A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The village is a typical woodland ring fence settlement. It lies round what is roughly an oblong formed by two roads—Church Street on the north and South Street on the south, joined at the ends; from the middle of the ends, roads go to Bluntisham and Old Hurst. Probably at one end or the other stood St. John's Cross, of which mention is made in 1545. (fn. 1) Around this oblong are the farm houses, shops and cottages of the village. They are for the most part modern, as the village was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 1834, but a few 17th-century cottages remain, partially modernised. The parochial chapel of St. John is in the middle on the north side of Church Street and a lane called Church Lane runs southward from it to South Street. The Manor House stands at the north-east corner of the village. It is a large brick house with tiled roofs partly built in the 17th and partly in the 18th century. It contains some 18thcentury fittings including a staircase and panelling. There is also an early 18th-century brick house on the north side of South Street. A homestead moat northeast of the Manor House, called Spinney Moat, may represent the site of the old Manor House.
Woodhurst, like Oldhurst (q.v.), was one of the Hurst hamlets belonging to the manor of Slepe. It is possibly the land of one of the three tenants Evrard, Ingelran and Pleines who in 1086 had 4 hides of the Abbot of Ramsey's 20 hides in Slepe. (fn. 2) Pleines de Slepe, with his two sons William and Richard, between 1091 and 1112 granted Abbot Aldwin one hide and 28 acres, the hide and 10 acres he had by inheritance, and the remainder he obtained from Yvo. Pleines with his wife Beatrix and his sons and daughters were to be received in return into the fraternity by the abbey. The property was to descend at his death to the heir he should appoint. (fn. 3) This may perhaps have been the hide in Woodhurst which in 1251 Berengar le Moyne held, and had previously belonged to Hervey Tesarde. (fn. 4) At that date it was held of Berengar by several freeholders. In 1267–85 Berengar le Moyne released to the Abbot of Ramsey lands in Needingworth and Holywell, the dowry of his mother Roysia, and lands in Woodhurst. (fn. 5) In 1285, Emma, widow of Berengar le Moyne, released to the abbot various manors including the manor of Hurst. (fn. 6) This Moyne manor thus went to the abbey.
The STOW MANOR in Woodhurst was granted by Abbot Reynald of Ramsey (1114–30) as a hide of land to Gilbert son of Guy, (fn. 7) who had in 1120–22 surrendered all his lands except those in Stow (co. Camb.) and Bluntisham to the Abbot. (fn. 8) We have reference to a Guy son of Gilbert in 1134. (fn. 9) Guy's son was Stephen de Stow, who was holding this hide at the end of the 12th century, and Richard, son of Stephen, inherited the lands of his grandfather Guy in Hurst and Bluntisham in 1204. (fn. 10) In 1228 Agnes, widow of Roald or Richard, son of Stephen de Stow, and wife of Joseph(?) Kipping, held it in dower; William, son of Roald and Agnes, being then under age. (fn. 11) William de Stow, it is said, sold all his lands in Woodhurst, worth 60s. a year, to Abbot Ranulf, who in 1247 assigned them to the office of chamberlain of Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 12) Probably the Stow family regained possession of their lands here, as Baldwin de Stow of Woodhurst was a suitor at Broughton Court in 1252 and owed service to the abbot for his lands at Stow (co. Camb.) and Hurst or Woodhurst in 1260. (fn. 13) In 1272 Henry de Aucher had a grant of free warren over his lands in Bluntisham. William de Stow held lands in Woodhurst in 1281 and 1289 (fn. 14) and Baldwin de Stow owed suit for lands in Woodhurst in 1293–94. (fn. 15)
In 1304 Baldwin described as son of William de Stow was holding the manor of Stow (co. Camb.) and the manor of Hurst with land in Slepe and elsewhere. (fn. 16) This latter manor was in 1356 conveyed by Gilbert Warewyk, chaplain, and Nicholas of York, clerk, to the Abbot of Ramsey, (fn. 17) and thus became merged in the abbey possessions.
The manors of Stow and Woodhurst must, however, have been alienated from the abbey a little later, as in 1479 Anne Broughton died seised of them, held of the abbot of Ramsey as of his barony of Broughton, (fn. 18) leaving a son John Broughton, aged 17, her heir. The manor passed like that of La Leghe in Colne (q.v.) to William Paulet Lord St. John, who with Agnes his wife conveyed lands probably forming the manor in 1576 to John Sotherton. (fn. 19) In 1583 John Sotherton, with Mary his wife, sold the same property to John Marten, who with Margaret his wife in 1593 conveyed what was apparently a part of the same property to Robert Syssun the younger. (fn. 20) In 1611 the manor, lately the property of Ramsey Abbey, was granted by the crown to 'the fishing grantees' George and Thomas Whitmore, (fn. 21) owing probably to some suspected defective title. It was held by the Manning family in 1631, when Katherine Manning, widow, Garshon Manning and Ellen his wife, and Ralph Manning conveyed it to John Gulston, probably for the purposes of a settlement. (fn. 22) In 1641 William Manning and Prudence his wife and Garshon Manning conveyed it to Jonah James. (fn. 23) Thomas James, of Buntingford in Hertfordshire, was given as lord by Cotton c. 1670. (fn. 24)
In 1676 Frances Lumbrey, widow, Elizabeth Trankmore, widow, Robert Browne and Alice his wife and Elizabeth Hughes, widow, these ladies possibly being coheirs of Thomas James, conveyed the manor to Sir John King, kt., and John Cooke, (fn. 25) and in 1701 it was held by Robert Browne and Alice his wife, who conveyed it to Walter Ridout and Walter Chapman, with warranty against the heirs of Alice. (fn. 26) It was still held by the Browne family in 1742 when Susan Browne, spinster, conveyed it to John Browne. (fn. 27)
By 1796 the manor had passed to Sir Robert Burton, who was holding it in 1801. (fn. 28) It later went to John Carstairs of Stratford Green, Essex, whose daughter and coheir Johanna married Sir John Henry Pelly, bart., of Warnham Court, Horsham, who died in 1864 and was succeeded by Sir Henry Carstairs Pelly. On the death of Sir Henry in 1877 it passed to his daughters Annie Evelyn, who married Capt. Thomas Rivers Bulkeley, and Constance Lilian, who married David 27th Earl of Crawford. These ladies joined in 1918 in selling the manor. (fn. 29)
The manor of WIGAN (Weken, Wykyn, xiii cent.; Wekyn, xvi cent.; Wiggen, xvii cent.) may have had its origin in a hide in Hurst given by Abbot Bernard of Ramsey (d. 1107) to the priory of St. Ives. (fn. 30) An inquisition of 1251 shows that Hugh de Sulgrave, formerly prior of St. Ives, had appropriated certain lands to the 'manor of Wykyn' in Woodhurst. (fn. 31) After the Dissolution, the farm, manor, and messuage called Wigan in Woodhurst in the tenure of Leonard Hetherington, lately belonging to the cell or priory of St. Ives, and excepted from the grant of Woodhurst to the Whitmores in 1611, (fn. 32) were in 1544 granted in tail male to Thomas Audley of St. Ives and Elizabeth his wife. (fn. 33) Their son Robert in 1560 received livery of the priory of St. Ives and of lands in Woodhurst. (fn. 34) The manor was in 1616 settled by Thomas Audley (grandson of Thomas Audley the grantee) on his brother Wheathill for life, and on Thomas and Molyneux, sons of his brother Robert, for their lives, at a rent of £11. (fn. 35) At the death of Thomas in 1633, Wigan fell to Wheathill, who in 1645 begged to compound for delinquency. (fn. 36) From this date Wigan seems to have passed with the Priory manor of St. Ives (q.v.) to the sons of Robert Audley and their successors. (fn. 37)
The manor of PECKS PLACE probably had its origin in the hide in Woodhurst which Simon son of Adam held in demesne in 1251, and of which Richard Ulf then held 2 virgates. (fn. 38) Simon was possibly a member of the Slepe family of Hawkers. In 1279 William Ulf was holding a messuage and land in Woodhurst of the prior of St. Ives, and 2 virgates of free land at a rent of 2s. from Simon le Eyr, of Woodhurst. (fn. 39) The land of Ulf in Woodhurst which paid yearly 100s. was bought for the abbey of Ramsey by Abbot Simon de Eye (1316–42). (fn. 40) These lands may have been those worth 100s. which John Peck was holding in 1412. (fn. 41) Apparently in 1477 they were held by William Peck of Woodhurst and John his son, who then both made a grant of lands in Woodhurst, Holywell, Needingworth, Slepe and St. Ives, lately called 'Cok Halywells londs,' and before that 'Chambreleyns londs.' (fn. 42) This property was presumably the manor or farm of Pecks Place in Woodhurst, the site of which was leased with the tithes in 1535 by the abbot of Ramsey for 60 years to Henry Sherman at a rent of £12 (i.e., £4 for the rent and £8 for the tithes.) (fn. 43) In 1595 a lease in reversion of the site of the manor of Woodhurst called Pecks Place was similarly granted to John West for 31 years. (fn. 44) Lands in Pecks Place in Woodhurst were granted with the reversion of the site of the manor of Oldhurst (q.v.) to John Pratt in 1578 and were held with the same by the Gascoignes in 1619. (fn. 45)
The Church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST (fn. 46) consists of a chancel (22 ft. by 18 ft.), nave (39 ft. by 20 ft.), south aisle (9¼ ft. wide) and modern south porch. All measurements are internal. The walls are of rubble with stone dressings and the roofs are covered with lead and tiles. The modern chancel is of brick.
The Domesday Survey (1086) indicates two churches in St. Ives, one being probably the chapel of Woodhurst, but the oldest parts of the present building are the nave, built late in the 12th century. and the south arcade in the mid-13th century. The aisle was rebuilt late in the 14th century, the timber bell-turret is probably of the early 17th century, and the chancel and south porch are modern. The church was restored in 1871.
The modern brick chancel has a three-light east window, two single lights in the north wall and one in the south, and a plain south door. The arch is largely modern, but some of its stones are ancient, and it rests on re-used 13th-century corbels. The altar table has turned legs and shaped rails of the early 18th century.
The north wall of the late 12th-century nave has an early 14th-century two-light and a 12th-century doorway. It has been raised, probably in modern times, and the upper part has two modern three-light windows. The south arcade, of mid-13th-century date, is of four bays, with pointed arches on round columns; the eastern respond is a moulded corbel with mask-stop. The clearstory above has two modern three-light windows. The west wall has a 15thcentury three-light, and northward of it are traces of wall painting of a skeleton outlined in red. Externally this wall shows signs of the raising to form the clearstory. The roof is modern but has a few old timbers. At the western end is an early 17th-century timber bell-cot carried partly on the west wall and partly on a timber post supporting a cross-beam; the framing is covered with oak shingles and it has a low pyramidal tiled roof.
The late 14th-century south aisle has a two-light east window, three two-light windows and a doorway in the south wall, and a modern single-light in the west wall. In the sill of the easternmost window of the south wall is a late 14th-century piscina with octofoil basin (fn. 47) and between this window and the next is a plain locker.
There is one bell, inscribed: Hee that will be meri let him be meri in the Lord, 1624. This bell is by W. Haulsey. There are pits for three, the two others were sold to Messrs. Taylor in 1889; their inscriptions are given by Owen, (fn. 48) as: W. Govve, I. Christmas, Chvrchwardens, 1621 [by Haulsey] and Iohn Christmvs, William Bvll, C. Newman made me, 1695.
The registers are as follows: (i) Baptisms, marriages and burials, 11 March 1680 to 27 March 1739; (ii) ditto, 27 March 1739 to 15 Nov. 1812, the marriages ending 11 Oct. 1753; (iii) the official marriage book, 9 Oct. 1755 to 10 Nov. 1812.
The rectory was valued at £4 at the Dissolution when it was leased to Ralph Clay. (fn. 49) It was held with the manor by the Mannings in 1631, (fn. 50) but was conveyed to John Halsted, clerk, by Garshon and William Manning in 1640, (fn. 51) William Manning again making a conveyance of tithes to John and Thomas Gulston in the following year. (fn. 52) John Halsted, clerk, was holding the rectory with 3 acres in Woodhurst in 1663. (fn. 53) The rectory continued to be held with the manor. (fn. 54)
Tithes from Pecks Place (q.v.) were leased with that manor at a rent of £8 in 1535 to Henry Sherman, (fn. 55) and in 1595 to John West, these tithes being granted in 1611 to Francis Morrice and others, (fn. 56) and excepted from the grant of the manor of Woodhurst to the Whitmores in 1611. Thomas Audley paid 39s. for a year's rent of the tithes of the manor of Woodhurst in 1645. (fn. 57) This may have been a payment made by him for tithes of Wigan manor.
At the inclosure of Somersham Heath in 1796 an allotment of land in lieu of tithes was made to the lord of the manor as impropriator of the rectory, and an annual payment was directed to be made to the vicar of Woodhurst in lieu of vicarial tithes from other lands of the impropriators assigned for the purpose. (fn. 58)
In 1278 Nicholas Franceys held in Woodhurst a messuage of ½ rood and 3 acres of land to find a lamp before the rood in Woodhurst church. (fn. 59)
Town Lands. It is unknown how this land was originally settled or acquired. It contains about 5 acres of grass land known as Claypits Field and is let year by year. In the year 1924 the land was let for £13 10s. The rent is distributed by the Parish Council in coal to about 40 recipients.