A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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About 990 Aelfhelm Poga left half his Conington estate, save for 1/2; hide, to his wife Affa and daughter. (fn. 1) Before 1066 eight sokemen held 2¾ hides there under the king's thegn Ulf, with whose Fen Stanton estate lordship over their land was assigned by 1086 to Gilbert of Ghent. (fn. 2) His rights descended thereafter with Fen Stanton manor to the Segraves and their successors. (fn. 3) In 1279 Nicholas de Segrave was overlord of freeholders at Conington holding 11 yardlands in socage. (fn. 4) Probably by 1261 he had granted lordship over another 60 a. to Sir Simon of Stanton, a tenant of his at Fen Stanton. (fn. 5) In 1286 Simon returned it to Nicholas. (fn. 6) Land held of Fen Stanton manor was occasionally reported until 1400, (fn. 7) and in the late 16th and the 17th century Conington's other manors were themselves believed to be held of that manor. (fn. 8) As lord of Fen Stanton, Lancelot Brown, relying on his predecessors' receipt of quitrents, unsuccessfully claimed paramountcy over Conington at inclosure in 1800. (fn. 9)
Two hides occupied in 1066 by three king's sokemen were by 1086 held of Hardwin de Sealers by his man Pain, (fn. 10) with whose manor of Overhall in Boxworth a mesne lordship, held under the Sealers half-barony of Shelford, thereafter descended, (fn. 11) being recorded until 1478. (fn. 12) Robert of Conington (fl. 1120-35) (fn. 13) was possibly the tenant in demesne before 1150. Richard of Conington (fl. 1195-1230), (fn. 14) who probably gave to Tilty abbey (Essex) the 20 a. that it held in 1279, (fn. 15) was succeeded by c. 1235 as tenant of 2/3; knight's fee by his son, Robert of Conington, later knighted (d. after 1269). (fn. 16) In 1279 his son William was lord of 8 yardlands, only 2 in his demesne, while Robert's widow Agnes, who then held 3 yardlands in dower, (fn. 17) still occupied 150 a. of that estate in 1292. (fn. 18) John, son of Robert of Conington, born c. 1270, (fn. 19) was lord by 1316 (fn. 20) and perhaps in 1327. (fn. 21) He or a namesake settled the manor later called DANSETTSin 1343, failing his own descendants, upon his sister Joan in tail, (fn. 22) and was probably living in 1348. (fn. 23) His family was not recorded after 1349.
In 1395 Robert Scot of Abbotsley (Hunts.) and his wife Eleanor sold a manor at Conington to William Staundon (d. 1410), later mayor of London. (fn. 24) In 1412 £10's worth of land at Conington was held by William Darell. (fn. 25) By 1435 the Coningtons' manor probably belonged to Thomas Danseth or Dansey, of an Elsworth family. (fn. 26) When he or a namesake died in 1478 Dansetts manor descended to his son William, (fn. 27) who c. 1498 sold it to Thomas Hutton (d. 1506), clerk. When Hutton's nephew and heir Thomas (fn. 28) died in 1552, his eldest son John (fn. 29) apparently settled all his Conington lands on his brothers Thomas and Robert Hutton. In 1555 they sold Dansetts to Alexander East of Swavesey. (fn. 30)
East sold it in 1565 to Richard Baker, an Elsworth yeoman; (fn. 31) Baker sold it in 1566 to Simon Watson, (fn. 32) a Cambridge bookbinder, who had already bought 40 a. at Conington in 1561. (fn. 33) When Simon died in 1601 he passed over his son Philip, who died at Conington in 1615, and settled the manor on Philip's son Simon. (fn. 34) The younger Simon (d. 1637), who bought Elsworths manor in Conington, was succeeded by his son Smith Watson, (fn. 35) whose lands were sequestrated from 1644 to 1652. (fn. 36) He broke the entail in 1652, (fn. 37) and sold the estate, apparently to Sir Thomas Cotton, Bt., (fn. 38) of Conington (Hunts.). (fn. 39)
At his death in 1662 (fn. 40) Sir Thomas apparently settled the Conington manors on his third surviving son Philip, who died there in 1710. (fn. 41) By 1700 Philip had settled the reversion on his younger brother William's son Thomas, (fn. 42) who was also resident there by 1702. (fn. 43) That Thomas, who had no sons, died of a drunken rage in 1729, when his only surviving daughter Frances eloped with Dingley Askham, his low-born attorney. (fn. 44) She and Askham enjoyed the Cotton estates until his death, aged 86, in 1781. (fn. 45) Their youngest daughter Harriet had married Sir Thomas Hatton, Bt., (fn. 46) and Conington descended with the Hatton estates (fn. 47) until their division among the last baronet's sisters and coheirs c. 1813. The Conington land, c. 1,000 a. after inclosure, was then assigned to Harriet (d. 1822), wife of the Revd. Philip Gardner, (fn. 48) who occupied Conington Hall until his death, aged 95, in 1826. (fn. 49) His son Philip Thomas Gardner (d. 1838) and grandson, also Philip Thomas Gardner (d. 1868), (fn. 50) were usually not resident there. (fn. 51) Probably by 1860 (fn. 52) the younger P. T. Gardner had sold the eastern part of the parish, retaining in 1864 only 466 a. on the west. (fn. 53) His son Philip Thomas Gardner (d. 1935) probably sold another 145 a. in 1919, (fn. 54) and his son Robert Cotton Bruce Gardner disposed of the remainder in 1947. (fn. 55)
Conington Hall, standing within extensive closes north of the village, possibly marks the site of the house with 11 or 12 hearths occupied by Philip Cotton in the 1660s. (fn. 56) It was rebuilt by him or Thomas Cotton c. 1700. (fn. 57) The squarish, red-brick house has two ranges of two chambers each, aligned north-east to south-west, separated by a slightly recessed central spine, containing the entrance hall and front and back staircases. The north-west and south-east fronts, resembling in design a house built at Cambridge in 1702, have two storeys over a basement, with seven bays of segment-headed windows. Only the principal south-east front retains its central doorway, over whose broken pediment is a cartouche with the Cotton arms. Remodelled stables of the same period stand to the southwest. Thomas Cotton's will of 1724 mentioned his study below and dressing room above stairs, both with many books, and also the closes and gardens lying between the Hall and the street. (fn. 58) When the Hall was almost continuously advertised as to let between 1788 and 1812, it had a walled garden of 4-5 a. and fishponds to the north, which survive. The attached 50 a. of grass closes (fn. 59) were gradually converted into a park after 1800. (fn. 60) The Revd. Philip Gardner remodelled the house at considerable expense, (fn. 61) probably buttressing the walls, removing a third storey, and adding a stone porch on the northeast side. After 1828 it was again usually let until the 1850s, (fn. 62) then left empty or occupied by farmers until the 1870s. (fn. 63) Following a fire in 1870, (fn. 64) it was thoroughly refurbished c. 1876, (fn. 65) probably then receiving a balustraded third storey on the south-east. P. T. Gardner (d. 1935) lived there from 1879 to his death. (fn. 66) Requisitioned in 1941, the Hall and park (72 a.) were sold by R. C. B. Gardner in 1947 to H. R. Creswick, librarian of Cambridge university, and were sold in 1972 to Mr. T. M. Stockdale. (fn. 67)
Conington's other manor, later called ELSWORTHS, derived from 11/4; hides held in 1066 by a man of Earl Waltheof and in 1086 by the sheriff Picot under Robert Gernon. (fn. 68) Lordship over it, held as 1/4; fee, (fn. 69) descended until c. 1300 with Picot's manor at Boxworth, later called Huntingfields. (fn. 70) By the 1230s the Conington land was held in demesne, in right of his wife Maud, by Baldwin Blancgernun (fn. 71) (d. after 1242). (fn. 72) About 1234 Thomas of Whaddon conceded its reversion to John of Elsworth (fn. 73) (d. after 1247). (fn. 74) In 1279 Thomas of Elsworth, besides holding other land under the Segraves, held that fee, 4 yardlands, under Thomas of Whaddon's brother Henry, for a £10 rent until Henry's death. (fn. 75) In 1286 Thomas of Elsworth claimed to have acquired 60 a. by marriage. (fn. 76) A Thomas of Elsworth was lord in 1299, 1302, and 1316, (fn. 77) the last perhaps the son of the Thomas of Elsworth whose widow Elizabeth in 1316 entailed the manor with 300 a. from her death successively upon another Thomas of Elsworth, son of Thomas, and his brother John. (fn. 78) John owned the manor probably by 1327, (fn. 79) certainly by 1339, (fn. 80) and remained in possession until c. 1360. (fn. 81) Thomas of Elsworth in 1371 settled 2 carucates at Conington in tail upon Joan, wife of John Elyngham. (fn. 82) Thomas still probably lived at Elsworth in the early 1380s. (fn. 83) In 1374 George, allegedly John of Elsworth's son and heir, sold land at Conington. (fn. 84)
Elsworths manor possibly passed to the Knyvetts. Sir John Knyvett (d. 1381) and his widow held of Fen Stanton manor land at Conington, together with lordship over nine rent-paying tenants, acquired in 1379. (fn. 85) Their son John had substantial property there in 1412. (fn. 86) In 1428 the former Elsworth fee was held by Joan Clifton, (fn. 87) probably the wife (d. s.p. 1450) of Sir John Clifton, whose sister had married John Knyvett's son Sir John (d. 1445). (fn. 88) That Sir John's grandson Sir William Knyvett (d. 1515) held 100 a. at Conington, supposedly of Ramsey abbey. (fn. 89)
Later, 15 a. called Knyvetts was part of the estate, often called half Elsworths manor, (fn. 90) held by the Smiths, a yeoman family established at Conington from the mid 15th century, which by 1492 owned Whaddon croft. (fn. 91) A Henry Smith held that manor by 1553. (fn. 92) When Henry Smith died in 1590, his manor called SMITHSand 80 a. of other land descended to his son Henry, aged 10 c. 1600. (fn. 93) In 1606 the boy's uncle Henry Smith, a physician, and others sold Elsworths manor with over 150 a. to the doctor's other nephew Simon Watson (d. 1637). (fn. 94) Another estate, styled variously a quarter of Elsworths and a third of Smiths manor, built up by John Martin of Barton (d. 1593), descended to his son Matthias (d. 1613), whose son and heir Thomas, of age c. 1629, (fn. 95) had sold it with 90 a. to Simon Watson by 1637. (fn. 96) Both estates thereafter passed with Dansetts manor. The house facing the church devised by John Smith in 1494, (fn. 97) perhaps on the site of the modern Hall Farm, styled the manor house in 1800, (fn. 98) was possibly on the site of the Elsworths' manor house. (fn. 99)