A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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The parish of Bassingbourn, (fn. 1) 20 km. south-west of Cambridge, is approximately rectangular, being bounded on the south by the Icknield Way and divided from Litlington to the west by Litlington mare, (fn. 2) a straightish ancient field-way. The eastern boundary followed until 1966 the Old North Road. Bassingbourn formerly covered 3,381 a. In 1896 a small area at its south-eastern corner, built over as Royston grew, was made a separate civil parish and transferred to Hertfordshire, being incorporated into Royston in 1897. (fn. 3) The remainder, Bassingbourn civil parish, covered 3,204 a. (fn. 4) until 1966, when it was united with the former hamlet of Kneesworth, dependent on it ecclesiastically since c. 1400, to its east. The unit thus created covered in 1971 1,652 ha. (4,082 a.). (fn. 5)
Bassingbourn lies mainly upon the Lower Chalk, with a belt of the Middle Chalk at its southern end, and a fringe of Gault along the northern edge. The ground rises very gently from c. 25 metres by that edge to almost 30 metres in the middle of the parish, where the village stands, and after dipping slightly mounts again to 60 metres at the south end, called from the 16th century the high field. (fn. 6) The Bassingbourn brook runs from springs south-west of the village down a narrow valley, northward towards Shingay. Until 1800 the somewhat waterlogged north-west corner of the parish was called the Fen. (fn. 7) Bassingbourn has no extensive ancient woodland; after inclosure a few copses were planted in the former open fields, mainly south of the village. Its economy has always been basically agrarian, those fields being cultivated latterly on a triennial rotation until their inclosure in 1804. Beginnings of light industry about 1900 came to nothing.
The village name, the stream of Bassa's folk, (fn. 8) may indicate quite early English settlement. Bassingbourn has usually been one of the most populous parishes in the area. In 1086 the vill included 36 peasants and 3 serfs, and had 68 taxpayers in 1327. (fn. 9) Of c. 180 inhabitants recorded in 1347 c. 100 lived in the main village and c. 75 at North End ½ mile away. (fn. 10) In 1377 347 adults paid the poll-tax. (fn. 11) In the 1490s 85–100 people subscribed for new church bells, and in 1524 84 paid the subsidy. (fn. 12) There were 90 households in 1563. (fn. 13) The population soon rose sharply, perhaps to c. 700 by 1600, falling again after 1610. (fn. 14) In 1660 c. 240 adult residents were taxed, (fn. 15) and there were c. 130 dwellings under Charles II. (fn. 16) In 1676 there were c. 510 adults. (fn. 17) Numbers may have reached c. 800 in the late 17th century, falling sharply after 1700, until in 1728 there were only 127 families, but thereafter increasing again gradually. (fn. 18) In 1801 the parish had 828 inhabitants, by 1821 1,042. (fn. 19) The village population, 1,206 by 1841, stabilized at c. 1,340 in the 1850s. Raised briefly to c. 1,710 c. 1870 on account of the coprolite diggings, it had fallen by 1891 to 1,255 of whom 296 lived at North End, (fn. 20) and to c. 1,050 by the 1920s. In 1951, although the total figure was increased to over 2,550 by the Service population at Bassingbourn airfield, the village numbered only 959 inhabitants, a figure doubled after new building to 2,027 by 1961, and reaching c. 2,625 by 1971. (fn. 21)
The village stands a little north of the ancient trackway called Ashwell Street, straightened at inclosure, (fn. 22) which crosses the parish 2 km. north of the Icknield Way. The village high street is part of a lesser road, coming from Litlington, which crosses the brook at Brook bridge, recorded in 1622, (fn. 23) and continues eastwards along the 'causeway' to cross the Old North Road at Kneesworth village. At the Cross, mentioned in 1395, (fn. 24) the high street meets a road running between South End and North End. South End, so named by 1440, was still divided from the main village by a slight gap in 1977. The road to North End, called Church Street by 1440, (fn. 25) runs past the church and the site of Richmonds manor house. Somewhat west of North End lay the former hamlet of Shadborough, recorded in 1549, (fn. 26) later called Shadbury End, and already decayed by 1640. (fn. 27) By 1841, as in the 1970s, only 6 or 7 cottages were left there. (fn. 28) The houses east of Water or Spring Lane, which runs south from the east end of the high street, were probably called East End from the 17th century. (fn. 29)
The older houses stand mostly along the high street and close to the crossroads on the road crossing it. They include many late 17th- or 18th-century cottages, usually plastered over a timber frame, a few still thatched. In the 1970s some were newly restored, but others derelict. More substantial houses included the Old Saddlers, with a pargetted upper floor above an overhang, and the Tan House, towards South End, an L-plan timber framed house which received in the 18th century a 3-bay front with a pilastered door-case and modillion cornice. (fn. 30) In the early 19th century two bulky, squarish greybrick farmhouses were built a little south of it, for two of the newly inclosed farms. Only at Bellevue, Bury, and Hoy's farms, south of the village, were new farmhouses then built out in the former open fields.
At inclosure there were c. 115 houses in the village, including 53 cottages, (fn. 31) and by 1841 c. 200. Some 35 then stood at East End, 17 along Water Lane, c. 50 on the high street, with 10 more just north of it at Church End, 29 at South End, and 57 at North End. (fn. 32) By 1871 the corresponding figures were c. 40, 19, c. 70, 27, 49, and 78. The high street was mainly occupied with shops and craftsmen's workshops, while the farm labourers lived on the outskirts. (fn. 33) Close to Royston former farmland was increasingly built over, especially after the opening there in 1850 of the station on the London-Cambridge line which runs across the southern extremity of the parish. (fn. 34) In 1801 25 houses there stood within Bassingbourn, by 1841 40, and by 1861 nearly 80. (fn. 35) In the late 1850s 70 a. north of the railway, belonging to a Royston brewer, were sold for housing development, and were owned from c. 1860 to 1867 by the British Land Co. (fn. 36) The size of the village itself remained, however, fairly stable. It contained c. 275 houses in the mid 19th century, and c. 285 in the early 20th. (fn. 37) Bassingbourn had from 1866 street lighting, provided from its own gas-works, then established by local men, including one farmer. (fn. 38) The Bassingbourn Gas Co. was bankrupt by 1895, when the liquidator sold its works, including a brick gas holder and a retort house, (fn. 39) which still stood in 1977, just east of Spring Lane. Electricity reached the village c. 1936. (fn. 40) Between 1951 and 1961 the number of houses doubled from 327 to 660, and another 200 had been built by 1971. (fn. 41) Military married quarters were built along the Old North Road. Besides much infilling along the existing streets, especially with bungalows, many new houses were laid out north of Church End, including a council estate at the Fillance to the north-west. Other council houses were built south of the causeway, whose north side was almost entirely built up by the 1970s, when also extensive developments, including more council housing, were laid out east and west of Spring Lane. (fn. 42) Growth was temporarily halted in 1973 because the local sewage works was being overloaded. (fn. 43) Bassingbourn's population was also swollen from the 1960s by gipsies encamping along Ashwell Street in 60–100 caravans. Mainly engaged in casual farm-work, such as pea-picking, or dealing in scrap metal, they accumulated rubbish and alarmed the villagers. (fn. 44)
An inn holder was recorded in 1485. (fn. 45) In the mid 18th century the village had four public houses, the Hoops, Black Horse, Bull, and Bell, round which vestry meetings circulated monthly. (fn. 46) The two last belonged at inclosure to the Phillips family, brewers at Royston, who also owned the Red Lion, recorded by 1826. (fn. 47) That, the Bell, renamed by 1851 the Black Bull, both still owned by the Phillips brewery in 1935, (fn. 48) and the Hoops were the village's main public houses from 1851 to 1937. There were also 7 to 10 beerhouses, including 3 or 4 at North End. (fn. 49) The Red Lion had closed by 1960 and the Black Bull, which was in a 17th-century house, by 1977, when the Hoops, occupying a partly 17thcentury building, survived. (fn. 50)
A friendly society had 90 members in 1803, c. 120 by 1815. (fn. 51) In 1858 a farmer, W. T. Crole, started a parish choir with c. 50 members, all labourers, which he ran successfully into the 1870s. (fn. 52) A coffee and reading room provided c. 1863 to entice coprolite diggers from the beerhouses, shortly declined into selling beer itself. (fn. 53) The Working Men's Institute, established by 1871, was still open in the 1930s. (fn. 54) By 1920 the parish council was leasing 5½ a. as a recreation ground. (fn. 55) That land, north of the Congregational chapel, was in 1937 presented to the village as a sports ground, enlarged in 1949. (fn. 56) An annual amusement fair in July, perhaps succeeding a hiring fair still held c. 1850, survived from the 1880s to the 1930s. (fn. 57) A choral society founded in 1943 was active into the 1960s. (fn. 58)
The level ground north of the village was acquired in 1937 for an airfield, opened in 1938 and used for three years for bomber training. It was occupied from 1942 to 1945 by a U.S.A.F. heavy bomber squadron, next by an R.A.F. air transport squadron, and from 1951 to 1969 by two R.A.F. training squadrons. (fn. 59) Following the phasing out of Canberra aircraft, on whose maintenance c. 250 local people had been employed since 1963, the site, 752 a., was transferred in 1969 to the Army for use as a training depot for the Queen's Division, (fn. 60) still active there in 1977.
Manors and other Estates.
The seven hides at Bassingbourn held by Eddeva the fair in 1066 had been given by 1086 to Count Alan, lord of Richmond, (fn. 61) and remained, as RICHMONDS manor, nominally a demesne estate of the honor of Richmond, without subinfeudation, until the 16th century. (fn. 62) After Alan's great-nephew and successor Count Conan died in 1171, Bassingbourn was included by 1185 in the dower of his widow Margaret (d. 1201). (fn. 63) In 1206 it was in the king's hands, (fn. 64) but by 1212 had been granted to Earl William Marshal (fn. 65) (d. 1219), whose eldest son, William, returned it to Henry III in 1230, for restoration to Peter, count of Brittany. (fn. 66) Peter forfeited the honor in 1235, and Bassingbourn was assigned by 1237 to Queen Eleanor's uncle, William of Savoy (d. 1239), (fn. 67) and with the honor in 1241 to William's brother, Peter, (fn. 68) who retained them until they were confiscated in 1264. (fn. 69) In 1268 Henry III restored the honor and its lands to John, duke of Brittany, and they remained with the earls of Richmond of the house of Brittany until John's great-grandson Duke John died without issue in 1341. (fn. 70) Edward III thereupon granted the lands of the honor to Queen Philippa, who possessed Bassingbourn in 1347, (fn. 71) on behalf of their son John of Gaunt, who held them until 1372, when he restored them to his father. (fn. 72) After 1384 Bassingbourn was granted to Queen Anne of Bohemia (d. 1394). (fn. 73) In 1399 Henry IV granted the honor for life to Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland, (fn. 74) on whose death in 1425 it passed by reversion to John, duke of Bedford (d. 1435). (fn. 75)
In 1435 Bassingbourn was divided. One-third passed as dower to Bedford's widow, Jacquette de Luxemburg, who retained it until her death in 1471. (fn. 76) The other two-thirds were granted in 1437 for life to John Tiptoft, Lord Tiptoft, and, after he died in 1443, (fn. 77) in tail male successively to John Beaufort, duke of Somerset (d. s.p.m. 1444) and in 1444 to his brother and successor Edmund (fn. 78) (killed 1455). (fn. 79) Perhaps by 1453 those two-thirds has passed to Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond (fn. 80) (d. 1456). They were included in 1457 in the dower of his widow, Margaret Beaufort, (fn. 81) twice remarried, who retained them (fn. 82) until her death. The other third, having passed in 1471 to George, duke of Clarence, lord of Richmond since 1462, was forfeited upon his execution in 1478 (fn. 83) and granted in 1487 to Margaret, (fn. 84) upon whose death in 1510 the re-united manor descended to her grandson Henry VIII, (fn. 85) remaining with the Crown for over a century. In 1558 it was annexed to the Duchy of Lancaster, (fn. 86) and was among the Duchy manors transferred in 1628, in repayment of royal debts, to the Corporation of London, subject to a reserved rent equal to its farm. The rent was sold in 1674. (fn. 87)
In 1653 the City sold Bassingbourn to Thomas Willett, a London merchant, (fn. 88) who resold it in 1654 to Sir Thomas Hatton, Bt., of Longstanton (d. 1658). (fn. 89) Richmonds manor descended in his family until the early 19th century, being successively possessed by his eldest son Sir Thomas (d. 1682), Thomas's widow Bridget (d. c. 1686) and brother Sir Christopher (d. 1720), Christopher's son Sir Thomas (d. s.p. 1733), and that Thomas's widow Harriet (d. c. 1753) and nephew Sir Thomas (d. 1787). (fn. 90) After the latter's widow Harriet died in 1795 the estate passed to trustees to pay the debts of Sir Thomas's son and heir Sir John (fn. 91) (d. s.p. 1811). By 1810 they had already sold half the land allotted for him at inclosure, including 274 a. bought in 1806 by Lord Hardwicke. (fn. 92) Sir John's brother and heir Sir Thomas Dingley Hatton died suddenly in 1812, leaving as heirs his six sisters. Under a division accomplished after 1815 the remaining 306 a. at Bassingbourn came to Mary, the eldest sister, and her husband Hale Wortham. (fn. 93) Both Wortham and his wife died without issue in 1828, and that land passed to Henry Hawkins, probably son of Wortham's sister Charlotte. (fn. 94) Hawkins held it until 1840, when the manor passed to the Rev. Daniel Heneage Finch-Hatton, (fn. 95) descended through the viscounts Hatton and earls of Winchilsea from the elder brother of Sir Thomas Hatton (d. 1658). (fn. 96) FinchHatton died in 1866, and the estate descended successively to his sons Edward Hatton Finch-Hatton (d. s.p. 1883), and the Revd. William Robert FinchHatton (d. 1909), whose son George Daniel died owning it in 1921. (fn. 97) The remaining land, called Manor Farm, was sold to its tenant J. G. Russell in 1923, but the nominal lordship was retained by W. H. Francis, a Cambridge solicitor, until after 1938. (fn. 98) Lord Hardwicke's purchase, the later Bury farm, whose 291 a. included all the Hattons' allotment south of the village, (fn. 99) remained with the Wimpole estate until the 1890s and was sold by its mortgagees in 1902 to P. A. S. Hickey, after whose death c. 1916 it was sold, partly to its tenants. In 1937 the Cambridgeshire County Council bought c. 138 a. of Bury Farm. (fn. 100)
Richmonds manor-house probably occupied the 14-a. close, called in the 16th century the Bury yard, (fn. 101) north-west of the church between the road and the brook, where there are moats fed from the river. Traces of building were still visible c. 1812, when John of Gaunt was said to have formerly lived there. (fn. 102) The house itself, recorded in 1280, was empty and ruinous by 1436. (fn. 103) In 1455 the close was granted to John Lynne, whose son Richard built there a substantial new house, making fresh moats and fishponds. The site, recovered by the Crown in the 1520s, (fn. 104) was again empty by the 1620s. (fn. 105) At inclosure in 1804 it passed by exchange from the Hattons to the vicar. (fn. 106) The present Manor Farm, across the road south of the church, is a timber framed 17th-century house, which received in the 18th century a five-bay front in brick with a pilastered doorcase.
By prescription or royal grant the earls of Richmond enjoyed free warren at Bassingbourn in the 13th century. (fn. 107)
Part of the Richmond manor was, probably by the 1170s, subinfeudated to Warin of Bassingbourn, (fn. 108) steward of the honor c. 1175 and joint sheriff of Cambridgeshire 1170–7. (fn. 109) He died c. 1192. His son and heir Wimar (Wihomarc) (fn. 110) held the Bassingbourn land in 1214 (fn. 111) and died c. 1218, leaving as his heir son Warin (d. 1229). (fn. 112) The latter's son Warin, then a minor, (fn. 113) came of age c. 1248. (fn. 114) A follower of the Lord Edward, Warin was rewarded in 1266 for his royalism during the baronial rebellion with several offices and a licence to crenellate his manor house at Bassingbourn. (fn. 115) He died in 1269, holding ¼ knight's fee there of the honor of Richmond. (fn. 116) His son and heir Edmund, who held the manor in 1275, (fn. 117) died after 1293, leaving a son Warin, (fn. 118) who held it c. 1302 and was knighted by 1316. (fn. 119) He was possibly murdered c. 1334, (fn. 120) and was succeeded by 1344 by his son Warin, (fn. 121) recorded as Sir Warin Bassingbourn 'of the castle', until 1359. (fn. 122) In 1378 the latter's son and heir John settled CASTLE manor, then held for life by his father's widow Margaret, upon his marriage, and in 1388 acquired c. 70 a. there. (fn. 123) It was probably the same John who died, apparently without surviving issue, in 1420. (fn. 124)
By 1428 Castle manor mostly belonged to John, Lord Tiptoft (d. 1443), whose son John Tiptoft, earl of Worcester, (fn. 125) probably held it until his execution in 1470. (fn. 126) After the earl's son Edward died without issue in 1485, Castle manor was apparently divided between his aunts, Philippa, Lady Roos, and Joan, widow of Sir Edmund Ingoldisthorpe. (fn. 127) In 1488 Joan sold her moiety to Richard Lynne, and Philippa hers to John Warde, a London grocer. (fn. 128) That moiety was recovered by Philippa's son-inlaw Sir Thomas Lovell (d. 1524), who devised it to his nephew Edward Lovell for life, with remainder to Edward's elder brother Francis (fn. 129) (d. 1552). Francis's son and heir Sir Thomas Lovell sold it to Richard Lynne's grandson Philip in 1556. (fn. 130)
Richard's father John Lynne, a London merchant, had held land at Bassingbourn by 1455, (fn. 131) and, besides arranging to buy half Castle manor, left c. 70 a. there to Richard at his death in 1487. (fn. 132) Richard served the Lady Margaret as vice-chamberlain and from c. 1497 as steward of Richmonds manor. (fn. 133) He died in 1509, leaving a minor son Thomas, and devising his half-manor and lands for life to his widow Alice. (fn. 134) She soon married Anthony Malory, and held that estate with him until 1538, when it was settled on Thomas, (fn. 135) who died in 1549 leaving it to his widow Joan for life. Thomas's eldest son Philip, (fn. 136) who also acquired Seymours manor, died without lawful issue in 1557, when his heir was his brother John. (fn. 137) John Lynne bought c. 80 a. in 1580 from William Caldecote, (fn. 138) and held Castle and Seymours manors until his death in 1613. His heir, his eldest surviving son Henry, (fn. 139) sold them with over 750 a. in 1621 to Sir Giles Alington, who possessed them in 1631, (fn. 140) but later sold them to Sir Thomas Hatton, probably in 1635 when he transferred c. 130 a. of copyhold to him. (fn. 141) The lordships of Castle and Seymours manors descended thereafter with Richmonds manor to the Hattons and their successors. (fn. 142)
The site of the Bassingbourns' manor-house, where stood the 'castle', after which the manor was named by 1350, (fn. 143) was presumably that c. 1 km. north of the village, surrounded by extensive demesne closes, which was called from the 19th century, incorrectly, 'John of Gaunt's House'. (fn. 144) Its outer bailey, (fn. 145) c. 120 by 90 metres, perhaps enlarged once and formerly surrounded by a wet moat of which traces survive on three sides, was approached from the south by a wide causeway 180 metres long. Within that bailey another deeper moat, c. 10 metres wide and crossed by a bridge whose stone foundations survived in 1807, surrounded a motte up to 3 metres high. The type of fortification is 12th-century, and the licence to crenellate of 1266 may not have been used, for the castle was already standing when Warin of Bassingbourn died only two years later. (fn. 146) The earthworks were mostly levelled by coprolite digging c. 1887. (fn. 147)
Before 1066 1½ hide at Bassingbourn had belonged to the bishopric of Winchester. It was held in 1086 by Bishop Walkelin, (fn. 148) whose successor Henry of Blois probably ceded it to his brother King Stephen. (fn. 149) Two manors at Bassingbourn, SEYMOURS and ROWSES, were later held of Stephen's honor of Boulogne. (fn. 150) The Bassingbourns originally held the former, under that honor, of the Caieux and their successors as lords of Cheyneys manor in Steeple Morden, whose possessor successfully claimed in 1235 wardship of the hide held of him by Warin of Bassingbourn. (fn. 151) In the 1270s Warin's son Edmund assigned that manor to Lawrence de Seymour, who had married Warin's niece Emma (d. by 1276), in place of a Northamptonshire manor given as her marriage portion. (fn. 152) Lawrence transferred Seymours, before his death in 1297, to his eldest son Nicholas, (fn. 153) later Lord Seymour, who died in 1316, holding 260 a. at Bassingbourn as ½ knight's fee for a nominal service, of Edmund's son Warin. Nicholas's eldest son, Sir Thomas de Seymour, (fn. 154) came of age in 1325 and held Seymours in 1346, (fn. 155) but not when he died without issue in 1358. (fn. 156) In 1428 it was possibly held by John Church. (fn. 157) In 1433 John Boef released it to six feoffees, including Nicholas Caldecote of Meldreth (d. 1443). (fn. 158) Nicholas left a manor in Bassingbourn called Caldecotes to his younger son Thomas (d. s.p. c. 1453), whose heir was his elder brother Francis. (fn. 159) William Caldecote held Seymours manor in 1539, and sold it in 1556 to Philip Lynne, (fn. 160) who devised it for life to his widow Elizabeth (d. 1576). (fn. 161)
In 1589 John Lynne settled c. 250 a., including the site of Seymours manor house, upon his eldest son William's marriage to Elizabeth Steward. (fn. 162) William, dying the same year, left c. 90 a. of it to Elizabeth in fee simple. (fn. 163) The lordship, with the reversion of the rest, remained with John Lynne, who still held it under Cheyneys manor at his death in 1613. (fn. 164) Elizabeth had c. 1591 married Robert Cromwell (d. 1617). (fn. 165) In 1625 she sold the 90 a. to Martin Perse, (fn. 166) retaining the rest, occupied in 1645 by her grandson Richard, the future Lord Protector, until her death in 1654. (fn. 167) Perse transferred his 90 a. in 1626 to Caius College, Cambridge, as part of 103 a. at Bassingbourn, for endowing Dr. Stephen Perse's school at Cambridge. (fn. 168) At inclosure the college was allotted 56 a., (fn. 169) which were sold in 1949 to its tenants, William and Thomas Howes. (fn. 170)
In the 1170s ½ fee at Bassingbourn, later Rowses manor, was held of the honor of Boulogne by William le Rous (Rufus). (fn. 171) Its mesne lordship also belonged to Cheyneys manor. (fn. 172) It descended, mostly in his family, with their manor in Clopton, (fn. 173) until c. 1344 John le Rous settled 80 a. at Bassingbourn upon his son Philip, tenant there in 1346. (fn. 174) In 1428 that fee was divided between John Church (d. 1462), John Kneesworth, and John Goode, perhaps as later into one half and two quarters, with 15–20 a. of demesne to each quarter. (fn. 175) The half was attached to Castle manor in 1485, and its moieties were acquired separately by the Lynnes, and soon devised to cadets of their family. (fn. 176) Another quarter was attached to Goyses manor from 1457 to 1546, (fn. 177) and another held, with 100 a. at Kneesworth, between c. 1500 and 1546 by the Gerys of Barkway (Herts.). (fn. 178) The fractions were after c. 1550 acquired severally by the local yeoman families of Bolnest and Warren or Waller, and, after 1590, Pilgrim. (fn. 179) By the late 17th century Rowses manorial rights had been annexed to Castle and Seymours manors. (fn. 180) The site of its manor house, vacant in 1589, (fn. 181) was perhaps marked by the Rowses Home Close, recorded c. 1800. (fn. 182)
In 1086 1 hide at Bassingbourn, held in 1066 by two sokemen of Earl Alfgar, belonged to Hardwin de Scalers. (fn. 183) Its lordship descended with half his barony to the descendants of his son Richard and their successors the Frevilles. (fn. 184) Walter Martin held ½ fee of Stephen de Scalers in 1166. (fn. 185) About 1235 Mary Martin held as ½ fee 1 hide at Bassingbourn, (fn. 186) which by the 1260s probably belonged to Matthew or to John le Goys of Dunton (Beds.). (fn. 187) John le Goys held GOYSES manor in 1302. (fn. 188) Roger le Goys died holding 80 a. there of the Frevilles in 1345. His son and heir John, then aged 16, (fn. 189) was perhaps the Sir John Goys murdered c. 1355. (fn. 190) Sir Thomas Goys, to whom Gaunt granted an annuity from Richmonds manor in 1372, (fn. 191) died in 1381. (fn. 192) In 1386 Thomas Senhous, one of his coheirs, released his estates, including the Bassingbourn land, to three Londoners. (fn. 193) In 1428 Goyses belonged to John Kneesworth of Kneesworth (fl. 1419–36). (fn. 194) In 1457 John Bentley and his wife Joan, its heiress, conveyed it with 140 a. and ¼ of Rowses to feoffees. (fn. 195) Joan and her second husband Thomas Watson were dead by 1500 when her son Richard Bentley reclaimed Goyses from Richard Lynne who had acquired it on paying Joan's debts. (fn. 196)
In 1546 William Randall of Devon, as successor to James Randall of Baldock (Herts.), sold Goyses to William Bellamy. (fn. 197) In 1599 William Wright sold 'Goysshes or Busshes' manor with 80 a. to Richard and John Adams. (fn. 198) John sold it with 40 a. in 1635 to Thomas Nightingale of Kneesworth (d. 1645), (fn. 199) whose younger son Thomas sold it in 1648 to James Prior. (fn. 200) Prior, or a son and namesake, resold it in 1663 to Guy Sundrey. (fn. 201) After belonging to the Holben family Goyses was acquired by 1765 by Geoffrey Nightingale (d. 1771). (fn. 202) It comprised in 1784 163 a., including 124 a. copyhold of other manors. (fn. 203) The manorial rights passed with the Nightingales' Kneesworth estate to the Worthams, (fn. 204) to whose trustees they still belonged c. 1930. (fn. 205) The 81 a. allotted for Guises farm at inclosure was sold to its tenant in 1808, (fn. 206) and resold from 1814 in fractions, one of 35 a. being acquired by the Clears, local farmers. (fn. 207) It remained with them until their farm, 227 a., was bought in 1920 by the County Council. (fn. 208)
A substantial estate belonged to the Turpin family, recorded at Bassingbourn from the 1470s. (fn. 209) John Turpin left land there to his son William in 1501. (fn. 210) William Turpin, recorded from 1535, was probably the esquire and lawyer who died in 1575, (fn. 211) and his second wife Jane the Mrs. Turpin who held 112 a. of copyhold at Bassingbourn in the 1570s. When she died in 1597, (fn. 212) that land passed to William's grandson Thomas Turpin (d. 1627), who left it with 30 a. of freehold to his young grandson Edward Turpin (fn. 213) (d. 1683). Edward left c. 170 a. to be divided equally between his sons John and Thomas, (fn. 214) who both died without issue in 1715. (fn. 215) Their land, already heavily mortgaged in the 1690s, was mostly sold in 1706. (fn. 216) Some 35 a. was bought in 1712 by Valentine Beldam, a Royston brewer (d. 1733), whose son Joseph (fn. 217) bought another 121 a. of it in 1743 (fn. 218) and c. 215 a., including 120 a. once owned by a cadet branch of the Lynnes, in 1761. (fn. 219) Joseph, also a brewer, died in 1765, leaving much land to his nephew Joseph Beldam (d. 1804), who held c. 330 a. before inclosure, and the former Turpin lands to a great-nephew, another Joseph, who owned 167 a. in 1780 (fn. 220) and died c. 1830. Under a settlement of 1826 all the 362 a. allotted to both Josephs at inclosure, with 58 a. bought from a kinsman, passed in 1831 to the younger Joseph's nephews, (fn. 221) Charles (d. s.p. 1870) and Valentine, who acquired all the Bassingbourn lands by exchanges after 1861. Valentine died without issue in 1875, and his brother and heir Edward in 1876. Edward's son, F. W. E. Beldam of Toft Manor, inherited those lands, (fn. 222) and offered c. 470 a., including Hoy's and Bellevue farms, for sale in 1920. (fn. 223) Bellevue farm, 131 a., was bought in 1921 by the Cambridgeshire county council, which after other purchases owned c. 535 a. in Bassingbourn in 1977. (fn. 224)
Sawtry abbey (Hunts.) had in 1291 property at Bassingbourn, not recorded later. (fn. 225) The origins of the Nightingale estate in Bassingbourn, which before inclosure covered c. 180 a., are treated with that family's estate in Kneesworth. (fn. 226)
The impropriate rectory, owned from 1503 by Westminster abbey, included, besides the great tithes, c. 80 a. of glebe in Bassingbourn and 13 a. in Kneesworth. (fn. 227) It was leased c. 1520 to Anthony Malory, (fn. 228) and later to the Bolnests, its tenants from the 1540s until c. 1585, latterly under John Parker, (fn. 229) who had procured by 1565 a 60-year lease from the dean and chapter of Westminster. (fn. 230) The rent, set at £50 by 1540 (fn. 231) and remaining fixed at £75 from 1634 to the 19th century, (fn. 232) left potential profits of up to £200 for the head lessee and his undertenant; (fn. 233) and the 1580s and 1590s saw continual competition between local men and outsiders carried on amid intense chicanery, intimidation, and the forcible seizure of crops, for possession of the headlease and underleases. (fn. 234) From 1634 the rectory was let on 21-year beneficial leases. The first such lessee, Sir William Meredith, (fn. 235) sold the lease in 1654 to Henry Lynne's son John (d. c. 1660). (fn. 236) The rectory house was occupied until the 1690s by Granado Pigott (d. 1724) of Abington Pigotts, lessee from 1684. (fn. 237) The lease remained with his son Granado (d. 1768) and grandson Granado, (fn. 238) who sold it in 1775. (fn. 239) At inclosure in 1804 50 a. were allotted for the rectorial glebe, and 688 a. for the great tithes. (fn. 240) The beneficial lease belonged to the Fordhams of Melbourn by 1818, (fn. 241) and to the Nunns of Royston from 1861 until it ran out in 1882, after the rectorial estate had been ceded in 1869 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They acquired most of the vicarial glebe in 1906, but sold 565 a. of their 890 a. at Bassingbourn, including Rectory farm, in 1920, and the other 325 a., called Ivy farm, to its tenants in 1957. (fn. 242)
The parsonage house, recorded from c. 1520, (fn. 243) probably stood then as later in a close north of the church. In 1556 it had a great chamber, two others, and a parlour. (fn. 244) It was substantially rebuilt from a ruinous state in the 1580s, (fn. 245) and had 7 hearths in 1674. (fn. 246) In the 1740s it was again rebuilt in red brick as a gentleman's residence by Granado Pigott (d. 1768), whose family occupied it until 1773. (fn. 247) Shortly afterwards most of the house was burnt out and demolished, the southern half only being preserved as a farmhouse for Rectory farm. (fn. 248)
Of some 9½ hides in Bassingbourn in 1086 two thirds lay in demesne. The Richmond manor with 4 hides included 18 ploughlands, the two other manors had one hide each. The rest belonged mostly to 7 villani, 17 bordars and 10 cottars having smaller holdings. There was land for 22 plough-teams, but only 19 were available, of which the demesnes supplied only the 7 for which they had meadow, and the villani the rest. The yield of the Richmond manor had, since Count Alan received it, been raised from £26 to £30, perhaps at the expense of the 10 sokemen who had once held of it; that of the other manors had been restored to the level of 1066. (fn. 249)
The demesnes occupied almost half the arable until the 16th century. Castle manor had 296 a. in 1279, (fn. 250) and its former dependency Seymours 260 a. in 1316. (fn. 251) In 1570 they had respectively 330 a. and 185 a. (fn. 252) Rowses manor had c. 60 a. in the late 13th century, (fn. 253) Goyses 80 a. in 1345, (fn. 254) and the two c. 55 a. and 50 a. in 1570. (fn. 255) Those manors had, however, few customary tenants to work them. Although Warin of Bassingbourn's land was worth £30 a year in 1269, he had only 3 villeins, holding crofts. (fn. 256) Goyses in 1345 had only 1 bondman, and Rowses in 1306 only rent-paying free tenants. (fn. 257) In 1570 Castle and Seymours included only 20 a. of freehold tenant land and c. 110 a. of copyhold, and Rowses and Goyses c. 63 of freehold and no copyhold. (fn. 258) Almost two thirds of the arable lay within Richmonds manor. (fn. 259) Whereas in 1570 the other demesnes lay mainly in strips of 3 a. or less, no larger than those of the peasantry, Richmonds then included almost 250 a. in blocks of 10 a. or more, sometimes of over 20 a. They lay especially near the southern edge of the parish, implying a privileged position when waste land had been brought under the plough. (fn. 260)
Richmonds demesne was reckoned as 5 carucates c. 1250, and 548 a., besides 60 a. of inclosed pasture, in 1280. Its 42 customary tenants each then occupied half-yardlands averaging 20–25 a. In 1629 c. 1,380 a. of copyhold arable, divided among some 80 tenants, were held of Richmonds, and c. 1804 c. 1,205 a. of copyhold, but only 20 a. of freehold. In 1280 freeholds had been occupied by 7 sokemen owing only ploughing works, and later, until 1436, assize rents totalling only in. 3d. Another 22 free tenants, rendering in 1280 £2 rent, may like the 23 cottagers have possessed only their dwellings. The customary tenants then owed regular labour services, commuted at £10 135. 6d. a year, besides pannage, carrying services, ploughing 8 times a year, and harvest boons. Later, in the 13th and 14th centuries, besides paying by 1295 £11 5s. of assize rents, perhaps in place of weekwork, they were liable to heavy tallages, (fn. 261) fixed, however, by 1435 at £6 a year, still due c. 1500.
The demesne was in hand from the late 12th century (fn. 262) to the early 14th. (fn. 263) In 1295 its staff included a salaried bailiff, 4 ploughmen, and a shepherd. The reeve drawn from the customary tenants with a messor supervised the harvest work. Men were hired for reaping and threshing. Rent collection probably replaced direct cultivation in the mid 14th century. By 1347 over half the demesne was at farm, as was probably that of Castle manor. (fn. 264) First, c. 320 a. of arable, called the Old Bury land, were leased to various villagers at 15d. an acre, then 240 a. more, the New Bury land, at 18d. Another 95 a. in the lord's hands, including 10 a. forfeited by a bondman who had fled, were also leased out, as were the demesne meadows. After 1360, as demand for land fell, reductions of rent were allowed, £17 14s. under John of Gaunt and Queen Anne, £4 more from the duke of Bedford, cutting the rental from £43 to £22 by 1500. By 1439 the Old Bury land yielded only 6d. an acre, the New 12d. The assized rents, £11 8s. in 1435, and the receipts from sales of extraordinary works, then £13 9s., were consolidated by 1500 to produce rents from the copyholds of £28 a year, raised by 1628 to £37.
At first the leased demesne like peasant landownership was widely distributed. In 1439 two men had 30 a. each out of 180 a. of it, 9 others between 22½ a. and 5 a. On a third of the manor eight men possessed 10 copyhold half-yardlands, four others quarter-yardlands. By 1570 the copyholders also occupied in parcels over 125 a. of 'broke' land, so called by 1439, perhaps former tenant land which had passed through the lord's hands. By 1567, however, the Old and New Bury lands, then estimated to include 285 a. and 253 a., were no longer dispersed among many tenants. Instead the Duchy council let the whole, at £24 a year for a long term or for lives, to a single lessee, sometimes a favoured courtier, who sublet, or sold the lease, at a profit to one or two prominent villagers. In 1594 the demesne was let to Richard Waller and another. In 1610 William Waller offered the Crown lessee £1,150 for the lease. (fn. 265) In 1626 it was granted for lives, to Thomas Archer and Nicholas Curtis, prosperous local landowners. (fn. 266)
Similar changes occurred on other manors. Between 1575 and 1588 John Lynne let c. 260 a. of Seymours demesne for 21-year terms to 12 men, several taking less than 15 a. The largest holding was 105 a. (fn. 267) By the 1590s Lynne was letting that, with 200 a. more, to Peter Linge, an outsider who also retained until his death in 1595 the leases of the rectory and of Richmonds manor mill. (fn. 268) William Thurgar, lessee of the glebe from 1606, (fn. 269) also occupied much of Richmonds demesne as sub-tenant, and borrowed so heavily to finance his extensive tenancies that he owed Sir Giles Alington and others over £1,200 when he died bankrupt c. 1617. (fn. 270)
The tenantry of Bassingbourn found John Lynne a grasping and overbearing lord and neighbour. He pursued bitterly lawsuits with the yeomen occupying the fragments of Rowses manor, (fn. 271) and energetically enlarged his estates from the 515 a. of 1570, buying up copyholds or claiming them as forfeit on technical grounds, (fn. 272) or as parcels of former demesne. He also sought to convert copyholds of inheritance to ones for terms of years, and raised admission fines, ignoring previous agreements that had fixed them at half the rent. (fn. 273) Allegedly he ploughed up the bounds of one 70-a. copyhold which he held on lease, to assimilate it to his demesne. (fn. 274) The copyholders on the royal manor of Richmonds were better placed. By 1629 they were claiming that by long usage their admission fines were certain, being set at 6s. 8d. for a half-yardland, and at 6d. or 4d. an acre for unattached copyhold and 'broke' land, equivalent to its customary rent. In 1660 Sir Thomas Hatton challenged the alleged custom, demanding fines of half the copyholds' yearly value. Nine copyholders sued him in Chancery, (fn. 275) and by 1672 had won their suit. (fn. 276) Thereafter the copyholders of Richmonds paid, even in the 20th century, fines only equal to their ancient and exiguous rents. Fines on the other manors remained arbitrary. (fn. 277) Enfranchisement of copyholds began in the 1860s. (fn. 278)
In 1570 over 5/6 of the parish, 2,945 a. by local measures, were included in the open fields, which occupied its southern half, and the eastern part of its northern half. No large units were then recorded, the arable being divided into numerous small furlongs, some called fields. The larger ones of 75– 80 a., including the 'Great field' (135 a.), lay mostly south of Ashwell Street, whereas north and east of the village few furlongs exceeded 20 a. Probably cultivation had been gradually extended southwards over former heath beyond that road, still recalled by the name 'Heath Shot'. (fn. 279) After 1600 distinctions were sometimes drawn between the Low field north of the village and the High field further south; Brook field, presumably to the west, was also mentioned. (fn. 280) By the mid 17th century some estates had their arable divided between the East, Middle, and West fields, (fn. 281) as was that of the parsonage, somewhat unequally, in 1725. (fn. 282) They were probably identical with the fields of those names, running north and south, recorded at inclosure. East field then covered c. 950 a., Middle field c. 830 a., and West field, which did not run the whole length of the parish, c. 795 a. Another 55 a. of arable, called the Field lands, later the Fillance, lay surrounded by closes just north of the village. (fn. 283)
Common pastures, covering in 1628 c. 60 a., were scattered among the open fields; the largest, Iron leys (35 a.) lay north-east of the village. In the north-west corner of the parish, low-lying and not easily drained, lay the Fen, then reckoned at 100 a., (fn. 284) and presumably identical with the marsh over which the villagers had common rights in 1279. (fn. 285) At inclosure it covered 210 a. (fn. 286) Land inclosed in severalty covered in 1695 c. 290 a., of which 155 a. belonged to the united manors, including c. 140 a., probably derived from Castle and Seymours manors, extending continuously from North End to the northern boundary. (fn. 287)
The Rowses demesne was under a biennial rotation in 1267, (fn. 288) but by 1340, when an unsuccessful Lenten sowing was recorded, a triennial one may have been in force; 400 a. of arable, however, were then lying waste. (fn. 289) On the Richmonds demesne in 1295 the wheat crop of 95 a. yielded 70 qr. but there were also 148 qr. of dredge, 21 of maslin, and 48 of pease. (fn. 290) The principal peasant crop was barley. In 1359 the late rector had possessed, perhaps from tithes, 300 qr. of dredge to 50 of wheat and 40 of pease. (fn. 291) and in 1593 the rectory sub-lessee was required to render 500 quarters of barley probably from the tithes in his rent. (fn. 292) William Bolnest (d. 1587) mentioned the tilth and 'broke' lands, and ordered that next year 10 a. be sown with wheat, 20 a. with rye and bullymong, 20 a. with peas, and the rest that was cropped of his 150 a. with barley 'according to the season used in the common fields'. (fn. 293) Flax was grown c. 1305 in closes, (fn. 294) and saffron by 1540, possibly in the fields. (fn. 295) In the 17th century Bassingbourn was also noted for cherries. (fn. 296) Many closes were orchards in 1695. (fn. 297)
There were 200 sheep on the manors in 1086. (fn. 298) In 1347 the village contributed to a levy of wool 136 stone, perhaps representing a flock of c. 1,100. Sheep owning was then widespread. Only 34 stone, half from Richmonds manor, came from the demesne flocks, while 46 stone was provided by 33 people delivering 1 or 2 stone each, and the rest from 133 others, including 114 giving 7 lb. or less. (fn. 299) In the 17th century the Fen was reserved for cows from April until October, when it passed to the sheep which had since harvest used the 'stray common' on the fallow and stubble, not coming north of Ashwell Street until after Michaelmas. Horses fed on the lesser commons in the sown fields. (fn. 300) The customary stints were, for horses and cows, 2 for every commonable messuage, and 1 for every 40 a. of arable owned, and for sheep 20, reduced briefly in 1634, and finally from 1648 to 14, for every 40 a. Newly built cottages were excluded in 1634 from having rights of common. Villagers were forbidden to take in outsiders' cattle, (fn. 301) although from 1650 those without cows of their own were compensated by the parish for not hiring out unused cow commons. (fn. 302) At inclosure common rights were allowed for the 120 cows then kept. (fn. 303) Sheep-farming had then long been restricted largely to the bigger properties. The keeping of by-flocks was frequently forbidden, although some prominent villagers ignored the prohibition. The flockmasters too sometimes overcharged the common. (fn. 304) From the late 17th century there were five authorized folds, of c. 240 sheep each; the Bury flock and that of Castle manor belonged to the Hattons, the rest being divided into thirds and quarters among lesser landowners. (fn. 305) At inclosure rights of sheepwalk were claimed for c. 1,150 sheep, the number then kept. (fn. 306) There was some dispute whether the owners of Kneesworth were entitled to keep sheep on the Bassingbourn commons. (fn. 307)
From the 16th century there was a substantial division between the few prosperous yeomen and a poorer majority. Of the £377 assessed on Bassingbourn in 1524, Thomas Lynne possessed £44 and 2 others, one a Bolnest, £48 together; 15 others with £5–20 each had £137, but 37, taxed on less than £5, had only £80 between them, and 54, half the recorded population, were taxed only on their wages. (fn. 308) In the 1620s over 560 a. of the 1,380 a. of copyhold arable belonged to only 7 out of c. 80 tenants. (fn. 309) Under Charles II of c. 135 houses almost 110 had only 1 or 2 hearths, and barely 20 had 4 or more. (fn. 310)
Among the more prominent landowning families were those of Bolnest, Waller or Warren, Curtis, and Archer, and the Turpins, styled gentlemen from c. 1560, as were the Archers after 1650. (fn. 311) John Bolnest, lessee of the rectory (d. 1556), left £386 among his family. (fn. 312) His son William (d. 1587) owned c. 90 a. of freehold, besides his father's copyholds. (fn. 313) The Archers owned 80 a. under Charles I, and leased part of the Bury land from the 1640s to the 1670s. (fn. 314) In the 18th century their 165 a. passed by marriage to the Butterfields after 1740. (fn. 315)
The Hatton estate comprised in 1695 c. 480 a. of Bury land and 572 a. derived from the Lynnes. (fn. 316) By 1800 it covered 1,236 a., including 221 a. of old inclosures, and was mostly divided between three substantial farms, of 530 a., 483 a., and 106 a. The Nightingales then had c. 180 a., Caius College 100 a., and the impropriators 107 a. The two Joseph Beldams owned c. 500 a., and three local men and one other had c. 810 a., including the 275 a. of Thomas Prime, who had bought the Wallers' 150 a. Another 360 a. were divided among 20 men, including many outsiders. (fn. 317) Earlier in the 18th century c. 320 a. had been occupied by Royston men, (fn. 318) and by 1800 17 of c. 70 men with land in Bassingbourn lived at Royston and 14 others elsewhere outside the parish. (fn. 319)
The arable was still then devoted mainly to the traditional crops. In 1772 tithe was said to be due from 400–450 a. each of wheat, sown mainly north of Ashwell Street, and barley, 500 a. of oats, and 200 a. of beans. A third of c. 300 a. of grass was mown yearly. (fn. 320) Some seed crops were later introduced. At inclosure the vicar claimed tithe of clover, trefoil, and cinquefoil, and of turnips and potatoes; (fn. 321) and seed was then bought at London for sowing trefoil and red clover, apparently on the open fields. (fn. 322)
The inclosure act, promoted by some middling landowners, was obtained in 1801. (fn. 323) The fields were divided in 1804, and the award was executed in 1806. (fn. 324) The area to be allotted comprised 2,868 a. of open fields and commons. There were also 348 a. of old inclosures. After 739 a. had been allotted for the rectorial, and 150 a. for the vicarial, glebe and tithes, c. 570 a. remained to the Hattons, and 136 a. to the Nightingale estate. The two Beldams received 210 a. and 127 a., and three substantial resident farmers, John Archer Butterfield, Samuel Flitton, and Thomas Prime 122 a., 142 a., and 140 a. respectively. Five other landowners with 40–100 a. obtained almost 300 a., and 19 others with under 40 a. barely 130 a., while c. 50 a. were allotted in 2-a. plots to 23 men for common rights. Small allotments to Royston men in the corner adjoining that town were gradually built over. (fn. 325)
By 1834, when there were only 150 a. of grassland, 500 a. were owned by outsiders, who employed very few of the resident labourers. (fn. 326) The farmland was mostly shared among 6 or 7 large farms. (fn. 327) The former Hatton estate was divided into Manor farm to the north, c. 300 a. in the 1850s, and Bury farm south of the village, c. 400 a. in 1871, leased to the Lilley family from the 1810s to the 1880s. The beneficial lessee of the rectory sometimes divided its land. The largest segment, Rectory farm north of the village, which contained 466 a. in 1851, but only 328 a. in 1861, was again separated after 1895, covering c. 335 a., while the land in the south, following a demand for smallholdings, was divided into lots mostly under 50 a. (fn. 328) The Beldams farmed their land, in the south-east part of the parish, directly through a bailiff until the late 1870s when it was divided into Hoy's farm (274 a.) to the south and Bellevue farm (131 a.). (fn. 329) Of the lesser estates the Butterfield property was broken up and sold by 1850, (fn. 330) but the Flitton and Prime farms, west of the village, remained in those families for over a century. The former was farmed by Samuel Flitton's descendants until the 1930s, the latter let from the 1830s to the Clears, who occupied 310 a. in 1871. Poplar farm (120 a.), owned and farmed by the Sell family, was sold after a bankruptcy in 1883. (fn. 331) Several smallholders survived, farming their own lands without outside help. In 1831 8 only of 16 farmers were employing labourers, and in 1851 8 substantial farmers occupied 1,800 a., while 14 others, using very little outside labour, were farming c. 50 a. On Manor farm Clark Hales kept from the late 1850s to the 1870s a flock of prize-winning pedigree long-woolled sheep, specimens of which were exported even to America and Australia. (fn. 332) In the early 20th century there were usually 9 or 10 farms of 100 a. or more, after 1950 5, including in 1955 one of 635 a. The number of smallholders with under 50 a. declined from 67 in 1885 to 45 by 1925, and 16 by the 1970s, when they were mostly market gardeners. (fn. 333)
Employment, when available, was still provided mainly on the farms. In 1831 185 families, an increase of 40 since 1811, depended on agriculture, while only 56 were supported by trades and crafts. (fn. 334) One farmer was using a threshing machine by 1814. (fn. 335) In 1827 the labourers rioted over the introduction of Irishmen for the harvest, and in December 1830 one farmer's straw stack was fired. (fn. 336) Of the 167 adult labourers and 77 boys recorded c. 1830, 35–40 were usually unemployed. They were assisted by letting 70 a. as allotments. (fn. 337) In 1851 the larger farmers were employing, at an average of 1 man for 20 a., scarcely over 100 of the 200 adult farm labourers. (fn. 338) Discontent among them was probably a cause of an outbreak of arson in 1849 when fires were started at 11 farms, and 6 farmsteads entirely destroyed. (fn. 339) Another bout late in 1858 saw 5 farmsteads fired and 2 burnt down. (fn. 340) By the early 1860s some extra work came from coprolite digging, on which c. 180 men were engaged by 1864. C. Cooper, the contractor c. 1865, a local man (fn. 341) was succeeded by 1869 by William Colchester, an engineer from Ipswich, who in 1871 employed 78 men at it. About 60 men, a third of them recent arrivals, were then working in the diggings, but c. 220 men and boys still needed work on the farms, (fn. 342) and in 1873 55 labourers' families were on parish relief. (fn. 343) Coprolite digging, although hampered by underground water, continued mostly on the rectory estate into the late 1880s, but had ceased by 1895. (fn. 344) Before 1920 F. W. E. Beldam was letting 13 a. south of the causeway for allotments. (fn. 345) The number of adult labourers regularly employed fell from 70 in the 1920s to 50 by the 1950s and c. 30 in 1977. (fn. 346)
Farming had become less profitable since 1880. The rents of the rectory farms were cut from £950 in 1882 to £525 by 1897, that of the vicar's glebe from £308 c. 1887 to £87 by 1906, that is from £2 to 15s. an acre. (fn. 347) During the agricultural depression the area under wheat and barley, usually sown in the proportion of six to eight, fell only slightly; that of permanent grass, however, increased from 180 a. in 1885 to c. 240 a. from 1905 to the 1920s. In 1977 two thirds of c. 2,750 a. of arable were still growing wheat and barley. Sheep farming had declined, the number of mature sheep falling from over 2,200 in 1866 to c. 1,000 from 1885 to 1925, after which it ceased. Instead more pigs were kept: their numbers rose from 725 in 1925 to 2,300 by 1977, when the number of poultry had trebled since 1955 to nearly 28,000. Potatoes and cabbages were grown from the 1860s, sugar beet from the 1920s, and over 350 a. of vegetables in 1977, when there were extensive glasshouses beside the Old North Road. From the 1880s there were nearly 70 a. of fruit, including in 1925 c. 3,000 apples and 2,500 plums and pears, besides greengages and quinces. (fn. 348)
By c. 1250 Richmonds manor included a water mill, (fn. 349) probably on the site, north-west of its manor house, still occupied by such a mill in the 20th century. In the 1470s the lord agreed to provide the millstones and water wheels and do other major repairs at his own expense. (fn. 350) It was sold separately from the manor in 1611, (fn. 351) but repurchased by Thomas Willett in 1654, (fn. 352) and remained with the manor until sold again soon after inclosure. (fn. 353) From c. 1840 it was owned and run by the Waldock family, who employed 7 men and 5 boys there in 1851, when it also ground bones and oil cake. (fn. 354) In 1881, when it also had steam machinery, it was sold to J. P. Clarke, (fn. 355) whose descendants worked it until 1962. The old water wheel continued in use until 1959. (fn. 356) By 1970 it had been sold, the 18th-century miller's house and the timber framed mill building across the stream being both converted by 1975 to private houses. A water mill attached to Castle manor in 1269 has not been traced later. (fn. 357)
Millfield north-west of the village (fn. 358) was probably named from a Litlington windmill. Bassingbourn had three windmills in the 19th century. One, a smock mill, built by 1818 ½ mile west of the village for grinding oilcake, was worked from the 1830s to the 1890s by the Dickason family, and perhaps demolished c. 1900. (fn. 359) Another smock mill, built c. 1839 in the Fen, north of the Abington road, was worked from the 1840s to the 1890s by the Waldock family. It had closed by 1902. (fn. 360) A third, a brick tower mill, just north of the causeway, latterly belonging to the Nunn family, was later given battlements and nicknamed by 1909 'John of Gaunt's Tower'. It was converted by the 1930s for residential use, but was derelict in the 1950s. (fn. 361)
In 1253 Henry III granted to Peter of Savoy a weekly market on Mondays and an 8-day fair from 28 June. (fn. 362) The grant was renewed, after apparent desuetude, for John, duke of Brittany, in 1335 and John of Gaunt in 1344. (fn. 363) By 1435 the market had long ceased to be held, and the site of its stalls stood empty. (fn. 364) That may have been the market place at Walton green, recorded c. 1500, when it was overgrown with willows and treated as common land. (fn. 365) Nevertheless shops were still being rented from Richmonds manor in the 1430s, as was a forge, (fn. 366) perhaps already standing by the cross as one did in the 19th century. (fn. 367) Craftsmen recorded at Bassingbourn during the Middle Ages included a weaver in 1417, a fuller in 1431, (fn. 368) and a smith, carpenter, and wheelwright c. 1500. (fn. 369) A weaver, with his own workshop, and a dyer were there in 1677, (fn. 370) and a tanner in 1698. (fn. 371) Another tanner went bankrupt in 1791. (fn. 372) Property south-east of the crossroads was still called the Tan office or Tanyard in the 19th century. (fn. 373) A limekiln stood at South End before 1800. (fn. 374) Besides butchers, bakers, several grocers, and other shopkeepers, there were in 1841 6 smiths, 17 carpenters and 7 wheelwrights, 7 shoemakers and 5 tailors, and in 1861 8, 11 and 4, 9 and 7, respectively. Most of the individual craftsmen disappeared by the 1920s.
Among the longest-established businesses, which survived until after 1940, were those of the Morley family, by 1850 producing harness and saddlery, and the Keffords, working as blacksmiths from the 1840s and from 1905 as wheelwrights. The Worboys family, timber-merchants from the 1870s, also operated a builder's yard between 1900 and 1930. (fn. 375) Steam-driven machinery was coming into use in the 1860s, probably first for transport in the coprolite diggings. (fn. 376) There were 11 engine drivers in 1871, (fn. 377) and in 1873 Samuel Wilkerson opened an agricultural engineer's business, making farm tools and later selling steam tractors, binders, and similar machines, imported from America. (fn. 378) The firm was still in business in the 1970s. The coprolite diggings also caused industrial activity. In 1871 William Colchester employed 11 men in an iron foundry and engineer's shop, damaged by fire in 1887. As the Bassingbourn Iron Works, it probably produced coprolite grinding machinery and later farm tools into the 1890s, and was making bicycles in 1896. (fn. 379) About 1900 its workshops were taken over by Heatley and Gresham, who made motor-cars, employing c. 50 men. Besides 'Rational' cars, some exported to India, they produced some of the earliest motor-taxis used in London. In 1905 they moved to Letchworth to be nearer to a railway. (fn. 380) Another engineering firm, Permanex Ltd., was open from 1955 to after 1968, (fn. 381) and in the 1970s A. S. Playle owned a workshop producing moulded plastic. (fn. 382)
In the 13th century the lords of Richmonds had view of frankpledge, infangthief, the assize of bread and of ale, and a gallows and tumbrel. Edmund of Bassingbourn was said to have the same franchises, except infangthief, in 1275. (fn. 383) A Gallow Hill south of the village was mentioned in 1567. (fn. 384) In 1436–7 2 leets and 8 courts baron were held for Richmonds manor, but by 1497–8 only 2 leets and 2 courts a year. (fn. 385) In the early 17th century its courts leet were held once a year, usually in April, with occasional courts baron in the intervals. (fn. 386) The other manors had then only courts baron. (fn. 387) Richmonds leet regularly nominated one or two constables, and occasionally aletasters, a reeve, and a hayward to assist them. To enforce the bylaws regulating agricultural practice, which it continued to pass, renew, and sometimes enforce, until 1708, it appointed another hayward for the fields, and two or four men to survey the fields and common pastures. (fn. 388) That leet also sometimes enforced the duty of bringing carts to repair highways, or penalized the taking-in of inmates without the consent of the homage. (fn. 389) From the 1670s its public functions were taken over by the parish meeting, and after 1672 its records were almost entirely concerned with title to copyhold. Court rolls survive for 1626–60 and 1672–1702, (fn. 390) and court minute books, gradually converted into formal court books, for 1645–60 and 1672–1938. (fn. 391) By 1700 the courts baron for Castle, Seymours, and Rowses manors had been combined. Court books, containing only copyhold title deeds, survive for 1709–1939. (fn. 392) The records of Goyses manor had been burnt before 1800, when no court had been held for many years, (fn. 393) but a court book exists for 1804–1929. (fn. 394) By 1458 the impropriator was holding courts leet for a few copyholders of the rectory, and courts baron for them were held from the 16th century to 1800. (fn. 395)
Around 1500 the churchwardens were raising money for the parish by selling rights to dig clay and pasture beasts on the commons, (fn. 396) and by the lopping of willow-trees on the village green. They still claimed the right to lop them c. 1630. (fn. 397) From the late 17th century they and the constables and overseers were named annually at meetings in April. Only one constable was chosen a year from 1700 to 1806. Despite penalties for absence the monthly vestries at the public houses to hear the overseers' accounts were usually attended only by 5–8 prominent farmers. Larger assemblies, of up to 20, gathered for special business, such as regulating rights of pasturage in 1750 and 1783, leasing the town land in 1805, or fixing opening hours for beerhouses in 1806. (fn. 398) Monthly meetings, at which the overseers received advice, were still held in 1834. (fn. 399)
In the early 18th century the poor rate, averaging £60–80 a year, was spent mainly on the weekly collection, distributed to the aged poor, including c. 14 widows, some with children. About 1750 the collection, £4–5 a month, was given among 15–20 people in weekly doles of 6d. to 1s. 6d. A workhouse was rented in 1758. The matron engaged to run it in 1760 received 1s. a week to maintain each inmate. There were seven in 1769. Poor relief rose from £92 in 1750 to £150 a year in the 1760s, and had reached £280 c. 1785 and almost £900 by 1800. Those receiving regular outside relief, mostly still women and children, numbered 20 in the 1790s, 25 by 1799, and 35–40 in the early 1810s. The number in the workhouse, 10 in 1803, but only 5 or 6 before 1815, rose by 1817 to 20 before declining to 11 by 1820, and 6, out of 25 on relief, in 1827. From a fresh peak of £782 in 1813 (fn. 400) the annual cost of relief fell to c. £750 by 1819 and £550–600 in the early 1820s, but usually again exceeded £700 after 1827 and had reached almost £1,000 by 1833, (fn. 401) although the workhouse was then disused. (fn. 402) After 1830 over a third of the total spent went to widows, children, the old, and the sick, and barely a tenth on casual and occasional relief. Adult labourers were, however, assisted by the parish spending sums rising from c. £150 in 1829 to £300 by 1835 as wages for gravel digging and road mending. In 1834 40 men were so employed by it. (fn. 403) Its roads had been in a very poor state at inclosure, when those to Abington and Wendy barely escaped being stopped up as too decayed to be public highways. (fn. 404) When in December 1831 the vestry invited an overseer from Baldock to advise them how to manage the poor more efficiently, the labourers mobbed him and forced him to flee. (fn. 405) In 1833 116 labourers were intended to be apportioned among the farmers in proportion to their share of the poor rate. (fn. 406)
From 1835 Bassingbourn was included in the Royston poor law union, (fn. 407) whose workhouse was built on the outskirts of Royston, just within the parish. Despite a demonstration against it in 1835 by the labourers of the neighbourhood, roused by two radical curates, it was completed in 1836. (fn. 408) The village had a resident police constable from the 1840s, (fn. 409) and its own fire engine by 1849. (fn. 410) From 1894 it was included in the Melbourn R.D., with which it was incorporated in 1934 into the South Cambridgeshire R.D., (fn. 411) and in 1974 became part of the South Cambridgeshire district.
The modern ecclesiastical parish of Bassingbourn also includes Kneesworth, which had once its own chapel, but was gradually incorporated into Bassingbourn from the 15th century. (fn. 412) Part of Royston town also lay within Bassingbourn parish. Its inhabitants were already paying their small tithes to Royston priory by 1400, (fn. 413) but when Royston obtained its own parish church under an act of 1540 the right of the incumbents of Bassingbourn to the tithe of their farmland was reserved. (fn. 414) The area gradually built up during the 19th-century growth of Royston was separated from Bassingbourn ecclesiastically in 1890. (fn. 415) Rights of Wendy church in Bassingbourn, perhaps over copyholds of Wendy manor, were apparently compounded for a £2 pension, paid from the 16th century out of Bassingbourn rectory to the vicar of Wendy. (fn. 416)
The church of Bassingbourn, established by 1200, originally belonged to Richmonds manor, whose possessors exercised its advowson until the 14th century. (fn. 417) About 1130 Count Stephen, lord of Richmond, granted tithes there to St. Mary's abbey, York, (fn. 418) whose dependent cell of Rumburgh (Suff.) enjoyed between 1250 and 1350 a portion of 5½ marks. (fn. 419) In 1385 Richard II granted the advowson of the rectory to the royal free chapel of St. Martin's-le-Grand, with a licence for its appropriation. (fn. 420) In 1411, upon the death of the last rector, the appropriation was finally accomplished under a papal bull of 1410. (fn. 421)
St. Martin's retained the appropriated rectory until 1503 when Henry VII granted all its possessions to Westminster abbey. (fn. 422) In 1542 Bassingbourn rectory, with the abbey's other property, was assigned to the dean and chapter of Westminster, (fn. 423) who retained it, except under Mary (fn. 424) and during the Interregnum, (fn. 425) until in 1869 with most of their other lands it was ceded to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. (fn. 426)
The rectory was valuable, being taxed at 40 marks c. 1217, £80 in 1254, and £60 from the 1270s. (fn. 427) The notables and foreigners appointed by its noble, often foreign, patrons were usually absentees. Early rectors included in 1206 Mr. Humphrey of Bassingbourn, archdeacon of Salisbury, (fn. 428) and c. 1214 King John's minister Richard Marsh. (fn. 429) In 1294 the rector, possibly a Gascon, was overseas, serving his patron, the duke of Brittany. (fn. 430) Gerard de Cusance, rector c. 1323, was a clerk of John, earl of Richmond, (fn. 431) and the next rector probably a kinsman of the Savoyard bailiff of Richmonds manor. (fn. 432) Queen Philippa's nominee in 1349 was not in priest's orders, and was licensed in 1353 to be absent for two years. (fn. 433) Most of the royal presentments from the 1330s were of clerks in the king's service. (fn. 434) The last rector, Robert Whitby, who had secured the living despite a royal nomination in 1391, had served John of Gaunt, and was nonresident in 1400. (fn. 435)
The rectors occasionally resided, (fn. 436) or took some interest in their living. Roger Goldburn, rector c. 1374–80, (fn. 437) gave the church a mass book and vestments, still in use over a century later. (fn. 438) In 1410 Robert Whitby left £12 for the church fabric and for 24 poor parishioners. (fn. 439) Richard Cawdray, dean of St. Martin's 1435–58, (fn. 440) gave four service books and several embroidered vestments. (fn. 441) The charge of the parish, however, fell to the vicars. Their benefice was perhaps founded in 1206, when Alan, then rector, resigned his living, retaining, however, for his life the perpetual vicarage with all the fruits of the church, but paying the new rector 2 bezants yearly as a pension. (fn. 442) The vicarage was regularly established by the 1270s. (fn. 443) Vicars were presented by the rectors until 1410, (fn. 444) and thereafter by the appropriators, the dean of St. Martin's, (fn. 445) and the abbot, (fn. 446) and later the dean and chapter, of Westminster, (fn. 447) who retained the advowson of the vicarage in 1869. (fn. 448) They were still its patrons in 1977, presenting, since the combination of Bassingbourn with Whaddon, alternately with the patrons of that living. (fn. 449)
Most medieval vicars were rather poorer than Alan had been. They had no glebe and only the small tithes, and the vicarage was taxed at only £1 in 1254 and 7 marks in 1291, (fn. 450) and still at only £7 in 1535. (fn. 451) The vicar's income, £20 in 1650, had risen to £80 by 1728. (fn. 452) The impropriator had since 1660 allowed him £10 a year, payable out of the rectory, which was increased before the 1770s to £40 a year, still paid after 1900. (fn. 453) At inclosure in 1804 the vicar was allotted 140 a. for his tithes, including 29 a. for those from Kneesworth, and received by exchange a 14-a. close opposite the church. (fn. 454) His income therefore rose from £120 c. 1800 to £232 by 1830 (fn. 455) and £300 in 1851 and 1873. (fn. 456) The subsequent fall by a half of the rent from the glebe induced the vicar to exchange 114 a. in 1906 for stock yielding £100 a year, and to sell another 26 a. in 1922, retaining thereafter only the close around his residence, (fn. 457) which was sold c. 1973. (fn. 458)
A vicarage house had been built, probably by 1330, on a small plot carved out of the south side of the churchyard. (fn. 459) That house had 8 hearths in 1674, when the vicar lived there, (fn. 460) and was occupied by the clergy until the early 19th century. (fn. 461) In 1845 it was replaced with a brick house in Gothic style, built with a grant from Queen Anne's Bounty at the northern edge of the former Richmond manor close. (fn. 462) That house was sold c. 1973, and a smaller residence procured. (fn. 463)
In 1378 the parish had besides the vicar two chaplains. (fn. 464) In 1377 the vicar was charged with a liaison with a parishioner's wife, and a chaplain, who had quarrelled with him, with being a troublemaker, dealing in beer, and frequenting markets. (fn. 465) In 1466 a new vicar was so much at odds with his flock that another priest had to be called in to hear their confessions. (fn. 466) From the 1470s the vicarage was sometimes held by canon lawyers, who were occasionally pluralists, (fn. 467) and, becoming absentees in their turn, left the cure to chaplains. (fn. 468) Anthony Wharton, who acquired the living c. 1523 from a kinsman, (fn. 469) lived in Cumberland, and let the vicarage house to a chaplain, whom he, as also his successor in 1536, hired to serve the cure. (fn. 470)
The defaults of the vicars were partly supplied by the guilds of the Trinity, the Holy Cross, and St. John the Baptist. In 1475 they obtained from Richmonds manor a plot of waste upon which to build a guildhall. (fn. 471) The Trinity guild, the most prominent, headed by wardens, received frequent legacies and owned by 1547 80 a. in Whaddon and 131 a. in Bassingbourn, besides a house let to the 'brotherhood priest' whom it employed. (fn. 472) Such priests were recorded from 1498. One, John Huberd, left a bible to the church and could afford to endow an obit with land. His successor came from a local family. (fn. 473) The churchwardens obtained funds for the church, partly from frequent church ales, partly from legacies. (fn. 474) In 1511, to pay for a new statue of St. George completed by 1520, they promoted a play of St. George, attended by men from 25 neighbouring villages. (fn. 475) By such methods the church was in 1498 handsomely equipped with plate, vestments, and 30 service books, already including two printed mass books. (fn. 476) By 1501 the church had an organ, sometimes played by the parish clerk's servant. (fn. 477) In 1509 Richard Lynne left 40 a. at Wendy, whose issues, after supporting his obit and providing alms for 40 poor, bedridden villagers, were for church purposes. Lynne's obit lands were sold by the Crown in 1552, (fn. 478) as were 5 a. of other obit land, along with the guildhall and the Whaddon land, in 1553. (fn. 479) Other land, including 7 a. called in 1503 Church piece, (fn. 480) possibly escaped confiscation, to become the parish property, called the 'town land', for which 4 a. were allotted at inclosure. By 1800 its income was used for the poor. (fn. 481)
In 1554 the vicar was deprived, perhaps for marrying. (fn. 482) Between 1559 and 1564 the vicarage was held with Barley (Herts.), by Thomas Dobbinson, who as a chaplain to Bishop Cox was frequently absent. (fn. 483) The vicar in 1593 did not preach even once a month. (fn. 484) John Lawson, presented in 1626, (fn. 485) escaped ejectment, but, although called honest in 1650, was then too old and weak to serve his large parish. (fn. 486) The Puritan evangelist Francis Holcroft, his successor in 1655, was removed in 1660 (fn. 487) in favour of William Scarlett, who held the living, from 1686 with a Norfolk one, until he died, aged nearly 80, in 1700. (fn. 488) Thomas Hewardine, vicar 1704–40, who wrote in defence of infant baptism, also held Abington Pigotts from 1724, and the next vicar had also a Hertfordshire living. (fn. 489) In 1717 Edward Nightingale of Kneesworth gave book cases and £50 worth of books for a parish library, later augmented to 867 volumes by gifts from Cambridge colleges and local clergymen. (fn. 490) In 1900 it was installed in new cases in the vestry under the tower, (fn. 491) but in 1969 the books were sold to the libraries of Cambridge and Essex universities. (fn. 492)
In 1775 the vicar was himself serving as a curate in Surrey, but employed at Bassingbourn a curate who held two services, preaching at one, every Sunday, and communion 4 times a year. Those practices continued until the 1830s. In 1807 there were, despite frequent admonitions, only 5 or 6 communicants, in 1825 barely 18. After 1800 the vicars usually resided. (fn. 493) About 1830 the aged vicar had a curate. (fn. 494) W. H. Chapman, vicar 1833–61, claimed in 1836 to have over 25 communicants, and in 1851 an average attendance of 140 adults at afternoon service. (fn. 495) In 1873, when the monthly communions were attended by up to 50 people and the vicar preached twice every Sunday, some 600 out of 2,400 parishioners adhered to the church. (fn. 496) In 1897, despite weekly communions started since 1885, there were only 40 communicants. The preponderance of dissenting farmers in the parish was thought to discourage their labourers from church going, while those who did attend were too poor to provide adequate funds to support the services, whose cost fell wholly on the vicar. (fn. 497) R. H. Boyd, vicar 1899–1934, laboured to convert the dissenters, and in 1939 bequeathed over £5,000 for training for service abroad missionaries preferably born at Bassingbourn. (fn. 498) From 1954 the parish was held jointly with Whaddon. (fn. 499)
The church of ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL, so called by 1494, (fn. 500) was built of field-stones and flints. Its clunch ashlaring decayed and it was mainly refaced in limestone in the 19th century. (fn. 501) It consists of a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch and south chapel, and west tower. The west tower, 13th-century before its rebuilding, is in three stages. Short, thick sections from the walls of an earlier nave survive at its east end, (fn. 502) where they meet those of the lofty chancel, which was rebuilt to the same width in the mid 14th century. Its three bays contain tall three-light windows, with ogee tips and mouchette tracery, separated by high buttresses. The five-light east window had elaborate flowing tracery. The priest's doorway in the north wall and the pinnacled triple sedilia and double piscina inside are of the same period. The first window on the north has its lower two thirds blocked to allow for an annexed building, probably the vestry mentioned c. 1500, (fn. 503) since demolished, from which a low-pitched roof line, a doorway, and a cupboard recess survive. The upper wall west of the chancel arch is pierced with quatrefoil windows, which perhaps lighted the rood loft. A 15th-century rood stair is on the north side. Of the rood screen only the eastern half with seven bays of elaborate tracery survives. (fn. 504) The nave of six bays with octagonal piers was probably rebuilt from the east, soon after the chancel. The bases and piers are uniform throughout, but only the first two northern and first southern bays have moulded arches, perhaps suggesting a break in construction, those further west being merely chamfered. The aisles are probably late 14th-century. Their three-light windows have mostly late Decorated tracery under straight heads. A slightly wider two-bay chapel occupies the two eastern bays of the south aisle. It has a piscina and in its east wall a four-light window with niches in its splays over a reredos. It was perhaps the chapel in which John Bassingbourn (d. 1420) like his parents was buried. (fn. 505) The squat tower arch is also probably late 14th-century, and the battlemented clerestorey, with two-light square-headed windows, partly corbelled out from the earlier walling, 15thcentury. The south porch has to each side traceried arches in wood on a stone base. In it lay two 13thcentury tomb slabs, with floriated crosses, one recently removed into the church. The octagonal font is probably 14th-century. The chancel roof has tiebeams with heads as bosses where they cross the longitudinal beam. A few late-medieval benches survive. There are several tablets to the Nightingale family, the earliest of 1681, and in the chancel a small monument to Henry Butler (d. 1647), with a partly shrouded youth in white marble exposed on a black marble slab.
In 1644 William Dowsing broke 48 superstitious figures in the windows. (fn. 506) The altar rails, then taken by the rectory farmer to fence his hog-yard, were still missing in 1747. (fn. 507) The 'north chapel' off the chancel, dilapidated by 1747, (fn. 508) was later removed, the stumps of its walls being left as buttresses. (fn. 509) Edward Nightingale (d. 1723) repaired the whole church at his own expense. (fn. 510) The west tower, dangerously cracked in 1685 (fn. 511) and on the verge of falling in 1811, (fn. 512) had its arch blocked up in 1812 and received massive new buttresses. (fn. 513) Those inside the church conceal the west responds of the nave arcade. The chancel east window tracery, which disappeared between 1747 and 1811, was restored to match that of the side windows, probably c. 1844, when the external stonework of the chancel was largely renewed, and its fittings replaced. (fn. 514) The south chapel was restored in 1862. In 1864–5 with the Nashes of Royston as architects the nave and aisles, which had settled badly, making the roof unsafe, were entirely taken down and rebuilt, reusing where possible the original stonework and elsewhere copying the old work. New seating was installed, and the tower arch re-opened to make a vestry. (fn. 515) The west tower, so unstable that by the 1890s the bells could not be rung, was reconstructed in 1897 with £1,200 given by Mrs. S. E. Pyne of Royston. (fn. 516) In 1903 she left another £1,000, increased by 1960 to £1,174, as a fund for church repairs. (fn. 517) In 1950 Miss C. L. Elbourn left £1,000 to repair the north aisle where her family had given a window. (fn. 518)
A new organ, replacing a barrel organ of the 1820s, was placed in the chancel in 1867. (fn. 519) The plate included three chalices c. 1275, and one silver one by 1375. (fn. 520) In 1498 there were four, one recently given by the Trinity guild, (fn. 521) but only two remained by 1552. (fn. 522) The modern plate includes a silver cup and paten acquired in 1609. (fn. 523) Of the five bells recorded in 1552, (fn. 524) three, including the great and treble bells, had been cast at London between 1498 and 1501. (fn. 525) The church had by 1503 a clock, (fn. 526) sold c. 1676. (fn. 527) Edward Nightingale gave a new one c. 1712. The existing set of five bells, cast in 1650, (fn. 528) was rehung in 1977, after having been unrung for 20 years, and a sixth added. (fn. 529) The churchyard, being full, was closed in 1878, (fn. 530) and replaced by a 2½ a. cemetery with 2 chapels opened in 1879 north of the road to Kneesworth. (fn. 531) The parish registers begin in 1558. (fn. 532)
The Independent congregation founded by Francis Holcroft, minister 1655– 60, was later centred on Melbourn, (fn. 533) although Independents were still numerous at Bassingbourn in the 1660s. Seven people would not come to church there in 1664, and ten in 1676 (fn. 534) when there were 30 adult dissenters in the parish. (fn. 535) Anabaptism had also some influence. Jasper Docwra, once farmer of the rectory, (fn. 536) had wavered between the parish church and the Baptists in the 1650s, (fn. 537) and under Charles II one or two families would not have their children baptized. (fn. 538) In 1676 Docwra allegedly claimed to be the Son of Man and Judge of the World, and prophesied the Last Judgement and the end of tithe paying for next spring. He therefore refused to account as churchwarden and sold the church clock. (fn. 539)
In 1728 there were seven dissenting families, supposedly Presbyterians, (fn. 540) but there was no organized dissent in the village (fn. 541) until an Independent meeting-house was built in 1790 and registered in 1791 by Samuel Bull. (fn. 542) The chapel, standing just east of South End, is a squarish building, with a rounded apse, pointed windows, and interior galleries. Samuel Dodkin (d. 1808), besides endowing a dissenting school, left £3 interest on £100, to maintain the chapel or its ministers. (fn. 543) By 1807 the Independents were numerous. Bull, then their minister, was styled their teacher in 1825, when some 100 adults adhered to the sect. (fn. 544) A house was also registered for dissenting worship by its occupier in 1809, and a barn by a farmer in 1822. (fn. 545) In 1851 the minister, resident from 1846, claimed that the chapel had 860 sittings and an average attendance on Sunday afternoons of 670, besides 180 Sundayschool children. Then, as later, there were two Sunday services. (fn. 546) By the 1860s the minister occupied a manse nearby. (fn. 547) A preaching station, in a building with 80 sittings, was established at North End in 1860, and remained open until the 1950s. (fn. 548)
In 1873 1,400 people were said to attend dissenting chapels. (fn. 549) About 1897 the population was equally divided between church and chapel, but, as already in 1869, most of the principal farmers and tradesmen were dissenters, including even the tenants of the former rectory farms. (fn. 550) The Independent congregation numbered 80–90 from the 1900s to the 1920s, (fn. 551) and had, besides one or two lay preachers, resident ministers until the 1930s. (fn. 552) Membership had declined to 57 by 1953 and to c. 30 about 1970. By 1973 the chapel, associated with the United Reformed Church, was served by a minister living at Royston. (fn. 553) It was still in use in 1977, when the vestry, added in 1824, was under repair. (fn. 554)
A house was registered for dissenting worship in 1851, (fn. 555) and a building at Boy Bridge between 1864 and 1866. (fn. 556) A Methodist lay preacher, a miller, recorded in 1861, (fn. 557) was perhaps connected with the Royston Wesleyan chapel. A Salvation Army hall was in use from 1887 to c. 1896. (fn. 558)
Bassingbourn had usually a resident schoolmaster, not always licensed, from the late 1570s to the 1630s. (fn. 559) In 1628 the vicar himself was teaching a school. (fn. 560) In 1657 £9 a year was granted out of the rectory for the schoolmaster. (fn. 561) In the early 18th century a school was held in the south chapel of the church. (fn. 562) There was no public school in the village in 1775 or 1807. (fn. 563)
Samuel Dodkin, by will proved 1808, left £300 to found a school for the children of poor dissenters. The trustees then included the Independent minister, and were later drawn from the village's leading farmers and tradesmen, who kept the school under dissenting 'influence and management'. In 1809 a schoolroom, a low, square, brick building, was put up at the north-west corner of the later recreation ground. Its pupils, who were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic, (fn. 564) numbered up to 90 in 1819, when evening classes were also held. Four other day schools, three also kept by dissenters, had 95 pupils, paid for by their parents. (fn. 565) From 1833 the £210 left from Dodkin's endowment was used to support boys' and girls' schools, with in 1837 100 and 60 pupils respectively, taught on the Lancasterian system, besides an evening class of 40. (fn. 566) The British school had by 1841 both a master, in office until the 1860s, and a mistress, and c. 90 pupils in 1875, when only £6 of its income of £46 came from Dodkin's bequest, the rest from subscriptions and schoolpence. (fn. 567) A rival Sunday school started by the vicar in 1826, also supported by subscriptions, had in 1833 had only 65 pupils. By 1836 the vicar also maintained a girls' day-school. (fn. 568) Both were linked with the National Society, as was the church day school, for which a small schoolroom was built in 1838 at the south-east corner of the vicarage grounds. In 1846 as later it was taught by a mistress, paid from subscriptions, mainly given by the impropriators. It then had 40 older pupils and 33 infants, and in 1873 c. 80 and 33. In 1859 S. L. Leete left £10 a year to support the National school. Evening classes, held from 1870, had little success. (fn. 569) In 1851 c. 195 children were sometimes attending schools, by 1871 c. 230, but the farm labourers mostly took their children away at an early age. (fn. 570)
A school board was formed in 1874, (fn. 571) and a new schoolhouse, with a schoolroom and 2 classrooms and a master's house attached, was opened on the north side of the high street in 1877. Many of the children whom it took over from the National and British schools, which both closed that year, were barely literate. (fn. 572) The former church schoolroom was used mainly for a Sunday school until 1899, when after extensive repairs it was converted into a churchroom. (fn. 573) Dodkin's endowment was used for the chapel Sunday school, held until c. 1958 in the old schoolroom, sold after 1963 for a dwelling house. (fn. 574)
The board school, which had accommodation for 344 pupils, (fn. 575) was divided into separate departments for boys, girls, and infants until 1912, when they were combined under a single headmaster. Schoolpence were collected until 1891. Organized sports and, in winter, free school meals, sponsored by Sidney Holland of Kneesworth Hall, were instituted in 1912. (fn. 576) Average attendance, c. 245 in 1884, fell to 200 by 1902, and after rising slightly c. 1910, was below 200 by 1920 and only 120 by 1938. (fn. 577) From 1954 the older children attended Bassingbourn village college, opened that year on an extensive site south-west of the crossroads. (fn. 578) In 1963 new buildings were opened for the primary school pupils by the Litlington road, the old school on the high street being subsequently used for the infants. About 1970 the two lower schools had c. 400 pupils. (fn. 579)
Charities for the Poor.
The yield of the town lands, 4 a. after 1804, (fn. 582) once used to support the rates, was from the 1830s distributed in cash among the poor.
Roger Stoughton, by will dated 1690, left a rent charge of £13 on land at Datchworth (Herts.), from which, so long as the Church of England remained Protestant, and the mass was not restored in parish churches, 1s. a week (fn. 583) should be distributed in bread, to poor men of Bassingbourn aged over 40, after the two Sunday services. His family were to receive the surplus of the rent charge. (fn. 584) Distribution probably began in 1691. (fn. 585) In the 1830s the churchwardens gave out 6 loaves every Sunday. (fn. 586) Distribution in bread continued from the 1860s until 1942. The claims of the family to the surplus were overruled after 1956, and it was combined with the other income. When in 1961 the rent charge was redeemed for £520, £208 of stock was assigned to Bassingbourn. Its yield, £7–8 a year, was still in the 1960s given to one or two old people in weekly loaves. (fn. 587)
Jane Fordham, by will proved 1900, left half her residual estate, amounting to £768, for the poor of Bassingbourn. The income was then £18 8s. a year, and in the 1960s £37, £20–30 of which was given in doles of 10s. among c. 40 people. Miss C. L. Elbourn, by will proved 1950, left £8,000 to build and maintain an almshouse, called the Elbourn Memorial, on a site at Spring Lane. By 1956 three bungalows had been built there at a cost of c. £3,000; the balance was set aside for their maintenance. (fn. 588)