A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The ancient parish of Little Gransden, which covers 1,920 a. (fn. 1) lies on the borders of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, the county boundary extending along its northern and western sides. To the north it is bounded by the line of a disused road between Great Gransden and Longstowe, formerly called Deadwomen's Way after Deadwomen's Cross at the north-east corner of the parish. (fn. 2) To the west it is bounded by Great Gransden and Waresley woods and to the south by ground descending towards the Millbridge brook. The land mostly slopes gently downhill from east and west, between the 250 and 200 foot contours, towards the edges of the narrow and uneven valley of the Gransden brook, which probably gave the village its ancient name of 'Granta's dene'. (fn. 3) The stream rises on the high ground to the east, and runs northwards into Great Gransden, along the sometimes steep-sided channel that it has cut, and beside which the village stands. The parish lies on boulder clay, over a bed of the Lower Greensand, exposed in the valley by the stream. Despite its heaviness most of the land has long been used mainly for arable farming. Until parliamentary inclosure in 1814 it was cultivated in three open fields. The high flat land along the eastern border, being hard to drain, was usually devoted to pasture, and was formerly the village common. In 1940 that area was requisitioned for an airfield, called Gransden Lodge Airfield, which was in operational use from 1941 to 1946. The site was unoccupied after 1948, and was sold between 1962 and 1964. (fn. 4)
Like neighbouring villages on the uplands, Little Gransden has always been comparatively well wooded for Cambridgeshire. In 1086 there was wood enough for 60 pigs. (fn. 5) By 1251 a large wood in the south-east corner of the parish had been separated, probably by assarting since the field in between was called Graves, into Hayley wood of 40 a. and Littlehound wood of 32 a. (fn. 6) The woods increased again with the retreat of cultivation after 1350. By 1650 Hayley wood covered 120 a. and Littlehound wood 40 a. (fn. 7) The latter, however, was c. 1655 'new stubbed' and let for farming. Its shape has survived in modern field boundaries. Hayley wood, covering 121 a. in 1816, (fn. 8) was bought in 1962 by the Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely Naturalists' Trust, for preservation as an undamaged example of the coppice woodland, with standards, formerly typical of the area. It is notable, too, for its oxlips and orchids and several rare mosses, and also contains a herd of fallow deer. (fn. 9)
Little Gransden developed as an offshoot of the larger settlement of Great Gransden (Hunts.) to the north. The two are separated by the low-lying ground where the Gransden and Home Dole brooks meet, across which the church and the manorhouse of the abbey of Ely, to which a third of the land of the ancient settlement was granted c. 1000, (fn. 10) faced Great Gransden from a knoll. The village grew southward from them, along a street running beside the brook, which is crossed by small sandstone bridges to the closes on the far side. (fn. 11) At its greatest extent the village stretched almost to the site of the modern Model Farm, a footpath to which may represent the line of the old high street south of its later diversion. The former access ways, bounding the closes, can be traced as far south as the farm on early-19th-century maps. (fn. 12) The southern half of the village, called in 1841 Crow's End, (fn. 13) has decayed since 1660. The village's 56 houses of 1666 (fn. 14) had been reduced to 38 inhabited ones by 1801; (fn. 15) the last dwellings at the south end disappeared in the 19th century, and the village shrank to a line of houses between the street and the brook, with a cluster round the church. It has since grown again. In 1851 there were 61 houses (fn. 16) and in 1961 84. (fn. 17) Modern developments have been concentrated at its north-eastern corner, along side-roads leading to Great Gransden, where council houses and a new village hall were built in the 1960s.
Little Gransden's population usually varied with its extent. In 1086 the manor contained 11 peasant households. (fn. 18) Until 1300 there was a steep growth in numbers. Of the 28 virgates established by 1222 11 were already then divided. In 1279 there were about 75 tenants: and the village had to furnish almost 150 persons to reap the lord's harvest. (fn. 19) Population fell again from the 14th century. In 1377 only 126 adults paid the poll tax, (fn. 20) and in 1525 only 44 persons were assessed to the subsidy. (fn. 21) In 1563 26 households were noted. (fn. 22) Thereafter numbers gradually increased. In 1666 there were 56 houses, making Little Gransden the third largest village in the hundred, though it had proportionately fewer hearths than others. (fn. 23) About 1730 there were about 200 persons forming 50 families. (fn. 24) By 1801 the population was 232, and thereafter increased steadily to 305 in 1871. With the agricultural depression it fell again, to 193 by 1901, and, despite a temporary rise after the First World War, to 168 in 1931. (fn. 25) It recovered to 280 by 1951, but then dropped again to 235 in 1961. (fn. 26)
Although Little Gransden lies not far off the Old North Road, it has always been relatively inaccessible, having direct links only with the neighbouring villages. The main route to Great Gransden formerly lay not along the present road (then called Gransden Lane) which was probably liable to flooding, but passed over higher ground along the mill way to the north-east to join the old road from Great Gransden to Longstowe at the windmill. The inclosure commissioners chose that route for their principal northward road. From Gamlingay the Cambridge way curved across Stocking field to touch the southern end of the village and run east across the common to Longstowe, at whose border it joined a track that meandered across the common further north. Waresley way led west from the present junction of the Gamlingay and Longstowe roads, to pass round the south-east corner of Waresley wood, where it was joined by the Church way which ran south and west from the churchyard. Green ways gave access to the furlongs in the open fields: thus Mislane way and Berknall way ran east across Mill field to the common, Paterbush way ran between Stocking field and Littlehound field, and Beland way and Maltman's way lay across the latter. (fn. 27)
The village did not lie on any through road, and no inn is recorded there before 1800. Two public houses existed by 1813: the Sun in Church Lane, south of the site of the school, and the Chequers. (fn. 28) Two more had been opened by the 1840s: the Double Chequers at the west end of Mill Hill, and the Hardwicke Arms. (fn. 29) The overseer of the poor in 1834 believed that an excess of beer-houses was partly responsible for recent disorders. (fn. 30) The two newer public houses had closed by 1880. (fn. 31) The Sun was still open in 1933, (fn. 32) but only the Chequers survived in 1967.
The older cottages along the main village street, built from the 17th century onward, some still single-storeyed, are timber-framed and plastered. Many retain their hipped thatched roofs. (fn. 33) Gransden Lodge Farm, rebuilt c. 1650 to serve the lord of the manor's inclosed pastures, contains some material from an earlier building. (fn. 34) The other outlying farm-houses are of the 19th century. Model Farm, built in 1860, (fn. 35) matches its name with a tidy use of contrasting red and grey brick on the house and out-buildings. Before 1814 all the farmsteads had lain along the street. (fn. 36) Of them only the 17thcentury Rose Farm remained in 1967. The only substantial house in the village is the former Rectory, reconstructed in the early 19th century, (fn. 37) an irregular building, plastered in the Tudor style. The almshouses opposite, of 1903, have large stone baywindows and timbered gables, and the combined former school and school-house south of the church is again Tudoresque in red brick.
Manors and Other Estates.
The undivided village of Gransden was owned c. 960 by the thegn Heanric of Wantage. Before 973 he sold it for 200 gold pieces to Bishop Ethelwold of Winchester, (fn. 38) who intended to devote it to endowing the monasteries that he was restoring in the Fenland. Instead he later exchanged it, for lands which he gave to Thorney Abbey, with his supporter, the ealdorman Ethelwine. The estate was then assessed at 15 hides. (fn. 39) It was soon after divided between two lords and two counties. The 8 hides of what was later Great Gransden (Hunts.) had descended by 1060 to Alfgar, earl of Mercia. Five hides eventually came to Ely Abbey, possibly given by Ethelwine, who was its chief benefactor. The abbey may have attracted its estate into the same jurisdiction as its many other Cambridgeshire lands. The division between counties was accomplished before the hidation recorded in Domesday was made, for Great and Little Gransden were both then included in regular-sized blocks of hides in their respective hundreds. (fn. 40) Ely certainly held LITTLE GRANSDEN manor c. 1032 when Abbot Leofsige charged it with supplying two weeks' food farm for his monks. Edward the Confessor confirmed it to the abbey, among other lands, with soke and sake. (fn. 41) Small neighbouring properties of Ely Abbey were made dependent on it, including a virgate held by sokemen in Gamlingay, later seized by a Norman, (fn. 42) and possibly a hide at Papworth St. Agnes, held c. 1500 for 26 wooden dishes yearly rendered by the Mallory family. (fn. 43) The manor was held in demesne in 1086, (fn. 44) but may later have been granted to a tenant for knight-service, for Bishop Niel recovered it in a plea c. 1135, among other lands so alienated. (fn. 45) When the abbey lands were finally divided between the bishop and the monks, Little Gransden fell within the bishop's share, and remained one of the demesne manors of the see of Ely until 1600. In 1251 the bishop was granted free warren there, as in his other lands. (fn. 46)
When Bishop Cox died in 1581, Elizabeth I kept Gransden and the see's other properties in her own hands during a vacancy of 19 years, using them to reward her courtiers and officials. Among those profiting by her benefactions was Richard Skipwith of South Ormsby (Lincs.) who had nearly ruined himself by 20 years' attendance at court, and was forced to sell or mortgage much of his ancestral lands. (fn. 47) In 1592 he was promised leases worth £60 a year from the bishop's lands, including £1 a year rent from Littlehound wood. (fn. 48) When in 1600 the Queen compelled Bishop Heton to yield up Little Gransden among other manors as the condition of his appointment, (fn. 49) Skipwith claimed it as compensation for his losses. A lease to him for 20 years' fine, approved in March 1602, (fn. 50) was by July altered to a grant for £249 at the fee-farm of £28 6s. 2d., the manor's yearly yield less the income from entry fines. To evade his creditors, he had both grants made out to his son, Edward Skipwith of Ketsby (Lincs.). (fn. 51) The fee-farm rent, included in 1626 in Queen Henrietta Maria's dower, (fn. 52) was sold in 1650 to John Lowry of Cambridge. (fn. 53) The Skipwiths in 1602 immediately conveyed the manor to Richard Smith of Bromley (Kent), (fn. 54) perhaps on mortgage; having failed to recover possession of the demesne, which was then leased to the tenants, they sold the manor in 1605 to Sir Allen Apsley. (fn. 55) He regained the demesne, but after 1613 sold the manor to John Okes, who in turn conveyed it to Thomas Foxley. (fn. 56) Okes and Foxley together granted it in 1618 to Erasmus Dryden (cr. Bt. 1619, d. 1632) of Canons Ashby (fn. 57) (Northants.), who after about 7 years made it over to his younger sons, William and Erasmus. (fn. 58) They conveyed it in 1635 to trustees to the use of John Power (d. c. 1650) of Kings Ripton (Hunts.). (fn. 59) His son, William Power, had inherited it by 1651, (fn. 60) and in 1655 sold it to Sir Thomas Cotton, Bt. (d. 1662). (fn. 61) By 1663 Gransden had passed to Sir Thomas's younger son, Robert Cotton (fn. 62) (cr. kt. 1663) of Hatley St. George.
On Sir Robert's death in 1717 the manor remained to his grand-nephew Sir John Cotton, Bt. (d. 1731), who in 1718 conveyed it to John Wishaw. (fn. 63) In 1719 it was sold to Thomas Pindar, (fn. 64) a former Africa merchant, (fn. 65) who by his will dated 1738 ordered his executors to sell it for his relatives' benefit. After he died in 1742 (fn. 66) the title to the estate was disputed in Chancery until 1752, when it was bought by a Mr. Webb, from who it descended by will in 1764 to Thomas Lister of London. He in 1766 sold it to George Shergold (d. 1787) of Iver (Bucks.), (fn. 67) who in 1786 sold it to the London glassmanufacturer, Thomas Quintin (d. 1806), who had lately bought Hatley St. George. (fn. 68) By 1813 Little Gransden was owned by Quintin's grandson, Thomas Quintin, who being financially embarrassed conveyed the ownership to his father, John Whitby Quintin, in 1819. (fn. 69) Little Gransden manor descended with Hatley in that family until 1868 and was owned by their successors there until 1918, when the farms belonging to the Hatley Park estate in Gransden were sold off. (fn. 70) The lordship of the manor was apparently retained by the owners of Hatley Park. Thus the lord in 1933 was Ernest Ridgill (fn. 71) and in 1967 Major the Hon. J. J. Astor.
The bishops of Ely probably seldom visited this outlying estate, although their villeins were obliged to carry their baggage when they did. (fn. 72) Bishop Lisle came to Gransden in 1356, when fleeing from the enemies who had attacked his train at St. Ives. (fn. 73) The bishops maintained a manor-house at Little Gransden with a hall, chamber, and kitchen, the usual farm-buildings, and a dovecot. With the decline of high demesne farming the buildings began to fall into decay. In 1356 they were already said to be ruinous. (fn. 74) The last to survive was the dovecot, demolished by the rector c. 1550, and possibly re-erected in Great Gransden. (fn. 75) The site of the manor-house called Berry close, south-east of the churchyard and rectory, was held with the rest of the demesne by the tenants. They were leasing it to the rectors by 1550. On part they built a town house which was let by the churchwardens for 20s. a year. In the 16th century the steward held the manor courts there, and the new lords after 1602 claimed it therefore as the manor-house. (fn. 76) The area was in 1968 occupied by the gardens of the former rectory and old school buildings.
RECTORY manor originated in a grant from the bishop to the rector of 100 a., which may be the 100 a. by which the demesne arable was reduced between 1251 and 1279. Since, however, the rector was also lord in 1279 of 2 free tenants with 6 a. each, and 8 cottars, each holding two-acre crofts, who had to help to harvest his crops, and do not appear in earlier surveys, the grant may have been made earlier than 1251. (fn. 77) When Edward Leeds, a zealous Protestant, resigned the benefice in 1553, he not only reserved a pension of a third of its value, (fn. 78) but obliged his successor to grant a lease of the glebe to his brother, John Leeds, probably on favourable terms. (fn. 79) John was called lord of the manor in a Chancery lawsuit against him c. 1581 for attempting to disinherit a copyholder. Although free tenants were mentioned in that lawsuit, (fn. 80) by 1615 only six copyhold crofts were left, (fn. 81) and, at inclosure, they had shrunk to four cottages with their crofts held of the Rectory manor. (fn. 82) The glebe itself, when recovered from John Leeds after 1581, had grown to 7 a. of pasture and 140 a. of arable, including 23 a. in closes in the northern corner of the parish next to Great Gransden village. The rest lay in the open fields. (fn. 83) At the inclosure in 1814 it was reduced to 104 a. of which the rector, Thomas Briggs, sold 41 a. to himself to pay for the interior fencing of the new allotment made to the rectory, which included also 336 a. in lieu of tithes. (fn. 84) The rent from the land fell seriously during the agricultural depression; and between 1883 and 1906 the rectors often proposed to sell it. It was finally sold in 1921. (fn. 85)
In 1222 the parson held from the bishop a messuage of 2 a. below his garden, which may have been his home. (fn. 86) The parsonage house was in 1615 equipped with 2 barns, a granary, malt-house, hay-house, stables, and pigsties. (fn. 87) It lay north of the church across a narrow lane, and was the largest house in the parish in the 1660s, having 6 hearths. (fn. 88) While the rectors were nonresident in the later 18th century it fell into disrepair and in 1783 was described as only a better type of cottage. It was then being let as an alehouse and used as a wheelwright's workshop. (fn. 89) William Gower, rector 1802–9, put it into repair again and may have been responsible for its Gothick appearance. (fn. 90) It was sold in 1929, (fn. 91) and the rector in 1967 lived at Great Gransden.
Between 1610 and 1650 the lords of the manor sold to many of the copyholders the freehold of their tenements and almost half the demesne also. (fn. 92) The ownership of those lands was at first scattered among the copyholders' heirs. Thus in 1727 there were 19 freeholders, including several outsiders such as the Apthorpe family of Gamlingay. (fn. 93) Gradually, however, the tenements were concentrated in fewer hands. The vicar of Great Gransden and the charity founded by Barnabas Oley (vicar there 1633–85) both held small properties in Little Gransden. The vicar's land was taken over by Clare College, patron of his living, in the 19th century. (fn. 94) Several of the rectors of Little Gransden accumulated substantial holdings. William Knight, rector 1598–1623, had by 1607 acquired in his own right 40 a., (fn. 95) which descended to his son William (d. 1645) and grandson William (d. 1659). The family later removed to Denny Abbey, Waterbeach. (fn. 96) Thomas Jessop, rector 1654–1700, left an estate held by his descendants until the last, Francis Jessop of Bedford, died c. 1762, when no heir could be found. (fn. 97) James Musgrave, rector 1714–47, acquired land worth £2,000 at Great and Little Gransden and Toft under a settlement, and devised it to his son Edward with remainder to his elder sons. (fn. 98) Thomas Briggs, rector 1809–29, had already by 1813 acquired 124 a. and during the inclosure bought 160 a. more. (fn. 99) His lands were broken up after his death in 1831. (fn. 100) Part of them, including 150 a. in Stocking field, was acquired by the Webb family, which entered the neighbourhood with William Webb, master of Clare Hall (d. 1856). (fn. 101) By 1829 he had the lease of the vicar of Great Gransden's Little Gransden property, (fn. 102) and in 1830 bought Reppington manor in Great Gransden. (fn. 103) He or his son T. V. Webb of Audley House, Great Gransden, also bought the farm owned in 1814 by Susanna Rugeley of Potton (Beds.), possibly inherited from Henry Rugeley, steward of the manor c. 1760. (fn. 104) T. V. Webb held the property, c. 200 a. north and west of the village, until his death in 1885, when it passed to his widow. (fn. 105) It was sold in 1910 after her death. (fn. 106) Another estate of 71 a. comprising the modern Rose farm, owned in 1814 by Major Henry Ware of Ware (Herts.), (fn. 107) had by 1910 passed to C. Smith. (fn. 108)
In 1066 the manor of Little Gransden was worth £15 a year. By 1086, owing to Ely's troubles after the Conquest, its value had fallen to £8 a year. There was only one plough on demesne land that could employ three, and 30 pigs when the woods could feed 60. Half the vill, 2½ out of 5 hides, was included in the demesne on which four servi worked. The rest of the manor was divided among 8 villani, and 3 bordars with 10 acres each, who had 6 ploughs between them to supplement the demesne team. There was demesne meadow enough for 3 plough-teams. (fn. 109)
By 1222 (fn. 110) the expansion of cultivation and division of holdings had reduced the demesne to a smaller proportion of the arable and greatly increased the number of those available to work it. Almost all the 1,600 a. of the parish, except the village crofts, 60 a. of common pasture, 72 a. of wood, and some 40 a., possibly assart, which the bishop had inclosed between the woods as several pasture, was included in the open fields, which were already subdivided by balks, ways, and ditches. Some demesne lay in large parcels, e.g. of 67 a. and 85 a., but much was scattered in small parcels of 5 to 10 a. Later that 'berry land', as it was called c. 1600, was believed to have been ploughed in a ratio of 3 lands to the acre and not 2, as was the case with the peasant holdings. The medieval layout of the fields appears partly from comparing the extents with later material. The common lay along the boundary with Longstowe, between the Cambridge way and the north end of the east field, which stretched to the edge of Great Gransden. West of the village was another field, called in the south Fyfsheetes and Longhey, in the north Stocking, probably from the clearing of woodland. A third field lay south of the village.
The layout probably altered little until inclosure. The east field, by 1600 called Mill field, covered the north-east of the parish, except the common, from the Great Gransden boundary to Magotpit Dene, probably the line of the midmost waterchannel from the common down to the brook. Littlehound (later Hound Wood) field reached south from the dene to the border with Hatley St. George. It met Stocking field, which covered the western third of the parish, along a boundary running from the southern end of the village. The 17th-century glebe terriers show that the strips in those fields lay mostly north and south, except in that part of Littlehound field north of Cambridge way.
In 1222 and 1251 the demesne accounted for 510 a. and 518 a. respectively of the arable. The remainder was divided into 28 virgates, probably of 30 a. each, 3 smaller plots of 5 a., possibly representing the Domesday bordars', and the oneacre holdings of 14 cottars. By 1222 11 virgates had each been sub-divided between two tenants. The villein virgaters, being tenants of an ecclesiastical lord, had still to perform substantial services, doing two week-works throughout the year, and five in August and September. They had to plough ½ a. each Friday, except in harvest-time. By 1222 however, their week-works were already by custom restricted to measured amounts of such tasks as threshing, digging, or reaping. In other tasks, such as hoeing or spreading dung, they could stop work at noon. They had also to pay rents in kind and in cash, such as 'witepund', also 'Londonelade', possibly in commutation of carrying-services to London. They had still, as their turn came, to perform average, carrying the bishop's goods to his neighbouring manors or to the markets at Cambridge, Huntingdon, St. Ives, and St. Neots. Virgaters also owed suit of mill, though not foldsoke, and had to pay tallage and a heriot of their second best beast or 30d. Those holding only 5 a. did only two week-works, the cottars only one. They were excused harvesting, mowing the lord's meadow, and the Friday ploughing. All the tenants had to come with all their plough-beasts to three ploughing-boons each year, to help to carry the lord's hay, and to bring 4 or 2 men, in proportion to the size of their holdings, to do three boon-works (one a 'lovebene') to reap his harvest.
The reeve and bedel were chosen by the lord from among the virgaters and were discharged while in office from all week-works and rents in kind, but not from the ploughing or harvest boons. A like freedom was enjoyed by the woodward, who held a virgate in 1251 for keeping the wood, and the hereditary hogward (a woman in 1251) who had 5 a. for keeping the lord's 40 pigs, and was entitled to a 'marking hog' each year. The woodward could also run his 4 plough-oxen in the lord's several pasture, like the rector who might keep 6 oxen there.
The manor had originally consisted entirely of demesne or of villein land providing labourers for it. All the virgates, free or villein, still paid cornbote in 1298–9. (fn. 111) By 1222 the Spinney family held freely 2 virgates (amounting to 80 a.) for a 12s. rent. (fn. 112) In 1230 Bishop Hugh freed another virgate from all labour-services, in return for an increased rent. (fn. 113) That virgate may later have relapsed into villeinage. Rentals and surveys from the 14th century onward always record 26 virgates, requiring its inclusion to complete the number. (fn. 114) The free tenements were soon minutely divided. By 1279 one free virgate already had 2 under-tenants. On the other holding Ralph Spinney, besides renting 30 a. to a kinsman, had put out all the rest except his messuage in small plots to 10 other rent-paying tenants. (fn. 115) Ralph's grandson Thomas sold off the last 24 a. which his family possessed in 1311. (fn. 116) The continuity recorded in the extents probably concealed a similar fragmentation in the villein lands, as the lord began to rely more on hired labour to cultivate the demesne. Already in 1251 5 villeins had left the manor and were paying chevage, and the lord's servants received part of their wages in kind. (fn. 117) In 1316 the demesne employed throughout the year 3 ploughmen, a carter, and a shepherd, while 3 other ploughmen were taken on for 2 weeks for spring ploughing. (fn. 118) Meanwhile the villeins' works were increasingly commuted. A fixed tariff of ½d. a work had been established by 1298–9, when 2,205 works, about half of those theoretically available, were commuted at that rate. (fn. 119) In 1316 405 of 531 works due over 9 weeks were commuted. (fn. 120) By 1356 commutation at ½d. a work was the recognized practice. (fn. 121)
The value of the manor reached its highest point between 1250 and 1300. In 1251 it was being farmed for £38 a year, (fn. 122) and in 1297–8, with the demesne in hand, brought in £17 10s. 5d. in cash. (fn. 123) In 1316 the bishop had 6 ploughs on the demesne with 6 horses and 12 oxen to draw them. (fn. 124) Between 1320 and 1391 grain was sometimes being sold from the demesne. (fn. 125) In 1251 the bishop could have kept 120 sheep on the manor, (fn. 126) and in 1342 he was expected to provide 26 stone of wool out of the 82 to be supplied by the village. Six villagers, out of 50 named, produced another 15 stone of the remainder. (fn. 127)
The manorial economy, however, was already then in decline. The use of the bishop's pasture in Stocking field was sold in 1297–8. (fn. 128) In 1316 115 a. of the demesne were lying fallow, representing a cultivated area of c. 350 a. out of a total demesne of 400 a. In 1356 100 a. had lain fallow for 4 years continuously and were being used as common. The other 300 a. under rotation were valued at only 2d. each when sown, and only 2 ploughs were available. In 1316 even fallow land had been worth 10d. an acre. There were in 1356 only 15 a. of poor pasture, but the woods had grown, and clearing their undergrowth was yielding £3 5s. (fn. 129) Some demesne strips in the open fields were evidently being laid down to grass. (fn. 130)
Manorial ties were being loosened by enfranchisement of some villein tenants. In 1362 John Brown, who had been reeve in 1356, and three others whom the escheator claimed as the bishop's bondmen alleged that they were not villeins but free tenants. (fn. 131) There was enough discontent to produce a riot in 1381 during the Peasants' Revolt. (fn. 132) The manor had already been put to farm in some earlier years, and in 1391 Bishop Fordham leased the demesne to the customary tenants at £10 a year for term of his life. His successors maintained the arrangement, sometimes for terms of years, sometimes year by year, at rents that had fallen by 1454 to £4 7s. 4d. (fn. 133) They also commuted all the tenants' services for 13s. 4d. from each virgate, 3s. 4d. each from three quarterlands of 5 a., and 2s. 6d. from a cottage. By 1550, the amounts had been reduced to 10s., 2s., and 2s. respectively. (fn. 134) The manor's nominal yield fell from about £35 to £26 11s. 9d. by 1454. With the decay of rents the actual receipts sank to £22 4s. 5d. in 1454 and £17 2s. 6d. in 1496. (fn. 135) By 1550 they had recovered to about £21: and the nominal rental was raised under royal management after 1581 to £35 12s. 10d., possibly by increasing entry fines. The profits of the manorial court rose from 35s. in 1550 to £7 6s. 8d. in 1600. (fn. 136)
The tenants used the demesne to enlarge their individual holdings and expand their common lands. By 1500 they had enlarged the nominal virgate from 30 a. to 40 a., and under James I brought evidence that that was its traditional size. (fn. 137) They converted many blocks of demesne arable in the open fields to pasture, so enabling commoners to keep more cattle, and appropriated the old inclosed pasture of Graves by Hayley wood, some 60 a., to their cattle. The ancient common called Langland common was extended to cover some 180 a. along the eastern border between Northend and the edge of Hayley wood. Much land along the border with Gamlingay was also converted into leys. All the new pastures in 1600 still bore clear signs of having formerly been arable, lying in ridge and furrow. (fn. 138) The bishop's meadow called Thwaites was divided into annually shifting lots among the copyholders in the proportion of one pole's width of the hay for each half-virgate or cottage, and after mowing was grazed in common. (fn. 139) Twenty acres also became the customary unit for stinting cattle on the common. By 1800 every such holding and each cottage carried a right to pasture 2 cows, a calf, and 10 sheep there, but the stint of a horse to each 15 a. recalled the earlier size of the half-virgate. (fn. 140) The collective payment of the rent was probably handled by the churchwardens, who rented out parcels of pasture in the common fields to copyholders wishing to plough them up, and sold timber growing round the inclosed pastures, to raise money for church repairs. (fn. 141) Hayley wood, however, was excluded from the lease of the demesne, and let separately. (fn. 142)
By 1600 there had been some concentration of ownership of the copyholds. Of the 13 men owning the 810 a. giving rights in the common meadow, three had 120 a. each, one had 80 a., and two others 60 a. (fn. 143) There may also have been some consolidation of the strips. Some furlongs were named after local families, and of the rector's 127 a. of glebe in the open fields, comprising 50 a. each in Mill and Stocking fields and 27 a. in Littlehound field, 60 a. lay in parcels of 5 a. or more. (fn. 144) There were many landless labourers. In 1525 only 20 persons were taxed to the subsidy on their goods, and 24 on wages. (fn. 145) Many of those assessed to subsidies between 1524 and 1674 came from the same families: such surnames as Bett, Branston, Ellis, Peter, Rowning, and Suttle recur over several generations. (fn. 146) The wealthiest family in the early 16th century was probably that of John Ellis (d. 1522), whose widow, sons, and brother were between them assessed at £36 to the subsidy in 1525. John's eldest son, Robert, held over 100 a. at his death in 1527, and his descendants were prominent in the parish down to 1650. (fn. 147)
The tenants' long and profitable possession of the demesne was disturbed when in 1602 the Crown sold the manor to Richard Skipwith, (fn. 148) who hoped to mend his fortunes by recovering the demesne, and employed Christopher Meade, a former steward, to discover what lands had formerly belonged to the demesne. Despite the disappearance of many medieval names, Meade identified it with land used as common, still lying in ridge and furrow—an early instance of applied field archaeology. (fn. 149) Richard Skipwith then sued the tenants for trespass by ploughing up leys on land that he claimed as demesne, but was non-suited. (fn. 150) In 1606 his successor, Sir Allen Apsley, (fn. 151) sued the copyholders for claiming to hold the whole manor except the woods as copyhold or common. (fn. 152) Apsley tried to prove that the berry lands were the former demesne. (fn. 153) The tenants, headed by the rector, alleged that the term also covered much of the glebe and free land, and the crofts on which the village stood, and that a map made by Apsley's surveyor to show the supposed demesne contained many inaccuracies. (fn. 154) After prolonged inquiries lasting two years (fn. 155) the evidence of the tenants' witnesses was disallowed because they persistently evaded cross-examination, (fn. 156) and it was adjudged in 1609 that Apsley had proved his title to 508 a. of arable, 25 a. of pasture, and 14½ a. of meadow. (fn. 157) The tenants rejected Apsley's compromise offer of a 21-year lease at an easy rent, demanding one for 500 years. (fn. 158) Apsley had the area he claimed set out for him, primarily from former plough-land used as common, (fn. 159) with many strips in the common fields, and also some 160 a., lying beside Hayley wood, which he proceeded to inclose. (fn. 160) The tenants, who had maintained that Langland common by itself was not sufficient to support all their cattle, (fn. 161) pulled down Apsley's fences and put in their herd. A fresh Exchequer decree empowered Apsley to inclose his land, and in compensation forbade him to keep cattle on the common. (fn. 162) Apsley tried to conciliate the tenants by selling several of them the freehold of their copyholds in 1611, provided that they renounced common in his inclosures, and also some 100 a. of demesne arable in the open fields. (fn. 163) The land inclosed was mostly devoted to pasture, although the Graves was put under tillage for some 7 years c. 1620. Its inclosure greatly increased its profitability. In 1649 it was estimated that those 160 a., let to a farmer, brought in £80 a year while enjoyed in severalty. If the villagers' cattle were allowed to range freely over them they might yield only £3 13s. 4d. or even 30s. (fn. 164)
The Civil War gave the tenants an opportunity to revive claims to their former pastures. About 1644 because Mr. Longville, (fn. 165) then occupying the inclosures, refused to pay taxes, the Parliamentarian Committee for Cambridgeshire sequestrated his property and allowed the villagers to pasture their cattle, 140–80 head, in it. The villagers cut down the hedges dividing the new sixty-acre close from the village common, and demolished the farm-house built there. (fn. 166) In 1647 the owner, John Power, obtained an injunction against them to observe the old decree, (fn. 167) which was immediately defied by a mob of villagers who cut the fences down again and drove in the town herd of some 200 cattle to devour and trample down the new-grown grass. (fn. 168) Again in 1648, after gaps had been cut in the hedges by night, two poor women urged in the village cattle which ate up 20 a. of new grass before being put out. That incursion, though ostensibly the work of the poorer inhabitants, had the secret countenance of the more substantial tenants, one of whom instructed the common herdsman not to drive the cattle out of the inclosure if the people put them in. (fn. 169) The dispute was finally settled in 1650 by a compromise. John Power agreed with four leading tenants to sell them the freehold of their lands at the old quit-rent and to restore to each holding the 10 a. of berry lands lost by it under the decree of 1609. In return they released to him all their rights of common in the inclosures. (fn. 170)
Thereafter the number of copyhold tenants soon fell to twelve. (fn. 171) At the inclosure of 1813–14 there were only 124 a. of copyhold compared with over 720 a. of freehold. (fn. 172) The lord's holdings in the open fields had by 1655 been reduced to 115 a., which were then expected to yield only £17 5s. a year, compared with £100 from 160 a. of pasture. The nominal net income from the manor was put at £194. Its value had recently been improved by cutting down Littlehound wood and letting its soil. (fn. 173) In the 1680s Lodge farm, containing most of the pasture, brought in £50 in rent. Its farmer found it more profitable to let out his fields to drovers for fattening cattle in transit than to pasture his own herd on them or grow hay for mowing. (fn. 174) Sir Robert Cotton, however, began to restore the lord's position as the village's principal landowner. In 1663 he was holding several strips bordering on the glebe which in 1615 had belonged to copyholders. (fn. 175) The final loss of so much common probably involved a decline in welfare for many villagers. In the 1660s only 3 households, apart from the rector's, possessed more than 2 hearths. (fn. 176) By 1674 3 out of 51 houses were empty, and another 24 householders were discharged from paying the hearth tax. (fn. 177)
The 18th century saw some further concentration of property. Of the 19 freeholders recorded in 1724 only five came from Gransden's old yeoman families, and seven were outsiders. (fn. 178) At the inclosure in 1813–14 only two holdings of any size were owned by residents, both themselves newcomers. William Virley, from Great Gransden, held 62 a. and Robert Fuller 148 a., while his kinsman, James Fuller, farmed the 117 a. owned by Susanna Rugeley. The Lincoln family had assembled a farm of 160 a., which was sold by 1820, mostly to Thomas Briggs, then rector, who already owned 124 a. Major Ware had 147 a. and Thomas Quintin, lord of the manor, claimed to own 487 a. in the open fields besides the inclosed 247 a. of Lodge farm. The eight surviving smallholders had only 46 a. between them, of which only 17 a. lay in the open fields. (fn. 179)
The process of concentration was consummated by the inclosure, which took place under an Act obtained in 1813. (fn. 180) The re-allotment of land was completed by the autumn of 1814, (fn. 181) though the award was not formally made until 1826. (fn. 182) The larger landowners lost much land, Quintin's allotment being 317 a. and Ware's 71 a. because the rector received a fifth of the arable in place of tithes. (fn. 183) The smallholders and the owners of the 16 cottages, not all of whom resided in the village, were allotted an average of only 1¾ a. each in return for the extinction of their rights of common. (fn. 184) Less than 100 a. remained outside the ownership of Little Gransden's nine principal landowners, and the squire and Thomas Briggs, as rector and in his own right, between them owned about 1,250 a. of the 1,750 a. then being farmed there.
Even for the larger landlords the inclosure was not at first advantageous. The parish had recently been more intensively cultivated. In 1801 917 a. were yielding crops, and wheat and oats, with 280 a. and 300 a. respectively, (fn. 185) had superseded the barley which had been the main crop until the 16th century. (fn. 186) Thomas Quintin had let his open-field lands at 15s. and Lodge farm at 18s. an acre. (fn. 187) The fall in agricultural prices after 1815, however, falsified the assumptions that had induced agreement to inclose. The disturbance of farming routine during the exchange and the heavy cost of fencing added to the trouble. Several landowners could not for a time pay their share of the £4,400 assessed on them in 1815 to meet the expenses of inclosure. (fn. 188) Quintin had to let Lodge farm for only 7s. 6d. an acre in 1815. His other two farms (420 a.) were, like Major Ware's, thrown on the owner's hands. The cultivation of the 'wet, cold, and shallow poor land' of the area was thought to involve farmers in a net loss of income at the prevailing price of grain, even before paying rent and taxes. The other three farms in the village were expected in 1816 to be thrown up at the next quarter-day, and their owners had not the capital to keep them under cultivation. Quintin saw his income from Little Gransden reduced from £600 to £60, and was compelled, it was said, to lay down all his servants and carriages. (fn. 189) In 1817 Robert Fuller sold 43 a. of the 104 a. allotted him at inclosure to Thomas Briggs. (fn. 190) The landlords remained embarrassed for many years. In 1834 Thomas Quintin declared that he had failed to find a tenant for a farm once yielding 30 bushels of wheat an acre, even though he was offering a lease at 5s. an acre. (fn. 191) In 1851 three farms, covering 447 a., were unlet, and the Rectory farm was being managed by bailiffs in both 1841 and 1851. (fn. 192)
The lower classes also suffered. The overseers supposed in 1834 that the labourers had no chance of saving from annual incomes of £35 that barely sufficed for subsistence. None of them owned their own cottages. As their numbers increased, and they changed service more often, they were moreover becoming 'worse workmen'. (fn. 193) The problem of surplus labour persisted. In 1851 there were 46 men described as agricultural labourers in the parish, but the farms, including those unlet, provided employment for only 38 men and boys. Two more were employed on road-making. The parish offered few alternative employments to agriculture. There were few craftsmen, except those necessary for building. A baker and a 'machine-maker' were established there in 1841, but their successors in 1851 were both paupers. (fn. 194)
The number of farms did not diminish so sharply in the 19th century as the number of proprietors. In 1851 the parish contained 11 farms, of which only 3 were over 200 a., and 6 were about 100 a. All the substantial farmers were immigrants to Little Gransden, except on the Virley and Fuller farms. The former had been sold by 1868. (fn. 195) The latter, called Hill farm, descended from Robert to William Fuller (d. 1844), and after his son James Fuller died in 1871 (fn. 196) was sold to F. and J. Braybrooks of Potton (Beds.). (fn. 197) The agricultural prosperity of the mid 19th century encouraged the Quintins to consolidate their property c. 1860 into three large farms, Fuller's Hill, Gransden Lodge, and the newly erected Model farm, which covered 690 a. in the parish and 825 a. altogether, and about 1868 yielded £1,084 in rent. (fn. 198) The northern part of the parish was more fragmented. In 1908 Little Gransden contained ten farmers still, and in 1933 nine. (fn. 199) Farms held under individual landlords were as small as 56 a. and 22 a., and c. 1910 a single field of 17 a. was divided among four tenants. (fn. 200)
During the agricultural depression Rectory farm (later called Common farm) which covered 403 a. on the east, north of the road to Longstowe, including the old common, went out of cultivation. (fn. 201) Much of its land was marginal, requiring careful draining. When c. 1880 the rector refused to lower the rent, the tenant left, (fn. 202) and the derelict fields rapidly reverted to rough grassland, covered with hawthorns and briars, productive only of rabbits, and capable of letting only for shooting and summer grazing. (fn. 203) The food shortages of the First World War brought it once more under the plough. The County War Agricultural Committee took it over in 1918, and the land was cleared by soldiers and put under wheat. When after the war compensation was claimed for the improvements, the rector had to sell it in 1921 for only half its nominal value to Robert Banks. (fn. 204) Fuller's Hill farm was bought c. 1920 by its tenant, H. G. Jefferies, and he, Banks, and D. W. Hancock, who owned and farmed Hill and Brook farms, were the principal landowners in 1933. (fn. 205)
In 1251 Bishop Hugh had recently built a windmill on Old Mill Hill, which was farmed for £3 6s. 8d. then (fn. 206) and in 1297–8, (fn. 207) and for £4 in 1316. (fn. 208) By 1356 it had become ruinous, yielding only 13s. 4d. a year. (fn. 209) Later its rent was 23s. 4d. in 1454, (fn. 210) 22s. in 1495 when it was said to be decayed, (fn. 211) and only 6s. 8d. in 1549–50. (fn. 212) It was finally blown down, and the timbers removed by a farmer, under Elizabeth I. Two new mills, put up near the old site, (fn. 213) were probably in Great Gransden, where one still survived in 1965.
As part of the demesne of the bishops of Ely, Little Gransden was partially exempted from the jurisdiction of the hundred. In 1279 the bishop claimed to enjoy in it view of frankpledge, without the king's bailiff's presence, tumbrel, vee de naam, return of writs, and 'all that belongs to judgement'. (fn. 214) The liberty was sometimes disadvantageous for the villagers. In 1260 they were obliged to pay by themselves the whole murdrum for a man found dead in their fields. (fn. 215) The bishops and their successors as lords continued to hold courts leet and baron for their manor until the 19th century, latterly only formally for land dealings. (fn. 216) By the 16th century the rector too was holding a court for his tenants, though at long and irregular intervals. Thus it was alleged in 1581 that it had not met since 1574. (fn. 217)
Later, parish affairs were managed by an infrequently held vestry. (fn. 218) Expenditure on the poor, mostly on out-relief, for the parish had no links before 1835 with any workhouse, increased from £63 in 1776 to £90 in 1803 (7s. 9d. a head) (fn. 219) and £155 in 1831 (12s. 4d. a head). By 1834 relief was being given on a fixed bread-scale. Those who once obtained a parish allowance to supplement their wages seldom lost it, and the farmers were considering sharing out the rate-supported labourers among themselves in proportion to the rates they paid. (fn. 220) In 1835 the parish was included in the Caxton and Arrington poor law union, (fn. 221) and in 1934 was transferred from the Caxton and Arrington R.D. to the South Cambridgeshire R.D. (fn. 222)
A priest of 'Grantandene' is first recorded c. 1183, witnessing a grant of land in Gamlingay. (fn. 223) The church was in the 13th century, as it has remained, a rectory, in the patronage of the bishop of Ely. (fn. 224) In 1401 Little Gransden, like the bishop's other demesne manors in Cambridgeshire, was, under the compromise settling the disputes between the bishop and the archdeacon of Ely, removed completely from the archdeacon's jurisdiction and placed directly under the bishop as ordinary. (fn. 225) The exemption endured in law until annulled by an Order in Council in 1899, which however, was not acted upon for several years. (fn. 226) When Elizabeth I annexed the manor in 1600 the advowson was still reserved to the bishop, (fn. 227) and remained in his sole hands until 1928, when the living was united with the vicarage of Great Gransden, whose patrons, Clare College, received two turns to present, the bishop taking the third. (fn. 228) Simultaneously the parish, so united, was transferred from Bourn rural deanery to that of St. Neots in the archdeaconry of Huntingdon. (fn. 229)
The rector always kept possession of the tithes and other profits of the church and had besides a substantial endowment of glebe land. His income in 1217 and 1254 was assessed at £13 6s. 8d., (fn. 230) and in 1291 at £18. (fn. 231) Only £6 13s. 4d. was supposed in 1341 to come from the great tithes, the glebe making up the difference. (fn. 232) In 1535 the yearly value of the rectory was £18 15s. 2d., which made it the wealthiest benefice in Bourn deanery, and one of the ten richest in the county. (fn. 233) It maintained its position through the subsequent price rise, yielding £125 a year in 1650, (fn. 234) though only £110 c. 1730. (fn. 235) About 1775 its income was estimated at almost £200. (fn. 236) The tithes began to be converted into moduses in the late 17th century. The small tithes of Lodge farm, then mainly pasture, were commuted for £3 5s. under an agreement of 1681. (fn. 237) The tithes were wholly extinguished in exchange for land at inclosure in 1814. (fn. 238) The large farm so created brought in £201 to the rector c. 1830, (fn. 239) but with the agricultural depression its yield fell sharply to a nominal £150 in 1892, and less when the farm was unlet. (fn. 240) In 1897 the living was said to be of no value. In 1896 the outgoings, in taxes, rates, and repairs, exceeded the £84 rent from the glebe by £11. (fn. 241)
By 1300 the living was wealthy enough to attract prominent officials of church or state as incumbents. In 1310 the 'ill-famed' royal clerk, Walter Maidstone, obtained it by papal provision to add to the ten benefices he held already. (fn. 242) When made bishop of Worcester in 1313, he had it transferred to his kinsman Walter Kirkeby, already a pluralist when aged fourteen, (fn. 243) who by 1327 had been succeeded by a canon of Salisbury. (fn. 244) Later the rectory was used as a stepping-stone by chopchurches. Between 1378 and 1398 it saw eight transient rectors, only one of whom died before he had exchanged it for another, usually richer, benefice. (fn. 245) Among them were several clerks serving Bishop Thomas Arundel, the patron, such as Simon Romayn, his cross-bearer, and Thomas of Barnard Castle, his registrar (later master of Peterhouse 1400–24). The latter held Gransden for only 12 days, as one of four churches held in succession in as many months. (fn. 246) Those rectors not absent on official duties departed to attend the university of Cambridge. About 1390 two successive rectors obtained long leave of absence to study, one within two months of being cited by the bishop for nonresidence. (fn. 247) When John Thwaites, S.T.B., was presented in 1460, he at once solicited an investigation into the dilapidations of his church and within a month was licensed to lease it for three years and return to his studies. (fn. 248) The duties of the living were probably thrown upon the parish chaplains, of whom there were two in 1379 and one in 1406. (fn. 249) Curates are recorded in 1487 and 1543–4. (fn. 250) Under Henry VIII it was they who usually witnessed the parishioners' wills. (fn. 251)
Edward Leeds (rector 1548–53), who as vicargeneral to Bishop Goodrich had been zealous in demolishing superstitious objects, resigned his cure on Mary's accession. (fn. 252) From that period Little Gransden rectory was almost invariably held by graduates of Cambridge. Under Elizabeth I it was used to support heads of Cambridge colleges, being held by Robert Norgate, master of Corpus Christi (rector 1584–7), and John Robinson, late president of St. John's (rector 1587–97). (fn. 253) Their successors probably resided on the cure. The learned and devout Andrew Willett (rector 1597–8) (fn. 254) sufficiently won his flock's liking to be chosen later to represent them on the commissions inquiring into the demesne in 1606–10 and abetted their delaying tactics. His successor William Knight organized their defence in the lawsuit over those lands. (fn. 255)
The Civil War produced greater disturbance. By 1638, in obedience to Bishop Wren, the communion table had been mounted on steps at the east end and railed round. (fn. 256) In 1644 William Dowsing came to level the steps and destroy the surviving carved angels and superstitious pictures. (fn. 257) The benefice was contested. When it fell vacant in 1643, Wren, then in prison, instituted John Tolly, fellow of Peterhouse, presented by his father, John Tolly, butcher, of London to whom Wren had in 1642 granted the next two presentations. (fn. 258) The younger Tolly was an ardent royalist, who filled his college rooms with ornaments considered to be popish, and therefore lost his fellowship. So the parliamentarians installed Thomas Perry instead. (fn. 259) In 1650 Wren named the voluminous royalist poet and divine, Joseph Beaumont, (fn. 260) to succeed Tolly and on Beaumont's resignation in 1663 replaced him with Gibson Lucas. (fn. 261) The benefice, however, remained in the possession of Thomas Jessop, who was minister there by 1650, (fn. 262) and secured presentation to it from the Protector in 1654. (fn. 263) Jessop anticipated the Restoration by receiving priest's orders from a wandering Irish bishop in 1659, (fn. 264) and held on through every revolution until his death in 1700. (fn. 265)
The 18th-century rectors showed a steady decline in pastoral diligence. James Musgrave, rector 1714–47, although he inherited land in County Durham, usually resided in his parish. (fn. 266) Henry Burrough, rector 1747–73, was domestic chaplain to Bishop Butts, and was given Wisbech and Little Gransden (worth together £600 a year) to hold in plurality, so that he could marry the bishop's youngest daughter. (fn. 267) John Hepworth, rector 1774– 1802, lived in his other parish of Grafham (Hunts.), leaving his duties to a curate to whom he paid £25 a year. (fn. 268) Thomas Briggs resided only occasionally and paid the vicar of Waresley to act as curate for £50 a year. (fn. 269) Whereas Musgrave had held services twice each Sunday and once on holy days, in 1807 only one Sunday service was said; and the attendance at the four annual communions fell from 30 in 1727 to 5 or 6 in 1825, who were always the same persons. (fn. 270) The 1830s brought an improvement. Frederick Norris, rector 1831–56, resided, as did his successors, held two services and preached every Sunday, and by 1836 had raised the number of communicants to 15 or 20. (fn. 271) In 1851 the average congregation was still only 30. (fn. 272) By 1881 the church had recovered all but some 40 of the population from dissent, and over 20 people attended the fortnightly communion. (fn. 273) In 1896–7 there were 43 registered communicants and about 115 churchpeople, though the church contained only 50 sittings of which 20 were free. (fn. 274)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL has a chancel with annexe, aisled nave with north porch, and west tower, built in carstone rubble with freestone dressings. Fragments of Romanesque carving in the south wall may come from an earlier church, (fn. 275) but the core of the existing building was put up in the 13th century, when it included the chancel, nave, aisles, and a south porch. In the 14th century there were alterations in the chancel, including an additional window in the east wall and a new window in the south wall. They probably preceded the reconsecration of the high altar in 1352. (fn. 276) Later in that century the tower and spire were added.
The clerestory was refenestrated, the north aisle rebuilt, and the south aisle heightened and buttressed in the later 15th century, and the rood-screen is an addition of about the same date. There is no indication of any new work in the chancel and in 1550 it was said to be near collapse. (fn. 277) By the 1580s it had been sufficiently repaired for the school to be held there. (fn. 278) The church was in good repair in 1727, (fn. 279) but it suffered further dilapidations in the 18th century. In 1783 it was darkened by windows boarded over for lack of glazing, the plastered walls needed whitewashing, and the pews and seats repair. (fn. 280) The sum of £600 was spent on repairs between 1840 and 1850, (fn. 281) and the church was restored in 1858, and again in 1885–8 by J. P. St. Aubyn. The old south porch was replaced by a north porch c. 1900, and an organ chamber added to the north aisle. (fn. 282) The 15th-century rood-screen, with ogee tracery, was repainted and embellished with statues of angels in 1908. (fn. 283) The pulpit is Jacobean, possibly of 1626. (fn. 284) The church plate includes a chalice and paten of 1582, and a paten of 1724. (fn. 285) There were three bells in 1552 (fn. 286) and in 1841, when only one was fit for use. (fn. 287) Of the three bells in 1968, one was possibly pre-Reformation, having a black-letter invocation of St. Nicholas. The other two were 17th-century, one being dated 1616. (fn. 288) The parish registers begin only in 1730, but the bishop's transcripts survive from 1599, with a gap from 1600 to 1605. (fn. 289)
In 1522 John Ellis bequeathed £10 for buying land, the rent to be used in four-year cycles on repairing the highways (for two years), on paying the fifteenth and 'king's wages' (probably for troops), and for the good of the church and village. He also left a stock of malt and barley for lending to the poor at Christmas. (fn. 290) Thirteen acres bought at Caxton were still in 1952 held by the churchwardens, except for 1½ a. sold in 1934. The rent was £12 in 1831 but only £3 in 1952. (fn. 291) The churchwardens also held in 1783 small plots in Great Gransden and Waresley (Hunts.), (fn. 292) and in 1952 certain allotments in Little Gransden. The total income from these properties in 1952 was £7 6s. 6d. spent on church purposes. (fn. 293)
By 1690 a dissenting congregation of unknown denomination had been established, which shared with others in neighbouring villages the services of two travelling ministers, who preached at each in turn every third Sunday. (fn. 294) In 1728 there were only three or four dissenters and no meeting-house, (fn. 295) but in 1752, after neglect by the absentee rectors, a house was licensed for a Baptist meeting, (fn. 296) and in 1773 there were Baptist and Congregational chapels. (fn. 297) Both had disappeared by 1807, when, as in 1825, the eight dissenting families attended a Baptist chapel in Great Gransden. (fn. 298) About 1830 dissent was revived by a Particular Baptist minister, Thomas Row, admired among his fellow-sectaries as a preacher and hymn-writer. A new Baptist chapel was registered in 1833 (fn. 299) with 100 free sittings, to which his sermons were in 1851 attracting congregations of up to 80 three times each Sunday. (fn. 300) After his death in 1864 and with the renewed diligence of the rectors it languished. The chapel was abandoned, and though there were still 30 or 40 chapel-goers between 1880 and 1900, they had again to attend the Baptist meeting at Great Gransden. (fn. 301)
In 1564 the rector himself was accused of not teaching the children of Little Gransden. (fn. 302) There was said to be a schoolmaster there in 1596 and 1604, (fn. 303) possibly the curate, and in the 1580s a school was held in the chancel, which was attended also by sons of inhabitants of neighbouring parishes such as Gamlingay and Great Gransden. (fn. 304) A charity or free school was founded under the will dated 1688 of Dorothy Stane, who directed that money bequeathed for educational purposes by her husband William in 1679 should in part be spent on buying land to maintain an 'English Protestant' school for the poor children of Little Gransden, and buy them good and pious books. (fn. 305) The land purchased yielded in 1783 £7 a year. (fn. 306) The school was associated with the S.P.C.K. in 1718, (fn. 307) and in 1724 had 10 pupils. (fn. 308) In 1783 £4 of the rent was devoted to teaching 9 children, the rest being spent on the church. (fn. 309) Twelve children attended the school in 1819, (fn. 310) and up to 55 boys and girls in 1835, but only 8 pupils were taught free. The school was also supported by the rector, who allotted the free places, and by fees. (fn. 311) In 1837 children from adjoining parishes were being admitted on payment of 2d. a week. The schoolmaster was said to have a violent temper and to leave the teaching to his 14-year-old son. The school-house was hired. (fn. 312) A Sunday school established by 1819 had only 10 to 12 pupils, though it was free. (fn. 313) In 1835 it had 45. (fn. 314) A National school linked with the Sunday school, and sharing its building with it, (fn. 315) was built by subscription in 1845 to replace the charity school and accommodate 132 children. The rector gave half the £400 that it cost. (fn. 316) It received a parliamentary building grant in 1848, (fn. 317) and was also assisted by the National Society and the Stane charity. (fn. 318) In 1867–8 the children, who paid weekly fees of 1d. or 4½d., were taught in two schoolrooms by a master and mistress and their daughter, none of them certificated, who lived in the adjoining master's house. (fn. 319) Attendance fell from 77 in 1847–8 to 60 in 1867–8 and 21 in 1922, (fn. 320) and the school was closed in 1923. (fn. 321) In 1902 an evening school attached to the National school had 12 pupils. (fn. 322)
Charities for the Poor.
In 1654 Branson Peter left £10, yielding 8s. a year, for the poor of Little Gransden. (fn. 323) In 1710 the capital together with £20 left by Thomas Jessop, late rector (d. 1700), £10 given by Sir John Cotton, Bt., and £5 by Sir Robert Cotton, was conveyed to trustees for the poor, who in 1720 bought a cottage and 1½ a. (fn. 324) The charity was apparently combined with a bequest by James Musgrave, rector 1714–47, who by codicil dated 1744 devised a freehold cottage, the rent of which was to be expended in annual doles of a shilling to poor widows and widowers in continuation of distributions made by Musgrave in his lifetime in memory of his first wife, and in doles to poor families. (fn. 325) In 1814 4½ a. were allotted for the common belonging to the two cottages. (fn. 326) The land was divided into 12 gardens, let to poor men at £1 an acre. In 1837 the rents from the land and cottages came to £13. (fn. 327) The income in 1952 was £15, which was still partly distributed to poor parishioners in 2s. gifts, leaving a substantial balance. (fn. 328)
By will proved in 1899 Julia Norris, niece of Frederick Norris, rector 1831–52, left over £7,000 stock to build and endow an alms-house, which was accordingly built in 1903, containing dwellings for a married couple, a widower or bachelor, a widow or spinster, and a caretaker or nurse. All were to be Anglicans, unable through sickness or age to earn a living. In 1952 annual income from the stock was £211, and expenditure £178. (fn. 329)