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The History of Over Village

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HEROES OF OVER by John Symonds click for web link

Over Village is situated  11 miles North West of Cambridge and the parish covers an area of approximately 2,535 acres. Some archaeologists have it that the ridge of slightly higher land upon which the village stands saw the furthest intrusion inland of the sea - unlike the village in the fens, which were often surrounded by watery land after the sea receded. Over was an edge-of-fen settlement.

There have been a number of variations on the spelling of the village name but basically it is called Over because it was just that - it was over, or above, the fen. Overcote

One of the earliest photographs of Over High Street, probably in the late 1890's

Over High Street, Late 1890's

By 1628 the fens and meres to the north of the settlement were enclosed, as was the rest of the village land by 1837.

Originally, there were two distinct settlements. One was around St Mary's Parish Church, which shows traces of 14th Century stonework and whose size shows the importance of the wool trade of the old village: income derived from ferrying wool brought from Suffolk and further afield across the River Great Ouse to market at St Ives helped to pay for what is a very large parish church by any standard. The other settlement was at Over End - the South East part of today's High Street running towards where the Village Green now stands.

Apart from the parish church, it is said that the oldest structure in Over now is the wall running down Fen End from the Willingham Road corner. To look at the old red brick of this small patch of wall, now incorporated into newer brickwork, could be looking at something which has stood for well over 500 years, according to the late Ernie Papworth.

Papworth's - keen cricketers

    Frank and Ernie papworth 1940's     Frank Papworth 1920's    Frank Papworth 1970's ( age 90 )

The influence of the Dutch who, under the leadership of the engineer Vermuyden, came to drain the fens, can be seen in several of Over's older houses - The Old Black Horse in the High Street and the Ivy House in Fen End are the most obvious, with their rounded end-walls and angled brick-ties.

When it comes to buildings, Over is a village full of contrast both in terms of age and designs. Some people ask why there are not more thatched properties in the centre of the village. The answer is that a huge fire, started by an arsonist, burned to the ground a whole row of old thatched cottages on the north side of the High Street. These were replaced by the large Victorian houses which feature balconies to the front.

Much of the older property in the village is Victorian as many of the clunch and wattle cottages have long been demolished.

Over's churches and public buildings have a wealth of history. the Town Hall, in the High Street opposite Overcote Road, has the Latin date MDCCCXLIX carved over the door and some marks made to show where flood waters reached.

St Mary's Church, whose spire dominates the Over skyline, is made almost entirely of stone from Barnack, in the extreme North of Cambridgeshire and has traces of 14th Century work. Church architectural specialists point to the abundance of flower-ball carvings and gargoyles representing birds and beasts, and a south porch of perfect proportions.

The parish church is highly ornamented, unlike many Fenland and edge-of-fen churches, and this tends to demonstrate the money which was available at the time of construction and decoration: as with today, the more complicated the work, the more it cost.

The Methodist Church in The Lanes was built in 1848 and features a typical first-story design found in Methodist churches, whilst the Baptist Church in New Road is built directly onto a house, whose owner gave the land for the church to be built in 1737.

Beyond the church is Sycamore Farm and the beautiful sycamore tree which is subject to a preservation order.

Over Village Today

Station Road, Over 1997

Station Road 1997

Today's Over is within part of Cambridgeshire upon which there is enormous pressure for expansion with new housing and industrial and commercial buildings. The village has seen a number of estates built over the past 30 years. plans have been approved for limited further growth, most of this is likely to be on small sites dotted around the village. 

One hugely significant development in the village is the Over Day Centre, set up by Dr Pamela Cressey and celebrating it's 10th year in 1999 with plans for further development. Few villages have such a facility for the elderly, and Over can be proud of it. Another major event, and one of the biggest in Over's history was the opening in the summer of 1999 of the Over Community Centre, which took over nine years of planning and the raising of close on 1 million from public donations and fund raising events, from money derived from local and district rates and from National Lottery funding. Today the centre offers a wide range of social and sport activities.

In 1951 the population was 910. Forty years later it was 2,420. Today, at the end of 1999, there are 1,200 households with a population of 3,200 according to the most recent official figures.

The one thing which dose not seem to change is the village's character and spirit: people born and bred here 80 years ago will say Yes, the village is much bigger then it used to be, and Yes, there are lots more people, and Yes, I don't know some of them when once upon a time everyone knew everyone. But they will also tell you, that underneath all this, Over remains essentially the friendly place it always was.

Sandpit Pond Over 1999

Sandpit Pond 1999

The French have a phrase for it, which when translated means: The more things change, the more they stay the same That applies precisely to Over Village.

Over Windmill

( The Over Millennium Book 2000 - Over Parish Council )

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