Cottenham in the
Cambridgeshire Collection

Chris Jakes

Summary of a talk give to The Cottenham Village Design Group at its Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 24th February 2004 at Cottenham Village College.

Chris Jakes, curator of the Cambridgeshire collection gave a talk to members and several non- members, before the AGM of the Design Group. Jakes outlined the comprehensive material available in the collection, giving where possible examples relevant to Cottenham. The collection started in 1855 in what has become The Friends Meeting House. It moved to the back of the Guildhall, where the Tourist Information office is based. After several moves, the collection moved in 1975 into Lion Yard, where is still resides.


600,000 – 700,000 are received per annum. Enquiries both national and international about family history make up a significant proportion of the total.


During his talk Chris Jakes drew on examples from the multi media resources available in the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Books and pamphlets

Anything and everything relating to Cambridgeshire, Cambridge City and to a lesser extent the university is kept, both past and current. Information on the history of Cottenham dates back to Roman times. Jakes drew on a paper written in 1986, which refers to a hoard of 5000 Roman coins (3rd century AD) found in the parish of Cottenham. There is information in the Domesday book about Cottenham. The Abbot of Crowland and also the Bishop of Ely held Cottenham. Jakes talked about of the hearth tax of 1662 and 1664 illustrated with Cottenham examples. Electoral registers were available from early 18th century. In 1722 general election it’s recorded that 5 men turned out in Coton to vote and just one man in Childerley! The collection houses County Directories from 1790s to 1937. Jakes said that the in the 1851 directory, the fires of Cottenham, starting 1676 are chronicled. He touched briefly on Year Books. Each book gave information on businesses such as the post office, which he illustrated with a photo of the post office at Holdgate, 213A High Street, until very recently the premises of the picture framer. There is a list of listed buildings of Cottenham, which can be accessed from the collection.

Journals and periodicals

We are able to index journal articles, both local and national on Cottenham. Of relevance to the Design Group is the national periodical, ‘Architectural Review’ which from time to time contain important and specialist articles on Cambridgeshire.


The collection keeps local papers dating back to 1762. There are over 40 principal local newspapers held in the collection. They date from the Cambridge Chronicle (1762 – 1934) to Cambridge Town Crier (1975 – 2004). The former paper though Tory was somewhat anti war. These are papers are also kept on microfilm.


The collection has maps, dating back to 1570s. Early maps clearly show that Cottenham is a fen edge village. The 1751 map shows 2 Cottenhams, one of them marked close to Coton! From 1880s, much more detailed maps were produced. At the turn of the 19th / 20th century there were masses of orchards around the village. In fact there were a lot of orchards up the to mid 1950s.

Photographs and Illustrations

We were treated to a wealth of photos relating to Cottenham. Some of these photos feature in ‘Cottenham in Focus’ produced by The Cottenham Village Society. E g the windmills of Cottenham, condemned cottages near the church, demolished 1930 and the imposing Lordship House, demolished in 1937. The collection houses 50,000 separately catalogued and indexed photos and illustrations relating to Cambridgeshire.

Aerial Photography

The first aerial photographs date back to the 1960s. The sequence of buildings then was much the same as the late 19th century. This was before our linear village fattened out, with the Pelham Way, the Brenda Gautrey and Tenison Manor estates.

Access to items in the collection

The Cambridgeshire Collection is housed at Lion Yard Cambridge and is open 6 days a week. However, it should be pointed out that most of the contents of the Cambridgeshire Collection is housed in a controlled storage area. Staff search and collect items for the public.

There is an iPac Catalogue on the Internet.

The computerised catalogue contains full details of Canbridgeshire Collection materials.

Support from the community

Chris Jakes finished his talk with the fact that the staff at the library is reliant on the general public from which they borrow and copy thousands of photos a year.

Jennie Blood Smyth
8 March 2004

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We aim to ensure that development and change in Cottenham is based on a considered understanding of the Village's past and present, and that it will contribute positively to the future of the Village, protecting and enhancing its special nature

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