The village at Great Eversden, Cambridgeshire            History

The parish of Great Eversden lies on the southern slopes of the valley of the Bourn Brook, as the valley widens out towards its confluence with the River Cam in the east. The Brook flows in a south-easterly direction in the north of the parish; in the south a clay-topped chalk ridge runs parallel to it. Together they form a regular framework for the parish. The modern settlement is dispersed, with a cluster of houses lying along the High Street, two more along Wimpole Way and Chapel Lane, a further one around the church, and the last near the manor, about 750 metres away at the western end of the village along the road to Kingston. From the water towers

There was almost certainly no village before 1066. Before then the farmsteads of the 23 free men who held land in the Eversdens were probably scattered around the parish, in a similar pattern to that seen nowadays in Essex or the west country. They built a church, probably between about 950 and 1050, at a fairly central place in the parish so that everyone could get to it easily.

The Conquest resulted in the confiscation of these farms by the new Norman lord who used them to create a single manor of Eversden. Within one or two generations of 1066 a planned village was laid out between Wimpole Way and Church Lane for the unfree peasants who worked the land of the new manor.

The new village was laid out east of the Full Brook, as a row settlement. The rows are defined by Church Lane' and Wimpole Way, both north-south parallel lanes, interconnected by several short lanes. The underlying rectangular framework of the village was probably determined by a pattern originally created by small squarish prehistoric fields that lay between, and roughly parallel to, the Bourn Brook and the southern ridge before the medieval fields were laid out, on much the same alignments, probably soon after the Conquest.

The planning can be seen from the way in which all these properties share a common front and back boundary (Wimpole Way and Church Lane); they are also all the same width, or multiples of a common width where properties have been amalgamated over time. This probably reflects changes in the importance of these lanes over the centuries: sometimes one would be more important and sometimes the other. For example, in 1811 houses lay along Church Lane and along Wimpole Way, as if there was some uncertainty about which was the main village street. The importance of each row depended on a combination of convenience and fashion; contrary to popular belief, the Black Death had little impact on the ways in which houses shifted about the landscape.

The low, slightly curved, ridges and furrows that lie in the small hedged fields or closes roughly on both sides of the road between Eversden House and Manor Farm, demonstrate that the western part of the village was under the plough during the middle ages, and that people lived elsewhere. Hedgerow dating suggests that these little fields were enclosed by hedging in about 1400, and were never lived upon.

Far from being the original core of the village, Manor Farm and the small moated farmhouse opposite the shop, whose little moated platform lies right next to the street, were an extension to the village. They were laid out over plough-land at some point between about 1150 and 1350 at a distance from the church and the village, possibly some time after the latter had been built. They were most probably situated away from the main settlement because of their need to access water from springs and the Full Brook to fill their moats (moats were built for status rather than for any other reason). Once Manor Farm was built, the fieldway between the manor and the church became increasingly important and evolved into the High Street as traffic was 'pulled' southwards to these two significant points.

The modern dispersed settlement pattern, based on this medieval origin, is the result of many population rises and declines over the centuries since 1066, and the personal factors which led to houses being built in one part of the village rather than another

Susan Oosthuizen 2000

1Church Way was the lane running parallel, but east of, Wimpole Way, starting along the modern drift way between Church Farm and the Church     Back to Eversdens' Origins