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 Paxton contains 1406 acres. The land is low-lying, the river Ouse forming the western and the Gallow brook the southern boundaries. There is a ferry over the Ouse called Wrayhouse ferry, in the south-west of the village. The subsoil is chiefly Oxford clay, and the soil clay growing wheat, barley and root crops.
The village lies on the main road from St. Neots to Godmanchester and is two and a half miles from Offord station on the main line of the London and North-Eastern Railway, which crosses the parish parallel with the Ouse. The Towgood Institute in the village was built and endowed in 1904 by Mr. Hamer Towgood, whose ancestor, Rev. Micaiah Towgood, was a celebrated 18th-century nonconformist divine. There are some interesting 17thcentury timber-framed cottages in Adams Lane and London Lane, a name which goes back to the 16th century.
College Farm, in the west of the parish, takes its name from St. John's College, Cambridge, which purchased land in Great Paxton in the 16th century, at the same time that the manor of Little Paxton was bought. (fn. 1) The parish was inclosed under a private Act of Parliament of 1811. (fn. 2) Both Neolithic surface implements and a few Romano-British finds have been discovered in the parish. (fn. 3)
King Edward the Confessor held twenty-five hides of land in the manor of PAXTON, with its three berewicks. (fn. 4) Two of these berewicks were Toseland and Little Paxton, which formed one township with Great Paxton, (fn. 5) and are still in that ecclesiastical parish. The third was possibly Buckworth, which was stated in Domesday Book to have been a berewick of Great Paxton under King Edward, but had been separated before 1086. (fn. 6) In this case, the 17th-century suggestion that the third berewick was Abbotsley (fn. 7) and the recent suggestion that it was Agden are incorrect. (fn. 8) In 1086, the manor of Great Paxton was held by the Countess Judith (fn. 9) and later formed part of the Honour of Huntingdon. (fn. 10) On the death of John, Earl of Huntingdon, in 1237, it was assigned to his eldest sister Margaret, and so passed to the Balliols. (fn. 11) A rent of 8s. from the manor was granted in 1305, out of the forfeited possessions of John Balliol to John of Brittany, (fn. 12) who obtained leave in 1331 to grant it for life to Mary, Countess of Pembroke. (fn. 13)
The Earls of Huntingdon seem to have held the manor in demesne as late as 1192. (fn. 14) Very shortly afterwards, however, it was granted to a sub-tenant, since in 1215 King John restored a manor of Great Paxton to Gilbert de Hallinge, as part of the inheritance of his wife Agnes. (fn. 15) She may have been one of two co-heirs, since shortly after this the manor was divided, each tenant holding half a knight's fee and the lands assigned to each moiety were most exactly divided into two shares. (fn. 16) One moiety was known as GREAT PAXTON or DE LA HAYE MANOR (fn. 17) and was held in 1230 by William de la Haye or Dulay. (fn. 18) He was probably identical with William, son of Gilbert de la Haye, who granted a charter to the Priory of St. Neots. (fn. 19) It seems a plausible suggestion that Hallinge was a mistake for Hay. William was succeeded by his son Gilbert, (fn. 20) and his grandson William, who was the tenant in 1279 (fn. 21) and 1316. (fn. 22) Another William de la Haye had succeeded before 1344, but was holding it as a mesne lord. (fn. 23) Before 1343 it was held in demesne by William Lengleys or English, who settled it on his son William and the heirs male of his body, with remainder to his daughter Juliana. (fn. 24) Lengleys died in 1344 (fn. 25) and his son in 1369. (fn. 26) The latter's heir was his daughter Isabella, so that the manor reverted to William Restwold, son of Juliana. (fn. 27) The Restwolds presumably sold it, since in 1428 it was held by John Bullock. (fn. 28) In 1433, he sold it to Sir John Popham (fn. 29) and from this time until the 17th century it followed the descent of the manor of Eynesbury Bulkeley (q.v.). (fn. 30) In 1628, it was sold by Sir Ludovic Dyer to Robert Counton, (fn. 31) probably the son of the lessee of the Rectory manor (q.v.). (fn. 32) Robert was probably identical with the Robert Compton who, with William Compton, levied a fine of the manor in 1647 with William Alleyn. (fn. 33) The latter married Elizabeth, daughter of William Compton. (fn. 34) His second son Thomas was lord mayor of London in 1659–60 and was created a baronet in 1660. (fn. 35) His son Thomas, the second and last baronet, sold the manor in 1700 to Thomas Wright. (fn. 36) It seems to have passed to the Leeds family, and in 1811 belonged to Sir George Leeds, who, like his predecessors, was also lessee of the Rectory manor. (fn. 37)
The other moiety of the manor of GREAT PAXTON was held before 1219, (fn. 38) by Alan, son of Hugh, who enfeoffed his nephew Robert, son of Robert, (fn. 39) before 1230. (fn. 40) Another Robert, son of Robert, had succeeded before 1261, when the manor was successfully claimed by William de Hardreshull, as a descendant of Alan. (fn. 41) William recovered all the lands and rights granted to the first Robert, with the exception of one messuage and two virgates of land, but paid 100s. in compensation. (fn. 42) He was succeeded by his son, Robert de Hardreshull, who was killed at the battle of Evesham. (fn. 43) Henry de Whaddon immediately took seisin of the manor, (fn. 44) although Henry III in 1266 is said to have granted the forfeited lands to Matthew de Bezille. (fn. 45) In the same year the king granted certain lands in Paxton to Robert's widow, Margaret, for her life. (fn. 46) Henry de Whaddon seems to have held the manor till his death, probably early in the reign of Edward I, when John de Hardreshull, either a son or brother of Robert, (fn. 47) recovered it and granted it to Remy de Melinge, (fn. 48) who was his tenant in 1279 (fn. 49) and was still living in 1327. (fn. 50) In 1315, Thomas, son of Thomas of Ellesworth claimed the manor as the heir of Henry de Whaddon, but did not apparently recover it. (fn. 51) The history of the manor is very confused, but it was divided into moieties, possibly after the death of Remy. In 1345, Thomas Aleyne and his wife Elizabeth levied a fine of onesixth of the manor with John de London. (fn. 52) In 1360, Sir John Hardreshull of Hardreshull, Warwickshire, gave the manor of Great Paxton to Robert Spigurnell, (fn. 53) who, however, only seems to have obtained possession in 1362, by the disseisin of Robert, son of Robert, son of Roger of Wollaston. The latter brought an action in 1364, but it appeared that Sir John and Robert Spigurnell only held a moiety of the manor, the other moiety being in the possession of John Cheyne and his wife Joan and Elizabeth, daughter of William Mochet. (fn. 54) In 1366, (fn. 55) a sixth part of the manor was claimed by Richard de Overe and his wife Joan and William Clerk of Great Paxton and his wife Beatrice. Joan and Beatrice were the sisters and heirs of a certain John, whose father William had received it in frank marriage with Agnes, daughter of John Eustace of Hilton. In 1379, William Smith of Wollaston and his wife Lucy sold the manor of Great Paxton to Sir Roger de Trumpington and others, it being part of her inheritance. (fn. 56) No further history of the manor appears.
The RECTORY MANOR may be traced back to Domesday Book, when one hide of land belonged to the church of Paxton. (fn. 57) Between 1124 and 1128, an exchange was made by which the rector received 7 virgates of land in Great Paxton from David I of Scotland, instead of 8 virgates in Little Paxton and Agden. (fn. 58) An additional grant was made of a croft and part of the king's demesne, besides grants of tithes. (fn. 59) Before 1279, another 30 acres had been granted to the rector by the free tenants of Little Paxton to provide for the service of the chapel there. (fn. 60) King Malcolm (1157–65) gave the church to the Abbey of Holy Rood, Edinburgh, (fn. 61) a gift which was confirmed by John, Earl of Huntingdon in 1232. (fn. 62) By some arrangement the rectory was ceded to the Bishop of Lincoln, a yearly payment being payable to the Abbey. (fn. 63) In 1274, Bishop Gravesend granted it to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln, who in 1285 bought up the pension payable to Holyrood. (fn. 64) The Rectory manor remained in their possession until the Commonwealth, (fn. 65) when it was forfeited (fn. 66) and granted in 1650 by the Trustees under the Act for abolishing deans and chapters to Timothy Middleton and Thomas Smith. (fn. 67) It was recovered at the Restoration (fn. 68) and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are the lords of the manor at the present day.
The dean and chapter appear to have paid an annual pension of £13 6s. 8d. from the Rectory as late as 1652. It was presumably originally payable to the Bishop of Lincoln, since it is said to have belonged to the chantry and obit lands of Hugh de Welles, Bishop of Lincoln. (fn. 69) The latter seems to have decided a lawsuit concerning the church in favour of the Abbey of Holy Rood, and the pension may have been reserved at that time. (fn. 70)
In 1285, the lords of De La Haye's manor, Great Paxton manor and the Rectory all claimed view of frankpledge for the tenants of their manors. (fn. 71) The Abbot of Sawtry also claimed to hold a view for his thirteen tenants in Paxton, some of whom held land in Great Paxton. (fn. 72) The view belonging to De La Haye's manor is mentioned in 1700. (fn. 73) In 1285 its lord also claimed the rights of waifs and strays, gallows and tumbrils. (fn. 74)
A fishery in the Ouse was appurtenant, in 1279, to both De La Haye's manor and Great Paxton manor. (fn. 75) It is mentioned at the sale of the former in 1566 (fn. 76) and in various transfers of the manor until 1700. (fn. 77)
In 1279, the Abbot of Sautrey held a water-mill by the gift of a King of Scotland in frank almoin. He paid from it a rent of 10s. a year to Remy de Mellinge. (fn. 78)
The Church of the HOLY TRINITY consists of chancel (29 ft. by 17¼ ft.), nave (50 ft. by 18 ft.), north aisle (44½ ft. by 9½ ft.), south aisle (54 ft. by 9 ft.), west tower (12 ft. by 12 ft.), modern vestry (10 ft. by 10 ft.) at the west end of the north aisle and south porch. The walls are of rubble with stone dressings, and the roofs are covered with tiles, slate and lead.
The church is mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), and of this building the piers of a central tower and two and a half bays of the north and south arcades still remain. Originally the nave must have had four bays, as evidenced by the position of the porch, and these probably remained until the west tower was built. Meanwhile, the chancel had been rebuilt towards the end of the 13th century, and some fifty years later a south porch was built. Late in the 14th century much reconstruction took place. The western bays of the nave were taken down and a sturdy tower built in their place, the central tower (if it existed) probably disappeared at this time, and certainly the east and south arches of the crossing were reformed. In the following century both aisles were rebuilt, buttresses were added to the chancel and a new east window inserted, and somewhat later still new side windows were put in. The church was completely restored in 1880, when the vestry was added.
The late 13th-century chancel has a 15th-century four-light east window, much modernised; in the north wall is an original three-light window, and another of the early 16th century; and in the south two early 16th-century three-light windows, an original doorway and piscina, and a 14th-century double sedilia. The chancel arch has mid 11th-century responds with 12th-century abaci (reused), but the arch is two-centred and of late 14th-century date. On the east face of the gable above, the string-course of a former parapet gives the line of the 14th-century nave roof. The north-west window contains fragments of 15th-century glass. The roof is modern.
The mid 11th-century nave (fn. 79) comprises the piers of a central tower and two and a half bays of a contemporary nave arcade. Of the central tower, the responds on the east support a 14th-century chancel arch. On the north the responds and semicircular arch of one plain order still remain. On the south the responds have been lowered some 3½ ft., the original capitals reset, and a two-centred 14th-century arch built upon them. The responds of the former western arch with the arch and wall above have been entirely cut away. All the responds, especially the western on north and south, have their stones set like 'long-and-short' work, and the attached shafts have plain bulbous caps with a narrow necking. The responds of the north and south arches have pilaster strips on the sides, and each eastern respond has an inserted 15th-century bracket. The rood stairs have been cut into the north-east pier; the lower doorway, very high up, is in the aisle, and the upper opening has cut largely into the respond of the chancel arch.
The nave arcades have semicircular arches of two plain orders resting on columns composed of four circular shafts with small rolls or fillets at the intersections; the shafts have bulbous capitals similar to the responds of the crossing and square abaci. The bases consist of four flattened rolls and follow the plan of the shafts and small rolls. The two eastern responds consist of flat pilasters with crudely moulded caps, and their stones are set like 'long-andshort' work. The south-west respond was reset in its present position when the tower was built. The half bay on the north side has been filled in with a doorway to the vestry. The arches both of the crossing and of the nave arcades are entirely faced with cement, and possibly their real construction is of rough rubble. Above the arches of the arcade is a heavy splayed string-course, and considerably higher still are two contemporary clearstory windows on each side, and a third (visible outside) has been blocked by the building of the tower. They are splayed inside and out; inside they are cemented, but outside they show rather rough rubble arches and jambs. Below the outer sills is another heavy splayed string-course, indicating the height of the original aisle roofs; and, on the south, a later stringcourse has been cut in at about half the height of the windows, probably representing the upper edge of a later roof of the aisle. The north-east angle of the nave has large, flat quoin stones set on edge and alternated, but not long-and-short work nor of early date. The roof is of 17th century date, the eastern tie-beam being dated 1637.
The 15th-century north aisle has a three-light east window, two others and a blocked doorway (fn. 80) in the north wall, and a moulded and carved bracket in the north-east angle. The west wall is modern. The north wall stands upon rough projecting foundations, probably the base of an earlier wall.
The slightly later 15th-century south aisle has a three-light east window; and in the south wall are two others, a 13th-century piscina re-set, (fn. 81) and a doorway of clunch, having a two-centred arch in a square label, and with tracery spandrels. The oak door has some 13th-century ironwork re-used, with ornamental ends shaped as birds' heads. In the west wall is a two-light window practically all modern.
The late 14th-century west tower is of three stages, and is finished by an embattled parapet. The arch to the nave is two-centred and of three orders; under it is a 15th-century screen, formerly the roodscreen. The west doorway is of two continuous chamfered orders; above it is a three-light window with modern mullions and tracery; in the second stage there is a square-headed single-light window on the west, and a small quatrefoil in the south wall. The belfry windows are of two lights.
There are five bells, inscribed: (1) M.T. XP. T. V. (2) RVSSELL MADE ME, 1721. (fn. 82) (3) Jos: Eayre, St. Neots, fecit, 1756. (4) Sancta Caterina ora pro nobis. (5) Praise the Lord, 1758. The bells were rehung and the treble recast by Mears & Stainbank in 1896–97. One of the bells was recast about the time of Edward VI. (fn. 83)
There are the following monuments: In the chancel, to the Rev. A. G. Cane, Vicar, d. 1919; and floor slab to the Rev. Isaac Nicholson, Vicar, d. 1839; in the nave, to Captain Lionel Alfred Francis Cane, d. 1914; on the floor of the south aisle, to Joshua Dobson, d. 1820.
The registers (fn. 84) are as follows: (i) Baptisms, marriages and burials, 15 May 1583 to 7 Oct. 1702; (ii) the same, 24 Nov. 1702 to 23 Aug. 1807; marriages end 3 July 1753; (iii) baptisms and burials, 2 May 1807 to 17 Nov. 1812. (iv) the official marriage book, 10 Dec. 1754 to 25 May 1812.
The church plate consists of the following: A small silver cup engraved 'Deo et Altari Sacrum,' and inscribed, 'The Gift of Thomas Bowdler, Esqre.' hall-marked for 1813–14; a silver-gilt paten, a mere disc, with Birmingham hall-mark for 1873–74; a silver paten, hall-marked for 1899–1900; a silver flagon engraved, 'Behold the Lamb of God,' and hall-marked for 1880–81.
The church of the Holy Trinity, (fn. 85) of Great Paxton, is mentioned in 1086. (fn. 86) In the charter of King David I (1124–1153), already mentioned, reference is made to the prior and canons regular serving the church there. (fn. 87) A charter of Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury (1162–70), gave licence for the establishment of a college of canons regular, at the request of Osbert of Paxton, but this apparently was never carried out. (fn. 88) Osbert was probably identical with Osbert, a chaplain of King David, at whose request, made jointly with Orger the priest, the king had granted the charter. The companions (socii) of Osbert are mentioned, and they may have been the chaplains who helped to serve the extensive parish. (fn. 89) If so, it may be presumed that the chapels of Little Paxton (fn. 90) and Toseland (fn. 91) were already in existence and dependent on the church of Great Paxton. In the 17th century the vicar was known as 'the vicar of the three steeples,' (fn. 92) and the two chapels are still dependent on Great Paxton. The advowson of the church has always been held by the lords of the Rectory manor (q.v.). The vicarage was ordained in 1274, (fn. 93) certain land and tithes being assigned to the vicar. In the 17th century, however, the provision for the vicar was found so inadequate that it was said no 'preaching minister' had held it since the Reformation, while during the Civil War the vicar was left undisturbed, and throughout the Commonwealth used the services of the Church of England in his church and chapels. (fn. 94) After the Restoration the dean and chapter of Lincoln, as patrons and impropriators, augmented the vicarage by £75 a year. (fn. 95) They are still the owners of the advowson. (fn. 96)
In 1563, Queen Elizabeth granted a close of land called Middle Orchard, in Paxton, to William Grice and Anthony Foster. It had formerly belonged to Whitwell chantry. (fn. 97)
William King, by will dated about 1643, gave a rentcharge of £5. The annuity is regularly paid out of land in Great Paxton now in the occupation of Mr. G. F. Rowley, and is distributed by the churchwardens, viz.: £4 among poor parishioners, and £1 to the vicar for preaching a sermon.
Poor Land or St. Thomas's Day. A benefaction of £16 given by some person unknown was laid out in the purchase of 3 acres of land in Great Paxton, and in lieu thereof an allotment of 2 a. 1 r. 23 p. was awarded on the inclosure of the common fields. The endowment now consists of about 2 acres of arable land let for £3 2s. 6d. a year, which is distributed in money to poor parishioners.
Widows' Dole. A customary payment of 5s. 6d. is made by the lessee of lands in the parish belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln, and the money is distributed according to usage among poor widows.
The same donor, by will proved as above, gave to the Ely Diocesan Trustees the sums of £500, £2,000 and £400, the income thereof to be applied (1) towards the expenses of the lighting of the parish church; (2) towards securing or augmenting any other fund for securing a second service on each Sunday of every year in each of the parish churches of Great Paxton and Toseland; and (3) towards the maintenance and keeping in order the churchyard of the parish church of Great Paxton.
The total sum of £2,900 was invested in the purchase of £2,768 9s. 2½ per cent. Consols, which sum was apportioned viz. (1) Church expenses, £477 6s. 4d. Consols; (2) Second Services, £1,909 5s. 6d. Consols; and (3) churchyard, £381 17s. 2d. Consols. The income is applied by the vicar and churchwardens in accordance with the directions contained in the will of the donor.