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 Caxton lies 11 miles west of Cambridge and 7 miles east of St. Neots (Hunts.). It is triangular in shape, the northern side roughly corresponding to the line of the road between the two towns. Part of its western boundary is also the boundary between Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire. Ermine Street, formerly part of the Great North Road, and later the Old North Road, bisects the parish, entering in the north by Caxton Gibbet, and leaving in the south where it forms the boundary between Bourn and Caxton. (fn. 1)
The parish lies on undulating ground falling from over 200 ft. in the north to under 150 ft. at the Bourn brook, and then rising again gently towards Longstowe. A number of small brooks, mostly flowing from the west, and two dry denes, form small lateral valleys. The land is largely boulder clay (fn. 2) and the village probably originated as a late Scandinavian settlement in a wooded area. (fn. 3) Timber was available for houses and fences in the 11th century, (fn. 4) and 'weald' and 'wald' in names in the 12th century similarly indicate the presence of woods. (fn. 5)
Whereas the village later developed along the road, it is noticeable that the church is sited some distance away, and lies isolated to the south-west of the modern village. Three surviving medieval moated sites lie even further from the road. Caxton Moats, almost certainly the site in the 14th century of the dower-house for the manor, (fn. 6) has traces of Saxon or Norman occupation (fn. 7) and parts may have formed the castle of the Domesday holder of the estate; other parts are thought to date from the mid 12th century. (fn. 8) Caxton Pastures has been suggested as the homestead of John of Caxton, who held a substantial estate in the 13th century. (fn. 9) The origin of the moated site of Swansley (fn. 10) is not known. Until at least the mid 18th century St. Peter's Street was part of a complex of lanes north and east of the church which may have formed the centre of the original village. Traces of medieval buildings, perhaps including the chief house of the Colnes estate, have been found beyond the ford opposite Caxton Hall, (fn. 11) and an area south of Gransden Road contains two hollow-ways with closes between. (fn. 12)
Even so the main road was important to the village from early times; beside it the market was held, and beside it the Crown inn and the George inn were later built. There were inns near the market by the 14th century (fn. 13) and the Crown may have existed as early as 1489. Parts of its buildings certainly date from the 15th century, and it was known by that name by 1545. (fn. 14) The George dates from the early 17th century. (fn. 15) Traffic on the road and business at the inns were important factors in the history of Caxton. Scattered references from the medieval period indicate that the village was a popular stopping place for travellers, (fn. 16) though the villagers could also suffer the consequences as well as reap the advantages of such proximity if, as in 1328, they failed to raise the hue and cry against highway robbers. (fn. 17) At the end of the 14th century an oratory was licensed in the village for the use of strangers passing through. (fn. 18) Frequent use of the road is increasingly evident from the 16th century onwards. (fn. 19) As a consequence a post office was opened at Caxton 'many years' before 1660, when Ralph Shute had been postmaster. In that year, however, John Martin, 'one of Cromwell's sequestrators and an Anabaptist', held the office. (fn. 20) In the mid 18th century the only official postal services in the county were at Cambridge and Caxton. (fn. 21) By the end of that century the Crown was the post office in the village. (fn. 22)
A turnpike gate was set up in Caxton in 1663 under an Act of that year, but was removed five years later because it could easily be avoided. (fn. 23) In 1703–4, 'by reason of the great and many loads of corn and other goods . . . daily drawn along the road', it was proposed to levy a toll between Caxton and Royston, and appoint surveyors in each parish along the route. (fn. 24) The proposal was rejected (fn. 25) and a turnpike gate was not re-erected until 1801. (fn. 26) The toll house, situated a little to the south of Caxton Gibbet, was pulled down in 1876. (fn. 27)
Despite its position on the road, Caxton was never the largest village in the area. In 1086 35 peasants were recorded there. (fn. 28) Eighty-three tenants held land at Caxton in 1279, though not all were necessarily resident. (fn. 29) Some 30 persons paid tax in 1327. (fn. 30) In 1377 131 adults were assessed for the poll tax. (fn. 31) There were 31 taxpayers in 1525 and 32 families in 1563. (fn. 32) Under Charles II the village contained c. 50 houses. (fn. 33) The population then probably remained fairly stable until it rose in the mid 19th century. It was 336 in 1801 and only 417 in 1831, but reached 558 in 1841, and attained in 1871 a peak of 631, from which it subsequently declined steadily to 451 in 1901 and 368 in 1961. (fn. 34)
Until after the mid 18th century the road system in the parish, apart from the Old North Road, included a complex of lanes to the east and north of the church, later represented by St. Peter's Street and Gransden Road. (fn. 35) St. Peter's Street, known as Long Lane in the early 18th century, was in 1750 called Potton Way at its northern end and Barn Street near the church where it passed the tithe barn. A small open space opposite Caxton Hall was known as Rosemary Green, and by 1835 the whole road was known as Rosemary Green Lane. (fn. 36) White Heads Lane and Green Ditches Lane led from the south of the village to the church; only the second remains. Beyond the church the two lanes joined and led through Stow field towards the Gransdens, Gamlingay, and Potton (Beds.). Further north was Eltisley Lane. Crowdean Lane divided Wood field from Mill field. The road to Bourn, in 1750 an uncertain track through Mill field and known as Cambridge Way, the road to Great Gransden, and Rosemary Green Lane were established as public roads at the inclosure of the parish in 1835. (fn. 37)
Mill field and Wood field filling most of the parish east of the Old North Road and Stow field in the southern end were all in open cultivation until 1835. Foxholes furlongs, lying between St. Peter's Street and Eltisley Lane, were also open and were cultivated as part of Mill field. The north-western part of the parish was ancient inclosure, but included some Lammas ground adjoining Foxholes furlongs, south of Caxton Moats. The common pastures lay mostly in the north of the parish and along the edges of the Old North Road. Caxton Common farm covers an area of former cow and sheep commons in the north-east angle of the parish, and a small tract of common adjoined Swansley wood and was intercommonable with Elsworth. Further west, where the Gibbet inn and Caxton Gibbet stand, were Potters' Streights, and sheep commons and Gibbet field lay on the western side of the Old North Road. After inclosure they were absorbed into Caxton Pastures, Common farm, and the Swansley estate.
The former Crown and George inns (known respectively in 1966 as the Crown House and Caxton Manor) and Caxton Hall are the most important secular buildings in the parish, the latter of mid-17th-century origin, remodelled c. 1700. Red Lion Farm and a number of other cottages are of 17th- and 18th-century origin. In 1858 there were said to be 'very few houses in the town and those of the poorest class', having 'a very ancient appearance'. (fn. 38) Disastrous fires in 1896 and 1897 destroyed more than a dozen cottages. (fn. 39) Since the Second World War the village has grown to the north with a small housing estate at Brockholt Road, and individual houses have been built along the Bourn road. Cobbett saw the village as one 'on which a just Providence seems to have entailed its curse', (fn. 40) and later descriptions emphasized the poverty and overcrowded conditions of its inhabitants. (fn. 41) A faint air of decay, the result of diminishing traffic after the end of the coaching era, was noticed in 1863 by a traveller who described Caxton as 'a small, rambling village, which looked as if it had not shaved and washed its face, and put on a clean shirt for a shocking length of time'. (fn. 42) By 1927, however, Caxton was said to be a clean, tidylooking village, enlivened with an almost constant stream of motor traffic. (fn. 43) The traffic has not restored the village to its former prosperity, though its growing volume has created the need for a by-pass. (fn. 44)
Manors and Other Estates.
Turgar, the king's thegn, held 3 hides at Caxton in King Edward's time, while 22 sokemen shared the other 7 hides. In 1086 Hardwin de Scalers held the whole vill of the king in chief. (fn. 45) The manor of CAXTON formed part of the barony of Scalers which was divided between the sons of Hardwin, Richard de Scalers taking that half barony, with its caput at Shelford, which included Caxton. (fn. 46) Richard's son, Stephen, had succeeded by c. 1140, (fn. 47) and died in 1168. The manor then passed successively to Stephen's son William (fn. 48) (d. 1199), (fn. 49) grandson William (fn. 50) (d. c. 1222), and great-grandson Richard (fn. 51) (d. 1231). (fn. 52) Richard's only daughter Lucy (d. after 1245) married Baldwin de Freville who had paid 200 marks for her marriage and the custody of her land. (fn. 53) Baldwin died c. 1257. (fn. 54) Their eldest son Richard came of age in 1263 (fn. 55) and died in 1299. He was said in 1279 to hold 3 knights' fees in Caxton. (fn. 56) Richard's son John succeeded his father and died in 1312, leaving as his heir his only son Richard, a minor. (fn. 57) Two-thirds of the manor were temporarily in the hands of Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, together with the marriage of the heir, in part payment of debts owed to him by the king. (fn. 58) Richard came of age in 1318, (fn. 59) and two years later the manor was settled jointly on him and his wife Margaret. (fn. 60)
When Richard died in 1328, leaving a son John, a minor, his wife retained two-thirds of Caxton while one-third was still in the hands of his mother, Eleanor Freville, at least until the following year. (fn. 61) Margaret married as her second husband Sir Hugh FitzSymond, who acquired a life-interest in the whole manor. Richard's son Sir John Freville settled the reversion jointly on himself and his wife Ellen in 1345. (fn. 62) The manor was surrendered to him in 1358. (fn. 63) In 1367 Sir John settled it on himself for life, with remainder jointly to his son Richard and Richard's wife Agnes. (fn. 64) Richard died before his father, and on Sir John's death in 1372 two-thirds of the manor passed to Agnes and her second husband, John de Brewes. (fn. 65) One-third was retained as dower by Ellen, Sir John's widow, until her death in 1381. (fn. 66) Robert Freville (d. 1393), brother and heir of Sir John, was entitled to the reversion of the property, which in 1376 was settled on him and his son Thomas. (fn. 67) Agnes was still in possession in 1401 jointly with her third husband, William Roos, or Rees, (fn. 68) who retained a life-interest until his death in 1410. Robert Freville died in 1393 and was succeeded as reversioner by his son Thomas (fn. 69) (d. 1405), from whom the reversionary rights were transferred in 1400–1 to feoffees headed by Sir Simon Felbrigge and William Appleyard. (fn. 70) By his will dated 1410 Roos directed that Caxton should be sold to found a chantry in the college of St. Mary-in-the-Fields, Norwich, with which Felbrigge and Appleyard had connexions. (fn. 71) Since Roos had only a life-interest in Caxton, the terms of his will could not be executed, and in 1411 the property was transferred to other feoffees to hold in trust for William, son of the former reversioner, Thomas Freville. (fn. 72) In 1424 Freville made a quitclaim of Caxton to feoffees including John Burgoyne of Dry Drayton, (fn. 73) who was holding ½ knight's fee there in 1428. (fn. 74)
The manor seems to have passed by 1434 to William Burgoyne of Roxton (Beds.) (d. 1456), (fn. 75) whose son Richard died in 1464 leaving Caxton to his heir John, a minor. (fn. 76) John presumably succeeded on coming of age c. 1478, but died in 1487, whereupon his feoffees granted the manor in the same year to Agnes Lane for life, with remainder to Richard Burgoyne, then a child. (fn. 77) It appears that Richard died before coming of age, probably in 1504 or 1505, (fn. 78) and Thomas son of John Burgoyne of Impington was said to hold the manor in 1506. (fn. 79) By 1509, however, the property was held by the sisters of Richard Burgoyne, Margaret (d. 1529), wife of George Heveningham (d. 1530), and Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Thursby. (fn. 80) By 1530 one half was still held by Thursby, the other half was divided between the three surviving daughters of Margaret Heveningham. (fn. 81) On the death of one of those daughters without heirs in 1532 or 1533, the half manor was divided equally between the surviving sisters, Alice wife of Thomas Green and Anne wife of Sir Ambrose Jermyn of Rushbrooke (Suff.). Thursby sold a quarter of the manor to Jermyn in 1536. In or after 1549 (fn. 82) the Greens' share passed to Jermyn, who at his death in 1577 left half the manor to his fourth son, Anthony. (fn. 83) In 1578 another Thomas Thursby sold his family's share of the manor to Anthony Cage the elder (d. 1583), a London salter who already owned Longstowe. Anthony's son Anthony (d. 1603) succeeded him, (fn. 84) and the younger Anthony's son, Sir John Cage of Longstowe, bought the Jermyns' half of the manor from Sir Robert and Thomas Jermyn in 1611, (fn. 85) thereby uniting the estate which had comprised in 1583 1,060 a. of land and foldage for 400 sheep. (fn. 86)
In 1638 Sir John's son, Sir Anthony Cage, leased the lordship of the manor to Francis Bickley the younger, who purchased the freehold in 1649. Bickley sold the manor in 1655 to the trustees of Mr. (later Sir) Ralph Bovey, of Hillfield Hall (Warws.). (fn. 87) The manor formed part of the property that Bovey settled on his wife Mary. (fn. 88) Bovey was later separated from his wife and died in 1679, himself seised of the manor, which by his will he left in trust to Elizabeth Simmonds of Longstowe, to be sold to pay his debts. (fn. 89) In 1681 the manor was mortgaged and in 1683 sold to John Gape of St. Albans. (fn. 90) The manor thereafter descended in the Gape family, (fn. 91) John Gape (d. 1703) being succeeded by his son John (d. 1734), whose son William died in 1742, and grandson Thomas in 1799. Thomas's son, the Revd. James Carpenter Gape (d. 1827), was succeeded in turn by his sons Thomas Foreman (d. 1857) and George (d. 1874), whose son James John died in 1904. (fn. 92) The latter's grandson, William Nugent Walter Gape (d. 1942), was succeeded by his widow Sybil (d. 1950), from whom the estate passed to Maj. D. F. B. Gape, (fn. 93) the owner in 1966 and the first member of the family to reside in Caxton.
Before the Conquest four of the 22 sokemen in Caxton were King Edward's men and held one hide, and the rest were men of Earl Alfgar and held slightly less than ⅓ hide each. The vill's assessment of 10 hides in 1066 had been reduced to six hides in 1086, when the lord held five of them in demesne. (fn. 94) Geoffrey, son of Swein, of Croxton (fl. 1166) had land at Caxton, of which he gave part to St. Neots Priory, (fn. 95) which was probably part of the Scalers fee. The estate later known as COLNES or DUNHOLTS, which perhaps derived from Geoffrey's land, was held in 1251 by John of Colne, (fn. 96) who still held it in 1279, when it was c. 265 a. in extent. It was then held of Geoffrey's successor, John de Scalers. (fn. 97) It seems to have passed to Baldwin of Colne and Geoffrey his brother by 1312 (fn. 98) and before 1381 to John of Colne. (fn. 99) John's daughter Ellen married, as her second husband, John Dunholt or Dineholt, and they were in possession in 1391. (fn. 100) The Dunholts probably also acquired another ancient freehold estate known as BROCKHOLTS, which by 1247 had come into the hands of Amphelise, wife of Niel of Radwell, after the death of her brother Geoffrey of Caxton. (fn. 101) Later in the same year it passed to the justice, Jeremy of Caxton, (fn. 102) and was held in 1279 by John of Caxton, possibly his son. (fn. 103) The estate then consisted of a capital messuage, over 80 a. of land, and 50 a. of meadow and pasture in 'Kingesfeld', probably north-west of the village, bordering on Eltisley. (fn. 104) In 1303 the capital messuage was in the hands of John de Senliz. (fn. 105) It was acquired by John Parker of Faversham in 1366 (fn. 106) and was held by Nicholas Bernard and Margaret his wife until 1391 when they sold it to John atte Hoo and others. (fn. 107) It then seems to have merged with the Dunholts' estate, which remained in the Dunholt family until 1546 when Alice Dunholt, the heir, married William Tadlow. (fn. 108) Ralph Lynn acquired it from Tadlow in 1551, (fn. 109) and by 1583 it had become part of the main manor, the name 'Brockholts' or 'Dunholts' being applied to a capital messuage acquired in that year by Anthony Cage, owner of half the main manor. (fn. 110)
St. Neots Priory had an estate at Swansley, in the north-western part of the parish, with 140 a. and six customary tenants in 1279. (fn. 111) The so-called manor of SWANSLEY, or MONKS' MANOR, originated in a grant which Stephen de Scalers (d. 1168) and his wife Gillian made to the priory when they were received into confraternity. It comprised an estate of over 50 a. of arable land in 'Swanellehull', herbage in Swansley wood, and other properties. A slightly later charter confirmed the bounds of the estate, which lay between Ermine Street ('Herningestrete') and the wood ditch, and between the Cambridge road and 'Madeldene', together with meadow land at 'Bertunesweald' and messuages and crofts in the village itself. (fn. 112) The grants were augmented by a grant of Geoffrey son of Swein of 29 a. on 'Swaneslehull', part of which the donor later exchanged for 23 a. of arable in 'Todfold', and 6 a. of meadow, partly in 'Caxtoneswald'. Tibbald de Chalers and Nicholas de Mordon added to these donations. (fn. 113)
When the estate came into the hands of the Crown on the dissolution of the priory, it was held on a long lease by William Hawle. (fn. 114) It was subsequently leased in 1553 to William Sackville, Eleanor his wife, and John Dudley (fn. 115) from whom it passed, still on lease, successively to John Newman and William Whitacres, and, in 1554, to Thomas Treece of Godmanchester (Hunts.). (fn. 116) Before 1557 Treece purchased the freehold from the Crown and himself let the estate on lease. (fn. 117) Treece settled the estate in 1565 on Richard Treece, who sold it to James and Robert Altham in 1573. (fn. 118) The executors of Dr. John Caius purchased the property in the following year in accordance with the terms of his will, and conveyed it to Gonville and Caius College. The estate was then a little over 172 a. The college retained possession until 1899 when all but a small field was sold to Mrs. Hooley of Papworth Hall. (fn. 119)
By 1583 a manor-house was standing to the south of Swansley wood, east of 'Madeldene', together with two barns, two stables, and a malting house in the moated area. (fn. 120) Perhaps the house was the new building mentioned in 1579. (fn. 121) In 1630 a new tenant was granted a lease on condition that he spent £40 constructing new buildings 'in or about the site of the manor', though it is not clear whether a dwellinghouse was involved. (fn. 122) The only building on the estate in 1762 was a brick barn. (fn. 123) The estate was surveyed in 1820, when a 'very substantial barn' was still standing. Despite a recommendation that a small house be built, (fn. 124) none had been built by 1834. (fn. 125)
The rectorial estate may perhaps be traced from land held in 1279 by Gilbert, son of Bartholomew the clerk, otherwise Bartholomew of Wendover. Bartholomew, who was apparently parson of Caxton by 1260, (fn. 126) was himself mentioned in 1279 only as having built a wall, five perches long, on the highway. (fn. 127) Gilbert, his son, who may by then have succeeded his father, held two messuages and 54 a. of land. (fn. 128) By 1351 the rectorial estate comprised a rectory house, 80 a. of arable land, tithe, and altarage, valued before the Black Death at over £29 and in 1351 at over £19. (fn. 129) In 1351, when the church was appropriated, the estate passed to St. George's College, Windsor. (fn. 130) By 1382 the impropriate rectors were leasing the estate, (fn. 131) and there is evidence that they leased it continuously from the mid 15th century. From at least 1443 the estate was in the hands of Thomas Burgoyne, probably a younger son of the lord of the manor. (fn. 132) He was succeeded by William Burgoyne who in 1472 held the farm at an annual rent of £9. According to the terms of his lease the college was to support all the burdens of the church except the provision of lights. (fn. 133) John Boterell of Stapleford was farmer by 1496, and held the lease until 1501 when it passed to Margaret Cretyng of Caxton and John Billingley. Simeon Sampson of Binfield (Berks.) became farmer in 1535, and also held an inn called the Red Lion, attached to the parsonage. (fn. 134) He is said to have sold the remainder of his lease to William Turpin c. 1550. (fn. 135) William Robins of Bilston (Staffs.) became lessee in 1547, Thomas Carter in 1552, (fn. 136) William Taylor by 1564, (fn. 137) and Robert Hatless by 1599. (fn. 138) In 1602 William Meaker of Cliffe (Kent) became farmer, to be succeeded by Edmund Wilson, fellow of King's College. (fn. 139) Wilson's interest passed in the next year to his brother William, of London, and in 1611 to John Wilson of the Inner Temple. (fn. 140) The farm reverted to Edmund Wilson again in 1615, and was renewed in 1621. (fn. 141) He was succeeded by Gregory Baker in 1624, by John Whistler in 1630, and later by Richard Whitmore. (fn. 142)
In 1660 the rectory estate was leased to the Barnard family which retained its interest until 1827. (fn. 143) Christopher Barnard of Westminster (d. 1679) apparently came to live in Caxton, where his wife was buried. Leases were subsequently made to Alice Barnard of Westminster in 1681, to William Barnard of Caxton from 1687 to 1708, and to Francis Barnard, D.D. (d. 1756). (fn. 144) Francis Barnard's heir was the Revd. Thomas Collier, who took the name Barnard on succeeding to the estate. (fn. 145) On Thomas's death in 1794 his whole property was divided between his grandson, Francis, and four of his five daughters, Georgiana, Elizabeth, Anne, and Mary, (fn. 146) of Devonshire Street, London. Georgiana Barnard held the lease alone from at least 1817 and surrendered it in 1827, having for some years been in pecuniary difficulties as a result of bad harvests and failure to get tenants for Red Lion farm. The lease was taken over by William Gee, of Bishop's Stortford (Herts.), who in 1848 was succeeded by Valentine Beldam of Royston (Herts.). (fn. 147) Two years after the transfer of the freehold from the dean and canons of Windsor to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1867, (fn. 148) the lessee purchased it for £8,000. (fn. 149) His nephew F. W. E. Beldam (d. 1911), of Toft Manor, succeeded to the property, which was divided in 1919 by the sale of Red Lion farm in two parts to J. W. Pentelow and W. A. Briscoe, and of Common farm to F. W. Hobson. (fn. 150)
The creation of substantial new holdings became a factor of significance only in the 19th century, and resulted from the inclosure of the parish. Copyhold properties accumulated in the hands of Dr. Francis Barnard, lessee of the rectorial estate, by 1721 (fn. 151) and inherited by his successor, also Francis, in 1798 (fn. 152) came into the hands of Donald Cameron (d. 1823) in 1817. (fn. 153) Cameron's trustees leased the farm, then c. 125 a., to Thomas Howard in 1826, (fn. 154) and to John Baynes of Bishop's Stortford in 1835. (fn. 155) Partly as a result of the inclosure of Stow field, at the southern end of the parish, and partly by the addition of some old inclosures known since at least 1746 as Church farm, an allotment was made to Thomas Howard amounting to c. 150 a. (fn. 156) which also passed to Baynes. Baynes sold both properties in 1859 to John Mortlock of Melbourn (fn. 157) who in turn sold them to Sidney Stanley of Longstowe Hall in 1868 when they became part of that estate. (fn. 158) Stanley was succeeded by Charles Wentworth Stanley who in 1905 sold the property to W. A. Briscoe. (fn. 159)
Between 1066 and 1086 22 sokemen at Caxton, able to give and sell their land, were replaced by 17 villani, 8 bordars, and 10 cottars. (fn. 160) During the next two centuries the position was to some extent reversed, as in other parts of Cambridgeshire, and by 1279 the 35 free tenants just outnumbered the 34 customary tenants, though several of the cottars still owed labour services.
The tenurial structure of Caxton in 1279 was comparatively simple. Under Richard de Freville, lord of the manor, there were 27 customary holdings, 16 free holdings, and 14 cottar holdings. The only under-tenants were on two holdings of 5 a. and 13 a. John of Caxton had an estate with 2 customary and 12 free holdings. Only one of his tenants, Simon of Winwick, with 3 free holdings, was himself a landlord. John of Colne had 8 customary and 6 free tenants with no under-tenants, and St. Neots Priory had 6 customary tenants.
Money rents were already of considerable importance by 1279. Richard de Freville's free tenants paid over 31s., and individual rents were in some cases substantial. Gilbert, son of Bartholomew the clerk, probably himself the vicar, paid 6s. for a messuage and 52 a. Two other tenants paid 4s. and four others 3s. for much smaller holdings. The rental of John of Caxton's estate amounted to 12s. 6d. and that of John of Colne to 13s. 2d. Of the cottars nine held a messuage only, two a messuage and 1 a., the rest ½ a. each. Most paid rents in cash, varying from 4s. to ½d. Three cottars paid rents and performed boon-works at hay and harvest time. Two others owed week-works. (fn. 161)
By 1324 St. Neots Priory had three tenants paying a total rent of 14s. 8d., (fn. 162) and a century later the cash receipts of the lord of the manor had risen greatly. Assized rents were similar to those in 1279, at 39s. 7½d., but the services owed by customary tenants were being commuted for £7 18s. 8d. Cottagers paid another 11s. 6d. (fn. 163)
Arable farming predominated in Caxton from an early period. In 1086 there were 12 ploughs on the estate, 4 of which were on the demesne, and there was meadow for all of them. There was also ample woodland in the area. (fn. 164) Grain formed an important part of the economy from the 13th century onwards: 54s. 10½d. was realized from the sale of dredge from the manor in 1251–2, and payments in dredge, barley, and maslin were made to manorial officers. (fn. 165) John of Colne's estate in 1251 comprised 72 a. of wheat, 10 a. of barley, 50 a. of dredge, 20 a. of oats, and smaller amounts of beans and vetches. A lease of the property granted in that year stipulated that the lands were to be returned 'tilled, sown, ploughed for sowing, and reploughed as received', and there were 40 a. more which were fallow and 5 a. of meadow. With the estate went 5 horses and 4 oxen. (fn. 166) The inventory of a small estate more than a century later included two ploughs and a 'plowtymber'. (fn. 167) The Swansley estate of St. Neots Priory in the early 14th century was almost exclusively arable, producing wheat, oats, dredge, beans, and peas, much of which was sold locally. (fn. 168) Presumably some was ground locally, though evidence for a mill in Caxton is confined to the 13th century, a miller being paid in kind in 1251–2, (fn. 169) and a cottar being described as a miller in 1279. (fn. 170) The proximity of Bourn mill may later have made a mill in Caxton unnecessary, though the name of Mill Hill, to the south of Caxton Moats, remained until the 19th century. (fn. 171)
By the mid 14th century more emphasis seems to have been placed on sheep. In 1348 the tithes of wool and lambs amounted to over £5, (fn. 172) and sales of wool totalled £9 by 1425–6. Sales of stock and grain, however, accounted for a third of the income of the manor, and rents for nearly a fifth. The bailiff and six 'upper' servants were then paid in cash. (fn. 173) Sheep continued to be kept at least on the Swansley estate when it came into the hands of Caius College, the tenant having a flock of 400 in 1762. The sheep-walk had contracted by 1805. (fn. 174) The lord of the manor also had foldage for 400 sheep by the late 16th century. (fn. 175)
From the 15th century the landowners began to lease larger holdings to individuals: St. Neots Priory and St. George's, Windsor, both followed that practice, (fn. 176) leasing substantial amounts of land in particular to two families, the Burgoynes, related to the lords of the manor, and the Cretyngs. Thomas Burgoyne was of sufficient substance to be appointed collector of a tax in the county in 1440. (fn. 177) The Cretyngs had amassed large numbers of small holdings, largely on the rectorial estate, by the early 16th century. (fn. 178) John Cretyng (d. 1500) owned houses in Caxton and Little Gransden. (fn. 179) His son John was found to have goods valued at £100 in 1522. (fn. 180) At least two members of the family took orders, one becoming a fellow of King's College, Cambridge (1496–1500), another a canon of Windsor (1489–1518) and successively steward (1490–5) and treasurer of the college. (fn. 181)
Scattered references to closes from the end of the 15th century indicate a gradual process of inclosure, largely very near the village itself. (fn. 182) By 1750 most of the area north of the church and west of the Old North Road, amounting to about one third of the total area, had been divided into closes. (fn. 183) There was little change between 1750 and general inclosure in 1835. (fn. 184) Most of the inclosed area was owned by the lord of the manor. The rest of the parish in 1750 was mostly divided between three open fields, Stow field in the south, Mill field towards Bourn, and Wood field in the north. Conservatism made the bad harvests of the early 19th century more difficult to bear. In 1807 it was said that the soil was poor 'and not in such a state as to be much improved owing to the land being in very small pieces.' (fn. 185) Bad harvests in the second decade of the century forced the tenant out of Red Lion farm and he could not be replaced for several years. (fn. 186) Caius College had difficulty in collecting its rents, (fn. 187) and in 1822 a writer referred to 'the dreadful state of poverty to which the occupiers of the lands in Caxton are now reduced.' (fn. 188) A survey of the Caius College estate in 1820 found that the land was too poor to allow the tenant to spend money on improvements. The traditional rotation of crops and fallow was still followed, as in the rest of the village, and the surveyor could recommend only improved drainage and the removal of baulks, some of which might be burnt for manure. (fn. 189) By 1830 the lessee of the rectorial estate was 'desirous of having the parish inclosed otherwise the increase in the poor-rates, which this year exceeded those of the last by at least 2s. 6d. in the £, would have so diminished the value as scarcely to make it worth holding'. (fn. 190) Inclosure followed in 1835, (fn. 191) and with it the development of a number of consolidated units which have been only slightly altered since that time. (fn. 192)
In 1830 there was no unemployment, but it was stated that none of the labourers, of whom there were 56 over 20 years of age, held any land. (fn. 193) Thirty years later the population of Caxton, as of several other parishes in the area, had declined because of low wages. (fn. 194) The development of a new route north from London and the withdrawal of coach services after the introduction of railways brought further decline. In 1839 the village was said to be 'of late years materially diminished by the great improvements on other lines of road', but at that time two coaches ran through Caxton, one to Stamford on weekdays and a daily one to Newcastle. (fn. 195) Between 1839 and 1864 the number of shopkeepers and tradesmen was more than halved, (fn. 196) and the inns, which depended for their livelihood on the volume of traffic on the London road, gradually closed. (fn. 197) By 1864 the George 'had contracted itself into the fag-end of a large, dark, seedy-looking building, where it lived by selling beer and other sharp and cheap drinks to the villagers.' (fn. 198) By 1883 the proprietor of the Cross Keys was supplementing his income by farming and by acting as the local inspector of nuisances. (fn. 199)
A similar decline occurred in the market and fairs, though over a much longer period. Baldwin de Freville in 1248 was granted a weekly market in Caxton to be held on Mondays, and received toll from those who traded there. (fn. 200) It is not clear how long the market survived, but it was evidently held at least until the middle of the 14th century. (fn. 201) It had presumably lapsed by the 17th century, for in 1668 Sir Ralph Bovey received a grant of a market on Tuesdays, (fn. 202) which made Caxton in the 18th century one of the seven market towns in the county. (fn. 203) By 1839 no regular market was held, though neighbouring farmers assembled each Tuesday at the Crown inn chiefly for the sale of corn. (fn. 204) An attempt to revive the market c. 1858 failed. (fn. 205) Bovey had also been granted two fairs in 1668, to be held on 5 May and 5 October. (fn. 206) The May fair died out in the mid 19th century, (fn. 207) and the Michaelmas fair, latterly for the sale of gloves, hats, and clothes and held between 11 and 14 October, (fn. 208) had ceased by 1892. (fn. 209)
In 1279 Richard de Freville, lord of the manor, claimed to have view of frankpledge twice a year before the king's bailiff, together with the rights of gallows, waif, and the assize of bread. (fn. 210) No other claims of jurisdiction were then made, but in 1299 the prior of St. Neots claimed to have view of frankpledge on his estates in Caxton, derived from the liberties granted to the abbey of Bec, upon which St. Neots was dependent. (fn. 211) Gonville and Caius College does not seem to have held any courts on the estate. The value of the perquisites in the manorial court in 1425–6 was 41s. 3d. (fn. 212) Records of the administration of Caxton manor have survived from the early 17th century. (fn. 213) Views of frankpledge and courts baron, presided over by a steward, were then held twice a year, in April and October, for receiving rents, for admissions and surrenders of holdings, and for the general administration of farming. Occasionally additional courts baron were held solely for changes in holdings, and courts leet were sometimes held with courts baron with no apparent difference in the type of business involved. Courts were held much less regularly by the end of the 17th century and, allowing for losses of court rolls, seem to have been held once every two or three years during the 18th century. Courts were still held in the 1880s, though copyhold business was done out of court and enrolled, in some cases, several years later.
The election of a constable was not regularly recorded until 1654, though individual names occur from 1622. During the later 17th century two constables were fairly regularly appointed. They accounted to the overseers for any expenditure and in 1663 were ordered to tell the overseers of any charges within two or three days so that, if the account was approved, it might be properly chargeable on the constables' rate. One item so charged was the repair of the town plough, which seems to have been kept in the church. (fn. 214) There was only one constable in the parish in the 18th century.
A hayward and a herdman were regularly appointed from 1625, the first for a year, the second only for the summer and autumn. The herdman's duties were extended in the late 17th century to cover responsibility for land drainage. A swineherd, or hoggard, was likewise appointed for the summer and autumn. The election of two field-reeves and two ale-tasters was first recorded in 1630. In 1684 for the first and apparently the only time there were two surveyors of fields for the manor within the view of frankpledge, and one keeper of the fields within the manor. That is the only evidence for such a division of administration, and may indicate a deliberate attempt to control the Swansley estate which formerly had been subject to a separate view of frankpledge. By 1691 there were four fieldreeves, and the number had increased to six by 1726.
Overseers of the poor were mentioned in 1663. Expenditure on the poor was £71 in 1776 and rose steeply to c. £118 a year in 1783–5, and £196 in 1803 when 18 persons were on permanent relief and 12 others were occasionally assisted. Five non-parishioners were also given money, probably because of Caxton's position on a main road. (fn. 215) In 1816 the poor-rates were £290, and reached a peak of £417 in 1818. In the 1820s they fluctuated around £300, but in 1829 exceeded the 1818 figure. (fn. 216) The average rate in 1832–5 was £318. In 1837 nine small houses in Caxton were inhabited by paupers rentfree. Three had been built c. 1812 by the overseers, and one was a gift. Two other houses were let, the rents being applied to the poor-rate. (fn. 217) In 1835 the parish became part of the Caxton and Arrington poor law union: (fn. 218) a workhouse was built in Caxton in 1836, (fn. 219) and had been closed by 1933. (fn. 220) Caxton is the centre of a petty sessional division, the magistrates meeting at the Crown inn by 1839, and later at the police station built in 1859. (fn. 221) In 1934 the parish was transferred from the Caxton and Arrington R.D. to the Chesterton R.D. (fn. 222)
A church had been established in Caxton by c. 1145 when Stephen de Scalers granted it to Lewes Priory. (fn. 223) The monks, despite an apparent attempt to deprive them, (fn. 224) retained the church until 1351, though on one occasion, in 1302, the bishop of Ely refused to accept a presentee (fn. 225) and appointed one of his own clerks. In 1351 their interest in Caxton, which amounted to the advowson and an 'ancient' pension of three marks, (fn. 226) was transferred to the Crown in fulfilment of an undertaking by the monks to endow the Crown with patronage in return for their denization. (fn. 227) Almost immediately the advowson was granted to the warden and college of St. George, Windsor, and shortly afterwards in the same year the benefice was appropriated by them. (fn. 228) The warden and college, and the dean and chapter as their successors, have continued to enjoy the advowson of the vicarage, except in 1645 when the Crown presented a vicar. (fn. 229) On at least three occasions before appropriation the church had absentee rectors, Hubert, archdeacon of Evreux, being succeeded c. 1190 by Thomas, nephew of Pope Alexander III, (fn. 230) and Master James de Bologna being rector in 1324. (fn. 231) As a result a vicar was early appointed, certainly by c. 1278, and very possibly earlier. (fn. 232) A vicarage was ordained in 1351 when a portion of 11 marks was allowed to the vicar, together with a house. (fn. 233)
Valuation of the rectory varied in the 13th century from £9 to £18 13s. 4d., the latter in the high valuation of 1268. (fn. 234) In 1291 the rectory was assessed at £16 13s. 4d. (fn. 235) Its real value was considerably more than that in the 14th century: before the Black Death it was found to be worth £29 6s. 6d., which had been reduced to £19 6s. 8d. by 1350. (fn. 236)
The portion of the vicar had increased from £7 6s. 8d. to £7 12s. 4d. by 1535. (fn. 237) The farmer of the rectory in 1602 was required to pay the vicar the old stipend of £7 6s. 8d. and £5 as augmentation, and was to provide a further £10 to support a preacher to be nominated by the dean and chapter of Windsor. (fn. 238) The £10 for the preacher was presumably merged in the vicarage, which was worth £22 6s. 8d. in 1650, and eight years later, the dean and chapter having been temporarily dissolved, it was ordered that the tithes of the rectory should be annexed to the vicarage to make up the stipend to £100 during the incumbency of John Ramsey, then vicar. (fn. 239) By 1667 the farmer of the rectory was required to pay the vicar only £32 6s. 8d. (fn. 240) In the mid 18th century the income was assessed at £44 11s. 10d., and the living was therefore discharged. (fn. 241) It was augmented during the early 19th century (fn. 242) but in 1837 was still worth only £104, and two neighbouring clergymen wrote to the impropriators to complain of the incumbent's distress. (fn. 243) Later in the century the living was said to be worth even less, but appears to have trebled in value by 1892. (fn. 244)
In 1350 the great tithes were valued at £14, the small tithes at £3 6s. 8d. (fn. 245) The impropriators, and later the lessees of the rectory, enjoyed both the great and the small tithes until the middle of the 17th century, though there is evidence that in 1425–6 the vicar received a small sum from the lord of the manor in small tithes. (fn. 246) By the beginning of the 19th century, and probably earlier, the tithes were let to the tenant of the rectory lands who was then charged with payment to the vicar. (fn. 247) The rectorial tithe over 1,700 a. amounted to £255 in 1830; after inclosure the allotment in lieu of tithe was nearly 400 a., valued at over £356 in 1837. (fn. 248) The rectorial glebe and Red Lion farm are discussed above. (fn. 249)
There were said to be 3 a. of vicarage land in 1650 (fn. 250) mostly adjoining the churchyard. (fn. 251) By 1728 there were at least 8 a., (fn. 252) and at inclosure the vicar received that amount, which was added to a small amount already inclosed. (fn. 253) A new house assigned to the vicar in 1351 was to consist of a hall, a chamber, and a kitchen. (fn. 254) The building or its successor was to be maintained by the lessee of the rectory 'except thatching and daubing horn high'. (fn. 255) The vicarage house had been blown down in a storm in or before 1662 (fn. 256) and was replaced by a three-storey brick house (fn. 257) that was described as meanly built, 'very slight, very inconvenient, and without out-buildings'. It was virtually rebuilt by James Sedgwick, vicar 1797–1830, towards the end of his incumbency. (fn. 258) The house built in 1868 to replace the 'miserably dilapidated parsonage', which was said to be 'totally unfit for residence' thirty years earlier, (fn. 259) survived in 1966.
In 1279 Thomas, son of William the smith, held a messuage and 7 a. of land for the support of a light in the church, and for the provision of 1 lb. of wax and 1 lb. of cumin on the feast of St. James. (fn. 260) By his will, dated 1500, John Cretyng gave a close of land in trust to his wife to keep his obit, which on her death reverted to the church. The land, known as Lux or Luck's Close, became part of Red Lion farm. (fn. 261) Thomas Cowlynch in 1534 gave a comb of barley to the sepulchre light. (fn. 262) Gilbert Bellingay in 1546 gave land to the church, one third of which was to support an obit, one third for repairs to the church, and one third for the poor. (fn. 263) There was land in the parish for the support of lamps and obits worth 3s. in 1547. (fn. 264) Two acres, valued at 1s. 4d., were in the hands of the lessee of the rectory in 1553. (fn. 265)
Absenteeism among rectors in the early Middle Ages has already been mentioned. The vicarage was vacant for the period 1569–77 at the end of which it was sequestrated. During that period it had been served by successive curates. (fn. 266) Edward Bunchley, vicar 1666–71, held the living with those of Bourn and Caldecote, (fn. 267) his son Richard, vicar 1738–54, with that of Bourn. (fn. 268) Richard Hayes, vicar 1754–97, was also vicar of Arborfield (Berks.); James Sedgwick, vicar 1797–1830, resided in his vicarage at Curry Rivell (Som.). In both cases curates were appointed to Caxton, though in 1826 the curate, F. M. Maberly, also served Kingston and lived there. (fn. 269)
In 1537 the vicar was reported for giving ale instead of wine at communion. (fn. 270) Following the provision in 1602 of £10 to pay a preacher, (fn. 271) preachers were appointed by the patrons in 1616 and 1622. (fn. 272) In 1626 a curate, apparently serving without licence, was refusing to wear a surplice, (fn. 273) but Bishop Wren found little wrong twelve years later, (fn. 274) ordering only that the desk be turned and the seats boarded. In 1655 the vicar, Henry Lilley, was accused by the mayor of Cambridge of being 'a very scandalous Common Prayer Book reader'. (fn. 275) Two services were held each Sunday in 1826, (fn. 276) and by 1841 three sermons were preached on Sunday. (fn. 277) The incoming vicar in 1830 was faced with serious difficulties. The morals of the young, he found, were 'notoriously deficient. Insolence, inebriety, and irregular attendance at their church' marked the adults. The Sunday school was irregularly attended and he stressed the need for a day-school and for the suppression of local beer-houses. (fn. 278) His successor, F. J. Hopkins, vicar 1852–73, built a school and vicarage, but, at the end of his active ministry, could not say very much for the attractions of the place or neighbourhood beyond pleasant clerical society within easy distance. There was a strong dissenting spirit in the parish, which was 'not by any means a smooth parish to minister in'. (fn. 279)
The church of ST. ANDREW has a chancel, nave with south aisle and south porch, and west tower. It is built of field stones and rubble; some loose carved stones inside the church and a few fragments re-used in the aisle wall are the best surviving evidence of the church which Stephen de Scalers gave to Lewes Priory c. 1150. The thick west wall of the nave may also be of the 12th century and if so suggests a nave of much the same width as the later one. In the later 13th century the chancel was rebuilt in an ambitious, and probably longer, form. The nave was rebuilt with a south aisle c. 1400 and at about the same time work began on the west tower although the upper stages and west doorway do not appear to have been completed until later. The south aisle was probably the site of the Lady Chapel which was newly founded in 1466. (fn. 280) The roof of the chancel was renewed in the 15th or early 16th century, as was probably that of the nave.
The depredation of Dowsing's men, who destroyed twenty 'superstitious pictures', two popish inscriptions, and other items, may have initiated the neglect which was apparent by 1665 when birds and rain came through the unglazed windows and the roof of the derelict south aisle, and the church and chancel were littered with dirt and accommodated the town plough and the bier. (fn. 281) Restoration took place in 1863–9 when the south aisle was rebuilt, the porch added, and many windows were renewed. (fn. 282)
Floor slabs of the 17th and 18th centuries commemorating members of the Barnard family are in the chancel. There are five bells, made by Christopher Graye in 1672. (fn. 283) The registers begin in 1741 (fn. 284) and are complete.
John Denne of Caxton Pastures was recorder of the general Baptists in west Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in the early 1650s, and his house was a principal meeting place. (fn. 285) Five Protestant dissenters were recorded in the parish in 1676. (fn. 286) A house in Caxton was licensed for worship by Independents in 1700. (fn. 287) There were two families of Presbyterians in the parish in 1731 (fn. 288) and three families of unspecified dissenters in 1783. (fn. 289) In 1812 (fn. 290) and 1823 (fn. 291) two houses, and in 1821 Richard Kidman's barn, (fn. 292) were licensed for worship by Protestant dissenters. In 1825 the curate reported that there were about 12 nonconformists, Independents or Baptists, to whom Samuel Fordham preached in the evening. (fn. 293) A Baptist chapel, 'a handsome brick building' with a gallery on three sides and accommodation for 220, was built in 1842 by voluntary subscription with Fordham as minister. It replaced an earlier chapel that had been privately owned. (fn. 294) In 1881 49 families, some of them Wesleyans, attended the Baptist chapel compared with 39 families attending the parish church. Only ten years later, however, there were 211 Anglicans and 119 nonconformists. (fn. 295)
There was a schoolmaster in Caxton in 1727, (fn. 296) and from c. 1787 to 1836 there were two dame schools, attended by 30–40 children. (fn. 297) There was a Sunday school in 1819, with 21–40 children, (fn. 298) which from 1831 received money for the schoolmaster and for books and fuel under a Scheme regulating the Langwith Charity. (fn. 299) The Sunday school was held in the church, but there was a teacher's house by 1846–7. The National Society reported in that year that Caxton needed a day-school but had no means of supporting it. A National school for 94 children was built in 1854 on glebe land with the aid of a parliamentary grant of £201. The school, which adjoined the school-house, was mixed and consisted of one schoolroom which was also used for the Sunday school and for a night school. In 1855 the school was financed by voluntary contributions and school pence. (fn. 300) Annual parliamentary grants began in 1876. (fn. 301) The average attendance remained 40–50 until 1890 (fn. 302) and then rose steadily to 87 in 1896 when new classrooms were built and there was accommodation for 121 children. (fn. 303) Attendance, however, declined after 1900 to under 40; (fn. 304) the school was closed in 1959, and the building sold in 1961. (fn. 305)
Charities for the Poor.
By will dated 1546 Gilbert Bellingay gave land to be sold, one third of the proceeds to be kept for the aid of the poor. (fn. 306) Nothing further is known about the charity.
Robert Langwith, by will dated 1582, devised a house in Lothbury (London) to trustees who were to apply the income to 8 poor householders, the vicar, the clerk, and a minister to preach quarterly sermons in Caxton. The house was burnt down in the Great Fire and five houses erected on the site, which later became the site of the Bank of England, and the money from their sale was invested. The Langwith charity was regulated by a Scheme of 1831, according to which stock was bought and the income was to be divided into 16 parts. Two parts each were allotted to the vicar, to the preacher, and to the Sunday school; 1½ part was given to the master of the Sunday school and ½ part to the parish clerk. The remaining half of the income, 8 parts, was to be given to the poor. (fn. 307) In 1907 the educational part of the charity comprising an income of over £7 for the use of the Sunday school was transferred to the Board of Education. (fn. 308) In accordance with a Scheme of 1930 the remainder of the Langwith charity was divided into two: the ecclesiastical charity comprised £368 stock, the income from which was to be paid to the vicar, the preacher, and the parish clerk; and the eleemosynary charity comprised £654 stock, the income from which was to be combined with that arising from the Barnard charity and paid to the poor. (fn. 309)
Barnard's charity was derived from property bequeathed for the poor of Caxton by Christopher Barnard in 1679 and William Barnard in 1720. The property consisted of rent-charges of £1 6s. 8d. and £1. The latter, however, had been lost by 1837. (fn. 310) The charity was united with Langwith eleemosynary charity in 1930. (fn. 311)
William Armstead, by will dated or proved in 1726, gave 2s. annual rent for bread for the poor. In 1837 the income was to be given in cash; (fn. 312) nothing later is known of the charity.