The town was first chartered by King John in 1212, though it had been a market town and royal manor for some years. There is archaeological evidence of Celtic and earlier habitation prior to the establishment of a key Roman town and a Mansio (inn), so the area has probably been continuously occupied for more than 2000 years. The settlement was at a crossroads of Roman roads, with Ermine Street, the Via Devana (from Cambridge, between Colchester and Chester) and a military road from Sandy, Bedfordshire, all passing through. The Roman settlement was sacked by Anglo-Saxons in the third century. There have been significant archaeological finds in the centre of Godmanchester, which also has two conservation areas with many timber-framed Tudor houses, the largest being Tudor Farm, dating from 1600 and restored in 1995.
One of the town’s best-known features is its Chinese Bridge. Local legend has it that the Chinese Bridge was built without the use of nails or any other fixings. A number of years later, an architect applied to the Council for permission to deconstruct the bridge to discover how exactly this had been accomplished; at this point it became clear that it could not support its own weight without some ironmongery! Today the Chinese Bridge is held together by nails.
There are several bridges across the Great Ouse to Huntingdon, but until 1975 the Old Bridge, dating from medieval times, was the only one. It is now used only for light traffic, and a parallel footbridge has been built for pedestrians. Until recently, the A14 also crossed the river close to the Old Bridge, but this road has now been diverted South of the town.
Original historical documents relating to Godmanchester, including the original church parish registers, local government records, maps, photographs and the surviving borough charters, are held by Cambridgeshire Archive and Local Studies at the County Record Office Huntingdon. The Porch Museum, located in Queen Elizabeth School, features many historical artefacts.
The Godmanchester Town Council website is here.