Great Shelford is a village located approximately four miles (6 km) to the south of Cambridge, in the county of Cambridgeshire, in eastern England. In 1850 Great Shelford parish contained 1,900 acres (7.7 km2) intersected by the river Cam. The population in 1841 was 803 people. By 2001, this had grown to 3,949 and by the Census 2011 to 4,233. The suburb was deemed Britain's twenty-second richest suburb by The Daily Telegraph in 2011.
Great Shelford is twinned with Verneuil-en-Halatte, in the Oise département of France. Trips to Verneuil-en-Halatte are run by the Shelford Twinning association President of the United States Barack Obama traced his ancestry to the village in 2009, bringing the village into the national media.
Great Shelford has a range of shops and services, including two public houses, two restaurants, a library, several estate agents, a barber, two banks, a building society, a chemist, a dentist, a solicitor, an accountant, a shoe shop, a delicatessen, a bakery and a garden centre. There is a monthly Farmers' Market. The villages of Great and Little Shelford are served by Shelford railway station on the line from Cambridge to London Liverpool Street. The old Great Shelford library was demolished and replaced by a new building which incorporates affordable housing by Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association.
A large country house in the village was used for a concert named 'The Tea Set' in October 1965, which featured performances from Pink Floyd, Jokers Wild and Paul Simon. The same house was also used as the location for the cover art of Pink Floyd's album Ummagumma.
The Shelford Delicatessen features in a 2008 list by The Independent of The 50 Best Delicatessens in Britain.
The parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin has changed little since Thomas Patesle rebuilt it in 1307; he can be seen in brass in his Vicar's robes on the chancel floor. The tower was rebuilt with the original materials after its collapse in 1798.
The church porch is two-storeyed with a splendid pelican in its fine vaulted roof, the doorway having an old niche with a Madonna. The spacious interior has tall arcades with mediaeval clerestories over them and heads between the arches, and eight fine oak angels look down from the hammerbeams of the roof. There is a 15th-century screen with tracery in the north aisle enclosing an altar in memory of a soldier killed on the Indian frontier; above the altar is a painting of two saints and a Roman soldier by the cross. The chancel stalls are carved with wild roses, the sedilia with grapes and acorns, and the reredos has a gleaming white sculpture of the Crucifixion with saints and angels under rich canopies. There are a few fragments of old glass, fragments of Norman carving set in a wall, and above the chancel arch a mediaeval painting of Doom, fading away.
Several great estates shared the two Shelfords, notably that of the de Freville family, whose manor house survives (and was resold in 2005) at Little Shelford, and who were there as early as 1300. But all appear to have generally had absentee landlords who sold copyhold lands and generally let others on long renewable leases. Farming survived at Great Shelford well into the 20th century. Several Yeoman families of note, the Deans, Howling, and Tunwell families, farmed here for centuries.
One example is Richard Tunwell (1645–1713) who acquired land at Great Shelford, his first acquisition being a mere 1-acre (4,000 m2) of pasture, a copse and a close which was copyhold land belonging to the Bury manor. When Freville's Manor was purchased [as superior proprietor] by William Freeman in 1701, the lands in Great Shelford belonging to the Manor were described as 142 acres (0.57 km2) of arable, 10 acres (40,000 m2) and a half a rood of meadow, 8.5 acres (34,000 m2) of pasture, a sheepwalk or liberty of foldage and fold vourse for six store ewes, all by then in the occupation of Richard Tunwell. The Manor also had 0.5-acre (2,000 m2) of meadow in Little Shelford which again was occupied by Richard Tunwell. A rent roll of the Manor of Granhams dated 1708 shows that Tunwell and his sons held copyhold land from that Manor as well. From 1678 onwards, Richard Tunwell served as a Juror on the Bury Baron Court. By 1705, as a landed proprietor, he had qualified as a parliamentary voter and the Poll Book for the election held in that year shows that he voted for Sir Richard Cullen and John Bromley.
The Killingworth family also owned land at Shelford, as when Richard Killingworth of Great Bradley in Suffolk, gentleman, made his Will on 12 September 1586, he left the following legacies to the poor – of Fulbourne £10; Balsham (where his son John held the manor) £10; GREAT SHELFORD £5; LITTLE SHELFORD £5; and Cambridge £20.
Shelford's Rugby Union team, Shelford RFC, competes in the R.F.U.'s National League 2 South, and plays its home fixtures at its ground on Cambridge Road, in the North of the village. Great Shelford Cricket Club plays in the Cambridgeshire Cricket Association's Senior League Division 3 and shares a ground with Cambridgeshire League football club, Great Shelford F.C..
Shelfords and Stapleford have a very active Scout Group with a Beaver Colony, a Cub Pack and a Scout Troop. GirlGuiding has a Guide group, Brownies and Rainbows. All these groups meet in the Scout & Guide HQ within the village.
Great Shelford was home to children's author Philippa Pearce, who renamed it "Great Barley" (with the neighbouring village of Little Shelford becoming "Little Barley", and Cambridge itself becoming "Castleford" and losing its university) in her books, most notably Minnow on the Say (1955). In this and other books the River Cam, which flows through the village, became the River Say. The writer was brought up in Great Shelford and after some years in London lived there again from 1973 to her death in 2006. Sir Peter Hall, the theatrical director, lived in the station house as a child and the author Tom Sharpe had a house in the village.
The "Shelford Festival and Feast" takes place every year in the 2nd week of July. The origins of the Shelford Feast date back to medieval times. The Feast continued until the Second World War, the last one being held in 1938 until revived in 1994. Since 1994 The Shelford Feast has been held every year and by 2016 had donated £274,000 to local good causes.