A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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PIDLEY WITH FENTON
The parish of Pidley with Fenton lies to the west of Somersham and no doubt originally formed with it one large parish. The land rises from about 3 ft. above the ordnance datum in Warboys Fen in the north to over 100 ft. in the middle and south parts of the parish. In the fen-land the soil is the usual black peat, where the chief crops are potatoes and other vegetable. On the higher land clay is found, which produces wheat and barley. The parish comprises 3,752 acres of which about half is arable land and a little less than half pasture: there is no woodland, but a few copses—Hill Close Spinney, Stroud Hill Spinney, Dovehouse Close Spinney, where there are the remains of a homestead moat, and Little Wood Spinney— stand on the northern slope of the hill crossing the parish from east to west. The greater part, if not the whole, of the parish was within the chace of Somersham and was open country until the inclosures made after the chace was dischaced at the end of the 18th century. Earlier inclosures seem to have been made by the Hammonds at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, when they obtained the interest in the lease and the reversion in fee of the manor and soke of Somersham.
The village of Pidley stands on the top of a hill along the road from Huntingdon to Chatteris. Church End with the modern church of All Saints, a Baptist chapel, and Church End Farm, lie about a third of a mile off the road on the north side. The houses and cottages in the village are mostly of brick, but a few half-timber cottages remain on the north side of the road. Stanley Farm on the south side of the road, the residence of Mr. George Silk, is a substantial brick house covered with tiles. It was built early in the 18th century and contains internally many of its original features. Near to it, on the east, is Hayden Hall, where there are indications of a moat. About half a mile east of the church is the Manor Farm, the residence of Mr. Ernest Braybrook, originally a 17thcentury brick house plastered and roofed with tiles but considerably altered in the early part of the 18th century.
The hamlet of Fenton is about a mile north of Pidley and lies along the road to Warboys. It consists of some scattered farms and brickworks. Fenton House, formerly the Manor House, a little to the north of the road, is an early 18th-century brick building with a tiled roof, now the residence of Mr. Felix Ashcroft. Padgetts Farm, near to Fenton House, apparently takes its name from Richard Pagitt who lived in the parish in the middle of the 17th century. In the north-west corner of the parish is Fenton End, which touches the village of Warboys, and Rowey Farm lies to the north of the parish in the fen.
The manors of PIDLEY and FENTON passed to the Abbey of Ely and later to the Bishops of Ely under the early grants of Somersham (q.v.). They have followed the descent of that manor down to the present day. They were included in the 99 years lease made in 1619 to trustees on behalf of Prince Charles and the Queens of Charles I and Charles II. The site of the manor of Pidley and the demesne lands were granted in 1630 for the remainder of the lease to William White, William Steventon and John Perkins without rent, but on the expiration of that term for a rent of £7 6s. 8d. (fn. 1) Their interest appears to have passed to Humphrey Browne who about 1698 sold the site with certain inclosures, including a close forming part of the inheritance of Humphrey, to Anthony Hammond of Somersham Place. (fn. 2) Other copyhold lands were obtained by Anthony with his mother Amy Hammond (née Browne) from Thomas Hubbard and Mary his wife, daughter and heir of Thomas Peck. All these lands passed in 1763 to the Duke of Manchester. (fn. 3)
Within the manor of PIDLEY were certain large freeholds held of the Bishops of Ely as parcel of their soke of Somersham, but whether they were manors is doubtful. The earliest mention of Pidley is in a confirmation of a charter (1225–8) of Bishop Geoffrey to Master William de Argentein of 100 acres in the manor of Somersham at a place called Strode (probably now Stroud Hill), adjoining the bishop's demesne in Pidley. (fn. 4) As early as 1210–12 Richard de Argentein was holding a knight's fee in Somersham. He was succeeded on his death in 1246 (fn. 5) by his son Giles, (fn. 6) who in 1242 claimed rights in Warboys Fen in respect of his freehold tenement in Pidley and Fenton. (fn. 7) Giles, as a rebel, suffered forfeiture after the Battle of Evesham when his lands in Pidley were seized, (fn. 8) but in 1279 he was holding a messuage containing an acre, and 25 acres of land with a grove of 1½ acre. (fn. 9) Giles died in 1282 leaving a son and heir Reginald, aged forty years, (fn. 10) and other sons Richard (ob. s.p.), William, and Giles (ob. s.p.). (fn. 11) John son of Reginald died in 1318 seised of a messuage and 80 acres of arable land and 3 acres of meadow in Pidley held in socage of the Bishop of Ely. (fn. 12) He left a son John, aged half a year, whose wardship was granted to William de Bereford. After the death of William de Bereford in 1326 the wardship was given to Simon de Bereford who forfeited for rebellion in 1330. (fn. 13) The property seems to have passed to the bishop, but owing to forfeitures and a long minority it is uncertain how he acquired it.
Another large freeholder in Pidley was Ralf de Bereford who in 1229 was holding 30 acres and a tillage (cultura) called Gunnokeslong (Gunnokesleg') in the soke of Somersham. (fn. 14) He seems to have married Isabel, mother of Giles de Wackesham and with her obtained a carucate of land in Colne (q.v.). In 1242 he claimed rights in Warboys Fen. (fn. 15) As a follower of Sir Giles de Argentein he forfeited a carucate of land in Pidley in 1265. (fn. 16) His son Ralf was holding a messuage containing half an acre and a carucate of land in Pidley in 1279. (fn. 17) After this date we lose sight of the Berefords as tenants in Pidley.
In 1279 William le Moygne was holding, of the Bishop of Ely ROWHEY, otherwise ROWEY (Rueye), which contained 35 acres and Asmundemere and Rueyemere, for certain services unknown, and his three tenants there came to the autumn boondays of the bishop, and to the boondays of the bishop's carucate. (fn. 18) The manor followed the descent of Moynes Manor in Great Raveley (q.v.) until the beginning of the 16th century. (fn. 19) In 1584 Gilbert Smythe and Anne his wife, conveyed a messuage, 3 tofts, some 60 acres of land, 60 acres of marsh and common of pasture in Somersham, Pidley, and Fenton, and free fishing in Rowey, to Richard Tryce. (fn. 20) In 1608 Richard Tryce with his wife Anne conveyed the manor of Rowey, with a free fishery, to Francis St. John, (fn. 21) who with Margaret, his wife, and John St. John, their son and heir apparent, conveyed them in 1624 to Thomas and James Ravenscroft. (fn. 22) Thomas Ravenscroft and Frances, his wife, were holding the manor and fishery in 1698, (fn. 23) and in 1709 James Ravenscroft and Diana his wife (fn. 24) conveyed them to Roger Peck, when it probably merged into the other property of the Pecks in this parish.
An inclosure Act was passed in 1796 for inclosing and dividing Somersham Heath, and such parts of it as were allotted to Woodhurst, Somersham, and Pidley with Fenton, with the open fields in these parishes. (fn. 25)
On 24 November 1583, William Cranwell of Pidley died seised of messuages there, leaving a son and heir William, aged 30 and more. (fn. 26) In 1600 Kenelm Pulter, clerk, and Katherine his wife, Margaret Ellys, Nicholas Bedford and Agnes his wife, conveyed lands, tenements and two windmills in Fenton, Pidley and Somersham to Oliver Cromwell and Christopher Hodson. (fn. 27) A windmill and land in Fenton were conveyed to Richard Witlesey by Thomas Pamplyn and Joan, his wife, in 1608, with warranty against the heirs of Joan. (fn. 28) Three windmills and common of pasture in Fenton, Pidley, and Somersham, with lands and tenements there, were conveyed by Christopher Hodson and Mabel, his wife, and Benjamin Hodson and Cassandra, his wife, to Richard Pagitt (fn. 29) in 1621. Richard Pagitt, senior, with his wife Susan, in 1656 conveyed lands, tenements and two windmills in Fenton, Pidley and Somersham to Richard Pagitt, junior. (fn. 30) One windmill, etc., in Pidley cum Fenton was held in 1702 by John Hopkins and Anne his wife, Thomas Faux and Elizabeth his wife, John Oakely and Sarah his wife, and John Cumbers and Elizabeth his wife, who then conveyed it to Thomas Webb and Thomas Saywell. (fn. 31)
The ancient church of ALL SAINTS consisted of a chancel, nave, south porch and a modern bell-turret of wood at the west end. The south doorway of the chancel and the north doorway of the nave were of the 12th century; the south doorway of the nave was late of the same century; and the east window was of the 14th century and of three lights. The remaining features were of 15th century date. (fn. 32)
This church was pulled down in 1863, and a new church erected on the same site in 1864–5. The present church consists of a chancel with vestry on the north, nave, west tower and south porch. The walls are of stone faced internally with brick, and the roofs, including the spire, are covered with tiles. The only features of the old church which have been preserved are a 14th-century square-headed twolight window reset in the west wall of the vestry, and a scratched circular sundial in the north wall, but much of the stone facing is obviously old material re-used. The modern font is a square bowl on five circular shafts. There are three bells, all inscribed: Christopher Gray made me 1675.
There are the following monuments: in the chancel, windows to William and Sarah Silk and William and Mary Taylor, erected 1921; and William Henry Hamilton (d. 1923); on nave floor to John Cole (d. 1780); Elizabeth his wife (d. 1769); John Cole, junior (d. 1786); Anne Cole (d. 1792) and John Cole (d. 1805); and in vestry to John Cole, Ann his daughter (d. 1792), and John his son (d. 1804).
The registers are as follows: (i) baptisms, marriages and burials, 23 Aug., 1558 to 11 April, 1724; (ii) ditto, 5 April, 1724 to 4 Feb., 1768, marriages end 23 April, 1754; (iii) baptisms and burials, 29 May, 1767 to 3 January, 1794; (iv) ditto 3 January, 1794 to 15 Nov., 1812; (v) marriages, 23 April, 1754 to 28 May, 1837.
As a chapelry annexed with Colne to Somersham church, the advowson of Pidley church has shared the history of that of Somersham (q.v.). (fn. 33)
Robert Hempsted, by his will proved 6 July 1883, bequeathed to his trustees upon trust for sale the residue of his estate. The endowment of the charity now consists of a sum of £487 2s. 11d. 2½ per cent. Annuities with the Official Trustees producing £12 3s. 4d. yearly in dividends, which are expended on an annual dinner and tea for widows and widowers and a tea for children. The charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 20 Aug. 1907, under the provisions of which one cooptative trustee and two representative trustees were appointed trustees of the charity.
Perne's Gift. It is recorded on a table of benefactions in the church that the Rev. Andrew Perne, late Master of St. Peter's College, Cambridge, gave the following benefactions, viz.: to the poor 6s. 8d.; to the children who attend the church to be instructed in the catechism 1s. 8d., and to the preacher of a sermon 5s.; and that the above sums were paid by the Bursar of St. Peter's College.