Caxton is a small rural village and civil parish in South Cambridgeshire, England. It is 9 miles west of the county town of Cambridge. In 2001 Caxton is most famous for the Caxton Gibbet.
The name Caxton is probably derived from 'farmstead of a man called Kakkr'. It was spelled Caustone in the 1086 Domesday book when 35 peasants lived there. It is probable that the village came into existence as a late Scandinavian settlement in an area of woodland.
What was the Roman Ermine Street, now the A1198, bisects Caxton parish. The modern village has grown up around the road, although the church is a short distance south-west, along Gransden Road. There are also three medieval moated sites further from the road:
Caxton Moats, which has signs of Anglo-Saxon or Norman occupation;
Caxton Pastures, south-west of Caxton Gibbet, which may have belonged to John of Caxton, a 13th-century landowner;
and Swansley, south-east of the gibbet.
St. Peter's Street (or Lane), north and east of the church, may have been the centre of the original village.
Ermine Street provided passing trade; the market was held next to it and the Crown inn was built there. Parts of the Crown inn date from the 15th century and it was known by that name by 1545.
Caxton benefitted from travellers passing through but highway robbers could also be a problem. The road became busier after the 16th century and a post office was opened at the Crown inn 'many years' before 1660.
After the end of the coaching era, Caxton declined.
Caxton became an important posting station and travel stage at a comparatively early date. John Layer (quoted in Palmer, History of Caxton (1928), 39), writing in the first half of the 17th century, says it is 'a post town and hath Innes for the receipt of travellers'.
After the Restoration it was selected as the county toll point for the North Road turnpike, established by act of 1663, but the gate, which was probably near the manor house and market place, was found to be too easily evaded via Peter Street, and the Cambridgeshire gate was transferred to Arrington in 1668 (V.C.H., Cambs. II, 85).
Thereafter the importance of the place gradually declined, ...