Babraham was called Badburgham in Anglo Saxon times. Although Anglo-Saxon society was patriarchal this village was named after a woman – she must have been quite a forceful character. The manor belonged to Algar, Earl of Mercia. Worsted, or Wool Street, is to the north of the parish and to the east is the Icknield Way so the village was well placed to prosper from the wool trade.
The population of Babraham was about 200 at the time of Domesday (1086), was reduced to about 100 by the Black Death in 1348-1349, and was about 300 by the census of 1971.
Babraham had its own martyr. On April 16, Maundy Thursday, John Hullier was burned at the stake on Jesus Green for refusing to renounce the Protestant faith. He had served the parish of Babraham for about six years, becoming vicar in 1549.
Robert Taylor, a teller of the Exchequer, bought the estate and manor of Bruisyards at Babraham, completing a great mansion, Babraham Place, around 1580. He lost his fortune in 1588, following embezzlement by one of his servants.
Sir Horatio Palavicino acquired the estate. He was a shrewd Genoese who collected the pope’s taxes in England during the reign of Mary, converted them to his own use and became protestant on the accession of Elizabeth 1. He became a favourite of the queen, one of her negotiators in Germany and was crucial in financing her navy. But they fell out, he was banished from court and died in Babraham in 1600. His widow went on to marry to Sir Oliver Cromwell, uncle of the Protector. His son, Henry, inherited the estate but died without issue in 1615 at which time it passed to his younger brother Tobias.
Two brothers, Richard and Thomas Bennet, married to two sisters, bought the manor and estate of Babraham (with their mother-in-law’s help) from Tobias Palvacino, son of Sir Horatio Palavicino. He had squandered everything he inherited.
Parliament took over Babraham estate, possibly because of Thomas Bennet’s support for the King during the Civil War. But in 1660 Thomas Bennet’s loyalty to the crown was rewarded by Charles II – he became Sir Thomas and the estate was returned to him.
A school and almshouses were built following the death of Judith Bennet, granddaughter of Sir Thomas Bennet, in 1724.
The estate remained in the hands of the Bennet family until it was sold to William Mitchell who proceeded to demolish Babraham Place in1767. Some of the materials from the mansioin were used to repair the sluice at Chesterton. So much for conservation.
Robert Jones, a Director of the East India Company, bought the estate and built a ‘neat small seat’ on the empty site. Anne, his only child, married Colonel James Whorwood Adeane, who died in 1823.
The ‘neat small seat’ was demolished to make way for Babraham Hall rebuilt in Jacobean style between 1833 and 1837 by Henry John Adeane. It was considerably enlarged and remodelled in 1864.
Babraham Hall and 400 acres sold to the Agricultural Research Council.
Babraham Primary School opened.
With grateful thanks and acknowledgement to Babraham Chronicle compiled by Mary Symonds.