A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The parish of Diddington contains 1,292 acres of land. The soil is loam and the subsoil mainly Oxford Clay. The land rises westward from the River Ouse. The village street lies just off the east side of the main road from St. Neots to Huntingdon and contains several 17th-century timber-framed cottages. On the north side of the street is the Hall, a modern building, the residence of Mr. A. J. Thornhill, the lord of the manor, and near it is the church. The nearest station is at Buckden, about two miles to the north, on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Diddington Brook, which runs into the Ouse, rises near Long Stowe. The parish was inclosed in 1797, by Private Act of Parliament. (fn. 1)
GRIMBAUD'S MANOR in Diddington may be identified with the manor held in the time of Edward the Confessor by Earl Waltheof. (fn. 2) In 1086 it belonged to the fee of the Countess Judith (fn. 3) and later with other of her Huntingdonshire lands formed part of the Honour of Huntingdon. (fn. 4) On the death of John, Earl of Huntingdon, Diddington was assigned to his youngest sister Ada the wife of Henry Hastings. (fn. 5) It was held of Laurence Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, at his death in 1348, (fn. 6) but the overlordship is not mentioned later.
In 1086 Alan the sewer held the manor of Countess Judith, (fn. 7) but no successor can be traced till 1197–98, when the manor was held by William Grimbald. This William was the son of Robert Grimbald (living 1130–33) and Maud, daughter of Pain de Houghton, Robert being the son of Grimbald the sewer possibly related to Alan the sewer, the Domesday holder in Diddington. (fn. 8) In 1197–98 William Grimbald subenfeoffed the manor as half a knight's fee to Henry Seymour, who did homage to him. (fn. 9) The next tenant seems to have been Geoffrey Seymour, (fn. 10) who was succeeded by Henry Seymour. (fn. 11) The latter forfeited his lands about 1267 and Henry III granted the manor to William Chabeneys, (fn. 12) but the Seymours had recovered it before 1279. (fn. 13) In 1280 Henry, son of Henry Seymour, and his wife Rose granted the manor to their overlord William Grimbald, (fn. 14) son of Robert Grimbald son of the above William the grantor. (fn. 15) William the grandson married Mabel, the sister of John Kirkby, Bishop of Ely, (fn. 16) and in 1288 he granted the manor to the Bishop. (fn. 17) In 1291, on the bishop's death, it passed to his brother William, (fn. 18) who in 1292 granted it to his sister Mabel. (fn. 19) In 1310 she granted it to her younger son William, (fn. 20) who died seised in 1328 and was succeeded by his son William, then a minor. (fn. 21) The latter died in 1350, leaving as his heir his son Robert, a boy of five, (fn. 22) who predeceased his mother Alice Waldshef, on whom the manor had been settled. (fn. 23) She married four times (fn. 24) and in 1375, Nicholas Grimbald, as cousin and heir of William Grimbald, granted his right in it to Alice and her fourth husband Richard Hemingford and the heirs of Richard. (fn. 25)
The immediate successor of Hemingford has not been traced, but in 1441 Robert Stretton sold Grimbald's manor to various feoffees including John Gatle and his heirs. (fn. 26) About this date or a little later, Walter Taylard of Wrestlingworth (co. Beds.) is said to have bought the manor of Diddington. (fn. 27) If so this must have been Grimbald's manor, as both the other manors (q.v.) were at this date in different hands. Taylard was succeeded by his son, another Walter, who died about 1464, and his grandson William, (fn. 28) who purchased two other manors in Diddington (q.v.). William was succeeded in 1505 by his son Walter, whose son Sir Laurence Taylard (fn. 29) died before 1575. (fn. 30) Geoffrey the eldest son of Sir Laurence had predeceased him, leaving a daughter Katherine as heir to her father and grandfather. (fn. 31) She was the wife of Robert Brudenell (fn. 32) and was living in 1648. (fn. 33) The estates of her son Thomas Lord Brudenell were sequestrated under the Commonwealth, (fn. 34) but with her consent the manors of Diddington were given to their second son Edmund, (fn. 35) who obtained possession of them and held a court there in 1649. (fn. 36) In 1656–57, his father and eldest brother, however, levied a fine of them with Ellis Lloyd and Francis Watkins, (fn. 37) but before 1667 they had come into the possession of William Faldoe of Bedford. (fn. 38) The united manor of Diddington passed to George Thornhill, who died in 1754 (fn. 39) and is now owned by his direct descendant, Noel Thornhill, of Diddington Hall.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor and in 1086 the Bishop of Lincoln held a manor in Diddington, (fn. 40) which may be identified with LITTLEBURY'S or GIMBER'S MANOR. In 1279 the manor was held of the bishop as half a knight's fee (fn. 41) and in 1647, while under sequestration, the manor of Diddington still owed a chief rent to the bishop. (fn. 42)
In 1086 the bishop's tenant was named William, (fn. 43) but the manor seems to have been granted to the Earls of Winchester, who held as mesne lords. On the death of Roger de Quincey in 1254, (fn. 44) it was assigned to his daughter Ellen, widow of Alan la Zouche. (fn. 45) Her son died seised of the mesne lordship in 1314, (fn. 46) but Ellen seems to have granted it to her younger son Oliver, who was holding it, but not in demesne, at that date. (fn. 47) His son John was the mesne lord in 1331, (fn. 48) but no later record of the Zouche's lordship has, however, been found.
Before 1219 the manor seems to have been held in demesne by John de Littlebury, (fn. 49) who obtained it through his marriage with Alice, daughter and co-heir of Geoffrey de Bovill (or Bonville), since in 1224, when a partition was made of Geoffrey's lands, between the co-heirs, Diddington was assigned to Littlebury and his wife. (fn. 50) Their son John, who married Margery de Vernon, one of the heiresses of the Lovetot Barony, (fn. 51) granted the manor for life to Walter de Merton the founder of Merton College, Oxford, whom he describes as his colleague and friend. (fn. 52) A third John de Littlebury seems to have been their heir and was living in 1260, (fn. 53) but it does not appear whether he succeeded to the manor. The tenant in 1279 was still the friend of Merton (fn. 54) and in 1285 the manor had passed to Roger, son of John de Littlebury. (fn. 55) In 1310 a settlement was made on Roger for life with reversion to John de Littlebury, presumably his son, and his wife Isolda. (fn. 56) John was the tenant in 1316. (fn. 57) The manor passed through their daughter Elizabeth and granddaughter Maud to their greatgrandson Thomas Bagley. His son Ralph succeeded him by 1443, but in spite of an entail, he and his wife Isabella sold it in 1448 to Henry Gimber. (fn. 58) The latter died in 1466–7 and left the manor to his wife Elizabeth for life. After her death he left an annual rent from lands in Diddington to Thomas, the son of Ralph Bagley, who should have succeeded his father as tenant in fee tail. (fn. 59) Thomas brought an action to recover the manor, but finally remitted all his right in the manor to Sir John Markham and Elizabeth, the widow of Gimber. (fn. 60) She sold it after 1470 (fn. 61) to William Taylard, but there appears to have been a chancery suit between them before he obtained possession. (fn. 62) From this time the descent follows that of Grimbald's manor (q.v.). (fn. 63)
WALDSHEF'S MANOR took its name from a family who appear in 1279 as tenants both in Grimbaud's and Littlebury's manors. (fn. 64) Robert Waldshef, however, married Joan, apparently the widow of one of the Littleburys, and they also held as her dower a third part of John de Littlebury's half fee. (fn. 65) In 1289, Roger de Littlebury granted this land to them to hold in fee as the sixth part of a knight's fee, and it was presumably by this grant that they obtained whatever manorial rights were attached to their land. (fn. 66) The word manor, however, is not used till 1574. (fn. 67) John Waldshef succeeded before 1300 (fn. 68) and was living in 1332. (fn. 69) He is said to have died in 1334 and was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 70) who was in seisin in 1340. (fn. 71) Robert's son John (fn. 72) succeeded him, probably about 1353, and died in 1378, when his heir was his son Robert, who died in 1421. (fn. 73) In 1497, a John Waldshef and his wife Joan sold their holding at Diddington to William Taylard, (fn. 74) Thomas Burton and others and the heirs of Burton, but possession of the manor was evidently obtained by Taylard, since with Grimbald's and Littlebury manors (q.v.) it was inherited by his descendants. (fn. 75)
John de Littlebury held view of frankpledge in 1279. (fn. 76) This privilege was not, however, claimed by the Grimbalds in their manor, although the tenants of the Honour of Huntingdon usually held the view in their manors. (fn. 77) It is noted, however, that William Grimbald owed suit of court every month to the court of John Hastings at Barton, (fn. 78) and in 1285 the Prior of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem claimed to hold view of frankpledge for various tenants in Toseland Hundred, one of whom was a tenant at Diddington. (fn. 79) In 1616 Sir Thomas Brudenell, afterwards Lord Brudenell, obtained a grant of free warren in the manor of Diddington. (fn. 80)
The Church of ST. LAWRENCE consists of a chancel (19¾ ft. by 18½ ft.), with modern north vestry (10 ft. by 6 ft.), nave (41 ft. by 18¾ ft.), north aisle (31½ ft. by 10 ft.), south chapel (20½ ft. by 11 ft.), west tower (8½ ft. by 8½ ft.), and south porch. The older parts of the walls are of stone rubble mostly plastered; the tower is of red bricks with stone dressings, the south porch of red bricks plastered over, and the east wall of the chancel is of yellow bricks. The roofs are of lead, tiles, and slates.
Although mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), the nucleus of the present church is the chancel and nave of the first half of the 13th century, to which a north aisle was added c. 1275. The church was much altered c. 1500, when a new south chapel was built, the clearstory added, and the north aisle remodelled with larger windows; slightly later the tower was built, together with the western angles of the nave, the western bay of the north aisle being pulled down. The south porch is later still, and in the 17th century the chancel was shortened and a yellow brick east wall built. The vestry was added c. 1865, when the chancel was restored and reroofed.
The east wall of the chancel was rebuilt in the 17th century, (fn. 81) but the modern three-light window has inner jambs and arch of 14th-century date reused. The rest of the chancel is of mid-13th-century date. In the north wall is an original lancet now opening into the vestry, a two-light window and a small doorway of c. 1500 and the lower part of a 13th-century lancet, evidently a low-side window, is below the two-light window. In the south wall is an original lancet, a 14th-century square-headed two-light window with a transom and low-side window formed in its western light, a small 14th-century doorway and a square locker. The chancel arch is modern except part of the lower order, which is of 14th-century date reused. The roof is modern.
The 13th-century nave has a north arcade of three bays, the arches of two chamfered orders resting on three circular columns and a semicircular respond column at the east end; a former western bay has been destroyed and a plain wall of c. 1500 built in its place. The original south wall has a doorway with circular jamb shafts having moulded caps and bases; and the eastern part has been pierced with two arches of c. 1500 having two chamfered orders and resting on an octagonal column and two chamfered responds, having corbels supported on carved knots under the inner order. The clearstory, c. 1500, has three three-light windows on each side; the roof is largely modern, but has some moulded beams with jack-legs and curved braces.
The north aisle, largely of c. 1500, has a four-light east window, and two similar three-lights and a plain doorway in the north wall. In the south-east corner is an upper doorway to the rood loft. (fn. 82) The diagonal corner buttresses are medieval, but two large brick buttresses on the north and a brick parapet are of 19th-century date.
The south chapel, c. 1500, has a blocked four-light window in the east wall, and two three-light windows in the south wall. These two windows are filled with ancient glass of various dates; the earlier portions are probably contemporary with the window, but only small parts are in situ, the rest being very badly reset and mixed with pieces of various later dates. The earlier glass contains figures of Our Lord rising from the tomb, St. Katharine (fn. 83) and St. Margaret.
The 16th-century west tower has a tower arch of two orders, the lower one resting on attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. There is no west door, but a simple three-light window, with a singlelight window in the stage above it. The belfry windows are two-lights, and the tower, which is of red brick with stone dressings, is finished with a battlemented parapet with grotesque gargoyles at the angles.
The 16th-century south porch, which is built against the west wall of the south chapel, is of red brick plastered over. The outer archway has a fourcentred arch in a square head, and there is a two-light window in the west wall. The gable has a modernised stepped parapet, but the stringcourse is straight.
There are three bells, inscribed: (1) 1688; (2) Mears & Stainbank, Founders, London, 1865; (3) Disce mori n[o]tro uiuere disce sono. Jeremiah Burton, Churchwarden. J. Eayre. 1748. (fn. 84) The first bell by J. Chandler of Drayton Parslow, Bucks; the ancient second bell was inscribed 'Cum Cum and preay Robart Bruddenel, Squire, 1595, S,' and was evidently by Watts of Leicester. (fn. 85)
There are several brasses in the church: (1) In the nave to Alice (Forster), widow of Walter Taylard, 1513, a figure of a kneeling woman in widow's weeds, with scroll issuing from her mouth, figures of three sons at her side, and figure of Virgin and Child above, shield, quarterly argent and sable a cross paty quarterly sable and argent, for Taylard, impaling sable a cheveron ermine between three pheons argent, for Forster, and two small plates with the date 1513, inscription plate lost; (2) against the east respond of the south arcade, to William Taylard, d. 1505, and Elizabeth his wife, knight and lady kneeling at desks, with scrolls from their mouths and with inscription plate below, indents of children below, two wide panels at sides, with figures of saints under canopied niches. This brass is partly supported upon an early 16th-century altar-tomb with panelled sides and indents of shields, now lost.
Lying loose in the church is a stone carved with three shields: (1) . . . three swords erect, the centre with point in chief and the others reversed . . .; (2) Taylard impaling Forster; (3) Azure three roses gules.
There are monuments: In the chancel, to Henry Linton, d. 1866; in nave, war memorial, 1914–18; in north aisle, to Harriet, wife of the Rev. W. Williams, d. 1825; in south chapel, to Thomas Gillman, drowned 1717; George Thornhill, d. 1827, and Mary Ann (Hawkins), his wife, d. 1830; George Thornhill, d. 1847, and George Thornhill, d. 1868; George Thornhill, d. 1852, and Charlotte Matilda (Greene), his wife, d. 1867; George Thornhill, d. 1875, and Elizabeth Mary (Wilkinson), his wife, d. 1899.
The registers are as follows: (i) Baptisms and burials, 3 March 1688 to 9 January 1809, and marriages, 30 Oct. 1699 to 18 Dec. 1753; (ii) baptisms and burials, 27 Aug. 1809 to 5 Aug. 1812; (iii) the official marriage book, 8 Sept. 1755 to 23 July 1812.
The church of Diddington existed in 1086, when it belonged to the Bishop of Lincoln's manor. (fn. 86) In the 13th century the advowson was held by the Littleburys, John de Littlebury presenting his brother Saher to the church between 1209–19. (fn. 87) His son John gave 15 acres of their land, before 1279, to the church, (fn. 88) and also presented the advowson to Walter de Merton, (fn. 89) who in turn gave it to his college at Oxford, before 1279, when the vicarage was ordained. (fn. 90) The advowson of the vicarage still belongs to Merton College, Oxford. In 1577–78, Master John Belley, LL.D., presented, having obtained a grant of the advowson from the college, for one turn only. (fn. 91) There are no charities for this parish.