Staploe Hundred

Pages 332-333

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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Staploe hundred, first recorded in Domesday Book, lies well to the east of Cambridge, but close to Newmarket (Suff.), which stands at its south end. (fn. 1) The hundred forms an irregular rectangle, whose southern part was indented by the exclusion from it, from the 12th century onwards, of the vill of Exning, thenceforth in Suffolk. Staploe hundred's eastern boundary forms the county boundary with west Suffolk. A 'province' that may have been a predecessor of the hundred was possibly established before the 9th century. (fn. 2) The name is derived from its meeting place, the 'stapel hoh', presumably named from a spur with a pillar on it. The site of that meeting place may be indicated by the way of Stapelhoo, mentioned from 1198, (fn. 3) which probably ran east through a field just east of Burwell village. (fn. 4) The naming of a hundred after a meeting place, usually isolated from populated centres of royal and seignorial authority, was common in East Anglia. (fn. 5)

In the 11th century the hundred's three northern vills each included substantial royal manors, assessed altogether at c. 22 hides, (fn. 6) out of the 90 hides within the whole hundred, then including 15 in Exning. There were then ten vills in Staploe hundred, three assessed at fifteen hides, three at ten, the others being more irregularly hidated. From the 12th century there were eight parishes in the hundred, the vill of Badlingham being incorporated into Chippenham, from which that of Kennett had probably been detached before 1066. (fn. 7) The small settlement at Landwade, having its own church, was accepted as forming a separate parish from the late 15th century. (fn. 8)

The south-eastern boundary of the modern hundred mostly follows, after allowing for the exclusion of Exning, the straight road that runs north-east from Newmarket into Suffolk, which was a major road by 1604 and a turnpike between 1768 and 1871. (fn. 9) The modern road lies slightly to the north of the prehistoric Icknield way. The straight south-western boundary runs north-westwards along the Devil's Ditch as far as Reach, being then continued along Reach Lode to the river Cam, whose course forms part of the western boundary. Staploe hundred's irregular eastern boundary follows the river Kennett in its southern section, and further north the river Lark. The northern section of the Lark, probably already straightened under the Romans, was eventually known as Isleham Lode. The northern boundary of the hundred follows ancient fen watercourses, touching at its far northern extremity upon the lower course of the Great Ouse.

Staploe remained stable in composition from the 11th to the 20th century, apart from the transfer of Exning vill into Suffolk, within which it subsequently formed part of Lackford hundred. In 1066 both Exning manors lay in Cambridgeshire, the larger being then held by Eddeva the fair. In 1086 it was farmed by the king's steward Godric, (fn. 10) who served as sheriff of Suffolk c. 1087-1100, perhaps then transferring Exning to his new bailiwick. (fn. 11) King William II gave Exning church to Battle abbey (Suss.) in 1094. (fn. 12) From 1158 the vill of Exning, which formed an irregular rectangle within Staploe hundred, was normally included in the farm due from the sheriff of Suffolk, even though in 1162 it was still said to be part of the royal demesne in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 13) Staploe hundred retained its traditional size until the mid 20th century. In 1954 a small part of Burwell, 436 a., along with land taken from Swaffham Prior in Staine hundred, was included in the newly created parish of Reach, whose inhabitants desired independence from the two parent parishes. (fn. 14) Also in 1954 Landwade parish was incorporated for civil purposes into Fordham parish. (fn. 15) In 1993, however, almost all of Landwade, including the church and Hall, was transferred to Suffolk. At the same time the part of Newmarket Heath at the southern end of Burwell, apparently south of the line of the Newmarket bypass, was also transferred to Suffolk, Burwell's boundary to the north-east of that area being also somewhat straightened. The boundary between Snailwell and All Saints' parish, Newmarket, was also slightly re-aligned. The areas thus transferred were mostly included in the Exning ward of Newmarket. (fn. 16)

In the late 13th century Staploe hundred was farmed from the sheriff by the same bailiff as Flendish and Staine hundreds. Between 1279 and 1286 the farm, lately reduced by a third, stood at 10-11 marks, by 1299 at £10. (fn. 17) The hundred, whose court met twice yearly during the Middle Ages, remained in the king's hands between the late 11th century and the mid 16th. Between the 1230s and the 1270s the number of lords exercising view of frankpledge increased from ten to twelve, besides the king at Soham. No lord then had the view at Landwade and Badlingham, where the sheriff presumably held the tourn. (fn. 18) In 1426, however, John, duke of Bedford (d. 1435), was allowed the view at Landwade as part of his honor of Richmond. (fn. 19) In the late 13th century probably 15-16 manorial lords and other landowners also enforced the assizes of bread and ale. At least four lords had infangthief, and two of them a gallows and tumbrel. (fn. 20) In 1279 the bishop of Rochester's court for his manor at Freckenham (Suff.) exercised authority over his men in Isleham. One of his Isleham tenants also owed suit for that manor both to the Cambridgeshire county court and to the hundred court. (fn. 21) In 1553 Sir John Cheke (d. 1557) was granted Staploe hundred, but he returned it to the Crown in 1557. (fn. 22) Between 1835 and 1894 all the parishes in Staploe hundred were included in Newmarket poor-law union, which also extended into western Suffolk. From 1894 those parishes were administered by Newmarket rural district council. From 1974 they became part of East Cambridgeshire district, whose council constituted the northern part of the area as the Fenland Villages sub-district. (fn. 23)


  • 1. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 360.
  • 2. Above, volume intro.
  • 3. P.N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 187.
  • 4. For its course, C.U.L., Queens' Coll. Mun., box 19, terriers c. 1530, 1595, 1657.
  • 5. T. Williamson, Origins of Norf. (1993), 129.
  • 6. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 360.
  • 7. Ibid. i. 400-2. For their layout, see map 1.
  • 8. Below, Landwade, intro.
  • 9. B.L. Cott. MS. Aug. i, no. 78; C.R.O., Q/RD/z 4; Thetford to Newmarket Road Acts, 8 Geo. III, c. 55; 47 Geo. III, c. v (Local and Personal); Annual Turnpike Acts Continuance Act, 28 & 29 Vic. c. 107.
  • 10. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 362, 378, 400-1.
  • 11. Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. i, pp. 76, 99, 113 (nos. 291, 392, 61).
  • 12. Eng. Episc. Acta, vi, Norwich 1070-1214, p. 128 (no. 164); P.R.O., E 326/12623; Reg. Regum Anglo-Norm. i, p. 90 (no. 348);
  • 13. Pipe R. 1156-8 (Rec. Com.), 125; 1162 (P.R.S. v), 48; 1189 (Rec. Com.), 39; Rot. Litt. Claus. (Rec. Com.), i. 116; Feud. Aids, v. 47, 66.
  • 14. Below, Reach, local govt.
  • 15. Below, Landwade, local govt.
  • 16. Cambs. and Suff. County Boundaries Order, 1992.
  • 17. Assizes at Camb. 1260, 22, 24-5; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 484, 498; P.R.O., JUST 1/86, rot. 45d.; JUST 1/95, rott. 48, 50.
  • 18. e.g. Liber de Bernewelle, 274; Rot. Hund. ii. 498-9.
  • 19. Cal. Close, 1422-9, 234.
  • 20. Rot. Hund. i. 54; ii. 498-9, 502; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 99, 104-5, 107.
  • 21. Rot. Hund. ii. 498, 504.
  • 22. Cal. Pat. 1553, 92-3; 1555-7, 537.
  • 23. Poor Law Com. 2nd Rep. 513; Census, 1891-1901, 1931, 1971-1981.