Some snippets of the history of Babraham. If you have any material, old photos or documents, we would be very interested in using them in this section – we will take the greatest care in making digital copies.
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, grandaughter 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.Continue reading
Once upon a time the grassy area in front of the George Inn was the village green. Sheep grazed on it and there was a water pump for the village. Up until the late 1950’s there was no running water in the almshouses over the road and water had to be carried to them from the pump, usually by children from the school which is also there. On a Saturday afternoon all the contents of the toilets from the almshouses, the school house and the school itself would be collected by one lucky chap, emptied into a sort of swinging dustbin on wheels and pushed up to the end of Honeysuckle Lane where it was tipped out.
Madeline Adeane was a notable beauty who was painted by Burne Jones and more famously by John Singer Sargent, together with her two sisters,. This portrait is entitled The Wyndham Sisters and hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Adeane family gave a village hall to Babraham, which was named after Madeline. A dance was held there every Saturday night for hall staff. Madeline House stands on the site of the old hall in the High Street.
Evelyn Barnard wrote a children’s book called ‘The Brothers Are Walking’, set in Babraham. As well as mentioning several familiar place names it incorporates the story of the Bennet brothers, whose ghosts are supposed to walk near the church. They were probably a bit put out when their family vault was opened and their remains removed to make way for Robert Jones’ family. Robert Jones owned the Babraham estate and his daughter eloped with Colonel Adeane, who subsequently inherited the estate. You can see a monument to the brothers in the church.
In 1920 two future kings played cricket in front of Babraham Hall. Prince Albert (George VI) and Prince Edward (Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor) were both at Trinity College and rode out to Babraham on their motorbikes. The first recorded match by Babraham cricket club was in 1856 – on a Tuesday oddly enough but Saturday was a full working day and a game on a Sunday would have been out of the question. Gubby Allen, captain for England, played in 3 matches for Babraham after his return from the 1936/7 tour of Australia.
The first ever Christmas tree in England was put up at Windsor Castle in 1839. Henry John and Maude Adeane followed suit at Babraham Hall in 1842.
Isobel Adeane (1839-1913) was the eighth of twelve children born to Henry John and Maude Adeane. With her brothers and sisters she had to stand with her feet in stocks – apparently this taught them to turn out their toes. As a child she was not allowed to go near the Cambridge Road ‘because of all the undergraduates who were really looked upon more like wild beasts.’
(An extract from Isobel’s diary in the Babraham Institute archive)
The tollkeeper lived in Granta Cottage by the bridge and charged 1d for a horse and cart to go through the tollgate and over the bridge.
This is what Granta Cottage looked like in the 1950’s. On the opposite side of the road you can see the grass where the pavement is now.
(Photo courtesy of Clare Kemp)
Source: Archive material from Babraham Institute and aural historyContinue reading
There has been a church on the present site since the 12th century, when it was dedicated to St Peter, although it is possible that an earlier Saxon church existed there previously.
Although Babraham was a wealthy village thanks to its wool trade, in 1445 the vicarage of Babraham was exempted from taxation, due to its poverty, and in 1535 it was said to be the poorest living in Camps deanery.
John Hullier was vicar of Babraham from 1549 and served the parish for about six years.. On April 16 1556, Maundy Thursday, he was burned at the stake on Jesus Green in Cambridge for heresy (refusing to renounce the Protestant faith).
In 1851 average attendances were 90 people at the morning service and 190 in the afternoon.
Source: Babraham Chronicle compiled by Mary Symonds
The following comes from
The Parish Church of St Peter, Babraham – A Simple Guide by C.C. Ingrey
- The Church Communion Rail is Jacobean, and bears the date 1665 (the reign of Charles the Second).
- The solid oak frame of the altar was made by the Estate Carpenter in 1896, at a cost of £19-18-1d.
- The Church Organ was built in 1929 by Messrs. Hunter of London, consisting of 715 pipes made of wood and metal. Dr Alan Gray, of Trinity College, Cambridge, gave the opening recital.
- The Vestry Door was purchased in 1961 from the demolished Old Perse School for Boys in Cambridge.
- Electricity was installed in the Church in 1955.
- Between the years 1892-1958, a No. 8 Tortoise Stove was used for heating – members of the congregation sitting at the back of the Church were warm, but the East End was ‘most uncomfortable’.
b. 10 November 1796 d. 10 November 1862
Born in Suffolk he moved to Babraham in 1822, becoming tenant of Church Farm till his death in 1862. His brother Samuel was a tenant of Reed Barn Farm until about 1879. They both bred Southdown sheep although Jonas received more fame and glory for his herds, leasing rams to breeders in America and Europe. He enjoyed outstanding success with his sheep, presenting one of his prize-winning rams to Emperor Napoleon III, who in turn gave him a massive silver candelabra.
Physically he was a striking man, so much so that somebody sent to give him an invitation when he was due to visit Paris was told to place it in the hands of the noblest-looking man he could find on the cross channel steamer.
Jonas had 10 children and was devoted to his wife who died five days before him. They are buried in the churchyard at Babraham together with two daughters. The statue of Jonas Webb which now stands in the High Street, stood for many years in Cambridge Corn Exchange.
Source: Babraham Chronicle compiled by Mary Symonds.Continue reading
There are many sources of information about Babraham, its residents and history, on the web. As we, or you, find them we will add them to a list here.Continue reading
A fascinating and detailed history of the Adeane family and their influence on Babraham, the evolution of the Hall and background on the estate through history.