Longstanton and Oakington & Westwick are neighbouring villages located North West of Cambridge. Parts of both parishes lie on a low gravel ridge providing free draining land ideal for settlement. These gravel deposits, laid down by an ancient course of what is now the river Cam, enabled communities to be established near to productive fenland and local transport (the local river network). The location of these villages is pivotal in understanding why they have such a rich history that goes back to man’s earliest settlement of the area.
For more information please see the following link: The Natural Landscape of Longstanton and District
Longstanton, Oakington & Westwick – A Shared History
Although Longstanton, Oakington & Westwick are separate villages their histories have been inextricably linked by local and national events. With the advent of war the establishment of RAF Oakington perhaps provides the most tangible link between the two communities. Although the airfield was called RAF Oakington (as this provided a distinct name for radio communications) all the buildings; H blocks and hangars were based in Longstanton. Personnel from RAF Oakington and later Oakington Barracks lived in accommodation within Longstanton. All the war graves are located in Longstanton, hence the village and in particular All Saints’ church remains to this day the spiritual home of 7 Squadron Association. Their Roll of Honour and Memorial Window can be found in All Saints’ church.
RAF Oakington would also have had a profound effect on the village of Oakington & Westwick. The main runway went straight towards Oakington church and Ralph Warboys recalled living in the old farmhouse by the church. On a warm summer evening when the planes were taking off , they would make the curtains at the window billow inwards. All around Oakington village were dispersals, used as a means to lessen the effects of a German bombing raid. The village certainly noticed the plane that crashed next to Coles Lane and the German plane, that was forced down on the airfield, landed near the railway line near Oakington village.
Although our shared history is obvious when it comes to the airfield it is less obvious to see how the two villages were connected in the past. The villages were connected socially and Longstanton families would walk to Oakington to attend Chapel. On the loss of Longstanton’s mill, which we think was based in St. Michael’s, Longstanton residents had to use the mill near Oakington church. There was a footpath that went directly from St. Michael’s to the mill but this right of access was lost when the airfield was built.
The strongest connections between the villages were via the families that lived, or owned land, in both communities. Although the Hatton family has strong connections with Longstanton they also had connections in Oakington and there are 2 very old Hatton tombs in St. Andrew’s church, Oakington. Another family who connected the two villages was the Linton family. Owners of the medieval manor of Westwick, the family also owned land and property in Longstanton. This connection was certainly there from 1803 to the death of Salmon Linton Swann in Longstanton in the 1930’s. For further information on the Linton family you may refer to:
The Rise and Fall of the Linton’s of Westwick Hall – J A Lane (CRO; CC; LDHS Archives)
Longstanton – Cheyney’s Manor Unmasked – HAE Stroude and J A Lane (CRO; CC; LDHS Archives)
Other families have connections with both villages. The Chapman family originated in Longstanton prior to moving to Oakington towards the end of the war. On his visits to the UK Rob Gee, a former member of LDHS before his death in 2013 would visit The Manor with his wife. His family had originated in Longstanton but had moved to Oakington before emigrating to Australia in the mid 19th Century. For his family story see here.
Before the road across the airfield closed to the public and the footpaths that linked the villages made way for the airfield these villages were within easy walking distance. I believe that the road from Girton – Oakington – Longstanton was the main road to Cambridge prior to the modernisation of the B1050 in Longstanton sometime after the war. This route could have continued (in ancient times) from Longstanton to Willingham (Belsar’s Hill) and then via Aldreth Causeway out towards Ely and the fens. Aldreth Causeway is an ancient route into the fens, and how important the route from Girton to Longstanton is remains to be proved. Another ancient track runs from Histon – Westwick – Rampton and this route could also be used to get to Aldreth Causeway. Understanding the importance of these footpaths and tracks is vital to understanding to the history of our villages. Out under the airfield we also have a shared history in the archaeology that we have yet to fully understand.
The construction of the old St. Ives to Cambridge Branch Line and the new world record breaking Guided Bus-way connects our villages in another obvious physical manner.
Established in May 2007, after two years of planning, LDHS is committed to protecting and promoting our shared history. LDHS is continuing to lobby the developers and local government in order to protect the airfield history and establish a Heritage Centre within the Heritage Core; a group of RAF Oakington buildings saved from demolition by an LDHS petition.
Our mandate for the work we do comes from our members – without which we could not exist. Our members come from all over the UK and abroad – united in a shared belief that the history of Longstanton & District is worth preserving for future generations. Our rural communities have played a pivotal role in national events and are on the brink of irrevocable change with the development of Northstowe. LDHS is committed to recording our villages’ shared histories and all donations of information, memorabilia or time however large or small are most gratefully received.
Hilary Stroude, 2013