The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

A Brief History of Cambridge

Category: Brief History of

Cambridge was founded in 875 when the Danes conquered Eastern England. They created a fortified town called a burgh, from which the word borough derives. Cambridge was surrounded by a ditch and an earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top. However in 1010 Cambridge was burned by the Danes. That was an easy task when all the buildings were of wood.

By the 10th century Cambridge was also the administrative centre for the area and so it was a town of some importance, although it would seem tiny to us. By 1086 Cambridge probably had a population of about 2,000. By the standards of the time it was a medium sized town.

Later in the Middle Ages the population of Cambridge probably rose to about 3,000. In 1068 William the Conqueror visited Cambridge and ordered that a castle be built there. At first it was of wood but in the 12 th century, it Was rebuilt in stone.

The town of Cambridge was severely damaged by a fire in 1174. Fire was a constant hazard when most buildings were of wood with thatched roofs. Another fire raged in Cambridge in 1385.

In the Middle Ages Cambridge had a weekly market and by the early 13 th century it also had a fair. In those days fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year for a period of a few days- People came from all over Eastern England at a Cambridge fair. Cambridge prospered because it was located on the river Cam.

In Cambridge there was a leather industry. By the 15th century there was also a wool industry.

In 1728 it was estimated that the population of Cambridge was more then 6,000,1,600 of whom were inhabitants of the university. By the standards of that time Cambridge was a big town. The first newspaper in Cambridge appeared in 1744. The first bank in Cambridge was opened in 1780.

The railway reached Cambridge in 1845. It stimulated the growth of industry in Cambridge by connecting the town to a huge market in London. From the late 19th century a new industry of making scientific instruments grew up in Cambridge. Cambridge gained gas light in 1823.

From 1880 horse drawn trams ran in the streets of Cambridge. The first electricity was generated in Cambridge in 1893.

In the 20th century the university, while still important, did not dominate Cambridge. New industries of electronics grew up. Making surgical and scientific instruments was also important.

Cambridge was made a city in 1951. The first cinema in Cambridge opened in 1910.

Today Cambridge has a population of 109,000 people.

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