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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MANORS AND OTHER ESTATES.
In the Middle Ages the manors in Woodditton were Ditton Camoys, Ditton Valence, Saxton, the rectory, and Ditton Priory. The last two were united in 1608 and all five were added to the Cheveley Park estate between 1730 and 1742. After 1920 the Stetchworth estate included much of the parish. Ditton Camoys and Ditton Valence manors acquired their names in the later 13th century from the surnames of the families which had owned them from c. 1200. (fn. 1)
DITTON CAMOYS was held in the early 11th century by King Cnut, who gave it to Ely abbey in 1022 in exchange for Cheveley. (fn. 2) Archbishop Stigand later held it as lessee or custodian of the abbey, and on his death in 1072 it was taken by William I. William de Noyers was lessee of the 10-hide royal manor in 1086 in defiance of Ely's claim, (fn. 3) which was never satisfied. The history of the overlordship is unclear. William Trussebut (d. 1264), lord of a third of the barony of Bourn, had ⅓ knight's fee in Woodditton until 1228. (fn. 4) In the 1230s the holder of the manor owed £10 rent to Ralph son of Hugh's heirs, who continued to exact it until the 1270s. (fn. 5)
By 1177 the manor was held by Robert son of Humphrey (perhaps fl. since c. 1140), (fn. 6) father of Stephen de Camoys (d. 1198), whose son Ralph de Camoys came of age by 1204, (fn. 7) possessed Ditton in 1209, (fn. 8) forfeited in 1216, recovered it in 1217, (fn. 9) and died in 1259. (fn. 10) Ralph's son Ralph (d. 1277) was succeeded by his son John, (fn. 11) who leased it to Edward I in 1281 and granted it outright in 1285. (fn. 12) The king's grantee (for life) in 1283, Robert de Crèvecoeur, gave it back in an exchange in 1285, (fn. 13) when it was assigned to Queen Eleanor (d. 1290), who left it for life to the Savoyard courtier Otto de Grandison (d. 1328). (fn. 14) Under a royal grant of 1317 Grandison was succeeded by his nephew Gerard d'Oron (d. 1334), (fn. 15) whose executors had the manor for two years under a grant of 1331. (fn. 16) In 1336 a reversionary grant to John Pulteney, already life tenant by grant of d'Oron, came into effect. (fn. 17) After John's death in 1349 the manor passed, under an earlier settlement and also for life, to his widow Margaret (fn. 18) and her second husband Sir Nicholas Loveyn. (fn. 19) When Sir Nicholas died in 1375, Margaret and her son Sir William Pulteney were already dead and Ditton Camoys passed to feoffees who included Sir William Pulteney's widow Margaret and her husband John Peckbridge. (fn. 20) Peckbridge sold Ditton Camoys in 1393 to William Rickhill (fn. 21) (d. 1407 or 1408), whose son John was in possession in 1412 (fn. 22) and presumably until his death between 1429 and 1432. (fn. 23) By 1434, despite a claim by a grandson of Sir Nicholas Loveyn, (fn. 24) it belonged to John's daughter Joan and her husband Richard Bruyn. (fn. 25) The Bruyns apparently sold it before 1448 to William Cotton, (fn. 26) who also bought Cheveley from them in 1450. The two manors had belonged to the same families, though not always to the same individuals, since the 1330s; after 1450 they descended together in the male line of the Cotton family (fn. 27) until 1608, when Sir John settled his Woodditton estate (including Wickhall manor) (fn. 28) on his son John. (fn. 29) The younger John sold Ditton Camoys and Wickhall in 1640 to Elizabeth Lamott. (fn. 30) Elizabeth's granddaughter Jane Bennet married James Scudamore in 1648, when the manors were probably settled on them. (fn. 31) On Jane's death in 1700 they were inherited by her grandson James Scudamore, Viscount Scudamore (d. 1716), whose widow Frances (d. 1729) was succeeded by their only child Frances. She immediately married Henry Somerset, duke of Beaufort, (fn. 32) in whom the manors were vested by an Act of 1730, (fn. 33) and who at once sold them to Charles Seymour, duke of Somerset, (fn. 34) soon to be owner of the Cheveley Park estate. (fn. 35) Ditton Camoys manor thereafter descended with that estate.
The younger Ralph de Camoys (d. 1277) had a manor house in Woodditton c. 1260, (fn. 36) but no other reference to it has been found. It presumably stood on the site of Camois Hall, a brick farmhouse of several periods, including a large Victorian conservatory, which was demolished in the 1960s. (fn. 37)
The 5 hides which belonged before the Norman Conquest to Eddeva the fair and in 1086 to Count Alan (fn. 38) became the manor of DITTON VALENCE. The overlordship of Alan's successors as lords of Richmond (Yorks. N.R.) was recorded until 1457. (fn. 39) The tenant in 1086, Wighen, was ancestor of the de la Mare family which held 3 knights' fees in Woodditton until the early 13th century. (fn. 40)
Wighen perhaps had as his tenant in 1086 the Englishman Wulfmaer. (fn. 41) In 1206 the undertenant was Tibbald de Valognes, (fn. 42) whose ancestors had held land elsewhere on the honor of Richmond since the Conquest. (fn. 43) Tibbald (d. 1209) was followed by his son Thomas (perhaps d. shortly after 1257). (fn. 44) By c. 1280 the manor belonged to Robert de Valognes (fn. 45) (d. 1291), whose heirs were his dead son Robert's daughters Rose and Cecily. (fn. 46) The manor was assigned to Rose, wife successively of Edmund Pakenham (d. by 1332) and Hugh Saxham (d. by 1351). (fn. 47) On her death in 1352 she was succeeded by her son Edmund Pakenham's son Sir Thomas Pakenham. (fn. 48) In 1353 Thomas conveyed the manor to his mother Mary (fn. 49) (d. 1361), whose sister and heir Eufemia sold it to Ralph Hemenhale. (fn. 50) Hemenhale sold it in 1363 to Henry English (d. 1393), (fn. 51) whose daughter Mary and her husband Edmund Oldhall (d. after 1412) (fn. 52) were succeeded by Edmund's son Sir William Oldhall. During his attainder 1452–5 his lands were held by Jasper Tudor, earl of Pembroke; Oldhall died in 1460 attainted a second time, but on the accession of Edward IV in 1461 the attainder was regarded as void and his daughter Mary was allowed to inherit with her husband Walter Gorges (d. 1466). (fn. 53) Walter's son Edmund (fn. 54) was deprived by Jasper Tudor in 1485 but recovered possession in 1486. (fn. 55)
Gorges surrendered the manor in 1501 to Sir William Capell (d. 1516), (fn. 56) whose son Sir Giles conveyed it to the Crown in an exchange in 1546. (fn. 57) In 1553 the Crown sold it to Dr. Thomas Wendy (d. 1560), (fn. 58) on the death of whose widow Margaret, wife of William Worthington, in 1570 it passed to Thomas's brother John Wendy (d. 1589). John's son Thomas (fn. 59) settled the manor in 1601 on the marriage of his son William to Blanche Coningsby. (fn. 60) William Wendy (kt. 1618) and Blanche died in 1623 and 1629 without issue. (fn. 61) The manor then passed to Blanche's nephew Thomas Coningsby, who died in 1652 while under sequestration as a royalist. His younger son Thomas, beneficiary of an earlier settlement, was discharged from the sequestration (fn. 62) and died between 1670 and 1672, when he was succeeded by his son Roger (d. 1707), whose son Roger sold it in 1733 to the duke of Somerset. (fn. 63) Ditton Valence manor then passed with the Cheveley Park estate.
In the 14th and 15th centuries the manor house stood within a moat whose bridge was mentioned in 1461. (fn. 64) The site was probably that of Church Hall Farm, (fn. 65) where an L-shaped Georgian farmhouse was demolished in the mid 20th century. (fn. 66)
The manor of SAXTON or SAXTON HALL was held before the Conquest by the king's thegn Wulfwine, in 1086 by Aubrey de Vere, and for over 400 years by Aubrey's descendants the de Vere earls of Oxford. (fn. 67) Undertenants included Everard son of Brian in 1086 (fn. 68) and Everard of Saxton in 1166, (fn. 69) presumably kinsmen. By the 1230s the manor had been divided into two separate knight's fees for the Lavenham and Beauchamp families. (fn. 70) The Lavenham fee was held by Thomas Lavenham from the 1230s possibly to 1260, (fn. 71) and by his son William from the 1260s to c. 1285, initially from his brother Thomas but after 1274 directly under the earl of Oxford. (fn. 72) Later it belonged to a junior branch of the de Veres: in 1290 Hugh (fl. to c. 1302 or later), (fn. 73) and in 1316 Thomas. (fn. 74) By 1327 it had reverted to the senior line. (fn. 75) The Beauchamp fee was held by Earl Hugh de Vere's seneschal Henry de Beauchamp from the 1230s until 1248 or later, (fn. 76) and then by John de Beauchamp (fl. 1260s to c. 1302), probably his son. (fn. 77) The earl had taken it in hand by 1316. (fn. 78)
Earl Robert de Vere (d. 1331), having resumed the manor, (fn. 79) was succeeded by his nephew Earl John de Vere, (fn. 80) under whose settlement of 1341 it passed to his son John (d. 1350) and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 81) Elizabeth made a life grant to her sister-in-law Elizabeth Courtenay, whose second husband John Mowbray gave it back to Earl John. After the earl's death in 1360 his feoffees conveyed it to his widow Maud (d. 1366), with remainder to his nephew Aubrey de Vere. (fn. 82) Elizabeth de Vere released her life interest to Aubrey in 1371. (fn. 83) On his death (as earl of Oxford) in 1400, Saxton descended with Castle Camps in the male line to Richard de Vere (d. 1417), John (d. 1462), John (d. 1513), and John's nephew John de Vere (d. 1526), apart from periods of attainder in 1462 and 1471–5. (fn. 84) Under a Statute of 1532 it was held for life by the penultimate John's widow Elizabeth (d. 1537) and was then divided among the last John's three sisters and their heirs. (fn. 85) The manor descended after 1557 with Dullingham and courts were held in the joint names of the sisters and their husbands and heirs in the 1560s and 1570s. (fn. 86) When the estate was partitioned among the heirs in 1580 Saxton was assigned to Sir Robert Wingfield (d. 1596), and then passed successively to his son Sir Anthony (d. 1605), the latter's brother Sir Thomas (d. 1610), and Sir Thomas's son Anthony (cr. Bt. 1627). (fn. 87)
Sir Anthony Wingfield sold Saxton in 1635 to Sir Dudley North of Kirtling (later Lord North, d. 1677), who in 1649 settled it as jointure on his wife Anne (d. 1681). (fn. 88) Their son Charles, Lord North and Grey (d. 1691), (fn. 89) fell into financial straits so desperate that in the early 1680s he used the inadequate security of Saxton to sell two separate annuities to two different persons, and paid neither of them. One of the purchasers, Richard Daston, held courts for Saxton manor from 1693 and was confirmed as owner by Chancery in 1702. (fn. 90) He died in 1711 or 1712, leaving the manor to his illegitimate son Richard Daston or Day, who sold Saxton in the early 1730s to the duke of Somerset. (fn. 91) The manor then passed with the Cheveley Park estate.
The medieval manor house stood on a moated site immediately east of the modern Saxon Hall. (fn. 92) Both the platform and the remains of the moat were occupied in 1990 by gardens. The present Saxon Hall was built c. 1957 to replace a house demolished at that time which comprised a main range of two storeys running east– west, with a steeply pitched roof and end stacks, to which had been added two one-storeyed wings on the south and a 19th-century entrance wing on the west. (fn. 93)
The RECTORY estate, also known as WICKHALL and MONKWICK, was formed in the 12th century by the Cluniac priory of Thetford (Norf.), (fn. 94) from gifts of land by Richard son of Osbert (before 1119), Robert son of Humphrey (fl. 1177, lord of Ditton Camoys), and others, (fn. 95) the church itself being given by Droard son of Cade. (fn. 96) From 1261 Thetford also had a lease of the tithes of Ditton Camoys from Bermondsey priory (Surr.). (fn. 97) The name Monkwick is first recorded in 1269, (fn. 98) and by the 1320s it was regarded as a manor, (fn. 99) held of the honor of Richmond. (fn. 100) By 1491 the prior's manor was confined to the rectorial tithes and a rent of £6 13s. 4d. from the land, which, under the name of Wickhall manor, was in the hands of Thomas Cotton (fn. 101) and afterwards descended with Ditton Camoys. (fn. 102)
After the dissolution of Thetford priory in 1540 (fn. 103) the rectory was granted to Thomas Howard, 3rd duke of Norfolk (fn. 104) (attainted 1547, restored 1553, d. 1554), whose grandson Thomas Howard, 4th duke, having settled it in 1569 on himself for life with reversion to his sons Philip, Thomas, and William, was attainted and beheaded in 1572. On the attainder of Philip (earl of Arundel 1580) in 1589, the manor was seized by the Crown, which restored it to Philip's brother Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk, in 1605. (fn. 105) After the latter sold it in 1608 to Sir Edward Coke (fn. 106) it was united with Ditton Priory manor. Sir Edward died in 1634, (fn. 107) and was succeeded by his son Sir Robert (d. 1652 or 1653), whose heir Robert Coke, probably his nephew (d. between 1673 and 1678), (fn. 108) arranged for trustees to sell the manor after his death. The purchaser in 1698 was Charles Nowes (d. probably 1710), whose heirs were his daughters Isabella, wife of the Revd. John Lloyd, and Jane, wife of George Read. (fn. 109) In 1742 the survivors sold the estate to the duke of Somerset, (fn. 110) after which it descended with the Cheveley Park estate.
The reputed manor of DITTON PRIORY originated with the grant of 1 carucate of land to the nuns of Swaffham Bulbeck priory by Margaret de Kemesek, confirmed in 1243 by her lord Robert de Valognes. (fn. 111) The estate was held of Ditton Valence manor. (fn. 112) The priory was dissolved in 1535 (fn. 113) and its possessions, including Nunns farm in Woodditton, were granted by exchange to the bishop of Ely in 1538 (fn. 114) and reverted to the Crown in the exchange of 1600. (fn. 115) It was sold to Sir Edward Coke in 1605 (fn. 116) and afterwards descended with the rectory estate. (fn. 117)
Cheveley manor included land in Woodditton from the late 16th century. (fn. 118) After extensive purchases in the 1730s and 1740s by Charles Seymour, duke of Somerset, (fn. 119) most of the parish (4,023 a. in 1893) lay within the CHEVELEY PARK ESTATE until c. 1920, when it was broken up. (fn. 120)
Patmers manor in Stetchworth included land in Woodditton by 1324 (fn. 121) and continued to do so after the STETCHWORTH ESTATE was formed in the 16th century, adding Ditton Park wood perhaps between 1559 and 1571. (fn. 122) Richard Eaton of Stetchworth bought a farm of 219 a. in or just before 1802, (fn. 123) making a total of 368 a. after inclosure. (fn. 124) John Egerton, earl of Ellesmere, bought Crockford's, Camois Hall, and Court Barns farms (1,284 a.) from the Cheveley Park estate c. 1920, and the Stetchworth estate retained 1,650 a., about a third of Woodditton parish, in 1990. (fn. 125)
The so-called manor of BANSTEADS, actually a freehold estate, originated with John Benstede's purchase of 203 a. in Woodditton and Kirtling in 1301 from Ralph of Clopton. (fn. 126) In 1359 the Woodditton part comprised 65 a. held by knight service of Ditton Valence and 82 a. held by rent of Ditton Camoys. (fn. 127) It descended with Bansteads manor in Cheveley in the Benstede family until the death of Edward Benstede in 1432, (fn. 128) when it was separated from the dower lands in Cheveley for his son and heir Sir Edmund (d. 1438) and the latter's wife Eleanor (fn. 129) (d. 1451). Eleanor's heir was her grandson Sir John Benstede (d. 1471), (fn. 130) whose son William apparently sold it to Robert Drury in 1484, (fn. 131) though William's widow Joyce claimed that he left it to her for life, (fn. 132) and the Crown asserted that Drury took possession in defiance of William Benstede's sale of the reversion to Edward IV. (fn. 133) The descent is obscure until the estate was sold by a member of the Spring family, wealthy clothiers of Lavenham (Suff.), to Sir Edward North (kt. 1542, cr. Lord North 1554) of Kirtling, who resold all but a few acres. (fn. 134) In North's time it was styled a manor for the first time. After his death in 1564 the supposed manor passed successively with the Kirtling estate to his son Roger (d. 1600) and great-grandson Dudley North (d. 1666). (fn. 135) In 1667 Dudley's widow Frances had her life annuity secured on it, (fn. 136) and in 1706 it belonged to William North, Lord North and Grey. (fn. 137) No later reference to the manor has been found, but it was presumably represented by the closes along the Kirtling boundary which later belonged to the Kirtling estate and covered c. 75 a. in 1910. (fn. 138)