
  • 17. Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 164; below, Analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments.
  • 18. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 20.
  • 19. Census, 1801-1981.
  • 20. e.g. P.R.O., RG 9/1018, ff. 28-37v.
  • 21. C.U.L., MS. Plan R.a.4.
  • 22. Ibid. Add. MS. 3957, f. 10; cf. above, Histon, intro.
  • 23. Below, Analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments.
  • 24. Census, 1801; C.R.O., Q/RDc 8.
  • 25. P.R.O., HO 107/1759, ff. 38-49v.; ibid. RG 9/1018, ff. 28-37v.; RG 10/1578, ff. 30-41; RG 11/1657, ff. 28-39.
  • 26. Above, Girton, intro.; H. M. Cam, 'Hamlet of Howes', reprinted from Girton Rev. Lent Term 1944.
  • 27. C.R.O., Q/RDc 8.
  • 28. Ibid. card index to Q/RLv 2-6; Proc. C.A.S. xxxviii. 46; C.U.L., Maps PSQ 18/41; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1847- 53); P.R.O., RG 9/1018, f. 33v.
  • 29. O.S. Maps 6", Cambs. XL. SW. (1889, 1904 edns.).
  • 30. Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, iv. 154; C.U.L., Maps PSQ 19/643.
  • 31. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1900); D.N.B. 1912-21; Who Was Who, 1916-28.
  • 32. Above, Histon, intro.
  • 33. C.R.O., card index to Q/RLv 2-6; ibid. 515/SP 468; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1908, 1912).
  • 34. Above, Histon, intro.
  • 35. e.g. items in Cambs. Colln. pamphlet file C 36.6.
  • 36. Camb. Evening News, 20 Jan. 1982.
  • 37. Ibid. 10 July 1976; 15 June 1984.
  • 38. Post House Hotal Inf. Pack, 1984 (copy in Cambs. Colln.).
  • 39. Diary of Sam. Pepys,ed. R. C. Lathan and W. Matthews, ii. 136, 146-8, 180-1; x. 318.