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 small and thinly populated parish (fn. 1) lay on the south side of the river Cam or Rhee, west of the Old North Road, 8 km. north-west of Royston. In 1957, when it covered 768 a. (310 ha.), it was united with the neighbouring parish of Wendy. (fn. 2) It was compact in shape, (fn. 3) bounded on the north by the river and separated from Wendy on the east by a stream known as the North Ditch. A watercourse also formed part of the southern boundary. The western boundary, between Shingay and Steeple Morden, is marked by Shingay Gate Farm which has stood there since the 17th century or earlier. As the parish's name implies (fn. 4) the land of Scene's people is flat and lowlying, mainly upon the Gault with a narrow alluvial strip along the river and the North Ditch. (fn. 5) Its loamy soil is well watered and from the 15th to the 20th century was almost entirely inclosed pasture land. In the 18th century it was one of the parishes known as the Dairies. (fn. 6) In the 17th century and until the mid 19th, Shingay was well wooded, (fn. 7) but little woodland remained by the early 20th century. (fn. 8)
Eighteen bordars and cottars were recorded in Shingay in 1086 (fn. 9) and there were 33 customary and c. 10 free tenants there in 1279. (fn. 10) Only 15 residents, besides the lord, were assessed to the subsidy in 1327, (fn. 11) but 29 contributed to the wool levy in 1347. (fn. 12) Numbers had dropped sharply by the mid 15th century, (fn. 13) and only 9 men paid the subsidy in 1524. (fn. 14) By 1563 there were only 6 households in Shingay; (fn. 15) numbers apparently remained steady for the next 250 years, there being 42 inhabitants in 1773, 6 families in 1794, and 7 families or 42 inhabitants in 1801. Numbers rose steadily in the earlier 19th century to 142 in 1851, but fell thereafter, returning to 42 by 1901 and remaining at 38 in 1951. (fn. 16)
Throughout the Middle Ages the parish was dominated by the preceptory of the Knights Hospitallers, who held all the land there. Lying 3 km. from the Old North Road the preceptory played host to royalty on several occasions. (fn. 17) In the Revolt of 1381 it was attacked and its buildings robbed and damaged. (fn. 18)
Before the depopulation of the 15th century the village of Shingay presumably lay east of the preceptory, (fn. 19) along the road leading from the Old North Road to Steeple and Guilden Morden. From the 16th century it was often regarded as a hamlet of Wendy. As the population grew in the 19th century houses were built along Shingay Lane, where Manor Farm lay, and High Road, running south to Bassingbourn. In 1861 there were 26 houses, including Shingay Gate and South Farms, and the mill at the eastern edge of the parish. (fn. 20) The number declined thereafter; by 1979, apart from the farmhouses and three houses at Shingay mill, there were only some eight dwellings along High Road.
Manor and other Estate.
In 1066 Shingay was held by Goda of Earl Alfgar, and in 1086 by Roger, earl of Shrewsbury, in demesne. (fn. 21) Before 1147 his daughter Sibyl, wife of Robert FitzHamon but then called Sibyl de Rames, and her son-in-law Robert, earl of Gloucester, gave the manor of SHINGAY to the Knights Hospitallers who founded a preceptory there. (fn. 22) The Hospitallers retained the manor (fn. 23) until 1540 when the preceptory or lordship, which had been assured to Sir Henry Long, was granted to Sir Richard Long (fn. 24) (d. 1546). In 1541 Sir Richard settled it for life on his wife Margaret, widow of Sir Thomas Kitson, who later married John Bourchier, earl of Bath, and died in 1561 when her son Henry Long was still a minor. (fn. 25) Henry died in 1573 leaving a daughter, Elizabeth, (fn. 26) who in 1585 married Sir William Russell, created Lord Russell of Thornhaugh in 1603. (fn. 27)
Shingay had been settled for life on Henry's widow, Dorothy, who took as her second husband Sir Charles Morrison, and they held the manor at Morrison's death in 1599. (fn. 28) On Elizabeth Russell's death in 1611 it passed to her son Francis, from 1627 earl of Bedford (d. 1641). (fn. 29) It was apparently settled on Francis's third son John, who held it in 1646 and 1670 and by will dated 1683 left it to his younger brother Edward's son Edward. (fn. 30) The younger Edward, Admiral Russell, (fn. 31) was created earl of Orford and baron Shingay in 1697. He died without issue in 1727 and Shingay passed (fn. 32) to Anne, the only daughter of his sister Letitia and Sir Thomas Cheeke, and wife of Sir Thomas Tipping of Wheatfield (d. 1728). Anne's daughter Letitia (d. 1779) married Samuel Sandys of Ombersley (Worcs.) (d. 1770), created Lord Sandys in 1743. Their son Edwin, Lord Sandys, died without issue in 1797 and was succeeded by his brother Martin's daughter Mary, dowager marchioness of Downshire (d. 1836), who held Shingay in 1835. (fn. 33) She or her heirs then sold the manor to Lord Hardwicke, perhaps c. 1845, and it descended with his Wimpole estate (fn. 34) until 1911 when the farms were sold to the tenants, W. Bath acquiring c. 2/3 of the parish which his son Sydney Bath still owned in 1979. (fn. 35)
The Hospitallers apparently had a house at Shingay from the late 12th century, (fn. 36) and the preceptory presumably stood in the moated site south of the mill stream and north-east of the later Manor Farm. Sir Richard Long's widow Margaret was living there at her death in 1561 (fn. 37) and her son's widow Dorothy lived there with her second husband until 1599. (fn. 38) In 1601 Elizabeth and Sir William Russell undertook extensive alterations to what was then known as Shingay Hall and later as Shingay House, including the insertion of new windows and a staircase and the complete rebuilding of some rooms. The house then included a hall, a dining room, a great chamber, and a two-storey porch. (fn. 39) In 1674 it had 25 hearths. (fn. 40) From the mid 17th century the house was usually leased to farmers, but the owners reserved a few rooms for their occasional use. (fn. 41) At least part of the old house survived c. 1720 when a new house was built near by. (fn. 42) By 1792 Shingay House, perhaps the hall of the preceptory, had been divided into tenements for the poor. (fn. 43) In 1796 it was demolished and the materials, mostly bricks, were sold. (fn. 44) Some old stonework was incorporated in the outbuildings of Manor Farm. (fn. 45) In 1979 part of the moat remained visible and an avenue of trees led from Manor Farm to the site of the former house.
In 1086 the 3 hides of demesne in Shingay were cultivated with 2 ploughteams, and the remaining 2 hides were worked by 11 bordars and 7 cottars with 4 ploughteams. There was sufficient pasture and meadow, and surplus meadow worth 2s. The whole estate had fallen in value from £14 in 1066 to £7. (fn. 46) In 1279 there were 168 a. of arable in demesne. The 12 free tenants held only a few acres each for a money rent. Thirteen villeins held yardlands, consisting of 16 a. of arable and some pasture: they owed three works a week in harvest, two for the rest of the year, besides boonworks, ploughing, harrowing, mowing, and carting services. Eight villeins held halfyardlands in return for half as much weekwork and lighter ploughing services. Twelve customary cottagers owed one work a week throughout the year, 2 boonworks in harvest, and some carrying services. (fn. 47) In 1338 the Hospitallers' estate was said to include 600 a. of arable, 60 a. of meadow, and 60 a. of pasture, almost all the parish, but that evidently included their villeins' lands. Labour services had apparently been commuted and were worth £13 9s. a year. (fn. 48)
Even in the earlier 14th century the preceptory's demesne yielded as much as all its tenants' holdings together. In 1327 when 15 inhabitants, presumably all tenants of the Hospitallers, contributed to the subsidy, none paid over 3s. while the preceptor paid 23s. 9d. (fn. 49) The 29 tenants who contributed to the wool levy in 1347 paid less collectively than the preceptor. There had been 140 sheep on the demesne in 1086, and in 1347 more than half of the parish flock of up to 600 sheep were on the demesne. (fn. 50) Presumably the number of sheep, and perhaps of cattle, increased as by the mid 15th century the population of Shingay had dropped noticeably and the preceptory embarked on a policy of inclosure. In 1507 Sir Thomas Sheffield was said to have inclosed 280 a. there. (fn. 51) The parish remained in single ownership until the early 20th century. By the 17th century almost the whole of Shingay was inclosed grassland, (fn. 52) as it was in 1794 when only c. 50 a. out of 650 a. were arable. (fn. 53) The well watered meadows mostly supported cattle but sheep were also kept. (fn. 54)
In the early 16th century the Hospitallers perhaps leased their land to farmers, and 5 men in Shingay were taxed on goods in 1524; there were also 4 wage labourers. (fn. 55) From the early 17th century the lords of the manor leased their land, which was usually divided between 3 or 4 large farms, although smaller lessees brought the number of tenants to 17 in 1649. (fn. 56) The later Manor farm was probably that leased to John Richford and later to Thomas Revell. (fn. 57) Shingay Gate farmhouse dates from the 17th century: that farm probably covered c. 350 a. in Shingay and neighbouring parishes in 1775. (fn. 58) Some grassland was ploughed in the late 18th century and sown with wheat and oats, (fn. 59) but dairy farming remained important. In 1780 one farmer claimed that every tenant had the right to take in cattle to 'joist' or agist. (fn. 60) In the 1790s c. 450 sheep were kept along with the cattle. (fn. 61) By the early 19th century the parish was divided between Manor, Gate, and South farms which between them employed all the men in the parish. (fn. 62) Gate farm in the west, which included some land in Steeple Morden, was the largest, covering nearly 400 a. in 1851 when South farm, with some land in Abington Pigotts, covered 230 a. and Manor farm 250 a. (fn. 63)
In the course of the 19th century more pasture was broken up, and by 1891 Manor farm had equal amounts of pasture and arable, Gate farm had c. 175 a. of arable and 110 a. of pasture, and South farm had 125 a. of arable and only 42 a. of pasture in Shingay. (fn. 64) The number of sheep kept declined steadily from the 1880s, and none were recorded in 1955. Numbers of cattle also fell, but less markedly; c. 150 were recorded in 1955. (fn. 65) In 1914 Gate farm was bought by the County Council which let it as small holdings. (fn. 66) From 1911 the rest of the parish belonged to the Bath family, and in 1979 Sydney Bath Farms Ltd. farmed over 1,000 a. in Shingay and Wendy, growing wheat, barley, and potatoes. (fn. 67)
There was a mill at Shingay in 1086, (fn. 68) and a water mill was recorded in 1279 (fn. 69) and in 1338, when there was also a windmill, (fn. 70) not recorded later. The water mill stood where the road to Croydon crosses an artificially straightened branch of the river Rhee. (fn. 71) By 1649 c. 40 a. of pasture was attached to the mill, (fn. 72) and by the early 19th century c. 125 a. (fn. 73) The 20 a. let with the mill in 1861 (fn. 74) was still known as Shingay Mill in 1911, although the mill had burnt down c. 1891 and was not rebuilt. (fn. 75)
In 1299 the Hospitallers claimed view of frankpledge, waif, tumbrel, toll and team, felons' and fugitives' goods, and quittance of suit at the hundred court. (fn. 76) A court for Shingay manor was recorded in 1338, (fn. 77) and courts baron from the mid 17th to the mid 18th century. Court records survive from 1688 to 1746. By then the courts were held irregularly and were concerned entirely with tenurial business, dealing with lands outside Shingay held of the manor. (fn. 78) In the 18th century the lord of Shingay manor still received quitrents from numerous Cambridgeshire estates. (fn. 79) Courts were presumably held in rooms reserved for the lord in the manor house. (fn. 80) By the early 19th century Shingay was wrongly regarded as two manors, Shingay-cumWendy and Shingay-Cambridge: in 1819 a court baron for those two manors was held at Manor Farm. (fn. 81)
Until the 1890s the parish appointed two overseers, a surveyor of highways, and a constable. (fn. 82) In 1776 Shingay spent only £9 on poor relief, but that had risen sharply to £57 by 1803 when 5 adults and 6 children received permanent outside relief. (fn. 83) Expenditure thereafter fluctuated greatly, between c. £36 and £116, but was usually among the lowest in the hundred. (fn. 84) In 1834 Shingay became part of the Royston poor law union, (fn. 85) joining the Melbourn rural district in 1894 (fn. 86) and the South Cambridgeshire R.D. in 1934. (fn. 87) In 1957 Shingay and Wendy were united to form one parish, (fn. 88) which from 1974 was part of the South Cambridgeshire district.
Possibly before 1086 earl Roger gave the church and tithes of Shingay to the abbey of St. Martin of Séez (Orne). (fn. 89) By 1256 they had been acquired by the Knights Hospitallers whose preceptory at Shingay continued to pay Séez a pension which had, by the mid 15th century, passed to Ickleton priory. (fn. 90)
The church had been appropriated by 1278 and there was a vicarage (fn. 91) to which the Hospitallers presented from the early 14th century. (fn. 92) The advowson thereafter descended with Shingay manor. In 1452 the revenues of Shingay no longer sufficed to support a vicar, and the preceptor was authorized to receive all its revenues in return for finding a chaplain to serve there, (fn. 93) which had perhaps been the practice since the 14th century. (fn. 94) In 1541 it was again ordered that the preceptory should provide a chaplain, (fn. 95) and that obligation descended with the manor.
In 1256 and 1278 Shingay church was valued at 15 marks (fn. 96) and in 1338 the Hospitallers received £10 13s. 4d. from the church. The vicar then lived in the preceptory and was paid 20s. a year. (fn. 97) In 1526 besides a room and food there the chaplain received 4 marks, 10s. for a gown, and 53s. 4d. stipend. (fn. 98) There was no vicarial glebe land or house, and the whole parish, having belonged to religious orders, had long been tithe-free. (fn. 99)
After the dissolution of the preceptory its lay owners usually paid the vicar of Wendy to officiate at Shingay. In 1656 the vicar was granted 4 a. in Wendy as part of the payment due to him from Shingay. (fn. 100) In 1688 he was paid £8 and in 1724 £8 13s. 4d. as chaplain of Shingay. (fn. 101) In the late 18th century Lord Sandys paid the vicar of Wendy £20 a year to serve Shingay, but the payment ceased when the vicar offended Sandys by his vote at an election. (fn. 102) It has not been traced later.
In the 14th century the Hospitallers had two chaplains at the preceptory besides the vicar. (fn. 103) By the early 15th century the vicar was also described as a chaplain, and was expected to perform divine service for the parishioners and the preceptory's servants, both in the church and in the preceptory's chapel. (fn. 104) A stipendiary priest was recorded in 1544, paid by a Mr. Beddell, (fn. 105) perhaps a lessee under Sir Richard Long.
By the late 16th century there were probably few services held at Shingay, and parishioners then expected to be buried at Wendy. (fn. 106) A marriage was solemnized at Shingay chapel in 1716, (fn. 107) but no marriages, baptisms, or burials are recorded there later. By 1790 it was thought not to have been served for 30 years. (fn. 108) Throughout the 19th century inhabitants of Shingay attended Wendy church, (fn. 109) although c. 1891 a weekly cottage lecture was held in Shingay. (fn. 110) In 1902 a mission hall was opened in Shingay, to be used by the established church and nonconformists. (fn. 111) It was in use until 1972, (fn. 112) and the iron building remained at the north end of the High Road in 1979.
The church of ST. MARY, so called in 1405, (fn. 113) was possibly built as part of the preceptory. (fn. 114) In the mid 14th century it had a great altar and at least two others. (fn. 115) It later contained the tomb of Sir Robert Dalizon (d. 1404), a preceptor. (fn. 116) That church, adjoining the Hall, survived in 1644 when William Dowsing destroyed a cross and 15 pictures including 3 of St. Mary, and in 1693. (fn. 117) It had been pulled down by 1697 when a new chapel was built by Lord Orford in the moated site. The new building was a small single room of only two bays, paved with black and white marble round the altar which was raised on one step. It had a small bell turret at the west end. The Venetian east window contained the arms of Lord Orford. There was a pulpit on the south side. (fn. 118) The chapel was described as disused by the late 18th century, and ruinous in 1825. The last remnants had been taken down by 1836. (fn. 119)
In 1873 there were two dissenting families in Shingay, (fn. 120) and c. 1890 three nonconformist Cornish farmers moved there, but their children soon began to attend the established church. (fn. 121) A station of the Congregational church at Guilden Morden was founded at Shingay in 1902 and occurs until 1944. (fn. 122) It was probably housed in the iron mission church built in 1902. (fn. 123)