Historical notes

Street map
The Butts
Stocks Lane
The Great Fire
The Second Great Fire
John Russell (ref the Cock)

The Butts

Play Area

Situated in Stocks Lane, this is currently a childrens play area.

The Play Equipment is maintained by the Parish Council.

This was originally the `quarry' from which the stone for the Church, (Church Guide) was obtained. Being dug into the ground it was a safe area where archery could be practiced, and thus was named `The Butts'. In medieval times it was a requirement that all men over a certain age, were capable of using a bow and arrow.

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Stocks Lane

Gamlingay had stocks for the punishment of wrong-doers. These were located in here.

(Annectotal references)

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Stocks Lane

The Great Fire of Gamlingay

21st April, 1600

Whereas divers of the Justices of the Peace in the coutitie of Cambridge have certyfied us the lamentable accydent that bath fallen upon the inhabitantes of Gamlingay in the said countie, by casualltie of fire that happned on the 21St daie of Aprill last, whereby the moste parte of the said towne to the nomber of 76 houses with divers barnes and stackes of corne were suddainlie consumed.

Extract of a letter from the Privy Council to Sir Thomas Egerton.

The fire started at Avenel's Manor, at the north East of the village. Langdon's map, 1600It swept down Church Street, by-passing the Emplins (then the Rectory), the Church and a few other houses (the Cock amongst the few) and finished at Mill Street.

Fire during these times was an ever present danger. The houses built of timber with a thatched roof, were an accident waiting to happen. A thatched roof was quickly set alight from an adjacent fire when sparks settled on the tinder dry thatch.

A blustery wind from the East, as in this Great Fire, rapidly spread the fire through the village.

The parish register of Knebworth in Hertfordshire records the following entry under 1600:

Item, to a collection for the burning of the town of Gamlingo in the Countye of Cambridge - 2s.

10p went a long way in those days!

Thomas Langdon's map of Gamlingay, dated only two years years after the fire, shows that the village was very quickly rebuilt.

See also The Second Great Fire in the nineteenth century.

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The 2nd Fire of Gamlingay


This fire started at about 10 o'clock in the morning at Thomas Wright's wheelwright's yard. The fire, from the forge setting a thatched roof nearby alight. Mr Woodham's barns and outbuildings were destroyed. The fire spread along both sides of Mill Street destroying 22 dwellings, six barns and a great many outbuildings.

Unlike the fire of 1600, a fire engine (horse drawn) was available - from Potton - this prevented the fire spreading further. Even so it was nine o'clock in the evening before the fire had been extinguished.

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John Russell

John died in 1588, the year after the Armarda. He was a notable man of the village, owning many properties, a mill, three houses, an Inn, and land and sheep in both Gamlingay and Waresley.

He married a widow, who brought with her five girls and three boys from a previous marriage.

His name occurs several times in the church courts of the time, notably for:
(May 1569) ... did sclander John Russell and Agnes Ward togither ...
(June 1569) he was taken in bedd with Elizabethe Anderson, and so taken by Martyn Kevell, William Kevell and Robert Pygot.
(1570) ... uppon a sclander therove the Towne, of hordham with Sybbyll Carton ...

John was obviously a `bit of a lad' with the ladies. However his will shows him to have been a very generous man, leaving part of the rent for one of his houses to be ...
... payinge yearly thre shillings fower pence to be bestowed on a drikinge at Gantide under the banck in Potton waye, near unto the house.

He also stipulated in his will that a
... memoriall to be paynted and sett upp on the house end of the Cock to continue in Gamlingaye for ever ...
This memorial still exsists today, and has been coyly described by the Royal Commision on Historical Monuments as 'convivial emblems'.

A very generous man.

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with any comments.

Roderick Starksfield.