Harlton is an ancient village a few miles south west of Cambridge. It can be found in the Domesday Book.
Now we are a small, but thriving, community of around 300 people living in just over 100 houses.

Click on the tabs below to learn more about Harlton
The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The parish church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest and most distinguished building in the village, having been built during the last quarter of the 14th century. For more than 600 years it has been the focus of worship in Harlton and the setting for community events.

In recent years the church has hosted a series of gala concerts and other musical events which have a wide following in the district. A newly built three manual organ has significantly enhanced the musical resources.

Worship and Services

Harlton is part of the Mare Way Group of parishes (Barton, Harlton, Haslingfield, Great and Little Eversden) within the Lord’s Bridge Team Ministry. The Lord’s Bridge Team belongs to the Bourn Deanery of the Diocese of Ely.

The normal Sunday service is Parish Communion at 11 am with a service of Family Morning Prayer on the second Sunday of the month.  Harlton has a tradition of welcoming Christians of all denominations to take communion.

Visitors are always  very welcome to join any of our services.

llumin8 Cafe

This is a social drop-in group for young people (11+ years) which takes place monthly on the 4th Sunday of the month in Harlton Village Hall during term time. Details available from Rev. Mike Booker or the Vicar.


Harlton’s village sign (Grid ref. 3855250) is very different to many – if not most – in the country.


Set at the corner of the High Street, Eversden Road and Washpit Lane, the sign takes the form of a short triangular column which has carvings that represent the village and its history on each main face.


The left hand picture shows the agricultural heritage of the village, with a sheaf of wheat, grazing cattle and the greengage trees for which the area was once famous.

The maypole dancers feature on the sign because Harlton and Orwell were the last villages in Cambridgeshire to dance round the maypole each year: they would meet at the top of the Orwell Hill and this is where they would dance (which is how Maypole Farm got its name).

The Mullard Radio Astronomy Laboratory is largely in Harlton Parish, and this image was chosen to represent the importance of the radiotelescopes to the modern history of the village.

The sign was carved by local sculptor Donald Oxer.

More information about Harlton can be found on the British History Online website by clicking here.


The top of the village sign has a circular plaque with a map which shows the village as it was at the Millennium.

Fundraising for the village sign was started as a part of Harlton’s Millennium celebrations, and enough money was raised for the work to be completed and the sign unveiled by Parish Council Chairman, Alison Littlefair at the village’s celebrations of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.


The Village sign was unveiled in 2002

From left to right, those in the picture are: Deborah Roberts (District Councillor), ?, Liz Heazel (District Councillor), Will Garfit (Parish Councillor), Alison Littlefair (Parish Council Chair), Peter Di Mambro (Parish Council Vice-Chairman, Tom Banks (Parish Councillor), ?.

The Memorial Wall is a community project started at the Millennium. The Wall is built along the western boundary of the church yard. Its purpose is to provide a memorial to villagers or those with close association with the village. Names can be carved into the stones which are set into the wall.

MemorialWall02 MemorialWall03 MemorialWall04

For centuries, Harlton church yard with its fine view across the Cambridgeshire countryside has been the final resting place of many villagers. However, there is now little space to place memorial stones of villagers. This situation would have caused sadness and we were in danger of losing the continuity of the church yard as a memorial to past inhabitants of the village.

In 1997, Harlton Parish Council set up a committee to organise village celebrations of the Millennium. A questionnaire listing a range of activities and projects was distributed and villagers were asked to indicate their preference. The most popular project was the building of a Memorial Wall.

It seemed most appropriate to build the Wall in the church yard. Permission was quickly given by the diocesan authorities, by English Heritage, eventually by South Cambridgeshire District Council and by SCDC Conservation Officers after several changes were made to the architect’s plans.

Finally, SCDC planning permission was given to the Parish Council in 2001 for 4 panels each of 4.05 metres to be built along the western boundary of the church yard. Each panel was to be built of Oakington Buff bricks and would contain 30 stone tablets of Stoke Top Bed for inscriptions.

In 2000, the Parish Council invited the Parochial Church Council to accept ownership of the Wall as it was to be built on church land.

The Parish Council and Parochial Church Council agreed that a joint church and village committee should be set up to administer the Wall whose members are John McNeil, Jennie Tombs (PCC), Alison Littlefair and Ben Banks (Village).

The Keeper of the Wall is John McNeill who keeps an up to date plan of the Wall, oversees the choice of stones and maintains a record of fees paid. The church wardens and vicar have overall authority.

How to reserve a stone
Applications to purchase stones (full stone £400; half stone £200) are submitted to this committee through the secretary Alison Littlefair (262801). The cost of carving is the responsibility of the purchaser. Click for form.

Stones may be purchased for retrospective, present or future inscription of the names of Harlton residents or those who have or have had close connection with the village.

Phase 1 of the building
The first two panels were built by Hibbitts in 2003 at a cost of  over £9,000 including fees. Tom Banks generously dug the footings.

This phase was formally opened in May 2004.

Phase 2 of the building
It is now possible to plan the building of 2 further panels. Sufficient bricks have already been purchased on the advice of the architect who warned that they would become unobtainable.

The cost of building Phase 2 of the Wall, including fees, is estimated as £10,000.

Fund raising for Phase 2
Fund raising has begun – both the PCC and the Village Hall Management Committee have donated £500 each from their share of the proceeds of the Fete, the Parish Council has donated over £500 and we also have money from the sale of stones. We have applied for several grants and are holding fund raising events.

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Memorial Wall

Our picture shows the first two sections of the wall. Planning permission has been granted for two further sections, and fundraising is under way to enable them to be built. The first fund raising event was a tea party in the Rectory garden that raised £255.

Click here for details of upcoming events.

Contact Judy Polkinhorn for more information (01223 262072)

“Harlton is a parish, 1¾ miles from Lord’s Bridge station, on the North Western railway, 47 miles from London, and 6 south west from Cambridge, in the hundred of Wetherley, Union of Chesterton (1) country court district of Cambridge, rural Deanery of Barton and archdeaconry and diocese of Ely.

The church of the Assumption of the Virgin is in the Perpendicular style, and consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, north and south porches, embattled tower containing 3 bells, and is of considerable architectural interest: there is a handsome stained window on the north side of the chancel to the memory of the late rector, the Rev. James Fendall (2).

The register dates from the year 1584. The living is a rectory (3), endowed with 280 acres of glebe land, in the gift of Jesus College, Cambridge, and held since 1867 by the Rev. Osmond Fisher, M.A., late fellow and tutor of that college (4).

There is a small Congregational chapel (5).”


1. ‘Union of Chesterton’ was the Poor Law Union into which parishes were grouped. The Chesterton workhouse was the site of internment for the poor.

2. James Fendall built the existing rectory, now a private house.

3. This land was awarded to the Rector at the enclosures of 1806-8 in lieu of his right to tithes, and it was sold long ago.

4. Osmond Fisher was the author of the highly influential geology textbook “Physics of the Earth’s Crust” (1881- but now available on-line).’

5. This was a prefabricated building, in the garden of Yew Tree Farm, and long demolished.

“The Governors of Christ’s Hospital (6), who are the lords of the manor, the rector, C. J. Munk esq. M.P. J Whitechurch esq. and T. Brand esq. are the principal landowners.

The soil and subsoil are partly clay. The chief crops are wheat, beans, barley, and fruit.

The area is 1100 acres, rateable value £1556, the population in 1881 was 312.

Parish Clerk William Patman.

POST OFFICE – Mrs Susan Gee, Receiver, letters through Cambridge at 6 a.m., dispatched at 7.40 p.m. The nearest money order office is at Great Eversden; telegraph office at Harston.

Here is a school for both sexes, endowed with £23 per annum from Fryer’s charity(7), from which is also £12 for distribution in fuel. Railway station, Lord’s Bridge, William Buckle, station master.”

6. After a prolonged dispute over Henry Fryer’s will, the Manor estate was given by King Charles II to his new mathematical school for poor boys, which later became Christ’s Hospital school.

7. Here the Gazetteer is economical with the truth. There was money given each year to the poor of Harlton under the Court decision of 1677, when Henry Fryer’s will of 1631 was settled, though his expressed intention to ‘…remember Harlton amply…’ was hardly fulfilled.  The worthies of Harlton always had a better use for money bequeathed to the poor, and in this case they chose to use the greater part of this to reduce the local rates by supporting the school, and distributing only a lesser part in gifts to the poor. 

Brand, Mrs. Brock, Rueben,
Rayner, Joseph,
Hare and Hounds (8)
Fisher, Rev. Osmond M.A.
Gee, Susan (Mrs.)
Sergeant, Alfred,
Rag and Bone dealer
Taylor, Alexander,
The Grove
Holben, William Lester,
Whitechurch John,
Farmer and Landowner
Whitechurch, Mrs Haddon, George, Red Lion Whitechurch, William,
Banks, Benjamin,
Owen, James,
coal mer. Lord’s Bridge (9)
Willmott, Alfred,
beer retailer, Lord’s Bridge
Bolton, Frederick,



8. Note that the village then had four pubs, one for each 40 adults.

9. A coal merchant at the railway station, now the offices of the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory.

A brief snapshot of the village based on the 1881 census returns

In 1881 the census was taken on 3rd April. On that day:

  • There were 73 dwellings in the village, one of which was empty.
  • 73 families lived in the village (two probably related families lived in the Hare and Hounds,
    but were listed as separate households).
  • 44 of the heads of households were born in Harlton as were 31 of their wives, and most of the others were born within a few miles.
  • The total population was 304.
  • 72 children were at school and there were a further 29 children under school age.
  • There were 6 farmers and 37 farm labourers.
  • There were 8 servants, 6 housekeepers and 2 grooms.
  • 29 people were coprolite labourers, mining coprolite for use as fertiliser.
  • 6 were general labourers.
  • There were 4 pubs – the Hare and Hounds, the Wheatsheaf, the Red Lion and one at Lords Bridge, but only three of these were occupied by a licensed victualler (there wasn’t one at Lords Bridge at this time).
  • Other trades and professions listed were: 2 grocers, 2 carpenters, 3 brickmakers, 2 laundresses and one each of the following – policeman, thatcher, dealer, dressmaker, shepherd, coalman (porter), gardener, rector, school mistress, teacher, farm bailiff and railway porter.

Information from the 1881 census found at the Family Search website (http://www.familysearch.org/eng/default.asp)

“HARLTON is a parish on the old Roman road to Cambridge, 1½ miles south of Lord’s Bridge station on the Bedford and Cambridge line of the London, Midland and Scottish railway and 6 south-west of Cambridge, in the hundred of Wetherley, petty sessional division of Arrington and Melbourn, union of Chesterton, county court district of Cambridge, rural deanery of Barton and archdeaconry and diocese of Ely.

The soil and subsoil are partly clay. The chief crops are wheat, beans, barley and fruit. The area is 1,261 acres; the population in 1921 was 214.

The church of the Assumption of the Virgin, erected about 1370, is an edifice of clunch in the transition style from Decorated to Perpendicular, and consists of chancel, nave, aisles, north and south porches and an embattled western tower containing 3 bells: the reredos is in carved stone with shallow niches: there is a stone rood screen, and an embattled turret, with newel staircase, remains at the north-west angle and has a door opening upon the nave roof: the chancel contains a large piscina of Perpendicular date, and in the north porch is a mutilated stoup : a memorial window was erected in 1867 to the Rev. James Fendall M.A. rector from 1839 to 1866: in 1869 an organ was erected by the Rev. 0. Fisher (1): the church underwent restoration in 1912: there are 250 sittings, 160 being free (2).

The register of baptisms dates from the year 1636; marriages and burials, 1690.”


1. This organ now elaborately restored.

2. A ‘free sitting’ was a pew open for the use of anyone. The others had been bought for the benefit particular families.

Wherefore art thou Josephine!
The story of the pear tree at the corner of Washpit Lane – Steve Anderson – April 2012


Photo courtesy HennersJames – April 2012

Two things visibly changed the Harlton of my early years – the 1960’s and 70’s.

The first was the sudden onset of Dutch Elm disease, as across the village all the major landmark trees simultaneously succumbed, and were felled.

The second was the final decline of the fruit orchards.

My first summer job was picking fruit at what were then Flowerdews orchards at the top of Barrington Hill, but again with almost the same pace as Dutch Elm disease, changes to farming subsidies and markets resulted in the wholesale grubbing out of the last remaining commercial orchards.

However, look around Harlton and a few defiant stragglers survive.

Wind the clock forwards some forty odd years and there is something about the quirkiness of the old
fruit tree varieties and the magic of those long lost rows of trees, which still eats away at me.

I am now involved in a local National Trust group in Staffordshire and when the chance came to reintroduce some fruit trees to one of their properties (Holy Austin Rock), I seized the chance to join some dots.

Those who drive down Washpit Lane may have spotted an old pear tree (pictured on previous page) stood on the corner where the road crosses the stream.

What you may not know is that the corner once had its own cottage – Washpit Cottage

The pear tree presumably once stood in the front garden to the Cottage, and when the cottage went, the pear survived.

Moreover, it still does, growing strongly and fruiting well, albeit the pears as far as I always recalled, were never anything special.

So, to cut a long story short, first, I took some cuttings from the tree, which were grafted onto new rootstocks by the National Trusts plant conservation programme, and secondly I sent some samples of the fruit and leaves to the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale for identification.

The cuttings all took (enormous plug needed for Knights Hayes PCP!) and the fruit has been identified as being from the variety Josephine de Malines.

The variety originated from Belgium in the 1830’s, in the seed beds of Major Esperen, from Mechlin (Malines), who named it Josephine de Malines in honour of his wife. In the definitive reference book to fruit trees (Hogg 1860) the entry is shown here.


Interestingly it is described for eating February to May obviously having been picked and stored – clearly, what I wasn’t doing when I picked them fresh off the tree in September – took one bite and chucked it in the hedge in disgust!

So if you see the tree on your travels in or out of the village, say hello to it, it has seen a lot of people come and go over the years.

Pear trees always used to take a long time to come to maturity – the phrase went ‘plant pears for your heirs’ – and whoever planted this one will now be long gone.

For good measure there is one of the cuttings now a long way from home in South Staffs, growing in front of a now renovated old cottage style rock house cave dwelling.

Also though one of the spare cuttings has found its way back to Harlton and is growing back in the parish among one of the few surviving bits of old orchard.

© Steve Anderson – April 2012

There was a school in Harlton at least 300 years ago, when the rector, Dr. Cooke, left a bequest of £100 to support the teacher.

Sadly this sum was embezzled by the trustees, and the poor got nothing.

Only when James Fendall became the Rector was a new school built. In 1838 the Charity Commissioners reported that Harlton had £35 a year from the will of Henry Fryer, half of which paid a schoolmaster, on condition that all children were instructed free. The other half provided coal for the poor. In 1852 the Revd. Fendall sought financial help from the National Schools Society and from Christ’s Hospital school to build a new village school.

At that time, 24 boys and 25 girls each paid 1d per week to attend. Rebuilding was estimated at £420. Fendall raised £130 locally, and more came from Jesus College, with £50 that he gave himself.  The proposed new school was to be 30 feet long and 16 feet wide, for 80 children.

The National Society thought that this was far too small, and stipulated that  their grant would come only if the room was made much larger.

The land was given by  Jesus College. The opening was reported in the Cambridge Chronicle  in November 1852, the building costing £480-3s-9d.

At the ceremony, those attending enjoyed ‘…an elegant cold collation.’

In 1846-47 there were 17 boys and 20 girls in school, though by 1873 the numbers had risen to 27 boys and 27 girls.

In 1867 the schoolmistress was paid £26 yearly, from a school income of £38-3s-7d.

Sadly, by 1872 the school was bankrupt, and could not pay its debts though the Revd Osmond Fisher persuaded the Governors of Christ’s Hospital to provide extra money.

In 1891 the school was found to be very bad, and the schoolmaster was dismissed.

By 1904 the salary for the schoolmistress, Miss Cheley, was raised to £79 per annum.

In 1906 the school governors wanted to reduce the age for school leaving, voting against the Education Bill that was to raise the school leaving age.

In 1912, a door was fitted to the school lavatory, and in 1913 the school, provided evening lectures the village people on keeping pigs, poultry and bees, and on stacking, thatching and hedge laying.

In 1941 there were only 32 children in school, and electric lighting was installed, though mains water had to wait until 1952.

By 1955 there was even consideration that flush lavatories might be installed, as the tenant of Organ Cottage had objected to the disposal of the school sewage in the garden there.

The estimate for this work was £200, which could not be afforded so that the managers applied to the county authority for ‘controlled status.’

Too late: a notice of closure for the school had been prepared and, in 1958, the school was closed by the Ministry of Education with a short, utilitarian note, an action typical of the drive for ‘efficiency’ and centralisation.

No word of regret – the bureaucrat’s prescription.

Fortunately for Harlton, the school managers then made the building over to the Ely Diocesan Education Committee for use as a village hall, in which function it has greatly served the village since.

The oldest headstone in Harlton churchyard commemorates Henry Page who died in 1717.

The headstone, which has recently been straightened, includes carvings of skulls, hour-glasses, coffins, bones and grave-digging tools.


The inscription reads:

Here lieth ye body of Henry Page
who died April ye first 1717
aged 71 years

All you good people
that here pass by
as you are now
so once was I
As I am now
so shall you be
Therefore prepare
to follow me

A link to the Roll of Honour of Harlton’s men who served, and some who died, in the two World Wars, prepared by Tony Legge