Watch swans on the lake
Listen to the sounds round the lake

A new community, shaped by a rich heritage

Waterbeach has a rich history, which has been shaped by the people living and working there for centuries. This is reflected in the landscape and features, and in the many physical and emotional connections it has with the communities that surround it.

The future vision has drawn on this unique heritage, and continues to be inspired by the stories shared by the community, through our ongoing research and through the archaeology undertaken as part of transforming the former Barracks and Airfield. Much of this rich history is reflected in the street names, and the designs of public spaces across the development.

Iron Age Waterbeach

The archaeology uncovered during the development phases has helped inform our knowledge of how people lived in the area across the Iron Age, with a number of Round House settlements found, showing both farming activity, and localised industry connected with the famous production of ceramics in nearby Horningsea. Some of the items found show both international trade and some high status families, with exquisite items of jewellery.

archaeology find at Waterbeach


Our modern connections draw on two important Roman transport links: The Old Tillage Roman Canal and the Roman road, Akeman Street. Our new cycle route follows the historic route of Akeman Street and Mere Way to connect directly to the main employment centre at the north of Cambridge City. Old Tillage forms part of the site-wide water systems – our blue corridors - that are part of reflecting historic Fen edge landscape, connecting people to one of our most vital resources, and providing habitats for nature to thrive.

Rich agricultural heritage

For centuries this land was farmed and formed part of the landscape between Denny Abbey to the north and Waterbeach Abbey to the south of St Johns Church Waterbeach, which were connected by a historic Causeway. That Causeway route – trod for centuries by monks and nuns from the Abbey, and later by farmers moving goods to the village – has formed the central walk and cycle spine that runs through the core of the development, reconnecting the links severed by the military use of the airfield in 1939. The Causeway is central to the vision of a walk and cycle first community.

abbey illustration
RAF aircrew at Waterbeach

Wartime experiences

Waterbeach was an active RAF station from 1939 to 1966, and home to a number of key units including 1651 Conversion Unit, 99 Squadron and 514 Squadron, who hold a reunion at Waterbeach each year. The Waterbeach Military Heritage Museum is a key part of ensuring their story continues to be told and reflected in the new development. The historic footprint of the area's wartime endeavours is reflected on the park coming forward to mark the old runway, which will maintain the guiding view of Landbeach Church spire, which held an emotional as well as navigational landmark for returning aircrew. The historic Memorial Garden will be refurbished and set within a wider parkland area, sitting between the runway and the lake to ensure the sacrifices made by those serving here will never be forgotten.

    Royal Engineer legacy

    Perhaps the greatest legacy comes from the Royal Engineers time at the Barracks from 1966 to 2013, and their work fundamentally shapes the future development, with the extraordinary legacy of the 23 acre lake establised to support training for amphibious military operations. Alongside this, their guardianship of the natural environment, even though for training purposes, provides a rich legacy that is a fundamental part of our place making: from the established woodland, to the species rich grassland along the runway and A10 corridor, to the wildlife haven of the former Golf course. All of these areas have formed the heart of our biodiversity strategy and the green spaces and parks for people and nature which sit at the heart of Waterbeach.

    Royal Engineers Crest
    sun reflection
    green at waterbeach

    Your stories

    We are also keen to hear your stories if you were stationed at Waterbeach, or had family members based here, or if you came up to enjoy the Lido or the golf course, which the Royal Engineers opened up to local people. These rich stories will help shape the future plans and the heritage strategy for the development. Share your story here.

    Waterbeach stories