A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1908.
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The small parish of Cockayne Hatley lies on the Cambridgeshire borders 3 miles east from the Potton station of the London and North Western Railway. It contains 1,174 acres, of which 777 are arable land, 283 permanent grass, 210 woods and plantations. (fn. 1) The soil is strong clay and the subsoil clay. The chief crops are wheat, turnips, barley, peas, and beans. In the north-east of the parish is situated Cockayne Hatley wood, the south is mainly agricultural. The small village is in the centre of the parish, the greater part of which consists of the Cockayne Hatley estate. The church is built in the park, a little to the south of Cockayne Hatley House, and is surrounded by trees on all sides but the north, where the road to the house passes close by. The house itself, facing south and west, is not of much architectural interest, and its exterior is comparatively modern. The site, however, is old, and parts of a former house still exist, though now hidden by modern additions. Recent repairs are said to have revealed a gallery, which was over the screens of the old hall.
Mention has been found of a tenth-century grant of land in Hatley by Efelmus and his wife Affa to the abbot of St. Benedict, Ramsey, but no later evidence has been obtained of the abbey holding. (fn. 2)
The manor of COCKAYNE HATLEY also called BURY HATLEY and HATLEY PORT was held, at the time of the Survey, by Azelina wife of Ralph Taillebois, and had previously belonged to Ulmar a thegn of King Edward the Confessor. (fn. 3) The overlordship of Cockayne Hatley passed, with the other Bedfordshire property of Ralph Taillebois, to Hugh de Beauchamp, (fn. 4) the founder of the barony of Bedford, and became attached to that honour. (fn. 5) The latest reference that has been found to the overlordship is in 1515, when the manor was held of Sir Edmund Grey as of the barony of Bedford. (fn. 6)
No tenant of the overlord is mentioned in Hatley at the time of the Survey, but members of the family of de Port seem to have established their position as lords of the manor in the twelfth century. (fn. 7)
In 1197 Adam de Port confirmed the gift of the church to Newnham Priory, (fn. 8) and again in 1231 he received the grant of half a virgate of land in Hatley, (fn. 9) from Ellen, daughter of Agnes of Hatley, whilst in 1277 William de Port was in possession of the manor. (fn. 10) This manor passed from the de Ports in the last decade of the thirteenth century to Roger Bryan, who acquired from William de Port 70 acres of land in 1294, (fn. 11) a carucate of land, 8s. rent, and a messuage two years later, (fn. 12) and finally, in 1298, lands, rents, a messuage, and a mill. (fn. 13)
Joan, daughter of Roger Bryan, married John d'Argentein, who was holding the manor in 1308, (fn. 14) and from him it passed to his daughter, Joan wife of Ralph Butler, (fn. 15) whose heir was her nephew Edward Butler, who came of age in 1360. (fn. 16) He made various settlements of the manor, (fn. 17) and finally in the year 1417 sold it to John Cockayne, chief baron of the Exchequer, for 1,000 marks. (fn. 18)
From this family, who continued to hold the manor in an almost unbroken line of succession from father to son for more than 300 years, Hatley acquired the prefix Cockayne. Reginald son of John Cockayne succeeded his father in 1427, and held the manor till his own death in 1433, (fn. 19) when the estate passed to his son John, who died in 1492. (fn. 20) His son Edmund appears to have left two sons, Humphrey, who died in 1515, the same year as his father, and William, to whom the estate, being entailed on male heirs, then passed. Chad Cockayne, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Nicholas Luke, chief baron of the Exchequer, succeeded to William in 1527, (fn. 21) and his son John held the manor in 1595. (fn. 22)
In 1625 Lewis Cockayne made a settlement of the manor on the occasion of the marriage of his son John to Susan Field. (fn. 23) He, however, died without issue, and the manor passed to John Cockayne, son of his brother Richard, who succeeded his grandfather Lewis before 1663, in which year he attained his majority. (fn. 24) He married Elizabeth daughter of Sir Richard Cust, and died in 1719, leaving a son Richard, who died in 1731, having survived all his children. He had one brother, Samuel, with whom he appears to have been on unfriendly terms, for in his will he left him the specific sum of one shilling, and the estate of Cockayne Hatley to his second cousin, Judith Cockayne, with the condition that she should marry a man of the name of Cockayne. Samuel Cockayne, as lineal representative, threatened litigation, but a compromise was effected in 1733, by which Judith in return for £1,000 gave up the estate to Samuel. (fn. 25) At his death in 1745 Samuel left a will under which the Cockayne Hatley estate passed to his cousins by the mother's side, the descendants of his grandfather, Sir Richard Cust. Saville Cust, who adopted the additional name of Cockayne, accordingly succeeded to the manor in 1745. He never married, and the estate passed to his nephew Francis, who died unmarried in 1791, being succeeded by his youngest sister Lucy, sole survivor of the family. (fn. 26) She, as last surviving tenant in tail mentioned in the will of Samuel Cockayne, had power to disentail the estates. This power she exercised by settling them on her nephew Brownlow Lord Brownlow, with remainder to his second son Henry Cust, and his sons in succession. On the death of Lord Brownlow in 1807 the estate passed to Henry Cust, who was holding in 1857. (fn. 27) In 1852, on the death of Henry Francis Cust, his eldest son, the estate was disentailed. (fn. 28) Cockayne Hatley manor was subsequently sold to Mr. Bradshaw, from whom it was purchased by Mr. Lomax, who now owns the property.
The Countess Judith held 3 hides 2½ virgates as one manor in Hatley in the eleventh century. (fn. 29) This manor had belonged to Earl Tosti, and the Survey in mentioning it expressly states that it lay (jacuit) in Potton, own manor of the countess, (fn. 30) and as no documentary evidence is obtainable of its further history in this parish it is to be assumed that it early became absorbed in Potton (q.v.).
Cockayne Hatley contained one mill at the Survey of 1086, which was worth 18s., and belonged to Azelina, wife of Ralph Taillebois. (fn. 31) In 1298 it was granted by William de Port to Roger Bryan, (fn. 32) and has since been found appurtenant to the manor. (fn. 33)
The master of the Knights Templars claimed view of frankpledge in the thirteenth century for land which he held in Hatley as appurtenant to his manor of Langford. (fn. 36)
The church of ST. JOHN consists of a chancel 19 ft. 6 in. by 16 ft. 3 in., nave 36 ft. by 18 ft., with north aisle 5 ft. 9 in. wide and south aisle 6 ft. wide, and west tower 12 ft. 8 in. by 13 ft. 4 in., all internal measurements. The plan, owing to successive rebuildings and additions, is one of extreme irregularity, the chancel, nave, and tower being all set at different angles, and only the tower being rectangular on plan.
The earliest part of the church now existing is the north arcade of the nave, belonging to the latter part of the thirteenth century, and the north aisle probably retains its thirteenth-century width. Before this time there doubtless existed an aisleless nave and chancel, the former of approximately the same dimensions as at present, but no details of an earlier date than the north arcade have survived.
The chancel seems to have been rebuilt in the early part of the fourteenth century, being enlarged in both dimensions, and the irregular angle at which it is set is doubtless accounted for by the usual mediaeval process of building the east wall outside the lines of the older chancel which it was to supersede, a method very productive of errors in setting out.
Later in the fourteenth century a south aisle was added, its arcade not being parallel to the existing arcade, and the final irregularity was attained by the addition of a western tower early in the fifteenth century, which appears to have been set out after the same fashion as the chancel—the west wall of the nave and aisles being rebuilt to square with the new tower, without reference to the direction of the nave arcades.
Later in the fifteenth century the south aisle was lengthened eastward, and a south porch was added; the latter was destroyed about 1823, and its outer archway now serves as a north doorway to the nave. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the church had fallen into a very bad state. In the repairs then undertaken between 1823 and 1830 the east wall of the chancel was taken down and the chancel shortened and re-roofed, and at the same time the nave received a new roof, and the south aisle was taken down and rebuilt with the old materials.
The chancel has a modern east wall with a three-light window copied from the east window of Wilbraham Church in Cambridgeshire. There are twolight windows of fifteenth-century style on either side of the chancel, whose tracery appears to be modern, and in the south wall is another similar window blocked, with a small fourteenth-century priest's door, also blocked, close to it on the east. A piscina formerly in the chancel is now set at the northwest angle of the nave in the tower wall, but has entirely lost its ancient appearance in the process of 'restoration.' The chancel arch is plain and pointed without any moulded detail, and is probably part of the nineteenthcentury repairs.
The nave arcades are of four bays; that on the north having circular columns with moulded capitals, and pointed arches of two hollowchamfered orders, the labels over the arches being apparently of modern detail; the bases of the arcade are worked in cement. The south arcade has octagonal pillars with moulded capitals and arches of two orders with wave moulds; the labels here again being modernized. The clearstory is of four square-headed windows a side, each of two cinquefoiled lights, and belongs to the latter part of the fifteenth century. The nave roof, as already noted, is modern, but on the underside of the tie-beams are set fifteenth-century wooden figures of angels brought here from Biggleswade Church. The date of the roof is on one of the tie-beams.
The windows in the north aisle are of fifteenthcentury style with tracery which appears to be modern. The three north windows are each of three lights, while the east window is of two lights and contains some extremely interesting fourteenthcentury glass from a 'church in Yorkshire,' representing St. Edward, St. Oswald, St. Dunstan, and St. … bald, the canopies in the heads of the lights being of the fifteenth century, and in the tracery above other fragments of old glass have been set. This is the only old glass in the church, but there is a great deal of modern heraldic glass.
The north doorway has a pointed arch under a square head with traceried spandrels, and four-leaf flowers in the arch and jambs, and is somewhat awkwardly set in the wall, not having been in its original position intended to take a wooden door.
The east window of the south aisle, which is blocked on the inside, is a good fifteenth-century window of three lights with tracery, the three south windows of the aisle being of fourteenth-century date with trefoiled main lights and quatrefoils over. The south doorway, now blocked by the monument of Sir Patrick Hume, is also of the fourteenthcentury with a moulded arch of two orders and a label.
The tower is of three stages, 66 ft. high, with an embattled parapet and modern angle pinnacles copied from Denton Church, Lincolnshire. The belfry windows are in pairs, with tall two-light trefoiled openings and ogee heads. In the second stage are plain square-headed lights on north, south, and west, and in the ground stage a large three-light west window with a western doorway below it, both having labels with crocketed finials at the apex. At the north-east angle is a stone stair entered from the west end of the north aisle. It stops at the level of the belfry floor, and a second stair in the south-east angle runs up to the battlements.
The fittings of the church are unusually elaborate. In the two eastern bays of the nave and the western half of the chancel are a set of finely-carved stalls from the abbey of Alne, near Charleroi, dated 1689. Of these eight are in the chancel and twenty-four are in the nave, the western stalls being returned. The walls of the chancel are panelled with very elaborate carved woodwork with sixteen medallions in high relief representing saints and doctors of the church, each being surrounded by wreaths of foliage and fruit. Between each compartment are angels holding instruments of the Passion, and the backs of the stalls are inlaid with patterns in black wood.
The altar rails, from Mechlin in Flanders, are about two feet high, and have four compartments carved in high relief with types of the Eucharist: (1) The Israelites obtaining water from the rock; (2) The Gathering of the Manna; (3) Harvest; (4) Vintage. The altar table is in carved oak of Renaissance style bought in London.
The pulpit, which stands at the west end of the nave, came from St. Andrew's Church, Antwerp, and is an exceedingly fine specimen, dated 1559. It is hexagonal, each side inclosing a carved panel, on four of which are figures of the Evangelists.
The pews in the nave are mostly of modern deal, but there are a few mediaeval oak benches. At the east end of the north aisle is the Cockayne pew, screened off by woodwork from the church of St. Bavon, Ghent.
The font is octagonal, and was originally quite plain, but has been carved with quatrefoils in modern times. It dates from the fifteenth century. It formerly contained a dish of Italian majolica, which was used at christenings.
The oldest monument in the church is an incised slab at the west end of the church. It is of early fourteenth-century date, with a floreate cross and indents for two shields above it. The marginal inscription runs—
In the nave are three slabs with brasses, all to members of the Cockayne family, the westernmost dated 1527, and showing the figure of William 'Cokyn' with his two wives and ten children. The next, which is of the fifteenth century, shows a knight and his lady with three sons and two daughters. This is probably the gravestone of John Cockayne, 1492, but the figure of the man is of earlier date, c. 1430. To the east of it is the brass of Edward Cockayne and his wife Elizabeth, 1525, with eleven sons and four daughters. On this are the arms of Cockayne impaling a cheveron between three fetterlocks.
There is no mention of this church in the Survey, but it first appears as one of the fourteen churches which formed part of the original endowment of Newnham Priory, founded by Simon Beauchamp in 1166. (fn. 37) The grant was confirmed by Adam de Port in 1197, (fn. 38) and again by William de Port about 1277. (fn. 39) In 1327 the prior and convent received licence to impropriate this church whose advowson they held in pure and perpetual alms of the barony of Bedford. (fn. 40) At the Dissolution the rectory of Hatley Port, which was worth £4 4s., (fn. 41) became crown property, and in 1564 was granted to Thomas Reeve. (fn. 42) Between this date and 1595 it was transferred to John Cockayne, (fn. 43) who was the lord of Cockayne Hatley manor, and since then the living, which is a rectory, has remained in the gift of the lords of that manor. (fn. 44)
Lady Hume, widow of Sir Patrick Hume, who died in 1627, as appeared from an old terrier, charged certain lands in the parish with an annual payment of £3 for the uses following, namely—20s. to the rector for two sermons annually, at Lady Day and Michaelmas; 20s. yearly to the poor; and 20s. yearly to the repairs of the church. These payments are made by F. G. Lomax, esq., of Cockayne Hatley Hall, and duly applied.