The opening of the railway at Waterbeach in the 19th Century has largely been responsible for the ever-growing population of this fen-edge village. Whereas Landbeach lost some of its village amenities through transport, Waterbeach has gained. This however has not been without the loss of some of the character of the village.

Today the village green is as it has been for many years – the centre of the village for trade and leisure in equal measure. The only difference being that the general stores, public houses, the Post Office and butchers of today seem more cramped than they used to as the gaps between their predecessors’s buildings have been filled with houses. That said, it could be the lime trees which were planted to celebrate the accession of Edward VII which, now fully grown, make the green seem more intimate than the 19th century expanse.

Away from the green the village has spread in all directions and the maze of streets and houses stand testament to Waterbeach’s role as a commuter town, predominantly for Cambridge and London. The barracks too have had their impact on the village, even though the occasional visiting aircraft is a far cry from the squadrons based here in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Despite this, Waterbeach still retains a village atmosphere with many historic buildings still standing, from the Old Village School and The Sun Pub to the Baptist Chapel and the Church of St John the Evangelist.

Nowhere is this village feeling stronger than in the famous annual Waterbeach Feast celebrated towards the end of May. Inaugurated in 1893 following an appeal to raise funds for Addenbrookes Hospital, the Feast, or Hospital Sunday Parade as it was originally known has raised thousands of pounds while at the same time uniting the village with all manner of stalls, floats and parades. This too has suffered through history, after the Parade in 1939 plans were already being laid for the following year. Fate deemed otherwise though and the 47th Parade was to be the last of the traditional Parades. Thankfully the custom was revived in the 1970’s and still thrives today, ensuring that village life at Waterbeach continues to preserve traditional customs in a modern world.

© The Farmland Museum