The club was formed in 1908 as Cambridge Town. Cambridge had not been granted City status at that point.
The club competed in the Southern Amateur League, developing a fierce rivalry with Ipswich Town that was evident both on and off the pitch. In 1935 both clubs were invited to join the newly formed Eastern Counties League. Ipswich accepted, turned professional and within three years were elected to the Football League. However, Town declined in order that the club should uphold its amateur status, moving to the Spartan League at the same time Ipswich joined the ECL.
The resumption of the football after the second world war saw Cambridge Town join the Spartan League, winning the competition 3 times between 1945 and 1950, before joining the Athenian League for the 1950/51 season. Cambridge was formally granted City status in 1951. Both Cambridge Town and their neighbours, Abbey United applied to change their name to Cambridge City. The application of Cambridge Town was approved because it arrived first! Thereafter Cambridge City joined the Southern League South Eastern Zone as a professional club. The club went onto make several applications to join the football league but all of which were unsuccessful.
In the late 1950's and 60's Cambridge City commanded the highest attendances in non-league football, regularly attracting average gates in excess of 3,500 (higher than rivals United during that period) and occasionally attracting gates over 10,000. They were Southern League champions in 1962/63 and stayed in the top division until 1968 but were then relegated and with it, turned semi-professional.
They were promoted back to the Premier Division after finishing as runners up in Division One in 1969/70 and then finished second in their first season back in the Southern League top flight. However, Cambridge United were elected into the football league in 1970, and City subsequently struggled to attract as many supporters to their games as their now more illustrious cross-City rivals.
By the mid-70s, City had suffered their second relegation and were playing regional Southern League football. We remained at that level until 1979/80 when a re-organisation of the league structure place us in the Midland Division, and a further switch in 1982/1983 put City in the Southern Division. By this time, United were going well in the second division of the football league, and the gates at City had dwindled completely with the Lilywhites attracting fewer than 200 supporters.
However, our Milton Road site was redeveloped with our original iconic stadium being replaced by a business centre, and a new ground built directly behind it thus enabling the club to remain at the same site. In season 1985/1986, and our first season on the 'new' Milton Road ground, City won the division on goal difference courtesy of a last day win over Waterlooville and were once again back in the top flight of the Southern League.
City remained at this level throughout the 1990's and then in 2004/05, successfully finished in the top 13 of the then Southern League Premier Division to qualify for a place in the newly formed Conference South Division.
However, it was off the field problems around this time that started to dominate. Not for the first time, City had got themselves into dire financial trouble and news broke that their Milton Road home had been sold. In addition, the then board of directors announced that they couldn't sustain Conference South football anymore and the first team would be scrapped with the City reserve team a feeder for Cambridge United, playing at the Abbey Stadium.
Incensed by the proposal, the City fans were galvanised and formed a Supporters Trust that within weeks had removed the previous regime and had taken over the operational running of the football club.
Lifelong City fan Kevin Satchell was installed as the new Chairman and he worked with the trust to secure the future of the club. This included a High Court case over the sale of the ground. Although the verdict stated that the club had been victims of a fraudulent misrepresentation, the sale of the ground was not overturned.
In the midst of the legal disputes over the sale of Milton Road, City were demoted from the Conference South to the Southern League in 2008. This was due to the club failing to meet a ground grading requirement.
As a result, planning permission was finally granted on the Milton Road site for a housing development in 2013. This meant that the last game City played at Milton Road was in April 2013 when they beat Redditch United.
Since City left Milton Road they have ground shared at Histon and St Ives. Whilst being on the road, they have suffered another relegation when they lost their place in the Premier Division of the Southern League on the last day of the 2016/17 season.
There are now bright times ahead off the field as planning permission was granted in 2018 for a new community stadium in Sawston, south of the City Centre. Despite planning appeals and legal argument the site started development in early 2021. Since then we have experienced various delays due to Covid, supply issues, contractors, planning and building control as well as exponential rise in the stadium costs. Visit our news page or Sawston Page to keep up to date with the stadium build.
During the summer of 2019, City were moved laterally to the Isthmian League and were placed in the North Division and then in 2021 we were moved again laterally to the Northern Premier Midlands Division, where we continue to play. However we hope to be moved back once we move further south into our new stadium in Sawston.