A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The parish of Houghton lies immediately west of St. Ives and has its southern base upon the River Ouse and its northern apex upon the road from Huntingdon to Ramsey. The road from St. Ives to Huntingdon traverses the southern part of the parish from east to west, rising to the slight incline of Houghton Hill (120 ft. above ordnance datum) near the eastern boundary. Here the Black Eagle Windmill stood to the north of the road, and on the hill between the road and the river lie Houghton Grange, the residence of Mr. H. Perkins, built in 1899; Houghton Hill House, the residence of Mrs. Baker; the Cedars, the residence of Lieut.-Col. Chittenden; Houghton Manor, the residence of Lieut.-Col. Pelly; and the Elms, the residence of Mr. James Fraser: all modern houses with considerable parks or grounds.
Houghton and Wyton, which adjoins it on the west, practically form one village; the road from Huntingdon to St. Ives passes through the middle of both of them and the village of Houghton is traversed from the north by a road from White Bridge, on the upper road to St. Ives, to the Ouse. At the crossing of these roads is the Green, on which a shelter supporting a clock was erected in 1902 in memory of George W. Brown (d. 1901). Around the Green are some picturesque old houses, particularly the George and Dragon public house, a half-timbered building of two stories, built about 1500, and consisting of a central hall with wings at each end, the eastern of which has been rebuilt.
A little to the north on the east side of the road is another half-timber house of a century later, with overhanging upper story and a good chimney stack. On the south side of the road running east from the Green is a 16th-century half-timber house of two stories with attics, now converted into three cottages, and on the north side of the same road is Birchdene, a 17th-century brick house with the addition of an 18th-century south wing.
The church stands in the south-west corner of the parish near the River Ouse. West of it are the parish school and a chapel for Congregationalists and Baptists, built about 1840. The chapel was erected by Joseph Goodman and Potto Brown (d. 1871), whose monument stands in the village. To the south-east of the church is Houghton Mill, which was given by Earl Ailwin to Ramsey Abbey at its foundation in 969, (fn. 1) and from an early date has been presented as an obstruction in the river. It has long been famous as a picturesque building. The mill house is probably of the 17th century and is timber framed covered with boards. It is of three stories with attics and has a tiled roof.
The southern part of the parish is liable to floods and suffered from a particularly heavy flood in 1725. (fn. 2)
There are altogether 1,549 acres in the parish, of which the meadows and pasture near the Ouse make up about one-third of the area and the arable land stretching northwards from the St. Ives road about two-thirds. The soil is clay and loam upon a subsoil of gravel.
The finding of arrowheads and other small flint implements in the parish has suggested the possibility of early settlement. (fn. 3) Definite evidence of Romano-British settlement exists in the cemetery found on Houghton Hill, in 1843, where burials took place for at least a century. (fn. 4)
The manor of HOUGHTON cum WYTON included the two separate units of Houghton and Wyton, for which a single court was held. (fn. 5) Both Houghton and Wyton were given to Ramsey Abbey by Earl Alfwold, who died A.D. 990 and was brother of Earl Ailwin the founder of the Abbey. The gift was confirmed by King Edgar in 974. (fn. 6) In 1086, the Abbey's holding in Houghton was assessed at 7 hides, and the same in Wyton. (fn. 7)
The manor was assigned to the convent, (fn. 8) and early in the 13th century a tallage of 100s. was given thence to augment the income of the cellarer's office. (fn. 9) The cellarer took certain moneys under the title of pigs, geese, hens and eggs, doubtless in compensation for rents in kind, (fn. 10) but the payment for hens and eggs was remitted early in the 15th century. (fn. 11) The tenants drifted away from this manor during the latter half of that century; in 1473 twenty-one villeins were reported to be living elsewhere, most of them in neighbouring places, and three in London. (fn. 12) View of frankpledge was held, as well as a court-baron. (fn. 13) In 1535, the manor house and demesne lands were let by the Abbey to Alice Hansert, widow of Anthony, for 68 years. (fn. 14) In 1539, the year of its suppression, the Abbey took £63 as the issues of the manor, including the farm of the site then occupied by Alice Hansert, and of two mills. (fn. 15) The Crown received £78 for the same in 1540, (fn. 16) and in 1546 John Durhante was appointed bailiff for the King. (fn. 17)
With St. Ives (q.v.) this manor was assigned to the Princess, afterwards Queen, Elizabeth, and in 1574 to Helen Marchioness of Northampton for life. (fn. 18) In 1590, Roger Mowlesdale and Henry Pawle, grooms of the chamber, procured for Richard Grobham, gent., a twenty-one year lease of the manorial rights and the site of the manor, to begin upon the death of the Marchioness and the termination of Alice Hansert's lease. (fn. 19) Charles I sold the manor, with Clerkenwell and many other royal lands, to Robert Dixon and William Walley in 1625. (fn. 20) It came subsequently, probably by purchase, to the earls of Manchester. Edward Earl of Manchester sold it to Robert Bernard, of Huntingdon, serjeant-at-law, (fn. 21) apparently in 1651. (fn. 22) He was created a baronet in 1662, and the manor thereafter descended with Brampton Park (q.v.) to the present lord, the Duke of Manchester. (fn. 23)
In 1086 Eustace the Sheriff claimed one hide in Houghton and two and a half hides in Slepe (St. Ives). (fn. 24) These possibly represent the holdings in Houghton and St. Ives which are found later with a family of 'Houghton.' (fn. 25) William de Houghton was chamberlain to Henry I and a patron of Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 26)
Simon de Houghton (Houton), sheriff of Cambridge and Huntingdon in 1251, who was holding lands in Houghton in 1240 (fn. 27) and died about 1260, may have been his successor. His son Stephen compounded for his father's debts to the King in that year, (fn. 28) and Robert de Evere did suit for him for his lands in Houghton. (fn. 29) Stephen died before 1279, when his heir is returned as holding his land in Houghton and Wyton. (fn. 30) His widow Mary enfeoffed Mabel, widow of William Grimbald and Robert her son, of lands in Houghton which they afterwards conveyed to Roger de Norton, clerk. (fn. 31) Roger gave these lands in 1307 to the abbot of Ramsey to found a chantry at the altar of St. Nicholas in Ramsey Abbey Church, retaining a life interest for himself. (fn. 32) Stephen de Houghton's lands went, it would seem, to co-heirs and were bought up by Roger de Norton, (fn. 33) but other lands in the parish were held by the family of Houghton. The lands of John son of Gilbert de Houghton, a minor, were given in 1351 to the custody of Alan de Wodehouse and Isabella his wife. (fn. 34) John's son William died in 1353. (fn. 35) He also was a minor and by reason of the voidance of Ramsey Abbey had been in the King's custody. His sister Margery succeeded to his holding, which consisted of a messuage and two virgates of land, (fn. 36) and in 1357 the escheator was ordered not to intermeddle further with the lands, as John de Houghton had held by knight service of the abbey of Ramsey and as Margery was of full age. (fn. 37) The subsequent history of this land is unknown.
The Church of ST. MARY THE VIRGIN (fn. 38) consists of chancel (33¼ ft. by 16¼ ft.), nave (48¼ ft. by 17¼ ft.), north aisle (6¼ ft. wide), west tower (10½ ft. by 10½ ft.) and south porch. The walls are of pebble rubble with stone dressings and the roofs of tile and lead, but the modern north wall of the aisle is of brick. Of the church mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086) nothing remains, the earliest part of the present building being the chancel built in the mid 13th century. About a hundred years later the nave was rebuilt and possibly lengthened, and the north aisle added. The west tower and spire was built c. 1380, and the porch in 1664. The chancel was restored in 1851, and the whole church in 1870–1, the north wall of the aisle being modern. (fn. 39)
The mid 13th-century chancel has a three-light east window having 14th-century jambs and arch, but 15th-century tracery much restored. In the north wall is an early 14th-century two-light window and a doorway of similar date. The south wall has a 15th-century two-light, a late 13th-century lancet, a late 14th-century two-light, and an original double piscina with moulded arches, jambs, shafts and centre shaft with moulded capitals and bases, and wooden shelves. The late 13th-century chancel arch has been badly reset and its lower order has been rebated for a boarded tympanum. The screen now under it was put up in 1902.
The nave has a north arcade of four bays of 14th-century date and a clearstory of four 16th-century quatrefoil windows. In the south wall are two 15th-century three-light windows and a late 14th-century doorway; at the eastern end is a tall arched recess, perhaps to give more room for an altar; in the wall at the back, a wooden lintel seems to indicate an opening now built up. The east and west walls of the north aisle are of the late 14th century, the former with a blocked square-headed window, and against the latter a 13th-century stone seat with shaped ends has been refixed. The north wall is of modern brickwork and has three two-light windows.
The late 14th-century west tower has an arch of two orders, the lower resting on engaged shafts with moulded capitals and bases; on the north respond, near the floor, is the scratched figure of a chalice surmounted by a cross. A plain west doorway has a two-light window above it, and each wall of the belfry has a two-light window; at the top of the belfry windows the tower becomes octagonal and is surmounted by a stone spire rising from behind an embattled parapet. The shafts of four pinnacles remain; the tops are said to have been blown off by the storm of 1741. The stair-turret is at the southeast angle, projecting into the nave, and at the north-east angle a splayed projection arranged to balance the stair-turret envelops the respond of the north arcade.
There are five bells, inscribed: (i) Uirg bego egahc [possibly for Virgo Bega hec]; (ii) Man taketh paine bvt God giveth gnyne [for gain] 1626; (iii) Hee that will be meri let him be meri in the Lord, 1626; (iv) Non clamor sed amor cantat in avre Dei, 1626; (v) Cvm cano bvsta mori cvm pulpita vivere disc [for disce] 1626. The first by Newcomb, the others by Haulsey. In 1552 there were 3 bells. (fn. 40) Rehung in 1878.
There are memorial windows in the chancel to Gilbert Ansley, d. 1860; Gilbert John Ansley, d. 1875; and a brass plate to Mary Anne Maclean (Martelli), widow of Gilbert Ansley, d. 1896. On the south wall of the nave, outside, is a tablet to John Prescot, d. 1790.
The registers are: (i) baptisms, marriages and burials, 21 April 1633 to 19 March 1725; (ii) ditto, 4 April 1725 to 1 March 1750–1 (this book contains the register of Wyton also); (iii) baptisms and burials, 15 January 1790 to 27 December 1812. There are loose sheets containing entries for 1783– 1786.
There was a church at Houghton at the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), but there was then no priest. (fn. 41) The advowson of the church has always been appurtenant to the manor of Houghton, with which it descended. Before the suppression of the Abbey of Ramsey, the king presented to the living, when the abbey was void. In 1345, Edward III presented his clerk, Richard de Scarle, on the ground that Ramsey Abbey had been void in the time of Edward I (fn. 42) Roger de Maners of Stamford had in 1344 obtained papal provision to a benefice in the gift of the abbey (fn. 43) and procured from the Pope an annulment of the King's presentation. Meantime, the King's farmer, John de Horseley, clerk, held the church and rectory in fear of threats from secret assemblies in the county. (fn. 44) Ultimately the King's Court of Common Pleas upheld the claims of Richard de Scarle, but the abbot saved his right of presentation for the future. (fn. 45)
The abbey made no impropriation of the church, which has until recently been served with that of Wyton. (fn. 46) A pension of 20s. from the two churches was assigned to the Abbot of Ramsey by Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 47)