A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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Colne lies on the eastern border of the county on land falling from a little over 50 ft. above ordnance datum in the south-west to about 8 ft. in the fen on the Cambridgeshire border to the east. It covers 1,753 acres, the greater part of which is grass land. The soil is gravel and clay, growing corn and fruit. Some outlying portions of the parish have been added to Somersham and Bluntisham. (fn. 1)
The village lies along the road from Bluntisham to Somersham, surrounded by fruit gardens. It suffered from a disastrous fire in 1844, but there still remain several 17th-century half-timbered houses and cottages, thatched or tiled, and in the middle of the village on the west side of the street, a late 16th century house having a central chimney stack with octagonal shafts and moulded bases. Near to it is the Baptist Chapel built in 1870. The old church, which stood about a quarter of a mile north-west of the village, was for the most part destroyed by the fall of the tower in 1896. A new church was built in the village. There are railway stations at Somersham and Bluntisham, each about a mile from Colne village.
The homestead moat, to the east of the old church, by tradition represents the site of the house of Drurys Manor. (fn. 2) The house was demolished about 1787, and nothing now remains of it above ground. The homestead moat to the west of the old church was probably the site of the house of La Leghe Manor. This house, it would seem, was destroyed at an earlier date, and the Carters, lords of the manor in the 17th century, apparently lived in the village.
The ancient village site to the east of the parish has already been described (fn. 3)
The long quarrel between the Bishop of Ely and Lady Blanche, daughter of Henry Earl of Lancaster, and widow of Thomas Wake of Lidell (co. Cumb.), arose about property in Colne. Lady Blanche probably claimed a mesne lordship over the manor of La Leghe in Colne, which was disputed by the Bishop of Ely, then overlord. We know the Wacheshams held lands of the honour of Lancaster. In 1354 the bishop and his men burnt the houses of La Leghe in Colne and murdered William de Holme, Lady Blanche's servant (vadlet), in the wood of Somersham. (fn. 4) Holme had an interest in the manor of La Leghe (q.v.). The bishop was convicted of the latter crime, and his appeal to the Pope brought about the excommunications of Lady Blanche and various members of the court. Political complications followed at the Papal court.
The manor of COLNE was included in the charter of Edward (1042–66) confirming to the monastery of Ely the gifts of King Edgar (959–75), St. Ethelwold (c. 908– 984), and King Ethelred 'the Redeless' (978–1016). (fn. 5) The manor appears in the Domesday Survey (1086) among the lands of the Abbot of Ely, 'who had there 6 hides which paid geld and 2 carucates in demesne.' There was wood for pannage a mile long, and about the same quantity of marsh land. The value had fallen from £6 to 100s. (fn. 6) The chief manor was retained by the Bishop of Ely on the division of the lands of the monastery between the bishop and the prior about the time of the creation of the bishopric in 1109, (fn. 7) and continued to be held by the bishops of Ely and their successors as parcel of the soke of Somersham. Its descent follows that of Somersham (q.v.).
The manor of COLNE, alias COLNES DUNHOLTS, alias DRURYES, which extended into Bluntisham, Earith and Somersham, was at an early date held by the family of Colne. Nicholas de Colne witnessed an Ely charter of 1175–8, (fn. 8) and in 1230 Henry de Colne levied a fine with Hugh, Bishop of Ely, of lands in the soke of Somersham. (fn. 9) Henry was sheriff of the county in 1236, and an extent of his lands was made in 1245. (fn. 10) It was probably John son of this Henry who was holding a manor here in 1279, (fn. 11) and his descendant John son of Hugh de Colne and Agnes his wife held under a settlement of 1347. Apparently this John granted land to his brother Henry and John his son in 1354. John de Colne, the elder, holding under the settlement of 1347, had issue William, Baldwin, Geoffrey and Hugh. William, the heir, had two sons Henry and Richard. Henry, who inherited the manor, had two sons John and Henry. From this John the manor descended to his two daughters, Helen and Agnes, of whom Helen inherited the manors of Colne and Caxton (co. Camb.). She married John Dunholt, and their son John had, by his wife Rose, a son John. The last John Dunholt was, by his wife Margery, father of two sons John and Richard. John, the heir, had two sons, Thomas and Peter, on whom the manor was settled in 1529. On the death of Thomas without issue, Peter having predeceased him, the manor went to Peter's daughter Alice. In 1546 she sold it to Randall Lynne or Lyne of Graveley (co. Camb.), who undertook to pay her an annuity for life. Within a year she married William Tadlowe and died childless in 1559. Her heirs were John Burges son and heir of Richard Burges son and heir of [Anne ?] sister of Thomas Dunholt, and Margaret Lynne (then aged five years), daughter and heir of Richard Lynne and Alice, another sister of Thomas. (fn. 12) Both Richard and Alice died in 1559, and Margaret their daughter seems to have died shortly afterwards in infancy. It appears from an action brought by John Burges, the heir of Alice Tadlowe, against Elizabeth Lynne, apparently widow of Randall Lynne, that John Burges had entered the manors of Colne and Caxton, after the deaths of Richard Lynne and Alice, under the settlement of 1529. (fn. 13) In 1593 his son and heir Thomas Burges brought an action against Audrey Burges, widow, Simon Watson and Maria his wife, John Crantwoe, Downhill Burges and Richard Rolfe for detaining evidences of the manor. (fn. 14) He settled the manor in the following year, (fn. 15) and in 1598 he conveyed it to William Smith. (fn. 16) The descent is not clear at this date. Smith was purchasing property in the parish, which appears to have fallen into thirds among coheirs and was eventually acquired by the Drurys, from whom it took one of its names. William son of Richard Drury is said to have had an interest in the manor in 1632, possibly through one of his wives Mary Brown and Catherine Winde. (fn. 17) He lived to a great age and died about 1690. Before his death, in 1681, his sons Richard and William Drury acquired from Richard Carter and Mary his wife, a third of the manor of Colne, alias Colnes Dunholts, alias Druryes. (fn. 18) Richard Drury, the son, who was sheriff of Cambridge and Huntingdon in 1676, married Priscilla Glapthorne, and died in 1692. (fn. 19) Possibly his daughter Priscilla married Michael Beaumont, clerk, for in 1697 Michael Beaumont and Priscilla his wife conveyed a third of the manor to Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury for 99 years if Priscilla should so long live, (fn. 20) evidently for the purpose of a settlement. Eventually the whole manor was acquired by Richard Drury son of Richard and Priscilla by conveyances from his brother Glapthorne Drury and the Beaumonts. (fn. 21) Richard died in 1738, and the manor passed to his son Thomas Drury of Colne, who as Thomas Drury of Overstone (Northants) was created a baronet in 1739 and died in 1759. His only son Thomas died young, and his elder daughter Mary Anne married John, second Earl of Buckinghamshire, and died without male issue in 1769. The younger daughter Jocosa Catherine married Brownlow, first Lord Brownlow of Belton, and died in 1772, also without male issue. (fn. 22) In 1790 John Earl of Buckinghamshire, Lord Brownlow and the representatives of the coheirs joined in selling the manor of Dunholts alias Druryes to John Kipling. (fn. 23) In 1793 it was purchased from Owsley Rowley of St. Neots and Anne and William King by George Maule, (fn. 24) probably on behalf of Isaac Sharpless, who was succeeded by his son Joseph Sharpless. The manor was sold to George Game Day in 1841 by Joseph Sharpless. Day died in 1858, when it passed to George Newton Day, who died in 1890. It then went to his widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Mary Day, on whose death in 1916 she was succeeded by her son, Mr. George Dennis Day, the present owner. (fn. 25)
A manor in Colne later known as LA LEGHE or LYE was held by the Argenteins of the Bishop of Ely. In 1279 Sir Giles de Argentein held a carucate of land in Colne of the bishop by knight service. (fn. 26) A mesne lordship seems to have been continued by the Argenteins of Pidley (q.v.), but the manor was held in fee of the Argenteins by the Wacheshams of Wattisham and Stanstead in Suffolk, by a rent of 4s. a year. In 1232 Giles de Wachesham (Wathisham) and Margery his wife conveyed a carucate of land in Colne to Ralf de Berford and Isabel his wife as dower of Isabel, (fn. 27) and in 1235 Giles de Wachesham did homage for the lands of his mother Isabel. (fn. 28) He died in 1268, and was succeeded by his son Giles. (fn. 29) The son Giles died in 1273, leaving a son and heir Gerard under age. (fn. 30) A settlement was made on Gerard and Joan his wife. Gerard died after 1316, (fn. 31) leaving a son and heir Giles who died about 1338, leaving Robert his son and heir. (fn. 32) Robert had by his wife Joan two daughters: Elizabeth, who married first — Berry, by whom she had a son Edmund, and Anne, who apparently married John Hotoft. (fn. 33) Sir Robert de Wachesham was member of parliament for Suffolk in 1353. He was killed in 1361 by Laurence atte Noke in self-defence. (fn. 34) Sir Robert de Wachesham was engaged in large financial dealings and pledged his lands on various occasions. William de Herleston, clerk, keeper of the King's writs, one of the King's clerks who made a practice of lending money, was acquiring lands in Colne at this time. In 1342 Richard de Rikedown and Joan his wife conveyed to him 200 acres of land and 8 acres of meadow in Somersham, Colne and Bluntisham. In the following year Henry de Broughton, chaplain, granted to him by a fine the same amount of land under the same description which is endorsed with a claim by Robert son of Giles de Wachesham. (fn. 35) Again in 1347 Henry de Broughton, clerk, and William de Holm conveyed to him and Margaret de Holm the manor of Colne, which is called La Leghe. (fn. 36)
In 1346 Robert son of Giles de Wachesham brought an action against William de Herleston for the recovery of the manor of Colne. (fn. 37) He pleaded the settlement of the manor on Gerard de Wachesham and Joan his wife and the descent of the manor is given as above. He lost his case, and William de Herleston probably disposed of the manor. We find it in the early part of the 15th century in the hands of John Wauton and Peronell his wife. They had a daughter Margaret who married firstly Richard Gambon, by whom she had a son Richard who died without issue, and secondly John Denston, by whom she had a son John. An action was brought by John Denston against John Burgon or Burgoyn and Robert Ford, feoffees under the will of John Wauton, (fn. 38) for possession of the manor. We do not know the result. Anne, daughter and heir of John Denston the son, married John Broughton and died in 1481. She left a son John, a minor, (fn. 39) who was succeeded by Robert Broughton apparently his brother. Robert settled the manor on his marriage with Dorothy Wentworth and died in 1506. (fn. 40) John son of Robert Broughton, who died in 1518, (fn. 41) proposed to marry his son John to Dorothy daughter of Thomas Duke of Norfolk, but John died an infant without issue and Colne passed to his sister Anne, who married Sir Thomas Cheney, K.G., of the Isle of Sheppey. (fn. 42) She was succeeded by her son Sir Henry Cheney who was created Baron Cheney of Toddington in 1572. (fn. 43) At his death without issue in 1587 the manor passed to Agnes daughter of Katherine wife of William, first Lord Howard of Effingham, another sister of John Broughton. Agnes was the wife of William Paulet, Lord St. John, afterwards third Marquess of Winchester, (fn. 44) and they together in 1576 conveyed the manor to Richard Carter. (fn. 45) The manor and manor house called Colne Farm were settled in 1593 on the marriage of Thomas son of Richard Carter with Dorothy Nodes, (fn. 46) and again in 1616 on the marriage of Richard son of Thomas Carter with Frances Henson. (fn. 47) Thomas Carter died in 1625, his wife Dorothy surviving him, and his son Richard being then aged thirty. (fn. 48) The manor was conveyed by Richard Carter and Mary his wife in 1688 to John Moore and Richard Leach, probably for a settlement. (fn. 49) In 1710 Richard and Mary Carter sold the manor to William Baron, (fn. 50) who was dealing with it in 1728 (fn. 51) and 1732. (fn. 52)
The ancient church of ST. HELEN consisted of a chancel (30 ft. by 17 ft.), nave (50 ft. by 18 ft.), north aisle (7 ft. 9 in. wide), south aisle (8 ft. wide), west tower (10 ft. 6 in. by 10 ft.), entirely within the nave, and south porch (9 ft. 9 in. by 8 ft.). The walls were chiefly of stone and rubble, but parts were of brick, and the roofs tiled.
The south wall of the chancel and the two eastern responds of the nave arcades were of the 13th century. The rest of the church was mainly of 14th-century date, but the porch, which still stands, is of the early 16th century; and the east wall of the chancel and large parts of the tower were of red brick, probably 18th century in date. All the ancient windows were of two lights. The chancel had a modern wooden east window. The north wall had a 14th-century window towards the east and one of the 15th century towards the west. The south wall had a 13th-century window towards the east, a plain 14th-century doorway, and farther west a 15th-century window; at the eastern end was a double piscina with mullion, trefoiled heads and octofoil drains. It had diagonal buttresses at the angles and a large square one on the south side. The chancel arch, of two chamfered orders, the inner one resting on corbels, was probably of the 14th century, but much distorted and possibly reset. The roof was late and poor and ceiled on the underside.
The nave arcades were of four bays on each side, of two chamfered orders resting on octagonal columns with moulded capitals and bases. At the eastern end they rested on corbels with knotted terminations of about 1300. The north aisle had a debased east window, parts of which were probably 14th century; and the north wall had a 14th-century window and a plain door. The south aisle had an early 14th-century window at the east end; the south wall had three 14th-century windows, an 18th-century doorway, and an early 14th-century double piscina with a central shaft with moulded capital and base, trefoiled heads and octofoil drains. At the western end, outside, were signs of a doorway of uncertain date. The nave and aisle were covered with one continuous roof, put on in 1807, of poor character and with large dormers in it.
The tower stood on three arches supported towards the east by two octagonal columns; and the stairturret was at the south-west corner. It had debased belfry windows and plain parapets and was surmounted by a lead-covered spirelet. The walls were mainly of red brick stuccoed. The porch has a plain outer doorway, two-light windows in the side walls, and a hipped tile roof. The font was a plain octagonal bowl probably of 14th-century date, on a circular shaft. On the north wall of the chancel was a monument to Charles Wandisford, son of Sir Christopher Wandisford, baronet, of Kirklington, Yorks, died 1693. On the floor was the indent of a brass of a knight in armour under a canopy, late 14th-century, and another of an inscription plate. There were four bells, inscribed:—'John Draper made me, 1607'; 'Miles Graye made me, 1654'; 'Charles Newman made mee, 1700, I T R S C W'; and 'John Draper made me, 1607.' In 1553 there were three bells in the steeple. Three of the bells were taken down in 1892, and the fourth (the treble) fell with the tower, but was undamaged. On 24 April 1896 the tower fell and practically destroyed the church; the chancel, the aisle walls and the porch alone remained standing, and these were taken down (except the porch) and a new church was built on another site.
The new church consists of a chancel with south vestry, nave with south aisle, and a tower at the south-west corner. It is built of stone and roofed with tiles. The chancel has a modern east window; in the north wall is the old 14th-century window towards the east and the 13th-century window (from the south wall) towards the west. In the south wall the ancient chancel piscina is refixed. There is no chancel arch, but a modern wooden screen. The south vestry has the early 14th-century window from the east end of the old south aisle rebuilt in the east wall; and a 13th-century window and the old priests' door in the south wall. The nave has three two-light windows, of which two contain fragments of the 15th-century windows of the old chancel. The south arcade of four bays is apparently built of the materials of the old north arcade; but the two ancient respond corbels are built into the east wall of the chancel as brackets. The south aisle has the three partly restored 14th-century windows from the old south aisle, and the old south aisle piscina.
The ancient font remains; the monument and brass indents are refixed in positions corresponding to those in the old church; and there are also some 13th- and 14th-century coffin lids. The four bells also remain.
The registers comprise (i) a paper book with baptisms, marriages and burials, 17 September 1665 to 7 December 1812; (ii) the official book of marriages from 13 October 1754 to 30 November 1812, and the usual modern books.
Colne is a chapelry annexed with Pidley to the rectory or vicarage of Somersham (q.v.). The incumbents were called curates and were appointed by the rectors of Somersham, but by an Act of 1882 Somersham was made a vicarage, the vicar receiving ten parts out of twenty of the profits of the rectory, from which he was to pay three parts to the curate of Pidley and two parts to the curate of Colne. The curates were thenceforth to be appointed by the vicars. (fn. 53)
Town Land or Bread Charity. An allotment of 8 acres was awarded on an inclosure of this parish about 1800 in lieu of certain pieces of land called the Town Lands which had been given and purchased for the use of the poor and to distribute among them money and bread. The land, which now consists of a field of pasture containing 8 acres in Heath Drove, is let for £5 17s. per annum, together with a plot of garden ground in Church Lane which is let for £1 a year. The rents are distributed by the rector and three others in bread to the poor.
The Church Lands Charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 6 May 1910. The endowment consists of 9 acres of land in Colne awarded in lieu of open field land and is let in allotments for £17 6s. 6d. yearly which is applied towards defraying the cost of repairing the parish church and the maintenance of the services therein. Under the provisions of the scheme the churchwardens and three others were appointed trustees of the charity.
Gravel Pits. The endowment of this charity consists of the sum of £181 10s. 6d. Consols with the Official Trustees arising out of the sale of Gravel Pits allotted under an inclosure award. The income, amounting to £4 10s. 8d. yearly in dividends, of which a half is remitted to the St. Ives Rural District Council and the remaining half to the 'Colne Byways account,' is expended in the repair of the roads. The trustees of the charity are the Surveyors of Highways of Colne.