Horningsea: Manors and other estates

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.


A F Wareham, A P M Wright, 'Horningsea: Manors and other estates', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire)( London, 2002), British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp163-165 [accessed 15 July 2024].

A F Wareham, A P M Wright, 'Horningsea: Manors and other estates', in A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire)( London, 2002), British History Online, accessed July 15, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp163-165.

A F Wareham, A P M Wright. "Horningsea: Manors and other estates". A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). (London, 2002), , British History Online. Web. 15 July 2024. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol10/pp163-165.

In this section


In the early 970s Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester (d. 984) gave 5 hides at Horningsea to Ely abbey. (fn. 1) The acquisition, donation and descent of this pre-Norman Conquest estate is discussed more fully below. (fn. 2) In 1066 Ely abbey held the manor of FEN DITTON with HORNINGSEA. From 1109, following the creation of the bishopric of Ely, it was included in the bishops' share of the Ely estates until 1600. (fn. 3) Most of Horningsea parish formed part of the Fen Ditton estate during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, with 910 a. lying in Horningsea parish in 1810 when it was owned by Thomas Panton's legal representatives. (fn. 4) The manorial lordship of Horningsea was owned by Mr. R. M. Francis in 2000. (fn. 5)

Prior William of Ely granted EYE manor, later known as High Hall, to Eustace the bishop's butler either c. 1134 or c. 1141, to hold as ½ knight's fee. The overlordship was recorded in 1210-12. (fn. 6) The estate passed from Eustace to his son Peter the butler, tenant in 1166. (fn. 7) In 1210-12 it was held by Eustace of Eye and in 1251 by Peter of Eye. (fn. 8) Edmund Pecche, who held Eye manor in 1279, (fn. 9) died in 1285 and was succeeded by his under-age son Thomas, later knighted, who held the fee of the bishop c. 1303. He may have died in 1311. (fn. 10) His successor, another Sir Thomas Pecche, probably his son, c. 1320 acquired from his stepfather Sir John Howard another manor at Upware in Wicken, to which a yardland at Horningsea was still attached when it was in dispute c. 1350. The second Sir Thomas probably died between 1331 and 1345. His heirs were two daughters, Joan and Anne, who married respectively Sir William la Zouche (d. after 1358), named as tenant in 1346, and Sir William Malory. (fn. 11) Perhaps c. 1347 Zouche ceded his rights over Eye manor to Malory, who only gained possession of all the rights attached to it as late as 1353. (fn. 12) In 1356 Malory sold the manor to Mary de St. Pol, countess of Pembroke, who granted it to her foundation, Denny abbey in Waterbeach, in 1364. (fn. 13) Although in 1428 the Eye half fee was said to be held by Joan Beauchamp, Lady Bergavenny (d. 1435), it belonged to the abbey when it was surrendered to the Crown in 1539. (fn. 14) Eye Hall, granted by the Crown with the Denny estates in 1540 to Edward Elrington who returned it three years later, was sold on three further occasions between 1541 and 1553. (fn. 15) Thomas Willys (d. 1568) purchased it in 1555, (fn. 16) and his son and heir Thomas (fn. 17) took possession in 1576. (fn. 18) From 1605 Eye manor formed part of the Willyses' Fen Ditton estate. (fn. 19)

In 1812 Eye Hall farm (c. 218 a.) was sold to Peter Musgrave, who bought Clayhithe farm (145 a.) in 1814, and was succeeded before 1817 by his son Thomas, later archbishop of York. (fn. 20) Thomas bought other land in the parish between 1818 and 1829, and sold the estate in 1842 to his tenant William Saunders (d. c. 1870). (fn. 21) In 1885 Eye Hall was sold to Frederick Bailey, whose family owned the farm until the early 1930s. (fn. 22) Eye Hall is a two-storeyed brick house with a symmetrical south elevation of three bays. (fn. 23) The north range includes a framed and plastered 16th-century house with a tiled gabled roof. In the 17th century a central chimney stack and the room immediately behind it were probably added to two existing rooms. Interior beams suggest a former partition and jetties and perhaps a cross wing. The south block, with cellars and a slated roof, was apparently built for Thomas Musgrave and replaced an earlier cross wing. Extensive farm buildings, including a barn probably of the early 17th century, are recorded thereafter.

The manor of SIBILLS in Clayhithe was conveyed to feoffees by William Sibill of Cheveley in 1412. (fn. 24) In 1515 it passed under the will of William Harris to Alice Painter, widow, who had married Thomas Greenhall by 1517. (fn. 25) In 1533 Greenhall and John Pamphlyn granted Sibills manor to William Barnard of Horningsea (d. c. 1552). (fn. 26) Under William's will his son and heir John enfeoffed William's other son Henry, who still held it in 1574. (fn. 27) In 1600 he bequeathed the manor to Thomas Hockley (d. 1601), but in 1608 James Barnard sold the manor to Stephen Willys, who was probably a relative of Thomas Willys (d. 1626). (fn. 28)


The Ely manor at Horningsea was largely derived from the 10thcentury endowment of the minster there. (fn. 29) Local landowners, some of whom were perhaps of Danish origin, had given five hides at Horningsea and two more at Eye to the minster in the early 10th century. Subsequently its lands were virtually treated as the property of two priests who successively headed the minster's clergy, and their assignees. When Cenwold the priest, its head in the early 10th century, died, King Athelstan installed to succeed him his own follower, the priest Herulf. Cenwold's kinsman Wulfric thereupon took back two hides, probably in Horningsea. When Herulf died, the remaining land passed with the minster to his kinsman the priest Athelstan. Perhaps in the 960s that land, including three hides in Horningsea, was claimed as forfeit to the king because Herulf had used the minster's treasures to buy a pardon for Athelstan, accused, probably before 960, of receiving stolen goods. The estate was sold by King Edgar to Bishop Aethelwold. Athelstan, however, claiming the land at Eye as his inheritance, agreed to sell it to the king's thegn Wulfstan of Dalham, in return for Wulfstan's maintaining his case. Only after Wulfstan's death could the bishop compel Athelstan to renounce the Eye land in favour of Ely. Athelstan seized it back after Edgar died in 975, and divided the Eye lands with his two brothers, taking the largest share. After many years, probably after 984, the three brothers finally gave their land in Eye to the abbot of Ely in exchange for land at Snailwell.

When Wulfric died, he had left his two hides in Horningsea to his nephew the priest Leofstan, who, accused of theft, likewise granted them to Wulfstan of Dalham. He in turn gave them to Athelstan 'Chusin', from whom Bishop Aethelwold bought them. They were subsequently lost again, being after 975 similarly seized back by Leofstan and Wulfric's sons, from whom Ealdorman Aethelwine failed to help Ely recover them. Leofstan later sold one hide to Leofsige, another priest, one of four brothers who had agreed to grant to Ealdorman Beorhtnoth another hide there which they already owned. Only two of the brothers completed the sale of their shares. The other two, including Leofsige, eventually sold their part of that hide to Ely. Leofsige later promised to sell all his remaining Horningsea land to Beorhtnoth, but prevaricated. A court held at Beorhtnoth's estate at Fen Ditton, whose decision was confirmed at Cambridge, finally adjudged both hides to Beorhtnoth, who then, presumably before 991, gave it to Ely.

The estate of St. John's College, Cambridge, in Horningsea originated with Bishop Eustace of Ely's grant of Horningsea church to St. John's hospital, Cambridge, before 1215. (fn. 30) The hospi tal acquired other lands in Horningsea between the late 13th and late 15th centuries, (fn. 31) and all passed to the hospital's successor, St. John's College in 1511. (fn. 32) In 1599 the college's lands comprised 64 a. In 1810 they had increased to 370 a. as a result of allotments for tithes and rights of common. (fn. 33) In the 19th and early 20th centuries the college's land was divided between St. John's farm, and North Hills farm, near Clayhithe. (fn. 34) North Hills farm was sold to its tenant in 1960. The college retained ownership of Parsonage farm in the late 20th century. (fn. 35)

King's College, Cambridge, bought 114 a. in Horningsea and 4 a. in Fen Ditton in 1810 from the Fen Ditton estate, then owned by Thomas Panton's representatives. Later in the 19th century the college purchased additional holdings. (fn. 36) The land formed part of King's farm, owned by the college in 1941, but sold in the 1960s. (fn. 37) By 2000 the college no longer owned any land in Fen Ditton or Horningsea parishes. In the 1890s Caius College, Cambridge, bought Poplar Hall farm, which had land in both parishes, but sold off the farmhouse and some of the land in the 1980s. (fn. 38)


  • 1. Liber Elien. (Camd. 3rd. ser. xcii), pp. 105-6, 115-16.
  • 2. Below, other estates.
  • 3. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 365, 407-8; above, Fen Ditton, manors.
  • 4. For full account, above, Fen Ditton, manors; C.R.O., Q/RDz 6, pp. 51-4.
  • 5. Above, Fen Ditton, manors.
  • 6. Miller, Ely, 171;, D. Knowles et al. (ed.), Heads of Religious Houses in England, 45; Red Bk. Exch. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 525; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 430; Feud. Aids, i. 135; P.R.O., C 143/351, no. 9; ibid. SC 6/1112/1; Cal. Pat. 1370-4, 246; V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 296, 298.
  • 7. Red Bk. Exch. ii. 525.
  • 8. Rot. Cur. Reg. (Rec. Com.), i. 402, ii. 223; Red Bk. Exch. ii. 525; B.L. Cott. MS. Claud. C. xi, f. 115v.
  • 9. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 430;
  • 10. Cal. Inq. p.m, ii, pp. 348, 407; Feud. Aids, i. 144; cf. Knights. of Edw. I, iv (Harl. Soc. lxxxiii), 22, 27; Copinger, Suff. Manors, vii. 232-3.
  • 11. Cal. Inq. Misc. ii, p. 390; Feud. Aids, i. 161; P.R.O., C 88/29, no. 80; ibid. CP 25(1)/28/75, no. 17; Cal. Pat. 1354-8, 648; below, Wicken, manors (Upware).
  • 12. St. John's Coll. Mun., D 26/8; P.R.O., C 111/81, nos. 5, 9.
  • 13. P.R.O., C 111/81, nos. 88-9; C 143/351, no. 9; ibid. CP 25(1)/28/78, nos. 6, 11; Cal. Pat. 1364-7, 48.
  • 14. Feud. Aids, i. 180; Complete Peerage, i. 27-8; Baker, Hist. St. John's Coll. i. 346; Dugdale, Mon. vi. 1549; V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 298, 302; ix. 245.
  • 15. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xiv (2), p. 159; xvi, p. 330; xvii, p. 319; Cal. Pat. 1553-4, 361.
  • 16. Cal. Pat. 1554-5, 6; P.R.O., C 3/96/36.
  • 17. P.R.O., C 142/132, no. 51; ibid. PROB 11/50, f. 146v.
  • 18. Ibid. C 111/81, nos. 12, 68, 71.
  • 19. Above, Fen Ditton, manors.
  • 20. C.R.O., 334/O 44; Alum. Cantab. 1752-1900, iv. 505; C.U.L., Maps, MS. Plan 387; ibid. PSQ 18/239.
  • 21. C.U.L., Maps, PSQ 18/239; C.R.O., 334/O 44; ibid. 296/SP 858.
  • 22. C.R.O., 470/O 53, ff. 27-37; 281/O 22; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1879-1933).
  • 23. For full architectural description, R.C.H.M. Cambs. ii. 69-70; for farm bldgs. in 19th cent., C.R.O., 296/SP 858; C.U.L., Maps, PSQ 18/239.
  • 24. P.R.O., C 111/81, nos. 21, 24.
  • 25. Ibid. nos. 48, 53-4.
  • 26. Ibid. nos. 62-3, 67.
  • 27. Ibid. CP 25(2)/93/838/15 & 16 Eliz. I Mich. no. 17.
  • 28. Ibid. C 111/81, no. 94.
  • 29. Account of acquisition by Ely of Horningsea manorial estate, Liber Elien. (Camd. 3rd ser. xcii), pp. xi-xii, xvi, 105-8, 115-16, 420-1.
  • 30. V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 303-4; Val. of Norwich, ed. Lunt, 220, 538, 558.
  • 31. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 442; St. John's Coll. Mun., D 26/128; D 26/7; D 26/10; D 26/16; D 26/49; D 26/54; D 26/55; D 26/77; ibid. St. John's Hosp. Cart. f. 37v.
  • 32. V.C.H. Cambs. iii. 445.
  • 33. St. John's Coll. Mun., D 70/62; cf. ibid. MP S/35; MP S/36; C.R.O., Q/RDz 6, pp. 51-4; ibid. P 94/26/2.
  • 34. St. John's Coll. Mun., D 110/74-5; ibid. MP S/218.
  • 35. Ibid. SB 1/69.
  • 36. C.R.O., R 60/24/2/24.
  • 37. Rep. Com. Univ. Income, 184, 198; C.R.O., L 75/10; P.R.O., MAF 32/807/32.
  • 38. Biog. Hist. Gonville and Caius, ed. Venn, iv. 56; inf. from Caius College.