In From The Cold

Oliver Cromwell, ‘warts and all’ painted by Samuel Cooper painted in 1656 (public domain)

Oliver Cromwell is Huntingdon’s most famous son and has been voted England’s greatest man. However it is not until very recently that Huntingdon acknowledged him as a worthy citizen of the town.

It is said that it is the victors that write the history books and although Cromwell and the Puritans won the Civil War, establishing a republic for the first time in these islands, the restoration of the monarchy was ultimately a defeat. The Monarchists were the ultimate victors and until the nineteenth century Cromwell had been painted in various shades of black. It was only when historians took a more balanced view of the Civil War and Cromwell that; the acknowledgement of Cromwell’s achievements and his contribution to our parliamentary democracy became appreciated.

The restored monarchy in a very short space of time became the model offered to and rejected by Charles the first. Had he been less arrogant and accepted what was offered by Parliament, it would have saved many lives, his own included.

Back to Cromwell, he grew up and was educated in Huntingdon, he was for a time its Member of Parliament. He fell out with the town, when it became what was known as a Rotten Borough and moved to St Ives. From the time of the restoration until recently, Huntingdon wanted little to do with his memory.

All Saints Church

Huntingdon was in Cromwell’s time a much smaller place but then as now The Market Square is flanked on one side by All Saints Church; to the right of the church facing it from across the High Street is what was the Old Grammar School, now the Cromwell Museum. The building itself was rebuilt in the nineteenth century but where it stands is where Cromwell was educated. Opposite the museum is the Falcon Inn, the headquarters of the Parliamentary forces. Standing to the left of the Falcon and directly opposite All Saints Church is the Town Hall, in Cromwell’s time an earlier building stood on the same site.

The Old Grammar School now The Cromwell Museum
One of the signs

Such was the town’s antipathy to its favourite son that it dithered and delayed about erecting a statue of statue of the man, instead Cromwell’s statue was accepted by St Ives where it still stands.

Over the years various centenary celebrations of Cromwell were shunned by Huntingdon’s town council despite their popularity with the townsfolk and visitors but things have changed.

The Falcon
Bench and litter bin

Street furniture bearing a motif of his hat, a Roundhead helmet and his signature together with commemorative information signs are in place within the market place and the surrounding streets.

Tree seat
Outside the Town Hall

Oliver, as far as Huntingdon is concerned, it seems, has come in from the cold, at last.

17 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you, an interesting piece about one of my hero’s


  2. Have you been petitioning, Phil?


  3. Posted by sharon Greenwood on February 12, 2023 at 6:27 pm

    Just a pity that a king lost his life and a lot of our history was melted down.


    • It was a shame so many people lost their lives if the king had been honest and willing to compromise. It would have saved many lives. It was the Saddle Letters that were Charles’ undoing. I believe our biggest mistake was to restore the monarchy, it put an end to the plan to bring in universal free education, that was our biggst loss as a nation.


  4. I love history. I really do. I’ve read a bit about him and it didn’t seem that he was a favorite. A lot of mixed feelings about him. What I’m confused about is, if he wasn’t willing to compromise and save lives then why is he viewed as a hero?
    I’m also intrigued by your statement, Phil, when you say, “I believe our biggest mistake was to restore the monarchy,……
    If the ones in Parliament are the lawmakers now, why can’t they do these very things?


    • It was Charles the first’s arrogance that did for him, don’t forget at that time there was the theory that monarchs were favoured by god and there was the belief in the divine right of kings. Charles couldn’t accept that he was a mere mortal and thought he was in fact a sort of god, adulation and obedience as a consequence from his subjects was his right.
      In short, there was no one more important in Britain as Charles, was far as he was concerned.
      The restoration of the monarchy although its power was weakened still had considerable influence as it does today, people either think this is a good thing or don’t, I am in the don’t camp. Remember that the victors write the history and although Cromwell and Parliament won the civil war it was those who reinflicted the monarchy on the country then wrote the history to support it.


      • Oh, you don’t have to tell me that! As an Italian, it’s hard to not know that all the Roman Empires thought they were gods.
        He definitely had an ego. When you can’t compromise and do what’s best for the people that certainly says a lot about where your heart is.
        Personally, I think the monarch has pretty much worn itself out, but there are those who still love the pageantry and pomp that goes with it. Because of this, I know there must be so many in the UK who are so proud of that and will never tolerate any such talk of bringing it to an end. How would a think like that come about anyway? I can’t imagine it ever going away. It’s here to stay.
        Well, I’m only speaking as a Yank and really am not qualified to speak on the subject. This is my sophomoric opinion.☺

    • I think having a monarchy, not only continued to embed a class system but it ensured inequality. Patriotism for me is not about flag-waving and pageantry it is about the country and caring about the people who live in it, all of them. The biggest loss to the people of the country when the monarchy was restored was the abandonment of a plan to bring in free universal education. During the years of the Commonwealth, we had a written constitution too.


  5. As Parliament considered Cromwell worthy enough to have his statue outside it would seem Huntingdon’s stance rather short-sighted.


    • You would have thought so wouldn’t you but it was only when the museum opened that his rehabilitation started I remember the Cromwell Museum opening I would be in my early teens. I visited it very shortly after it opened for the first time. Samuel Pepys also attended the same school as Cromwell but not at the same time.


  6. I learn a little bit of history every time I read one of your posts, Phil. You’ve got some great pictures, too. The people you write about here are merely famous names to me with little meat to connect to in my brain. It doesn’t sound like he was well respected in his hometown – at least until much later. He probably ruffled feathers.


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