A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932.
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Hemingford Abbots lies south of the Ouse, which forms its northern boundary. It comprises 2,398 acres of land and 23 acres of land covered by water. Near the river the land is liable to floods, but rises to over 100 ft. above ordnance datum in the south. The soil near the river is gravel and loam, but in the north it is a stiff clay, growing wheat, barley, oats and beans.
The village, which is almost continuous with that of Hemingford Grey, stands near the south bank of the River Ouse, and about a mile to the north of the main road from Godmanchester to Cambridge, from which branch roads, called Rideaway and New Road, lead to the village; a road called Moat's Way goes southward to Littlebury Farm, Moat's Way Farm and Top Farm. The village street follows the line of the river, the church standing on its north side, where the river widens round Batcocks Island. To the east of the church is the Manor House, the residence of Mr. Richard Charles Lane, and to the west the rectory. Near here West Street runs south joining Rideaway, which skirts on the east Hemingford Park, the residence of Mr. Philip Carr, with its lakes, fish ponds and plantations. West of the rectory and south of Hemingford Road is the school. In Common Lane, going north-west of the church, is Whitehall, a 17th-century half-timber house, with shaped end gables. Further west is another halftimber house of about 1600, with some old fittings. A house in Watts Lane has two stone tablets with the initials and dates R. P. 1600 and R. P. 1741. There are several 17th-century cottages in the village street. On the east side of the cross roads, about 250 yards south-east of the church, is the base of a wayside cross with a part of the stem and on the east side of Watts Lane are the remains of a homestead moat possibly the site of the manor house of William de Hemingford.
According to the chronicle of Ramsey Abbey, St. Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester (963–84) exchanged with Earl Ailwin 30 hides of fertile land at Hemingford for 40 hides of land of less fertility at Hatfield (co. Essex). Ailwin bestowed the Hemingford hides on Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 1) This gift, which did not include Hemingford Grey, was confirmed by King Edgar in 974. (fn. 2)
Hardecnut gave East Hemingford or Hemingford Grey to the abbey, and the two Hemingfords were confirmed by the Conqueror in 1077. (fn. 3) In spite of this, however, William disseised the monks of Hardecnut's gift of East Hemingford (q.v.), which he granted to Aubrey de Vere. (fn. 4) Ramsey Abbey was entered in the Domesday Survey (1086) as holding 18 hides in Hemingford [Abbots], which had diminished from the pre-Conquest value of £11 to £10. There were then a priest and a church and a mill. (fn. 5) Another hide 'in the same place' which had fallen in value from 10s. to 3s., had been previously held of the abbot by Godric, but Ralf, son of Osmund (the tenant of Aubrey de Vere in Hemingford Grey), held it in 1086. This hide, we are told, had been given by the abbot for love of the king to Sawin the Hawker, from whom Osmund, father of Ralf, had seized it during the abbot's absence in Denmark. The other hide which Ralf held in chief in Hemingford, described as waste, had belonged to the demesne of the abbey in the time of the Confessor, but Ralf afterwards held it against the abbot's will. (fn. 6)
A hide granted to Abbot Reginald (1114–30) by Hugh, son of Alwold, 'propter penuriam,' (fn. 7) was probably the hide that Godric had held, which would thus become merged in the abbey lands.
The men of Hemingford received a grant in feefarm of the manor from the abbot for £40 yearly in 1280, evidently a renewal of a grant made apparently every seven years. (fn. 8) The revenues of the manor of Hemingford specially belonged to the 'abbot's chamber.' (fn. 9) In 1300 Abbot John de Sawtrey assigned £40 yearly from them and from Ellington for the payment of his debts; (fn. 10) but certain yearly sums were claimed by the office of cellarer; (fn. 11) and in 1310 £25 6s. 8d. annually was assigned by John de Sawtrey to the convent for vestments and ornaments for the church. (fn. 12)
At the Dissolution the abbey was returned as receiving £45 5s. 4½d. in rents from their manor of Hemingford Abbots, (fn. 13) whose stewardship was granted in 1545 with that of Brampton to the king's servant, Oliver Leader. (fn. 14) In the same year the manor, with the advowson, fishery, and all appurtenances, was sold to Fotheringhay College (co. Northampton), (fn. 15) soon to be suppressed and to pass into the hands of the Duke of Northumberland. Hemingford Abbots was then first granted to Sir Thomas Seymour, Lord Seymour of Sudeley (attainted in 1549), and afterwards in 1562 to Helen, Marchioness of Northampton. (fn. 16) It was granted in 1625 to Edward and Robert Ramsey at the same time as Hemingford Grey, at a rent for Hemingford Abbots of £45 15s. 3½d. payable on the death of Helen, Marchioness of Northampton. (fn. 17)
From the Ramseys the manor and advowson passed to the Page family, and in 1632 the presentation was made by Robert Page, of Leighton Bromswold, and Robert Page, of Greys Inn, and then later in the same year Robert Page, senior, and Robert Page junior, of Leighton Bromswold, presented Symon Page. (fn. 18) Robert Page, of Leighton Bromswold, died in or about 1639. (fn. 19) The Pages, who were apparently Royalists, (fn. 20) were in 1641 having disputes with their tenants. In 1643 a petition was presented by divers inhabitants of Hemingford Abbots, against Robert Page, lord of the manor, and Symon Page, the rector, a counter petition being presented in the same month by other inhabitants that Mr. Page, their rector, whose removal had been demanded, was a sober, godly, and peaceable man, unblamable in life and conversation, and faithful in the discharge of his duties. (fn. 21) Symon Page appeared again as a petitioner in 1660; (fn. 22) but before this date Robert Page probably died, and we find the manor descending in moieties, the one held by Robert Bernard, serjeant-at-law, in 1654 (fn. 23) and probably earlier, and the other in 1647, by Mrs. Newman, (fn. 24) possibly the same person as Joan Newman, referred to below. In 1649 Richard Newman, of Hemingford Abbots, compounded for delinquency. (fn. 25) It is not clear what his relationship was to Joan Newman, widow of Christopher Newman, of Hemingford Abbots, yeoman, who was in 1650 engaged in Chancery proceedings. She claimed dower from lands and tenements in Hemingford Abbots, the property of the late Christopher (settled upon her by deed to which her Martyn kindred were parties), against John Newman, of Hemingford Abbots, gentleman, and Christopher Newman, his son. (fn. 26) Christopher Newman was lord of the moiety not acquired from Robert Page by Sir Robert Bernard. His only daughter, Martha, married Miles Bevys, of Peterborough, (fn. 27) who with William Chapman and Susan his wife, conveyed a moiety of the manor in 1727 to James Mitchell. (fn. 28) This moiety henceforward descended with Hemingford Grey (q.v.).
The other moiety and the advowson had descended in the Bernard family, and were dealt with in 1685 (fn. 29) and 1692 (fn. 30) by Sir Robert Bernard, bart. (grandson of its purchaser, and son of Sir John Bernard), who died c. 1703. In 1706 Sir Thomas Trevor, kt., Chief Justice, and Anne his wife, widow of Sir Robert Bernard, conveyed their interest to Cornelius Denne, merchant. (fn. 31) Denne's property was seized by the crown for debt, and his interest in the manor was granted in 1721 to James Mitchell, of Fowlmire, co. Cambridge. (fn. 32) The Bernard moiety returned to the Bernard family, and was dealt with in 1785 by Sir John Bernard, bart. (only son and heir of Sir Robert) who died unmarried in 1789. (fn. 33) It then passed with Brampton (q.v.) until the middle of the 19th century, when it was acquired by the Mitchells and descended with Hemingford Grey (q.v.).
The hide in Hemingford which Aluuin Black had held in 1066, was held by Ralf son of Osmund in 1086, (fn. 34) and descended with Hemingford Grey (q.v.) to Ralf's descendants. It was held by the serjeanty of supplying a spindle of thread (unius fusillace fili lanei) for repairing the king's tent when the king went with his army into Ireland or Wales. (fn. 35) It passed to William de Hemingford, and from him to his daughter Nichola (1210–12), who married William Ruffus. (fn. 36) Before 1250 it had been alienated to John Cheney (Chenhey, Chine, Chinhey), who paid one mark a year, and did the service of a quarter of a knight's fee. (fn. 37) John Cheney witnessed an undated grant of land in Hemingford Abbots; (fn. 38) and in 1256 exemption was granted to John Cheney, of Hemingford, clerk in holy orders, from being made a knight. (fn. 39) John Cheney or Chine was dead before 1276, when Geoffrey Merck held two parts of the property, and John Merck the other part. (fn. 40) In 1279 Geoffrey Merck, Ralf de Stanton, and Nicholas de Hemington, were holding by the same serjeanty, as co-heirs of John Cheney. (fn. 41) About 1281 Reginald de Grey purchased from these co-heirs the 4 virgates held by this serjeanty, which it is said in 1286 he had held for the last 5 years. (fn. 42) In the same year he was dealing with lands in Hemingford. (fn. 43) The 4 virgates then descended with the Greys' manor of Hemingford Grey, but the serjeanty was commuted to a yearly rent of one mark. (fn. 44)
Land held by William Cheney or Chyne was bought from him by Abbot Simon Eye, of Ramsey (1317–42). (fn. 45)
In 1279 the abbot of Woburn held 1½ virgates in free alms of Reginald de Grey, and Reginald of the abbey of Ramsey. (fn. 46) The abbot in 1291 had £1 10s. 10d. yearly in Hemingford in lands and tithes. (fn. 47) After its suppression divers lands and tenements belonging to the abbey were returned in 1539 as in the hands of the king. (fn. 48) In 1542 a messuage with a close, and 40 acres adjoining in the common fields of Hemingford Grey, which belonged to the late abbey of Woburn, was leased for 21 years to Thomas Maryott. (fn. 49)
Certain pastures in Hemingford Abbots, with the issues called customary work silver, which were in lease to William Lawrence, were granted to William Sewster and his son John in 1544. The Sewsters in their turn granted them to William Lawrence and his wife Frances. (fn. 50) Messuages and lands here were held with the manor of Slepe (q.v.), and disposed of with that manor by Robert Lawrence at his death in 1597. (fn. 51)
Lands in Hemingford Abbots held in chief as of the Honour of Huntingdon by Henry de Grey were settled by him with his manor of Toseland on his son Reginald and Maud his wife in 1328, (fn. 52) and Reginald Grey of Wilton, at his death in 1370, held in chief rents in Hemingford Abbots. (fn. 53) These lands and rents, which continued to be held by the Greys, (fn. 54) were probably represented by the manor in Hemingford Abbots held with the manor of Toseland by Sir George Throckmorton, kt., in 1528–9, (fn. 55) and by land in Hemingford Abbots which was held by Sir Walter Luke at his death in 1534. (fn. 56) Other lands were conveyed by Sir Richard Williams alias Cromwell to Sir Walter Luke, kt., in 1541. (fn. 57)
Members of the family of Hemingford were tenants of the Greys in the land they held of the Abbey of Ramsey in Hemingford Abbots. Richard de Hemingford, called le Messager, was dealing with these lands between 1254–67; (fn. 58) and Margery, daughter of William de Hemingford, released certain lands to Walter, son of her brother Robert the Heir of Hemingford, then in the wardship of the abbot of Ramsey, and Maud, widow of Robert, c. 1255–65; (fn. 59) John the Heir, bailiff of the abbot, held under the abbot and Reginald de Grey in 1279. (fn. 60)
Grants of rents or lands were made to the Abbot of Ramsey by John, son of Robert, in 1240–1, (fn. 61) Hugh Brun in 1285, (fn. 62) Walter, called the 'Hot,' and his wife Beatrice in 1297–8, (fn. 63) William de Corton and John Baroun in 1328, (fn. 64) and others. (fn. 65)
In 1298, Jordan de Lisle, of Haluton, co. York, and Alice his wife, grand-daughter and one of the heirs of Master John de Clarel, late rector, released to Robert, rector of Hemingford Abbots, all their right in a messuage and land in Hemingford Abbots, (fn. 66) evidently acquired by the late John de Clarel for the purpose of a rectory house. (fn. 67)
In 1467 a covenant was made between the Abbey of Ramsey and the bailiffs and commonalty of Godmanchester concerning water mills upon two side streams of the River Ouse in the parishes of Houghton, Witton, and Hemingford Abbots, which interfered with the passage of boats to St. Ives. This covenant recited proceedings in the court of the Duchy of Lancaster decided in favour of the abbey. Another agreement with respect to the same mills was confirmed in 1470. (fn. 68)
The Church of ST. MARGARET THE VIRGIN (fn. 69) consists of a chancel (30 ft. by 15½ ft.), with vestry and organ chamber on north, nave (52¾ ft. by 15¼ ft.), north aisle (61 ft. by 9¾ ft.), south aisle (61 ft. by 12½ ft.), west tower (12 ft. by 12¾ ft.) and south porch. The walls are of rubble with stone dressings, except the chancel and vestry, etc., which are of brick; and the roofs are covered with lead and slates.
The church is mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), but nothing of this date remains. It is probable that in the 12th century the church had a central tower, of which small parts of the walls may still remain. A complete reconstruction took place at the end of the 13th century, the aisles being first rebuilt, then the arcades, including arches in the north and south walls of the central tower (which was apparently then pulled down and its west wall removed) and a low clearstory. Late in the 14th century the west tower was built, partly within the church and absorbing part of the western bay of the nave, and rather later, c. 1500, the clearstory was raised and reconstructed. The chancel was rebuilt in the 18th century. The south aisle was restored in 1872, the porch in 1873; general restorations took place in 1875–6 and 1887; the spire was partly rebuilt in 1911, the nave roof was restored in 1915 and the roofs of the aisles in 1928–30. The 18th-century brick chancel (fn. 70) has a three-light east window inserted in 1913, a plain arch to the organ chamber on the north, and two recesses on the south. The chancel arch is of c. 1300 and of two orders, the lower of which rests on semi-octagonal responds with moulded caps and bases.
The nave, which includes the space formerly occupied by the central tower, the position of which is evidenced by the greater thickness of the walls, has an arcade, c. 1300, of four bays on each side. On the north, the eastern arch, pierced in the wall of the tower, is two centred but struck from below the springing, and rests on a wall pier with moulded abacus and on a semi-octagonal eastern respond. The three western arches, also two-centred, rest on two octagonal columns with moulded caps, but part of the western arch has been absorbed into the walls of the later tower. The upper doorway of the rood stairs is in the north-east angle of the nave, and the blocked lower door is in the aisle. On the south, the arcade is generally similar to that on the north. The clear-story has, on each side, two three-light windows of c. 1500, and one late 14th-century two-light window reset; on each side are the remains of three earlier and smaller windows visible inside, and a portion of a ring of stone on the outside of the north wall possibly indicates that these windows were of circular form. The early 16th-century roof is of low pitch with moulded beams, jacklegs and curved braces, and has carved bosses at the intersections of the timbers. There are small figures at the feet of the jacklegs, and angels at the ends of the intermediate principals. The first bay still retains its ancient colouring and two inscriptions: 'Venite benedicti patris mei et [ite] maledicti in ignem eternum,' and 'Pray for Wyllm basele and for hys wyvys.'
The 13th-century north aisle has an early 14th-century three-light east window. In the north wall are three two-light windows and a plain doorway, all of the 14th century; between the two eastern windows is a moulded corbel formerly carrying an arch across the aisle to the wall-pier of the nave arcade. Towards the west end are faint remains of a wall painting of St. Christopher. In the west wall is an original two-light window. The roof is plain and of 15th and 16th century date.
The 13th-century south aisle has a three-light window with 14th-century inner jambs and arch but modern tracery and mullions; to the north of it, externally, is the jamb of an earlier window, perhaps 12th century. The south wall has a three-light window of c. 1500, a late 14th-century two-light window, a modern three-light window with inner jambs of c. 1500, and an original doorway; there are also a small piscina, a square locker and a plain bracket. (fn. 71) The eastern end of this wall is divided into bays by an original wall arcade, formerly of five arches, but two have been thrown together to make room for the three-light window of c. 1500. Between the two eastern windows is a moulded corbel supported by a crowned head, still carrying an arch across the aisle to the wall pier of the nave arcade. The roof is of the 17th century.
The west doorway has a two-centred arch with continuous moulded jambs; over it is a three-light window; in the next stage is a single-light window on the south; and the belfry windows are of two lights. The buttresses are semi-hexagonal below, becoming semi-octagonal in the second stage, and then diagonal, being finally carried up as crocketed pinnacles at the angles of an embattled parapet. The tower is surmounted by an octagonal spire with two tiers of light, the lowest on the cardinal faces; above each tier is a band of battlement ornament. The stairs, in the north-east angle with a doorway in the north aisle, are now blocked.
There are six bells, inscribed: (1) I. Eayre St. Neots 1754. W. Amberow aurcm probcte (probably for Aurem praebete) and (on rim) July 17. 1754; (2) Sursum corda. T. Pain, omnia fiant ad gloriam Dei; (3) W. Smith. I. Smith. R. Smith. 1754. Veremini Deum. C. Paine, and (on rim) July 17. 1754; (4) Regem honorate. I.H.S. Nazaraenus Rex Judaeorum fili Dei miserere mei. C. Dickin, Rector; (5) Omnia fiant ad gloriam Dei. W. Houshold. J. Lucas. C.W. I. Eayre fecit. May 29. 1754. A sixth bell, by Taylor, added 1897. (fn. 72)
There are the following monuments: in the chancel, to Edward Mason, d. 1700, and Maria his widow, wife of Joshua Barnes, d. 1726; Joshua Barnes, d. 1712; Mary, wife of the Rev. Charles Dickens, n.d.; the Rev. Charles Dickens, Rector, d. 1793; the Rev. Thomas Stafford, Rector, d. 1797, and Elizabeth his wife, d. 1796; and Nichola, relict of Michael Obins, Esq., and daughter of Archibald, Viscount Gosford, d. 1821; floor slabs to the Rev. John Smyth, Rector, d. 1713; - - - - [Strachan] widow, eldest dau. of - - - - Gregory, d. 1749; Susan, daughter of the Rev. S. Dickens, d. 1764; F. . . . Hildesley Esq., d. 1769; and Margaret Dickens, d. 1772; and east window to the Rev. Henry Herbert, Rector, d. 1911. In the nave to James Maxey, d. 1710; and War Memorial, 1914–18. In the north aisle, shields in glass window (formerly in the east window of chancel) to John Hildesley, d. 1731; Catherine (Martin) relict of John Hildesley, d. 1744; and the Rev. Samuel Dickens, Rector, d. 1748. In the south aisle to James Linton, d. 1836, the Rev. James Linton, his son, d. 1872, Elizabeth, widow of the latter, d. 1884, and Col. Charles Linton, their son, d. 1927; floor slabs to William Household, d. 1778, and Sarah his widow, d. 1779; and glass windows to Mary Frances, d. 1848, Elizabeth, d. 1867, and James Henry, d. 1875, daughters and son of the Rev. James Linton; and Frederick Douglas, d. 1873.
The church plate consists of the following: A large standing salver of Britannia metal, hall-marked for 1719–20; two silver cups inscribed 'Church of Hemingford Abbotts, 1826' and hall-marked for 1795–6; a silver flagon similarly inscribed and hallmarked; a silver standing paten similarly inscribed but hall-marked for 1800–1; two pewter plates, of poor metal.
Ailwin, when he founded Ramsey Abbey, granted a church with the manor (fn. 73) and a church and a priest are entered in the Domesday Survey (1086). The church was confirmed to the abbey by Pope Innocent in 1131. (fn. 74) It was granted later to the priory of St. Ives (a cell of the abbey) by Abbot Robert, whose gift was confirmed by Bishop Hugh of Lincoln between 1186–1200. (fn. 75) Before 1209 it again formed part of the possessions of the abbey, and a pension of 40s. was assigned to the priory, saving the perpetual vicarage of Master Aristotle and his successors; 20s. of this pension was to be allotted to hospitality and 20s. to the sacristan. (fn. 76) In 1291 the church was valued at £16 13s. 4d., with the pension of £2 to the priory of St. Ives deducted. (fn. 77) The gift of a pension from the church with tithes from the demesne to the abbey was confirmed by Thomas Bek, Bishop of Lincoln, in 1344. (fn. 78)
The advowson was the subject of legal proceedings in the Court of Common Pleas and at Rome in 1343 and 1379 during voidance of the abbey. (fn. 79)
In 1428 the church was taxed at 25 marks. (fn. 80) The profits of the rectory were returned at the Dissolution, with £6 yearly for the stipend of the curate there, then leased, at £26 13s. 4d. (fn. 81) The priory of St. Ives was then returned as receiving a pension of 20s. (fn. 82)
After the Dissolution the presentation was made in 1544 by John Wiseman and in 1553 by Queen Mary. (fn. 83) The advowson was granted with the manor by Queen Elizabeth in 1561 to Helen Marchioness of Northampton; (fn. 84) and it continued to be so held, remaining with the moiety of the manor held by the Bernards and Sparrows. (fn. 85) In 1867 the presentation was made by Miss Herbert, still patron early in this century. The advowson is now the property of the trustees of the late Rev. Henry Herbert (d. 1911).
Town land. On the inclosure of the open fields in this parish an allotment of about 10½ acres was set out in lieu of certain pieces of land formerly called Town Land the rent of which was carried to the churchwardens' general account. The land was sold in 1923 under the authority of the Charity Commissioners and the proceeds invested in the purchase of £460 8s. 3d. Local Loans 3 per cent. Stock in the name of the Official Trustees. The income, amounting to £13 16s. 4d. yearly in dividends, is carried to the churchwardens' account.
Maxey's Gift. Mrs. Ann Maxey by will gave to the minister and churchwardens the annual sum of £6 chargeable upon her Tunnel Close to provide bread for poor widows. The rentcharge of £6 a year is now paid by Mr. W. P. Carr, the present owner and occupier of Tunnel Close, and distributed by the rector and churchwardens in bread and coal for the poor.