Facts about Whittlesey
The town market is held in the Market Place every Friday. The right to hold a weekly market was first granted in 1715, although there have been several periods since in which the market did not function, for example from the late 1700s until about 1850. In the centre of the Market Place is the Buttercross, dating back to 1680. Originally a place for people to sell goods, the structure was considered useless in the 1800s and only saved from demolition when a local businessman donated some slate tiles for the roof.
Whittlesey appears in the Cartularium Saxonicum as ‘Witlesig’, in the 1086 Domesday Book as ‘Witesie’, and in the Inquisitio Eliensis. The meaning is “Wit(t)el’s island”, deriving from either Witil, “the name of a moneyer”, or a diminutive of Witta, a personal name; + “eg”, meaning “‘island’, also used of a piece of firm land in a fen.
Before the fens were drained, Whittlesey was an island of dry ground surrounded by them. Excavations of nearby Flag Fen indicate thriving local settlements as far back as 1000 BC. At Must Farm quarry, a Bronze Age settlement is described as “Britain’s Pompeii” due to its relatively good condition. In 2016 it was being excavated by the University of Cambridge’s Cambridge Archaeological Unit.