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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Coton stands 2 miles west of Cambridge. (fn. 1) It was originally dependent upon Grantchester, and grew into a separate parish during the Middle Ages. Its modern southern boundary with Grantchester was not fixed until the inclosure award of 1803. (fn. 2) Coton is mostly bounded to the north by the road from Cambridge to St. Neots, but includes one field beyond it, in the angle with the Madingley road. Coton's eastern and western boundaries follow the edges of furlongs contiguous with those in the open fields of Cambridge and Barton. After 1803 the parish contained 970 a. (fn. 3) North of the village the ground rises steadily to Madingley Hill, reaching over 200 ft. in the north-west corner. To the southwest it rises relatively sharply to the 150 ft. of Barton Down. From the summits of those hills, where boulder clay overlies chalk, the land descends to a level, lying between 75 and 50 ft. on the gault, from which coprolites have been dug. (fn. 4) Formerly the parish was predominantly arable. By the 1920s the fields north-east of the village had been converted to fruit-growing.
The village runs east and west along the spring line, on the south slope of Madingley Hill, a little above the course of the Coton brook, which flows east from Hardwick and below Coton village turns south-east, to become the Bin brook at Stonebridge, at the south-eastern extremity of Coton parish. Just upstream from the village, in Barton parish, lay the former village of Whitwell, divided by the down from its parent village of Barton, as Coton was from Grantchester. In the Middle Ages Coton had many links with Whitwell, whose inhabitants witnessed Coton charters as often as men from Grantchester. (fn. 5) There was also some intermingling of land-holding. The houses of Coton lay mostly along the village street, which widens into a green east of the church. There the smithy once stood, and the village pump remained in 1970. Old closes extended further south, beyond the modern Manor Farm, where properties divided by lanes were called the Pightles and Backside close. (fn. 6) Other closes, Ronds, Long close, and Amthills, lay eastwards, along a lane, surviving as a footpath in 1970, towards Cambridge. (fn. 7) Among Coton's older secular buildings is a timber-framed house extended in brick, but retaining an original two-storeyed porch and some small old windows cut out of the timber-framing. The stump of a village cross stands on the Grantchester road by the lane leading to Manor Farm. That farm does not represent a medieval manor-house, but was built in the late 18th century (fn. 8) as the farm-house in Coton of a manor owned by King's College and centred on Grantchester. It was damaged by fire in 1830 and partly rebuilt c. 1860. (fn. 9)
The site of Catharine Hall Farm was occupied from the 16th century by the tenants of St. Catharine's College, which had acquired Coton D'Engaine manor. (fn. 10) Dovehouse close, south of the farm-house, probably recalls the manorial dovecot, and Well close to the west, with its moat surrounding the Victorian rectory, also once belonged to that manor. (fn. 11) The rectory farmstead contains a boarded 18th-century dovecot and barn. (fn. 12) Few houses in the village are older than the 19th century, when several groups of cottages were put up, often named after the farmers who built them. (fn. 13) In the 1940s council housing, including eventually c. 70 dwellings, was built west of the village, south of Whitwell Way. The gap between the council estate and the village was filled with another housing estate in the 1960s, and ribbons of new housing were built to the west along Whitwell Way, and to the east along the way towards Cambridge. By 1912 a mansion called Coton Court had been built near the top of Madingley Hill. (fn. 14)
No figures for the population of Coton, separately from those for Grantchester, are available before 1500. In 1524 22 persons paid the subsidy. (fn. 15) Coton contained 21 families in 1563. (fn. 16) In 1662 18 houses were recorded, in 1666 30, and in 1674 24. (fn. 17) There were 75 adults in 1676 (fn. 18) and 30 families in 1685. (fn. 19) In 1728 25 families included 122 persons. (fn. 20) The population rose from 126 in 1801 to 228 by 1821 and 273 by 1841, reaching 390 in 1871. Subsequently it declined to 257 in 1901, but recovered again to 316 in 1911 and 347 in 1931. New building raised it by 1951 to 519, but there had been no further increase by 1961. (fn. 21)
Coton is close to the main road from Cambridge to St. Neots, called formerly St. Neots way. Ancient ways, straightened at inclosure, crossed the fields to Whitwell and Grantchester. Endless way led eastward towards Cambridge, (fn. 22) and Clint way southeast through Clint field to the main road from Cambridge to Arrington Bridge. (fn. 23) In 1851 the village had two public houses, the Plough and the John Barleycorn. (fn. 24) Both still existed in 1970. By the 19th century the village feast was being held on 6 June. (fn. 25) It was still being visited by travelling showmen in the 1930s. (fn. 26) About 1930 the Cambridgeshire Preservation Society, to preserve the extensive view of Cambridge from Madingley Hill, bought much land on the southern slopes in Coton. In 1931 the society also acquired the larger part of Manor farm. (fn. 27)
Manors and Other Estates.
In 1086 Count Eustace of Boulogne held in chief 2¾ hides in Grantchester and Coton, with two knights as his under-tenants, (fn. 28) one of whom, Rumold, had land in Coton, (fn. 29) which later became the manor of COTON D'ENGAINE. The Coton manor was probably among the lands whose overlordship Count Eustace granted to his illegitimate son Geoffrey. Geoffrey's son William was dead by 1130 when his son Pharamus held his lands. (fn. 30) Pharamus died in 1183. (fn. 31) His heir was his daughter Sibyl, called de Tingry, wife of a nobleman of the Boulonnais, Enguerrand de Fiennes, (fn. 32) said to have died on the Third Crusade. (fn. 33) About 1206 Sibyl transferred control of her heritage to her son William de Fiennes, (fn. 34) who died c. 1243 and was succeeded by his son Enguerrand (fn. 35) (d. 1270). (fn. 36) Enguerrand's son and heir William (fn. 37) sold his overlordship of Coton in 1282 to Robert Burnel, bishop of Bath and Wells (fn. 38) (d. 1292). His heir was his nephew, Sir Philip Burnel (d. 1294), who was succeeded by his son Edward, Lord Burnel (d. 1315), whose sister and heir married Sir John Haudlo (fn. 39) who was said in 1323 to hold the estate in chief. (fn. 40) His rights descended to his heirs, the lords Burnel, and their coheirs.
By the 1190s the manor was held under Pharamus's heirs for ¼ knight's fee by the Engaine family. (fn. 41) Richard Engaine, who had succeeded his father Richard in 1177, (fn. 42) probably died c. 1216 (fn. 43) and was succeeded by his younger son Viel (d. 1248). (fn. 44) Viel's eldest son Henry (fn. 45) died without issue in 1272. (fn. 46) His heir was his brother John (d. 1297), (fn. 47) who with his wife Joan settled Coton on their younger son Nicholas Engaine (d. 1322). Nicholas's son and heir John succeeded also to the lands of his uncle John, Lord Engaine (d. 1322), (fn. 48) and died in 1358. (fn. 49) Thomas, his eldest surviving son and successor, died in 1368, having granted Coton to feoffees. (fn. 50) His coheirs, his three sisters and their husbands, (fn. 51) divided his lands among themselves in 1372. Coton, however, they assigned not to any of the coheirs, but to John Hemingford (d. by 1396) of Grafham (Hunts.) and his heirs. (fn. 52) From Hemingford it had passed by 1391 to Ralph Gidding, (fn. 53) a wool-merchant of Huntingdon, (fn. 54) probably dead by 1400. (fn. 55) In 1405 his feoffees granted his lands at Coton and elsewhere to his son George, (fn. 56) later bailiff of Huntingdon (fn. 57) (d. after 1434). (fn. 58) George's son John received his lands in 1437, (fn. 59) and between 1439 and 1454 sold off c. 87 a. at Coton in small parcels to various buyers, including several burgesses of Cambridge. (fn. 60) Among them was Robert Wodelarke, provost of King's College 1452–79, who began to buy land from Gidding in 1452, (fn. 61) and continued to purchase fragments of the Engaine demesne over the next 20 years. John Gidding was dead by 1456, when his brother and heir Ralph released to Wodelarke's feoffees his manorial rights and remaining lands in Coton. (fn. 62) In 1475 Wodelarke transferred his acquisitions, amounting to c. 133 a., to his foundation of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. (fn. 63) In 1513 the college bought in addition Maidenbury's manor in Coton, the descent of which is given below. The college's land in Coton, comprising after inclosure 275 a., was sold in 1920. (fn. 64)
In 1086 two knights held three virgates, formerly held by five sokemen, of Guy de Reimbercourt. (fn. 65) The tenancy-in-chief descended with Guy's barony of Warden from his son Richard through the Foliots and Ledets to the Latimers. (fn. 66) Who held the manor of them is not certain until c. 1235 when Henry Rond held it as ½ knight's fee. (fn. 67) By 1279 the fee was divided. Part, including 15 a. held by villeins, was divided between Roger Thornton and Philip St. Clowe, husbands of the daughters and heirs of Nicholas le Vavassour of Malton, who had held 20 a. in Coton in 1266. (fn. 68) Roger Thornton survived until 1292. (fn. 69) By 1299 the heir of his land was Eleanor, daughter of Bartholomew Thornton. (fn. 70) By 1312 she had married Ralph son of William, of Shepreth, (fn. 71) named as owner in 1316. (fn. 72) Eleanor, who was under age in 1299, was returned as still holding the land in 1346. (fn. 73) Its subsequent descent is uncertain. Philip St. Clowe's share had come by 1302 to Nicholas St. Clowe, probably his son (d. after 1316), (fn. 74) who by 1325 had been succeeded by Richard St. Clowe (fn. 75) (d. after 1346). John St. Clowe, who held the family land in Malton in 1354 and 1362, (fn. 76) was followed by George St. Clowe (fl. 1381–94). (fn. 77) The land afterwards passed to William St. Clowe, and next to Edmund St. Clowe, who held it between 1410 and 1421. (fn. 78) The same or another Edmund St. Clowe owned it between 1438 and 1471. (fn. 79)
The greater part of Henry Rond's land, including c. 40 a. in demesne and 20 a. held by tenants, was held in 1279 of William l'Enveise by Agnes Maidenbury by knight service. (fn. 80) The same year she granted it to John, her son by Hugh Maidenbury, (fn. 81) who still held it in 1302. John Maidenbury, lord in 1316, died in 1331. (fn. 82) Another John Maidenbury was in 1340 and 1346 lord of the estate (fn. 83) called MAIDENBURYS by 1389. (fn. 84) In 1395 Richard Maidenbury owned it, and in 1400 Geoffrey Maidenbury; (fn. 85) Geoffrey was succeeded by Thomas Maidenbury (d. by 1421) (fn. 86) and Thomas's sons, John (d. by 1432) and William, in possession in 1439. (fn. 87) In 1458 William conveyed it to feoffees (fn. 88) who in 1475 granted Maidenburys to John Fyn, clerk. (fn. 89) Fyn's grandfather Roger (fl. 1409–56) (fn. 90) and father John (fl. 1429–70) (fn. 91) had accumulated land which came to him when his brother Roger died, before 1476. (fn. 92) When John Fyn died, serving Henry VII in the Welsh March, in 1505, (fn. 93) his heir was Joan, wife of Rowland Loftes, who in 1506 sold their manor, then containing c. 230 a. including 182 a. in Coton, to Sir Robert Southwell and Edmund Dudley (executed 1510). In 1513 Southwell sold it to St. Catharine's College. (fn. 94)
Much land in Coton also belonged to the manors of Burwash and Jaks in Grantchester. (fn. 95) King's College, as their lord, was allotted 292 a. in Coton at inclosure to form its Manor farm. The land was sold c. 1925. (fn. 96) Part of the manor called Jaks, however, had come to St. John's College. Probably before 1200 John de Fercles granted Hereward son of Richard a virgate which he subsequently confirmed to Hereward's nephew and heir Simon de Bernes. (fn. 97) About 1243 Simon's son Giles granted the 30 a. to St. John's Hospital, Cambridge. (fn. 98) During the 13th century the hospital received many small parcels of land, mostly in Down field and Clint field, from Cambridge burgesses and villagers of Coton and Newnham. (fn. 99) The lands came to St. John's College upon its foundation, (fn. 100) and c. 1544 it owned c. 40 a. in Coton. (fn. 101) In 1652 it bought from Prudence, widow of John Hayward, late rector, a farm of 32 a. called Maidwells. (fn. 102) At inclosure the college was allotted c. 60 a. (fn. 103) Queens' College, which had land in Coton by 1545, was allotted 31 a. (fn. 104)
The arable of Coton parish was formerly divided into five fields. (fn. 105) North of the village lay, to the west, Up field (fn. 106) (formerly called Grave field (fn. 107) after Madingley wood across the St. Neots road), and, to the east, Moor field, (fn. 108) which abutted on Lady moor, (fn. 109) common meadow of the village. To the south-west was West field, (fn. 110) and beyond, across the West or Fartonwell brook, (fn. 111) Down field, partly intercommonable with Grantchester. (fn. 112) The land in it farmed from Coton lay mostly on the slope and summit of the Down. (fn. 113) Eastwards, across the Coton brook, Clint field stretched south-east from the village (fn. 114) to the Aldfeld green or Castle mead by the Bin brook, a meadow also shared with Grantchester. (fn. 115) The fields were cultivated on a three-year rotation, Up field being probably joined with Moor field, and West field with Down field, for that purpose. (fn. 116)
The Domesday account of Coton is submerged in that of Grantchester. (fn. 117) Of the manors later recorded, that of the Engaines was not large. In 1248 its demesne was given as 60 a., (fn. 118) in 1272 and 1322 as 80 a., (fn. 119) and in 1360 as 96 a. (fn. 120) Its seven free tenants had only 11 a. between them in 1279, and its eight villeins only 5 a. each. (fn. 121) In 1248 their works were being commuted for 2s. each. (fn. 122) In 1360 Thomas Engaine leased 96 a. of demesne to a group of 8 tenants headed by the rector for 8d. an acre. (fn. 123) On the Ledet manor free tenants held c. 20 a., 3 villeins only 15 a. (fn. 124) Burwash manor, centred in Grantchester, had wider property: c. 1400, 22 a. in demesne in Coton, mostly in Down and Clint fields, and much customary land. (fn. 125) There were seven greater virgates, then of 18 a., and one lesser, of c. 12 a., yielding mainly rent, apart from two harvest-boons. Between them they covered c. 140 a., and free tenants of Burwash held another 40 a. (fn. 126)
By the 16th century any separate manorial organization in Coton had largely disintegrated. At inclosure 37 a. out of 40 a. allotted for copyhold were said to be held of King's College, only 3 a. of the Engaine manor. (fn. 127) What regulation of agricultural routine was necessary was accomplished by sessions for Coton of King's College's court at Grantchester. Thus that court fixed the stints of cattle, 2 oxen for every 20 a., and 2 bullocks and a breeder for each cottager. New cottagers in 1592 were restricted to one breeder each. (fn. 128) The court also attempted to prevent farmers who had land in Madingley also from putting all their stock on the commons in Coton, (fn. 129) and to hinder St. Catharine's from establishing a separate fold for its manor. (fn. 130) That college, however, still claimed in the 18th century 147 nights' folding of the town flock. (fn. 131)
The 16th century saw land at Coton being concentrated into larger farms, mostly owned by Cambridge colleges. Thus Queens' owned a third of the 52 a. held of St. Catharine's for assized rents in 1510. (fn. 132) At first Provost Wodelarke had let out the former Engaine demesne in small lots for 1s. an acre. In 1469 Robert Clive leased 19¼ a. for 19s. 3d. (fn. 133) By 1510, of the 167 a. belonging to St. Catharine's, including recent purchases, 109 a. were occupied by two farmers, one of whom, Nicholas Angier, farmed 62 a. (fn. 134) The college's property was later mostly combined into a single farm, containing c. 130 a., called Lordship, and later Catharine Hall, farm. (fn. 135) The Fyn estate bought in 1513 was probably represented by a farm called Four Pound and Forty Shilling land, covering in the 17th century c. 145 a. in Coton. (fn. 136) Among the peasants, too, holdings were being consolidated. The most prosperous of them took over the college leases. Thus by 1557 William Cole held, by inheritance and otherwise, 58 a. from King's College. (fn. 137) By 1572 his son John had the lease of King's College's demesne in Coton, c. 84 a. (fn. 138) By 1541 St. Catharine's had leased its Four Pound and Forty Shilling land to Thomas Martin, whose family in 1570 owned 60 a. in Coton and elsewhere. (fn. 139)
Most successful in engrossing lands was Richard Angier, of a family coming from Barton. (fn. 140) In 1551 he leased Lordship farm from St. Catharine's for 40 years. (fn. 141) In 1570 he bought from John Martin his inherited land and his lease from St. Catharine's, and in 1574 purchased from John Cole his 100 a. and the King's College lease, and so came to control most of the land in the parish. (fn. 142) Angier, a lawyer of Gray's Inn, (fn. 143) lived 'in continual wrangling' with all his neighbours and landlords, asserting his claims even with fire-arms. (fn. 144) In 1576 St. Catharine's accused him before the Star Chamber of interpolating a terrier which he had borrowed, to conceal his encroachments on their property, and even of claiming the patronage of the rectory. The court acquitted him in 1579 of the forgery, but convicted him of felling timber without licence. (fn. 145) King's College alleged in 1595 that Angier had taken over from John Cole much demesne land that Cole's grandfather John, as the college's bailiff and farmer at Coton, had appropriated to himself as copyhold. (fn. 146) Angier had given up both of his leases at Coton (fn. 147) before he was murdered in 1597 by his son Richard. (fn. 148) His freeholds and copyholds there went to his sixth son, Edward (d. 1625), (fn. 149) who himself was involved in long lawsuits with St. John's College from 1607 over disputed boundaries. (fn. 150) Edward's son Edward later sold much of his land to John Hayward, (fn. 151) rector 1607–51, (fn. 152) from whom it passed to St. John's. (fn. 153)
Most of the parish remained in the hands of the colleges' farmers, paying rents partly in kind. The lessees of St. Catharine's at Lordship farm included Sir John Coke, Secretary of State, in 1634, and Richard Hatley of Haslingfield from 1685 to 1701, followed by his son Edmund to 1727 and grandson Arthur to 1749. (fn. 154) In the 1770s the college abandoned the system of beneficial leases and fines, in favour of rack-rents. Thus its rents from Coton were increased from £24 a year in 1774 to £160 in 1777. (fn. 155) By 1796 its land at Coton, except for 73 a. let to Joshua Waterhouse, then rector, was united into a single farm let to John Reynolds. (fn. 156) The King's College farm, which included 106 a. in Down field, (fn. 157) was rented from the late 18th century by John Angier (d. 1805) and his son John (d. 1835). (fn. 158) Coton was inclosed in 1803 under the same Act as Grantchester, (fn. 159) and the intermingled properties in the two sets of fields were almost disentangled. St. Catharine's College was allotted 275 a. along the east side of the parish, besides 15 a. in Grantchester, farmed with their land in Barton. (fn. 160) King's College obtained 292 a. in the south of Coton, (fn. 161) St. John's received 60 a. and Queen's 31 a. north of the village. (fn. 162) The rector was allotted 141 a. for his tithes and glebe. Corpus Christi obtained 34 a., adjoining its allotment in Grantchester, for its tithes due from Coton. (fn. 163) The town estate received 17 a., William Collis 28 a., the Angier family 17½ a., and nine other individual allotments, none exceeding 12 a., amounted to 54 a., including 6 a. allotted for common rights. (fn. 164)
The Angiers probably continued to lease the King's College farm, later called Manor farm, until the 1850s. In 1855 Henry, second son of John Angier (d. 1835), sold the family land and left the parish. (fn. 165) He was followed there by John and Emily Hunt, whose descendants were still farming it in the 1930s. (fn. 166) The Reynolds family farmed the St. Catharine's College farm until the 1890s. (fn. 167) The three smaller farms all remained independent until the Queen's College farm disappeared in the 1860s. (fn. 168) Apart from the farmers and a few craftsmen, the population consisted almost entirely of farm-labourers. In 1821 37 out of 42 families depended on agriculture for their living. (fn. 169) The village saw trouble during the 'Swing' riots in 1830. On 2 December John Angier's farmstead and stacks were burnt down and he lost goods worth £1,720. (fn. 170) In 1861 52 of the inhabitants were agricultural labourers, and 7 others were engaged in the coprolite diggings (fn. 171) that continued from c. 1858 to c. 1875. (fn. 172) The village suffered during the agricultural depression. The farmer of Catharine Hall farm, William Reynolds, unable to meet his rent of £498, found his arrears of unpaid rent rise from £237 in 1879 to £1,089 in 1883, and had to sell his inherited land to the college to help clear the debt. (fn. 173) In 1896 a new tenant would take the farm, at £360 a year, only if he was allowed to put 160 a. down to grass. (fn. 174) In 1897 240 out of 260 inhabitants still belonged to the labouring class, but some were obliged to go to work in Cambridge. (fn. 175) St. Catharine's College provided some assistance by leasing in 1897 7 a. to the parish council for allotments in place of the town estate which had been lost after litigation. (fn. 176) The college's farmer was paying only £160 a year for 208 a. in Coton when it sold the farm in 1920, (fn. 177) and King's College was receiving only £265 a year for its farm of 363 a., including 311 a. in Coton, when it sold it in 1925. (fn. 178) Coton still contained four farms in 1937. (fn. 179)
No mill is recorded in Coton. Millhill furlong was probably named after a windmill across the border in Madingley. (fn. 180)
The Engaines neither claimed nor exercised on their manor in Coton any jurisdiction higher than that of a court baron. (fn. 181) The court rolls which survive from 1706, followed by a court book from 1735 to 1823, form simply a register of title to copyhold. (fn. 182) Leet jurisdiction in Coton from the 16th century was exercised by King's College's court of Grantchester with Coton manor, probably by inheritance from Burwash manor court which was handling Coton business in 1396. (fn. 183) In the 15th century a single session dealt with both villages, (fn. 184) but by 1550 their affairs were separated. Coton had its own headboroughs and presenting jury, paid a separate common fine, and was electing its own constables. (fn. 185) The manorial administration co-operated with the developing vestry. When in 1591 the lord and his tenants gave a man leave to inclose 5 roods from the common field, the price that he paid was to go to the churchwardens. (fn. 186)
In 1664 the overseers already had money intended for setting the poor to work. (fn. 187) The sum devoted to poor-relief rose from £24 in 1776 to £93 in 1803, when 30 people were relieved. (fn. 188) It reached a peak of £175 in 1814, and during the next 10 years varied between £71 and £93, apart from an increase to £126 in 1819. (fn. 189) In 1836 the parish was included in the Chesterton poor law union, (fn. 190) and it remained in the Chesterton R.D. in 1970.
As the hamlet of Coton was tenurially part of Grantchester, so was its chapel of St. Peter dependent upon Grantchester church. In 1198 the patronage of the chapel was in dispute between John de Fercles, who held the Boulogne fee in Grantchester, with the advowson there, and Richard Engaine, lord of the smaller fee in Coton. In 1200 Richard brought an assize of darrein presentment against John's son Geoffrey to assert his rights. The rector of Grantchester maintained that, although there might be a priest called parson in the chapel at Coton, he was himself parson of the chapel, and that no vacancy had arisen. (fn. 191) Richard's son Viel recovered the advowson against Geoffrey by default in 1223, (fn. 192) and the chapel gradually established its independence. It was separately taxed in 1254, though not in 1276, (fn. 193) and its priest was called a rector by the late 13th century. (fn. 194) Not until 1384 was an agreement reached by which the vicar of Grantchester permitted the rector of Coton to bury parishioners in Coton churchyard, upon payment to the vicar of 3d. for each such burial. (fn. 195) The impropriator and vicar of Grantchester still received tithe from 480 a. in Down field and part of Clint field in Coton until inclosure. (fn. 196) In the 13th century the prior of Barnwell had a portion of 4s. in Coton. (fn. 197) The prior of St. Neots claimed tithes upon the Burwash demesne lands in Down field, (fn. 198) which Nicholas Marable, rector from c. 1378 to 1400, released to him for a yearly pension of 6s. 8d. (fn. 199)
The advowson of Coton descended with Coton D'Engaine manor, and passed with it to the Giddings. In 1453 John Gidding sold, and in 1455 his brother Ralph released, the advowson to Robert Wodelarke, (fn. 200) who later conveyed it to his foundation, St. Catharine's College, which in the 16th century granted several turns as, or in repayment of, favours, (fn. 201) and still owned the patronage in the 1960s. In 1254 the rectory was taxed at £5, in 1291 at 10 marks. (fn. 202) It was excused through poverty from paying clerical subsidies in the mid 15th century, (fn. 203) and was worth only £6 12s. 10d. in 1535. (fn. 204) The glebe amounted to 16½ a., (fn. 205) including probably the croft and 2½ a. given to the rector to support the church in 1392. (fn. 206) When measured before inclosure it came to 14½ a. (fn. 207) In 1650 the rectory was worth £40 10s., (fn. 208) in 1718 £42 11s. 7d. (fn. 209) At inclosure the rector received 22 a. for his glebe and 120 a. for the tithes then extinguished. (fn. 210) His gross income was £240 c. 1830, (fn. 211) and £239 in 1873, when St. Catharine's College had recently given £500 to augment the benefice, hoping that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners would match that sum. (fn. 212) By 1897 income from the glebe had fallen to £70, but the patrons gave another £70. (fn. 213) Between 1907 and 1926 income fluctuated around £150 a year. (fn. 214) The glebe was sold to its tenant in 1920. (fn. 215)
By the 16th century the parsonage house already stood on its modern site east of the church. (fn. 216) The rectors enlarged their messuage through a permanent lease from St. Catharine's after 1565 of the Dovehouse close, (fn. 217) acquiring the freehold, with that of the adjoining Well close, by exchange at inclosure. (fn. 218) The house fell into disrepair in the late 18th century, and after Joshua Waterhouse's time had to be entirely rebuilt in 1835. (fn. 219)
In 1361 the church contained a guild of its patron, St. Peter. (fn. 220) In 1481 there were guilds of St. Helen and St. Catharine, (fn. 221) the latter with a guildhall, whose rent its alderman paid. (fn. 222) A 'lamp half-acre' yielded every third year a rent to pay for a light in the church. (fn. 223) John Lenton's bequest in 1503 of rents to support lights before the Virgin, and obits for his family, (fn. 224) is apparently still commemorated by fragments of inscribed glass in the east window of the south aisle, probably marking the site of the Lady altar. (fn. 225)
Parsons are occasionally recorded at Coton from c. 1200. (fn. 226) Only one rector before 1464 is known to have had a degree, William Aslakby, presented in 1323 in place of a relative. (fn. 227) Thomas Stratton, rector c. 1350, sometimes served the Engaines as a feoffee. (fn. 228) Between 1400 and 1406 the poor living had five successive rectors. (fn. 229) Robert Wodelarke held the benefice himself 1471–4. (fn. 230) Thereafter, until 1546, it was occupied by fellows of St. Catharine's College, including Richard Balderstone, master 1506–7, who may have come from a Coton family. (fn. 231) Not until the 1650s were such fellows again regularly presented. Thereafter Coton was so frequently held with a fellowship that in 1795 the Lord Chancellor ruled that, to ensure its compatibility with one, it might be reckoned only as a chaplaincy. (fn. 232) The custom of presenting fellows lasted until 1869, and even thereafter former members of the college were normally presented. (fn. 233)
James Wilson, rector in 1546, married in 1548 and so was deprived in 1555. (fn. 234) Coton had only two incumbents between 1565 and 1651, John Cragge (1565–1605), who waged bitterly the college's struggle with its farmer, Richard Angier, and John Hayward (1607–51). (fn. 235) Hayward, though he had royalist sympathies and was still using the Book of Common Prayer in 1650, was not ejected by the parliamentarians. (fn. 236) Later rectors included James Calamy (1678–83), son of the puritan divine, Edmund Calamy; John Leng (1697–1708), bishop of Norwich 1723–7; and Christopher Wilson (1741– 4), bishop of Bristol 1783–92. (fn. 237) Rectors were resident in 1663 and 1728, (fn. 238) but in 1775 and 1783 Philip Gardiner, then rector, was living in his rooms in college. (fn. 239) Joshua Waterhouse, presented in 1788, disappointed both in love and in his attempt in 1799 to become master of St. Catharine's, (fn. 240) retired to his living, (fn. 241) where he declined into extreme rusticity and miserliness. He was murdered by a burglar in 1827 at his other living of Little Stukely (Hunts.). (fn. 242) His curate, who ascribed the increase of dissent to the worldliness and scandalous lives of the clergy, was beginning in 1825 to increase the number of his communicants from its previous exiguity to 12 or 13. (fn. 243) S. S. Risby, rector 1827–69, who also served as curate at Hardwick, (fn. 244) had by 1851 raised his congregation to 90, out of 299 inhabitants, besides 64 Sunday-school children. (fn. 245) There were c. 25 or 30 communicants in 1873, when the villagers commonly attended both church and chapel. (fn. 246) In 1897 36 out of 60 families were churchgoers. (fn. 247)
The church of ST. PETER is mostly built of field stones, clunch, and freestone, and has a chancel, aisled nave with north and south porches, and west tower. In the 12th and 13th centuries there does not appear to have been more than a nave and chancel, at least the chancel having walls of jurassic limestone. Also of the 12th century is the font, rudely carved with arcading, removed in the 19th century from the south aisle to the tower. (fn. 248) The south aisle was added in the early 14th century, and was heightened and refenestrated before 1400, at the same time as it was extended westwards and the tower with its spire was built. A scratched inscription on the south respond of the tower arch has been interpreted as recording the beginning of the construction of the arch in 1481, (fn. 249) but cannot be reconciled with the stylistic dating. The chancel arch was enlarged to the full width of the chancel in the early 15th century and the screen and seating in the nave are of the same period. The north aisle and the north and south porches were built c. 1500. A former roof-line visible on the east face of the tower suggests that the nave roof may have been lowered.
The church survived from the 16th to the 19th century without excessive dilapidation, although the chancel was sometimes filled with rubbish or used to store timber. (fn. 250) In the early 17th century the chancel appears to have been refitted, with new stalls and new doors to the screen, and a monument to Andrew Downes (d. 1627), Regius Professor of Greek and a translator of the Apocrypha for the Authorized Version, (fn. 251) was fixed to the south wall. The church was partly restored in 1863–4. Between 1876 and 1880 the chancel was reconstructed, the east wall being entirely rebuilt. Other windows were inserted and a small annexe added to the north. The spire was rebuilt in the 1890s, (fn. 252) and the tower and spire again repaired c. 1925. (fn. 253) The organ was moved from the rood-loft to the south aisle in the 1960s. The tower contained three bells in 1552 and in 1744. (fn. 254) The earliest, probably 15th-century, with its blackletter inscription to the Virgin Mary, may have been founded at Bury St. Edmunds. The others are dated 1581 and 1781. (fn. 255) A chalice of 1711 has been deposited in the Fitzwilliam Museum. (fn. 256) The parish registers begin in 1630. (fn. 257)
There were four protestant dissenters in Coton in 1676, (fn. 258) and three Independents were recorded in 1728. (fn. 259) A house was registered for protestant nonconformist worship in 1779, (fn. 260) and in 1783 there was one family of dissenters. (fn. 261) There was another registration in 1805, (fn. 262) and in 1807 the Methodists had a licensed dwelling-house. (fn. 263) In 1808 and 1816 there were two more registrations. (fn. 264) The St. Andrew's Street Baptist chapel in Cambridge founded a 'village station' or local chapel in a house at Coton c. 1810. (fn. 265)
For most of the 19th century many of the inhabitants attended both church and chapel. The curate reported in 1825 that there were many Independents and Baptists. (fn. 266) Their meeting-house included a Sunday school, the only public school in the parish. The teachers were generally shopkeepers or journeymen, and it was said that a journeyman cooper frequently preached on Sunday evenings. Most of the people went also to church, thinking 'that if they can but hear that which is good, it is no matter where or from whom'. (fn. 267) A dissenting Sunday school was recorded in 1836, but the children were taught by churchmen, went to church, and were confirmed by the bishop. (fn. 268) The school was closed c. 1848 when the National school was opened. (fn. 269) In 1851 the Baptist chapel had seating for 80–90, and a congregation of 70, and an afternoon service was usually held once a fortnight. (fn. 270)
In 1862, or shortly before, the Baptist chapel was apparently replaced by an Evangelical Protestant chapel, which was to be dependent on the St. Andrew's Street, Downing Street, and East Road Zion chapels in Cambridge. (fn. 271) It was said to be of no particular denomination in 1873, when it was served from Cambridge, and the inhabitants were apparently taught to go to church and chapel. (fn. 272) By 1897 its denomination was Baptist and there were 16 chapel families. (fn. 273) In the following year it had 10 members, and it was apparently subordinate to the Mill Road church in Cambridge. (fn. 274) There were 120 sittings in 1908, (fn. 275) and 100 in 1930. (fn. 276)
From the early 20th century the chapel was in membership with the Baptist Union, (fn. 277) and usually shared a minister with Barton, Comberton, and Grantchester. (fn. 278) It was registered for worship (fn. 279) and marriage (fn. 280) in 1929, and in 1930 it was part of the West Group of the Cambridge Village Preachers Association. (fn. 281) Eighteen members were recorded in 1921, 19 in 1940, and 17 in 1969. (fn. 282)
William Adams, by will proved in 1849, gave £200 to the minister and deacons of the St. Andrew's Street Baptist chapel in Cambridge, for the support of the dissenting Sunday school in Coton, or if there was no such school for bread for the poor of the parish at Christmas. (fn. 283) The Sunday school received £4 11s. in 1969. (fn. 284)
A schoolmistress was teaching some children to read in 1783, (fn. 289) and in 1818 there was a school with 15 pupils and 22 children attended a Sunday school. (fn. 290) In 1825 the only public school was the Sunday school held in the meeting-house of the Independents and Baptists. (fn. 291) It had 20–30 children in 1833, when there were two day-schools attended by 20–40 boys and girls, who were taught at their parents' expense. (fn. 292) The dissenting Sunday school was supported by subscription in 1836. (fn. 293) There was also a British school. (fn. 294)
In 1844 the rector had for some years been sole contributor to a small day-school held in a cottage. There were 40 pupils in 1847 when the schoolmistress had recently become a Baptist, but went to church sometimes, and 47 children attended a Church Sunday school. In 1848 a National school, including probably a teacher's house, was opened (fn. 295) on a site given by St. Catharine's College, (fn. 296) with the aid of grants from the government (fn. 297) and the National Society. The schoolroom was built larger than originally planned, to accommodate the children from the dissenting Sunday and British schools, which were closed. (fn. 298)
School pence were charged on a graduated scale in 1870. The site was apparently enlarged, the teacher's house improved, and a new schoolroom completed in 1872, (fn. 299) with the aid of grants from the government (fn. 300) and the National Society. (fn. 301) There was a certificated teacher in 1872, (fn. 302) and in 1873 the dayschool was attended by 15 boys, 21 girls, and 33 infants, and the Sunday school had 70 children. There was an evening school for adults in 1873, (fn. 303) and also from 1895 to 1901 with an attendance of between 8 and 14. (fn. 304)
Average attendance at the day-school increased from 47 in 1899 (fn. 305) to 67 in 1921–2. (fn. 306) By 1925 the school had been overcrowded for some time, and as a temporary measure the infants were taught in the village institute. The school buildings were improved, and a new classroom was completed in 1927 with the aid of a grant from the National Society. (fn. 307) Average attendance was 61 in 1937–8, (fn. 308) and new buildings replaced the old c. 1968. The school was Controlled in 1970, when there were 82 children, and those over 11 went to Comberton village college. (fn. 309)
Charities for the Poor.
A house, croft, and forge belonged to the churchwardens in 1589, (fn. 310) and Anthony Ivatt probably gave c. 6½ a. to the parish in 1633–4. (fn. 311) In 1663 rent from the town land, the guildhall, and other properties was £5 16s., including £1 7s. from Ivatt's gift. The town lands were let for £10 11s. in 1775, (fn. 312) and in 1783 the profits of the following properties were used for the repair of the church: 19 a. let to poorer people, probably for 5s. an acre, an orchard let for 6s., and three houses let for c. £6 in all. (fn. 313) The trustees of the town lands were allotted 15 a. at inclosure in 1803, (fn. 314) and c. 1831 farmers ploughed the land for the poor, to whom it was let for 12s. an acre, about half its true value. (fn. 315) In 1837 the church and town estate consisted of four tenements called the guildhall, one of which was let for £2 a year, the other three and a small house being occupied rent-free by paupers, a forge let for £1 1s., a cottage with 2 a. let for £10, and 18 a. of allotments let for £10 4s. Income was used to repair the church and, apparently, the charity's houses, the remainder being carried to the poor's rates. Rent for the allotments was last paid in 1848 at 12s. an acre, and thereafter the tenants were willing to pay only the former rent of 4s., which the trustees refused. Legal action to recover the land was first taken in 1858 and finally succeeded in 1869. The property other than the allotments was sold for £351 in 1866, and the allotments for £2,070 in 1869. All the proceeds of sale went towards legal costs of £3, 276.
Richard Angier by will dated 1596 and proved, notwithstanding his revocation, in 1600, gave a rent-charge of 20s. for the poor of Coton. (fn. 316) In 1775 20s. a year for coal was received, (fn. 317) and in 1837 it was used with other money to buy coal for the poor. It was redeemed for £40 stock in 1949.
Before 1775 John Watson gave a rent-charge of 6d. a week for bread for the poor. (fn. 318) About £1 3s. was received in 1837, when 6d. a week was spent on bread for two poor widows, the deficiency being met from the rates. The payment was redeemed for £45 10s. stock in 1947. By 1951 Angier's charity and Watson's gift were administered together, and their combined annual income was £2 2s. 8d. In 1965 the Charity Commissioners authorized distribution in money or in kind to the poor of Coton at the trustees' discretion.
William Collis, by will proved in 1820, gave a rent-charge of £1 for coal for the poor. (fn. 319) In 1837 the gift was added to and distributed with Angier's charity, but when the land charged with the payment was sold c. 1860 the charity was lost.