A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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THE HUNDRED OF HURSTINGSTONE
Hurstingstone Hundred, at the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), covered the same area as it does to-day, although many of the parishes above enumerated are not mentioned in the Survey as they had not then been formed. (fn. 1) Thus Domesday omits Earith which was in Bluntisham, Bury and Little Raveley in Wistow, Pidley in the soke of Somersham, Great Raveley in Upwood, and Old Hurst and Woodhurst in Slepe or St. Ives. Ripton included both Kings Ripton and Abbots Ripton.
It is uncertain what is the derivation of Hurstingstone (Hyrstingestan, Hyrstingston), which was referred to (in 1321) as the Hundred of Hirste. (fn. 2) It has been suggested that Hurstingstone took its name from the tribe of the Hirstina or Hyrstingas that inhabited the wooded district in the neighbourhood of Old Hurst, Woodhurst, Upwood, Wood Walton and Warboys. (fn. 3) The stone called the Hursting Stone or the Abbot's Chair situated on the hill called Hurstingstone Hill at the highest point of the road from St. Ives to Old Hurst, is thought to have been the meeting-place of this tribe, and here the abbots of Ramsey held the hundred court (fn. 4) until it was removed to Broughton (fn. 5) owing possibly to the inconvenience of meeting in the open. The Hursting Stone, which seems to have been the base of a cross, resembles a chair and there are vague marks thought to be an inscription, now illegible. It is probable that a stone existed at this prominent position at an early date, and at it the hundred court met. Possibly the stone was replaced by a cross, perhaps in the 12th or 13th century, when such crosses were commonly erected as boundaries, and the stone now called the Abbot's Chair is the base of that cross. It will be noticed that the parish boundary of Old Hurst is somewhat unnecessarily carried southward to touch the stone. The gallows were on Hurstingstone Hill, and here in ancient times dogs were sent to be expeditated. (fn. 6)
The hundred was granted to the abbot and convent of Ramsey in fee farm by Henry I about 1155 at a rent of four silver (fn. 7) marks a year and was confirmed by John in 1200 (fn. 8) and by later sovereigns.
In the 12th and 13th centuries the jurisdictions within the ambit of the Hundred of Hurstingstone were conflicting. There were the Bishop of Ely's Soke of Somersham along the eastern border; the Banlieu of Ramsey, the abbot's petty kingdom, on the north; and the abbot's baronial court of Broughton, whose jurisdiction extended over most of the abbot's possessions and into all parts of the hundred not included in these two liberties. Besides these courts the abbot had views of frankpledge in Warboys with Coldecot, Wistow, Little Raveley, Abbots Ripton with Wennington, Houghton with Wyton, Little Stukeley, Broughton, St. Ives with Woodhurst, Old Hurst, Needingworth and Holywell, (fn. 9) with rights of gallows, tumbrel and other privileges in most of them. There remained for the hundred court discussions (discuciones) and pleas pertaining to the hundred other than the views of frankpledge (fn. 10) held in the manorial courts. Confusion naturally ensued from these overlapping jurisdictions and excessive suit was demanded from the tenants. (fn. 11) Thus we find that a tenant in Woodhurst in 1251 owed suit at the court of Broughton, at the hundred court, at the halimote of St. Ives and at the view of frankpledge before the steward. (fn. 12) Cases were transferred from the manorial courts to the baronial court and from the baronial court at Broughton to the hundred court. The case of a woman charged at the baronial court with the theft of another woman's clothes was passed on to the hundred court held on the following day, and by judgment of the court she was hanged. (fn. 13) The reason of the transfer of this case from the baronial court to the hundred court was that by the custom of the former all the suitors had to be summoned in case of theft. (fn. 14)
It would seem probable that an attempt was made in the 14th century to lessen this confusion. In 1338 the abbot obtained a grant of the return of all writs and summons of the Exchequer and attachments as well of pleas of the crown as of other pleas in the Hundred of Hurstingstone. (fn. 15) Evidently he was anxious to increase the importance of the hundred court at the expense of the baronial court of Broughton, which was already falling into desuetude owing to his inability to enforce his authority. (fn. 16) The transfer of the hundred court of Hurstingstone Hundred to Broughton, which probably occurred about this time, also tended to merge the jurisdiction of the two courts as regards the tithings within the hundred. (fn. 17)
The hundred remained in the possession of the abbey of Ramsey until the dissolution of that house in 1539, and it then continued in the hands of the crown until 1613 when it was granted to Edmund Sawyer. (fn. 18) It was sold before 1654 to Edward Montagu (fn. 19) and was included in various settlements by his descendants, Earls of Sandwich, and their trustees. (fn. 20) It is still held by the present earl. (fn. 21)