Why is this area of Cambridge called Queen Edith’s?

Here’s a wonderful piece of research by local resident Jeremy Lander, produced in 2009, linking the area to Edith Swan-Neck, or ‘Eddeva the Fair’ as she was often called, landowner in and around Cambridge in 1066 and common-law wife of Harold II. It’s a wonderful tale, as Jeremy explains in the foreword:

My interest in the subject began when I moved to Nightingale Avenue in the Queen Edith area, a south-eastern suburb of Cambridge. At the time I had no idea of the connection between the area where we lived, the ‘Queen Edith’ school in Godwin Way (where my children went), and Harold II king of England in 1066; let alone an obscure Saxon noblewoman named Edith, or how our house came to be built on land that belonged to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. But I wondered about the naming of the area and why it was called Queen Edith’s. Left unsatisfied by the explanation that it was named after Queen Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor (especially when I found that there was no connection between her and the area) I dug a little deeper.

I owe my ‘eureka’ moment to novelist Julian Rathbone and his book ‘The Last English King’. In his fictionalised account of the life of Harold II he describes the love affair between Harold and the beautiful Saxon princess Edith Swan-Neck and it was while I read the paperback on holiday that the scales fell from my eyes. Could this have been the Edith that lived in 11th century Cambridgeshire, and the naming of the area be just a case of mistaken identity? A quick delve into the Victoria County History and all was revealed: the name Edith Swan-Neck, or ‘Eddeva the Fair’ as she was often called, landowner in and around Cambridge in 1066 and common-law wife of Harold II, was everywhere.

The full article goes on to tell the whole history of Cherry Hinton and Queen Edith’s to the present day, and is a fascinating tale.

Read QUEEN EDITH: The story of a Saxon king, his lover and a Cambridge suburb – A short paper by Jeremy Lander (23 pages, PDF)

Queen Ediths - a history

6 Replies to “Why is this area of Cambridge called Queen Edith’s?”

  1. On page 15 Jeremy says:
    “Between the 1890s and the 1930s the area grew with large detached houses being built at the western ends of Blinco Grove, Glebe, and Hills Roads, and on Cavendish Avenue as far as Baldock Way.”
    The reference to Hills Road here doesn’t seem right to me, I think he means Hills Avenue.

    1. I’m not sure he was Amanda! Some say the pieces were collected up by Eddeva and her coterie, William would not allow burial on English soil and so a funeral pyre was built on the beach. Fanciful perhaps. Others say the body was taken to Waltham Abbey, his foundation, and buried there. There is a tombstone to him just east of the chancel where the Saxon church would have been but no one knows if this is authentic. Surely an archaeological dig to verify this, a la Richard 3, is called for? Though tracing Harold’s DNA may be more tricky!

  2. Jeremy! I need your help. I have some unusual research material about Lady Edith that I need handled with sensitivity and grace. I know this is totally ridiculous, and I’m terribly embarrassed, but I have quite a strong inner connection with her, and my inner experience led me to connect a lot of dots that have not been connected in the history books thus far. Are you willing to look at some of my material? For example, I have a surprising ability to read and translate some of the oldstyle German script from Vienna in the 1800s, I think if you see the quality of my original translations you will see that I am the “real deal”. If you are willing to help me tell this wonderful tale, please send me an email where I can send some of my material, thanks!!!

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