The end of the last Ice Age marked the beginning of the Holocene era. We are still in this geological epoch. In terms of human evolution, this is the Mesolithic period, also known as the Middle Stone Age. This is a period of modern human hunter-gatherers, using quite complex flint and stone tools. The earliest definite evidence of human activity in Cambridgeshire dates from this period. Extensive flint scatters have been found along the river valleys and fen edge, showing the importance of water, both for sustenance and probably transport.
Mesolithic artefacts (most Wommersom quartzite) found during excavation in Stevoort, 2008 (Collection Prehistoric Archeology K.U.Leuven). By Vaneiles (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Mesolithic flint scatters have been found in Caldecote.
The transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic is marked by the shift from hunter-gatherers, probably nomadic with seasonal settlement, to a more agrarian way of life. The Neolithic sees the first permanent homes. Neolithic people cleared the land by cutting down the forest to create land for farming. This is the period when animals were first domesticated for farming purposes, and the first crops grown rather than picking wild seed.
Cambridgeshire has some extensive Neolithic sites with evidence of surviving field boundaries on the fen islands near Chatteris. Neolithic houses, where known, are rectangular, presumably holding families and livestock.
As we have seen, the devastation left nationally by the Black Death in effect created a revolution. Labourers were no longer tied to the land as serfs but were a wage-earning group. Ownership and its tenancy had changed too. Details of those living at the time are scant.
One reason for this is the fact that the clergy in all of its forms was particularly hit. As a group they mixed more with all sectors of society, were more mobile and dealt with the dead and dying. As this group was the most literate section of society and were used to record taking, their loss meant that records became sketchy. In addition to this, there wasn’t a legal requirement for records of baptisms, marriages and deaths to be kept until 1538, though many parishes ignored this law and another order was sent out in 1558 to reinforce the rule.
17th century parish records
Many of the early records, where they still exist, are often difficult to read (See photo). The records that still exist for Caldecote run from 1604. The first is the marriage between Raphe Bagleye and Margaritte Bull.
At the time, not everyone living in Caldecote would be listed there. With strong links to the nearby villages, especially Bourn, we find that items are recorded in this parish’s records.