The villages and places of Huntingdonshire in 1086 is recorded in the Domesday Book. The county has existed as a distinct area since Anglo-Saxon times. For the most part the county, as recorded in the Domesday survey, is identical to that which nearly nine centuries later, in 1965, was amalgamated with the Soke of Peterborough (the small autonomous area of Northamptonshire to the north) to form the County of Huntingdon and Peterborough. That administrative county survived nine years until 1974 when it was united with Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely to the east, to form the present administrative county of Cambridgeshire. On 1st April 1998, Peterborough Urban area became a separate unitary authority - in effect a separate county, into which some of the northern parishes of Huntingdonshire have now been incorporated.
Whatever the benefits of the 1974 amalgamation with Cambridgeshire (and, if nothing else, there were certainly improvements in the care and use of local archives), the loss of the old county was keenly felt. The name Huntingdonshire was only briefly suppressed, as in 1984 the lower tier of English local government, which had itself been created out of the amalgamation of several borough, rural and urban authorities in 1974, cast off its name of the Huntingdon District Council, and renamed itself the Huntingdonshire District Council. In 1992, with the government committed to simplifying local administration, there existed the possibility that the District would win the argument to become a unitary authority, and so in effect regain county status. This hope still exists.
To equate modern Huntingdonshire with the county of our ancestors, however, is deceptive. Whilst the changes have not been on the scale or complexity of those affecting metropolitan areas, a modern road atlas contains pitfalls for the unwary who may use it as a guide to the ancient boundaries of the county.
As the amalgamations of 1965 and 1974 will have implied, Huntingdonshire was a small ancient county; only Middlesex (now absorbed into London) and Rutland (which had been amalgamated with Leicestershire in 1974, but has now been restored) were smaller. Its greatest dimensions were 30 miles north-to-south and 23 miles west-to-east, in a very crude diamond. These proportions are reflected in the basis of the lozenge in the county arms.
The medieval division of the county was into four Hundreds: Norman Cross, Leightonstone, Hurstingstone, and Toseland - representing (remarkably tidily) the northern, western, eastern and southern quarters of the county respectively. The hundredal division was actively used for many purposes into the 19th Century (including, for example, the 1841 Census) and for taxation and judicial purposes lasting even longer.
At the lowest administrative level, (i.e. the parish) some ancient anomalies were ironed out in the late 19 th Century. The detached Huntingdonshire parish of Swineshead, an island within Bedfordshire, was exchanged for the Bedfordshire parish of Tilbrook which formerly jutted into Huntingdonshire. Further north, the county boundary which ran through the parishes of Winwick, Luddington, Thurning and Lutton, was regularised, assigning Winwick wholly to Huntingdonshire and the others wholly to Northamptonshire. It was not until 1965 that a detached part of Tetworth at the southern tips of the county, including within it the parish church of Everton-cum-Tetworth, was transferred to Bedfordshire. At the same time a large part of Eaton Socon parish, across the river from St Neots, was transferred to Huntingdonshire from Bedfordshire. Family Historians beware!