An urban society and its hinterland: St Ives in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries


This thesis has examined the contention of the late Philip Abrams that a town should not be considered as a distinct social entity, but in relation to its setting and to "the complex of domination" in which it is embedded. It was decided to use St Ives in Huntingdonshire as the area of study. Sources have included manorial, parish and dissenting records, inventories, marriage bonds and the Pettis Survey of St Ives, with its maps, lists of property owners and land tax payments. After defining the boundaries of the hinterland, the demography and economy of it and the town were studied. Four adjacent villages revealed urban features. The economic, social and religious networks, that bound their inhabitants to the town, were so dense that they produced a cohesive unit, or "urban society". A core of focal families provided continuity of leadership in administration, business and nonconformity. The strengths and weaknesses of the society's component parts have been traced, particularly through the experience of dissenters and watermen. The relationship of this urban society to the wider world has also been analysed. The Duke of Manchester controlled most of the manorial lordships. In the town, he protected his interests by the deployment of key personnel in the vestry and manor. The Church of England was less successful in protecting its position, and eventually had to accept symbiosis with three nonconformist churches. St Ives' proximity to the county town of Huntingdon ensured that, instead of competing with one another, they formed a dispersed urban conglomerate with complementary functions. In its attempt to meet Abrams' requirements, this thesis proposes the concept of an urban society as a useful device for comprehending the breadth of local networks which united the inhabitants of a town and its neighbouring areas.






Carter, Mary Patricia, “An urban society and its hinterland: St Ives in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed May 20, 2024,