From the creation of the Longstanton Archive in 2005, work started almost immediately to devise a public society that would take on the responsibility of looking after and developing the archives. At the same time two other factors occurred that had a major impact on the development of the Longstanton & District Heritage Society.
The first major influence on the project was the fact that All Saints’ church Longstanton was closed, as part of the Nave ceiling had collapsed nearly 3 years before. All Saints’ church is a Grade I listed building and contains the 7 Squadron Association Memorial Window and the Roll of Honour. Outside the church are a number of graves from RAF airmen killed both during and after WW2. Faced will the prospect that All Saints’ church would never re-open; village residents did two things. Firstly the charity Friends of All Saints’ church, Longstanton was launched; and secondly it was decided that the village archives and history should be used to help raise money for heritage protection in the future.
The second major influence on the development of LDHS came from the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) in whose care is the rare thatched church of St. Michael’s. The church was locked most of the time except for two services a year. A sad sight and a real waste of a very special and beautiful building. At this time CCT were looking for a local use for this building. CCT and the Longstanton Archive (LA) looked at the possibility of using the church as a heritage facility. A week of events was held by CCT and LA in October 2005 under the title ” Save Our Churches“.
Unfortunately, as the link between CCT and the Longstanton Archives developed it was clear to the Longstanton & District Heritage Trust (LDHT ) (the former name of LDHS) that St Michael’s was inherently the wrong place for a heritage facility. The little church was (and still is) too small and damp and even today has no facilities at all. To have used St. Michael’s as a heritage centre would have excluded its use for anything else. The difficult decision was made to walk away from the St. Michael’s idea and to seek a heritage facility in the former Officer’s mess building, located here in Longstanton. Contact was made with Gallagher Estates and English Partnerships the organisations behind the Northstowe development plans.
On the 11th May, 2007 the Inaugural Meeting of the (now called) Longstanton & District Heritage Society took place at the Village Institute Longstanton. Residents from Longstanton; Oakington & Westwick were present as were residents from Rampton Drift, Longstanton who had already been ear-marked as the first residents of Northstowe.
The business of the meeting was concluded, with a unanimous vote from all present, launching the society that we have today. LDHS will always be grateful to those first individuals who took the time to come to the meeting and who understood that the histories of Longstanton; Oakington & Westwick and Northstowe had been and would always be inextricably linked. Those who attended the inaugural meeting saw that the history of RAF Oakington and Oakington Barracks is part of the history of two villages; and the history of Longstanton and Oakington & Westwick will remain forever under the new town of Northstowe. For the new town of Northstowe – its history is the history of its neighbouring villages. For one to lay claim to the history, at the exclusion of the others, would be wrong. For Longstanton residents of the future the issue would be: should Longstanton history be based upon the “new” boundary, or the old one which has existed for hundreds if not thousands of years? Everyone present at the inaugural meeting voted in favour of Longstanton; Oakington & Westwick and Northstowe history being recorded together by the Longstanton & District Heritage Society.
LDHS wishes to give thanks to all those who attended that first meeting and gave their support. We would also like to thank all our other early supporters who did not live locally and who could not attend that meeting. Thanks must also be given to our members old and new. Without the support of every individual and organisation LDHS could not exist and carry out the work that we are doing. This website is the result of everyone’s support and interest over the last few years. And finally… thanks must be given to the existing committee members whose job it is to steer this project forward. But we must give a particular thank you to two former committee members whose support and hard-work enabled LDHS to be set up and launched. Den Harradine and Tim Maris worked hard in the development and launch of the society and we will always be grateful to them both.