GODMANCHESTER (from Gumecestre) is a municipal borough and parish, on the London road and on the river Ouse, half a mile south from Huntingdon and 59 miles from London, in the hundred and petty Sessional division of Leightonstone, union, county court district, rural deanery and archdeaconry of Huntingdon and diocese of Ely. There is a junction station on the London and North Eastern and London, Midland and Scottish railways here.
This town is considered to occupy the site of the Roman station "Durolipons," and many coins and bones have been exhumed on the spot; it is irregularly built, and consists of several principal streets running into an open area near the centre of the place; it is lighted with gas by the Huntingdon and Godmanchester Gas and Coke Co. and supplied with water from wells: a raised causeway, completed in 1784, to Huntingdon bridge, a distance of about 510 yards, with a footpath 10 feet wide, connects it with the town of Huntingdon, a free passage for the water during times of floods being preserved by the erection of two substantial bridges, each of eight arches, whereby the inundations of former times are efîectually prevented.
In 1637 one Robert Cooke, in attempting to pass over the causeway during a flood, fell into the water and with dilïìculty escaped being drowned; he afterwards purchased the fee-simple of the causeway holme, and by will, having bequeathed a rent-charge of £5 yearly to be distributed amongst the poor of Huntingdon, left the residue of the profits of the land for the repair of the causeway and bridges; in the wall of the bridge nearest Godmanchester is this inscription:
"Robertus Cooke, ex aquis ernersus, hoc viaboribus sacrum D.D. 1637."
Godmanchester is also an inland port. A charter was granted to the borough by King John in the year 1213; it was re-incorporated by James I. 1604, and this charter remained in force until the reforming of the corporation by the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835 (5 and 6 Wm. IV. c. 76). The town is now governed by a corporation, consisting of a mayor, 4 aldernen and 12 councillors, who also act as the sanitary authority.
The municipal insignia consist of a. mace and a. corporate seal: the mace, which is of silver, and about 2 feet in length, has a plain shaft, divided by knops into four sections; the head is of the usual type, ornamented with the national badges and having on the flat top the royal arms: surmounting it is an open crown, with orb and cross: around the orb is the word "Gumcester," and the same appears on the foot knop with the date 1745: the mace bears the hall marks for 1740-41. The seal, which is circular, exhibits a well executed surrounded with the legend "COMMVNE SIGILLVM GVMECESTRE."
The mayor's robe is of mazarine blue silk, trimmed with sable fur and black velvet. The borough was formerly united for Parliamentary purposes to Huntingdon, the united boroughs returning two members: under the Representation of the People Act, 1867, the number was reduced to one, and by the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, the representation was merged in that of the county.
The church of St. Mary is a building of stone, in the Perpendicular style of the 14th century, consisting of chancel, nave with clerestory, aisles, north and south porches, and an embattled western tower with pinnacles and spire and containing a clock and 8 bells, the tenor weighing 21 cwt.; the tower and spire were rebuilt in the 17th century: the whole edifice was restored under the direction of Sir G. Gilbert Scott RA. in 1853, at an outlay of nearly £800, raised by subscription: there are 600 Sittings. The registers date from the year 1604. The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £350, with residence, in the gift of the Dean and Chapter of Westminster, and held since 1919 by the Rev. William Webster Stromberg- M.A. of Selwyn College, Cambridge. There is a Union chapel, built in 1844, and a Particular Baptist chapel, built in 1815; attached to the latter is a Sunday school-room, built in 1863, and holding 200 children; in front of the chapel is a burial ground, now disused.
The Salvation Army also have a meeting room. The curfew is rung every evening at 8 o'clock during the winter months. Fairs are held here on Tuesday and Wednesday in Easter week. There are two almshouses in Pinfold lane, one of which, erected at the expense of Mrs. Barbary Mansor, in 1738, was rebuilt in 1859, additional ground and another house being presented by S. Bates esq.; there are also four almshouses in East Chadley lane, built in 1723 with money given by John Dryden esq. and rebuilt in 1853. Banks' charity of £12 yearly and Dryden's and Fisher's charity of £20 yearly are for apprenticing poor children. The charities for distribution amount to about £32 yearly. The Corporation are lords of the manor. The property is an ancient demesne and was formerly held direct from the king. The Ecclesiastical Commissioners are the principal landowners.
The borough Co-extensive with the perish. The area is 4,832 acres of land and 75 of water; rateable value, £16,018; the population in 1911 was 2,130, and in 1921, 2,034. Parish Clerk, Thomas William Boot. Sexton, George Merry.
Town SubPost; M. O. & T. Offce.-William Willis James, sub-postmaster. Letters through Hunting don; telegrams are dispatched, but not delivered.
Mayor, Alderman R. L. Towgood.
Deputy Mayor, Councillor W. D. Fairy.
Alderman. George James Herbert
Aubury Markham J.P | R.
L. Towgood J.P
Retire Nov. 1924.
S. H. Brawn
W. D. Fairy
A. D. Underwood
Retire Nov. 1925
Walter E. Ashley
Retire Nov. 1926.
Frederick W. Figg
J. W. Tysoe
A. J. Pledger J.P
OFFICERS OF THE CORPORATION
Town Clerk, Kenneth Hunnybun, High St Huntingdon
Treasurer, Bernard P. Carter, Huntingdon
Medical Officer Of Health, Charles E Hicks M.R.C.S, L.R.C.P. High Street Huntingdon
Surveyor & Inspector of Nuisances, George Stevens
Sergeantt-atMace & Town Crier, Thomas W. Boot.
Queen Elizabeths Grammar, founded in 1561, by Richard Robbins, for 136 boys, has an endowment of about £20 yearly' from Emmanuel College, Cambridge; William Pratt Anderson, master.
Council School (girls 85 infants), erected, with houses for the mistresses, from designs by Mr. Robert. Hutchinson, of Huntingdon, at a cost of £1,200, for 300 children; Miss Hescroft, mistress.