From the 16th to the 19th century, Kirtling was known as Catlidge. Upend, on the other hand, was originally called Upheme - old English for ‘the up-dwelling’. Upend may once have been a separate village but was absorbed into Kirtling before 1066. In fact, Kirtling had become the most heavily populated parish in the neighbourhood in 1086.
A rich Cambridgeshire landowner named Oswi and his wife Leofflaed gave the parish of Kirtling to Ely Abbey around 1000. It later belonged to Earl (later king) Harold who died in 1066. By 1086 it was probably held by an Englishman named Frawine of Kirtling.
Kirtling Tower is a Grade I listed building; its gatehouse was built c. 1530 by Edward North, 1st Baron North.
The population of the parish had reached its peak of 1,458 by the 1801 census, and had fallen to 909 in 1851, below 800 in 1880, 600 in 1910, 500 in 1930 and to 300 in 1971.