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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MANOR AND OTHER ESTATES.
Between its refoundation in 970 and the 990s Ely abbey acquired three or four estates at SNAILWELL through purchase, donation, and perhaps exchange: Between 970 and 975 Wedwine, son of Ealdstan, sold 240 a. to the abbot, and Hugh and Aelfric may have sold 75 a. (fn. 1) Between 975 and 981 these properties were granted to Athelstan, a priest, but on his death they probably reverted to Ely abbey. (fn. 2) Probably in the 990s, the parents of Leofsige donated an estate when their son became an oblate there. (fn. 3) Another estate sold by Leofman c. 979-92 to Ramsey abbey (Hunts.) (fn. 4) was probably acquired before 1042 by Ely, which held all five hides in the mid 11th century. (fn. 5) Snailwell was leased to Stigand, later archbishop, by Leofsige, abbot 1029-44, (fn. 6) who perhaps had the power to alienate the manor because part of it had been given to Ely by his kin. (fn. 7)
On Stigand's deposition in 1072 King William retained the manor, but after c. 1072-5 it was granted to Odo, bishop of Bayeux. (fn. 8) Odo subinfeudated it to Hugh de Port, who became a tenant-in-chief on Odo's forfeiture in 1083. Ely abbey made intermittent attempts until the 1130s to recover the manor, (fn. 9) probably abandoning its claim in 1139. From Hugh de Port the overlordship of Snailwell descended with the barony of St. John of Basing until 1393-4, when the manor was held of Isabel, widow of Luke Poynings. (fn. 10) It is not recorded thereafter.
Before 1095 Hugh de Port gave Snailwell to his daughter Emma, wife of William de Percy. (fn. 11) It then descended with the Percy barony to William's grandson, also called William, whose daughter and coheir Maud (d. 1203-4) held it in 1176 with her husband, William, earl of Warwick (d. 1184). (fn. 12) Her Snailwell estate, by then a mesne lordship over the manor, presumably reverted to her sister, Agnes, whose grandson, William de Percy, agreed in 1224 that he held it of William de St. John as 3/4 knight's fee. (fn. 13) That mesne lordship descended with the Percy barony, Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland, being recorded as overlord in 1379. (fn. 14)
Aubrey de Capeles, a Suffolk landholder (fl. 1130-50), may have held Snailwell to which his descendants Hugh and Geoffrey both seem to have had a right. (fn. 15) After Geoffrey's death c. 1190 on crusade his widow Agatha, (fn. 16) who remarried, received in 1195 over a third of the vill as dower from his heir, Aubrey de Capeles. (fn. 17) Aubrey's kinsman, Walter, in 1208 acquired one carucate at Snailwell from the bishop of Ely. (fn. 18) Another kinsman, Hugh de Capeles, who had claimed land at Snailwell in 1193, had obtained half the vill which he subinfeudated to Walter of Snailwell from whose nephew and heir Walter de Capeles claimed homage. (fn. 19) In 1233 John de Vaux in right of his wife, Alice, held the manor of William de Percy, but c. 1235 John and Walter de Capeles were jointly lords of Snailwell. (fn. 20) In 1279 the manor was held, perhaps as dower, by Aubrey de Capeles's kinswoman, Alice le Blund, possibly a relation of John le Blund. (fn. 21) In 1282-3 Aubrey de Capeles was the tenant under Robert de Scales. (fn. 22) By 1284-6 Aubrey held Snailwell of William de Percy. (fn. 23) By 1302-3 Sir Baldwin de Manners held the estate from Aubrey under William. (fn. 24) In 1316 Aubrey de Capeles, possibly the son of Aubrey (fl. 1284-6), and Baldwin held the manor, but they died respectively in 1316 and 1320, both without male issue. (fn. 25)
Aubrey left as heirs two sisters, Alice and Maud. (fn. 26) In 1318 Robert de Wateville was given wardship over a daughter of Aubrey, and in 1346 the whole manor was held by Joan, widow of William de Wateville. (fn. 27) Possibly Robert married his ward to his kinsman between 1318 and 1330. (fn. 28) Sir Edmund Hengrave (d. 1379) held the manor jointly with his wife Joan, (fn. 29) perhaps daughter of Joan de Wateville. In 1393-4 their surviving son Thomas Hengrave held Snailwell, but after his son had died in 1411 he arranged in 1416 to enfeoff his estates to kinsmen and neighbours. (fn. 30) Amongst them was Justice William Paston, who had married Thomas's first cousin's granddaughter, Agnes. Paston, who occupied Snailwell from 1428, had purchased the manor by his death in 1444, (fn. 31) perhaps from the feoffees of Thomas Hengrave (d. 1419). William Paston's younger brother John received the rents from Snailwell during the minority of his younger nephew Edmund, to whom William had devised it, (fn. 32) but in 1449 the manor passed to William's elder son, John (d. 1466). (fn. 33) Snailwell passed to his son, Sir John, lord in 1477, (fn. 34) and it then presumably descended successively to the latter's brother John (d. 1503), and to that John's son, Sir William (d. 1554); and finally it passed to his grandson Sir William (d. 1610), son of Erasmus Paston (d. 1538). (fn. 35) In 1580 Sir William sold it with other properties to John Thornton of Soham. (fn. 36)
Thornton (d. 1598) was succeeded by his son, Sir Roger (d. 1630-1), (fn. 37) who left the manor to his widow, Anne, with remainder jointly to their eldest son, Roger, and their daughters, Lucy, Lydia, and Hannah. (fn. 38) In 1641 Roger or his guardians held most of the manor, and his sister Lucy controlled a lesser holding. (fn. 39) In 1642-3 Lydia sold her share, c. 220 a., to another brother Samuel Thornton, (fn. 40) whose royalist sympathies may have forced him to return the land to Lydia and her husband Isaac Lukyn. (fn. 41) Roger Thornton held the manor in 1648-50, but in 1654 and 1658 he transferred it to his youngest brother Isaac. (fn. 42) In 1654 Isaac (kt. 1661) also purchased Lydia's share, and in 1658 acquired that of Lucy and her husband Vere Harcourt. (fn. 43) Sir Isaac Thornton owned the whole manor from 1658 until his death in 1669, (fn. 44) when it passed to his son Sir Roger, who sold it in 1674-5 to John Clarke (d. c. 1681) of Bury St. Edmunds (Suff.). (fn. 45)
Snailwell passed between 1675 and 1681 to his son, Samuel (cr. Bt. 1698, d. 1719). The estate passed in turn to his son, Sir Robert Clarke (d. 1746), M.P. for Cambridgeshire, (fn. 46) then to Sir Robert's son Sir Samuel, (fn. 47) whose debts forced him to sell Snailwell in 1758 (fn. 48) to Thomas Brand, setting aside a settlement of 1757 in favour of his younger brother Robert Clarke. (fn. 49) Brand died in 1770 and his son Thomas in 1794. (fn. 50) That Thomas's son Thomas, later Lord Dacre, sold the manor in 1798 to John Tharp (d. 1804), of Good Hope, Jamaica. (fn. 51) Tharp had purchased most of the land in Chippenham in 1792, and Chippenham and Snailwell were held together by his descendants from 1798 until 1996. (fn. 52)
Tharp's eldest son having predeceased him, in 1804 his grandson John, aged eight, inherited Snailwell. The estate was inherited as part of the Chippenham Park Estate by successive members of the Tharp family, and was owned in 1997 by Mr. and Mrs. Crawley. (fn. 53)
Philip de Patmer and John Bernard held one hide and 100 a. of Alice le Blund in 1279. (fn. 54) Philip died between 1299 and 1324, when his lands were settled on his widow Alice's death among his children, 60 a. at Snailwell for his daughter Agnes, and 200 a., partly elsewhere, for his sons Henry and Walter. (fn. 55) On Alice's death in 1339 she was, however, succeeded by a minor, and the lord of Snailwell manor probably regained control of the Snailwell land, which in 1379 was included in the manor. (fn. 56)
The Hospitaller preceptory at Chippenham was given land at Snailwell between 1184 and 1257. (fn. 57) In 1279 one hide and 46 a. were held from the preceptor by William de Tuamville. (fn. 58) In 1523 Thomas Cheesewright succeeded William Cheesewright as owner of Hale manor in Snailwell, formerly held of the preceptor of Chippenham, (fn. 59) but by 1650 it had been incorporated into the main manor. (fn. 60)
After 1086 Emma de Port gave one hide at Snailwell to Whitby abbey (Yorks.), but by 1130 her son Alan de Percy had granted the monks one hide at Isleham instead. (fn. 61) In 1348 Spinney priory in Wicken purchased 120 a. of land at Snailwell, which became Spinney manor farm. (fn. 62) In 1449 that farm passed to the priory of Ely when Spinney was annexed to it. (fn. 63) In 1538 Ely leased Spinney priory to George Carlteon, who in 1542 acquired Spinney from the Crown. (fn. 64) In 1549 his brother John inherited Spinney lands, including those at Snailwell, which in 1552 he left to his wife Joyce and son George, who immediately sold the land at Snailwell to Henry Payne. (fn. 65) In 1563 Payne's brother-in-law Henry Gatward held Spinney manor farm. (fn. 66) In 1580 Martin Warren purchased it from George Smethe. (fn. 67) By 1676 John Warren bequeathed Spinney manor farm to his brother Martin, whose son Martin held it in 1692. (fn. 68) In 1718 the son's widow left it to the rector of Balsham (Cambs.), whose widow sold it in 1735 to Sir Robert Clarke. (fn. 69) In 1806 the rector of Snailwell stated that Spinney farm had never been a manor. (fn. 70)
Between 1664 and 1674 Sir Isaac Thornton and his son Roger occupied a house with 15 hearths, (fn. 71) presumably the manor house sold in 1674-5 to John Clarke. (fn. 72) In 1791 it was described as of modern design, once the seat of the Clarkes. (fn. 73) It stood 350 m. south-west of the rectory with a drive, called the Newmarket walk, running to the Exning road. (fn. 74) In 1758 on the ground floor there were a hall, two parlours, a Venetian room, study, kitchen, and three other chambers. (fn. 75) In 1780 and 1791 it was rented by curates, one of whom in 1780 employed four servants. (fn. 76) John Tharp (d. 1804) had never intended that the house should be occupied, and in 1806 the rector expected that it would soon be pulled down as it was untenanted and had fallen into a very bad state of disrepair. (fn. 77) In 1821 consideration was given to repairing Snailwell Hall for a Chippenham tenant of John Tharp, (fn. 78) but no work was commissioned, and in 1841 it was occupied by four farm workers' families, and Newmarket walk led only to the old rect ory. (fn. 79) The hall was not documented thereafter, and only a few ruins remained in 1889. (fn. 80)