Huntingdon lies on the north bank of the River Great Ouse, opposite Godmanchester on the south side.
The town arose on the site of a Roman settlement. The Roman road from Sandy and the Via Devana from Cambridge and Colchester meet Ermine Street here. The Sandy road is long abandoned though still traceable as field boundaries and crop marks. The Via Devana (heading to Chester) is today followed by the A14 from Cambridge and doubles up with Ermine Street northwards to Alconbury. Ermine Street from Royston to Godmanchester became the route of the Old North Road – and remains the A1198.
Already an established Anglo-Saxon settlement, it was used as a staging post for Danish raids beyond of East Anglia. There is evidence of a market and a mint since at least the reign of Eadwig (955-959) testifying to the early importance of Huntingdon as the shire town.
At the time of the Domesday Book there were 256 burgesses living in four wards. By the end of the 13th century the town had 16 parish churches, and there were 6 religious houses in the area.
Development of the town was impeded during the following centuries first by the Black Death (a quarter of the town’s population may have died), then by the Great Ouse becoming less navigable for larger boats.
Huntingdon developed into an important coaching centre in the 16th and 17th centuries. Travellers were catered for in a number of inns, and the houses along the High Street were gradually rebuilt or re-fronted to give the town its characteristic appearance.
Both Samuel Pepys and Oliver Cromwell were born nearby and went to school in Huntingdon. The George Hotel is reputed to have been the home of Cromwell’s grandfather, but has now served as a well known and popular inn for over 300 years. At one time it had stabling for 80 horses.