Local Information

Local History

This information has been provided by the Oakington and Westwick History Society.

Oakington, Westwick and the surrounding area have a rich and varied history dating back through the Norman, Saxon and Roman possibly to even earlier times. Investigating this history has included document searches and field work carried out by History Society members, including that in support of the investigations lead by UCLan and MMU.

Oakington and the adjoining hamlet of Westwick form a small rural Cambridgeshire community on the edge of the fen. By tradition Oakington has always been a poor village, mainly agricultural labourers and was relatively undeveloped until the mid 1970s. Oakington existed at the time of the Doomsday Book (1086) being recorded under the name Hockinton—the estate of a man called Hocca. At this time there appeared to be 55 peasants in the village. Oakington continued to grow until the late 1300s, but then the population began to decline. It was only around 1800 that the population began to grow significantly again. In the mid-19th century there was a downturn in the population again caused by emigration from the village, many people going to the new country of Australia especially the Adelaide area. From about 1850 the population stabilised at around 500 until 1960s when the village started to grow again.

There are reports that in the year 1315 there were 16 men in the village aged between 60 and 85 and 5 aged between 90 and 120 - this at a time when average life span was probably between 45 and 50.

Both Westwick and Oakington grew up along the route of a possible roman road from Cottenham probably passing near to the current route of Water Lane then possibly Coles Lane and The Drift heading towards the Via Devana (in the Cambridge area more or less now the route of the A14). It is believed that a roman villa or farmstead exists under the area currently occupied by the Oakington airfield.

The Great Eastern railway came to Oakington and Westwick in 1847 with a station on their Cambridge to St Ives route. This line closed to passengers on 5th October 1970, but continued to carry freight, primarily sand from the St Ives area, until the mid-1990s. The route of the railway has been recently converted into the Cambridge Guided busway. A short length of the railway track was given to the village when the busway was built and is exhibited outside the sports pavilion. Further artefacts from Oakington station were acquired by Alan Bloom and are preserved at the Bressingham Steam Museum.

History relates to recording things as they are now and all times before. In recent years there have been many changes around the village and there will be many more in the future. In Norman times Oakington was part of the Northstowe Hundred – Northstowe being a name recently resurrected for the new town to be built between Oakington and Westwick and Longstanton.

The Anglo Saxons in Oakington and Westwick

Three Anglo-Saxon ‘warrior’ burials were discovered in 1926 by horticulturist Alan Bloom at his plant nursery, which was in the area that became the recreation ground in 1953. In 1993 the Parish Council installed a play area at the recreation ground. During construction of this another 17 Saxon burials were discovered. When the Sports Pavilion was built in 2006 a full dig had to be carried out, supervised by Richard Mortimer of Oxford Archaeology East, which found further burials. In recent years, this area has been extensively excavated by a team lead by Dr Duncan Sayer from the University of Central Lancashire (UClan) and involved members of the History Society. These further investigations are described on the Bones Without Barriers website.

These excavations took place between 2010 and 2014 usually timed to coincide with the Annual Village Day which meant that local people were able to see what was happening. Ultimately around 200 burials were found including 2 rare horse burials and a unique person buried with a cow. There is several years additional work to be done, mainly at UClan, to study and conserve the bones and artefacts recovered. Part of the process involves trying to recover DNA from the bones. This is mainly being undertaken by scientists at the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, but also involves scientists at the University of Adelaide – an area where so many people from Oakington and Westwick emigrated in the 19th century.

Further information can be found in this article about Oakington and this article about Westwick, both on the "British History" website. There is also an article published by "A Vision of Britain through Time" with other useful links.

For information about the recent Archaeological digs on the Recreation Ground, see this article by Julie Grove.

The layout of Oakington in 1834 was defined in the Oakington Inclosure Award Act. The map associated with that Act can be seen here, and a transcription of the part of the Act relating to Public Drains is here, and a more complete transcription of that publication is here which may be extended in due course.

Railway enthusiasts may be interested in the article here, and aircraft enthusiasts in the link here.