History of Hardwick

by Christine Kuch

CHAPTER 1 - GENERAL BACKGROUND

HARDWICK lies 5 miles west of Cambridge and has a population of about l500. The northern part of the village is about 200 ft. above sea level but the southern part is only about 125 ft. above sea level. The soil is of heavy boulder clay and although it is to agriculture that the village owes its early development it must be added that the land here was noted for its infertility and history points out that poverty in the village was often due to failed or poor crops.

The village today is roughly T-shaped, with long ribbon development along the A45, or rather along what was the main road from Cambridge to St. Neots before the completion of the By-pass. This development began in the 1930's to the west of the village and later continued to the east and south. The Limes Estate, which fills the North-West corner of Hardwick was begun in the mid 1970's.

Along the road to Toft lies the original centre of the village. Incidentally, a road linking Hardwick with both Toft and the main road was first built as late as 1836. It is little wonder that in the year 1836 the curate said Hardwick was almost inaccessible in wet weather! The village originally lay around a central green opposite the church half a mile south of the main road. Hardwick was then encircled by three open fields, Brookfield, Wood Field and Comberton Field. Their names of course suggest in which direction the fields lay from the church. It is interesting to note that Port Way was originally an old Roman track or road which crossed the land from east to west.

It appears that English settlers took over areas that the Romans had cultivated. There was probably a Roman settlement at Comberton. The area around Hardwick was mainly woodland at that time, but after centuries of "colonising" by the English the forest's cover was broken and the land began to be used for grazing.

The Domesday Book which set out a record of the land in England was made in 1086 and suggests that settlement in Hardwick was not independent of Toft. When exactly Hardwick became an independent settlement we do not know, but it was probably during the 11th century. The parish boundaries seem to confirm that Toft and Hardwick were once a single parish. When the two boundaries are put together they form a neat rectangle. Hardwick's parish boundary is marked by the main road to the north, and to the west and east the boundaries with Caldecote and Comberton are almost parallel. However, the boundary to the south does suggest that a division took place; this boundary is irregular, suggesting that when Hardwick and Toft were finally separated the available woodland area was divided equally between them.

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