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.
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In the mid 10th century one Wynsige sold to his kinsman Wulfstan a two-hide estate at Swaffham, which was subsequently bought from Aethelwine by King Edgar. He sold it to Bishop Aethelwold of Winchester, who conferred it with 70 a. more upon his foundation at Ely. The abbey, having defeated a claim by Wynsige after the king's death, granted its Swaffham land before 996 for life to one Eadric. It also received c. 1000 another yardland there from one Oswine. (fn. 1) Abbot Leofsige (1029–44) assigned that manor to support the monks. (fn. 2) In 1066 the abbey's ancient endowment included three hides at Swaffham Prior and it also then had lordship over six sokemen occupying 2 7/8 hides there. It had lost that lordship by 1086, but retained its demesne manor. (fn. 3) When, following the establishment of the see of Ely in 1109, the abbey estates were divided between the bishop and the prior and convent, the Swaffham ELY manor was probably part of the portion finally assigned, even though not part of his original grant, by Bishop Hervey (1109–31) to the priory. (fn. 4) to whom it was confirmed in the late 1130s by Bishop Nigel and the pope. (fn. 5) The priory, which was granted free warren on its demesne in 1252, (fn. 6) retained the manor, held in free alms, until the Dissolution. (fn. 7)
In 1541 its Swaffham Prior manor was granted to its successors, the newly founded dean and chapter of Ely, (fn. 8) who owned the PRIORY manor until the mid 19th century. To a demesne, supposedly of 220 a. in 1279 (fn. 9) and including from the early 14th century to the 18th c. 260 a. of arable, (fn. 10) they had added, 1670 × 1700, 308 a. of fenland allotted in severalty. (fn. 11) From the early 17th century to the early 19th their manorial demesne, usually called the HALL land, (fn. 12) was held on beneficial leases. (fn. 13) At inclosure in 1815 the dean and chapter were allotted 392 a. for their manorial estate (fn. 14) and 225 a. for the impropriate tithes of St. Cyriac's rectory. (fn. 15) All that land passed after 1867 to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, (fn. 16) who also received after 1864 the 434 a. allotted in 1815 to the bishop of Ely, mostly for his impropriate rectory of St. Mary's. (fn. 17) The Commissioners sold 501 a. of the dean and chapter estate, including the Hall and all the farmland south of the village, to Charles Peter Allix in 1870. (fn. 18) Over 100 a. of scattered fenland from both those estates was sold in and after 1919, (fn. 19) when 318 a. of another 382 a., once the bishop's, mostly in the south, went to the county council. (fn. 20) The last remaining former dean and chapter farm in the fen (245–65 a. after 1800), lying alongside Swaffham Lode near the river, called eventually Commissioners' farm, was probably sold to the Ministry of Agriculture c. 1948. (fn. 21)
The priory's manorial farmstead presumably stood from the Middle Ages amid closes towards the north-east end of the village street, covering 9½ a. c. 1318, (fn. 22) 10–14 a. in 1650, (fn. 23) and 13 a. c. 1800. (fn. 24) In the north-western part of those closes there survives only the south-east side, 500 ft. long and still wet, of a 4-a. moated inclosure. (fn. 25) In 1650 the house there was built of stone and timber and tiled, and included a hall, parlour, and two chambers; (fn. 26) it probably comprised the oldest parts of the existing former farmhouse, still called the Hall in the mid 20th century. Its south-western half includes a timber-framed 15th-century hall and service wing; north-east of them the parlour, with its contemporary chimney stack, along with a lower range behind it, was rebuilt in clunch soon after 1500. Probably before 1600 an upper floor and another chimney were inserted in the hall. In the 18th century a bay-windowed drawing room was added beyond the parlour, which became the entrance hall, and the south-east front, thus made symmetrical, received new sash windows and a central pedimented doorway. (fn. 27) From the 1870s the Allixes usually let Swaffham Prior Hall separately from the farm. (fn. 28)
By 1086 Hardwin de Scalers had seized the 2 7/8 hides once held by Ely's sokemen, with another yardland formerly supporting six sokemen. (fn. 29) Lordship over that manor, held under the bishops of Ely, remained with Hardwin's descendants into the 14th century, (fn. 30) being sometimes ascribed as c. 1210 to the Scalers line seated at Whaddon, (fn. 31) sometimes as in 1279 and 1312 to the Frevilles of Shelford. (fn. 32) By 1223 (fn. 33) the manor was included in the lands held for 1 1/3 knight's fee by Herbert de Alençon, perhaps in right of his wife Margery. (fn. 34) Herbert, who established an oratory at his Swaffham manor house, (fn. 35) probably died after 1253. (fn. 36) By the 1260s his Cambridgeshire lands had come to the Criketots. (fn. 37) William de Criketot (d. 1269) was succeeded by his son and namesake, (fn. 38) whose Swaffham demesne in 1279 comprised 180 a., two thirds held of the Frevilles. The other 60 a. held of the earl of Oxford (fn. 39) possibly represented the three yardlands held in 1086 by the earl's predecessor Hugh de Bolbec of Walter Giffard, and previously by Wulfwig under the abbot of Ely. (fn. 40)
William de Criketot no longer held that Swaffham manor at his death in 1299. (fn. 41) It was incorporated (fn. 42) into the large composite manor called by 1440 and formally by 1550 KNIGHTS. (fn. 43) That manor probably also included part of the fee held c. 1235 by Everard le Fraunceys, (fn. 44) who sold 60–80 a. of his 100 a. held of the honor of Richmond to Anglesey priory by 1236. By 1279 the rest with lordship over his tenanted land belonged to Reginald of Eylsham (d. 1286 × 1299). (fn. 45) Everard's son and by 1259 heir Alan le Fraunceys had sold a 2mark rent, due from Anglesey, by 1286 to the judge Roger Loveday. (fn. 46) At his death in 1287 Loveday's Swaffham manor, acquired since 1279, descended to his eldest lawful son Richard, of age in 1302, (fn. 47) when he had the Scalers Swaffham fee and another held of Philip Burnell's heirs. (fn. 48) Richard died in 1318, leaving as coheirs four sisters, (fn. 49) one of whom, Catherine, with her husband Roger Tichborne, in 1331 conveyed an estate including 10 messuages and 320 a. of arable to John Hotham, bishop of Ely (d. 1337). Hotham then confirmed the life interest in it held since the 1310s by William Gosfeld, clerk (fn. 50) (fl. 1308–38). (fn. 51) In 1344 John Burdoun and his wife Isabel granted her Swaffham Prior manor to the rich London financier, Sir John Pulteney, who held the former Loveday fees in 1346. (fn. 52)
After Pulteney died in 1349, leaving a son William (b. 1341), Sir John's widow Margaret (fn. 53) (d. 1366×1370) (fn. 54) brought her life interest in his estates in 1350 to her new husband, the young courtier Nicholas Loveyn (kt. 1351). (fn. 55) After surrendering those lands in 1362 for £1,000 rent to her son Sir William Pulteney, newly of age, they secured in 1364 a long-term interest in his Swaffham manor among other estates. (fn. 56) Following his stepson Sir William's death without issue in 1367, (fn. 57) Loveyn improved his title in 1370, buying out Sir William's cousins and heirs, to full ownership of almost all the Pulteney lands. (fn. 58) When Sir Nicholas Loveyn died in 1375 he devised his manors mostly to his son and namesake (b. 1370) by a second marriage, then under age. (fn. 59) The younger Nicholas, possibly living in 1387, (fn. 60) was succeeded by his sister Margaret. She married first, 1379 × 1388, Richard Chamberlain (d. 1396), (fn. 61) then, c. 1397, Sir Philip Sinclair. (fn. 62) She and Philip died together in 1408, holding their Swaffham estate, which c. 1420 included c. 235 a. of demesne, held piecemeal of the Ely, Baldwin, Shadworth, and Tothill manors and of Michell Hall in Swaffham Bulbeck. (fn. 63) Since in 1400 they had settled that Swaffham manor on their issue in tail male. (fn. 64) Both her sons by Sinclair died without leaving sons, John, just of age, in 1418, Thomas, of age in 1422, (fn. 65) in 1435. (fn. 66) The manors were then successfully reclaimed in 1437–8 by their elder half-brother Richard Chamberlain. (fn. 67) He died in 1439, as did his eldest son Richard. The younger Richard's half-brother William Chamberlain, (fn. 68) of age by 1457 (fn. 69) (d. s.p. 1470), was succeeded at Swaffham by his brother, another Richard, (fn. 70) who at his death in 1496 settled his Swaffham manor to maintain his three younger sons for their lives. His eldest son and heir, Edward Chamberlain, (fn. 71) eventually sold it in 1517 to the Lavenham clothier Thomas Spring. (fn. 72)
Spring just before he died in 1523 settled his Swaffham Prior land upon his second son Robert, (fn. 73) a merchant stapler, (fn. 74) who at his death in 1549 left Knights manor to his third son Jerome. (fn. 75) Jerome, who had in 1555 granted a life interest in that manor to Robert Beningfield, sold it in 1577 to Thomas Edwards (fn. 76) (d. 1583). Edwards's son and heir John, (fn. 77) after various alienations, sold the manor in 1596 to John Rant, (fn. 78) buried at Swaffham in 1603. (fn. 79) His kinsman and successor Roger Rant, a Londoner, also obtained the leases of both impropriate rectories: in 1600 he received under the bishop of Ely that of St. Mary's, which his family retained at least until the 1690s; (fn. 80) from 1602 he held under the dean and chapter that of St. Cyriac's together with their manorial demesne farm, (fn. 81) which the Rants possessed until 1712. (fn. 82) When Roger Rant died in 1623, Knights manor with the recently acquired Baldwins manor and 165 a. of other land, largely held of the bishop of Ely, descended to his eldest son Roger (fn. 83) (d. 1654). He left those manors and lands to his son Roger. (fn. 84) That Roger died in 1684 (fn. 85) and was succeeded by his son, a fourth Roger Rant, who died as lord in 1728. (fn. 86) Although he left a son and namesake, dwelling at Swaffham into the mid 1730s and buried there in 1747, (fn. 87) the manor courts were held between 1730 and 1751 in the name of Elizabeth Rant, spinster, called in 1734 Madam Rant. (fn. 88) From 1752 those manors belonged to William Finch of Cambridge, (fn. 89) from whom they passed at his death in 1762 to his great-nephew, William Finch Ingle, by 1779 William Finch Finch, still lord in 1800, (fn. 90) when inclosure was in prospect. Following disputes about which landowner was entitled as manorial lord paramount to appoint a separate inclosure commissioner, (fn. 91) and so that the inclosure might proceed, J. P. Allix bought out Finch in 1804, (fn. 92) and his estate with the lordships of Knights and Baldwins manors thenceforth descended in the Allix family. (fn. 93)
The Allixes had been substantial landholders at Swaffham since the mid 18th century. In 1740 Charles Allix, son of Dean Allix, vicar 1712–53, acquired from a previous lessee's executor the beneficial lease of the dean and chapter's manor farm and rectory, which he retained, dwelling at Swaffham from the 1750s, (fn. 94) until he died in 1794. (fn. 95) His son John Peter married Sarah Collier, whose father William, vicar 1753–97, had assembled a substantial Swaffham estate. (fn. 96) Following J. P. Allix's death in 1807 (fn. 97) his widow Sarah was in 1815 allotted 253 a. for the Collier and other lands. She also formally retained until her death in 1836 the Ely beneficial lease, which remained with the Allixes until 1855. Their eldest son John Peter had in 1815 emerged with 499 a., including at least 186 a. allotted for the former Finch estate. (fn. 98) John Peter (II) (d. s.p. 1848) was succeeded by his brother Col. Charles Allix (d. 1862), whose son Charles Peter (fn. 99) in 1870 sold 248 a. of fenland (fn. 100) and bought 501 a. of the former dean and chapter farm. (fn. 101) He owned altogether 1,578 a. in 1873 (fn. 102) and 1,690 a. in the parish in 1910. (fn. 103) Active in local affairs (fn. 104) and archaeology, (fn. 105) and a considerable benefactor to the parish church and village, he died, aged 79, in 1921. His son Charles Israel Loraine Allix died in 1960, leaving the Allix estate to his eldest daughter Mary Diana, married to Reginald Metcalf Hurrell (d. 1973) of Newton Manor (Cambs.). (fn. 106) On her death in 1968 that estate was inherited by her son Henry Charles Hurrell, also of Newton Manor, who in the 1990s still owned almost all the Allixes' Swaffham Prior farmland. (fn. 107)
The Allixes' former seat, Swaffham Prior House, (fn. 108) stands amidst well-wooded parkland near the south-west end of the village, and incorporates in its south front seven bays of an early 17th-century house, behind which a kitchen was added by 1700. That house has been identified as the manor house of Knights, presumably that occupied by the Rant family, whose dwelling had 17 hearths in the 1660s. (fn. 109) It was reportedly bought in 1751 by Dean Allix from the widow of the last Roger Rant (d. 1747), and reconstructed in 1753 to house his son Charles. (fn. 110) The rebuilding included adding a drawing room on the north-east and recasing the whole house in grey brick. The symmetrical south front so created is of nine bays and two storeys with a 19th-century pedimented doorway in its slightly projecting centre. A stone balustrade was added in front of the dormered roof in the 19th century. Inside many lath-and-plaster partitions survive, and one room of the earlier part of the house retains 17th-century panelling, including an overmantel to its fireplace, elaborately carved with foliaged spandrels and pilasters. Probably c. 1870 C. P. Allix added a bay window to the drawing room and a billiard room to its north, and inserted a main staircase in the former hall. (fn. 111) The stables have a clock turret of 1872. A late 19th-century family chapel was resited after 1982. (fn. 112) In 1800 the house was surrounded by c. 80 a. of ancient closes, (fn. 113) probably derived from the Rant estate. Soon after, probably by 1820, (fn. 114) 45 a. of them, mostly to the west, were laid out and planted as a park, enlarged, mostly northwards, to 140 a. in the 1880s. C. P. Allix then laid out an arboretum and a lime avenue leading to the railway station and, partly to create employment, had the former streetline diverted southwards. (fn. 115) In the 1850s and 1860s the house was usually occupied by the widow and widowed and spinster sisters of J. P. Allix (II). (fn. 116) Usually vacant or let from the 1930s and occupied during the Second World War by sixty Land Girls, it was eventually sold to its tenant in 1982 with 50 a. of the grounds and some Allix family portraits, and acquired later that year by Mr. M. Marshall, still its owner in 1992. (fn. 117) The Hurrells had sold another house, lately renamed Knights manor house, in 1974. (fn. 118)
The former Fraunceys land held in free alms by Anglesey priory in 1279, (fn. 119) together with other small purchases made by its prior in Swaffham Prior (fn. 120) and the appropriated rectorial glebe of St. Mary's church, (fn. 121) remained with that priory until the Dissolution. Despite an apparent grant to John Hinde in 1539, (fn. 122) its Swaffham temporalities were secured by the bishop of Ely under his Crown grant of the rectory and lands there in 1562. (fn. 123) In the 18th century his Anglesey estate comprised c. 75 a. At inclosure in 1815, when it was still held on a beneficial lease, the bishop, though ceding Anglesey closes to J. P. Allix, received, besides 309 a. for his rectorial tithes, 122 a., not reckoned rectorial glebe. All passed to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners from 1864. (fn. 124) The bishop's Swaffham Prior estate had included from the late 16th century a 'mansion house', called Anglesey House, (fn. 125) perhaps on the site south-east of the churchyard of the present Anglesey House. Mostly clunch-walled, but with a timber-framed street front, it was extended to the rear with a three-gabled range in the 17th century. (fn. 126)
Also derived from the pre-Conquest Ely estate was the fee called by the 1530s BALDWINS or LEES manor. (fn. 127) John son of Baldwin, a landholder c. 1235, (fn. 128) was possibly the John Baldwin (d. by 1275), who had previously claimed view of frankpledge. (fn. 129) In 1279 his son Roger held 100 a., with lordship over 26 a., of the bishop of Ely as ⅓ knight's fee. (fn. 130) Roger probably lived until 1301 (fn. 131) and was succeeded at Swaffham by John Baldwin (fl. 1315–29) (fn. 132) and Richard Baldwin (fl. 1337–53). (fn. 133) Alice Baldwin had occupied that estate in 1316 and 1327. (fn. 134) One or more other John Baldwins, recorded in Cambridgeshire 1346–61, (fn. 135) and 1384–90, (fn. 136) also possibly held it.
By 1389 that manor probably belonged to William at Lee, (fn. 137) probably the William Lee or at Lee who had land at Swaffham in 1412 and 1428. (fn. 138) A William Lee served in the early 1440s as sheriff, escheator, and J.P. for Cambridgeshire. (fn. 139) In the mid 1480s his manor belonged to Elizabeth Lee. (fn. 140) Another William Lee probably owned it c. 1491. (fn. 141) By the late 1530s Baldwins or Lees manor with 200 a. of arable and 240 a. of grassland belonged to Edmund Lee, who sold it in 1537 to Robert Spring. (fn. 142) He resold it by 1540 to John Hinde of Madingley. Sir John Hinde held it at his death in 1550, but his son and heir Francis, faced with claims from Edmund Lee's widow Agnes and her third husband Richard Gill under her marriage settlement, (fn. 143) apparently ceded the manor to Gill's brother George. In 1557 George assured a life interest to Richard and Agnes Gill. (fn. 144) At his death in 1568 George Gill left the manor to a younger son George, (fn. 145) who had sold it by 1583 to Thomas Cook (d. 1584). He settled its reversion on his younger son Samuel Cook, (fn. 146) who in 1598 sold it to Roger Rant. (fn. 147) It descended thereafter with Knights manor. (fn. 148)
The former manor house of Baldwins (fn. 149) stands near the south-west end of the village, within a ¼-a. moat, still wet c. 1800, but by 1950 almost obliterated. It is an early 16th-century, timberframed structure, containing a two-bayed hall; 3½ of its original bays with a roof on tiebeams were left after the parlour beyond the brick and clunch hall chimney stack on its north-east was removed. A kitchen wing was added at the other end by 1600. On the jettied south front, its timbering exposed, the bressumer, mostly carved with leafage, is supported on florally decorated brackets, while the carved door spandrels contain a thistle and fishes. Inside the ground-floor rooms retain original moulded ceiling beams and the hall fireplace its carved bressumer. The house had been sold from the former Allix estate in 1978. (fn. 150) Part of the farm buildings, which included a granary with reused 16th-century timbers, were converted into housing c. 1983. (fn. 151)
Other manors derive from the 3¼ hides held in 1086 by three knights of Count Alan, lord of Richmond, of which his predecessor Eddeva and her sokeman Wulfwig had each possessed 1¼ hides, while King Edward's man Huscarl had had 3/4 hide. (fn. 152) The Swaffham Bulbeck manor, held of Alan's honor of Richmond, which descended to the Burghs, (fn. 153) also extended into Swaffham Prior: in 1278 its life tenant John of Burton had 40 a. of demesne and lordship over nine tenants, some of them villeins. (fn. 154) In 1330 William Gosfeld held for life 88 a. of Burgh Hall land. (fn. 155) In 1574 c. 110 a., mostly freehold, possibly converted from demesne, were still held of that manor in Swaffham Prior. (fn. 156) The other 3¼ hides also continued to be held of the honor of Richmond. (fn. 157) By the 1230s mesne lordship under that honor over 1¼ hides belonged to the Pecches, lords of Bourn, of whom that land was held as 1 knight's fee by Sir Hugh of Croydon, (fn. 158) recorded at Swaffham until 1254. (fn. 159) In 1270 the whole manor, including 120 a. of demesne, was settled on Gilbert Pecche (II) of Bourn and his wife Joan, (fn. 160) who in 1281 sold it to the judge Roger of Leicester. (fn. 161) He sold it in 1296 to John of Brigham, (fn. 162) perhaps dead by 1302 when the fee was occupied by Sir William Pecche as guardian. (fn. 163) In 1325, perhaps by 1316, William Gosfeld possessed the manor held of the earls of Oxford. (fn. 164)
John Brigham of West Wratting, said to be John's son, (fn. 165) occupied the manor, by 1380 called BRIGHAMS and by 1450 also SHADWORTHS, from 1330. (fn. 166) In 1353 he granted its reversion on his death to feoffees, (fn. 167) who the same year assigned that reversion to other feoffees acting for Thomas Lisle, bishop of Ely, to be given to Peterhouse (Cambridge). No licence in mortmain had been obtained and the escheator seized that manor for the Crown when John Brigham died in 1358. (fn. 168) The king at once granted it to royal servants; (fn. 169) the second beneficiaries, Robert Corby (d. 1365) and his wife Joan, received it heritably in 1361. Corby's son and heir Robert (fn. 170) in 1377 settled the manor on his sister Isabel's marriage to William Eynsham, who was chamberlain of London. (fn. 171)
In 1383 Eynsham's feoffees sold it to John Shadworth (d. 1430), a London mercer and alderman, (fn. 172) who retained it into the late 1410s. (fn. 173) In 1426 he conveyed it to feoffees, including Robert Reynham, another mercer, named as tenant in 1428. (fn. 174) New feoffees in 1436 included Thomas Dounton, mercer, probably the beneficial owner, (fn. 175) who in 1441–2 sold it to Richard Forster of Bottisham. (fn. 176) Further feoffments in 1450 brought it to Chief Justice John Prisot (d. 1461) among others, who was receiving the manorial income in the late 1450s. (fn. 177) The manor was acquired for Queens' College, Cambridge, possibly through a benefaction in 1478, (fn. 178) certainly by the 1490s. (fn. 179) The college retained Shadworths with manorial farmland comprising 129 a. in 1491, (fn. 180) but 232 a. c. 1800, (fn. 181) converted at inclosure in 1815 into c. 160 a. (fn. 182) which was beneficially leased until the 1870s, into the 20th century. (fn. 183) About 1923 Queens' College sold its Manor farm to C. Y. Woollard, (fn. 184) whose family still owned it in the 1970s. (fn. 185) Manor Farm, standing at the north-east end of the village street, within a 1 3/4-a. moat whose ditches have been mostly recut, is a timber-framed building, partly brickfaced c. 1860, incorporating a 17th-century house, enlarged after 1700 and much remodelled in the 19th century. (fn. 186)
The manor called TOTHILLS or PAYNES, of uncertain tenure, possibly derived from a 'manor' owned 1375–95 by John Payn. (fn. 187) In 1403 John Goldington sold to John Tothill a Swaffham manor, (fn. 188) of whom part of Knights manor was held in 1408. (fn. 189) About 1619 the Tothills claimed eight generations at Swaffham Prior, from a John Tothill who supposedly had three sons, including John (d. s.p) and Hugh, through whose son Thomas the descent passed. (fn. 190) One or more John Tothills were repeatedly recorded at Swaffham between 1410 and the 1460s; (fn. 191) one died in 1462. (fn. 192) Either Thomas's son or grandson, both named John, was owner c. 1491. William Tothill, supposed son of the last, (fn. 193) owner by 1530, died 1547–8, and was succeeded by his son Francis Tothill (fn. 194) (d. at Swaffham, 1608). (fn. 195) Having in 1584 settled Tothills or Paynes manor with 100 a. of arable, (fn. 196) he sold it in 1605 to Michael Dalton (d. 1648) of West Wratting. (fn. 197) The manor, conveyed in 1636 to Dalton's second son Thomas (d. 1639), possibly passed to the latter's son Michael (d. by 1656). (fn. 198) In 1675 Owen Stockton and his wife Eleanor conveyed Tothills manor to John Ellis, (fn. 199) kt. 1707, fellow and from 1703 master of Caius College, Cambridge. Dying, aged 82, in 1716 Sir John left it to his nephew and namesake, a clergyman, who died in 1729. (fn. 200) John Stephens, who owned the Tothills estate by the 1780s, (fn. 201) was said to be son of Sir John Ellis's daughter. (fn. 202) His successor by 1805, Ellis Anderson Stephens (fn. 203) of Pampisford, who had 372 a. in 1806 and was allotted 165 a. in 1815, (fn. 204) owned that farm until c. 1820. (fn. 205) By 1825 it belonged to Charles Goodwin, rector of Hildersham (d. 1847), (fn. 206) who left it to his unmarried daughter Sarah, lady in 1851. (fn. 207) A descendant, the Revd. C. W. H. G. H. B. Goodwin (fl. 1900–50), was believed to be lord of Tothills in 1925. (fn. 208) Tothills manor house is presumably represented by Goodwin Manor Farm, a timber-framed, weatherboarded 17th-century house with a slightly later kitchen wing behind, standing south-west of Station Road, at the south end of a ¾-a. moat of whose north-east side alone is still wet. (fn. 209)