Tudor Huntingdon. The history of Huntingdon from the Tudor times and the ravages of Henry VIII
Henry VIII's reign saw half the houses empty and boarded up. The remainder inhabited by people too poor to move away. Now down to just four parish churches, although only enough parishioners to support two priests.
The turning point came with the Dissolution of Monasteries, bringing the Cromwell's, (alias Williams) to the area. A famous map of the area made by John Speed at this time gives an accurate account of the facilities still in use, e.g. the mills, remaining churches, houses along the High Street.
A new charter brought disagreement between Oliver Cromwell and the town authorities, with Oliver selling up and moving to St Ives (external websites in new window); his comments being worded so strongly they were brought to the attention of the Privy Council.
Once again Huntingdon’s strategic location put it in the path of war, being situated on a main north-south route, and having access to the river put it in the thick of the Civil War. It began by being held by the Parliamentary forces, then was attacked by the Royalists, being led by the King in person, finally falling to Charles 1st during August 1645.
The town battered the churches of St John and St Benedict ravaged, in 1663 Huntingdon is a run down decayed town. After the Restoration King Charles II was visiting Lord Sandwich, now owner of Hinchingbrooke House, they took a barge down the river in a barge, the King commenting on the picturesque ruins of the town.
Escaping the worst of the Great Plague, Huntingdon goes into the 17th century. With Samuel Pepys the diarist telling us of his meals at the Crown, or at the Chequers, of walking along the meadows, as a man of Huntingdonshire. Samuel Pepys knew the area well, and worked for a time at Hinchingbrooke House.
Old beliefs dye hard in this town, in 1664 Thomas Povey writes that Oliver Cromwell’s influence was still among the people. In 1656 George Fox the Quaker visited, and was well received, but in 1658 a Quaker was in gaol for conscience sake. 1593 saw John Samuel, his wife and daughter executed for witchcraft, in 1646 eight died accused.
During the 18th century the main part of the old town was formed, a typical small market town of the age.