North Witchford Hundred: Doddington

Pages 110-116

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 4, City of Ely; Ely, N. and S. Witchford and Wisbech Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

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The original parish of Doddington, with its hamlets of March (q.v.), Benwick, and Wimblington, covered 37,801 acres. It was the largest parish in Cambridgeshire, and one of the largest in England. The nucleus of this area was an island of clay and loam rising out of the fen to about 25 ft. above sea level, running more or less north and south for about 4 miles, on which the villages of Doddington and Wimblington, and the town of March, are situated. Benwick, about 3 miles west of Doddington, is unique among ancient Fenland villages in not being on an actual 'island'; here, however, the gravel comes to within a few inches of the surface, providing a fairly secure foundation for buildings. (fn. 1) North-east from Doddington and Wimblington, and about 4 miles from the former, is Stonea. This hamlet lies on another very small 'island', and is the site of one of the bishop's vaccaries in the Middle Ages, and of an outlying grange. At the farm in Stonea known as 'The Stitches' is an ancient earthwork, probably a camp of the Early Iron Age period. (fn. 2) Benwick and March are on the old course of the River Nene, and the south-eastern part of Doddington and Wimblington is intersected by the Sixteen Foot Drain. Otherwise the waterways are not so important as those in most Isle parishes. The Ely–Chatteris–Wisbech road (A 142 and 141), making a circuit around the South Level, enters Doddington at Primrose Hill on the south edge of the parish and takes a winding course north-eastwards. It forms the main street of Doddington village and continues through the outskirts of Wimblington towards March. Second-class roads connect Doddington with Benwick, whence there are connexions to Whittlesey (B 1093) and Ramsey (B 1096), and with Manea by a road (B 1093) running eastward across the fen; another road from Wisbech to Chatteris (B 1098) follows the Sixteen Foot Drain on its east side. There is a station for Stonea, formerly named Sixteen Foot Station, where the direct WisbechChatteris road crosses the railway from Ely to Peterborough (1846). Another station is at the south end of Wimblington village on the line from St. Ives to March (1848). The goods line from Three Horseshoes to Burnt House, opened in 1897, was extended to Benwick in 1898. (fn. 3) The district is mainly one of large farms growing the typical fen products of wheat, potatoes, and sugar-beet, but there are a few orchards, and small patches of woodland north of Doddington.

An Inclosure Act (31 Geo. III c. lxxxi) was passed for Wimblington in 1791. The award was not made until 1805, (fn. 4) when 676 acres of land were divided amongst fifteen proprietors. Of these John Waddington received 136 acres and Sir Henry Peyton 133, 45 as lord of the manor. In 1830 another award was made under a separate Act (6 Geo. IV c. lxv). (fn. 5) By this 81¼ acres were allotted to 11 persons in Doddington, and 166½ to 23 persons in Wimblington. Another small inclosure took place in Turf Fen, Benwick, under the general Act of 1845. (fn. 6) About 68 acres were then dealt with; 6 were allotted to the poor and half an acre for a school building; 7 acres were sold to defray the costs; the remainder was divided between 14 proprietors.

Doddington tradesmen's tokens of 1669 have been recorded. (fn. 7)

A troop of yeomanry cavalry was raised here in 1798, to whom a memorial was erected in the church in 1828. (fn. 8)

In the Middle Ages Doddington was one of the most important places in the Isle, but very few memorials of the past now exist. Apart from the church, the only important pieces of architecture are the village cross (14th century, with a modern head) and the fine early-19th-century tower windmill. (fn. 9) Wimblington has a few houses of some distinction. These include the 18th-century 'Manor House' and Addison House. The latter is of the early-19th-century date and is of three stories, with pedimented doorway and fanlight. Stonea Farm, 100 yards due east of Stonea Grange, dates from the 18th century and is roofed with old tiles of local origin. Doddington Rectory, an admirable example of the large Victorian villa, replaces a 15thcentury building which in the middle of the 19th century contained some interesting relics. These included a gilt wooden font designed for a private chapel or oratory, and an oak carving with figures of the Virgin and Child, St. Luke and St. Mark, Justice, and a boar hunt. On the east side of the house was 'one of the most delightful gardens in the kingdom'. (fn. 10)

Doddington has been an enterprising village. The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria was commemorated by a clock tower with four dials, and as early as 1924 the 'George' and 'Three Tuns' Inns had installed wireless sets for the entertainment of their customers. (fn. 11)


Brithnoth the first Abbot of Ely obtained 60 acres in Doddington and Wimblington by exchange with Wine, son of Osmund. This land he gave to the monastery with a weir, producing 1,000 eels yearly. This weir he had purchased from Gunulph for 100s. From Turketil, Abbot of Ramsey, Bishop Aethelwold bought a hide of land at Doddington for the monastery, with a half of 'Weremere' and the marshes belonging to it. In its early days the monastery was also granted Stonea and its marsh. The donor was Wulstan of Dalham who had obtained it from the widow Ascuven. This marsh was let to farm for 2,000 eels. After King Edgar's death Begmund and other relatives of Ascuven seized it from the abbot, who took the case to the hundred court. The jury decided in his favour, and Begmund had to pay six years' fish rent for the duration of his illegal seizure. (fn. 12)

In 1086 the Ely property in Doddington was assessed at 5 hides, with land for 8 ploughs. Two and a half hides (3 ploughs) were in demesne. There was meadow for the 8 plough-teams, pasture for the cattle of the vill, and wood for 250 pigs. The population included 8 sokemen 'of 1 hide', 14 villeins, 8 cottars, and a serf. There were fisheries yielding no fewer than 27,150 eels, and 24s. was also paid in fish tribute. When received, the property had been worth £10. It was worth £12 T.R.E. and £16 at the time of the Survey. (fn. 13)

Doddington was one of the manors allotted to the see on its foundation, and became one of the bishops' principal residences. Bishop Balsham died there in 1286. The survey made for Bishop de Fontibus (1221) shows a demesne of 262½ acres, with half the meadow land of the vill in the bishop's hands. There were three fisheries in severalty, which with others, including 'Weremere', produced £4 10s. 10d. There were also three vaccaries (fn. 14) with 100 cows and 5 bulls. (fn. 15) Against the name of Robert de Marisco, a free tenant holding 5 acres for 2s. yearly, is written 'John de Aulton', who was perhaps his son-in-law; in 1229 de Aulton was granted a carucate of land belonging to the manor of Doddington for 30s. yearly by Bishop Northwold. (fn. 16) In 1251 the vaccaries were let to farm at £6 a year, and the value of the fisheries had risen to £9 5s. 5d.; except for the three held in severalty they were all much divided, in some cases among as many as ten persons. (fn. 17) In 1251 there was also a rush ground (roseria) at Benwick, worth £4, and though the amount of demesne land within the 1221 bounds was slightly smaller, a good many assarts, specially at Eastwood, (fn. 18) had brought the total area of the demesne up to 331 a. 2 r., rated at 3 carucates. There were 64 novi feoffati among the tenants, including 8 at Wimblington and 39 at 'Cuniwode' (Coneywood Fen). (fn. 19) Doddington was too far inland to be affected by the great flood of 1236 which caused so much damage at Wisbech and Elm, but like most of the episcopal manors it passed through a period of depression in the 14th century. The decline in prosperity seems to have set in about 1300. In the two-year vacancy between Bishops de Luda and Walpole (1298–9) the manor brought in £101 0s. 7d. In 1302 the receipts were £48 2s. 8d. and in 1316 only £35 8s. 5d. The population was smaller than might have been expected, seeing that March, Benwick, and Wimblington were all included with Doddington; the number of commutations (803 in 1286, 847 in 1302, and 155 in 1316) was on the whole lower than in the much smaller manor of Downham. (fn. 20) A survey of 1356 (fn. 21) shows some recovery, but not to the level of the 13th century. There were only 140 acres worth £2 6s. 8d. in demesne. The value of the fisheries was £8 14s. 11d. and of the movable property (crops, livestock &c.) £15 17s. 10d. The tenants' rents, in Doddington and the three hamlets; stood at £35 4s. 5d. The manor house itself consisted of a hall, principal chamber, cloister (claustura), pantry, buttery, and other chambers. Enclosed within the same encircling wall were a kitchen, brewhouse, chapel, lodgings for knights and esquires, dovehouse, granary, and stables. In the wall was a gatehouse. All these buildings were in good repair. The rest of the manorial buildings, however, which consisted of a grange, oxhouse, two windmills, (fn. 22) a newly erected grindery, the park wall, and the vaccary at Stonea, were all more or less ruinous.

As in other manors where the bishop had an actual residence, the customary tenants of Doddington had the duty of ferrying him to his next manor—in Doddington's case as far as Somersham, Willingham, Downham, or Ely. (fn. 23)

The bishops had free warren in Doddington from time immemorial. Towards the end of the 14th century this right was called in question, but was confirmed in 1399. (fn. 24) In 1300 the area of the great park was 80 acres and of the little park 60 acres; (fn. 25) there was also a wood, called Northwood, of 30 acres. In 1445 Philip Fysshewyke was appointed keeper of the parks and manor of Doddington, (fn. 26) and in 1490 Robert Rowden or Royden was made keeper of the parks and warrens at 2d. a day with perquisites. (fn. 27)

In 1389 certain miscreants living in Bardeneymoor (cf. the present Bradney House and Farm in the fens north-west of Doddington village) drove away the bishop's cattle. Bishop Fordham ordered them to be publicly denounced with the full medieval curse 'cum cruce erecta, pulsatis campanis, candelis accensis et postmodum extinctis ac in eorum vituperacionem in terram projectis et pedibus conculcatis'. (fn. 28)

In the later Middle Ages the bishops ceased to use the manor house as an official residence. In 1493 Bishop Alcock leased it to Robert Rowden, the keeper of the parks, at £3, and in the reign of Henry VIII Alexander Balam was tenant at the same rent. (fn. 29) The manor as a whole was valued at £58 14s. 8d. in 1540– 1, (fn. 30) and was bringing in from £55 to £125 later in the same decade. (fn. 31) In the second half of the 16th century the Crown made a series of attempts to force the Bishops of Ely to hand over some of their manors, and Roger, 2nd Lord North, representing Queen Elizabeth, drew up a set of accusations of corrupt and illegal practices in Doddington and elsewhere against Bishop Cox. (fn. 32) The bishop was allowed to keep Doddington palace, which after his death (1581) was leased to his son Sir Richard for three lives, (fn. 33) but the manor was finally alienated from the see by Bishop Heton, Cox's successor, after a long interval (1581–1600) during which the Crown was de facto lord of the episcopal manors. (fn. 34) Heton's alienations included Conny Wood Land, Wadland, Bradney Moor, Stonea Grange, the Great and Little Parks, the Burystead (manor house) and Woodley Field, both in the tenure of Sir Richard Cox, and purpresture granted to William Cottney by copy of court roll. (fn. 35)

A survey made during the vacancy in the see shows rents of £63 (£20 freehold, £43 copyhold), a block of land which included the two parks, Woodley Field and a place called the Athys, comprising 300 acres, let at £7 a year and stated to be worth £150 in capital value. 'Stony Farm' was let for 40 years at £6 1s. 8d.; 100 acres of land, worth £30, had recently been inclosed here. There were 2,800 acres of common belonging to the manor. (fn. 36) The gross receipts from the manor in 1591 and 1598 were £101 4s. 2d. and £79 1s. 8d. respectively. (fn. 37)

When Heton was appointed bishop the manorial rights were already on lease to Sir John Peyton, (fn. 38) and they were granted to him outright in 1602. (fn. 39) He was Governor of Jersey, and made Doddington his principal residence in England after the death of his wife in 1605. (fn. 40) In 1613 he changed the manorial customs from fines arbitrary to certain. (fn. 41) At his death in 1630 his son, another John, was already 51. (fn. 42) John II and his wife Alice, daughter of Sir John Peyton of Isleham (his uncle), settled the manor in 1633 (fn. 43) for the benefit of their eldest son Robert, who succeeded two years later. (fn. 44) From 1641 Robert was insane. He died in 1658 without issue, and was succeeded by his brother Algernon, rector of the parish. (fn. 45) The latter outlived his two sons John and Algernon. Sewster, son of Algernon II, succeeded to his father's baronetcy and grandfather's manor. Until he came of age in 1693 his interests were looked after by John Skelton, who was dealing with the manor in 1677 (fn. 46) and represented him in a suit brought by Richard Wakefield, a tenant, over escheated premises. (fn. 47) Later on Sir Sewster (fn. 48) was Master of the Buckhounds to Queen Anne. His two sons Sir Thomas and Henry both died without heirs, and the manor came to the son of his third child Margaret, Henry Dashwood, who took the surname Peyton by Act of Parliament on his succession in 1771. (fn. 49) The manor continued in this family until the end of the 19th century. (fn. 50) Mr. C. W. King was lord in 1933. (fn. 51) The manor house had ceased to be used as such before 1808 (fn. 52) and was converted into a farm, but courts leet and baron were being held in 1827. (fn. 53)

The manor of EASTWOOD originated in an 1/8 fee held of the bishop for 5s. In 1302–3 John de Estwode was tenant and in 1346 Sir William de Thorpe. (fn. 54) The manor was in the Lexham family in the following century. Margaret, relict of William Lexham, and Margaret (Rosse) her daughter, were involved in lawsuits over the detention of manorial deeds and over a forged will of William Lexham, which was produced by John Farewell and Richard Vowell, priors of Walsingham (Norf.), and purported to bequeath Eastwood to that house. (fn. 55) From this period (between 1501 and 1532) this manor is alternatively known as LEXHAMS. The descendants of William Lexham were successful in their suit, and the manor passed to Anthony Hansard (d. 1533), (fn. 56) a nephew of Lexham, whose relict Alice passed it in 1541 to Sir John Hynde, serjeant-at-law. (fn. 57) His son Francis was a leading freeholder of the manor of Doddington in 1553–5. (fn. 58) Elizabeth Hynde, relict of William, Francis's son, conveyed it in 1606 to Sir John Peyton, (fn. 59) since when it has descended with the main manor.

A manor of SOUTHWOOD existed in the 13th century. It was granted c. 1275 by Ela, Countess of Warwick to Reading Abbey, (fn. 60) with 20 acres of marsh in Northwood. By an agree ment of 1284 between the Countess and the monastery, 20 marks from the manor were to be devoted to providing spices (ad species faciendas) for the monastery. (fn. 61) The value of this manor was £6 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 62) In 1534–5 it was rated at 3 carucates and held in socage, and was still recorded as having formerly belonged to Reading. (fn. 63) It does not seem to be known at what date the abbey relinquished its interest; in 1340 Sir Nicholas Franceys was licensed to hear mass in the chapel of his manor of Southwood, (fn. 64) but he may have been only a tenant of the monastery. The next references (1440 and 1443) are to an inclosure called Roulowe or Rowloo in Southwood, in possession of William Lexham, (fn. 65) so that the manor must have become merged in that of Eastwood.

The subsidiary hamlets of Doddington did not, with the exception of March (q.v.), rise to manorial status.

BENWICK had fifteen tenants in 1221 and 32 in 1251. (fn. 66) In 1275–6 the Bishop of Ely was charged with appropriating a portion of the king's forest in Hurstingstone hundred (Hunts.), including, as it was said, the part of Benwick belonging to Huntingdonshire. (fn. 67) Bishop Balsham retaliated seven years later. He complained that John Pycard the king's forester forcibly entered his free chase in Benwick marsh to inquire whether it was within the bounds of the forest. (fn. 68) Letters patent were dated at Benwick in 1314, presumably when Bishop Ketene was entertaining Edward II at Doddington Palace. (fn. 69)

Thomas Burgess (d. 1634) devised his house, known as Betts, to his relict Ann for life, and also a half share in his 'great boate called a liter', of which the other half went to his son Thomas. (fn. 70) This seems to be a reference to navigation on the old Nene, as at March in 1566.

WIMBLINGTON, as the nearest hamlet to the parent village, is not separately distin guished in the 13th-century surveys, though it is mentioned by name. It had three guilds—of the Holy Trinity, the Purification, and St. Peter—which were sufficiently important to own between them two guildhalls and a chapel. (fn. 71) One of the guildhalls had come into the possession of the lord of the manor (Sir John Peyton II) by 1635. (fn. 72)

By 1669 the commons of Wimblington, which included Stonea and Horsemoor Fens, had become overstocked. Sir Algernon Peyton, as lord of Doddington manor, therefore made an agreement with his 42 (fn. 73) Wimblington tenants which defined the system of common pasturing at great length. (fn. 74) Each tenant was to be stinted to 6 bullocks or cows, or 3 horses or mares (with foals), or 30 sheep or ewes. 'Poor persons' were allowed to keep one or two cows or heifers each. The 800 acres of Stonea Fen were to be left 'fresh', without stock of any kind, from 14 February to 23 April each year, on penalty of 6d. for a horse, 2 cows, or 8 sheep, in the case of a first offence, and 1s. for subsequent offences. Half the fines were to go to the parish, half to the impounder of the stock or hayward. Ten trustees were appointed to administer the scheme. Closes varying in size from 13 to 7 acres were to be inclosed for the use of each homestead, to a total of 432 acres. The sites and bounds of the closes are set out in great detail.

The cartulary of Chatteris nunnery records a fishery and several small properties in Doddington. They were probably given during the 14th century, as there is no mention of them in the Taxatio. (fn. 75) They were worth only 4s. 4d. in 1539, the fishery not being mentioned separately. (fn. 76)


The advowson of the undivided rectory of Doddington descended with the main manor, but the right of presentation to this very valuable living was sometimes granted out pro proxima vice. For example, John Snell presented in 1719 and Edward Beresford in 1751. (fn. 77) In 1750 the right to one presentation was sold to Dr. Baptist Proby for £1,000. (fn. 78)

The history of the division of Doddington rectory is as follows. The first Act (1847) (fn. 79) provided for separate rectories of Doddington, Benwick, and March. This Act was amended by another of 1856, (fn. 80) which provided for three additional rectories in March (q.v.) and another at Wimblington. Under this latter Act the stipend of the rector of Doddington was to be £1,700 a year. The Acts did not begin to come into force until the death in 1868 of the Revd. Algernon Peyton, the last rector of the ancient parish of Doddington, who had held his lucrative office for fifty-seven years. Benwick rectory was established in that year, and Wimblington in 1874. The three advowsons were at first reserved to the Peyton family, who retained Doddington itself until c. 1922, when this living was transferred to trustees. The patronage of Benwick was early transferred to the Revd. W. A. Wood, rector 1868–c. 1915, and has since 1920 been with the Bishop of Ely. That of Wimblington was held by the Peytons until between 1900 and 1905. It was then transferred to the Hill family, and in 1927 to the Ratford family. The executors of the Revd. H. Ratford held it in 1940. (fn. 81)

The value of Doddington rectory showed a continuous rise during the 13th century, from £24 in 1217 to £33 6s. 8d. in 1254 and £36 13s. 4d. in 1291. (fn. 82) In 1535, however, the value, including the chapelry of March, was only £22 4s. 11d. (fn. 83) Even so the rectory was more valuable than any living in the Isle except Wisbech vicarage and Leverington rectory. In 1341, after a tithe dispute between John de Herle, rector, and the monastery of Ely, it was laid down that the tithes from 'Wyshammouth', 'Plantecroft', and 'Wattes atte Barre' belonged to Doddington rectory, those of 'Henlondes' to the monastery. (fn. 84) In 1562 a pension of £2 4s. 6d. was awarded to Bishop Cox out of the rectory. (fn. 85)

With the draining of the fens, the value of the tithes from the 60 odd square miles of the undivided parish rose greatly, and in the late 17th and early 18th centuries caused a series of lawsuits between the rectors and their parishioners. (fn. 86) In 1808 the tithes were said to be let for 5,000 guineas a year. (fn. 87) The rectors were usually non-resident, partly owing to the dampness and unhealthiness of the climate. Their duties were performed by curates at a stipend of £150 a year with house. (fn. 88) By the middle of the 19th century the value of the rectory had risen to £7,306 yearly, considerably more than that of many bishoprics. (fn. 89)

There have naturally been many distinguished holders of this wealthy living, among them Hugh Cressingham (d. 1297), treasurer of Scotland; Robert de Bardelby (d. 1323), a Chancery clerk; Nicholas Hawkins (d. 1534), resident ambassador at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor and designated for the see of Ely just before his death; Christopher Tye (?1497– 1572), musician; Hugh Bellot (1524–96), Bishop of Bangor and of Chester; Thomas Neville (d. 1615), Dean of Canterbury; Edward Martin (d. 1662), President of Queens' College and later Dean of Ely; John Nalson (1638–86), royalist pamphleteer and historian; and Baptist Proby (d. 1807), Dean of Lichfield. (fn. 90) The work in the East End of London of the Revd. Richard Ridge, rector 1922–49, is commemorated by an early William Morris window in the church, which was unveiled by General Townshend of Kut in 1923. (fn. 91)

In 1561 Sir Edward Warner and Ralph Shelton were granted lands in Doddington which had been used to provide lights before the image of St. Mary (the patron saint) in the church. (fn. 92) William Stanbrighe of Doddington in 1489 left 2 lb. of wax to the guild of the Holy Trinity here. (fn. 93)

The Church of ST. MARY consists of chancel, clerestoried nave, aisles, south porch, west tower, and spire. The material is rubble with Barnack stone dressings. The chancel roof is covered with slates and the others with lead. The chancel and part of the north aisle belong to the middle of the 13th century. There was a great reconstruction about a century later, which included the nave arcades, the tower and spire, the south aisle and the western portion of the north aisle. Early in the 15th century the south porch was added, and later in the same century the lateral windows of the chancel were altered. In the second half of the 19th century there was an extensive restoration, which included the rebuilding of the east gables of the chancel and nave. The roofs of the nave and aisles were reconstructed in the present century, some of the old material being retained. The chancel has an east window of four lights with modern tracery of 14th-century character.

There are diagonal buttresses with one set-off and two similar on the north and south. In the north wall is a doorway with continuous mouldings and protected by a gabled pent surmounted by a finial and supported on large brackets in the form of grotesque figures. The lateral walls have three windows of three lights, the openings being of 13th-century date with 15th-century tracery inserted; the original internal hood-moulds, terminating in heads, are retained. The eastern window on either side has cinquefoiled lights, and the others cinquefoiled lights with cusped tracery in the centre light; all have embattled transoms. The lofty chancel arch is two-centred and of two orders, the outer resting on shafts with moulded caps and bases, and the inner springing from semi-octagonal responds with moulded caps and bases. There are squinches in the western angles of the chancel, and the stone corbels for the rood beam remain on the west side of the chancel arch. There is a double piscina in a modern recess. The nave has arcades of four bays dating from the third quarter of the 14th century, with two-centred arches of two orders and octagonal columns with moulded caps and bases. The clerestory windows are of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above and external hood-moulds terminating in heads. The east gable has been rebuilt. The nave opens to the tower by a 14th-century twocentred arch of two orders with continuous chamfers.

Plan of St. Mary's Church

The north aisle is of two periods. The eastern section is mid-13th century and the western a century later. Both aisles terminate in a line with the west face of the tower. The east window of the north aisle is modern and of three lights, set in a 13th-century opening. There is a clamped 13th-century buttress at the north-east angle, and an internal string-course. The lateral windows are of various periods; the first from the east is of two lights with plate tracery, and has a hoodmould; it is of mid-13th-century date. Next there is a 14th-century window with three trefoiled main lights and three quatrefoils above, then a 15th-century one of three lights with rectilinear tracery; the north-west window is of the 14th century with two trefoil-headed lights under a square label terminating in heads. The west window has three lights with rectilinear tracery and a hood-mould terminating in male and female heads. The north doorway, which is of 13th-century work, has a deeply moulded two-centred arch and jamb shafts with moulded caps and bases. The lateral buttresses are modern, with one set-off, except the westernmost which is of the 14th century. There is an image bracket to the north of the east window. The south aisle, which belongs entirely to the second half of the 14th century, has an east window of three lights with rectilinear tracery. The south-east window is of similar design. These two windows must be somewhat later in date than the rest of the aisle. The three remaining lateral windows are all of two cinquefoiled lights with a quatrefoil in the head and a hood-mould terminating in heads. There are four buttresses with one set-off. There is a trefoil-headed piscina recess in the south wall. The early-15th-century porch has an outer doorway of two orders, the outer with continuous hollow mouldings and the inner springing from semioctagonal jambs with moulded caps and bases; there is a hood-mould terminating in male and female heads. There are diagonal panelled buttresses, and in the east and west walls a window of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above, and hood-moulds terminating in male and female heads. There is a modern parapet with pinnacles. The inner doorway has continuous mouldings and a hood terminating in crowned heads.

The tower, which is engaged by the aisles, has angle buttresses with two set-offs. It is of three stages. The west window is of three lights with rather clumsy flowing tracery of the third quarter of the 14th century. The second stage has a cinquefoiled lancet on the north, south, and west sides. The belfry windows are of two trefoiled lights with a quatrefoil above and a hoodmould terminating in heads. There is a plain coped parapet. The low octagonal spire of Barnack stone has a gabled trefoil-headed light on alternate faces and terminates in a moulded finial, which has been renewed.

The nave roof is of the queen-post type and of 15thcentury origin, but some years ago it was largely renewed; there are full-length angels with outspread wings at the intersection of the purlins and intermediates; the wall posts rest on stone corbels carved with heads. The aisles have plain lean-to roofs, the north modern and the south much renewed with the exception of some of the principals. The chancel and porch have modern roofs. The 13th-century font has a plain octagonal bowl resting on a central and four angle shafts, with moulded caps and bases. The chancel screen is of 15th-century origin but has been so extensively restored that little old work now remains; it is of eight bays, the two in the centre being occupied by the doorway, and has rather elaborate rectilinear tracery; there is an ugly modern cornice.

The plate includes a chalice, paten, and alms-dish, none of any great age or interest.

The tower contains eight bells: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 8th by Mears and Stainbank, 1936; 4th by Thomas Gardiner of Sudbury, 1737; 5th, 6th, and 7th by the same, 1736.

The registers begin in 1681 and are complete from that date. In c. 1938 there was a broken series of registers of earlier date going back to 1599. These now appear to be missing.

There was an unconsecrated chapel at BENWICK in 1637–8. (fn. 94) The church of ST. MARY was erected in 1850–1 on its site. It is a structure of carr stone consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, south porch, and north-west tower and spire. It is an early work of S. S. Teulon, but not very characteristic of that extremely mannered Victorian architect. Many walls are out of plumb owing to uneven subsidence of the fen soil. The church was restored and the spire rebuilt in 1902. There are two bells. The plate includes a silver chalice and paten given in 1942 in memory of a former churchwarden and his wife, an electroplated chalice and paten and a brass almsdish. The registers begin in 1851 and are complete.

The church of ST. PETER, Wimblington, erected in 1874, is a stone structure consisting of chancel, nave, south porch, and central tower with short square spire. The tower contains one bell. The registers begin in 1874 and are complete.


The number of Dissenters in Doddington was fairly large in 1676, and the proportion (43 out of 813 inhabitants) higher than in such larger places as Whittlesey and Wisbech. (fn. 95) In 1851 there were three chapels in Doddington. One of these, with an average congregation of 30, was for Latter Day Saints; the date of foundation is unknown, and it has long ceased to exist. The two Methodist chapels were of very recent foundation in 1851 (Wesleyan, 1848; Primitive, 1850). The former is still in existence; the latter was closed between 1869 and 1875. (fn. 96) A Baptist chapel was erected at Doddington in 1882, and closed in 1937. (fn. 97)

The Wimblington chapels were Wesleyan (1809) and Primitive (1834) Methodist. The latter was at the hamlet of Hook, a mile north-east of the village. Another Wesleyan chapel was built at Stonea in 1829, on the Sixteen Foot Bank. The Benwick chapels were Calvinistic Baptist (1818) and Wesleyan Methodist (1833); (fn. 98) the former was endowed by Gideon Gascoyne with 2 acres of land, let at £8 in 1851. (fn. 99) All these chapels are still in existence.


Lionel Walden, by his will dated 1719, directed that his property should be sold and the interest on the proceeds allowed to accumulate until it reached £500. This sum was to be used to build a school at Doddington. Nothing was done until 1787, when the estate amounted to £2,804 8s. 6d. In that year Dr. Baptist Proby, rector, offered a house and outbuilding for the school for £300. The house was bought in 1790 and converted into a school at a cost of £80; nine trustees, including the Bishop of Ely ex officio, were appointed. There were to be 30 free scholars, who were to be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic; they were to be allowed to remain up to the age of 14 in the case of boys and of 12 in the case of girls. The schoolmaster was given a salary of £40 and was forbidden in the first instance to take private pupils. Owing to the failure of the trustees to execute the deed of declaration of trust a lawsuit ensued, as a result of which the schoolmaster obtained the right to take paying pupils at the rate of 6d. to 8d. a week. (fn. 100) When Bishop Yorke made his inquiry (1789–98) into the schools of Ely diocese there were 15 such pupils. (fn. 101) In 1837 there were about 20 fee-paying pupils on the books, as well as the 30 free place holders, but owing to the rise of the agricultural gang system in the neighbourhood not more than 6 paying and 12 non-paying pupils attended in summer. At this date the endowment, invested in 3 per cent. Consols, amounted to £1,817 17s. 8d. This brought in £54 10s. 8d. a year. (fn. 102) By 1867 the free place system had been abolished, and a fee of 1d. a week was now universal. At this date there were 56 boys and 63 girls attending. There was still only one master, who was unqualified. As in most of the endowed schools of the Isle, no children were learning anything beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. None had left to take up apprenticed employment during the past year. The school was not subject to Government inspection. (fn. 103) In 1876 a Doddington School Board was set up, (fn. 104) which took over Walden's School and its endowments; two years later new buildings were provided for 220 children, at a cost of £1,851, on the site of the old school. In 1899 the average attendance was 140. (fn. 105) After the 1910 reorganization the recognized accommodation was for 146 mixed and 97 infants; the two departments were amalgamated in 1924. In 1939 the school was reclassified as a junior mixed and infants' school with 135 places; there were 101 children in 1948. (fn. 106)

There was no provision for elementary education in Benwick until 1871, (fn. 107) when a School Board was established. Her Majesty's Inspector considered that a school for 90 boys and girls and 60 infants would be adequate, but the Board claimed that 200 places were required. (fn. 108) The school actually built contained accommodation for 216 (154 mixed and 62 infants) and cost £1,590 including the teacher's house. In 1939 the school was reorganized as a junior mixed school for 128 children, 81 attending in 1948. (fn. 109)

In 1715 Thomas Eaton bequeathed two houses and 8½ acres of land for providing a school in Wimblington. There was even greater delay than at Doddington in carrying the bequest into effect. A new trust for Eaton's charity was set up in 1734, but the last trustee died in 1771 without anything having been accomplished. A new trust was established in 1802, to start a school for not more than 40 children. The inclosure award of 1805 allotted 42 acres in respect of the Eaton estate. At length in 1815–17 a school was built at a cost of £800. When the Charity Commissioners reported in 1837 the endowment consisted of 71 acres of freehold and 4 of copyhold land, producing £144 8s. a year. (fn. 110) The master's salary was £60, so that a considerable surplus was available. Attention was again called to this surplus in 1867, when £83 of the total of £149 derived from the charity was devoted to the school. At the latter date there were 78 boys and 65 girls on the books, the children of 'agriculturalists'. (fn. 111) This school seems to have been no more efficient than Walden's at Doddington, and it was reorganized under a scheme of the Charity Commissioners made in 1877. The buildings were altered and enlarged to take 150 children. By another scheme (1885) the transfer of the school to the Wimblington School Board (established 1881) was sanctioned, but the transfer did not actually take place until 1896. Soon after this date the Board enlarged the school to take 196 children, and in 1910 the recognized accommodation was reassessed at 160 (100 mixed, 60 infants). From 1909 the buildings, which appear to have had insufficient foundations, were on the 'black list' of the Board of Education. They obtained a reprieve owing to the First World War, but by 1922 had become so dangerous that one classroom had to be closed. A new school was built in 1924 at a cost of about £3,000, providing 202 places. This school is now used for junior mixed and infants and had in 1949 114 children on the roll, including 40 from Stonea (see below). A kitchen-dining room has recently been provided. (fn. 112)

The school at Stonea was built by Wimblington School Board in 1882, and enlarged in 1898 to provide for 94 children. It was restricted to juniors and infants in 1939 and closed altogether in 1947. (fn. 113)

CHARITIES (fn. 114)

The Doddington Town Lands consisted in 1837 of Beezling Drove and about 61 acres, let for £136 10s. 6d., and a mill, let for £9 15s. and subject to the obligation upon the miller to grind corn for parishioners at a reduced fee. Of this rent £5 were spent annually upon a Sunday School, 12 guineas upon the clerk's salary, £1 13s. upon the sexton's salary, and about £25 on an average upon church repairs. No church rate was levied.

Nicholas Spencer, by will dated 1597, left house property in the City of London from which £2 12s. was given yearly through the Merchant Taylors' Company (fn. 115) to the clergy and churchwardens to provide bread for the poor of Doddington. The conditions of this charity were strictly observed in 1837 and all the proceeds distributed in kind.

The Benwick Town Lands in 1837 consisted of 6¾ acres let by auction. They produced £9 yearly when in pasture and £18 to £20 when arable. The proceeds were appropriated to the poor rates, and also used for the repair of the chapel. There were also 6 old cottages in poor repair, occupied rent free by paupers, and one larger house called the 'Great House' which accommodated 8 pauper families. These families were nominated by and removable at the will of the overseer.

Doddington and its hamlets, including March, shared with Chatteris (q.v.) the privilege of cutting peat in Turf Fen.


  • 1. The Cambridge Region, ed. H. C. Darby, 111.
  • 2. V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 46–47.
  • 3. Ibid. 132–3.
  • 4. Award at County Hall, March.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.; M.A.F. 1/365.
  • 7. Fenland N. & Q. iv, 329.
  • 8. Ibid. ii, 71–72.
  • 9. a. See plate facing p. 206.
  • 10. R. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 522.
  • 11. Ely Standard, 21 Oct. 1949 ('25 years ago' column).
  • 12. T. Gale, Historiae . . . Scriptores (1691), xv, 477–8.
  • 13. V.C.H. Cambs. i, 367.
  • 14. At Stonea, Westrea, and Dereford; the name of the last is preserved in Dartford Road, March (P.N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 253).
  • 15. B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. B. II, ff. 97b– 102.
  • 16. Ibid. f. 98a; Add. MS. 5847, f. 88.
  • 17. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, G 3 ('Old Coucher').
  • 18. Now Eastwood End just north of Wimblington village. See also Eastwood manor below.
  • 19. B.M. Cott. MS. Claud. C. XI, ff. 61– 68; Bp.'s Mun., Ely, G 3 ('Old Coucher').
  • 20. S.C. 6/1132/9, /10, /11, and /13.
  • 21. B.M. Add. MS. 6165, ff. 275–9.
  • 22. One dated from 1300 (B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 89).
  • 23. B.M. Add. MS. 5837, ff. 90–91.
  • 24. Cal. Chart. R. 1341–1417, 381.
  • 25. B.M. Add. MS. 5837, ff. 90–91. The park was broken into during an episcopal vacancy in 1302 (Cal. Pat. 1301–7, 42).
  • 26. Ely Dioc. Remembrancer, no. 206, p. 141.
  • 27. Ibid. no. 283, p. 179.
  • 28. Ibid. no. 144, p. 97.
  • 29. B.M. Lansd. MS. 21, no. 45. See also A. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 415. Balam also held a close called Estreford and other properties in Doddington (B.M. Add. MS. 5837, f. 205).
  • 30. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 13.
  • 31. B.M. Add. Chart. 34274. Two accounts survive, on fols. 3 and 25.
  • 32. J. Strype, Annals, ii, 572–95.
  • 33. B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 89.
  • 34. Jas. Bentham, Ely, 196. Doddington, at £74 16s. 3d., ranked second in value (after Haddenham) among the manors in the Isle that were alienated (B.M. Add. MS. 35171, f. 173).
  • 35. B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 89.
  • 36. S.C. 12/30/33, f. 11. The manor is called 'Dunnington'.
  • 37. S.P. 12/268/110.
  • 38. W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. 522. According to C. E. Walker, Recs. of a Fen Parish (1888, reprinted 1930), p. 39, the Peytons had been lessees under the bishops throughout the 16th century.
  • 39. C 66/1591, m. 1.
  • 40. D.N.B.
  • 41. Watson, op. cit. 583.
  • 42. C 142/741/133.
  • 43. C.P. 25(2)/527 Trin. 9 Chas. I.
  • 44. C 142/573/62.
  • 45. C 142/622/17.
  • 46. C.P. 25(2)/633 Mich. 29 Chas. II.
  • 47. C 5/91/17.
  • 48. He derived his unusual Christian name from his mother Frances, daughter and heir of Sir Robert Sewster of Raveley (Hunts.).
  • 49. G. E. C., Compl. Baronetage, v, 190.
  • 50. C.P. 43/866, ro. 442; C.P. 43/973, ro. 359; R. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 521; Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900).
  • 51. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1933).
  • 52. D. and S. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 176.
  • 53. W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. 583.
  • 54. Feud. Aids, i, 151, 173.
  • 55. C 1/249/64; C 1/669/32.
  • 56. C 142/55/43.
  • 57. C.P. 25(2)/4/21; C.P. 40/1123 m. 713.
  • 58. C 1/1347/58.
  • 59. C.P. 25(2)/277 Hil. 4 Jas. I. See also C 142/249/52.
  • 60. J. B. Hurry, Reading Abbey, 179; B.M. Harl. Chart. 54 D 15.
  • 61. Hurry, op. cit. 180; B.M. Add. Chart. 19633.
  • 62. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 271.
  • 63. B.M. Add. MS. 5837, f. 206.
  • 64. Ely Dioc. Remembrancer, no. 59, p. 404.
  • 65. C 146/1391; C 146/2990.
  • 66. B.M. Cott. MSS. Tib. B. II, f. 97b and Claud. C. XI, f. 68.
  • 67. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i, 197. No part of Benwick has been considered to be in Huntingdonshire since 1801, but part of Ramsey, estimated at 100 acres in extent, was considered to be in Cambridgeshire up to about 1861.
  • 68. Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 41.
  • 69. Ibid. 1313–17, 195, 198. The letters are dated 5 Nov., the next dates before and after being 4 Nov. (at Ely) and 9 Nov. (at (Fen) Ditton).
  • 70. E. Anglian, N.S. xiii, 268.
  • 71. W. M. Palmer, Village Gilds of Cambs. 388.
  • 72. B.M. Add. MS. 5838, f. 200.
  • 73. Forty-two male tenants are named, with the wives of three. In these cases the tenant presumably occupied his land in the right of his wife.
  • 74. C 78/1292, no. 13. The agreement occupies nearly twelve membranes.
  • 75. B.M. Cott. MS. Jul. A. 1, ff. 137a, 167b–171b.
  • 76. Dugd., Mon. ii, 620.
  • 77. P.R.O. Inst. Bks.
  • 78. W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. (1827), 584.
  • 79. 10 & 11 Vic. c. 3.
  • 80. 19 & 20 Vic. c. 1.
  • 81. Crockford's Clerical Dir. (1926, 1935, and 1940); Clergy List (1905, 1915); Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900, 1933).
  • 82. W. E. Lunt, Valuation of Norw., 217, 539.
  • 83. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 500.
  • 84. Ely Dioc. Remembrancer, no. 65. In 1320 considerable difficulty had been experienced in collecting tithes from the parishioners.
  • 85. Cal. Pat. 1560–3, 226.
  • 86. E 134/3 Wm. & M./M. 44; E 134/3 and 4 Wm. & M./H. 7; E 134/12 Wm. III/E. 5; E 134/12 Geo. I/ E. 7.
  • 87. D. and S. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 177.
  • 88. A. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 3; Fenland N. & Q. i, 158.
  • 89. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 521; Clergy List (1859).
  • 90. D.N.B.
  • 91. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1933).
  • 92. Cal. Pat. 1560–3, 106.
  • 93. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 203.
  • 94. A. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 87.
  • 95. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, A 6.
  • 96. Kelly, Dir. Cambs.
  • 97. Bapt. Handbk., 1949.
  • 98. H.O. 129/7/191.
  • 99. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 524.
  • 100. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), [103], 301, H.C. (1837–8), xxiv.
  • 101. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, B 6.
  • 102. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), 301.
  • 103. Schs. Inq. Rep., [3966–XII], 514, H.C. (1867–8), xxviii (10).
  • 104. Lond. Gaz. 1876, 5067.
  • 105. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900).
  • 106. M. of Ed. File no. 12/8.
  • 107. Lond. Gaz. 1871, 5145.
  • 108. The 1871 population of Benwick was 857.
  • 109. M. of Ed. File no. 12/1.
  • 110. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), [103], 313, H.C. (1837–8), xxiv.
  • 111. Schs. Inq. Rep. xiii, pt. x, 3966–XI, 518 (1867–8), xxviii (10).
  • 112. M. of Ed. File no. 12/59.
  • 113. M. of Ed. File no. 12/60.
  • 114. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs), [103], 303– 5, H.C. (1837–8), xxiv. For Walden's Charity (Doddington) and Eaton's Charity (Wimblington) see above—Schools.
  • 115. Spencer was Master of the Company in 1588 (C. M. Clode, Early Hist. . . . Merchant Taylors, i, 322, 404).