A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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The parish of Great Gransden contains over 3,402 acres of land. The greater part of the parish is arable land; the subsoil consists of Ampthill Clay and Lower Greensand. Various streams crossing the parish are named Waresley Dean, College Dean, Vicars Dean, Mandean and Gransden Brooks, while Home Dole Brook separates the parish from Little Gransden in Cambridgeshire.
The village is large and lies about four miles to the north-east of Gamlingay station on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. The streets form an irregular four-sided figure. The principal part of the village is at the south-east angle of this figure, where stands the fine 15th-century church, to the north-west of which is the vicarage, a brick house with tiled roof, built by Barnabas Oley, vicar, probably in his second period of ministration from 1660 to his death in 1685. The house was refaced and heightened in the 19th century, but it still retains its original staircase and some moulded ceiling beams, probably reused from an earlier house. To the south of the church is the College Farm belonging to Clare College, Cambridge, an 18th-century brick house with shaped gables and a tiled roof. Rippington Manor Farm lies to the east of the church, and is an interesting 16th-century house, with remains of a surrounding moat. It was probably built by Robert Audley towards the end of the 16th century, as it is of that date and he is the first of the Audleys of Houghton Conquest (co. Beds.) to be described as of Great Gransden. Apparently the house was originally constructed partly of timber and plaster and partly of stone, but was recased in brick in the 17th century, probably about 1631, when the Audleys sold it to Sir Charles Adelmare or Caesar. It consists of a central block and two wings. Some of the original fittings remain, including mullioned windows and stone fireplaces. In the south-west wing is the chapel, which has some 18th-century panelling. The house of the chief manor doubtless stood within the moated site in Gransden park to the south-west of the church. At the end of the 16th century Simon Mason bought two considerable freeholds, one from Stephen Lorde in 1589 and the other from Thomas Daunger in 1594 (fn. 1). It was his son Simon who appears to have built the present Gransden Hall in the middle of the 17th century. The house is of brick with a tiled roof, and consists of a main block connecting two wings with shaped gables. A later Simon Mason remodelled the house and refaced the central block in 1716 according to a date on the central front. Simon Mason, besides owning the two freeholds above referred to, valued at £300 a year, was leaseholder of Baldwin's and Berristead manors. Part of the estate was sold by a third Simon Mason, whose younger son Nathaniel was the last member of the family to live at Gransden Hall. (fn. 2) It passed through a great many hands, and in 1879 was bought by Mr. T. V. Webb, who moved to it from Audley House, (fn. 3) which is now a farmhouse.
There are many old half-timbered houses and cottages of the 17th and 18th centuries in the village. Of the more important ancient buildings there is in Crowtree Street a house called Safford's Farm, a much altered and partially rebuilt house with an ancient barn adjoining, probably of the 16th century. The house takes it name apparently from a Thomas Safford who was a party to a suit as to land here in 1617–21. (fn. 4) At the north end of Eltisley Road is Mannock Manor Farm, which is called after the family of Mannock who owned it in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The house was built about 1700, when John Rutherforth acquired it. Fox Street is named after the Fox Inn, a 17th-century half-timber house. In Middle Street are many old houses and a row of almshouses with a fine chimney stack, founded by Rev. Barnabas Oley, vicar, in 1676, which date is cut in a panel in the south gable.
The parish hall was built in 1872 by Mr. T. V. Webb, who also started the Gransden Agricultural Society. (fn. 5) The parish was inclosed by Act of Parliament in 1843, when from two to four acres were assigned for recreation grounds, (fn. 6) but owing to their position a mile away from the village they were not used for the purpose. (fn. 7) Leycourt or Leecot and Hardwick, which are now found as the names of two farms in the northern part of the parish, were mentioned in a lawsuit of 1228–9. (fn. 8)
Great Gransden owes much to Barnabas Oley, who was instituted to the vicarage in 1633. He was a fellow of Clare College and editor of George Herbert's Works. During the Civil War he was one of the most active Royalists in the university. He was ejected from his fellowship and living in 1644, but they were restored to him in 1660, and from 1664, though he held other appointments for a time, he lived chiefly at Great Gransden. Besides rebuilding the vicarage he restored the church, (fn. 9) and was mainly responsible for building the old school-house, now pulled down, and the almshouse. He also left various other benefactions to the village, where he died in 1685. (fn. 10) Three other vicars may be mentioned: James Plumtre, 1770– 1832, a dramatist and divine (fn. 11); Arthur Tozer Russell, 1806–1874, a hymn writer; (fn. 12) and Arthur Jonathan Edmonds, instituted to the vicarage in 1884, (fn. 13) the historian of the parish.
In the reign of Edward the Confessor, Earl Aelfgar held the manor of GREAT GRANSDEN, (fn. 14) and in 1086 it was among the king's lands, and was in the custody of one Ralph. (fn. 15) It later appears to have been granted to Robert, Earl of Gloucester, son of Henry I (d. 1147), (fn. 16) and from that time formed part of the Honour of Gloucester. (fn. 17) On the partition of the lands of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, in 1308, the overlordship of the knight's fees in Great Gransden was assigned to Margaret, wife of Hugh Audley. (fn. 18) The whole of the manor was apparently subinfeudated, but it is extremely difficult to trace back the separate portions.
An interesting tenure is found in 1210–12, when Geoffrey de Caxton held 30 acres by the serjeanty of collecting the scutage due from the tenants of the Honour in Huntingdonshire. (fn. 19)
The manor of GREAT GRANSDEN or REPPINGTON manor may be identified with the ten librates of land held by Earl Robert's daughter, Maud wife of Ralph, Earl of Chester, presumably as a gift in frank-marriage. (fn. 20) Between 1172 and 1181 she gave this land to the Priory of Repton (fn. 21) to hold in frankalmoin. At the dissolution of the Priory in 1538 the Prior granted the manor with lands in Hardwick and Leycock to Henry Audley and others. (fn. 22) Audley was succeeded by his son Henry, (fn. 23) who died seised in 1545, (fn. 24) and it passed in direct succession to Thomas, (fn. 25) Robert and a second Robert Audley. (fn. 26) In 1631 the last-named Robert sold it to Sir Charles Adelmare or Caesar, Master of the Rolls (fn. 27) who died in 1642. (fn. 28) The manor seems to have passed to his younger son Charles, (fn. 29) who was succeeded by his son and grandson, both named Charles. (fn. 30) The latter died in 1780, (fn. 31) but the family seems to have been forced by poverty to sell the manor, probably before the death of Henry Caesar, son of the last-named Charles, in 1825. (fn. 32) In 1830 it was bought by the Rev. William Webb, D.D., Master of Clare Hall, Cambridge, (fn. 33) from whom it passed to his son Theodore Vincent Webb, (fn. 34) who was holding in 1860 and who died in 1885. It is now owned by Mr. W. B. P. Fowler.
The manor of GREAT GRANSDEN or GRANSDON BERRISTEAD may possibly be traced back to the land held by Richard de Cardiff, who was a tenant of the Honour of Gloucester in 1166. (fn. 35) In 1197 a partition of his lands was made between his daughters and heirs, a quarter of a knight's fee in Great Gransden being assigned to Mabel and her husband Thomas de Sandford. (fn. 36) In 1211 Thomas was a tenant of the Honour. (fn. 37) The next tenant was probably Nicholas de Bassingburn, who held a third of a knight's fee in 1230. (fn. 38) In 1262, Thomas de Bassingburn sold a messuage and two carucates of land, then held for a term of twenty years by the Priory of Repton, to Hugh Sansaver. (fn. 39) Hugh died in 1284, and was succeeded by his son Ralph (d. 1314), and he by his son Ralph (d. 1346). (fn. 40) Thomas, son of the last Ralph, (fn. 41) died before 1350, when his widow Elizabeth was living. (fn. 42) About 1377, Henry Husee granted the manor to Sir John Arundel (fn. 43) and it was held by the Earls of Arundel, (fn. 44) until 1546, when Henry Earl of Arundel sold it to Sir Richard Sackville. (fn. 45) His son, Thomas Sackville, created Lord Buckhurst and Earl of Dorset, sold it in 1571 to Edward Leeds, LL.D., (fn. 46) who died in 1589. (fn. 47) In 1599 another Edward Leeds gave it to Emmanuel College, Cambridge, (fn. 48) who are the present owners. (fn. 49)
The manor of GREAT GRANSDEN or MANNOCKS may perhaps be identified with the land held by the family of St. Remy. William de St. Remy (de Sancto Remigio), who had apparently succeeded Robert de St. Remy, (fn. 50) held a tenth of a knight's fee in Gransden of the Honour of Gloucester in 1210. (fn. 51) His lands were seized about 1222 as the lands of a Norman, and the custody of them was granted to Ralph Tyrel. (fn. 52) Ralph forfeited as an adherent of Faulkes de Breauté, (fn. 53) and the custody of his lands was granted to the Bishop of Chichester in 1224. (fn. 54) William de St. Remy died before 1228, leaving two daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, by which date Ralph had been reinstated, and then declared that he held William's lands only as bailiff of the king. These lands comprised 4 virgates and 19 acres of land, and the rent of 25s. 6d., 2 lb. of pepper and a pair of spurs in Gransden, Hardwick and Leycock. (fn. 55) Ralph Tyrel appears to have acquired the fee of the manor which followed the descent of the manor of Wilden (co. Beds.). (fn. 56) Ralph Tyrel was succeeded by his son Peter (d. c. 1246), when the manor went to his brother Thomas (d. 1264). His son Ralph succeeded him (fn. 57) and died leaving a daughter Alice, the wife of William Norton, about 1314, when reference is made to the heirs of Ralph Tyrel. (fn. 58) The land, however, seems to have passed to Philip son of Hervey, (fn. 59) who also held the neighbouring manor of Eltisley (co. Cambs.), (fn. 60) of which there are fuller records. Philip died before 1315 and was succeeded at Great Gransden by Agnes, presumably his daughter, and her husband Baldwin de Stowe. (fn. 61) His widow Sarah claimed dower in the manor in that year, when she was the wife of Walter le Bret or le Breton. (fn. 62) Philip de Stowe succeeded before 1329, (fn. 63) and was living in 1337. (fn. 64) His successors before 1350 in Eltesley were Alan de Buxhall in one moiety and Eleanor and her husband, John Goldingham, in the other. (fn. 65) Great Gransden seems to have come into the possession of the latter, since in 1408 Sir Walter Goldingham held lands there, (fn. 66) which in 1428 were assessed as half a knight's fee. (fn. 67) He died before 1448, (fn. 68) leaving two daughters as his heirs, but eventually all his lands passed to the eldest Eleanor and her husband John Mannock of Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk. (fn. 69) Their descendants held Mannock's manor until the Commonwealth, (fn. 70) when the lands of Sir Francis Mannock, bart., were sequestrated for recusancy. (fn. 71) In 1657 he sold the manor to Major-Gen. John Desborough. (fn. 72) It was bought by Thomas Rutherforth in 1702. (fn. 73) His son John left a son Thomas who sold it to William Lightfoot in 1736. (fn. 74) William Lightfoot was succeeded by his brother Robert, on whose death it passed to his sisters, one of whom married John Lloyd Baker, who had issue Thomas Lloyd Baker. (fn. 75) In 1803 William Lloyd Baker and his wife Mary sold it to John Margetts. (fn. 76) The trustees of the latter's will were the owners at the time of the inclosure of the parish in 1843, (fn. 77) but it was bought before 1885 by T. V. Webb, who died in that year. It is now the property of Mr. W. B. P. Fowler.
Another holding of the Honour of Gloucester was granted by William Earl of Gloucester (d. 1173), to Gerbod as a hide of land in Gransden, the daughter and heir of the owner of which was in the custody of the king. In 1201 this land was unsuccessfully claimed by John, son of Simon against William, son of Gerbod. (fn. 78) William Gerbaud was holding a knight's fee in Gransden in 1210, and Adam Gerebode and Juetta de Abodele a quarter fee in 1242–3. (fn. 79) Adam Gerbaud sued Alan de la Maister for pasturing cattle on his common at Great Gransden in 1306, (fn. 80) and was holding here in 1314. (fn. 81) In 1350 an Adam Gerbaud conveyed to Robert Huchoun 5 messuages, 192 acres of land, etc., in Great Gransden, (fn. 82) which is the last reference found to this holding. This property may be the same as that held by the Mason family above referred to. (fn. 83)
BALDWIN'S MANOR took its name from a family who appear in Great Gransden early in the 14th century. It is called Baldwin's manor or farm, but courts were certainly held there in the 17th century. (fn. 84) Ralph Baldwin appears in 1316, (fn. 85) Richard Baldwin in 1327, (fn. 86) and John Baldwin in 1353. (fn. 87) John was succeeded by his son Richard, (fn. 88) who seems to have granted his lands to Clare Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 89) It seems that the gift appears in the grant by John de Harleston, John de Donewich and Richard de Mordon, clerks, as trustees, in 1364 of a messuage, 100 acres of land, an acre of meadow, an acre of pasture and 13 acres of wood, together with 5½ marks of rent to Clare Hall, although Baldwin's name does not appear. (fn. 90) The college still owns the estate. (fn. 91)
The Earls of Gloucester held a view of frankpledge in Great Gransden, which is mentioned in 1279. (fn. 92) It passed to Elizabeth de Burgh, and from her to the Earls of March. (fn. 93) Edward IV inherited it, and in 1461 granted the view to his mother, Cicely, Duchess of York. (fn. 94)
The Prior of Repton had a grant of free warren in his demesne lands in 1296. (fn. 95)
Early in the 13th century a mill belonged to Reppington manor, (fn. 96) and in 1353 the Prior of Repton was presented at the leet of the Honour of Gloucester for unjustly taking tolls at his mill. (fn. 97) It was not mentioned in the grant of the manor in 1538 (fn. 98) to Henry Audley, and had possibly been separated from the manor, since in 1600 a windmill was held by Robert Adler and his wife Alice, who sold it to Thomas Marshall. (fn. 99) Before 1629, however, a windmill was appurtenant to Rippington manor. (fn. 100) There is a windmill in the parish at the present day. Other mills seem to have been in existence in 1354, (fn. 101) and there were formerly a mill on the road to Longstow and another on the Caxton Road, which gave the name to the Mill Weir. (fn. 102)
The Church of ST. BARTHOLOMEW consists of a chancel (38¼ ft. by 17¼ ft.), with modern organ chamber and vestry (18¼ ft. by 9¼ ft.) on the north, nave (58¼ ft. by 18 ft.), north aisle (10¾ ft. wide), south aisle (10¾ ft. wide), west tower (12¼ ft. by 13¼ ft.), and north and south porches. The walls are of rubble with stone and clunch dressings, and the roofs are covered with lead.
Although mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086) there are no remains of early date existing, and, with the exception of the tower, which is of the late 14th century, the whole church was rebuilt and widened to the south in the 15th century, and all the architectural features (except where otherwise stated) belong to these two periods respectively. The church was restored in 1873, when the organ chamber and vestry were built and the north porch entirely rebuilt.
The chancel has a five-light east window, and one three-light window in the north wall and two in the south; one of those on the south retains some fragments of 15th and 16th century glass, including a shield—Argent, on a bend within a bordure engrailed gules three Cornish choughs sable, a mullet for difference—said to be the arms of Dunholt. In the north wall also are a large modern arch to the organ chamber and a modern doorway to the vestry; while in the south wall are a piscina with ogee arch, crocketed label and a flat canopy over all, and traces of a blocked doorway. The chancel arch is of two moulded orders resting on engaged shafts with moulded caps and bases. The roof is original but much restored.
The nave has an arcade of four bays on each side having moulded arches resting on piers consisting of four casement mouldings and two engaged shafts. The stairs to the rood-loft are in the north-east angle, and both the upper and lower doorways remain in the nave, but the former is blocked; the turret is continued up above the nave parapet. The clearstory has four three-light windows on each side, and is finished with an embattled parapet; the stringcourse below the clearstory and the labelmouldings of the nave arches were added in 1873. The roof is original, and has carved figures at the feet of the intermediate principals, but it has been much repaired in the 17th century, the third tie-beam being inscribed 'William Livett, Edward Ingell (?) Churchwardens.' 'Matthew Bans pt.' and 'Carpentr.'
The north aisle has a three-light east window now opening into the organ chamber, and a modern doorway below it. The north wall has three three-light windows, and a doorway with a moulded arch in a square head and traceried spandrils. The west wall has a three-light window. The original roof has carved figures at the feet of the intermediate principals; the eastern half bay is panelled with moulded ribs and carved bosses. (fn. 103)
The south aisle is generally similar to the north, but has no west window, and there is a large niche in the south-east corner with remains of a pyramidal canopy. In the south wall there is a plain piscina. (fn. 104) The roof is original, but the fourth tie-beam is inscribed 'Edward Edw …' 'Churchwardens 1675.'
The west tower has an arch to the nave of two moulded orders resting on splayed responds with moulded caps and bases, apparently modified in the 15th century. The west doorway is of the 15th century, and has a two-centred arch under a square head with traceried spandrils containing shields charged with (1) … a cheveron between three eagles displayed … and (2) … the arms of Clare Hall … (fn. 105) South of it is an almost destroyed stoup. The west window is of three lights, and in the next stage is a modern quatrefoil in the north, south and west walls, and above these the same walls have each a narrow ogee-headed light. The belfry has coupled two-lights in each face. The tower is surmounted by a plain embattled parapet, behind which rises a small lead spirelet. On the north parapet is a lead plate inscribed 'N.L., E.E., C.H.W.R. 1676. (fn. 106)
The modern north porch, rebuilt in 1873, has a two-centred outer arch within a square with traceried spandrils, and two-light windows in the side walls. (fn. 107)
There are six bells, inscribed:—(1) J. Taylor & Co: Founders, Loughborough, 1883; (fn. 108) (2) C. & G. Mears, Founders, London, 1854 …; (3) Bryanus Eldridge me fecit, 1658; (4) …; (5) Bryanus Eldridge me fecit, 1658; (6) R: Taylor, fecit. (incised with a chisel). (Another inscription filed off, but the date 1787 is still legible.) (fn. 109) The first, second and fourth bells were inscribed similar to the third previous to the re-casting. The bells were rehung in 1895, when the fourth bell was recast. There is also a clock with mechanical chimes, put up in 1683, but now much restored.
Part of the 15th-century chancel screen now stands between the vestry and the organ chamber. (fn. 110) Some early 16th-century seating with traceried panels remains at the west end of the nave and south aisle.
The 17th-century pulpit is of oak, hexagonal, with carved cartouches in curiously shaped panels on the sides. (fn. 111) It now stands on a modern stone base, but formerly had an oak post and coving and a carved oak sounding board.
There are several indents of brasses:—(1) On the north wall of the tower (previous to 1873, in the middle of the chancel), a very large stone with foliated cross and demi-figure of a priest, and marginal inscription in Lombardic letters 'Hic jacet Thomas de Neusum Condam Rector istius Ecclesiae, Cujus animae propicietur Deus.' He was rector, 1301–1328; (2) in churchyard, at the east of the chancel, a stepped cross with demi-figure of a priest with label and marginal inscription; (fn. 112) (3) a similar cross with figure of a priest and foot inscription; (fn. 113) (4) in churchyard, to east of porch, civilian and wife with inscription plate and a third figure. (fn. 114)
There are the following monuments: In the chancel to the Rev. Barnabas Oley, Vicar, d. 1685; Charles Kettle, d. 1788; the Rev. James Plumptre, Vicar, d. 1832; and a window to Theodore Vincent Webb, d. 1885; in the north aisle, War Memorial, 1914–19; in the south aisle, window to Martha Sophia Webb, erected 1911.
The registers are as follows:—(i) Baptisms, marriages and burials, 1538 to 1653; (ii) ditto, 1654 to 1700; (iii) ditto, 1701 to 1752; (iv) baptisms and burials, 1753 to 1812; (v) the official marriage book, 1754 to 1812.
The church plate consists of: a silver cup inscribed 'Great Gransden,' and bearing the arms of Caesar, and further inscribed 'This Communion Cupp and cover wayeth Ninetene Ounces three quarters,' hall-marked for 1634–5; a silver cover paten inscribed 'Great Gransden' and a crest, a dolphin nowed, apparently added at a later date, hall-marked for 1634–5; a silver standing paten inscribed 'Great Gransden,' hall-marked for 1634–5, (fn. 115) but the base hall-marked for 1917–18; a silver-mounted glass flagon, hall-marked for 1913–14.
The advowson of the church of Great Gransden seems to have been granted with the manor (q.v.) to Robert, Earl of Gloucester. His son, Earl William (1147–1183), granted it to the Abbey of St. Augustine, Bristol. (fn. 116) In 1295, the advowson was recovered by exchange by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester. (fn. 117) and on the partition of the possessions of the Honour, it was assigned to the youngest of the heiresses, Elizabeth de Burgh. She made various plans for its alienation, (fn. 118) but finally, in 1346, gave it to Clare Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 119) The college is still the owner of the rectory. (fn. 120)
About 1150, the Priory of St. Neots brought a lawsuit against the rector of Great Gransden, as to the tithe of Kingsfeld, but he relinquished his claim. (fn. 121) The dispute was revived later (between 1191 and 1197), when it was decided that the rector should receive the tithe, but should pay 5s. a year to the priory. (fn. 122) A pension of 10 marks a year was payable to the Abbey of St. Augustine. (fn. 123)
The vicarage was ordained in 1354, the patrons being Clare Hall. (fn. 124)
About 1367, William Wedrefelde, vicar of Great Gransden, granted lands obtained from Richard, son and heir of John Baldwin, to Clare Hall, to find a chaplain to celebrate divine service in the church for the soul of Richard Baldwyn. (fn. 125) He also gave to the college an acre of copse called 'the Master's Acre.' (fn. 126) Clare Hall continued to hold this land after the Dissolution. (fn. 127)
About 1547, Agnes Goodgame left £192 to find a priest to sing masses for her soul for 36 years. (fn. 128)
John Rashdell, vicar of Great Gransden, who died in or before 1533 and is buried in the church, left 26 acres and more of arable land and 1 acre of wood for finding a perpetual obit. (fn. 129)
A rent of the yearly value of 4d. to provide a lamp for ever was also given to the church. (fn. 130)
An Independent chapel was founded by Thomas Holcroft, who was ejected from the vicarage of Great Gransden in 1662. The Meeting House was formerly on the old burying ground, and the first Church Book dates from 1694. In 1733, the congregation joined the Particular Baptists and a new Meeting House, which is still the Baptist chapel, was built shortly afterwards. (fn. 131)
Thomas Carrington, by will dated 17 August 1816, bequeathed to the vicar and churchwardens the sum of £30, the interest to be distributed amongst the poor of the parish. The endowment now consists of £31 13s. India 3½ per cent. stock held by the Official Trustees producing £1 2s. annually in dividends.
Robert Disher, by will dated 1 January 1656, gave to the poor the sum of £4 per annum to be paid out of his lands and estate. The rentcharge is received regularly and distributed to industrious poor by trustees appointed by the Parish Council of Great Gransden.
Simon Watson, by will dated about 1674, gave 4 nobles yearly to buy coals for the poor of the parish. This charge was originally paid out of an estate at Over in Cambridgeshire, but no payment has been made since about 1882, and the charity is now lost.
Poor's Land. The following benefactions for the poor, viz.: £15 left by Elizabeth Clifton in 1660 and £40 by William Disher in 1661, were laid out with some addition from the parish in a purchase of land in Eaton Socon, in lieu of which an allotment of 4 a. 2 r. 29 p. was set out on an inclosure in 1798. The land is now let for about £12 per annum, which is distributed to the poor of the parish by trustees appointed by the Parish Council.
Parish or Church Lands. The endowment of this charity consists of an allotment of land known as 'The Church Land,' containing 15 a. 2 r. 13 p. and now in the occupation of Mr. H. A. Christmas. The land is let for £10 per annum, which is paid towards church expenses.