The earliest English settlers in the district were the Gyrwas, an East Anglian tribe, who early
in the 6th century worked their way up the Ouse and the Cam as far as Huntingdon. After their conquest of
East Anglia in the latter half of the 9th
century, Huntingdon became an important seat of the Danes, and the Danish origin of the shire is borne out
by an entry in the Saxon Chronicle referring to Huntingdon as a military centre to which the surrounding
district owed allegiance, while the shire itself is mentioned in the Historia Eliensis in connection with events which
took place before or shortly after the death of Edgar.
About 915 Edward the Elder wrested the
fen-country from the Danes, repairing and fortifying Huntingdon, and a few years later the district was included in
the earldom of East Anglia.
Religious foundations were established at Ramsey, Huntingdon and St Neots in the 10th century, and that of Ramsey accumulated vast wealth and
influence, owning twenty-six manors in this county alone at the time of the Domesday Survey. In 1011
Huntingdonshire was again overrun by the Danes and in 1016 was attacked by Canute. A few years later the shire was included in the
earldom of Thored (of the Middle
Angles), but in 1051 it was detached from Mercia and formed part of the East Anglian earldom of Harold. Shortly
before the Conquest, however, it was bestowed on Siward, as a reward for his part in Godwins overthrow, and became
an outlying portion of the earldom of Northumberland, passing through Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria and
Simon de St Liz, Earl of Northampton to David I of Scotland. After the separation of the earldom from the crown of Scotland during the Bruce and
Balliol disputes, it was conferred in 1336 on William
Clinton; in 1377 on Guichard
d'Angle; in 1387 on John
Holland; in 1471 on Thomas
Grey, afterwards marquess of Dorset; and in 1529 on George, Baron Hastings, whose descendants hold it at
the present day.
The Norman Conquest was followed by a general confiscation
of estates, and only four or five thanes retained lands that they or their fathers had held in the time of
Edward the Confessor. Large estates were held by
the church, and the rest of the County for the most part formed outlying portions of the fiefs of
William's Norman favourites, that of Count
Eustace of Boulogne, the sheriff, of whose tyrannous exactions bitter complaints are recorded, being by far the
most considerable. Kimbolton was
fortified by Geoffrey de Mandeville and afterwards passed to the families of Bohun and Stafford.
The Hundreds of Huntingdonshire were probably
of very early origin, and that of Norman Cross is referred to in 963. The Domesday Survey, besides the four existing divisions of
Norman Cross, Toseland, Hurstingstone and Leightonstone, which from their assessment appear to have been double
hundreds, mentions an additional hundred of Kimbolton, since absorbed in Leightonstone, while Huntingdon was
assessed separately at 50 hides. The boundaries of the county have scarcely changed since the time of the Domesday
Survey, except that parts of the Bedfordshire parishes of Everton, Pertenhall and Keysoe and the Northamptonshire
parish of Hargrave were then assessed under Huntingdonshire.
Huntingdonshire was formerly in the diocese of
Lincoln, but in 1837 was transferred to Ely. In 1291 it constituted an archdeaconry, comprising the deaneries of Huntingdon,
St Ives, Yaxley and Leightonstone, and the divisions remained unchanged until the creation of the deanery of
Kimbolton in 1879.
At the time of the Domesday Survey
Huntingdonshire had an independent shrievalty, but from 1154 it was united with Cambridgeshire under one sheriff,
until in 1637 the two Counties were separated for six years, after which they were reunited and have remained so to
the present day. The shire court was
held at Huntingdon.
In 1174 Henry II captured and destroyed Huntingdon Castle.
After signing the Great Charter John sent an army to ravage this county under
William, earl of Salisbury, and
Falkes de Breauté.
During the Wars of the Roses Huntingdon was
sacked by the Lancastrians. The county
resisted the illegal taxation of Charles I and joined in a protest against the arrest of the five members. In 1642 it was one of the
seven associated counties in which the king had no visible party. Hinchingbrooke House, however, was held for Charles
by Sir Sidney Montagu, and in 1645
Huntingdon was captured and plundered by the Royalist forces.
The chief historic family connected with this
county were the Cromwells, who held considerable estates in the 16th century.
Norman Cross, on the Great North Road, marks the site of the place of confinement of several thousand French soldiers during the
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