Local historians, Charles Tebbutt and Rosa Young, have published extensive research into St Neots’ history. What follows has largely been gleaned from their work.
Before the Second World War London acted as a magnet for people from all over Britain as well as from all over the world. With German bombers targeting the industrial areas and docks alongside the River Thames many areas of housing in the East End were destroyed and families made homeless.
After the war the new Labour Government introduced an Overspill Agreement whereby towns and cities in a fifty mile (80kms.) radius of London would be allowed to buy land for additional housing, industry and offices. Employment opportunities had to be created for the people who were moved out of London.
From 1960 onwards land was bought, roads laid out and council houses and business premises built on the outskirts of St Neots.
Priory Hill House in St Neots was demolished. Priory Park was made on some of the land and Longsands Council estate built in the triangle between the railway line and Cambridge Road. Factories like Gates Hydraulics were built opposite the railway.
In Eynesbury, council housing was built in the triangle between Cambridge Road, Cromwell Road and Berkley Street (e.g. Duck Lane, Howitts Gardens, Cromwell Gardens etc.) Factories like W. R. Grace (now Cryovac) and Mannesman Rexroth were built. Although they had access to railway sidings road transport was much more important. Trucks and lorries could load at the factory yard and deliver goods to other premises more easily than using the train.
In 1965 Eaton Ford and Eaton Socon were absorbed into St Neots and council housing (Monarch Road, Princess Gardens etc.) spread westwards towards the new A1 by-pass. Factories were built on industrial estates at Little End Road and Howards Road.
With all this development between 1960 and 1970 the population increased 400% from 5,000 to 20,000.
A southern by-pass for the A45 (now A428) was built with roundabouts at the A1, Barford Road and Cambridge Road. These intersections attracted out-of-town developments like Tescos Superstore,
The town centre changed. Many old buildings were demolished or had new frontages. Several local landmarks disappeared. The buildings of the Priory Brewery were demolished. The new Council Offices and Public Library were built on the site. The only remaining evidence is the barley kilns and part of the maltings.
Waitrose supermarket and car park was built on land north of the Market Square between Priory Path and New Street.
In 1964 the old bridge was replaced with the present concrete structure.
The osier beds in Eaton Ford were drained and the area landscaped to make Riverside Park.
With the forming of St Neots Sports Association, parts of Islands Common were drained and tidied up to create land for rugby, cricket and hockey. More pitches were created in Priory Park and on the flood plain in Eaton Socon.
(Sources: Young, R. (1996), 'St Neots Past', Phillimore; Tebbutt, C.F. (1978), St Neots – History of a Huntingdonshire Town, Unwin Brothers)