Shepreth History

A brief history

The parish of Shepreth lies nearly midway between Cambridge and Royston, and is the most southerly parish in the hundred. It is roughly rectangular and is bounded on the north-west by the river Cam or Rhee. Other boundaries follow the course of several streams and drains; Foxton brook on the north-east, and Meldreth brook on the south-west. The southeast boundary cuts across Rush Moor and Carver Field. The parish is mainly agricultural although cement works were established at the end of the19th century, and the village developed as a dormitory area during the 1960s.

The parish contains 1,318 acres and is generally flat, rising to 50 ft. in the north-east. The soil is light and gravelly, overlying chalk and clay, with a small seam of Lower Greensand across the north of the parish. The clay subsoil caused much of the land to be waterlogged, and the damp condition of the L Moor, so called because of its shape, in the west of the parish, provides a particular habitat for certain plants and wild life. Low-lying land along the north-east boundary is still liable to flooding, although an artificial system of drainage has partly eased the problem in the rest of the parish.

Like its neighbouring parishes, Shepreth contains coprolites which are fossilised faeces. In the nineteenth century licences were given to dig coprolites which were valuable as fertiliser. Anecdotal history has it that coprolite digging on the Shepreth Barrington boundary led to a resurgence of the sometimes bitter rivalry between the two villages which had been evident in previous centuries.Shepreth History

Fragments of Stone-Age weapons and tools have been found near Shepreth, and the site may have been a lake dwelling. There is evidence of a Roman settlement on the higher, drier ground in the northeast corner of the parish. Later settlement concentrated near the centre of the parish, around the Mill river, now called the River Shep, and its junction with the old Melbourn Harston road, now called Fowlmere Road. Shepreth meant the brook of the sheep, or the place where sheep may be washed, and was a convenient resting place before Cambridge.

The Sheep Bridge was still in use in 1626. By 1970 a number of timber-framed and plastered cottages with thatched roofs survived, notably a group in Fowlmere Road near the village mill. Most of them date from the 17th and 18th centuries, while at least two were built on the Tyrells estate in the early 19th century. At the former millhouse, 8 Fowlmere Road, however, the survival of what is perhaps part of a cruck truss maybe evidence not only of a medieval building but also of a form of construction of which only one other example has hitherto been recorded in Cambridgeshire.

By 1569 Moor End had been settled, and before or during the 18th century freehold settlements were established at Moor End and Frog End, away from the village nucleus. No houses remained at Moor End in 1970 although a number of scattered thatched cottages and small houses still stand at Frog End and along High Street.

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(Taken from