A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1936.
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Woolley is about 5 miles north of Grafham station on the Huntingdon and Kettering branch of the London Midland and Scottish Railway. It lies about 6 miles north-west from Huntingdon, and rather less north-east by north from Kimbolton, and is bounded by Alconbury on the east, Buckworth on the north, Ellington on the south, and Barham and Spaldwick on the west.
A road branching north from the Huntingdon to Thrapston road runs to the village, which lies in a hollow, about 80 ft. above Ordnance datum; the land all round rises, reaching 168 ft. in the north, though it is liable to floods along the banks of the Woolley Brook, which runs through the parish.
The church stands near the centre of the parish, with the rectory, on the opposite side of the road, to the north of it, while the Manor House lies west of the church. There are some 17th-century almshouses in poor condition. Woolley Lodge is near the eastern boundary.
Mikepher Alphrey, (fn. 1) a prince of the Russian imperial line, born in Russia, was appointed rector in 1618, removed under the Commonwealth, and reinstated at the Restoration, his presentation having resulted from some connection with Russian trade on the part of the lord of the manor, John Bedell. Richard Southgate, the antiquary, was rector from 1754 to 1761.
In the Domesday Survey, 3 hides of land in WOOLLEY were entered as held of the king by Gode or Golde and Uluric his son, who were thegns of the king. They originally held an additional half-hide, but in 1086 it was held by Eustace the Sheriff. (fn. 2) It was presumably reunited with the main holding, as his successors do not seem to have held any land in Woolley. Subsequently the manor formed part of the honour of Gloucester, (fn. 3) but there is no record of the original grant. It may have been granted to Robert Fitz Hamon, who held the honour, and died c. 1109, when his lands passed to Robert, the illegitimate son of Henry I, on his marriage with Fitz Hamon's daughter and heir; (fn. 4) or it may have been given to Robert when he was created Earl of Gloucester between 1121 and 1123. (fn. 5) It was certainly held of the honour in 1210, (fn. 6) and Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, died seised in 1262 of a knight's fee in Woolley. (fn. 7) The manor continued to be held of his heirs, the Earls of Gloucester and of Stafford and the Dukes of Buckingham as of their honour of Gloucester. (fn. 8) Later it was held of the Crown as parcel of the honour of Clare, which overlordship was recorded as late as 1613. (fn. 9)
The history of the undertenants of the manor is difficult to trace, as two families, the Grimbauds and Maufes, appear as holding half a knight's fee in Woolley of the honour of Gloucester. As, however, there seems to have been only one half-fee there, in spite of the return made at the death of Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, in 1262, (fn. 10) it must be concluded that the Grimbauds held it in mesne lordship. They probably inherited it from William de Houghton (Hocton), who was a tenant of William, Earl of Gloucester, in 1166. (fn. 11) His granddaughter, Maud de Houghton, was holding a half, a sixth, and a twelfth part of a knight's fee of the honour of Gloucester in 1201. (fn. 12) She married, as her first husband, Robert Grimbaud, (fn. 13) and their son William had succeeded to these holdings between 1201 and 1212. (fn. 14) It has been presumed that the half-fee was at Woolley, which William certainly held, 1210–12, (fn. 15) the other fractions being in Northamptonshire. William was succeeded by his son Robert, (fn. 16) whose heir, William, was a minor in 1265. (fn. 17) Probably the mesne lordship was eliminated at this time, since in 1279 the Grimbauds' subtenants appear to have held it immediately of the honour of Gloucester. (fn. 18) The mesne lordship was, however, mentioned at the death of Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, in 1314, when the half-fee was said to be held by the heirs of Robert Grimbaud; (fn. 19) while in 1372, at the death of Ralph, Earl of Stafford, and in 1460, at the death of Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham, the name of Robert Grimbaud reappears. (fn. 20) This was, however, most probably due only to repetitions of a former list of tenants of the honour.
The family of Maufe held the manor of Woolley in demesne in the later 12th century. In 1181, the tenant was Simon Maufe, from whom Robert de Grafham claimed it, but apparently unsuccessfully. (fn. 21) Maufe may have been identical with the lord of Woodford Manor, Northants, who died before 1196, (fn. 22) but if so, Woolley appears to have been given to a younger son, and the two manors followed different descents. Between 1210–1212, another Simon Maufe held a halffee of the honour of Gloucester, which was probably the Woolley half-fee, (fn. 23) and in 1242 Oliver Maufe was the tenant there. (fn. 24) He was apparently succeeded by another Simon, who before 1248 married Brunna, a daughter and co-heir of Ralph de St. Sampson. (fn. 25) Their daughter and heir Joan married Alan de Chartres, (fn. 26) who presented to the church of Woolley in 1273, (fn. 27) and in 1279 was returned as holding the manor of the Earl of Gloucester for the service due from half a knight's fee and suit at his court at Royston. This suit, however, was said to be wrongfully exacted, since it had been alienated at the time of the return of Edward I to England. (fn. 28) Chartres held two carucates of land in demesne, and also a windmill. (fn. 29) His son and heir Roger succeeded before 1306, (fn. 30) and he and his wife Christian were holding the manor jointly in 1335. (fn. 31) He died before May 1346, and the following year Christian presented to the church. (fn. 32) Their heir was probably their son Peter, on whom and his wife Elizabeth they had settled the manor of Grafton Underwood, Northants, in 1335. (fn. 33) Peter either predeceased his mother or only survived her a short time, since in 1352 the manor of Woolley was held by Richard Fitz With and his wife Elizabeth for the term of her life, she probably being the widow of Peter de Chartres. (fn. 34) Elizabeth was still holding the manor in 1374, but had died before 1384. (fn. 35) In the meantime, the reversion of the manor had been sold by John de Chartres in 1352 to Sir William le Moyne, knt., of Great Ravely, (fn. 36) and two years later le Moyne granted it to John Stukeley, Nicholas his son, another Nicholas Stukeley and Gilbert Stukeley, with remainders to John's sons, Nicholas, John and Hugh, in tail male. (fn. 37) The wife of Nicholas, the son of John Stukeley, (fn. 38) was Juliana, the daughter of Sir William le Moyne. (fn. 39) John Stukeley, the son of Nicholas, was the tenant in 1384, (fn. 40) and he and his wife Agnes, together with his son John and other feoffees, obtained a quitclaim of the manor in 1388 from Andrew Brown and his wife Katherine and her heirs, (fn. 41) but it does not appear what right she had in the manor. The elder John Stukeley contracted a debt with the prior of the London Charterhouse in 1396 which had not been paid at the time of his death, which occurred about 1407. In consequence, the manor of Woolley, with other manors and lands, was given to the prior in 1408 for the recovery of the debt. (fn. 42) A year earlier an inquiry was ordered by the king touching the bondmen and tenants in bondage in the manor of Woolley, who had leagued together to refuse John Stukeley custom and service. (fn. 43) This was presumably the son and successor of the debtor, and the order was repeated in 1420. (fn. 44) He had granted the manor in 1410 to certain feoffees. (fn. 45) Before 1428, Sir Nicholas Stukeley and other feoffees granted it to John, Lord Tiptoft, (fn. 46) and his wife Joyce. Tiptoft died in 1443, (fn. 47) leaving his son John, a minor, as his heir. The latter was created Earl of Worcester in 1449, but, being a strong Yorkist, was attainted and beheaded in 1470, (fn. 48) during the brief return of Henry VI to the throne. It is said that he was captured in the forest near Woolley, because he sent a peasant to make a purchase, and the messenger was suspected and followed when he presented a coin of too great value for such a man to possess. (fn. 49) His son and heir Edward, a boy of three at the time of his father's death, (fn. 50) was restored on the return of Edward IV to the throne in the following year, but he died unmarried in 1485. (fn. 51) His heirs were his aunts, Philippa, widow of Thomas, Lord Ros of Hamlake (beheaded 1464), and wife of Edward Grimston; Joan, widow of Sir Edmund Ingaldesthorp; and Joyce, wife of Sir Edmund Sutton or Dudley. (fn. 52) No assignment of the manor of Woolley took place, and Joan Ingaldesthorp died seised of a third part of it in 1494. (fn. 53) From her share, she left by will an annuity of 26s. to William Sawston, to keep an obit. (fn. 54) Her heirs were the four daughters and one grandson of her daughter Isabel, who had married John Neville, Marquis Montagu. (fn. 55) Philippa's inheritance passed to her son Edmund, Lord Ros, who in 1492 had been found incapable of managing his own affairs, and his property was, under an Act of Parliament, vested in Sir Thomas Lovell, who had married as his second wife Isabel, one of Edmund's sisters. (fn. 56) Edmund died unmarried in 1508, and it is uncertain whether Isabel survived him. (fn. 57) It seems clear, however, that before this (fn. 58) Lovell, who had been Speaker of the House of Commons and had had a successful career in the royal service, being created Knight of the Garter in 1503, (fn. 59) acquired the different parts of the manor of Woolley, besides his wife's share and thus held the whole manor. He had no children, and at his death in 1524 his heirs were the daughters of his brother, Sir Robert Lovell, but he left the manor of Woolley and much other property to his nephew Francis Lovell and his heirs male. (fn. 60)
Sir Francis Lovell, kt., and his wife, Elizabeth, were dealing with the manor in 1541, (fn. 61) and in 1559 it was in the hands of his son Sir Thomas Lovell, kt., (fn. 62) against whom chancery proceedings were instituted by certain copyholders of the manor in 1564, (fn. 63) and who in 1563 settled it and the advowson on the marriage of his son and heir Thomas with Alice, daughter of Dame Brigit Huddleston, widow. (fn. 64) Thomas inherited in 1567 (fn. 65) on the death of his father and with Francis, his son and heir, was dealing with the manor and advowson (fn. 66) in 1598, and conveyed them in 1603 to Sir John Bedell, kt. (fn. 67) Sir John left them by will, dated 1612, to his second son John, by whom he was succeeded, on his death in 1613. (fn. 68) John was holding in 1624, (fn. 69) and was apparently succeeded by Edward Bedell, who presented to the church in 1668 and 1670. (fn. 70) In 1701 the manor was in the hands of John Bedell, (fn. 71) who presented in 1707. Before 1713 it must have been transferred to William Peacock, who held a court in that year (fn. 72) and died in 1720. He was succeeded by Joseph Peacock, who died in 1734, (fn. 73) and in that year and in 1746 the presentation was made by William Peacock. (fn. 74) Either he, or a son of the same name, and his wife Mary were dealing with the manor and advowson in 1771 (fn. 75) and 1782. (fn. 76) In 1803 they were conveyed by William Peacock and his wife Anne to Samuel Pepys Cockerell and Charles Cockerell, (fn. 77) and were still in the same family in 1860, when John Cockerell presented. The presentation was made in 1868 by Andrew Pepys Cockerell, who was still lord in 1890, but had been replaced before 1894 by James Padgett, who died in 1897. George Padgett succeeded him and was holding in 1903, (fn. 78) but he sold the estate in 1904, and Emerson Muschamp Bainbridge was lord of the manor in 1906. The property again changed hands and belonged to Mr. Albert Andrew in 1914. He died before 1928, and his trustees are the present owners.
In 1248 William, son of John de Brampton, and his wife Agnes and her sister Clemence granted 16 acres of land in Woolley to Richard, Master of the Hospital of St. Mary, Stonely, to hold in frankalmoin, except for the forinsec service due from the land. (fn. 79)
At the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Priory of Stonely held 12s. annual rent in Woolley. (fn. 80)
Court-leet and view of frankpledge in Woolley, held by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, with his manor of Southoe, and delivered in dower to his widow Joan in 1307, (fn. 81) descended with the honour of Gloucester. (fn. 82) Court-leet in Great Grantesden and Woolley was held in 1398 by Roger de Mortimer, (fn. 83) and through his heirs, the Earls of March and Dukes of York, passed to the Crown. (fn. 84) View of frankpledge was conveyed with the manor to Sir John Bedell in 1603.
The church of ST. MARY consists of a chancel (22 ft. by 16 ft.), nave (41½ ft. by 16 ft.), north transept (6 ft. by 11½ ft.), south transept (9 ft. by 11¾ ft.), north aisle (15½ ft. by 6¼ ft.), south aisle (15¼ ft. by 5¾ ft.), and west tower (9 ft. by 8½ ft.). The walls are of rubble with stone dressings and the roofs are covered with tiles and lead.
The church is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086); but numerous 12th-century stones built into the walls bear evidence to a church here at that time. The chancel, nave, transepts and aisles were built c. 1300, and the nave was lengthened and the tower and spire built at the end of the 14th century. At some uncertain date the north transept was pulled down and rebuilt as an extension of the aisle. The roofs were largely renewed in the 17th century. The chancel was restored in 1857, and again repaired in 1863. The south transept and south aisle were rebuilt in 1907; the north aisle thoroughly restored in 1914; the columns of the nave arcades underpinned in 1931; and the tower and spire restored in 1932. The features, except where otherwise stated, are for the body of the church of c. 1300, and for the tower of late 14th-century date.
The chancel, c. 1300, has on the north and south an internal wall-arcade of three two-centred arches carried on detached circular shafts with moulded capitals and bases. The east window has three pointed lights under a two-centred head. The north wall has two two-light windows with quatrefoils in their heads. The south wall has a lancet window and a 14thcentury square-headed two-light window. A piscina has been formed of a stone mortar with lugs fixed on a low pier of re-used stones set diagonally. The chancel arch is two-centred of two chamfered orders, the lower order resting on moulded corbels.
The nave has an arcade of two bays on each side, both having two-centred arches of two chamfered orders resting on octagonal columns and semicircular attached shafts to the responds, all having moulded capitals and bases. The eastern arch on the north side is much distorted. The western extension has in the south wall a 17th-century square-headed twolight window. The roof is mostly modern, but incorporates some beams and jack-legs of 16th and 17th century date.
The late 14th-century north transept has in the north wall a 14th-century three-light window with a four-centred head; and a square recess. The arch to the aisle springs from the column of the nave arcade, and is two-centred and of two chamfered orders.
The rebuilt south transept has in the south wall a two-light window with a modern head; (fn. 85) a small 14th-century trefoiled window; (fn. 86) and a 14th-century piscina with segmental head and quatrefoil basin. The arch to the aisle is similar to that of the north transept.
The buttresses at the angles of the chancel have been much restored; those on the north side are modern. The buttresses of the transepts and aisles, except the angle buttresses of the north aisle, are all modern; previous to 1907 and 1914 respectively these walls, which were very ruinous, were held up by brick props. The parapet of the north aisle is also modern.
The late 14th-century west tower has a two-centred tower arch of two orders, the outer moulded and the inner chamfered; the latter rests on moulded corbels. The west doorway has a two-centred arch of two continuous moulded orders. The west window is of two-lights with a pointed head, much restored; and in the stage above is a small single-light window. The belfry windows are two-lights with two-centred heads. The tower has diagonal buttresses at the northwest and south-west angles which only rise to the level of the belfry, and is surmounted by an embattled parapet with large gargoyles; from behind the parapet rises an octagonal spire having two tiers of spire lights, the lower of two-lights and the upper of single-lights, and all on the cardinal faces. The top of the spire is 86 ft. above the ground. The stairs are in the north-east corner, and reach only to the stage below the belfry.
There is one bell, inscribed: Thomas Norris made me 1634. In 1552 there were three bells in the steeple and the sanctus bell; (fn. 87) the three bells remained as late as 1748, (fn. 88) and the frame still contains the pits for them.
The screen under the tower arch is formed of 17th-century panelling. In the churchyard is the 14thcentury base of a churchyard cross; (fn. 89) it is square below and octagonal above, with bold angle stops. Built into the south wall of the nave are some 12thcentury archstones; in the east wall of the chancel is a broken grotesque figure. Against the west wall of the south aisle is a large slab with a partly defaced marginal inscription in Lombardic letters: 'xtiane de c . . . . . . . e amen.' (fn. 90) Lying in the north aisle is an early 14th-century stone coffin and lid with ornamental cross at head and foot; another coffin is in the south aisle.
There are the following monuments: in the nave, floor slabs to Mrs. Frances Peacock, d. 1726; and the Rev. Joseph Weedon, Rector, d. 1746, and Rebecca (Garner) his first wife, d. 1738; in the south transept, to William Peacock, d. 1720; and Joseph Peacock, d. 1734; in the south aisle, to John Peacock, d. 1732; and Hector Percival Gammons, killed in the Great War, 1917; and loose in north aisle, to Ann daughter of Thomas and Ann Bales, d. 1712.
The registers are as follows: (i) baptisms, marriages and burials 1 May 1576 to 8 December 1706; (ii) the same, — 1706 to — 1715; (iii) the same, 1 June 1729 to 27 September 1812; the marriages end 20 November 1753; (iv) marriages 31 July 1754 to 30 November 1812.
The church plate consists of a silver cup with a band of Elizabethan ornament, hall-marked for 1577–8; a silver cover paten for the same, inscribed 'woley Wb' hall-marked as cup; a pewter plate engraved with the arms of Lord St. John of Bletsoe impaling Crawley, the back marked with a rose, a crowned X, and a rose and crown, early 18th century.
The advowson has descended since the 13th century with the manor, (fn. 91) and the trustees of the late Mr. Albert Andrew are the present patrons. The Lord Chancellor presented in 1904, and the Bishop of Ely in 1909, because, owing to the poverty of the living, the patron was unable to find an incumbent. The living has been vacant since 1912.
Church Lands.—This land consists of an inclosure called Woolley Church Land, containing about 2 acres. The land is let at a yearly rent, which is carried to the churchwardens' account and applied towards the repair of the church.