A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1936.
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The civil parish of Stow Longa covers an area of 844 acres of clay land which is mostly arable and produces wheat, barley, oats and beans. The ground is undulating and varies from a little under 100 ft. above Ordnance datum to about 240 ft. in the south. Although there is now no park or woodland, the Bishop of Lincoln had licence in 1215 to assart Stow Grove (fn. 1) (the name of which still remains) containing 20 acres (fn. 2) and to impark it. In 1330 he had a further licence to impark 100 acres adjoining. (fn. 3)
The district formerly known as Stow was in two parishes. The eastern part (Estou), in which was the church and present village, known as Long Stow or Nether Stow, was within the soke of Spaldwick and was of considerable area. The western part, of scarcely half the area of the other, was called Overstow and has always been in the parish of Kimbolton, being parcel of the manor of Kimbolton.
The village of Stow Longa stands on high land along the road from Spaldwick to Kimbolton. At the west end of the village is the Green, and here stands the village cross, the stone octagonal shaft of which is of the 15th century. Halfway up the shaft are the remains of four figures much defaced. The cross was restored in 1902 in commemoration of the coronation of King Edward VII. The 17th-century ball, which the cross-head replaced, is in the vicarage garden. The church is a short distance up a lane leading north from the west end of the village and which forms the parish boundary for about a mile. To the south-east of the church is Church Farm, or Prebendal Farm, lately rebuilt. The former house was timber-framed and plastered, with a tiled roof, built early in the 17th century and having an addition of a century later on the north side. Near the house is an early 17th-century timber-framed dovecot. In the middle of the village on the north side of the road to Spaldwick are two other 17th-century timberframed houses, the one with a slate roof and the other thatched.
The present Manor House or Prebendal House is at the east end of the village. It was built in 1904 on the site of a house said to have been built by Robert Dorrington (fn. 4) (d. 1615), apparently the lessee of the estates of the Prebend of Stow in the cathedral church of Lincoln; as the date 1622, however, was on the leadwork, it may have been Robert Dorrington's son who was the builder. The Prebendal House was a fine early 17th-century building of timber and plaster with red brick chimneys and tiled roof. One end of the house was adapted as a farmhouse in 1877, when some of the interior woodwork was removed; a carved oak chimneypiece was recovered and fitted up in Hamerton Parish Room in 1902. Some glass in one of the windows, with a coat of arms (sable three bugle horns argent stringed or), was removed at the same time. The house became derelict and was pulled down in 1904. The staircase and some of the old stone fireplaces were re-used in Leighton Vicarage House. The lessees of the prebend, who generally obtained leases for three lives, usually lived at the Prebendal House and took the position of the lord of the manor. The Dorringtons were succeeded as lessees of the Prebendal House and manor by Richard Wildbore, son of Richard Wildbore the elder, Robert Clarke, son of William Clarke, and Brudenell Moseley, son of William Moseley, who held from Robert Clarke, prebendary, and under whom the house was occupied by Sir Thomas Maples, bart. (d. 1634). (fn. 5) John Rowse was lessee during the Commonwealth, but the reversion of the lease in fee was granted by the Parliamentary trustees in 1650 to John Williams of Brampton and Gabriel Bonner of London, grocer. (fn. 6) Rowse probably sold his interest about 1680 to Richard Elmes (d. 1683), (fn. 7) who was living in the house at that time. (fn. 8) Edward Huxby of Adstone (Northants) married Elmes's sister and heir, and succeeded to the interest in the lease. Francis Harby and Parnel, his wife, were lessees in 1706, and from Edward Harby, clerk, Frances Harby and Parnel Harby it passed to John Bigg in 1736. (fn. 9) T. Kerrick was lessee in 1812, and in 1837 a lease for three lives was granted to Charles Read which reserved the use of a convenient chamber within 'the mansion house' to the prebendary when required. In 1903 this lease fell in.
The Rev. Moses Some is said to have been Rector of Broughton (Dioc. Peterborough) until he was deprived as a non-juror, (fn. 10) but, although probably of the non-juring party, he seems to have been at Little Catworth as early as 1684. He had a small estate here, where he built a little chapel and performed the daily offices for many years. The memory of this little chapel probably gave rise to the tradition that there was formerly a church at Little Catworth; thirty years ago people said that their 'grandmother went to church there.' He tried, in 1684, to get the bishop to consecrate this chapel and to form it into a parish church. (fn. 11) He, his wife and her sister, were apparently buried in their own garden, and their graves were visible thirty years ago, but seem to have disappeared since then.
STOW LONGA or NETHER STOW and Little Catworth were both berewicks of Spaldwick, and both passed in 1109, as appurtenances of Spaldwick, to the Bishop of Lincoln and have ever since descended as a hamlet of the manor and soke of Spaldwick (fn. 12) (q.v.), the Duke of Manchester being the present owner. The four hides in Little Catworth, parcel of the soke of Spaldwick, must be distinguished from the one hide in Little Catworth which in 1086 was held by William de Warenne, (fn. 13) which hide, there can be little doubt, never belonged to the soke of Spaldwick, and is dealt with in Great Catworth (q.v.).
The PREBENDAL MANOR comprised the rectorial estate and advowson. The earliest prebendary of Stow Longa of whom there is a definite record is Master John de Maidstone, canon of Lincoln, 1261–2, who held the prebend in 1266. He was probably succeeded by Master William de Thornton, canon of Lincoln, 1270–1, who died prebendary of Stow Longa in 1312. (fn. 14) The estates remained with the prebend, suffering the customary temporary alienation during the Commonwealth, until 1839, when they passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Although the Commissioners were authorised to sell them in 1865, (fn. 15) they have not as yet done so.
The church of ST. BOTOLPH consists of a chancel (28¼ ft. by 18¼ ft.), nave (42 ft. by 18¼ ft.), north aisle (43 ft. by 6 ft.), south chapel (19¾ ft. by 9 ft.), south aisle (23¼ ft. by 6 ft.) and west tower (11 ft. by 10 ft.). The walls are of coursed rubble with some pebble rubble; and the roofs are covered with tiles and lead.
The church is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), but the existence of a pre-Conquest slab with interlaced work seems to indicate an early church on the site, while numerous remains of 12th-century date point conclusively to a stone church at that period. The whole church was apparently rebuilt about the middle of the 13th century, the south arcade and south aisle being built last, c. 1280. About 1330 the eastern end of the south aisle was rebuilt and widened to form a south chapel, and about the same time new windows were inserted in the aisle walls. In the 15th century the south arcade was rebuilt, probably after a fall, and the clearstory was added. The west tower was built and the western responds of the nave arcades were rebuilt c. 1500. Some time probably in the 17th century the upper part of the clearstory and the nave roof fell or were taken down and a poor barn-like roof was put on. The chancel and chancel arch were largely rebuilt in 1880, and the rest of the church was restored from 1888 to 1893, when the south chapel and the east wall of the north aisle were largely rebuilt. In 1901 the upper part of the clearstory was rebuilt and reroofed, the aisles repaired and re-roofed and the south door reset; the north-west corner of the north aisle was partly rebuilt in 1906.
The 13th-century chancel, largely rebuilt, has a 15th-century three-light east window, on the south side of which is a 14th-century trefoil-headed locker with grooves for a shelf; and on either side of the window two 13th-century capitals, one moulded and the other carved with foliage, have been built in. In the gable above is a cruciform loop formed of early stones. The north wall has a 15thcentury two-light window, and the splays and reararch of a 13th-century window. The sill stones of two single-light windows have been built in outside. The lower part of this wall is of pebble rubble and the upper part coursed rubble, but the north and east walls were both rebuilt, exactly as they were before, in 1880, at which time the old brick parapet which surmounted them was done away with. The south wall has a 15th-century three-light window; a very late 14th-century two-light window with a fourcentred head and embattled transom, forming a low-side window; a reset 12th-century doorway having a semicircular arch of one order carved with the chevron ornament and enclosing a tympanum carved with a mermaid, an altar and two grotesque beasts, and resting on detached roughly octagonal shafts with carved capitals and moulded bases; a 13th-century projecting piscina basin in a later squareheaded recess. The rebuilt 13th-century chancel arch is two-centred, of two chamfered orders, the inner order resting on short detached circular shafts with moulded capitals and bases standing on a splayed respond with a chamfered plinth. Two carved heads found in the walling in 1880 have been built into the gable above. The roof is modern and covered with tiles; before 1880 it was partly of oak and partly of deal and was of low pitch and covered with lead.
The 13th-century nave has, on each side, an arcade of four bays of two-centred arches each of two chamfered orders. Those on the north rest on circular columns with moulded capitals and bases (except the western, which has a chamfered base) on modern chamfered plinths; the eastern respond is a continuation of the broadly splayed respond of the chancel arch, and that at the west is a semi-octagonal shaft with a moulded capital, and standing on a slightly earlier moulded base which it does not fit, and which stands rather more to the south. The marks of the front of the rood-loft are visible at the eastern end of the arcade. The columns on the south are generally similar to those on the north, but the mouldings of the capitals and bases are slightly more advanced, and the modern plinths are higher; the eastern respond is a semi-octagonal shaft with a moulded capital and a chamfered base, and the western respond is a semicircular shaft with a moulded capital and a chamfered base. This arcade appears to have been rebuilt, perhaps in the 15th century, and the wall above is largely composed of re-used stones and drums of columns. The font was once fixed against the west face of the western column, which was cut to receive it.
The 15th-century clearstory has four three-light windows on each side; the upper part, from about the middle of the windows upwards, is modern, 1901, and the roof is of the same date, but includes three tie-beams from the former roof.
The 13th-century north aisle has a 15th-century three-light east window with a semi-octagonal bracket built into each jamb. The north wall has three 14th-century two-light windows with tracery in square heads, the two eastern of which have a few fragments of contemporary glass; (fn. 16) and an original doorway with two-centred head and continuous chamfered jambs. The west wall has a 14th-century two-light window with a 16th-century square head.
The 14th-century south chapel has a three-light window with tracery in a square head in the east wall. In the south wall are two similar two-light windows; and a small piscina with an ogee head, a round basin and wooden shelf. The 13th-century south aisle has in the south wall a 14th-century twolight window with tracery in a square head; and a large doorway of c. 1270, standing in a thickening of the wall, having a two-centred arch of three moulded orders resting on three detached circular shafts on each side with carved capitals and moulded bases. (fn. 17) The early 16th-century oak doors are of trellis framing and have panelled fronts with a band of tracery at the springing line. The west wall has a two-light window similar to that in the south wall. Previously to 1888 there was a small south porch, mostly of timber and plaster and with a tiled roof, but then very ruinous and dangerous, which almost completely hid the south doorway.
The west tower, c. 1500, has a two-centred tower arch of three chamfered orders, the lowest order resting on semicircular attached shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The west doorway has a fourcentred arch with continuous moulded jambs; above it is a carved stone bearing a mitre between two shields of arms: (a) . . . on a chevron . . . between three church bells . . . as many escallops . . . all within a bordure (fn. 18) . . .; (b) . . . a chevron . . . between three roses . . . The west window is of three-lights with a four-centred head. In the stage above is a single-light window in the west wall, just north of which inside is a carved four-leafed flower; and on the south wall outside is a contemporary carved black-letter inscription: 'Orate p aiab' Robti Becke et Alicie uxor.' The belfry windows are coupled two-lights with two-centred heads and plain transoms. The tower has diagonal buttresses at the north-west and south-west angles, and is finished with a plain parapet without a coping, but having carved gargoyles in the centre of each face. The put-log holes for the scaffolding, from bottom to top, have never been filled in.
There is one bell, inscribed: Sancte Petre ora pro nobis, and bearing the stamps of Henry Jordan, bellfounder, 1442–1468. (fn. 19) In 1552 there were three bells; (fn. 20) the other two seem to have remained until about 1820, when they were seen outside a shop in Kimbolton, whence they are said to have gone to Covington, but this seems unlikely. (fn. 21)
The late 15th-century oak rood-screen is of five bays with open tracery above and traceried panels below; the coving and loft have gone, and the screen was taken down in 1880 and repaired and re-erected in 1883. On the eastern face are plain seats with shaped ends. The southern seat has a desk with shaped ends and poppy-heads, of similar date but made up.
The modern oak altar incorporates five panels of 17th-century carving; and three similar panels are included in the gradine above. The reredos has one panel of 15th-century tracery brought from elsewhere. Some 17th-century balusters from Easton Church have been incorporated into the modern credence table and litany desk. A short piece of 15th-century roof-beam has been converted into an alms-box; and another piece of beam lying loose in the church has the inscription 'i. t. 1683.' In the tower is a plain 16th-century oak chest.
Three pieces of coffin-lid, c. 1300, with foliated crosses and double omega ornament are built into the east end of the south chapel; there is another fragment at the top of the north wall of the chancel, inside, and another small piece in the sill of the east window of the north aisle. Two other fragments lie loose outside the west end of the south aisle. Lying loose in the north aisle is a pre-Conquest stone carved with interlaced knot work; and also fragments of 12th-century shafts and capitals, and various stones of later dates. Other old stones lie outside the west end of the south aisle. The matrix of a fine 14th-century brass with richly decorated cross on a calvary above an inscription plate lies on the chancel floor.
On the south wall of the chancel is a stone monument with fluted pilasters, frieze and cornice surmounted by a coat of arms—a chevron between three horses' hoofs, all within a bordure. In the centre is the indent of an inscription plate, and a strip of brass inscribed to Sir Thomas Maples, bart., d. 1634, has been fixed in the frieze. (fn. 22) There are other monuments in the chancel, to Mary Bligh, d. 1856, and Timothy Brent Bligh, d. 1867; and floor slabs to Mrs. Ann Elmes, d. 1682; and Richard Elmes, d. 1682/3. In one of the north clearstory window-jambs is an inscription recording the rebuilding in 1901, in memory of Rhoda Sharland and Mary Seymer Salter.
The registers are as follows: (i) baptisms, marriages and burials 27 October 1698 to 17 September 1812; marriages end 10 October 1753; (fn. 23) (ii) marriages 11 October 1754 to 28 December 1812.
The church plate (fn. 24) consists of: (a) A silver cup with a band of Elizabethan ornament, and hallmarked for 1577–8. (fn. 25) (b) A silver paten with sexfoiled centre enclosing head of Christ with bifurcated beard: repaired with silver plate on back inscribed 'St. Botolph Stow Longa Hunts. Hall-marked 1491–2. Restored 1882. Strengthened by this plate 1901.'
The architectural evidence points to a church existing here possibly before the Conquest, and certainly in the 12th century. Originally, no doubt, the advowson was held by the Abbot of Ely and passed with Spaldwick to the Bishop of Lincoln in 1109. Although the manor of Spaldwick was the head of Spaldwick Soke for civil purposes, Stow Longa was the head ecclesiastically, with Spaldwick as a separate vicarage, and Easton and Barham as chapelries dependent upon it. (fn. 26)
It is not known when the prebend of Stow Longa in the cathedral church of Lincoln was founded; the earliest known prebendary is mentioned in 1266. (fn. 27) The Rectory Manor and Advowson of Stow Longa, forming the prebendal estate, must have been part of the original endowment of the prebend and continued to be held by the prebendaries until 1839, when the estates passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and the advowson to the Bishop of Ely, who is now patron.
The early priests seem to have been called curates or chaplains, and in later years 'perpetual curates.' The present benefices—namely, the vicarage of Spaldwick with Barham and the vicarage of Easton with Stow Longa—were formed by an Order in Council in 1869, which, however, did not come into force until the death of John Bligh, vicar of Easton and perpetual curate of Stow and Barham, in 1876.
Two closes called Coppiehold 'light land' in this parish occur in 1615 as chantry lands held of the manor of Spaldwick. (fn. 28)
Town Land.—This charity is regulated by a scheme of the Charity Commissioners dated 7 February 1922. The endowment consists of 6 acres 3 roods 4 poles or thereabout, situate in Stow Longa, and now let at a yearly rent of £7. The sum is applied for the benefit of the poor in accordance with the provisions of the said scheme. The charity is administered by three trustees appointed by the parish meeting of Stow Longa.
Goodwin's Charity.—In respect of this charity, details of which are given under the parish of Spaldwick, four poor children of this parish are entitled to draw lots for the bibles and prayer-books, and two widows to share in the distribution of bread as directed by the donor.