St Neots is a town in the Huntingdonshire District of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies on the River Great Ouse about 50 miles (80 km) north of London and about 18 miles (29 km) west of Cambridge. The districts of Eynesbury, Eaton Ford and Eaton Socon were formerly independent but nowadays are considered merged into St Neots.
The town is close to the intersection of the A1 road (north-south) and the A428 and A421 roads which link Cambridge to Bedford and Milton Keynes on an east to west axis. St Neots has a railway station on the East Coast Main Line with typically half-hourly services to Peterborough, Stevenage and London. The River Great Ouse runs through the town, and there are extensive riverside parkland areas.
The town is named after the ninth century monk Saint Neot, whose bones were brought to St Neots Priory from Cornwall in around 980 AD, resulting in pilgrims visiting in large numbers. Previously the whole town had been called Eynesbury, but the fame of Neot's relics led to that part of the town being called St Neots.
St Neots has a weekly market and a good range of shops which led to it becoming a significant regional shopping town, although the general transfer to internet shopping has led to some decline in recent years.
The town name is pronounced / /.
Description of St NeotsEdit
St Neots is a busy market town. It has a plentiful stock of housing of all categories, much of it modern, as well as a considerable sector of light industry. In addition there are good transport links, with Cambridge and Bedford being easily accessible. There are fast trains to London as well as Stevenage and Peterborough. This has resulted in St Neots being an attractive place to live and work, and from which to travel to work. Cambridge in particular is a major employment centre.
The core of St Neots is the market square area; the Eynesbury area lies to the south; Loves Farm and Wintringham are new housing estates to the east, near the railway station. On the west of the River Great Ouse are the areas of Eaton Ford and Eaton Socon. These areas were originally distinct, but for practical purposes are now all parts of St Neots. Little Paxton is a district on the north side, not part of St Neots for administration purposes, but immediately adjacent and merging with the town, and Wyboston on the south side similarly merges into St Neots.
There is a large supermarket in Eynesbury, and one of medium size in the centre; there are several convenience stores in the residential areas. There is a retail and industrial site in Eaton Socon where there are three discount supermarkets. Other retail shops, particularly in the fashion sector, have suffered economically during 2020 and it is not yet clear what the future holds; the continuing increase in population suggests that some resurgence is likely. There are numerous cafes and restaurants.
Most of the green areas within St Neots are within a Conservation Area. In addition the Conservation Area includes most of the Great North Road in Eaton Socon, the historic centre of St Neots and of Eynesebury.
The town is well provided with leisure opportunities; the Riverside Park is an extensive area of grassland adjacent to the river on the west side. Picnics are popular, taking advantage of the shade of the trees; there is a pond frequented by swans and ducks, and a cafe adjacent. The wild bird theme can be pursued further at Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, just 3 miles from the centre of St Neots, There are 77 hectares (190 acres) of nature reserve with a network of paths; there is a visitor centre.
The Priory Centre is a theatrical venue in the town, hosting live entertainment, as well as offering conference facilities. It is licensed for wedding ceremonies.
St Neots Museum is housed in the town's former Victorian Police Station and Magistrates Court. It has local history collections covering the town's rich past including a display about James Toller, the Eynesbury Giant, a resident from the 18th century who was over 8 ft tall. There is also a gallery with temporary exhibitions by local creatives including fine art, ceramics, sculpture and illustration. The museum organises a variety of specialist and family events from walks, talks, one-day festivals, temporary and touring exhibitions.
St Neots general market is held on the market square every Thursday.
The town has a community radio station, called Black Cat Radio on 102.5 FM.
There is a thriving theatre community with various active groups:
- Riverside Theatre Company, who stage productions, run workshops and have groups for all ages;
- VAMPS, formed in 1961 as the St Neots and District Operatic Society, stage popular musicals and variety shows;
- St Neots Players, formed in the late 1920s as a play-reading group, with past members who used to perform the annual Shakespeare, Pantomime and other mid-season productions at the Kings Head Hotel in the Stables Theatre;
- Stageworks, a performing arts group offering classes, holiday programmes, workshops and a college offering full-time training to students aged 16 years and over;
- SJ School of Dance,
- Pocket Productions and
- Peppercorns Academy
The local creative community is served by Neotists, a Community Interest Company for creative professionals with members covering design, illustration, art, photography and IT, which commissions local creatives to collaborate on projects, run workshops and events for the community and provide opportunities and connections for professionals working in the creative industry.
Housing and town managementEdit
St Neots experienced considerable growth in the 1960s and later, when much new housing was built to accommodate families from London, as part of the London overspill plan. Further housebuilding followed and in 2010, the Loves Farm development was built, with 1,400 houses to the east of the railway line; construction is continuing further east in 2020 - 2023. , followed by another 2,800 houses in 2021 in the nearby Wintringham development, which will eventually fill in the entire space between Cambridge Street and the by-pass. Expansion of light industry facilities was incorporated in the original overspill planning, and has also been continued more recently.
The town is to benefit from the Government Future High Streets Fund. Huntingdonshire District Council will manage the expenditure of £12.8 million. Public consultation will take place in the summer of 2021. The priorities proposed are:
- regeneration of the Old Falcon Inn
- redevelopment of the Priory Centre/Priory Quarter
- improvements to the Market Square
- improvements to the High Street
- improvements to the St Neots Road Bridge
- a new waterfront route.
Bedfordshire County Council are currently (2021) conisdering proposals for Dennybrook Garden Village. If constructed, this will include over 10,000 new dwellings, located immediately to the west of the A1 road, between Bushmead Road and Wyboston road junction. Although this development will have some self-contained facilities, it is likely to be focussed on St Neots as its main town locally.
Sport and leisureEdit
St Neots has a semi-professional non-League football team, St Neots Town F.C., who play at Rowley Park Stadium. The club are currently (2021) members of the Southern Football League Division 1 Central. The town also has a rugby club St Neots RUFC, a rowing club St Neots Rowing Club, two Dragon Boat teams and the St Neots Table Tennis club, which plays in both the Bedford and District Table Tennis League and the Cambridgeshire Table Tennis League. Eynesbury too has a football team, Eynesbury Rovers F.C.
Huntingdonshire District Council operates a leisure centre complex in Eynesbury with an indoor swimming pool, gym, squash courts, sports hall, tennis courts, all weather pitches, a creche and a cafe. The site is part of the council's 'One Leisure' brand, which has other sites in Huntingdon and St Ives. There are independent fitness centres in the town centre and at Wyboston.
The River Great Ouse flows through the centre of the town, through Regatta Meadows and Riverside Park, and linking to Eaton Socon providing opportunities for riverside leisure walks, and forming part of the Ouse Valley Way walking route.
Riverside Park is close to the town centre and covers 72 acres, with an attractive mile-long waterside frontage. The park has a cafe, parking for 250 cars, a large children's activity area, the largest skate park in the area, and a miniature railway, Riverside Miniature Railway. During the summer concerts are occasionally held on Sunday afternoons in the park.
To the north of the town is Paxton Pits Nature Reserve; this is an extensive area providing walks through 77 hectares of lakes, meadow, grassland, scrub and woodland. The reserve is famous for its nightingales and cormorants and is home to a wide variety of other birds, insects, mammals and flora.
The Rowley Arts Centre was opened in May 2014 and includes a six-screen cinema operated by Cineworld and a complex with three restaurants and a gym. It was named after Peter Rowley, an American playwright, author and critic who was Lord of the Manor of St Neots and who donated £1 million towards the development from the profit he made from selling the land on which the Love's Farm development was built. The complex was subsequently purchased as an investment by Huntingdonshire District Council for £7.6 million in 2019.
St Neots railway station is served by generally half-hourly trains north to Peterborough and south to Horsham via London St Pancras and Gatwick Airport, with additional peak time commuter services in the mornings and evenings to and from London King's Cross. Journeys are typically around 45 minutes to London King's Cross, 55 minutes to St Pancras, and a little under two hours to Gatwick Airport. At Peterborough station there are good connections to the north-east of England, the West Midlands and north-west, and to Ipswich and Norwich.
St Neots station footbridge has access to the car park and taxi rank on the west side, and the district of Love's Farm on the east side. There are lifts to the platforms.
There is a proposal to open a west to east rail link between Bedford and Cambridge. This is expected to have a station immediately south of St Neots where the new line and the existing main line will intersect. The scheme is under consultation at present (2021).
St Neots lies adjacent to the A1 trunk road which links the town by road with London and the northeast of England and Scotland. Although it is not free of congestion, it is markedly clearer than the M1 motorway. The town is also linked with Cambridge to the east by the A428 road and with Bedford and Milton Keynes by the A421 road at the Black Cat Roundabout on the A1 just south of the town.
There is major scheme for a new road connecting the Black Cat Roundabout and the A428 at Caxton Gibbet, avoiding St Neots completely. A £507 million contract has been awarded to Skanska for the construction.
St Neots is served by the Stagecoach 905 service which operates between Bedford Bus Station and Cambridge Parkside on a typically half-hourly basis. In addition Stagecoach operate a route 66 between St Neots and Huntingdon via Hinchingbrooke Hospital, on a typically hourly frequency six days a week.
Whippet Bus Company operates a 61/63 circular service between the town centre, Eaton Ford, Eaton Socon, Eynesbury, and the railway station, on a typically hourly frequency with some additional journeys, six days a week.
St Neots is on Route 12 of the Sustrans national cycle route that connects Colchester and Oxford via Harwich, Felixstowe, Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Huntingdon, Sandy, Bedford and Milton Keynes.
A foot and cycle bridge across the River Great Ouse was opened in 2011, linking Eaton Socon and Eynesbury, enabling pupils attending Ernulf Academy to avoid cycling through the town centre and improving connections to existing cycle paths. The scheme was a Sustrans Connect2 project, and supported by Cambridgeshire County Council and Huntingdonshire District Council.
Remains of Iron Age settlement have been found in the town centre; a Roman encampment was located in the town. It became known as Eynesbury, after Ernulf, a local leader.
Saint Neot was a holy man who founded a monastery near the present-day Cornish village of St Neot. When he died, his remains were kept there as holy relics, and many pilgrims visited, making donations. In the later tenth century a Priory was established in what is now St Neots, Cambridgeshire (then simply part of Eynesbury) and the landowners Leofric and his wife Leoflaed obtained Neot's remains (leaving an arm in Cornwall), intending that they would attract pilgrims, and their money, to their Priory. This was successful, and the Priory became rich and famous, and the area became known as St Neots.
About this time, the settlement to the west of the River Ouse was known as Ea-tun, meaning "waterside village". In Norman times, a sub-division of a Baron's area of control was called a soke and in French the area was called the Soka de Eton, and later Eaton Socon. Before the river was bridged, people waded across it, and this was called a ford, from which the immediate area became called Eaton Ford.
The River Great Ouse was made navigable from St Ives to Bedford, via St Neots, in 1629, increasing river-borne trade in the town.
The Priory was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, and the relics of St Neot were lost.
The Second English Civil War began in April 1648. The Parliamentarians under Oliver Cromwell were in control, but King Charles I planned to overthrow them by force of arms. An attempt to seize London by his supporters, the Royalists, failed. A group of them retreated to St Neots and planned to spend the night of 9 July resting in the town. In the small hours of 10 July Parliamentary troops attacked, taking them by surprise, and the battle centred on the market square area. Many Royalists were killed or taken prisoner.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the town enjoyed prosperity through corn milling and brewing, and from stagecoach traffic; and from 1850 its railway connection. Eaton Socon was on the Great North Road and had inns used as a staging post and overnight stop for stagecoaches travelling between London and York; some of the routes ran via St Neots as well as Eaton Socon, and intersected with traffic on the east-west route from the Eastern Counties and the Midlands.
Eaton Ford and Eaton Socon, lying on the west side of the River Great Ouse, were formerly within Bedfordshire, but in 1965 the situation was regularised, and they were incorporated into St Neots, and Cambridgeshire.
Recent development has added housing at Eynesbury Manor, Love's Farm and the Island, Little Paxton bringing the population to over 35,000, which will be exceeded on completion and sale of 2,800 homes at Wintringham Park in the early 2020s.
By 2026 it is expected that St Neots population will be 39,870, experiencing the highest growth in Cambridgeshire.
St Neots is a civil parish, which is simply a territorial designation. It is under the political control of St Neots Town Council, which consists of 21 elected councillors, including a town mayor and a deputy town mayor. With a budget (2020-2021) of £1.8 million, its operations remit covers cemeteries and "closed" churchyards (those that are full), public conveniences, allotments, play areas, bus shelters in rural locations, and some residual footway lighting (but not street lighting).
The second tier locally is Huntingdonshire District Council which is a non-metropolitan district of Cambridgeshire. There are four wards, St Neots Priory Park & Little Paxton, St Neots Eatons, St Neots Eynesbury, and St Neots East; each is served by two or three councillors.
The third tier of local government is Cambridgeshire County Council. St Neots is part of four electoral divisions; St Neots Priory Park and Little Paxton, St Neots The Eatons, St Neots Eynesbury, and St Neots East and Gransden each of which is represented on the county council by one councillor.
The fourth tier of local government is Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, which is headed by a mayor. The Authority's website states that "As of May 8 2021, the Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough is Dr Nik Johnson. More details will follow."
The late 12th century parish church was almost completely rebuilt in the 15th century, making it one of the largest and grandest medieval churches in modern Cambridgeshire. In the 19th century, it was provided with a high quality set of stained glass windows depicting the life of Jesus Christ. It is considered to be a very fine building, and has been called the Cathedral of Huntingdonshire.
Writing originally in 1958 before the enlargement of the town and the reconstruction of the bridge, Betjeman said:
The good small market community has a medieval bridge over the Ouse and a well-proportioned Market Square, but the church is tucked away on the fringe of the town. It is almost everything a good town church should be: a luxurious Perpendicular building with perhaps the finest tower in the county, faced in ironstone and pebbles with ashlar dressings -- an agreeable contrast in colour and texture. The roof is almost flat -- although not over-elaborate it is very English and most satisfying. There are several Perpendicular screens.
St Neots is just over 49 miles north of Charing Cross, London. It is close to the south-western boundary of Huntingdonshire District, and both the city of Cambridge (about 18 miles east) and Bedford (about 13 miles east) are nearby. The major shopping and employment centre of Milton Keynes is 31 miles to the west. Peterborough is 29 miles to the north.
St Neots lies in the valley of the River Great Ouse, partly on the flood plain and partly on slightly higher ground a little further from the water. The Great Ouse is a mature river, once wide and shallow but now controlled by weirs and sluices and usually constrained in a well-defined channel. Nevertheless it is considered prone to flooding, particularly on the eastern side.
Tributaries entering the Great Ouse in the town are the River Kym, Hen Brook, Duloe Brook and Colmworth Brook. The area is generally low-lying. Riverside Park, an amenity adjacent to St Neots Bridge, remains set aside as a flood-meadow, subject to flood, protecting dwellings and commercial property from a swollen reach. Flood control schemes have been carried out in recent years, but some dwellings closest to the river have been susceptible to flooding.
The underlying geology is Oxford clay overlaid with Boulder Clay. The river has carved out a wide flat valley , which has eroded the Boulder Clay and deposited river alluvium. This contains gravel with terraces on either side.
Gravel extraction is a local industry. Older disused gravel pits, such as the nearby Paxton Pits have been converted to nature reserves and amenity areas, but extraction continues at Wyboston. Away from the river, the higher land is mainly a heavy clay soil with few large settlements. Much of the land is used for arable farming.
Cambridgeshire has a climate classified as "Marine West Coast".
Eastern areas of the United Kingdom, such as Huntingdonshire, are drier, cooler, less windy and also experience the greatest daily and seasonal temperature variations, compared with the United Kingdom in general. Protected from the cool onshore coastal breezes, Huntingdonshire is warm in summer and cold and frosty in winter.
Highest daytime temperature in 2020 was 22 deg C and lowest 5 deg; corresponding night-time temperatures were 15 and -1. Rainfall in 2020 amounted to between 21 and 41 mm per month, with more rain in the summer months; there was some snowfall in December 2020 and January and April 2021.
The St Neots QuadsEdit
In 1935 quadruplets were born to Mr and Mrs Miles, in Eynesbury. This caused a media sensation at the time, and they were the first British quadruplets to survive more than a few days. As they were very premature, the family doctor arranged for special medical care to be put in place in his own home at first. They were in demand for publicity purposes throughout their childhood and appeared several newsreels. In fact they are alive at the present day (2021) and are the oldest quadruplets in the world.
St Neots is responsible for the upbringing of the only man to assassinate a British Prime Minister. John Bellingham was born in the town and killed Prime Minister Spencer Perceval at the House of Commons on 11 May 1812; Bellingham blamed Perceval for the refusal of the Government to compensate him for his personal financial misfortunes.
The Eynesbury GiantEdit
James Toller was born in Eynesbury in 1798. He grew to be 8ft 1+1⁄2 inches (2.475m) tall, although some sources claim 8ft 6in (2.591m). He was known as the Eynesbury Giant. His health was poor, and he left the army and returned home to Eynesbury.
He died on the 4 February 1818, at the age of 20. His family feared that his body might be stolen by body-snatchers after burial, and he was interred within Eynesbury church rather than in the churchyard. There seems to be no tablet in the church to indicate the location of his remains.
Footballers Lee Philpott and Tim Breacker are from the town, as well as Olympic High Jump Bronze medallist Robbie Grabarz and Olympic fencer Graham Paul. Multiple World short course swimming champion Mark Foster also lives in St Neots. Rob Harris, the guitarist of the popular musical group Jamiroquai, is also from the town.
- Peterborough 202,110 in 2017, Cambridge 128,030 in 2013, St Neots 32,730 in 2013, Wisbech 26,480 in 2013 and Huntingdon 24,810 in 2013
- Eynesbury and Eaton Socon also have churches dedicated to St Mary.
- Aggregated forecast by Cambridgeshire Insight at 
- Cambridgeshire Population and Dwelling Stock Estimates: mid 2013 population, Cambridgeshire County Council, December 2014
- Conservation Areas, Huntingdonshire District Council, at 
- Stopping Place: St Neots, Ambience Cafe, Riverside Park, Cycling UK Website at 
- Paxton Pits Nature Reserve website at 
- Priory Centre at 
- St Neots Museum at 
- St Neots Market at 
- Black Cat Radio at 
- Riverside Theatre Company at 
- VAMPS website at 
- St Neots Players website at 
- Stageworks website at 
- SJ School of Dance website at 
- Pocket Productions website at 
- Peppercorns Academy website at 
- Neotists website at 
- Alya Zayed, Construction of additional homes in St Neots Loves Farm development begins, In Your Area Newsroom, 2021, at 
- New 2,800-home development near St Neots gets green light in Cambridgeshire Live (Cambridge News newspaper website) at 
- Debbie Davies, Great news for St Neots after £12.8 million high street fund is confirmed, Hunts Post (newspaper), 22 May 2021
- Draft Dennybrook Garden Village Development at 
- St Neots Town Football Club website at 
- St Neots Rugby Club at 
- Eynesbury Rovers FC Website at 
- St Neots Golf Club at 
- Wyboston Lakes Golf at 
- St Neots Indoor Bowls Club at [https://www.snibc.co.uk/
- Bowls England Website at 
- Eynesbury Bowling Club at [https://www.hugofox.com/community/eynesbury-bowling-club-13290/home#
- Leisure Centre St Neots at 
- Ouse Valley Way Walking Route at 
- Ouse Valley Way at 
- Riverside Park St Neots at 
- St Neots Skatepark at 
- St Neots Riverside Railway at 
- Pocket Park at 
- Pocket Parkrun at 
- St Neots Riverside Junior Parkrun at 
- Paxton Pits Nature Reserve at 
- Rowley Arts Centre at 
- National Rail Enquiries: St Neots at 
- East West Rail Project Consultation at 
- Contract Let for A428 Scheme at 
- Stagecoach timetable information at 
- Route 66 Timetable at 
- Whippet Country Bus timetable at 
- St Neots Rangers website at 
- Peter Raggatt, The Battle of St Neots, published by St Neots Museum, undated
- Grace's Guide to British Industry at 
- The Story So Far in Wintringham St Neots Website at 
- Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, Core Dataset, Cambridgeshire County Council, 2017, page 42
- St Neots Town Councillors at 
- St Neots Town Council at 
- Huntingdonshire District Council at [www.huntingdonshire.gov.uk]
- Cambridgeshire County Councillors at 
- Who We Are, at Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Combined Authority website, 
- Who is my MP? at 
- St Neots Conservation Area Character Assessment, Huntingdonshire District Council, October 2006, page 6
- John Betjeman (editor), Collins Guide to Parish Churches of England and Wales, Collins, London, 1958, fourth edition 1980, ISBN 0 00 216166 4, page 115
- St Neots Conservation Area Character Assessment, Huntingdonshire District Council, October 2006, page 4
- Julian Makey and Clare Butler, Flash floods hit St Neots as mayor praises community after torrential downpour, in Hunts Post (newspaper), 1 November 2020, at 
- Weatherbase: Cambridge, England at 
- St Neots Weather Averages at 
- Liz Davies, Surviving the Odds: the Story of the St Neots Quads, St Neots Museum, 25 February 2021
- Andro Linklater, Why Spencer Perceval had to Die, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012, ISBN 9781 4088 3171 7, page 35
- James Toller, the Eynesbury Giant, anonymous author at St Neots Museum, 2017, at 
- Church history, St Mary's Church at 
- Tebbutt, page 322
- Foster covets first Olympic medal, in BBC News Website, 15 July 2008, at