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History of Colmworth

Colmworth sits on the edge of a plateau overlooking the Ouse Valley at about 230 ft/ 70m above sea level. Iron Age man was possibly the first to settle in the area but the Romans certainly did and there is evidence of two of their villas and many fragments of pottery and coins. The Domesday Book calls the settlement Culmeworde – probably Culma’s farm – and the sites of the Manor and Colley Hill were chosen by early settlers because of their strategic positions.

The soil is clay and the old brickworks were situated in the adjoining (lost) hamlet of Netherstead. Hugh de Beauchamp was the first Norman Lord of the Manor however the villagers were poor and the clay soil difficult to cultivate. The trees had by then largely gone from the landscape and the most visible part of the village was the church. The monks from Bushmead Priory looked after the church initially, but the present Church, a lovely building, was erected between 1426 and 1429 in the early Perpendicular style with wooden bosses and figures (possibly from an earlier church). The church contains a sumptuous alabaster tomb to the husband of Katherine Dyer with the wonderful epitaph composed by her in 1641. Monks and priests have had a great effect over the years but none more so than the radical priest Timothy Matthews, who, in the early nineteenth century, toured the countryside preaching the Christian gospel in the open air. This remarkable man had a very positive effect on the lives of hundreds of people until his early death in 1845. He now lies buried in Colmworth churchyard.

The isolation of the village was considerable. The main contact was with Eaton Socon and St Neots until the enclosures and toll roads of the early nineteenth century linked the village more with Bedford and Kimbolton along the North/South axis.

The nineteenth century saw the largest growth in the village with the increased mechanisation of agriculture and improving roads. The school was built in 1840 and there were shops and a large number of public houses. However the twentieth century saw a retreat from the countryside and thus a decline of population and facilities, with no longer a public house, school, shop or post office. The meeting places of the church and village hall are now the main focus of village life.