Kennett: Manor and other estates

Pages 461-463

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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The manor of KENNETT held by Toki the thegn T.R.E. passed to William de Warenne, later earl of Surrey, T.R.W. (fn. 1) The tenancy-in-chief remained with successive Warenne earls of Surrey until c. 1346, and was held in 1428 by their successor, the duke of Norfolk. (fn. 2) The manor was assessed at either 1 or 1½ knights fees c. 1236-1324, owing that service to the honor of Castle Acre (Norf.) in 1324. (fn. 3) Between the mid 14th and the mid 16th centuries it was held jointly with the manor of Kentford (Suff.). (fn. 4)

The manor was held by Nicholas of Kennet in 1086. (fn. 5) From him it descended to Nicholas of Kennet (fl. 1160-73). (fn. 6) Another Nicholas of Kennet and his son Peter witnessed a charter c. 1195. (fn. 7) They appear to have been followed by Richard of Kennet, whose widow Beatrice claimed 40 a. at Kennett as her dower. Nicholas of Kennet held the manor in 1230-2, and in 1236 it had passed to Nichole of Kennet, almost certainly his widow. (fn. 8) In 1240, when the overlordship was assigned as dower to Maud, countess of Warenne (d. 1248), it was held by Peter of Kennet, almost certainly the son of Nicholas and Nichole. (fn. 9) The manor continued to be held in demesne by the Kennet family until Nicholas of Kennet (fl. 1254) enfeoffed Maud's younger son, Hugh Bigod, justiciar of England, with it before 1266. (fn. 10) The Kennet family continued to flourish during the later 13th century, but the manor was retained in demesne by the Bigods c. 1266-1307. (fn. 11)

After Hugh died in 1266 the manor passed to his son Roger, from 1270 earl of Norfolk, but was temporarily taken over in 1276 by Edward I, before being assigned as part of the jointure of Roger's second wife Alice in 1290. (fn. 12) In 1302, however, it was surrendered along with Roger's other estates held in fee to the Crown, but when Kennett was regranted later that year it was only to be held for the duration of Roger's and Alice's lifetimes. (fn. 13) Alice did homage for Kennett in 1307, a year after her husband's death. (fn. 14)

On her death in 1317 the manor passed to the Crown, and in 1319 was given to Thomas, earl of Lancaster. (fn. 15) After his execution in 1322 it passed to Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, but on his death in 1324 was granted to Thomas of Brotherton, earl of Norfolk, to whom the Bigod lands and estates had been given in 1307. (fn. 16) In 1326, however, it was assigned to David of Strabolgi, earl of Atholl, and Joan his wife, kinswoman and coheir of Aymer de Valence, but in 1327 passed to their son, also called David, who probably lost it before his death in 1335. (fn. 17) It was presumably restored to Earl Thomas, for after his death in 1338 it was assigned as dower to his widow Mary (d. 1362). (fn. 18) Thomas's heirs were his daughters, Margaret, wife of John, Lord Segrave, who was said to be tenant in 1346, and Alice (d. c. 1351), who married Edward Montagu (d. 1361). (fn. 19) After Mary died, Kennett manor was divided equally in 1362 between Margaret, and Alice's surviving daughter Joan, of age in 1363, who had married William Ufford, later earl of Suffolk. After Joan died without issue in 1376, the whole manor belonged to Margaret, countess and from 1397 duchess of Norfolk. She held Kennett until her own death in 1399. (fn. 20) It then passed to her grandson and heir, Thomas Mowbray, first duke of Norfolk, and was part of the jointure for his widow, Elizabeth. (fn. 21) She held the manor c. 1401-25 jointly with her third and fourth husbands, Sir Robert Goushill and Sir Gerard Usflete. On her death it passed to her son, John Mowbray (d. 1432), duke of Norfolk, and then to his son, and grandson, successively both dukes and named John. (fn. 22) Duke John (d. 1461) assigned Kennett to his wife Eleanor (d. 1474), and on the death of their son John in 1476 Kennett passed with the Mowbray inheritance to his infant daughter Anne. (fn. 23) The archbishop of Canterbury had wardship of the estate in 1476. (fn. 24) Following Anne's death in 1481 and that of her betrothed, Richard, duke of York, probably in 1483, Richard III assigned Kennett to William, marquess of Berkeley (d. 1492), as one of the Mowbray coheirs. (fn. 25) In 1487 the marquess, only retaining a life interest, sold the reversion of the manor to Richard Willoughby, Lord Willoughby (d. 1503), and his male heirs, with reversion to Berkeley's male heirs. (fn. 26) It was held successively by Richard, Lord Willoughby (d. 1503), his brother Edward (d. 1504), and then Edward's son John. (fn. 27) John, Lord Willoughby having no male issue, Kennett reverted to the Berkeley male line on his death in 1561, when Henry, Lord Berkeley (d. 1613) sold the manor to Sir William Petre. (fn. 28)

In 1571 William Petre entailed it on his daughter, Thomasina and her husband, Lewis Greville, but they had no issue, and the manor descended to her brother, John, Lord Petre (d. 1604), to his son William, Lord Petre (d. 1637), then in turn to his son, Robert (d. 1638). (fn. 29) His heir, William, Lord Petre, sold Kennett in 1649 to Elizabeth, widow of Thomas Barker. (fn. 30) In 1654 Sir Nicholas Le Strange obtained the estate from Dr. John Gauden, and in 1655 Horatio Townshend, Lord Townshend (d. 1687) sold the manor to John Wyndham. (fn. 31)

In 1675 it was held by Sir Nathaniel Barnardiston, who had presumably purchased it. (fn. 32) Kennett then passed to his son Sir Samuel Barnardiston (d. 1707), and then successively to Sir Samuel's nephews, Sir Samuel (d. 1709-10), and Sir Peletiah (d. 1712), all of whom died without male issue. (fn. 33) The manor was briefly held by Sir Peletiah's cousin Sir Nathaniel in 1712, but on his death in that year descended to another cousin, Sir Arthur Barnardiston (d. s.p. 1737). It then passed through the coheir of Thomas Barnardiston (d. 1702) of Ketton (Norf.) to John Onslow (formerly Williams). (fn. 34)

A sale of the estate in 1773 was not effected, but in 1777 it was sold by John Onslow to Oliver Godfrey (d. c. 1817), tenant of Kennett's Hall farm. (fn. 35) The estate by then comprised 914 a. Between 1775 and 1803 Oliver Godfrey purchased a farm of 146 a., formerly owned by Thomas Evans and Richard Chenery. (fn. 36) At inclosure in 1823, apart from the 113-a. farm owned by the trustees of the Revd. Samuel Hunt (d. 1818), a few minor freeholds totalling c. 2-15 a., and the glebe, the remaining 1,196 a. was owned by the principal landowner, William Godfrey (d. 1843). (fn. 37) He was succeeded by his son, also called William, rector of Kennett, who died in 1900 after holding the lordship of the manor for 57 years. (fn. 38) On his death the estate was sold to three new owners, the lordship of the manor and 625 a. being purchased by Capt. G. H. Pering. (fn. 39) His widow owned the manor c. 1929-33, but their daughter and heir, Mrs. F. L. Sickles, sold Kennett Hall with 400 a. to Mr. G. Lofts in 1958. (fn. 40) It was owned by the Lofts estate at Fordham during the late 20th century. (fn. 41)

Following the division of the estate in 1900, Edith Bates owned Dane Hill farm with 400 a., and 100 a. was managed by the Chippenham Park Estate. (fn. 42) Shortly after the Second World War the Tillbrook family, based at Mildenhall (Suff.), purchased those two estates, and retained ownership of c. 500 a. in the late 20th century. (fn. 43)

In 1161 Nicholas of Kennet had granted to Sibton abbey (Suff.) in free alms the land between the Kennett and Freckenham roads. (fn. 44) The abbey had a grange there in the 1220s, but by 1279 held no rights in Kennett. (fn. 45) Ely priory held 12 a. in 1279. (fn. 46) The dean and chapter leased the land out between the late 16th century and the late 18th century, but it was sold in the early 19th century to the Godfreys. (fn. 47)

Between 1783 and 1803 members of the Skulthorpe family, possibly heirs of William Skulthorpe (fl. 1664-74), farmed a 110-a. farm, but in 1820 they only owned c. 15 a. (fn. 48) The main part of that land was purchased by the Revd. Dr. Harrison, and from him it passed to the Revd. Samuel Hunt (d. 1818), whose trustees leased 113 a. to John Tubbs between 1827 and 1847. (fn. 49) That land became the core of Rosemary farm, with c. 400 a. in Kennett itself, owned by William Peddar and his son in the late 19th century and by the Blackwell family for most of the 20th century. (fn. 50) In 1984 the 330-a. farm was sold to Mrs. K. Lausing. (fn. 51)

The first medieval manor house was probably built during the 12th century. In 1289 villeins' weekwork was used to pull down an old manor house, and a new hall was built on a 1-a. close. (fn. 52) In the late 13th century the lord had a garden with a vineyard, which was enclosed by a thorn hedge and a ditch 241 m. long. (fn. 53) In 1563 the manor house was 20 m. long by 10 m. (fn. 54) In 1680 Kennett Hall, of red brick, stood opposite the parish church, at the southern end of the village street, perhaps on the site of the medieval manor house. (fn. 55) It was 30 m. long by 10 m. wide, comprising a great and small parlour, four bedchambers, a pantry, a dairy chamber and a bakehouse. (fn. 56) In 1750 it was occupied by Thomas Lutt and his family, but in 1780 by the widow of the rector, John Bullen (d. 1775). (fn. 57) The house may have been unoccupied during the early 19th century, and was pulled down between 1865 and 1873 when the southern end of the village street was shifted eastwards. (fn. 58)

The existing Kennett Hall was built c. 1865-73 by William Godfrey (d. 1900), across the river Kennett, to the north of the village, and was connected to the parish church by a path. (fn. 59) The house has Neo-Palladian windows on the main three-bayed south-west front, and a projecting square porch, with plainer eastern and western sides. From 1958 it was divided up into flats, and rented by American servicemen. (fn. 60)


  • 1. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 381.
  • 2. Liber de Bernewelle, 260; Cal. Close, 1237-42, 214; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 497; Feud. Aids, i, 143, 159, 178.
  • 3. Liber de Bernewelle, 260; Bk. of Fees, ii, 923, 927; Cal. Inq. p.m. vi, p. 334.
  • 4. Cal. Close, 1323-7, 447; 1389-92, 367; 1399-1402, 382; 1402-5, 209; Cal. Pat. 1485-94, 200; 1560-63, 149-50; Cal. Inq. p.m. vi, pp. 331, 334, 483; xviii, p. 79.
  • 5. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 381.
  • 6. Pipe R. 1160 (P.R.S. ii), 123; 1169 (P.R.S. xiii), 26: 1173 (P.R.S. xix), 87; Sibton Abbey Chart. iv, no. 968.
  • 7. Dugdale, Mon. vi. 730; Cur. Reg. R. vi. 208.
  • 8. Close R. 1227-31, 401; 1237-42, 214; Pat. R. 1225-32, 524; Liber de Bernewelle, 260.
  • 9. Close R. 1237-42, 214.
  • 10. Complete Peerage, ix. 590; Cal. Feet of Fines, Beds. ed. G. H. Fowler (Beds. Hist. Rec. Soc. vi), p. 157; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 102.
  • 11. Cal. Inq. p. m. iii, p. 370.
  • 12. Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 166, 215; Cal. Close, 1288-96, 134.
  • 13. Cal. Close, 1296-1302, 581; Cal. Chart. R. 1300-26, 25; Complete Peerage, ix. 596.
  • 14. Flores Historiarum, ed. H.R. Luard (Rolls Ser.), iii, 329; Cal. Close, 1302-7, 478, 523.
  • 15. Cal. Close, 1313-18, 504-6; Cal Pat. 1317-21, 264.
  • 16. Complete Peerage, x. 382-8; Cal. Inq. p.m. vi, pp. 331, 334; Cal. Close, 1323-7, 447.
  • 17. Cal. Inq. p. m. vi, p. 483; Complete Peerage, i. 306-8.
  • 18. Cal. Close, 1337-9, 582; Complete Peerage, ix. 598.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1338-40, 177; Feud. Aids, i. 159; Complete Peerage, ix. 84-5.
  • 20. Cal. Fine R. 1356-68, 218; Cal. Close, 1360-4, 452; Cal. Inq. Misc. ii, p. 319; Complete Peerage, ix. 599-601; xii (1), 433.
  • 21. Cal. Inq. p. m. xviii, p. 79; Cal. Close, 1399-1402, 165.
  • 22. Cal. Close, 1399-1402, 382; 1402-5, 209; Cal. Inq. p.m. xviii, pp. 313-14; Complete Peerage, ix. 607-9.
  • 23. Essex R.O., D/DP T 237; Complete Peerage, ix. 610.
  • 24. P.R.O., CP 25/1/294/76, no. 13.
  • 25. Cal. Inq. p. m. Hen. VII, iii, pp. 455-6; Dugdale, Baronage, i. 366.
  • 26. Cal. Pat. 1485-94, 200; P.R.O., CP 25/1/30/101, no. 9; Cal. Inq p. m. Hen. VII, ii, pp. 226-7; Complete Peerage, ii. 133-5.
  • 27. Cal. Pat. 1560-3, 149-50; Complete Peerage, xii (2), 669-73.
  • 28. P.R.O., CP 25/2/259/3 Eliz. I Trin., no. 18; B.L. Add. Ch. 25298; Cal. Pat. 1560-63, 72; Complete Peerage, ii. 138.
  • 29. Essex R.O., D/DT, no. 237; Complete Peerage, x. 505-7.
  • 30. Complete Peerage, x. 507-8; P.R.O., WARD 7/96/71, no. 71.
  • 31. P.R.O., CP 25/2/563/1654/Hil. no. 3; CP 25/2/ 617/1655 Mich. no. 16; Complete Peerage, xii (1), 802-4.
  • 32. W. Suff. R.O., 339/2.
  • 33. Ibid.; Cambs. Poll Bk. (1722); Copinger, Suff. Manors, iii, 12-13.
  • 34. W. Suff. R.O., 339/3; Lysons, Cambs. 222.
  • 35. P.R.O., CP 25/2/1476/14 Geo. II trin. no. 58; Camb. Chron. 12 Apr. 1777, p. 2.
  • 36. W. Suff. R.O., 339/7; below, econ. hist.
  • 37. C.R.O., Q/RDc 43.
  • 38. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1847-1900).
  • 39. C.R.O., 470/O 45; P.R.O., IR 29/33, no. 250; IR 30/33, no. 250; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1900-29).
  • 40. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1929-37); Camb. Ind. Press, 19 Jan. 1962.
  • 41. Inf. from Mr. K. Mobbs.
  • 42. P.R.O., IR 29/33, no. 250; IR 30/33, no. 250.
  • 43. Inf. from Mr. K. Mobbs.
  • 44. Sibton Abbey Cart. iv, no. 968.
  • 45. Ibid. no. 970.
  • 46. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 504.
  • 47. W. Suff. R.O., 339/5; 339/6; 339/7; Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 30; C.R.O., Q/RDc 43; P.R.O., IR 29/33, no. 250; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1847).
  • 48. Cambs. Poll Bks. (1780-1830); P.R.O., E 179/84/437, rot. 86; E 179/244/23, rot. 75v.
  • 49. W. Suff. R.O., 339/7; C.R.O., Q/RDc 43.
  • 50. P.R.O., IR 29/33, no. 250; IR 30/33, no. 250; ibid. RG 11/1679, f. 61; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1875-1933).
  • 51. Inf. from Mrs. K. Lausing.
  • 52. P.R.O., SC 6/768/15.
  • 53. Ibid. SC 6/768/6-23.
  • 54. W. Suff. R.O., 339/2.
  • 55. Ibid. 339/4.
  • 56. Ibid. 339/6.
  • 57. C.R.O., R 50/4/171; P.R.O., T 47/8.
  • 58. C.R.O., Q/RDc 43; Church Com. file P 14/147.
  • 59. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1865-73).
  • 60. Camb. Ind. Press, 19 Jan. 1962.