A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The parish of Abbotsley contains 1,723 acres of land, mostly about 100 ft. above the ordnance datum. The subsoil is Oxford and Ampthill clay. A stream called Abbotsley Brook joins a feeder of the Ouse, and for a short distance forms the county boundary. The parish was inclosed under a private Act of Parliament in 1836. (fn. 1)
The village lies along the road from Great Gransden to St. Neots, about four and a half miles from Gamlingay Station on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The main group of houses are around a loop in this road, in the middle of the north side of which is the church, with its handsome tower. At the west end is a small open space called High Green. There are many 17th-century half-timber cottages with thatched or tiled roofs still surviving in the village. South-west of the church is the Manor Farm, around which yet remain fragments of a moat; marking probably the site of the Ridel's manor house. Here is a 17th-century dovecote, timber framed, with brick nogging and tiled roof. There is a more complete homestead moat at Waterloo Farm, south of the church, which possibly indicates the site of the manor house of Scot's Manor.
Robert Grosseteste, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln (1235–53), was collated to the rectory of the church of Abbotsley in 1225, when still a deacon. (fn. 2) John Wicliffe was appointed by the Master and Fellows of Balliol College to act as their proctor during the institution of the vicarage in 1361. (fn. 3) Charles Atmore Ogilvie, rector of Abbotsley (1822–34), became the first professor of pastoral theology at Oxford. He was one of the most noted assistants of Dr. Jenkins, Master of Balliol College, in the reform of the college. (fn. 4)
There is no mention of ABBOTSLEY in Domesday Book (1086). It was possibly a part of the 9 hides in Eynesbury held by the Countess Judith in 1066, (fn. 5) but there is a tradition that it formed the third and unidentified berewick attached to Great Paxton. (fn. 6) In either case Abbotsley must have been formed into a separate township during the first half of the 12th century, when it had a separate church. (fn. 7) It seems clear, however, that Abbotsley formed part of the lands of Countess Judith and of the Honour of Huntingdon, of which it was held by various subtenants for the service due from two knights' fees. (fn. 8)
The manor of Abbotsley, originally held as one knight's fee, was probably granted by David I of Scotland to Gervase Ridel, who went with him to Scotland. Ridel ended his life as a canon of Jedworth Abbey, and the manor apparently passed to his brother Ralph; (fn. 9) both were living in all probability 1130–1158. (fn. 10) Ralph's descendants remained at Abbotsley, and apparently formed a separate branch of the family both from the Ridels in Scotland and those in Northamptonshire. Hugh Ridel, possibly Ralph's grandson, died seised of lands in Abbotsley, before 1224, when his heir was a minor, (fn. 11) and was probably the Ralph Ridel who held Abbotsley manor about 1230 (fn. 12) and in 1244. (fn. 13) In 1258 it seems probable that his son and heir John was in the wardship of John Balliol. (fn. 14) John was holding Abbotsley in 1279, 1286, 1303, and died in 1312, (fn. 15) when the manor passed to Maud, daughter and heir of Thomas Faldingworth and wife of Henry Tilly. She inherited as the 'cousin' of Ralph, father of John Ridel, but the exact relationship does not appear. (fn. 16) Henry Tilly died before 1334, when his widow settled the manor on her son John Tilly and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 17) John died about 1362, leaving two daughters and heirs, Margaret and Maud, in the wardship of Mary, Countess of Pembroke, who in 1366 brought a civil action against Sir Richard Bayous and Richard Kinnesman for the forcible abduction of her wards. (fn. 18) The manor was divided into moieties, but whom they actually married does not appear. Later pedigrees state that Sir John Tame married 'Joan' a daughter and heir of Sir John Tilly, and in 1412 Tame appears to have been the tenant of one moiety. (fn. 19) Their daughter and heir, Elizabeth, married firstly Nicholas Semark, and secondly, in all probability, John Browe, (fn. 20) with whom she levied a fine of a moiety of Abbotsley manor in 1448. (fn. 21) It descended through her son, Thomas Semark, to Anne Sapcote, wife of John Russell, first Earl of Bedford. (fn. 22) Her son, Francis, Earl of Bedford, sold his moiety of Abbotsley in 1561 to Nicholas Luke, baron of the Exchequer. (fn. 23)
The other heiress of Sir John Tilly possibly left a daughter and heir named Emma who in 1434, with her husband Ralph Pakington, levied a fine of the manor of Abbotsley, as part of her inheritance. (fn. 24) Emma seems to have married as her first husband Stephen Kinnesman, who answered for a moiety of the manor in 1412. (fn. 25) It presumably passed on her death to Thomas Kinnesman, whose daughter and heiress Elizabeth married John Turpin. (fn. 26) His son William died seised of the manor in 1523, (fn. 27) which passed to his son John (fn. 28) and grandson George.' (fn. 29) The latter sold his share of Abbotsley in 1553 to Nicholas Luke, (fn. 30) who later became possessed of the whole manor. He died in 1562, (fn. 31) and was succeeded in direct descent by John, (fn. 32) Nicholas (fn. 33) (d. 1613) and Sir Oliver Luke (fn. 34) (d. c. 1648). The manor probably followed the descent of Caldecote manor (q.v.) in Eynesbury. (fn. 35) Manorial rights appear to have disappeared, but Mr. Francis Pym, who was one of the chief landowners in Abbotsley early in the 20th century, was succeeded in 1928 by his brother Mr. Frederick W. Pym.
The other knight's fee which lay in Abbotsley appears to have been held by three different tenants, but was afterwards united and was known as SCOT'S MANOR. In 1230, Richard Scot held half a knight's fee in Abbotsley of the Earl of Huntingdon. (fn. 36) This half knight's fee was held by Robert le Scot (fn. 37) in 1236–7 and by Richard Scot in 1244. (fn. 38) In 1279 and 1285 the tenant was Henry Scot, (fn. 39) and between 1297 and 1303 it was John Scot. (fn. 40) The latter seems to have granted land in 1316 to William, son of Henry of Abbotsley, (fn. 41) who was also called William Scott, (fn. 42) but their relationship does not appear. In 1399, Robert Scot, who was in the king's service, was apparently holding this land. (fn. 43) He died after 1428, (fn. 44) and certainly left a daughter and heiress named Elizabeth, but she does not seem to have inherited Scot's Manor, (fn. 45) which passed to Eustace Valdrian and his wife Rose. (fn. 46) Whether Rose was another daughter of Robert Scot does not appear. She may have afterwards married Stephen Brown, alderman of London, to whom, together with his wife Rose, Thomas Pyttes of Tempsford, Beds., in 1443, remised all his right in the manor. (fn. 47) After the death of Valdrian and his wife, who were enfeoffed for their lives, the manor was claimed from feoffees by their three daughters, Alice the wife of William Joseph, Elizabeth the wife of John Lok, and Jane the wife of John Louthe. (fn. 48) The manor was assigned to John Lok and his wife Elizabeth, (fn. 49) who, after John's death, married William Yorke. (fn. 50) The manor was subject to many settlements, but was granted in 1470 to Master Andrew Docket, president of Queens' College, Cambridge, (fn. 51) and is still in the possession of the college. In 1927 the college sold 250 acres of land at Abbotsley.
Another half fee in Abbotsley, which ultimately formed part of Scot's manor, was held by Bartholomew the Fleming in 1230 and 1244. (fn. 52) Afterwards it was divided between William Malherbe and Robert Bisset, who each held a quarter of a knight's fee in 1279. (fn. 53) Before 1296, both had died, leaving their heirs in the wardship of John de Balliol. (fn. 54) He took the heirs with him to Scotland, and after the forfeiture of his lands, their lands were taken into the king's hands. (fn. 55) Before 1303, these had apparently been granted to Aubyn Bevery, (fn. 56) who, together with his wife Margaret and daughter Agnes, three years later sold them to William Scot of Abbotsley and his wife Joan. (fn. 57)
In 1285, John Ridel claimed to have a view of frankpledge and waifs in his half of the township of Abbotsley for all his tenants whether immediate or mediate. (fn. 58) Henry Scot claimed the right of holding the view of frankpledge for his quarter part of the township, while Robert Bisset made the same claim for the tenants of both his quarter fee and that of William Malherbe. (fn. 59) In the 14th and 15th centuries, Balliol College apparently held views for the tenants of the rectory. (fn. 60)
A mill is mentioned on Scot's Manor in 1316. (fn. 61)
The Church of ST. MARGARET consists of a chancel (31 ft. by 19 ft.), north vestry (14½ ft. by 6 ft.), nave (50¾ ft. by 18½ ft.), north aisle (11¾ ft. wide), south aisle (11¾ ft. wide), west tower (11½ ft. by 11½ ft.) and north porch. The walls are of pebble rubble with stone and clunch dressings, and the roofs are of stone and lead.
Although there was a church here about 1138 the earliest architectural evidence seems to follow after the suit of 1272, when the abbot of Jedworth established his right to it. The chancel arch of this period, with a south arcade and aisle of c. 1300–10, possibly suggests the date of the first stone church on the site. Some twenty years later a north arcade and aisle were added, and at the end of the century a west tower was built, the nave lengthened about 7 ft., and the clearstory added. The church was restored in 1854 and 1861; in the latter year the chancel, which appears to have been contemporary with the chancel arch, (fn. 62) and the north vestry and north porch were rebuilt. The tower was restored in 1884.
The modern chancel has a three-light east window; a two-light window and a small door in the north wall; and a coupled two-light, a piscina and sedilia in the south wall. The mid-13th-century chancel arch is of two chamfered orders resting on plain impost mouldings. In the west wall of the modern vestry is a reset 15th-century niche with crocketed canopy, jamb shafts, and bracket supported by two angels. (fn. 63)
The nave has a 14th-century north arcade of four bays with chamfered arches resting on columns composed of four grouped shafts with small rolls in the angles and having moulded caps and bases. The south arcade, c. 1300–10, is also of four bays, with similar arches resting on octagonal columns. The late 14th-century clearstory has five two-light windows on each side; the western end is slightly later than the rest, the line of demarcation being clearly visible. The line of the flat 14th-century nave roof may be seen on the tower wall; the present roof is modern and of high pitch, but rests on six ancient stone corbels carved with angels holding shields, etc.
The 14th-century north aisle has a 15th-century three-light east window, and two 15th-century brackets supported by angels. In the north wall are two 14th-century windows of two lights, a niche with a pointed head, and a modern doorway. In the south wall, just east of the nave arcade, is an early 14th-century trefoiled piscina, and the west wall has a twolight window of the same date. The roof is late 14th century.
The early 14th-century south aisle (fn. 64) has a late 15th-century three-light window. The south wall has two modern windows of two lights, an original doorway with an early 16th-century stoup just east of it, an original trefoiled piscina with projecting basin, and a large tomb recess of c. 1340, with crocketed ogee canopy, crocketed pinnacles and two coats of arms, . . . a cross paty . . . between four crescents. . . (fn. 65) In the north wall, east of the arcade, is a doorway rather high up, into the rood staircase, but now blocked. The west wall has a modern two-light window set in the blocked opening of a 15th-century window. The roof is modern.
The late 14th-century west tower has an arch of three chamfered orders resting on engaged shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The west doorway and the three-light window above it are modern; in the second stage is a one-light window in the north and west walls and a quatrefoil in the south; and the belfry has an original two-light window in each wall. The tower is finished with embattled parapets, with large late 16th-century figures of kings at the angles instead of pinnacles; those at the north-east and north-west are modern restorations; they are said to represent Macbeth, Malcolm, Harold and William.
There are five bells, inscribed: (1) J. Eayre. St. Neots. 1748. Grata sit arguta resonans campanula voce. (fn. 66); (2) Johanes grene fecit anno dni. 1575; (3) En sum Campana Margarete nominata; (4) Miles Graye made me 1653; (5) B. Wood churchwarden 1748. Non sono animabus mortuorum sed auribus viuentium. The third bell is probably by John Kebyll, c. 1480; the original tenor by Norris or Holdfield.
There are the following monuments in the chancel: to the Rev. John Durbin Gray, vicar, d. 1875; and windows to two daughters of the above, d. 1850 and 1864; and Henry Alexander Douglas, Bishop of Bombay, formerly vicar, d. 1875.
The church plate consists of: A silver cup with some Elizabethan ornament, and inscribed with the letters 'R.A.,' hall-marked for 1564–5; a silver standing paten, inscribed 'For the use of Abbotsley Church' and '1838,' hall-marked for 1838–9; a plated flagon.
The advowson of the church of Abbotsley was given to the Abbey of Jedworth by Gervase and Ralph Ridel, (fn. 67) probably about the time of its foundation in 1138. (fn. 68) In 1272 there was a lawsuit between the Abbey and John Ridel, who endeavoured unsuccessfully to recover the advowson. (fn. 69) During the Scottish wars, the right of presentation was forfeited to the king. (fn. 70) On the conclusion of peace in 1328, the abbey petitioned for the restoration of the advowson, (fn. 71) but though the rector was ordered in 1328 to pay the abbot the pension due from the church, (fn. 72) the king retained the advowson. (fn. 73) In 1340, he gave it to Sir William Felton, knt., with permission for the latter to grant it to Balliol College, Oxford, and for the college to appropriate the rectory. (fn. 74) In the same year, the Abbey surrendered the pension of 3 marks which had formerly been paid by the church. (fn. 75) In 1361, on the death of the rector, William Kingston, a vicarage was instituted, and Balliol College undertook to pay 40s. a year to the Bishop of Lincoln and the church of Abbotsley. (fn. 76) The college is still the rector and owns the advowson of the vicarage. (fn. 77)
In 1428, the Priory of Huntingdon received an annual portion of 30s. from the church of Abbotsley. (fn. 78) One acre and half a rood of land, of the yearly value of 4d., was returned at the Dissolution of the Chantries as being assigned to maintain a light in the church. (fn. 79)
The Revd. George Powell's Eleemosynary Charities were founded by will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury on 12 March 1830. The endowment of these charities consists of a sum of £232 16s. 2½ per cent. Consols with the Official Trustees, producing £5 16s. 4d. annually in dividends which are distributed among the oldest inhabitants not receiving poor relief and to persons having availed themselves of the advantages to be derived from the Post Office Savings Bank. The trustees of the charities are the vicar, one person appointed by the vicar and one representative trustee appointed by the Parish Council.
The endowment of this charity consists of 1 a. 3 r. 4 p. of agricultural land at Waresley Side Field formerly let in allotments. The land is now let for £2 14s. 3d. per annum, which is handed to the churchwardens and applied towards church expenses.
John Gilbert by will proved at Huntingdon in 1671 gave a rentcharge of £1 4s. issuing out of his house and orchard at Abbotsley for the poor of the parish. The charge is regularly paid and distributed by the vicar and one trustee appointed by the Parish Council, together with the rent of the Poor's Land, in coals to the poor.
William Heylock by his will proved at Canterbury 27 September 1688 charged his lands and tenements in Hitchin with annuities of £5 per annum to the poor and £1 per annum to the minister for a sermon. These sums are applied by the vicar and one trustee appointed by the Parish Council, the annuity to the poor being expended in coals.