The names Histon and Impington are probably of Saxon origin as both end in ton.
Suggestions for meanings of this name include: "farmstead of the young warriors" or "landing place". However, the latter of these is unlikely as Histon is situated above the floodline. The likely origin of the name is from the two Saxon/Old English words hyse and tun – hyse meaning "a young man or warrior", and tun meaning "house or farm". The village name has survived relatively unchanged since the writing of the Domesday Book when it was recorded as Histone.
The name of the village has been recorded in various guises. In the Domesday Book it was recorded as Epintone, but it has also been recorded as Empinton, Ympiton, Impinton, Hinpinton and Impynton.
The name is likely Anglo-Saxon and made of three parts each corresponding to a syllable. The meaning of the second and third is 'belonging to' ('-ing') and 'farmstead or place' ('-ton'). The first part may refer to a person, 'Impa' or Empa', so the village name means 'Impa's place or farm'. But given the Domesday Book spelling 'Epin', the first part might have the same meaning as in 'Epping' - 'a platform or raised place'. Impington might even mean 'place belonging to the imps', since 'imp' had its modern meaning in Anglo-Saxon.
Some of the track ways that pass though these villages are believed to be prehistoric. Flint tools have been dug up in and around the area and aerial photographs show evidence of ancient settlements including Iron Age and Roman. Pieces of Roman pottery have been found in the area.
The earliest part of Impington to be inhabited is near the junction of Cambridge Road and Arbury Road. In this location there is a large ancient settlement - thought to have been built by the Ancient Britons. The settlement was taken over by the Romans when they invaded Britain. There are several roads in Impington that are thought to be based on Roman roads. The Parish is likely to date from about the sixth century. At this time a Saxon tribe called the Empings lived there. Over time dukes have gone off to help prevent the Danes from invading, William the 1st took interest and sorted out an argument over the town (then 'Epintone') between the Norman Sheriff of Cambridge and the church.
Possibly the oldest surviving area of interest is Gun’s Lane, which is named after a family who once lived in the lane. Today this is just a bridleway but it was for centuries the Cambridge to Ely causeway, which was the main road into the Fens and the Isle of Ely. The Iron Age ringfort that once stood at Arbury may well at one time have guarded one end of this road. During the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror passed this way with his army as he chased a rebel Saxon, Hereward the Wake, into the Fens.
Early settlement appears to have been centred around what is now Church End. Originally there were two churches here - St Etheldreda's and St Andrew's - but only St Andrew's remains today, with each church belonging to a separate manor. Before the Reformation these manors were owned by the abbeys of Denny and Eynsham. The Crown sold the manor of St Etheldreda to Sir Thomas Elyot and the manor of St Andrew to Edward Elrington in 1539.
Close by is Histon Manor House. Originally this was on a site with a moat which is still visible today, but at some point the house was moved to higher ground nearby, possibly to avoid flooding.
The churches, manor house and grounds prevented expansion to the west so the village slowly moved towards its current centre which is The Green. The Green many times the size it is currently, all of what is today the High Street would have at one time been the green.
Histon was recorded in the Domesday Book as answering for 26½ hides – a hide was recorded in the book as being 120 fiscal acres.
Included on the Histon Village Sign is a man in a stove hat holding a large rock. This represents Moses Carter (1801–1860) a local strongman who lived in the village in the nineteenth century. Carter was alleged to be over seven feet tall, and famously carried a large stone from a building site to The Boot public house. The stone is still in the pub's garden. Carter is affectionately known locally as 'The Histon Giant'.
The first area of settlement in the village was to the extreme south of the current village, close to current road junction of the Cambridge and Kings Hedges Road (once called Arbury camp this land is currently being developed as part of the large Orchard Park housing development). There was a large Iron Age fort here that was built by the Iceni to defend against the invading Celts this was taken over by the Romans later on, the main evidence left today of the Roman occupation is the Roman road, Akeman Street (known locally as the Mereway), this cuts though the edge of Impington and heads for The Fens, this route had fallen into disuse by the 11th century.
The first mention of Impington by name was in the year 991 when Earl Byrhtnoth, who then owned Impington, left the village in the charge of the abbot of Ely, when he went off to fight the Vikings who had invaded the region, he was killed at the Battle of Maldon in Essex. After Byrhtnoth's death Impington became the property of the abbey at Ely, during the Reformation the Abbey at Ely was more fortunate and was turned into a cathedral church, with a dean and chapter Impington’s lands were protected and they then became its "patrons of living" it was not until 1870 that they handed the patronage to the owner of Impington Hall in exchange for the living of Pirton in Hertfordshire.
In the Domesday Book, Impington was said to answer for 6½ hides (780 acres (3.2 km2)). Just before this time, Picot, the Norman sheriff of Cambridge, was ordered by a writ of William I to hand back 3 hides of Impington that had been stolen, by now the main centre of the village appears to have been around the church area present day Burgoynes Road.
In 1580 John Pepys begun the building of Impington Hall but died before it was completed, it was finished by his executors for Talbot Pepys, his six-year-old son, uncle to the famous diarist, Samuel Pepys, who visited the hall regularly. The hall was demolished after a fire in 1953 by the then owners Chivers & Sons Ltd.
In February 1799, a local woman named Elizabeth Woodcock became a nationwide sensation after she survived for eight days buried in snow after a blizzard. She died five months later.
The opening of the Cambridge & St. Ives Branch by the Eastern Counties Railway Company on 17 August 1847 fuelled the growth of the villages and the expansion of companies within. Stephen Chivers was one of the first to seize the new opportunity that this brought. In 1850 he bought an orchard next to the line giving him access to London and the north of England and in 1870 he sent his sons to open a fruit distribution centre in Bradford. Their customers were mainly jam makers and this was quickly noted by the boys. Following an extra good harvest of fruit in 1873 they got their father to let them make their first jam in a barn off Milton Road, Impington. This proved a successful venture, and within two years the Victoria Works jam factory had opened on the orchard site. By 1895 Chivers had diversified into many other areas including lemonade, marmalade and dessert jellies, and were the first large-scale commercial canners in Europe. By 1939 the company owned most of the large farms and estates in Histon and Impington, Impington windmill and 8,000 acres (32 km2) of land around East Anglia, and the factory employed up to 3,000 people.
In the 1960s eighty trains a day were scheduled at Histon railway station. This caused many delays for road users and prompted the building of the bridge road bypass, opened by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother in 1963. The road was originally scheduled to be constructed in the 1930s but was delayed because of World War II. However, fewer than ten years after it opened, on 5 October 1970, passenger services were withdrawn from the line, though seasonal deliveries of fruit continued to be delivered by rail to Chivers factory until 1983. The 1980s saw an end to the old factory. In a management buyout the site was sold to developers and a new five million pound factory was built at the rear of the property by new owners Premier Foods. Vision Park, a business park, was built on the old site and all rail services stopped in 1992. Following removal of the rail lines, the route of the railway through Histon and Impington became the route for the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.
The villages have five places of worship with six congregations. There are two Anglican churches, both dedicated to Saint Andrew, a Methodist Church, a Baptist Church, and a Salvation Army Church. In addition, a charismatic, evangelical congregation called New Life Church, formed in Easter 2004, now meets on Sunday afternoons in the Baptist Church building. All the congregations work closely together through the Histon and Impington Council of Churches.
The first recorded reference to the church was in 1217, but in about 1270 it was modernised, turning it into a cruciform-style church. Much of the building work was carried out in the 13th and 14th centuries, but extensive restoration work and alterations took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. There have been bells in the church since at least 1553; the oldest surviving bell in the tower is dated at 1556 and was made by Austen Bracker of Islington, Norfolk. The bell is listed for preservation by the central council as it is Bracker’s only dated bell.
The original building was constructed about 1130 and appears to have been dedicated originally to St Etheldreda. Its first use was not as a church for the parish but to transcribe books for the prior of Ely. The first vicar was not appointed until the 13th century and since then it has been mainly rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries. The church was built of field stones and masonry rubble and the stones from the original building can still be seen. The original churchyard wall was built in 1614 but this crumbling wall was replaced in 2005 after a £50,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The tower contains three bells at least two of which date from the 15th century.
There have been two Methodist chapels in the village; the first was built in 1822 opposite the village green. This building is now the Co-operative stores' pharmacy. By 1896 that building was too small for the congregation, so was sold and they moved to their current site in Histon High Street. This new building was constructed in 1896 as the Matthews' Memorial Church, in memory of Richard Matthews. The church continues today with a Sunday service at 10:30 am and occasional evening services. The building is also used to host a number of local events including a Wednesday and Saturday community coffee shop. Full calendar and details: http://histonmethodist.org/
This has also occupied two sites. The first chapel was built in 1858 and closed in 1899, the building having now been converted into flats. The current chapel was built in 1899 with the money and land being donated by Steven Chivers, but by 1908 this was no longer big enough and an extension was opened on the south side.
In 1896 the Salvation Army rented the old Methodist chapel, but when the building was bought by the Co-Op in 1903 they built a temporary building next door and remained there for some time. This building was also later sold to the Co-Op, who then extended their store to its current size, and at some point the Salvation Army moved to their current site on the Impington Lane, then called Dog Kennel Lane.
This larger church stood close to St Andrews church, Histon. It was mainly demolished in about 1595 by Sir Francis Hinde to raise money and to provide building materials for a new wing at Madingley Hall. Hinde did not, however, completely demolish the church: in 1728 the chancel was said to be still standing. The churchyard survived until 1757 but was then taken into Abbey Farm. It is possible that the reduced population of Histon following the Black Death encouraged Hinde to demolish the church. Today the church site is not visible and is still shut off on the land of Abbey Farm.
School teachers are not just a recent occurrence in the villages; licensed schoolmasters appear on records as early as 1580.
Histon School was started in 1722; in 1729 it gained funding from the foundation of Elizabeth March - a board over one of the doors to Histon church records this bequest. Histon’s share of this income was £14 a year. Until 1840 the school was held in the parish church, but then a purpose-built school was erected to hold up to 70 children in what is now called School Hill. In 1872 the school was enlarged; it was then held up as a model school for the whole county. On being taken over by the school board in 1893 it was enlarged still further with the addition of a new south wing, built over the Histon brook. In 1913 the school moved to its current site and the building was then handed back to the church and is now the church hall.
Impington National School was built opposite Impington church in 1846. This school room was 15 by 22 ft (4.6 by 6.7 m) and was meant to hold 48 pupils but by 1880 it was too small to accommodate the rapidly growing population so the school house was sold and the money raised was used to buy land on Broad Close (later called School Lane). A new school was built, with two classrooms to hold 72 pupils. When Histon and Impington school opened in New School Road in 1913 this school became the infants school for both villages. In 1939 Impington Village College opened, the infants were moved to New School Road and this school closed. The old school's foundation stone found a resting place in Impington churchyard; in 2005 it was built into the new churchyard wall.
In 1943 the Impington national school building was reopened as a nursery school for children of women on war work. This remained until 1962 when it was demolished in order to make way for Bridge Road, The county council decided to build a new nursery school. It was opened in 1963 and at the time was the only purpose-built nursery school in the county.
This was built in 1912 with the land and money being given by John Chivers and was opened in 1913 for all children of the villages from eight to fourteen. It became a primary school in 1939 with the opening of Impington college, and an infants a while after the opening of the junior school, on the green.
This school was opened in 1970 but it was not until the mid-to-late 1970s that it was enlarged to become the junior school. Until then, the two Histon and Impington schools had the same head teacher, who had to cycle from school to school every day. The new junior school was built on the village green and was at first just four classrooms, two for each of years 3 and 4 (ages 9–11), when the first pupils attended. It was opened in January 1972. Pupils first went to the old junior school in the morning, packed a box of their things from their desks and then were walked up to the new junior school.
Impington Village College is the main secondary school in the area. It was opened in 1939 (and had its 75 anniversary in 2014), two weeks after the outbreak of World War II, making it the fourth Village College to be opened in Cambridgeshire. As a village college, it was originally intended to encompass all aspects of learning in the village, and included prominent space for adult education and 1st Histon Scouts. Henry Morris, founder of the Village College system, saw to it that prominent architects were employed to design these colleges. The college was designed by Walter Gropius, founder of The Bauhaus School of Architecture, and his partner Maxwell Fry. This is the only example of Gropius’s work in Britain and the building is now Grade I listed building.
Histon and Impington is home to Histon Football Club who play in Non-League football in the Southern Football League. The village recreation ground is home to a group of football clubs for children called the Histon Hornets as well as to Histon Cricket Club, which fields a number of teams at both youth and adult level.