Duxford has been around for a long time, even before there were parishes. From archaeological finds and discoveries, evidence exists that people lived, worshipped and worked around the village in Roman and pre-Roman times. But Duxford was very different then, indeed very different 100 or even 50 years ago from what it is now. Duxford today has 4 times the number of residents as it did in 1901.
A very good history of the village and its institutions can be found in Parishes: Duxford | British History Online – this link covers the period 1100 to the 1970s and probably tells the reader more than they would want to know on the history of the four manors that established the village, from around 1200 until the inclosure of the open fields and heaths in the 1820s.
Duxford grew up with two parish churches, St. Peter’s and St. John’s. St. Peter’s is still used and is listed – details of its architectural history can be found on Parish Church of St. Peter on the Historic England web pages.
St John’s Church is no longer used, but remains consecrated and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust – its history and a description of its wall paintings can be found on their web-site. The following link includes a postcard from CCT’s volunteer in Duxford, Adrian Powter.
An interesting video about St John’s can be accessed here.
The War Memorial on the little green outside the church commemorates those associated with the village who went to two world wars and didn’t come back; their details can be found here, Roll of Honour Duxford
The United Reform Church has a strong history and presence in the village and although there was once some animosity between the conforming and the non-conforming sections of the village in the past, matters seem to be quieter now!
The Censuses from 1841 to 1911 are available for Duxford on various commercial websites and are useful for looking up families and occupations and have some detail as to where in the village people lived. The 1881 census information is available for free from most of the sites although you may have to register first. For example, 1881 England Census
Duxford probably changed little from 1500 up until the 1830s, cottages fell or burnt down and were rebuilt, but the structure of the village changed after inclosure when the major farms moved out of the village to the land they had been allocated and some of the farms remaining in the village became more domestic. It continued as an agricultural village with almost all who lived here working in agriculture or supporting it.
The next great shift was in the inter-war period when the pace of change quickened. The development of RAF Duxford taking over the land to the west of the parish and becoming an established airfield with technical and domestic quarters, altered the skies around the village and began to link Duxford to the modern world. But Duxford relied on wells and boreholes for its water until the 1950s and there was no mains drainage. There is much history of RAF Duxford and its use by the Americans during 1943-45. The Wikipedia site is a reasonable place to start Duxford Aerodrome and the 78th Fighter Group site, 78th Fighter Group Website .
The 1960s, ‘70s and onwards were when Duxford village really began to change, with the development of most of the houses of the village, either on the sites of old houses and their land, old farm yard and buildings, or on new land around the village. Duxford moved from being an agricultural village with its own services supporting those who lived and worked locally, to a commuter village with very few people living and working in the village. Most of the land surrounding Duxford village is currently owned by Gonville & Caius College of Cambridge University.
The memories of this period were recorded and published in a book Duxford Remembers, edited by John Patrick, from reminiscences of Duxford’s own people recorded from 1980 to 1995.
Now out of print, scanned copies of the individual chapters can be accessed through the links below (please note there may be a delay while the pdf document is loading):-
- Duxford Remembered Early Memories
- Duxford Remembered WW1 and after
- Duxford Remembered WW2
- Duxford Characters
- Making a Living
- Relaxations Entertainments and Celebrations
- Village Retailers
Duxford today has a large and well-equipped Community Centre (opened in 2020) with excellent cafe and car park for 35 cars, two pubs, the Plough and the John Barleycorn, Graystones deli and cafe, two major factories, two major transport concerns, the Imperial War Museum, with its aircraft restoration companies, a community primary school, a local shop, a beauty salon, a hairdresser, a part-time Post Office and 2,808 people living in 1,124 households and is continuing to grow and evolve.
Page kindly contributed by Mr Tim Chudleigh of Duxford, with some of the documents kindly loaned by Mr and Mrs Longstaff.
Download a charming history “Memories of Old Duxford” here
The following link will take you to a pdf document in which Geoffrey Whitehouse summarises Wilfred Parkinson’s notes from the 1950s, to present to the Duxford History Group in 1993.