It was originally known as Great Camps, possibly from the early English fields or encampments formed in clearings made in the great forests. Before the Norman conquest, the Manor belonged to a King's Thegn named Ulwin, one of the larger landowners in the county. Castle Camps and Shudy Camps are mentioned in the Domesday Book. (Further reading: An Essay in Early English History by Maitland).
In CAMPS Aubrey de Vere holds 2½ hides. Land for 11 ploughs. In lordship, 1 hide and 1 virgate; 4 ploughs there. 17 villagers with 4 smallholders have 7 ploughs. 6 slaves; meadow for 3 ploughs; woodland for 500 pigs; from village grazing 8s. Total value £15, when acquired £12; before 1066 as much. Wulfwin, King Edward's thane, held this manor. Norman holds ½ hide of this land from Aubrey. Land for 1 plough; it is there. The value is and always was 40s.
William the Conqueror confiscated this land in 1068 (as with all English owned land) and gave it to Aubrey de Vere. Aubrey had married the Conquerors half sister Beatrice, and been part of the 1066 takeover. His grandson, also Aubrey de Vere, was created first Earl of Oxford by Henry II and built the castle.
In 1398 Aubrey de Veer (the late Earl) granted the keeping of the park of Castle Camps to William Allyngton, with profits for life. In 1405 King Richard granted 3d daily for life to John Lolleworth from the manord of Castle Camps and further used income from the manor to pay John Whatele, mercer of London, £40 a year (payments twice a year) intil the debot of £129 6s 2d had been paid!
In 1417 the manor was held in fee tail with an annual value of £26, and
For a while the manor was held by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (by order of Edward IV) but was restored to the de Veres by Henry VII after the battle at Bosworth.
Camps Castle afterwards became the favourite residence of his nephew Johnm teh 14th Earl, who from that circumstance and from being small of stature, was called Little John, of Camps. The Earl married Anne, the daughter of Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and dying without issue the 14th July 1526 his inheritance, according to the entail, devolved on his second cousin, and the next heir male, John de Vere, the 15th Earl of Oxford who married Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Edward Trussel of Cublesdon in Staffordshire. His grandson, Edward Vere the 17th Earl of Oxford, squandering away his estates, alienated hte manor of Castle Camps to Thomas Sutton Esq, the founder of the Charterhouse, who resided there sometime, and afterwards made it part of the endowmant of that foundation, in which state it continues.
The Topographer, Vol 4. 1791 (Google Books)
It remained in this family until 1584.
The castle from which the village gets its name was probably a Saxon fortress. There is some evidence that the area was attacked by Danish invaders in the 10th century and before them the Romans, who left evidence in the form of nearby roads and burial grounds. When Aubrey de Vere took over the land he decided that this was the ideal place for his castle being mid way between his chief seat at Castle Hedingham and Cambridge. The Chief Messuage was recorded in 1331 and 1371. Evidence suggests there was a tunnel connecting the two castles.
It is recorded that work took place there in the late 1200s and early 1300s, probably involving the construction of an enlarged out bailey - that which encloses the church.
Part of the sign erected near the church by the Cambridgeshire County Council. showing the layout of the ditches and maots, embankments and village.
In the late 15th century there was a four storey brick tower attached to a large house. The house was rebuilt in the late 16th century, but fell down about 1738 when Charterhouse constructed a smaller farmhouse facing north, incorporating a fragment of the earlier building in the back wing. The only remains of the Norman Castle which still exist above ground is a piece of rubble in the yard to the south of the present farmhouse. After a 1744 visit is was reported that, while digging a cellar at the east end of the house, many coffins and bones were found, which lead to the conclusion that the cellar had been a vault. There was also a blocked-up arch, said to have led to the tunnel and a 16th century chimney.
A description of the archeological features around the castle site and church may be found here..