A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The parish of Abbots Ripton, consisting of 4,191 acres, lies near the centre of the county, and directly north of Huntingdon itself. The land is flat and lowlying; a stream rising in the west of the parish runs through it, passing a little to the north of the village, by Abbots Ripton Hall, into King's Ripton. Farming is the chief occupation of the inhabitants, the principal crops being wheat, barley and beans. The soil is gravel with a subsoil of clay. There is a fair amount of woodland in the extreme east and west of the parish. Early records show, however, that the parish, with Somersham Chace and Sapley Forest near by, was at one time very much more wooded. In 1341 the Bishop of Ely claimed the right to hunt deer freely 'throughout the whole forest of Somersham, to wit, as the highway passes from Huntingdon to Ramsey through Ripton,' the foresters contending that woods bordering that road were the king's forest and not the bishop's free chace. (fn. 1) The timber on the manor at the time of the Dissolution was reckoned a substantial part of its value and, while it remained in the king's hands, the wood on it was reserved by the Surveyor of Woods for the Crown and its sale was not included in the ordinary accounts for the manor. (fn. 2) At that time the trees in Holland Coppice, Hyghe Grove, Wytes, Foxeholles and other woods were returned as being from one to sixty years' growth and valued at £44 14s. 0d.; besides these, 700 oaks of sixty years' growth stood on the site of the manor, 300 of them being valued at 6d. per tree. (fn. 3) The other 400 were reserved to the farmer of the site of the manor and to thirty-eight copyholders for the repair of their houses. It was probably soon after this, when the property came to the St. John family, that the value of the woodland began to fall quickly. In the troublesome years following the grant to the St. Johns it is evident that the inhabitants of the manor were impoverished by high rents and reduced privileges and, in return, constant actions for damage to trees and unauthorised cutting down of timber were brought by the lord against his tenants. (fn. 4) An account is also found about this time of the decay of houses on the manor.
The village lies somewhat scattered and is formed into three groups of houses. The church stands surrounded by trees on the road from Huntingdon to Wood Walton. On its north side is the rectory, a brick house with a large well-wooded garden. Northward of the rectory is a group of houses of the 18th century and later. A little to the south-east of the church is a picturesque group of some twenty 17th-century timber-framed cottages with thatched or tiled roofs. East of these cottages is the late 16th-century manor house now called Moat Farm. It is a timber-framed and plastered house with 18th-century and modern additions. Many of the internal fittings are of the 17th and 18th centuries. The moat still survives on its eastern side. To the south-east of the house is a further group of houses round a large green with a pond in the middle. Green Farm on the south side is a good specimen of a 17th-century house with exposed timber frame. Hall Farm, lying east of Moat Farm, is a 17th-century house with modern additions, while Shooters Green Farm, another 17th-century building, stands near Abbots Ripton railway station.
The hamlet of Wennington lies nearly a mile to the north of the village. Most of the cottages are timber-framed, with roofs of thatch or tiles, and are of the 16th century and later. Some time towards the end of the Abbey's rule there is a record of the foundation of a house for the poor, called 'le Almeshouse,' 'next the church there,' and the rent of two capons, amounting to 6d., was allotted to its upkeep. (fn. 5)
Among our minor 19th-century poets, Mary Sophia Stratton and Nicholas Stratton were residents in Abbots Ripton, and W. E. Martin, inventor of an automatic press for ensilage stacks and silos, also lived here.
In the 10th century Earl Alfwold, brother of Aylwin, the founder of Ramsey Abbey, granted Ripton, with Wennington, to that monastery, (fn. 6) subject to the life-interest therein of his wife Alfild. She acknowledged her husband's grant when she bequeathed the lands to the Abbey, adding that: 'Alfwoldus eas adhuc vivens viva voce eidem Ecclesie concessit.' (fn. 7) The original grant must have been made at or soon after the foundation, as King Edgar included these lands in his charter of 974, by which he confirmed its possessions to the Abbey. (fn. 8)
In 1086 Ripton was returned as a manor where the abbot had 10 hides with land for 16 ploughs, and, in demesne, land for two ploughs, exclusive of the said hides; its value at the time of the Survey (1086), as in the time of King Edward, was £8. (fn. 9) Subsequent charters confirming its lands to Ramsey Abbey, include Ripton, which appears to have become known as Abbots Ripton in the 12th century, and was usually so described from the latter part of the 13th century. It was held by the abbey until the Dissolution. (fn. 10)
A family which took the name of the place were among the most important of the abbot's tenants, holding freely of the abbey by military service. (fn. 11) Hervey, Philip his brother, Reginald and Godfrey, all called 'de Ripton,' held land here in the 12th century. (fn. 12) In the next century Richard de Ripton, and, later, Philip de Ripton, owed military service to the abbey for their lands here. (fn. 13) The latter, described as 'Dominus Philippus de Ripton,' had several tenants here. (fn. 14) His son Alexander is mentioned in 1294, (fn. 15) and the manorial rolls and accounts of the 13th and 14th centuries have constant references to the family. John son of Philip was pardoned for outlawry in 1330, (fn. 16) but it is not apparent what subsequently became of their holding.
About the time of the Dissolution the annual value from rents and other issues in the manor of Abbots Ripton, with Wennington and Esthorpe, averaged £39, exclusive of profits from the sale of wood, from fines, waifs and strays, or goods of felons and fugitives. (fn. 17)
In 1541 the manor was granted by the Crown to Sir John St. John, knt., and his heirs in exchange for the manor of Paulspurye (Northants.) and the yearly payment of £5 13s. 11d. (fn. 18) Two years later he settled the manor on his son Oliver, (fn. 19) who became Baron St. John of Bletsoe in 1559. (fn. 20) Various settlements of the manor were made before Oliver's death in 1582. (fn. 21) His son John inherited but died without male issue in 1596; (fn. 22) Ripton, after being held in dower by the widow, passed to a younger brother, Oliver, (fn. 23) who died in 1618, leaving a son and heir, Oliver. (fn. 24) The last-named Oliver was created Earl of Bolingbroke, and conveyed Ripton, in 1640, to Hugh Awdley. (fn. 25)
After Awdley's death in 1662 there was much litigation as to the disposal of his property; (fn. 26) eventually Abbots Ripton passed in separate moieties to Nicholas and Thomas Bonfoy, his grandnephews and heirs. (fn. 27) One moiety was inherited before 1679 by Nicholas's son Hugh, the other by Thomas's daughter and heir Susan, who married Sir Charles Cæsar, knt. (fn. 28) Both parties joined in making a settlement of the manor in 1686. (fn. 29)
Sir Charles was succeeded by his son Charles Adelmare Cæsar, who later joined with his eldest son of the same name in mortgaging the property. (fn. 30) The son predeceased his father, and a younger son, Julius Cæsar, inheriting on the death of his father, renewed the mortgage in 1741. (fn. 31) He appears to have sold the manor, owing, no doubt, to the involved financial condition of the owners. (fn. 32)
The main portion of the manor had been acquired by 1794 by William Henry Fellowes, (fn. 33) whose descendant, Lord de Ramsey, is now lord of the manor.
The other part of the estate passed to the descendants of Hugh Bonfoy. His son and grandson, both called Nicholas, followed him, the last-named, Serjeant at Arms to the House of Commons, dying n 1775. (fn. 34) The property was inherited by his niece Elizabeth Martha, who married John Rooper, (fn. 35) and their descendant, John George Rooper (d. 1924), was a landholder in the parish.
The Abbot of Ramsey had view of frankpledge in his manor here. (fn. 36) and in 1261 he claimed the right of hearing and determining all pleas in Abbots Ripton. (fn. 37) The manor had to supply the cellarer, twice a year for a fortnight each time, with full farm, amounting in value to £12 15s. 1d. for each fortnight. (fn. 38) Small portions of land here were allotted as wages to certain of the abbey servants, namely, to the porter of the outer gate, to the cook in the abbey hall, and to one of the carpenters. (fn. 39)
A good deal of information as to the relations between the abbot and his tenants at Ripton is found in a lawsuit in 1543, brought by several tenants against Sir John St. John, (fn. 40) whose lordship, succeeding that of Ramsey Abbey, was very little to their liking. Sir John's aim was to increase his rents and to obtain for himself rights in respect of their tenures and privileges which were strenuously opposed. Seven of the copyholders finally 'procured one common purse' and brought a suit in the Court of Requests against Sir John and his son Oliver. The plaintiffs alleged that, whereas they had had their holdings by copy of court roll from time immemorial, Sir John had, by compulsion and threats, got hold of most of the copies of court rolls and persuaded many tenants to surrender their copyholds, receiving instead indentures for a term of years, at the same time increasing the rents. Numerous cases of assault and of collision between tenants and bailiff were detailed. The feeling against the new lord was very bitter, and even his own witnesses were antagonistic. One, called to give evidence that he had voluntarily surrendered his copyhold, declared the bailiff had persuaded him by threats: 'therefore this deponent thrwe or kast ye said copyes to ye said Baylyf and badd hym take theym and the devyll withall.' Sir John contended that there were no copyholders. His deponents all agreed that there had been copyholders from time immemorial, and referred to 'a blak bokk of ye Regester called a Garseyn Bokk,' where the copyholders were registered. William Warwyck, (fn. 41) 'saithe that he hathe hard hys father saye that before the batayle which was callyd Ester Daye feld, (fn. 42) all the tenants of Abbots Ripton were copie holders and held of the Abbot of Ramsey. And the Northen men laye there so long before the felde was fowghten that they Impoveryshed the countrey and the tenauntes were fayne to yelde up theyre copye holdes for that they were not hable to Repayre theym. And then came other tenauntes and occupyed them as tenauntes at wyll and they had the Rentes abatyd. And further saythe that during the tyme that the lands were in the Kinges Maiesties hands the tenauntes were never vext nor trowbelyd.' Sir John, besides raising the rents, had forbidden the ancient privileges concerning cutting and selling wood. The same deponent recalled that formerly all had felled and used the woods and trees 'abowte theyre yardes and theyr woods in the Comen hethe which have always been comen and never denyed.' During this long suit, Sir John and his son counterclaimed with actions against various tenants for trespass in cutting down trees, particular damage being caused to the timber in closes called Pottars, Harppes, Eastroppe and in Bugg grene, where many oaks were wrongfully felled— 'maple hasell and thorne they may fell yt as comyn, but neyther oke nor ashe." (fn. 43)
The family of Vernon or le Vernoun held land here of the abbot in the 13th and 14th centuries by military service. (fn. 44) Whether this is the same family as that which held the site of the manor some time before the Dissolution is not certain, but when the site 'otherwise called the Berysted,' with lands belonging, including pastures called Burnesstocking and Deaconsstocking, was leased to Sir Richard Cromwell in 1535 for eighty years, it was described as having been formerly in the tenure of Richard Verneham. (fn. 45) Oliver, Lord St. John, to whom the reversion had been granted, endeavoured to obtain immediate possession by 'a synyster and fraudulente' suit against the lessees of Sir Richard Cromwell. (fn. 46) The site was afterwards held with the manor.
A windmill is mentioned among the abbey's possessions here in the 13th century and later; (fn. 47) its existence is recorded as late as 1654. (fn. 48) In the 16th century there is reference to a park of Ripton.
WENNINGTON, which was included with Ripton in the early grants to Ramsey Abbey, and descended throughout with the manor of Abbots Ripton, does not appear to have held separate manorial courts. After the Dissolution, however, it is frequently called the 'manor' of Wennington.
ESTHORPE is also called a manor after the Dissolution, but early references point to its having been actually part of the chief manor. Its position may apparently be found by the close called 'Eastroppe,' or the closes in Esthorpe called le Bussheclose and le Mote close, referred to when Abbots Ripton was still under the abbey rule. (fn. 49)
The manor of RUSSHEBYES probably originated in the land held of the abbot by the family of that name in the 13th century. Agnes, widow of William de Rouceby, quitclaimed a small parcel of land to Richard de Ripton in 1232; (fn. 50) in 1362 William de Risceby, king's yeoman, received a grant of free warren in the demesne lands of his manor of Abbots Ripton. (fn. 51) In 1440 the 'manor of Abbotts Ripton called Russhebyes,' which included 220 acres of land, was held by two heiresses, Julia Parker and Eleanor Thornton, who, with Eleanor's husband, conveyed it in that year to John Cullar and others. (fn. 52) John died in 1472, (fn. 53) and his widow was holding the manor in the following year, (fn. 54) but afterwards sold to Thomas Burton. (fn. 55) John Burton his son inherited, but the manor became the subject of a suit in Chancery, and was sold to Anthony Hansert in 1529. (fn. 56) The latter appears to have conveyed to Oliver Leder, who sold in 1535 to Richard Cromwell for 400 marks. (fn. 57) In 1555 Thomas Bowles, Anne his wife, and his son Thomas conveyed the manor to Robert Rowley and Oliver St. John. (fn. 58) The manor was held by the St. John family with the chief manor (q.v.) in 1586, (fn. 59) and afterwards followed the same descent.
A messuage called COLLESPLACE, with fifty acres in a close called COLLESTOKKYNGE and a parcel of land called LONDONESLANDE, was granted in 1448 to the Warden and Fellows of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 60)
The church of ST. ANDREW consists of a chancel (31 ft. by 16 ft.), north chapel (15 ft. by 8½ ft.), nave (41¼ ft. by 15 ft.), north aisle (8¾ ft. wide), south aisle (11¼ ft. wide), west tower (11 ft. square) and south porch. Although there was a church here at the time of the Domesday Survey (1086), the earliest evidence in the present building is of a church gradually reconstructed and enlarged during the third and fourth decades of the 13th century. This church, which consisted, apparently, of a chancel, nave, south aisle with south porch, and perhaps a north aisle, was dedicated by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1242. (fn. 61)
At the beginning of the 16th century it was evidently intended to rebuild the church. The chancel was at that date rebuilt and the north chapel added, a new arcade on the north side of the nave was erected and from the evidence of the west respond of the south arcade it was apparently proposed to rebuild that side also, but it is probable that instead of doing so this arcade was taken down and rebuilt with the same material. The tower is part of the same scheme of reconstruction, but of a little later date than the rest of the work. The church was restored by subscription in 1858, and in 1868 the roofs of the nave and south aisle were restored as a memorial to Frances Rooper by her brothers and sister.
The chancel has a modern east window of four lights, on the south side of which is the piscina, probably of the 16th century, now partly restored, that served the high altar. The present altar table is modern, but the oak table with turned legs, now in the vestry, was probably that in use during the 17th century and later. The windows of the chancel are all of three cinquefoiled lights, with tracery in a four-centred head, and belong to 16th-century rebuilding. West of the window, on the north side, is a four-centred arch of two moulded orders with attached shafts and moulded capitals and bases, leading into the north chapel. Bequests to a sepulchre light in wills of the first quarter of the 16th century (fn. 62) suggest the existence of an Easter Sepulchre, perhaps on the north side of the chancel, but may not have been a permanent structure. The chancel arch is probably of the 16th century, but some of the voussoirs may be of the 13th century. It is two centred and of two moulded orders which die into the responds. There is a squint on either side of the chancel arch, that on the south side now being blocked. Over the arch on the east side is a recess, possibly for a sanctus bell, and on the west side are hung four hatchments relating to the Bonfoy and Rooper families. From wills it appears that a rood loft which was gilded was erected about 1530. (fn. 63) The chancel roof of two bays is of the date of the chancel. It is flat pitched and at the feet of the wall posts are figures of men and women.
The north chapel was possibly the chapel of the Gild of Our Lady, of which there is frequent reference in the early part of the 16th century. (fn. 64) It is now used as the vestry. The east and north windows of three cinquefoiled lights, with tracery in a four-centred head, belong to the date of the building of the chapel in the 16th century. In the south wall are the remains of a piscina, now used as a cupboard, which served the adjoining altar, probably dedicated to the honour of the Virgin, and in the north-east angle are the remains of a bracket that may have supported her image, (fn. 65) which had a gilt canopy (fn. 66) in the early part of the 16th century. The roof is of the date of the chapel.
The nave arcades are of three bays; that on the south side is of the 13th century, possibly rebuilt in the 16th century. It has two-centred arches, round piers, with moulded capitals and bases. The 16th-century north arcade has two-centred arches of two moulded orders, the piers being formed of two responds set back to back; on the north face are small shafts carried up the wall probably for roof corbels. At the east respond on this side there is a pedestal for an image. The clearstory is of the 16th century rebuilding and has three windows on each side of two trefoiled lights in four-centred heads. The roof is contemporary with the 16th century rebuilding.
The north doorway and two traceried windows in the north aisle are of the 15th century, and the western of these windows contains fragments of 15thcentury glass, and the glass in the eastern is a memorial to Constance, wife of Rev. S. King, daughter of John Bonfoy Rooper, who died on 6 February, 1870. The east window of the south aisle of three cinquefoiled lights with tracery in a four-centred head, belongs to the 16th-century rebuilding. There is a plain high wall arcade of three bays in the south wall of this aisle, at the bottom of which is a stone bench. The eastern bay contains a modern window of three lights, the middle a 15th-century window of three lights, with tracery in a four-centred head, restored, and the western a 13th-century doorway, probably rebuilt, leading into the 13th-century south porch, which has a contemporary outer archway and a 15th-century window on either side.
The west tower is of three stages, with a stair turret in the south-west angle, and has an embattled parapet with pinnacles. It is wholly of the early part of the 16th century. The two-centred tower arch is of two chamfered orders, the inner of which springs from attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The west doorway has a two-centred arch and moulded jambs, and the west window is of three four-centred lights with uncusped tracery. The second stage has a single four-centred light in the north wall and the clock face on the south. The clock, according to a brass tablet in the chancel, was given in remembrance of the Rev. Plumer Pott Rooper, by his surviving brothers and sisters. In the third stage is a fourcentred window of two lights in each wall. Under the tower arch is an early 19th-century organ.
The monumental inscriptions in the church are as follows: On north wall of chancel, to Catherine Cranwell eldest daughter of the Rev. John Cranwell, d. 2 July 1783; to Rev. John Cranwell, d. 17 April 1793; to John Rooper, d. 17 Dec. 1826; Elizabeth his wife, d. 14 July 1824, and Rev. Thomas Rich. Rooper, their youngest son, d. 7 April 1865. On the south wall of chancel to Nicholas Bonfoy, Serjeant-at-Arms, son and heir of Nicholas Bonfoy of Abbots Ripton, and Elizabeth, daughter of William Hale, of Kings Walden, d. 12 Oct. 1775; to John Bonfoy Rooper, d. 11 Mar. 1855; to Harriet wife of John Bonfoy Rooper, d. 9 Sept. 1841; Caroline eldest daughter of J. W. Buck, of London, wife of Rev. Wm. Rooper, d. 20 April 1834, and Henrietta Persis youngest daughter of Rev. Thos. Rooper and Persis his wife, d. 14 Dec. 1833; to Rev. Plumer Pott Rooper, d. 18 May 1881, and Georgina his wife, d. 23 May 1890. In north chapel there is on the north wall the inscription of a brass to Thomas Cowche, d. 20 Feb. 1641–2, and a tablet to Charles Trimnell, rector of the parish, d. 1702, and Mary his wife, d. 1684. On north wall of north aisle, to Howard Gilliat, lieutenant 16th Lancers, d. of fever in Transvaal, 23 Sept. 1900; mural tablet erected by the parishioners of Abbots Ripton and Wennington in memory of those who fell in the Great War 1914– 1918. On wall of south aisle, to John George Rooper, d. 15 Mar. 1924, and Arthur Somerville Rooper, d. Dec. 1888.
There are three bells: the first by William Dawe inscribed 'Non venit ad veniam qui nescit amare Mariam,' date about 1400; the second by Tobias Norris, 1671, and the old third inscribed 'Non clamor sed amor cantat in aure Dei,' 1622, the present third was recast by John Warner and Sons, London, 1875.
The plate consists of two silver cups marked 1828–9, a silver plate used as a paten, (fn. 67) inscribed on the face T.B. and B.T., marked 1656–7; a silver plate of uncertain date; a silver alms dish of uncertain date; a silver flagon marked 1744–5 and inscribed 'Ecclesiæ parochiali de Ripton Abbatis legavit moriens Mensæ qz addixit Eucharisticæ Johannes Hotchkin A.M. Per annos quadraginta tres Ibidem Rector Anno Salutis Humanæ 1745.'
The registers are as follows: (i) Baptisms, marriages and burials, 10 March 1558–9 to 8 October 1684; nine loose paper leaves, with baptisms, 10 March 1558 to 22 Feb. 1596; (ii) baptisms and burials, 14 April 1684 to 18 Oct. 1724, and marriages, 29 April 1684 to 6 Dec. 1744; (iii) baptisms and burials, 20 Nov. 1724 to 25 March 1768; (iv) marriages 6 Dec. 1744 to 5 Dec. 1753, baptisms and burials, 31 May 1768 to 29 Dec. 1812; (v) The official marriage book, 22 Aug. 1754 to 13 July 1812; the usual modern books.
The existence of a church with a priest at Ripton is recorded in the Domesday Survey (1086). It belonged, like the manor, to Ramsey Abbey (fn. 68) towards the middle of the 12th century. Hugh, the priest of Ripton, was a witness to an Abbey deed of 1135–60. (fn. 69) In 1178 a confirmation of the possessions to the Abbey by the Pope includes: 'Ripton and the other Ripton, with the churches.' (fn. 70) The church continued in the possession of the Abbey until the Dissolution, (fn. 71) and afterwards followed the descent of the manor. At the division of the manorial property after Awdley's death in 1662, the advowson of the rectory was held with the Bonfoys' moiety, (fn. 72) and so passed to the Roopers. (fn. 73) The Rev. John George Rooper, owner of a moiety of the estate, presented himself in 1881. He conveyed the advowson to his sister, Lady Palmer, who died in 1929 and whose executors are the present patrons. In 1922 the benefices of Abbots Ripton and Little Stukeley were united by Order in Council, the patron of Abbots Ripton to have two turns to one of the patron of Little Stukeley. (fn. 74)
From the 13th to the 15th centuries the value of the church was returned as from 30 to 35 marks, a pension of 2s. being due from it to the Abbot. (fn. 75) In 1535 it was valued at £22, payments of 2s. and 10s. 8d. being due respectively to the abbot and to the archdeacon of Huntingdon. (fn. 76) In 1242 the expenses of the Abbot of Ramsey included 53s. 4d. to the Bishop of Lincoln for the dedication of the Church of Ripton, and 3s. 2d. for two rochets for the same. (fn. 77) In 1252 a very detailed inquisition as to the customs of the manor gives full accounts of the possessions of the parson at that time, with a description of his house, land, services due to him and tithes paid; the dedication of the church to St. Andrew is recorded. (fn. 78)
About this time the estate held by the parson here was described as a manor, from which the receipts from rents, sale of hay, etc., amounted to £6 18s. 2¾d.; the expenses, mainly stipends to the carpenter, smith, collector of the tithe, men servants and serving woman (ancilla domus), amounted to £8 12s. 9d. The parson also returned receipts totalling £6 14s. 4d. from such sources as oblations (43s. 2½d.), marriages, sale of wool and sale of tithes. (fn. 79)
In the Edwardian Inventories of 1552 the goods of the church included 'a paire of organes,' while the churchwardens were stated to have sold a broken bell for £7; a 'paire of broken senceres' and a 'hollywater stoppe' had been stolen. (fn. 80)
Church Land. The endowment of this charity consists of a small field called Church Acre and containing 1 acre. The land is let by the churchwardens to Mr. F. W. Ding as a yearly tenant at a rent of £1, which is carried to the churchwardens' account.