The village of Haddenham lies on the highest ridge (120 feet) in the Isle of Ely at its western border. Its two spurs lead to the causeways at Aldreth and Earith, which together with Stuntney were once the only routes into the Isle.
It was by the Aldreth causeway that the Romans first entered the Isle and later it was by the same route that William the Conqueror eventually overcame the resistance of Hereward having made a deal with the monks of Ely.
It was a monk Ovin or Owine who is credited with bringing Christianity to Haddenham. Ovin administered Etheldreda’s dowry after the death of her husband, coming to the Isle from Northumbria in 673 and helping her to found the monastery in Ely, the beginning of Ely Cathedral.
In 1770 James Bentham, an Ely Cathedral canon discovered the base of a Saxon cross in Haddenham inscribed in Latin ‘O God grant Thy light and rest to Ovin, Amen’. The stone was probably a monument to Ovin after his death in 680 and now stands at the Prior’s Door at Ely Cathedral.
Evidence of settlement at Haddenham dates back 6,000 years to neolithic times through the barrow found at Foulmere Fen. Another barrow excavated in 1983 revealed a Roman-Celtic shrine, destroyed in Saxon raids in the third century. Further Saxon evidence was revealed by an ancient 26 feet long canoe hollowed from one tree and dug up in the fen gault in 1841 and much more recently the Saxon grave found in the footings of the Three Kings car park.
The Church dates from the 13th century and once supported a lofty steeple with five great bells which could be seen for miles around. During one refurbishment (the steeple having been removed earlier for safety reasons), the collecting treasurer is reputed to have fled to the United States with the money —- and so Haddenham church remains ‘spire less’.
Thomas Arundel, once Archbishop of Canterbury 1396-1414, is one of Haddenham’s most famous churchyard inhabitants —- he had previously been Bishop of Ely.
The Methodists have been active in Haddenham since about 1800 and the Baptists since 1814.
A school was established in Haddenham as early as 1688 under a bequest from Robert Arkenstall (d1640), whilst up to 28 public houses have been identified —- no doubt helping the consumption of eels —- Linden, a small part of Haddenham on the Aldreth spur, having to pay 3,333 eels to the Bishop of Ely every year!