Local History Information

Sawtry and the surrounding villages are steeped in local history. In this area there are pages dedicated to the various era's which shaped the villages, particularly Sawtry, to what they have become today. Click on the links below for history on each of the villages that are represented by Sawtry History Society.

British History Online - Sawtry

British History Online - Conington

British History Online - Glatton

British History Online - Holme

British History Online - Coppingford

 

The Cotton Manuscripts at The British Library

Robert Bruce Cotton was 1st Baronet of Conington who owned Conington Castle. He was a descendant of Rober the Bruce, victor at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 who had once held the Conington Estate through David 1st of Scotland, Robert the Bruce’s great great grandfather.

Robert Cotton was born on a farm in the small village of Denton near Stilton in 1571. He was the son of Thomas Cotton. After his marriage he held lands at Steeple Gidding he inherited from his father and also lands at Sawtry, Glatton, Conington in Huntingdonshire, at Connington near Cambridge, Southoe, and at Fotheringhay. These lands provided most of the agricultural jobs for farm workers in this area. The castle at Fotheringhay was where Plantangenet King Richard III was born as well as being known as the place where Mary Queen of Scots was executed.

When Fotheringhay Castle on the Cotton estate became derelict it was demolished, and it is believed that Robert Cotton had the stone brought to Conington and used it to build Conington Castle which is how it became known as a castle.. Conington Castle itself was demolished in 1955. Sir Robert Cotton, who was also MP for Huntingdon in 1601, was knighted by King James I. He was a renowned antiquarian and owned the finest and most important collection of manuscripts ever assembled in Britain by a private individual that included the Lindisfarne Gospels, two of the original copies of Magna Carta, The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, the only surviving manuscript of the ancient Anglo Saxon poem “Beowulf” and many more important documents. At one point his collection of manuscripts were so important that it was felt they were being used to sway political parliamentary arguments and the collection was confiscated in the 1630s and was only returned to Sir Robert’s family after his death in 1631 and his son Sir John Cotton donated the complete collection to the British Museum and it became known as the Cottonian Library.  A fire destroyed some of the manuscripts at a place where some of the collection had been moved to in the 1700’s, but most were saved. These manuscripts are now the definitive source of material for historians today and form much of the basis of the British Library. 

 
 
Cottan Manuscripts at the British Library