Few towns have been so fortunate in the survival of historical records as Godmanchester. These include the archives of the former borough from its first royal charter of 1212 to 1974, the parish records from 1535 (but registers from 1604 only) and a wide variety of official, family, estate, business and society records.
All these documents are nowadays preserved with other historical records relating to Huntingdonshire in the County Record Office in Huntingdon, where they are kept in secure accommodation protected against fire and flood; but they are not hidden away for no-one to see, and can be inspected with a minimum of formality in the office's supervised search room. All you need is a reader's ticket, which is issued speedily on production of proof of identity, including address. The search room is like a reference library, equipped with books, indexes and staff to help. The archivist you are most likely to meet is Kate Chantry, herself a Godmanchester resident.
The town's medieval court rolls are of international repute, having been the subject of a detailed study by Professor JA Raft is of Toronto, a leading authority on English medieval social history. How many readers know that their town is a familiar name to students reading English medieval history at American universities? It takes long experience to be able to read these records; more likely to be initially of value to those with a budding interest in local history are the later records of the borough and urban district council or of the schools or parish church, which include, for example, a large quantity of overseers' records dealing with the poor law before 1834.
The Record Office also contains extensive collections of photographs and maps, including Ordnance Survey plans from 1824 to the present day. These are the usual starting point for the history of particular buildings. For particular people the parish registers, census schedules of 1841-81 (on microfilm) and probate records may prove useful. Here it is appropriate to pay tribute to the works of Pam Sneath (another Godmanchester resident) and others in transcribing more than 400 Godmanchester wills, 1479-1652, from the records of the Archdeaconry of Huntingdon. The Record Office welcomes all those able to contribute to preserving or making more accessible the local documentary heritage and each year receives donations or deposits of records relating to all aspects of Huntingdonshire history. If you have documents, photographs, etc., which you believe may be of interest, do not hesitate to contact Philip Saunders, the Deputy
County Archivist, or his colleague Kate Chantry, at the Record Office or by phone on Huntingdon 425842.
The Record Office is in Grammar School Walk, Huntingdon, and is open Monday-Thursday, 9-12.45, 1-45-5.15 and Fridays 9-12.45, 1.45-4.15; also, by appointment, on the second Saturday of each month, 9-12 noon.