A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
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The ancient parish of Toft consists of 1,285 a. (fn. 1) It is bounded on the east and west by the parishes of Caldecote and Comberton, and may once, like those parishes, have stretched north as far as the road from Cambridge to St. Neots to include Hardwick. Hardwick, which eventually became a separate parish, was assessed with Toft in 1066. (fn. 2) The boundary between Toft and Hardwick appears not to have been delineated until Toft was inclosed in 1815. A strip of land called Intercommon furlong, stretching north-westwards from the Hardwick road to Hardwick wood, was then divided between the two parishes. (fn. 3) The Bourn brook forms Toft's southern boundary, although about 3 a. of Toft extends south of the brook, between Kingston and Great Eversden. (fn. 4)
The extreme north-west part of the parish, by Hardwick wood, lies above the 200 ft. contour. The land falls away south-eastwards towards the brook, to a minimum of 75 ft. in the south-east. Drainage is effected by small streams flowing south into the Bourn brook, (fn. 5) which in the 17th century overflowed the meadows in rainy times, (fn. 6) a tendency still in evidence. The dampness of the area may explain the 'grayegars' marsh mentioned in the vill in the 13th century. (fn. 7) Most of the parish overlies boulder clay but terrace gravels provide a site for the village. (fn. 8) One pocket of gravel was formerly employed to repair the village roads. (fn. 9) Most of the land is devoted to arable farming but there are closes of pasture in and around the village, and water-meadows by the Bourn brook. The grassland is principally employed for sheep-farming. There is very little woodland in Toft, and that is but a small plantation adjoining Hardwick wood. References in the 13th century to an assart and a woodward suggest that the woodland was then considerable. (fn. 10)
The village of Toft is in the south part of the parish, almost equidistant from Caldecote and Comberton. It occupies a small peninsula from which the ground falls away to the Bourn brook on the south and to two tributary streams on the east and the west. The road pattern is roughly rectangular. Most of the older houses lie along the north and west sides, called respectively Comberton Road (formerly Dawes Lane) and High Street. (fn. 11) Church Way, which was apparently in existence in 1585, (fn. 12) leads south from Comberton Road to the church and twists down to the Bourn brook into Brookside, the road running east to High Street. The church, standing at the south-east corner with the Manor, formerly the rectory house, and a range of cottages built by the rector in 1845, (fn. 13) is separated from the rest of the village by an area of grassland, some of which was open field before 1815. (fn. 14) The original relationship between the church and the village is uncertain, as is the position of the village street mentioned in the 13th century. (fn. 15) It may be significant that Priory close, called the site of the manor in 1618, (fn. 16) lies beside the church and away from the modern village. (fn. 17) The village appears to have been in decline in the 14th century (fn. 18) and may have redeveloped further from the church, but it is to be noticed that Comberton church is similarly a little distance from the centre of the modern village.
Within the rectangle smaller lanes and closes form a rough grid. At the north-west corner of the village there is a small green and a public house. A few houses are of 17th-century origin: they are generally the larger houses and have timberframed and plastered walls and tiled roofs. Most of the older houses are small late-18th- or 19thcentury cottages with clay bat or roughly timberframed walls. A farm-house in Dawes Lane, the most substantial of the older houses, was built c. 1600 and enlarged in the mid 17th century; its extensive farm buildings include a large 18thcentury pigeon-house. Twentieth-century building, mostly of bungalows, has been almost wholly confined to the area within the old pattern of roads. (fn. 19) Though isolated the village has modern street lighting and sewerage. In 1964 the inhabitants of Toft subscribed to a loan to purchase the old primary school building and convert it into a village hall which was opened the following year. (fn. 20) A central green was restored in 1960. (fn. 21)
In 1086 Toft contained 21 peasants and 2 servi. (fn. 22) In relation to the general trend in the area, population in the 13th and 14th centuries may have declined since the 11th century. Though many individual landowners were recorded in 1279, only c. 50 houses were mentioned. (fn. 23) In 1327 only 29 persons paid the subsidy. (fn. 24) In 1377 76 adults were assessed for the poll tax. (fn. 25) In 1525 33 people paid the subsidy. (fn. 26) There were only 14 families in 1563. (fn. 27) By the 17th century there had been some recovery. There were about 50 families c. 1630, (fn. 28) and under Charles II between 29 and 38 dwellings were assessed for the hearth tax. (fn. 29) In 1676 there were 86 adults. (fn. 30) There were 173 people at Toft c. 1793. (fn. 31) The population increased steadily from 208 to 380 between 1801 and 1851. It had fallen by 1861 and declined very rapidly between 1871 and 1881 from 358 to 256. It then fluctuated between 200 and 250 until new building took place after the Second World War. The population was 332 in 1961. (fn. 32)
Roads run from the north-east corner of the village to Comberton and to Hardwick, and from the south-west corner across the Bourn brook to Bourn. There was a wooden bridge over the brook in the 17th century (fn. 33) but only a ford in 1815. (fn. 34) A concrete bridge was built in 1911. (fn. 35) A footpath that runs diagonally through the village linking the church with those of Comberton to the south-east and Caldecote to the north-west was called Lot Way in 1815. (fn. 36)
Manors and Other Estates.
Ramsey Abbey claimed that Ealdorman Ethelwin gave part of 10 hides in Toft to the abbey for the soul of his wife Ethelflaed, and exchanged another part for land at Linton, a transaction which would have occurred c. 977. (fn. 37) At a slightly later date, however, Ely Abbey claimed that Abbot Beorhtnoth purchased 10 hides in Toft from one Wulfnoth, and that the monk Goding later devised to it another hide there. (fn. 38) Ramsey's claim seems to have been erroneous for Leofsige, abbot of Ely 1029–44, was able to order that Toft should furnish one week's food farm a year to the monastery. (fn. 39) The 11 hides claimed by Ely presumably included land in Hardwick. Toft in 1066 was assessed at 8 hides and 40 a., (fn. 40) of which a little more than three were held by the abbot as his manor of Hardwick, allegedly given by Ealdorman Beorhtnoth in 991. (fn. 41) Of the remainder Eddeva the fair held 2 hides, 1 virgate, and 8 a. as a berewick of her manor of Swavesey, (fn. 42) a sokeman of King Edward held 1 hide and 4 a., and six of the abbot's sokemen held 1½ hide and 6 a. (fn. 43)
Like many of Eddeva's estates her portion of Toft, later PRIOR'S or BARNWELL manor, was granted after the Conquest to Count Alan, lord of Richmond. (fn. 44) As at Caldecote the overlordship thereafter followed the descent of the honor of Richmond. (fn. 45) It had been subinfeudated before c. 1150, when Henry de Neville held one fee in Toft of the honor. (fn. 46) The fee also included land in Swavesey and Fen Drayton. (fn. 47) By 1200 Henry had been succeeded by his elder son Robert, who died without issue before 1219. (fn. 48) Robert's heir, his younger brother Albert, granted Toft in dower to Maud, Robert's widow. She subsequently married Hamon le Enveise who held the estate in her right. (fn. 49) Albert de Neville was summoned to a plea as lord in 1228, (fn. 50) but was dead by 1236 when his heirs held the fee. (fn. 51)
In 1235 the king received homage for the fee from Robert son of Geoffrey, (fn. 52) who may possibly have been the ancestor of Geoffrey of Southorpe who in 1279 held a mesne lordship over the fee, not recorded later. (fn. 53) About 1260 Eustace Curzon, Peter son of Gerard, Robert of Hardwick, John Lord of Caldecote, and William de Caus presented themselves as the heirs of Albert de Neville. (fn. 54) They clearly derived their right from their wives, for when William de Caus's wife Annora subsequently married Robert Blumville she brought him her share of the manor. (fn. 55) The prior of Barnwell had meanwhile amassed a considerable estate in Toft. In 1282 the prior was said to have held 4 virgates in Toft of the heirs of Aubrey (recte Albert) de Neville some 30 years earlier. (fn. 56) In 1279 the prior with Peter son of Gerard, Robert of Hardwick, John Lord of Caldecote, and Robert Blumville held 9/16; of a knight's fee in Toft of Geoffrey of Southorpe. Eustace Curzon had granted his share, 50 a., to John Lord and Robert Blumville. (fn. 57) The prior was the largest landholder, and gradually established himself as the principal lord of the fee. In 1302–3 it was held by the prior, Thomas and William of Caldecote, and William Blumville. (fn. 58) The prior and John de Scalers and his associates were said to be the lords in 1346. (fn. 59) In 1428 the prior was returned as the sole lord. (fn. 60) The manor belonged to the almoner's office. (fn. 61) The priory retained possession until its dissolution in 1538, when the manor was on lease to Thomas Baseley. (fn. 62) In 1544 the king granted it to Sir Richard Gresham (fn. 63), who, three years later, was licensed to alienate it to Sir John Hinde (fn. 64) (d. 1550), whose son and heir Francis (fn. 65) sold it in 1572–3 to John Haggar of Bourn. (fn. 66) In 1591 Haggar conveyed it to Thomas Baseley and Thomas Goodwin. (fn. 67) A moiety remained in the Goodwin family until 1629, when Richard Goodwin and Elizabeth his wife sold it to Philip Storey. (fn. 68) Charles Baron purchased it from Philip and Susanna Storey in 1659. (fn. 69) In 1618 William Baron had died seised of the other moiety, including the site of the manor, called Priory close. His heir was his son William. (fn. 70)
The descent is thenceforward extremely obscure. At least one of the moieties was further subdivided. In 1738 Richard Rose and his wife conveyed ¼ of Prior's manor to Joseph Biscoe. (fn. 71) In 1772 a Richard Rose also conveyed ¼ of the same manor to George Sully. (fn. 72) The whole manor then appears to have come into the possession of John Mortlock by marriage with Elizabeth, sole daughter and heir of Stephen Harrison. (fn. 73) In 1800 they sold it to Dr. Samuel Smith, a former headmaster of Westminster School, and to Smith's trustee Edward Boodle. (fn. 74) Smith died in 1808. (fn. 75) His son, the Revd. Samuel Smith, succeeded and in 1815 was the sole lord of the manor. (fn. 76) On his death in 1841 (fn. 77) his trustees broke up his estates. The manor was sold to William Hurrell. In 1846 Valentine Beldam purchased it from William Hurrell the elder, William Hurrell the younger, and Henry Hurrell. Beldam died without issue in 1875, and his brother Edward in the following year. Edward's son F. W. E. Beldam succeeded to the lordship. (fn. 78) The manor was sold in 1920 (fn. 79) and passed into the hands of Mr. G. M. Mcfarlane-Grieve, (fn. 80) the owner in 1967.
LEVENTHORPE'S manor derived from 1½ hide and 10 a. in Toft which Picot the sheriff held in 1086 and which a man of King Edward and a sokeman of the abbot of Ely had held in 1066. (fn. 81) The overlordship descended with the barony of Bourn until Gilbert Pecche sold the barony to the king in 1284. (fn. 82) In 1293 Gilbert's widow Joan was granted Toft as part of her dower. (fn. 83) When next mentioned the overlordship was said to be held by the Clare family. (fn. 84) Richard, earl of Gloucester (d. 1262), had the view of frankpledge in that part of Toft manor under Henry III. (fn. 85) It had belonged formerly to the king's bailiff, and the earl's right was uncertain. (fn. 86) His grandson, Gilbert, earl of Gloucester (d. s.p. 1314), held rents and pleas and profits of court in Toft and elsewhere, which were included in the purparty assigned in 1317 to his third sister, Elizabeth (d. 1360). (fn. 87) In 1359 the manor was said to be held of her by service of suit of court once a year. (fn. 88) Though the Clares had at first held only the view, the overlordship appears to have become attached to the honor of Clare as well, and descended with the courts leet at Arrington and Harlton. (fn. 89) In 1489 the manor was held of Cecily, duchess of York, as of the honor of Clare by fealty and suit of court. (fn. 90) In 1511 Henry VIII recovered the lands of the earldom of March, including Toft, from Catherine, countess of Devon, and Anne, wife of Thomas Howard, the heirs of Edward IV. (fn. 91) The overlordship remained from that time with the Crown.
Picot had enfeoffed two of his knights with his land in Toft before 1086. (fn. 92) By c. 1235 it had come to the family of Beach. (fn. 93) In 1166 Alan son of Gilbert of Beach, a minor, held 2½ knights' fees of Hugh of Dover, husband of Maud, one of the coheirs of William Peverel. (fn. 94) Before 1203 Alan was succeeded by his son Robert, who c. 1235 held 3 fees of Hamon Pecche, including ½ fee in Toft. (fn. 95) Robert was followed by his sister Ellen of Beach, who held the fees in 1242–3. (fn. 96) Godin of Beach, lord in 1271, (fn. 97) died before 1279, when John Avenel was said to hold the ½ fee of Godin's heirs and they of Gilbert Pecche. (fn. 98) John's grandfather William may have married into the Beach family. (fn. 99) The manor passed from William Avenel (d. 1331) (fn. 100) to his son Sir John, who died in Brittany in 1359, having ten years before his death made a feoffment of his estates to pay his debts and make a settlement on his son John. (fn. 101) John died in 1383, leaving an infant son Robert. (fn. 102) John Buckingham, bishop of Lincoln, apparently acting as a trustee of the estate, granted Avenel's guardian, Sir Robert Bealknap, a 15-year lease of the property, and in 1384–5 the reversion was settled on Robert Avenel and his wife Gillian, Bealknap's daughter. (fn. 103) Robert Avenel died in 1387 aged only 10, (fn. 104) and Bealknap was himself attainted and exiled in the next year for counselling Richard II. (fn. 105) Toft was put into the custody of Thomas, duke of Gloucester. (fn. 106) In 1390 most of Bealknap's estates, including Toft, were granted to John Stukeley and many others. (fn. 107) Robert Avenel's widow Gillian, however, married Nicholas Kimbell, (fn. 108) and held Toft with him in 1405. (fn. 109) In 1413–14 Stukeley and others quitclaimed the manor to Kimbell. (fn. 110) Kimbell's son John conveyed his estates in 1416 to Nicholas Coningston, John Meppershall, John Stanford, and William Breton. (fn. 111) Toft appears to have come into the sole possession of Meppershall, whose heir was his daughter Joan, who married John Butler. (fn. 112) Their son John died seised of the manor in 1482. (fn. 113) His elder daughter Joan received Toft as part of her share of the inheritance. She married first John Leventhorpe and secondly John Stamford. After Joan's death in 1489 Stamford held the manor (fn. 114) until his own death in 1493 when Thomas Leventhorpe, son of Joan and John Leventhorpe, succeeded. (fn. 115) Thomas died in 1498, leaving the manor to his wife Agnes for her life. After her death it passed to Thomas's son John, (fn. 116) and then to Sir John Hinde. (fn. 117) Hinde united Prior's and Leventhorpe's manors and his son Francis conveyed them both to John Haggar. (fn. 118) In 1591 Leventhorpe's was purchased from Haggar by John Baron, (fn. 119) on behalf of William Dove, to whom Baron granted an 80-year lease of most of it. In 1614 Dove's daughters-in-law and their husbands claimed it from John Baron, alleging that he had sought by settling the manor on his son John in 1603 to defraud them of the unexpired remainder of the lease. (fn. 120) The elder John Baron held Leventhorpe's at his death in 1630. (fn. 121) His son John died in 1631, leaving an infant son William. (fn. 122) In 1684 Richard Baron conveyed the manor to Charles Baron. (fn. 123) Its subsequent descent is unknown. Either the manor lapsed or else it came finally into the possession of John Mortlock and remained thenceforward united with Prior's manor. (fn. 124) In 1806 the villagers were said to be unaware of the existence of two separate manors, (fn. 125) and only one, called simply Toft manor, was recognized at inclosure in 1815. (fn. 126)
In 1086 Erchenger the king's baker held a hide in Toft which five of the abbot of Ely's sokemen had held, and also 5/6 hide in Comberton. (fn. 127) The combined estates became the Comberton bakery serjeanty, which was held in the 13th century by the Head family. (fn. 128) Most of its land had been alienated to Barnwell and Swaffham priories by c. 1250, (fn. 129) but in 1279 Alexander Head retained some lands belonging to it in both Comberton and Toft. (fn. 130) That estate was sold to John Burdeleys of Comberton in 1319. (fn. 131) In 1375 land in Toft was attached to Burdeleys manor in Comberton. (fn. 132)
In 1300 William Avenel granted to John Droxford, his wife's uncle, 20 marks' rent in Toft and Guilden Morden (fn. 133) which in 1302 he received back to hold of John. (fn. 134) In 1390 Sir Peter Courtenay and Margaret his wife claimed the rent on the ground that Margaret was cousin and heir of John Droxford. (fn. 135) The rent did not fall to Nicholas Kimbell, who obtained Toft manor, but was probably included in the estate worth £25 which Thomas Bradfield held in Toft and elsewhere in 1412. (fn. 136) Bradfield was descended in the female line from the Avenels. (fn. 137) In 1474 Edmund Bendyshe, Bradfield's grandson, had 5 marks' rent in Toft as well as the advowson of Toft church. (fn. 138) Edmund's grandson William Bendyshe sold the rent and advowson to John Hinde in 1534. (fn. 139) They thus became part of the principal manor.
The hospital of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge, began to acquire property in Toft in the early 13th century by both purchase and gift. When Everard of Toft granted 11 a. to the hospital, the prior gave him 6½ marks to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. (fn. 140) A rental, probably of that period, shows that the rector of Toft held 42 a. in Toft at farm for 24 years, and various other people owed small amounts of rent. (fn. 141) The land passed to St. John's College, Cambridge, as successor to the dissolved hospital. (fn. 142) In 1602 the college had 39 a. in Toft, (fn. 143) and was allotted 30 a. for open-field arable in 1815. (fn. 144) The estate was sold in 1945. (fn. 145)
In the mid 13th century Richard le Eyr and the priory of Swaffham Bulbeck were said to hold ¼ knight's fee in Toft and Comberton of the bishop of Ely. (fn. 146) In 1279 the prioress held 60 a. in Toft of Alexander Head. (fn. 147) In 1379 Thomas Harding of Manningtree and others granted 50 a. in Hardwick and Toft to the priory, (fn. 148) which in 1428 was returned as holding ¼ fee in Toft. (fn. 149) Its estate in Toft and Hardwick was worth 43s. a year in 1536 and was occupied by John Hinde. (fn. 150) In 1553 Sir Robert Chester was granted a messuage and close in Toft and 100 a. of the former priory land, (fn. 151) part of which appears to have been held in 1614 by Roger, son of John Smith. (fn. 152) The further descent of the land is unknown, but may have followed that of Roger Smith's estate in Hardwick. (fn. 153)
Upon the division of the estate of the Revd. Samuel Smith following his death in 1841 (fn. 154) some lands, including Great Priory close, were purchased by the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy. (fn. 155) The estate consisted of 150 a. and came to be known as Orchard farm. It was sold by the corporation in 1914 and was purchased by the Tebbit family, (fn. 156) which had been the corporation's tenants since 1845. (fn. 157) The same family still owned the farm in 1967. (fn. 158)
John Haggerston held 230 a. in Toft in 1815 and the Revd. Daniel Cresswell 50 a., (fn. 159) as well as land in Hardwick. (fn. 160) Both estates came into the possession of Mr. Staffurth who in 1887 purchased the Cresswell lands and others totalling 130 a. previously in the possession of William Asplen. (fn. 161) The estate was sold as Old Farm in 1912 by the executors of Ellis Staffurth. (fn. 162)
In 1086 Toft was assessed at almost 5 hides. There was land sufficient for 10 teams and 9 teams were in fact employed. On both the principal estates, those belonging to the fees of Picot and Count Alan, about half the arable area appears to have been held in demesne. Thirteen cottars were available for employment on the demesne. There were also eight villani and, on Alan's land, two servi. The presence of servi on Alan's estate is puzzling, since no stock there was mentioned and Picot's knights had twice as many demesne ploughs and 48 sheep and 21 pigs as well. Erchenger had one villanus and five cottars, as well as 42 sheep. (fn. 163)
By 1279 the social composition of the parish was much altered. Villeinage had disappeared entirely from the Richmond fee, (fn. 164) a development that had probably not been completed until after 1228. (fn. 165) In 1279 c. 170 a. were apparently held in demesne and the remaining land was held in small plots at rent. Most of the tenements were small and were held of several different lords. Geoffrey Kyne, for instance, held 7 a. of the fees of four different men. There were, however, some larger holdings, of 10 or 15 a., which may once have been villein tenements. Rent was paid mostly in money, but renders of cumin, ginger, wheat, and barley are also recorded. (fn. 166)
On the Avenel fee there were 60 a. in demesne and 15 villeins, many more than in 1086, holding between 15 a. and 5 a. each. With the exception of three boon-works in August, labour dues had been commuted for a money rent, besides foodrenders at Christmas and Easter. There were also 6 cottars and a number of free tenants. (fn. 167) In 1359 the lord had 7 out of 13 bond tenements in hand and also held 80 a. in demesne. Labour obligations had been further commuted as well as the obligation to do suit to the lord's mill. (fn. 168) The decline of villeinage resulted in an absence of copyhold tenure on the manors. In 1815 the only copyhold land was held of manors in other parishes. (fn. 169)
When Leventhorpe's manor was sold in 1591 it consisted of almost equal quantities of arable and pasture and there was foldage for 600 sheep. Since the manor extended into five other parishes, it is uncertain exactly how much lay in Toft, though it was presumably the larger part. (fn. 170) The more extensive Prior's manor was predominantly arable, but there was an increase in the amount of meadow and pasture between 1591 and 1772. (fn. 171) Its demesne apparently remained large: over 500 a. were recorded as being conveyed with the manor in 1796. (fn. 172) Very few other large estates appear to have developed. In 1815 only John Haggerston and Samuel Smith owned over 200 a. in the parish, and only Daniel Cresswell and John Ladds owned between 50 a. and 200 a. (fn. 173) The land continued to be reckoned in the traditional unit of the selion until at least 1700. (fn. 174)
In the early 13th century two open fields were recorded, East and West fields. (fn. 175) A third field, Middle field, was recorded from 1700, (fn. 176) and those three fields survived until inclosure in 1815. (fn. 177) Reference to Wood field in 1662 (fn. 178) may be in error for Wood field in Hardwick. (fn. 179) In the 1790s the parish produced wheat, barley, oats, and peas, but the fields would not grow clover or turnips. There were a few closes near the village. (fn. 180) In 1801 the parish grew 196 a. of oats, 168 a. of wheat, 162 a. of barley, and 142 a. of peas and beans. (fn. 181) Inclosure took place in 1815 under an Act of 1812. Apart from the four men already mentioned, no landowner had more than 50 a. Twenty-one out of 35 allotments were of less than 10 acres. Some of them were outlying portions of larger estates, but the general size of holding was small. (fn. 182) The difficulties in working and inclosing the small plots are illustrated by the fact that for c. 10 years the whole rent of the Eversden charity land was spent on inclosing and other improvements. (fn. 183) During the 19th century several smallholders sold out, particularly to the Beldam family. (fn. 184) An up-to-date farming system on one of the larger farms in Toft is revealed in a lease of 1846 by the Sons of the Clergy to Joseph Tebbit, which specified that, of the 150 a., 30 a. were to remain permanent grass and the remainder was to be farmed on a four-year rotation: barley, various beans, peas, clover or seeds, wheat, and fallow, c. 30 a. being sown with each crop annually. (fn. 185)
In 1836 Toft was described as very poor but not distressed. (fn. 186) The village, however, appears to have expanded in the earlier 19th century, and the number of good cottages bears testimony to its relative prosperity, and to the work of men like E. A. Powell, rector 1843–92. (fn. 187) St. John's College, Cambridge, was able to raise the rent on its property in the parish. (fn. 188) The agricultural depression of the later 19th century affected Toft as elsewhere in the area. The population declined by over 100 between 1871 and 1881. (fn. 189) The rent of the Sons of the Clergy farm declined from £204 a year in 1873 to only £100 when the farm was sold in 1914. (fn. 190) In 1892 a general appeal was made for funds to aid the rebuilding of the church tower because the parish was very poor. (fn. 191) The rector stated in 1897 that the material condition of the labouring classes was unsatisfactory; work was scarce and wages low. He claimed that the temporal state of his flock made his spiritual work difficult. (fn. 192)
It was not until after the Second World War that new building in the parish restored the population to the mid-19th-century level. (fn. 193) The parish provides little employment save in agriculture, and the newcomers work outside the parish.
An 'old mill' was mentioned in Toft in the early 13th century. (fn. 194) No mills were subsequently recorded until 1815, when there were two windmills. One, in the possession of Mary Holder, lay north of the Comberton road midway between Toft and Comberton. The other had a commanding position on a clay ridge in West field. (fn. 195) Pottery dating from the 13th century has been found on the site, (fn. 196) which suggests that that had been the site of an earlier mill. It was a post windmill driving two pairs of stones. (fn. 197) By 1860 it seems to have been difficult to work it profitably. It was frequently sold and many mortgages were raised. (fn. 198) In 1868 the mortgagees sold it to Valentine Beldam, the owner of the surrounding land. The price was £100, (fn. 199) suggesting that it was not a going concern. The site in 1967 was under the plough.
In 1279 the earl of Gloucester held the view of frankpledge in Toft. It had previously belonged to the king's bailiff, but the earl's father had assumed it upon uncertain warrant. (fn. 200) The earliest surviving roll of the court dates from 1320–1. (fn. 201) The honor of Richmond also held a court there in 1334, when Toft appears to have been the centre for several lesser courts. (fn. 202) The court that had belonged to the earl of Gloucester was known as 'Toft with Hardwick' and continued to meet until at least 1585. In the 16th century it was held at Easter before the chief stewards of the honor of Clare in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 203) A constable was mentioned in 1320–1, (fn. 204) and the election of the constable was recorded in 1553. (fn. 205) In 1585 an aletaster was elected. (fn. 206) Because of the early disappearance of copyhold tenure no records of admissions and surrenders survive. (fn. 207)
A parish clerk was mentioned in 1638. (fn. 208) In 1727 certain town lands were used to defray the churchwardens' rate. (fn. 209) Later the roadside verges were let, and the parish meeting used the proceeds for improvements such as road repairs, sign-posts, and a contribution towards rethatching the school. (fn. 210) Expenditure on the poor rose from £31 in 1776 to £50 in 1783–5 and £113 in 1803, when 9 persons were on permanent relief and 7 others were occasionally relieved. (fn. 211) In 1835 the parish became part of the Caxton and Arrington poor law union, (fn. 212) and in 1934 was transferred from the Caxton and Arrington R.D. to the Chesterton R.D. (fn. 213)
Count Alan may have had a church at Toft, for before 1086 he gave part of his tithes there to the abbey of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus at Angers (Maine et Loire). (fn. 214) The church itself was recorded in 1217. (fn. 215) The living is a rectory, united in 1786 with Caldecote vicarage. (fn. 216)
In 1260 the heirs of Albert de Neville, tenants of the Richmond fee, maintained their right to the advowson against the prior of Alnesbourn (Suff.). (fn. 217) In 1267–8 William of Beeston, probably official of the archdeacon of Ely, (fn. 218) conveyed the advowson to Henry of Beeston, (fn. 219) whose family remained patrons in 1354 when Ralph of Beeston presented. (fn. 220) In 1375 Richard FitzSimon, a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, was presented by the proctors of John Wylyot, also a fellow of the college. (fn. 221) The patron in 1378 was William Swan of Oxford. (fn. 222) In 1381 Thomas Bradfield, a connexion of the Avenels, (fn. 223) presented to the rectory Thomas Margerys, who despite a papal order of 1392 ordering the institution of the presentee of John Maunder, (fn. 224) a former fellow of Merton, (fn. 225) held the living until his death in 1403, when Bradfield again presented. (fn. 226) Bradfield's daughter and heir Alice married Thomas Bendyshe of Barrington. (fn. 227) The advowson remained with the Bendyshe family until 1534 when William Bendyshe conveyed it to John Hinde. (fn. 228) It then passed with the manor to John Haggar, (fn. 229) who in 1584 presented Edmund Barwell, master of Christ's College, Cambridge. (fn. 230) The advowson was subsequently obtained by Christ's, which has remained the patron. (fn. 231) In 1621, when the rector, Valentine Cary, had become bishop of Exeter, the Crown presented, and in 1670 the bishop of Ely presented. (fn. 232)
The tithes in Toft given in the 11th century to the abbey of St. Sergius and St. Bacchus at Angers (fn. 233) later became possessions of that abbey's daughter house at Swavesey, and were assessed at 6s. 8d. in 1291. (fn. 234) After the suppression of Swavesey c. 1401 (fn. 235) those tithes passed to the Carthusian priory of St. Anne, Coventry, whose prior successfully claimed arrears of £15 from the rector of Toft in 1468. (fn. 236) When Picot founded the house of canons at St. Giles, Cambridge, later Barnwell Priory, c. 1092, (fn. 237) he gave 2/3 of the tithes of the lands of his knights in Toft to the canons. (fn. 238) In 1291 the prior's portion was valued at £2, (fn. 239) but in 1538 at £1 only. (fn. 240)
The rectory was valued at 7½ marks in 1217, 8 marks in 1254, and 12 marks in 1291. (fn. 241) In 1392 its value was put at 24 marks, (fn. 242) but in 1535 at only £5 16s. (fn. 243) The rector was said in 1650 to receive £80 a year, (fn. 244) and in 1688 his successor leased the rectory for £90 a year. (fn. 245) When the living was united with that of Caldecote in 1786 its gross yearly value was given as £124. (fn. 246) Land belonging to the church in the 13th century (fn. 247) may have been the glebe, which in 1638 amounted to 29 a. (fn. 248) At inclosure in 1815 the rector received 17 a. in place of his glebe, (fn. 249) and a further 5 a. in Hardwick when that parish was inclosed. (fn. 250) The rector sold 22 a. of the glebe to F. W. E. Beldam in 1892. (fn. 251) The tithes were commuted for a rent-charge of £300 in 1844. (fn. 252)
Dr. Edmund Barwell, rector 1584–1609, built a 'pretty house' in Toft, (fn. 253) which may have been the glebe house. The parsonage was described as ruinous in 1665 (fn. 254) and 1678. (fn. 255) Thomas Metcalf, rector 1715–77, lived there, (fn. 256) but the building needed a good deal of repair in 1783. (fn. 257) In 1836 the old lath and plaster building was said to be standing near the church and was described as on the whole a comfortable and respectable residence. (fn. 258) In 1844 the Revd. E. A. Powell raised £1,000 to build a new rectory, (fn. 259) the grounds of which were extended to the churchyard wall by diverting a road-way. (fn. 260) After Powell's death in 1892 the house was secularized and a smaller rectory built of red brick on the north side of Comberton Road. (fn. 261)
There were guilds in honour of All Saints and of St. Andrew at Toft in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 262) In 1837 the proceeds of 1 a. and 1 r. of land, let at £1 1s. a year, were used for repairs to the church, (fn. 263) and in 1951 the land produced £1 10s. In 1961 the proceeds of £100 bequeathed by Joseph Worboys were devoted to repairing the churchyard wall. (fn. 264)
From an early date incumbents were frequently non-resident. In 1349 John Merton was granted a licence for absence for 7 years' study. (fn. 265) He was a fellow of University (later Clare) Hall, Cambridge, (fn. 266) and the rectors often had connexions with one of the universities. (fn. 267) Thomas Sedgewick, rector 1556– 1559, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, was later described as a recusant, but had probably not resided at Toft. (fn. 268) All but two of the men presented between 1584 and 1892 were either masters or fellows of Christ's College. (fn. 269) The exceptions were Henry Downhall, (fn. 270) rector 1621–44, presented by the Crown, (fn. 271) and John Ellis, an Interregnum incumbent. (fn. 272) Three masters of Christ's, Barwell, Cary, and Ralph Cudworth, the Cambridge Platonist, held the benefice. (fn. 273) Cary was allowed to hold it with the bishopric of Exeter for a short period in 1621. (fn. 274)
Puritan ideas had already taken root in Toft by 1638 when several of the villagers petitioned against Bishop Wren. (fn. 275) In the same year it was reported that a number of the parishioners had induced the curate to remove the communion table into the body of the chancel. Two men were excommunicated for refusing to take the oath to the articles, and Henry Downhall, the rector, was ordered to be resident. (fn. 276) In 1644 he was ejected by the earl of Manchester, being charged with non-residence and not providing for the cure at all since 1643. (fn. 277) In 1644 William Dowsing destroyed 27 'superstitious pictures' in glass and 10 others in stone and had a cross taken down from the tower. (fn. 278)
Thomas Metcalf, presented to Toft in 1715 on the undertaking that he would resign his fellowship, was resident on the benefice in 1727 and died in possession of the living in 1777 at the age of 90. (fn. 279) Thomas Bradbourne, instituted in 1827 to the united benefice of Toft with Caldecote, resided in Staffordshire. (fn. 280) In 1840 the bishop sequestrated the living because of his non-residence and in 1843, after some uncertainty, E. A. Powell was presented. (fn. 281)
In 1727 communion was celebrated three times a year. There were 14 or 15 communicants, but only 8 had attended the previous Easter. (fn. 282) In 1825 there was one service each Sunday, held in the morning and afternoon alternately with Caldecote. Communion was celebrated 3 times a year and communicants remained about 15 in number. (fn. 283) A great increase in church activity had occurred by 1873, when E. A. Powell was resident and also employed an assistant curate. Two services were held each Sunday and communion celebrated in alternate weeks. There was no Sunday school, but the rector gave religious instruction daily in the school. (fn. 284) In 1898 the rector instituted a surpliced choir. (fn. 285)
The church of ST. ANDREW, which bore that dedication as early as 1267, (fn. 286) has a chancel, nave with north and south aisles, and west tower. A church and churchyard were consecrated in 1352 (fn. 287) and some of the fabric dates from shortly after that time. The extensive rebuilding of the 19th century seems to have reproduced, at least in part, the earlier plan, and incorporated some ancient features including the base of the early-14th-century tower, the responds of the south arcade, and the 15thcentury font and nave roof. The north chapel mentioned in the 17th century (fn. 288) may be evidence for a north aisle. In 1665 the tower was said to be dangerously cracked, (fn. 289) in 1685 the chancel was infested with pigeons, and references to structural defects were frequent in the 18th and early 19th centuries. (fn. 290) The church was almost entirely rebuilt in 1863 (fn. 291) apart from the tower which collapsed in 1890 while being demolished. The tower was rebuilt in 1894 in memory of E. A. Powell, rector 1843–92. (fn. 292)
The organ, a First World War memorial, was restored in 1966. (fn. 293) In 1552 there was a silver chalice, and also 3 bells. (fn. 294) There were 3 bells in 1967: (i) 1666, Christopher Graye of Ampthill (Beds.); (ii) c. 1450, from the Bury foundry, with black letter inscription 'Sancta Katerina ora pro nobis'; (iii) c. 1525, Thomas Laurence of London. (fn. 295) The surviving plate includes a cup of 1846 and a paten and flagon of 1854. The registers date from 1539 and are virtually complete.
John Bunyan preached in a barn at Toft in 1659 and on other occasions. (fn. 296) A conventicle in the parish had a congregation of 50 or 60 in 1669, many of them coming from neighbouring parishes. They were all said to be 'mean, inconsiderable people', except the 'chief abettor', Joshua Eversden. They had three teachers: John Crooke a wandering preacher, Oliver Scot a weaver from Gamlingay, and John Waite. (fn. 297) In 1670 William Eversden was prosecuted for allowing a conventicle to be held in his house. (fn. 298) In 1672 John Waite's house was licensed as a meetinghouse. (fn. 299)
There were 16 dissenters in Toft in 1676. (fn. 300) It was one of five places in Cambridgeshire in 1690 which received three-weekly visits alternately from Harris and Hunt, two dissenting ministers. (fn. 301) There were c. 35 Independents in the parish in 1728, and seven dissenting families in 1755. (fn. 302) One house in 1741 and five in 1751 were licensed as meetinghouses. (fn. 303) John Wesley is said to have preached in a barn at Toft. (fn. 304) Two more houses were licensed in 1792 and 1819, and a former carpenter's shop in 1823. (fn. 305) In 1825, however, the curate reported that there were only two families of Independents, who attended a meeting-house outside the parish, although a room was occasionally licensed for the evening. (fn. 306)
In 1862 a Primitive Methodist chapel was built in High Street. It had an average attendance of 40 in 1897. It was extensively altered in 1940, the tiered pews being replaced by chairs, and a schoolroom added. (fn. 307) The chapel and Sunday school were still in use in 1967.
There was no school in Toft in 1787 or 1807. (fn. 308) In 1819 a Sunday school for boys and girls and a day-school chiefly for girls had 30 pupils. Parents who could afford it sent their sons to schools in Eversden and Kingston. (fn. 309) John Preston, a former rector of Toft, by will proved 1827, gave £500 in trust for the education of the poor children of Toft and Caldecote. By then there was no school to which the bequest could be applied, and the interest accumulated until 1833 when the trustees purchased a house in Toft which served as the schoolmaster's house. An adjoining workshop became the girls' schoolroom, and was enlarged in 1846. An additional room was built for the boys. Money was raised by private subscription and grants from the Treasury and National Society, (fn. 310) and the income from the Preston charity was augmented by grants from the incumbents, school pence at 1d. a week, and annual grants from the National Society. (fn. 311) From 1850 Treasury grants were made for a pupil-teacher and for books and maps. (fn. 312) E. A. Powell, rector 1843–92, by will dated 1885 gave 1 r. of land adjoining the school. (fn. 313) Average attendance rose steadily from 40 in 1837 (fn. 314) to 68 in 1850. (fn. 315) For the next 30 years it remained fairly stable at 50–60 pupils, (fn. 316) but fell by half between 1880 and 1890. (fn. 317) By 1908 attendance had recovered to 45, but thereafter declined again to 14 in 1938. (fn. 318) The school was closed in 1959 and the village children thereafter went to Comberton. (fn. 319) The Preston charity was transferred to Comberton, and the Toft school-house was sold, (fn. 320) becoming the village hall. (fn. 321)
Comberton village college, opened in 1960, is on the outskirts of Comberton village but just within Toft parish. It has secondary school accommodation for 300. (fn. 322)
Charities for the Poor.
Jonathan Page gave £10 by will dated 1756 to buy land for the poor. The farmer entrusted with the principal until the land should be purchased left the parish suddently c. 1782, and the money was never recovered. (fn. 323) In or before 1730 William Eversden gave £6 to buy 1 a. of land in trust for distributing bread to the poor at Easter. The income averaged 7s. a year before inclosure in 1815, when 3 r. of land were allotted to the charity, and the income increased to £1 11s. a year. For c. 10 years the money was devoted to inclosing and improving the land and afterwards was paid out in small sums to the poor in proportion to the size of their families. In 1837 the Charity Commissioners recommended that the distribution of bread be resumed, preferably to those not already receiving poor-relief. (fn. 324) In 1962 the land, let as allotments, yielded £3. By will proved in 1933 Joseph Worboys gave £100 in trust, the income to be distributed to the poor, aged, and infirm in coal in the first week of December; in 1961 the revenue was £2 13s. 8d., which the rector distributed in coal at the rate of 3s. 6d. a hearth in October. (fn. 325) In 1967 the proceeds of both charities were being distributed in cash for the relief of poor, sick, or handicapped people. (fn. 326)