Fen Ditton: Local government

Pages 126-127

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.



In the early 970s Beorhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, presided over a hearing at Fen Ditton, at which the priest Leofstan was judged to have failed to have transferred to Beorhtnoth 1 hide of land at Horningsea. (fn. 1) After the decision had been promulgated at Cambridge, Leofstan was 'driven out'. In the late 13th century the judicial rights of the bishop of Ely, effective at his manorial court in Fen Ditton, included view of frankpledge, the assizes of bread and of ale, and privilege of gallows. (fn. 2) In 1636 the greater part of the rights of Fen Ditton's manorial lordship had not been exercised for many years. (fn. 3) Court books survive for Fen Ditton with Horningsea manor from 1684 to 1922. (fn. 4) The court met annually, and the business was largely tenurial. Orders relating to fences, drains, and cutting timber were made between 1701 and 1710; and pinders and fenreeves were appointed during those years. Inhabitants who failed to clean the watercourses were fined. Copyhold tenants had the right to cut timber to repair their carts and ploughs. (fn. 5) In the early 1700s court orders sought to control the movement of cattle between the pastures of Fen Ditton and Horningsea parishes, and limited the number of cattle who grazed on the fenland. In 1710 the court appointed two haywards for Fen Ditton, and three for Horningsea. (fn. 6) Pinders were still being appointed for Fen Ditton in 1761 and for Horningsea in 1775; the last record of court orders was in 1768. (fn. 7) In the late 18th and 19th centuries the manorial court played a less active role in the management of the landscape of both parishes.

From the 17th century the churchwardens and overseers managed the town lands and the almshouse. A possible guildhall stands north-west of Ditton Hall. It is a three-bayed, two-storeyed, timber-framed building with later weatherboarding. Probably 16th-century in origin, it was later altered to serve as a barn but the quality of the original carpentry and the former first-floor entrance suggests a different original use. (fn. 8) Since c. 1897 the owners of Fen Ditton Hall have been responsible for its upkeep.

Between 1816 and 1820 expenditure on the poor fluctuated between £287 and £454. (fn. 9) Fen Ditton was part of Chesterton poor-law union 1836-94, and lay within Chesterton rural district between 1894 and 1974. (fn. 10) Proposals to include the parish within the city's jurisdiction in 1967 were not implemented, and since 1974 it has been within South Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 11)


  • 1. Liber Elien. (Camd. 3rd. ser. xcii), p. 108.
  • 2. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 431; C.U.L. Add. MS. 6980, f. 9.
  • 3. C.R.O., L 75/57.
  • 4. Ibid. 132/M 26-36; R 59/14/25/1a-b.
  • 5. Ibid. 132/M 26, ff. 46-7, 49, 59v., 62v.-3, 65v.-67, 73 and v., 78v.-79.
  • 6. Ibid. 132/M 28, pp. 17-19, 75-8.
  • 7. Ibid. 132/T 383; Camb. Chron. 7 Apr. 1855, p. 7.
  • 8. R.C.H.M. Cambs. ii. 56.
  • 9. Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 10-11; 1822-4, 37-8; 1825-9, 15-16; 1830-4, 15-16.
  • 10. Youngs, Guide, 49.
  • 11. Camb. Evening News, 18 July 1967.