Swaffham Bulbeck

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Swaffham Bulbeck
The Old Abbey, Swaffham Bulbeck - geograph.org.uk - 1181611.jpg
The Old Abbey
Cambridgeshire UK location map.svg
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Swaffham Bulbeck
Location within Cambridgeshire
Population826 (2011 Census) [1]
OS grid reference TL559619
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CB25
Dialling code 01223
List of places
52°14′N0°17′E / 52.23°N 0.28°E / 52.23; 0.28 Coordinates: 52°14′N0°17′E / 52.23°N 0.28°E / 52.23; 0.28
Signpost in Swaffham Bulbeck UK SwaffamBulbeck.jpg
Signpost in Swaffham Bulbeck

Swaffham Bulbeck is a small village in East Cambridgeshire, England.


Swaffham Bulbeck is located about 8 miles (13 km) from the city of Cambridge, and 6 miles (10 km) from the famous racing town of Newmarket. The parish of Swaffham Bulbeck is part of the Diocese of Ely and the Deanery of Fordham and Quy. The benefice consists of five parishes, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Bottisham, Lode and Quy.

Children initially attend primary school in the village and usually then go on to Bottisham Village College.


The word "Swaffham" is derived from Old English Swæfe ham, meaning "the home of the Swabians", also found in the name of the town of Swaffham in Norfolk. [2] The "Bulbeck" part of the name originates from the de Bolbec family, who possessed the manor in the 11th and 12th centuries. [3]

Culture and community

Every year the village summer theatre company produces and performs one of Gilbert and Sullivan's operas. Established in 1982 the company has run every year since, first at the Long Barn to the south of the village until its redevelopment in 1988 and then to a much more capacious setting in a barn central to the village by kind permission of the owner. This venue too has now come up for redevelopment and the production is now based at Downing Farm by kind permission of the Turner family.

Swaffham Bulbeck's experience of World War II was investigated and later commemorated in 2015 in a community project led by Swaffham Bulbeck-based disability charity Red2Green. The project was funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund. During the activities, eight films were made showing oral histories of seven local residents talking about their personal experiences of World War II. These can be viewed on YouTube (see below for link to page). A time capsule containing objects representing different elements of the project is buried in front of the village war memorial.


The church is dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The west tower was built in the early 13th century and is the most ancient part of a very ancient building. The tower is 12.5 feet (4 m) square with three storeys and is supported by eight buttresses. It is built of locally quarried clunch (from Burwell).

The nave was constructed in the first half of the 13th century. It consists of four uniform bays with six octagonal piers supporting the clerestory which was added in the 15th century. The north aisle was built in about 1300 and the south aisle a few years later.

Apart from some fragments of 14th and 15th century stained glass in the north aisle, all the 10 windows in the aisles and 8 in the celestorey are of plain leaded glass. The nave is some 57 feet (17 m) long by 21 feet (6 m) wide and the aisles are 11 feet (3 m) wide. The church can seat about 200 people at full capacity.

The churchyard contains many interesting gravestones — there are six tomb chests, the earliest dating from 1742, and about 35 headstones with shaped tops dating from 1703 onwards.

As regards the vicarage, in the late 1970s it was decided by the parish that the village no longer required a vicarage of its own. It was sold to the public, and now provides bed and breakfast accommodation. It is erroneously now called The Old Rectory.


The village is located just beyond the end of Swaffham Bulbeck Lode, a man-made waterway connected to the River Cam. The hamlet of Commercial End, at the northern edge of the village, was an important inland port from medieval times, although the waterway had been in use since Roman times. [4] Principal buildings include the late 17th-century Merchant's House, which had a counting house added in the mid 18th century. Workers' cottages and warehouses were added to the street by Thomas Bowyer, after he acquired the house in 1805. River trade declined once the railways reached the area, and the house and contents were sold after 1877. The street retains its 18th and early 19th century character, although the lode is now only navigable as far as Slade Farm, some 2 miles (3.2 km) away. [5]

Notable citizens

Swaffam Bulbeck was the residence of the twice Nobel prize winner Frederick Sanger, and of the Lyell Medal winner and world-renowned angler Barrie Rickards.

Swaffam Bulbeck was also the residence of Sir Bryan Harold Cabot Matthews CBE FRS. He was Professor of Physiology at King's College, Cambridge 1952–1973 and lived in the Grade II listed Priest's House at 99 High Street.

Related Research Articles

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Lode, Cambridgeshire Human settlement in England

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Bottisham Human settlement in England

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Fen Ditton Human settlement in England

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Stow cum Quy Human settlement in England

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Cambridgeshire Lodes man-made waterways in the county of Cambridgeshire, England

The Cambridgeshire Lodes are a series of man-made waterways, believed to be Roman in origin, located in the county of Cambridgeshire, England. Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Reach, Burwell, Wicken and Monks Lodes all connect to the River Cam, while Soham Lode connects to the River Great Ouse. All have been navigable historically, but some are no longer officially navigable.

Bulbeck may refer to:


  1. = "Key Figures for 2011 Census: Key Statistics. Area: Swaffham Bulbeck (Parish)". ONS. 2013. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  2. Mills, David (2011). "Swaffham". A Dictionary of British Place-Names. Oxford University Press. p. 445. ISBN   978-0-19-960908-6 . Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  3. Wareham, A.F. & Wright, A.P.M. (2002). "Swaffham Bulbeck: Manors". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). London: Victoria County History. pp. 252–258. Retrieved 12 March 2018.
  4. The River Great Ouse and tributaries, (2006), Andrew Hunter Blair, Imray Laurie Norie and Wilson, ISBN   978-0-85288-943-5
  5. The Canals of Eastern England, (1977), John Boyes and Ronald Russell, David and Charles, ISBN   978-0-7153-7415-3