A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The parish of Westley Waterless, covering c. 1,150 a., lies 5½ miles south-west of Newmarket. (fn. 1) The village is at the south-eastern end of the parish, on high ground, c. 2 miles south of Dullingham station. The land rises from 125 ft. on the chalk at Westley Bottom in the north-west to 350 ft. at the eastern end of the village. Westley appears to have been carved out of the neighbouring parish of Burrough Green with which it was assessed for tax until the late 14th century. (fn. 2) As its name implies it lies west of Dullingham Ley and Stetchworth Ley, on land cleared of the wood which once covered the boulder clay lying, in the eastern part, over the chalk. (fn. 3) There are few watercourses in the parish. A stream crosses the west corner, but one well in the village is said to have supplied the whole area with water. (fn. 4)
Burrough End, at the eastern end of the village, is in Burrough Green parish, which also juts into the part of Westley village where the school stood. Near the south-west boundary c. 31 a. on the Burrough Green side of the Dullingham-Brinkley road is in Westley parish. Tradition ascribes its acquisition to a trial by combat in the early 14th century between Sir John de Crek and Sir John de Burgh, when Crek won the land, known as Brinkley Common, for his manor of Westley. (fn. 5) Between the Newmarket road and the railway, both of which cross the parish in the north-west, and Westley village, the north-east boundary follows a road; the south-west boundary, fairly straight towards the Newmarket road, is less regular in the south-east, following the edge of woodland. About 25 a. of wood remain in that corner of the parish.
The village of Westley is a small group of houses along a single street that runs north-west from Burrough End, and most houses are strung out along its north-eastern side. Near the south-eastern end is a close of six council houses. On the south-west side of the road stands the rectory, and on the same side, at the north-western edge of the village, the church, Westley Hall Farm, and the site of the manor-house are grouped around a pond. A few more houses stand at the north-western end of the parish, near Westley Bottom and Six Mile Bottom, including Westley Lodge Farm. South-east of Westley Bottom is Hungry Hill, so called since at least 1426. (fn. 6) East of Hungry Hill in 1890 there stood New Farm; by 1953 it had disappeared, and there was only a sheepyard on its site. The village contained c. 1910 the Trace-horse public house, called the White Horse by 1937. (fn. 7) There was no public house by 1976.
The village site seems to have been occupied since the 10th century. A leaden vessel filled with tools was found there dating from 975 × 1066. (fn. 8) Thirteen inhabitants were recorded in 1086. (fn. 9) There were 15 households in 1563, and 14–18 in the mid 17th century. (fn. 10) In 1728 there were still only 16 families, containing c. 68 people, but by 1801 the population had risen to 126. Numbers continued to rise to 214 in 1851, but had fallen to 176 by 1901. There was a slight increase for the next 20 years, but the population had fallen to 134 in 1971. (fn. 11)
Manors and Other Estates.
In 1086 Countess Judith held 3 yardlands and 10 a. in Westley which had been held by two men of Earl Harold. (fn. 12) The estate presumably descended with the rest of her lands in the barony of Kirtling, and is probably identifiable with the land of the little hall which Ralph de Tony gave to Agnes de Valognes before 1126. (fn. 13) It later passed to Agnes's granddaughter Gunnore, along with the fee which Agnes had held of the bishopric of Ely, and the two estates seem to have merged. That is presumably why, in 1617, Westley was said to be held of the manor of Kirtling. (fn. 14) The link otherwise disappears.
In 1066 the abbot of Ely held 3 hides in Westley which were later associated with lands in Fulbourn and Teversham and were possibly acquired with those lands in the late 10th century. (fn. 15) In the late 12th century Agnes de Valognes granted to Gunnore her fee in those three places, held of the bishop of Ely for the service of 2 knights. WESTLEY was presumably the manor, worth £15, which Agnes had held in 1185. (fn. 16) In 1212 Gunnore's second husband Robert FitzWalter (d. 1235) was lord, (fn. 17) and his descendants later held the mesne lordship, Robert FitzWalter (d. 1326) being succeeded by his son Robert (d. 1328), by that Robert's son John, later Lord FitzWalter, and by Walter, Lord FitzWalter (d. 1386). (fn. 18) By 1227 the manor had been subinfeudated to Christine, daughter of Gunnore and Robert, who held it with her second husband Raymond de Burgh. (fn. 19) Raymond died in 1230, Christine without issue in 1232, and in the mid 13th century John de Burgh, son of Raymond's uncle the justiciar Hubert de Burgh, sold the manor to Walter de Crek, whose son John, M.P. and sheriff of Cambridgeshire, held Westley in 1299 and is commemorated by a brass (c. 1325) in the church. (fn. 20) In 1353 Master John de Crek granted the manor of Westley in tail to Sir Edmund Vauncey and his wife Joan, John's niece, and Sir Edmund held it at his death in 1372. (fn. 21) His heir, also Edmund, then a minor, died in 1389 leaving his half-sister Joan as heir. (fn. 22) She and her first husband Thomas Prior held Westley in 1392 and 1412. (fn. 23) In 1422 her second husband, John Hore of Childerley, conveyed the manor to Sir Richard Waldegrave (d. 1435) (fn. 24) whose son and heir Sir Richard was succeeded c. 1464 by his son Sir Thomas. (fn. 25) Sir Thomas died in 1472 leaving a son William under age (fn. 26) who in 1487 sold Westley to Richard Gardiner, a London alderman (d. 1489). (fn. 27) Gardiner's lands passed to his daughter Mary, who married her father's ward, Sir Giles Alington of Horseheath (d. 1521). (fn. 28) Their eldest son, known as William Alington of Westley, died before his father, and the manor passed to William's brother Sir Giles Alington (d. 1586). Thereafter, Westley seems to have become separated from Horseheath, and passed to William (d. 1615), second son of the younger Sir Giles's second marriage, and then to William's son Giles. (fn. 29)
Giles married Anne, daughter of Robert Turner of Wratting (Suff.), and Westley apparently passed to her family, for Thomas Turner (d. 1648) left it to his son, also Thomas. (fn. 30) Thomas held the manor in 1674 but seems to have sold it to Thomas Cage, and by c. 1730 Westley belonged to Charles Seymour, duke of Somerset, descending with Burrough Green to Heneage Finch, earl of Aylesford (d. 1777). (fn. 31) Finch's son the 3rd earl sold it in 1811 to James Barker, rector of Westley 1836–50, who held a number of benefices and lands in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 32) In 1843 Barker sold the manor, with almost all the land in the parish, to Col. John Hall. (fn. 33) Westley descended with Hall's other lands to his nephew W. H. Bullock, who assumed the name Hall, and to Bullock's son, A. C. Hall, who sold it in 1912 as part of the Six Mile Bottom estate. It was bought by Sir Ernest Cassel (d. 1921) and passed to his granddaughter Ruth Cunningham-Reid (later Lady Delamere). (fn. 34) In 1939 Westley Hall farm was bought by Mr. A. S. Hensby who owned it in 1976. (fn. 35) Westley Lodge farm and over 600 a. in the north-western half of the parish then remained part of the Six Mile Bottom estate. (fn. 36)
Westley Hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1975, incorporated the central range and one crosswing of a late-16th- or 17th-century house, which had 8 hearths in 1672 (fn. 37) and which had been altered and partly refaced in the 18th century.
The preceptory of Shingay held some land in Westley at its dissolution. A small rent was paid from Westley to Lord Sandys, in right of Shingay manor, in the mid 18th century. (fn. 38) The prior and convent of Anglesey held land there in the late 13th century. (fn. 39) In the 16th century they had a pasture called Anglesey, which in 1557 was granted to Henry Vavasor and Thomas Warde. (fn. 40)
In 1086 two knights held 1 hide in Westley of Count Alan. (fn. 41) In 1272 Baldwin of Essex granted a messuage and 1 carucate, possibly the same estate, to Hugh of Essex. (fn. 42) In 1307 Reynold of Essex sold a messuage and c. 70 a. in Westley to Nicholas de Styvecle, who in 1321 conveyed to William of Hacford c. 80 a., still held by Reynold of Essex for life. (fn. 43) William, recorded in Westley in 1322, in 1330 renounced his rights of pasture in the Moor in Westley to William de Crek. (fn. 44) In 1369 John son of John de Styvecle quitclaimed to John son of Walter of Hacford his rights in a messuage and 48 a. in Westley. (fn. 45) Those families and that land have not been found recorded later.
Downing College, Cambridge, bought 6 a. in Westley in 1870. By 1903 it was part of Bottisham Heath farm, which the college sold in 1928. (fn. 46)
In 1086 there were just under 5 hides in Westley. Of 3 hides belonging to Ely abbey, 1 hide and 3 yardlands were in demesne. There were two plough-teams there, and two servi, and there was land for three more teams. There was 4 a. of meadow. Count Alan's one hide was held by Geoffrey and another knight, and was worked by two plough-teams. It had previously been held by seven sokemen. On Countess Judith's 3 yardlands and 10 acres there was one team, and there could have been another. Hardwin de Scalers held 15 a. which had been held by two sokemen of Earl Harold's. There were 5 villani and 6 bordars in the vill. The Ely lands had fallen substantially in value from 100s. in 1066 to 10s. in 1086; the value of the other estates had remained unchanged. (fn. 47)
In 1086 Westley was a demesne vill of Ely abbey. (fn. 48) By 1390 the size of the demesne seems to have increased. There were 300 a. of arable, two-thirds of which appear to have been sown each year, and c. 15 a. of pasture. (fn. 49) In 1448 the whole manor was farmed out. (fn. 50) In the mid 13th century the glebe was sown with 2 a. of wheat, 6 a. of rye, 8 a. of oats, 1 a. of barley, and ¾ a. of vetches. (fn. 51) In the 14th century vines may have been grown in Westley and in the 16th century apples and pears were grown there. (fn. 52) In the early 19th century wheat, barley, and turnips were the chief crops, and rye was also grown. The soil was said to be mostly a good barley loam, but poorer on the heaths and near the top of hills where the chalk lies near the surface. In the early 19th century the heath at the north-west end of the parish was brought into cultivation. (fn. 53)
Much importance was attached to folding sheep on arable land. (fn. 54) The 118 sheep recorded in Westley in the 11th century were presumably the demesne flock. (fn. 55) In 1302 Sir John de Crek granted Thomas of Cambridge, a clerk, liberty of fold for 200 sheep. (fn. 56) In the 16th century tenants are recorded owning c. 50 sheep, and in the early 17th century the lord had sheep-walk for 300 sheep. (fn. 57) In 1793 the earl of Aylesford kept several hundred there. In 1812 the lessee of the manor owned 240 Southdown ewes, 140 Norfolk ewes, 240 half-bred lambs, and 90 Southdown wethers. (fn. 58)
In the early 17th century there were three open fields in Westley, Spaythorne, Middle, and Cambridgeway fields, apparently ranged along the length of the parish. By 1663, however, only one field, Westley field, was named. In the late 18th century it was divided into 34 furlongs, varying in size between 4 a. and 55 a. (fn. 59) In the late 18th century there were c. 140 a. of inclosed and c. 613 a. of open arable land. The latter was inclosed by the earl of Aylesford along with Burrough Green in the 1790s. Although inclosure was by private agreement the method was that of a parliamentary award, with three impartial commissioners arbitrating between the parties. No record of the allotments survives, except for the glebe. (fn. 60) As a result of inclosure rents in Westley doubled, more corn was produced, and the sheep, although fewer, were of better quality. (fn. 61)
In 1843 there were c. 83 a. of woodland, all in the hands of the lord of the manor, of which Hay wood and Ladies grove remained in 1975 but Park and Common woods had disappeared. In the mid 19th century land on either side of the Newmarket road was still known as the heath, although by then mostly under cultivation. At the opposite end of the parish, along the Brinkley–Dullingham road, was the Moor, mostly grassland. There were altogether 147 a. of pasture and 842 a. of arable. (fn. 62)
In the late 18th century there were seven private landowners besides the earl of Aylesford. The largest other holding soon passed to the earl. No one else's holding exceeded 50 a., and most were less than 5 a. (fn. 63) By 1843 there were only five private owners. John Hall held over 1,000 a., and the next largest holding was 31 a. (fn. 64) In the early 19th century the manorial estate was leased as two farms, being divided in 1843 into Westley Lodge farm, in the north-west part of the parish, and the Hall farm. By 1858 a farm bailiff occupied Westley Lodge, and in 1912 it was let. In the 20th century only those two farms were over 150 a. (fn. 65)
In the early 19th century most of the working population were farm labourers. (fn. 66) In 1847 the village had a wheelwright and a post office; by 1858 there was also a flour-dealer. A co-operative store had been established by 1875, when there was also a blacksmith. (fn. 67) A brick-works close to the Brinkley boundary seems to have opened by 1843 and closed c. 1903. (fn. 68) In 1937 there were two shops, a motor engineer, and a basket-maker in the parish. (fn. 69) There was no shop in 1976.
A pond north-west of the railway near Westley Bottom was called Mill Pond in the 19th century, the only evidence of a mill in Westley. (fn. 70)
In 1299 the lord of the manor claimed view of frankpledge, infangthief, tumbrel, and waif in Westley, and he had a gallows on his manor there. (fn. 71) In 1376 and 1389 his successors had a court leet there. (fn. 72) In the early 17th century a view of frankpledge was held irregularly, on average once a year. Court minutes survive for 1600–11, and record transfers of free and copyhold land, the regulation of common land and of encroachments on the highway, and the appointment of a hayward. (fn. 73)
Westley's expenditure on its poor rose from £25 11s. in 1776, to £84 4s. in 1803 and £170 19s. in 1818, before falling substantially to £48 10s. in 1834. Those sums were consistently the lowest in the hundred as befitted the smallest and least populous parish. Ten people received permanent outside relief in 1803, and twelve in 1813, while only 2 or 3 had occasional help, again among the lowest figures in the hundred. (fn. 74) In 1835 Westley joined the Newmarket poor-law union, and remained in the Newmarket R.D., (fn. 75) being included in 1974 in East Cambridgeshire.
A church was recorded at Westley in the later 12th century when Robert de Valognes (fl. 1160), son of Agnes, gave its advowson, lands, and tithes to Binham priory (Norf.). (fn. 76) Despite the gift King John presented to the church in 1216, because the bishopric of Ely was in his hands. (fn. 77) In 1221 William de Mandeville and his wife Christine, granddaughter of Robert de Valognes, resigned to Binham any right they had in the advowson of Westley, and in 1251 the priory received papal confirmation of the gift of the church. (fn. 78) The rectory was appropriated, and from the 13th century until the late 15th the incumbents were recorded and presented as vicars; in 1480, however, the late incumbent was called rector as were nearly all his successors. (fn. 79) Moreover, although in 1233 the priory enjoyed the greater part of the endowment of the church, later in the 13th century the vicar took the whole income, paying to Binham a pension of 2s. In the 17th century the rector continued to pay a pension, by then 5s., to the patron. (fn. 80)
The advowson of the vicarage belonged to Binham priory until the Dissolution. In 1547 the Crown, and in 1599 William Campion of Camberwell (Surr.), presented a rector. (fn. 81) The advowson passed in 1615 to William's son, and in 1640 to his grandson, both William. (fn. 82) The third William Campion was patron until 1701, but Sir Henry Compton and Richard Wynne presented in 1647, and the Crown in 1690. In 1734 Mrs. Elizabeth Philips was patron, and in 1766 George Bucke. (fn. 83) From the mid 18th century to c. 1889 the advowson seems to have been held by successive rectors. (fn. 84) In 1892 and 1904 the patron was R. Merser, although J. Clarke was called patron in 1897. By 1908 Col. A. Merser held the advowson, and in 1912 James Mullin, probably a relative of the previous rector. Since 1918 the patron has been Mrs. D. Kelly. (fn. 85)
The church of Westley was valued at 10 marks in the earlier 13th century, at £7 in 1291, and in 1534 at £10 5s. (fn. 86) In 1650 it was worth £60, and £65 in the early 18th century. (fn. 87) A century later its net income was £326, and £360 in 1883. (fn. 88) In 1615 there were c. 38 a. of glebe and a ten-roomed rectory house, which had six or seven hearths in the mid 17th century. (fn. 89) In 1783 the house had recently been rebuilt. (fn. 90) The present building is a large, square, grey-brick and slated house of the early 19th century. In the 13th century the church of Westley had received tithes from c. 65 a. in Burrough Green. By 1615 the rector received tithes outside Westley from only small amounts of land there and in Brinkley. (fn. 91) The amount of glebe remained constant throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and in the 1790s 35½ a. of open-field land was exchanged for 13 a. of inclosed land near the rectory house, the rector complaining that the exchange was unfair. (fn. 92) The glebe amounted to 17 a. in 1887, (fn. 93) the extra 4 a. probably being old inclosure.
Two 15th-century vicars of Westley were Cistercian monks, dispensed to hold a cure of souls. (fn. 94) There was a guild in the parish in 1517 and 1543. (fn. 95) Ralph Hill, rector 1559-c. 1599, held another cure but was resident at Westley. It was said that he was unable to preach and did not teach the children or read the scriptures, but he complained that the parishioners did not send their children to be catechized, and that the churchwardens did not present those who refused to come to church. In 1593 he refused to administer communion as only one parishioner came. (fn. 96) His successor Robert Gregory served until 1647. In the early 17th century he was troubled by William Alington, who slandered the minister, spoke against preaching and the church courts, and slept through services. (fn. 97) Gregory was followed by Thomas Ballowe, who had been ejected from a Sussex living. In 1660 he became a canon of Chichester and resigned Westley, (fn. 98) to be succeeded by Robert Sayer, a fellow of Queens' College, Cambridge, who also held a prebend in York and a rectory in Essex. Thomas Dresser, rector 1683–92, was deprived as a non-juror. (fn. 99) During his incumbency there were c. 45 communicants in Westley. (fn. 100) An early 18th-century incumbent who also held a cure in Kent was ordered to reside. He may have been Richard Saunders who died in 1734 having 'lived at Newmarket latterly not agreeing with his parish'. (fn. 101) By 1728 there were two Sunday services at Westley, and thrice yearly sacraments, but only eight communicants had attended at Easter. (fn. 102) William Beaty, rector 1734–66, was also president of Magdalene College, Cambridge; his successor ran a private boarding school in the village. (fn. 103) In the late 18th and early 19th centuries several rectors were non-resident, but seem always to have provided a curate. In 1775 and 1807 there was only one Sunday service, and in 1807 quarterly communions. (fn. 104)
By 1825 there were fewer communions, and only two or three communicants; the numbers attending Sunday service had also fallen. (fn. 105) J. R. Barker of Hildersham Hall, rector 1836–50, was a considerable landowner in the county, and also held the livings of All Saints Newmarket, Great Abington, and Vauxhall chapel (Surr.). (fn. 106) He was followed by E. V. Burridge who served until 1885, but in 1872 his parishioners claimed that he was unstable, frequently absent, and given to excessive drinking. (fn. 107) Even so in the 1870s there were two Sunday services and monthly communions, both well attended. (fn. 108) By 1897 fortnightly communions were attended by c. 24 people. (fn. 109) The rector in 1975 had served the cure, along with Weston Colville, since 1936. (fn. 110)
The church of ST. MARY, so called by the mid 18th century, (fn. 111) is built mainly of flint and rubble, and has a chancel, an aisled nave with a small north porch, and a small bell turret. The oldest part of the fabric was probably the round west tower, which fell in 1855. (fn. 112) The chancel dates from the early 13th century; the chancel arch and three-bay nave are 14th-century. A ceiling extends over the nave and aisles. On one of the south window surrounds is scratched, in early arabic numerals, a record of vines grown, probably for sacramental wine. (fn. 113) The north porch is built of brick. A chancel screen survived in the mid 18th century but has since been removed. (fn. 114) The 15th-century font is octagonal with traceried panels. In the south aisle is a brass to Sir John de Crek and his wife Alyne (c. 1325). There are 16thand 17th-century monuments to members of the Alington family, and a black marble slab to Thomas Dalton (d. 1672), a canon of Durham. (fn. 115)
In the late 13th century Westley had two chalices, and in the mid 14th century a gold chalice was given by Sir John de Crek. (fn. 116) Mary Alington (d. 1537) left the church a silver gilt chalice, and in 1552 the church had one silver gilt chalice and a paten. (fn. 117) The plate includes a chalice and paten both dated 1569: the paten had been made from a pre-Reformation one, and the chalice may also have been altered from an earlier piece. There was also a two-handled dish dated 1661. (fn. 118) Westley had three bells in the 16th and 18th centuries and in 1837. (fn. 119) There were no bells for some time after the collapse of the tower, but a modern bell had been hung in the turret by 1936. (fn. 120) Parish registers survive from 1557, with some gaps, mostly in the 18th century, which are covered by bishops' transcripts. (fn. 121)
In 1807 there was one Methodist in Westley, and four in 1825. By 1877 there were seven or eight dissenters, and in 1897 there were still only about ten. (fn. 122)
By 1833 Westley had two dayschools, attended by 14 and 10 children. The rector supported one of them, and also an evening school for 13 boys and a Sunday school. (fn. 123) All but the Sunday school seem to have been short-lived, (fn. 124) and in 1873 a new school was built by W. H. Hall. Westley Undenominational school opened in 1875, supported by Hall and weekly payments. It received an annual grant from the start. It was attended by 30–40 children; those at Westley Bottom went to Hall's school at Six Mile Bottom. (fn. 125) The Westley school was closed after inspection in 1896, but reopened the same year. In the interval Hall had refused to let it be used for a Church school. (fn. 126) From 1900 numbers ranged between 20 and 30. The school was transferred to the council in 1913 and reorganized as a junior and infant school in 1926. There were then 10 pupils. (fn. 127) It was closed in 1958 when the children were transferred to Burrough Green. (fn. 128) The school building on the north-eastern side of the main street was a private house in 1976.
Charities for the Poor.
By will proved 1599 Richard Alington gave £20 for the poor of Westley, which along with £34 given by James Alington and £14 15s. from Robert Gregory, the rector, was used in 1617 to buy a messuage and two pightles in Westley. The estate was probably represented by the two town houses. (fn. 129) By will proved 1682 John Sayer gave £100 to buy land in trust for the poor of Westley, apparently spent on land in Huntingdon, worth £5 a year in the 18th century and £10 in 1837. (fn. 130) Some smaller benefactions were also spent on land. Seven acres in Westley, in 1775 let for £4 12s. a year, were in 1783 mingled with the earl of Aylesford's lands and there were fears that they would be lost. (fn. 131)
Until c. 1790 the £10 income from all the charity lands was distributed in beef to the poor, and the cottages were occupied rent-free by old men and widows. When he undertook inclosure Lord Aylesford promised to pay £10 rather than £5 from the Westley lands, and the fences and balks marking off the charity lands were removed. After 1811, while Aylesford's successor, Barker, was involved in a Chancery suit, the payments ceased, and all the income from the Huntingdon land was used to repair the cottages. In 1837 all the income went in cash to the settled poor of the parish. (fn. 132) By 1863 the poor's land consisted of a cottage and land, yielding £21 rent, and £367 in stock bought after the sale of land to the railway company. The total income of £32 was distributed in cash. (fn. 133) In the early 20th century more land was sold to the railway. In 1952 the trustees held £837 in stock. Two of four cottages owned by the charities were sold for £800 in 1963. In 1975 the income was distributed according to a Scheme of 1906 in clothing, fuel, equipment, and medicine for the poor. (fn. 134)