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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Athelstan Mannesson (d. 986) left half of his Knapwell estate to his widow, half to his kinsman Leofsige. (fn. 1) Probably under Cnut, Lustwine and his wife Leofwaru devised Knapwell, save for 1 hide, to the abbey of Ely. (fn. 2) Their grant was not at once effective, however, for Lustwine's son Thurstan (d. c. 1044), evidently inheriting the estate, in turn left it to that abbey, save for land left to a priest and a monk, perhaps the excepted hide. (fn. 3) Eadnoth II, bishop of Dorchester 1034-49, shortly bought the main estate and gave or left it to Ramsey abbey, (fn. 4) which had 5 hides at Knapwell in 1066 and 1086. (fn. 5) The abbey retained KNAPWELLmanor in demesne until its surrender in 1539. (fn. 6) About 1270 it had bought 1/2 yardland given to Tilty abbey (Essex), (fn. 7) probably by Robert son of Aubrey of Knapwell (fl. c. 1200). (fn. 8)
Following the Dissolution the Crown sold the manor in 1543 to the lawyer William Cook (fn. 9) of Milton (d. 1553), who was succeeded by his sons Thomas (d. s.p. 1577) (fn. 10) and Henry. (fn. 11) In 1584 Henry sold Knapwell to Thomas Marsh (d. 1587). (fn. 12) Marsh's son and heir Thomas (fn. 13) sold it in 1604 to Sir John Cage (fn. 14) of Longstowe (d. 1628), whose son Sir Anthony (fn. 15) possessed it in the 1630s. (fn. 16) At his death in 1668 he devised the reversion of Knapwell to his eldest son John. (fn. 17) About 1690, however, Adelard Cage, who had married Sir Anthony's granddaughter Elizabeth Slingsby, conveyed the estate to John Gape, the eventual purchaser of Longstowe. (fn. 18) Gape sold Knapwell in 1691 to John Perne, esquire bedell of Cambridge university (d. 1715). (fn. 19) Perne's widow Catherine occupied it until the 1730s, when it passed to his son Chester Perne (d. s.p. 1753). (fn. 20) Under Chester's will it passed to his brother John's son Andrew (d. s.p. 1771), whose sisters and devisees (fn. 21) sold Knapwell in 1773 to Wright Squire of Peterborough. (fn. 22)
Shortly after the inclosure in 1776 Squire bought the 223 a. allotted to James Rust. At his death in 1790 he left his Knapwell estate of c. 865 a., four fifths of the parish, to his second son William Squire. (fn. 23) William died in 1826, leaving the estate to his elder brother W. T. Squire's younger son William Walcot Squire. (fn. 24) In 1869 the Squire estate, then 1,043 a., was sold to Henry Hampden English, a Wisbech timber merchant. (fn. 25) English in turn sold it c. 1893 to Richard Powell Cooper, an agricultural chemical maker (cr. Bt. 1905, d. 1913). Sir Richard left his Knapwell land in trust for his younger daughter, Mrs. M. M. Barker. (fn. 26) In the early 1920s the farms were sold, the largest, Manor and Grange farms, to their tenants, of the Banks and Sandercook families, (fn. 27) which retained possession until the 1970s (fn. 28)
In the Middle Ages Ramsey abbey's manorial farmstead stood opposite the church, north of the lane to Boxworth. There were still buildings there c. 1775 and irregular earthworks survived in 1983. (fn. 29) The modern Manor Farm, a timberframed 17th-century house, refaced and enlarged in red brick in the 18th century, stands nearly on the village street. (fn. 30)
The land, probably 11/2 hides, held by 4 sokemen in 1086, (fn. 31) was perhaps represented in 1279 by 1 hide held freely of the abbey, including two fees. (fn. 32) One was probably the 'hide' held c. 1200- 40 by the Bishop family (fn. 33) and by 1270 divided between the coheirs of Malton in Orwell. (fn. 34) Half was bought by Ramsey abbey in 1275. (fn. 35) The other fee belonged from the 1210s until after 1313 to the Burre or Knapwell family. (fn. 36) In 1279 1/2 yardland was held of the Templar preceptory of Denny. (fn. 37)