South Witchford Hundred: Sutton

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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'South Witchford Hundred: Sutton', in 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, (London, 2002) pp. 159-164. British History Online [accessed 21 April 2024]

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Sutton is one of the larger villages in the county, and is situated at the western end of the Isle of Ely. It lies on the main road from Ely. to St. Ives (Hunts.) (B 1381), about 6 miles from Ely. The approach to the Isle along this road from Earith Bridge carries the traveller through typical fenland scenery, the road running along the south-east bank of the New Bedford River, below its water level but above the fields on the landward side of the road. The two western promontories of the Isle enclose the valley leading to Grunty Fen, at the top of which the towers of Ely may be seen in clear weather. The village was formerly also on the main road from Ely to Chatteris (A 142), but during the Second World War a satellite airfield in connexion with Witchford R.A.F. Station was laid out at the point where this road crosses the ridge of the hill, and the road has not since been reopened. A by-road leaves the road to Earith Bridge at the west end of the village street, and crossing the Bedford Rivers at Sutton Gault, (fn. 1) serves the fens west of the rivers. It is not, however, a through road.

Sutton has perhaps the most attractive situation of any village in the Isle. It stands on a southern slope which, as at Haddenham, is much given over to fruit growing. In 1675 Ogilby noted the cherry gardens of Sutton as a feature of interest to travellers. (fn. 2) The slope is very steep for this part of the country, the ground falling about 60 ft. in half a mile. The village looks picturesque from a distance. The church is a fine one of distinctly East Anglian type. The other buildings in the village of architectural distinction are the Burystead (the former manor house-see below), Eastwood House, with shaped brick gables, on the south side of the mile-long street near the church, and the 18thcentury house occupied by E. G. Backler and Lloyds Bank. The reputed Guildhall in the main street and one or two cottages in the Row, the lower village street, are timber-framed and plastered and may be medieval. For a thousand years a corporate body were lords of the manor, and the inevitable consequence of absenteeism goes far to explain a certain air of meanness about the village. This meanness is not entirely dispelled by the presence of some large houses in their own grounds, such as Sutton House at the east end of the village. In this respect Sutton may be contrasted with Thorney, a village of about the same size but with a very different history. It is significant that Cole, though he noted that the church was 'very grand and spatious', found hardly any monuments there; what there were had no coats of arms and only one legible inscription. (fn. 3) That labour relations in this very 'open' village were bad during the period of high farming is shown by the crop of destructive farm fires mentioned in the 1851 edition of Gardner's Directory of Cambridgeshire. (fn. 4)

In 1312 the Prior of Ely received the right to hold a weekly market at Sutton on Thursdays. (fn. 5) The village was the only conventual estate outside Ely itself (fn. 6) with such a privilege, but the market had disappeared before the middle of the 18th century, and probably much earlier. (fn. 7)

In 1623 a lawsuit occurred between the dean and chapter of the one part, and the tenants of their manors of Mepal (q.v.) and Sutton of the other, regarding rights of common in the fen. The defendants were Sir Miles Sandys of Mepal, Henry Jetherell of Sutton manor, Richard Wigmore, Vicar of Sutton, and twenty-seven others. (fn. 8) The dispute was settled by inclosure, (fn. 9) and in 1675 a parliamentary bill to confirm the decision obtained a second reading (fn. 10) but apparently was not enacted. It is uncertain how much land was affected by this 17th-century inclosure. Probably it amounted to the whole of the fen land reclaimed by that date; when the final inclosure of the open fields took place in the 19th century, the proportion of Sutton and Mepal that was affected amounted in each case to about one-quarter of the parish, an area roughly equivalent to the 'high lands'. A Sutton Inclosure Act was passed in 1838, (fn. 11) and an award (fn. 12) made two years later. The award mentions six fields: (fn. 13) Branghill Field west and Church Field east of the Chatteris road, Towns End Field north and south of the Ely road, Farm Hill and Claydon Fields in the north-east corner of the parish between Mepal and Witcham, and Every Year Field (fn. 14) north-west of the village; also the Meadlands and Upper and Lower Washes in the fenland in the west of the parish. (fn. 15) The total area affected was 1,786 acres, including 71 acres of ancient inclosures reallotted. Those of the 121 proprietors who received the largest amounts were John Vipan (93 acres), Thomas Vipan (91 acres), four other members of the Vipan family (207 acres between them), William Cole (100 acres), the trustees under the will of Anne Waddington (97 acres), and the Dean and Chapter of Ely (92 acres). The last allotment included 31½ acres which the dean and chapter received as impropriators of the rectory and 1 acre as lords of the manor.

A branch of the Great Eastern Railway was opened from Ely to Sutton in 1866 and extended to St. Ives in 1878; (fn. 16) the station was closed, except for goods traffic, in 1931. (fn. 17)

In 1618 the inhabitants of Ely and certain other places in the Isle petitioned the Council to direct the Commissioners of Sewers not to impose penalties for failure to open the drain called Sutton Lode by the appointed time. They claimed that 100,000 acres would be overflowed if the lode was opened before the main drain (the West Water) and its outfalls at Wisbech were completed. By way of answer the people of Sutton and Mepal petitioned that the stopping of Sutton Lode was highly prejudicial to them, because, though the Lode was a branch of the West Water, it had a separate outfall, which was the only good one for the Ouse as far as Lynn. (fn. 18) The floods of 1937 and 1947 were especially serious in the tract of fen between Sutton and Earith Bridge; in the latter year the damage had not been fully repaired five months after the floods. (fn. 19)


Three hides in SUTTON were given to the church of Ely by Ulsius, his wife, and his son Alfius when the monastery was restored by Ethelwold and Brithnoth after the Danish invasions. (fn. 20) In 1086 Sutton was assessed at 5 hides. There was land for 10 ploughs. Two of the 5 hides were in demesne with land for 3 or possibly 4 ploughs. There were 9 sokemen, who neither then nor formerly could depart without leave from the abbot, 8 villeins each with 7½ acres, 15 cottars and 7 serfs. There was a small wood, providing for 5 pigs, and 44s. from fisheries. The vill was worth £12 when received and £16 in 1066. In 1086 its value was again stated to be £12. (fn. 21)

The manor remained with the convent in 1109, and was transferred to the reconstituted dean and chapter in 1541. (fn. 22) It is now held by the Church Commissioners, so that ownership has been continuous for nearly a thousand years, broken only during the Interregnum. (fn. 23) A grant of free warren was made in 1252 (fn. 24) and confirmed with other manorial privileges in 1418. (fn. 25)

Philip de Insula appears as tenant of the manor of Sutton c. 1250, when the demesne consisted of 40 acres of arable land and 30 of meadow, (fn. 26) but for the rest of the Middle Ages it seems to have been kept in hand by the prior and convent. It was usually reckoned as the most valuable part of their property, other than the various estates in and around Ely itself. In 1291 the manor was valued at £64 15s. 5d. (fn. 27) In 1324-5 the value had increased to £67 0s. 5½d. (fn. 28) Prominent sources of revenue then were £6 6s. from fisheries, £8 12s. 8d. from mills and £3 1s. 6d. from the sale of stock. Wool and fells were also sold, though on a smaller scale than at Witchford and Wentworth: 71 skins yielded £1 6s. 7½d. In 1380 (fn. 29) receipts had risen to £83 2s. 10d. Nine fisheries produced £4 18s. and the sale of stock and dairy produce £8 2s. 3d. Some of the demesne was arrented at £3 18s. This rent included 3s. 4d. from an osier bed in the 'Holt' let to Sir John Wake. Works were commuted for £4 4s. 6d. In this year corn and stock were purchased at Royston (Herts.) for £4 1s. 11d. and the prior paid a personal visit of inspection. During the 15th century the receipts diminished considerably, fluctuating between £27 17s. 8d. in 1429 and £54 13s. 4d. six years later; Sutton now ranked in value somewhat below the priory's manor in Whittlesey. (fn. 30) In 1522-3, however, the receipts had risen to £81 16s. 11½d., including rents in kind valued at £1 7s. 9¾d. (fn. 31) In 1527-8 the receipts had again fallen to £41 4s. (fn. 32) In 1541 they had risen to £67 13s. 3¾d. (fn. 33) The general high degree of prosperity in Sutton is shown by the nickname 'Golden' Sutton, found in Chancery proceedings of 1599. (fn. 34)

Lying as it did on the border of the Isle, Sutton was the occasional scene of boundary disputes. Thus in 1292 Prior Salomon complained that Abbot Sawtry of Ramsey and some members of the de Insula family had broken into his Sutton property, mowed his meadows and reed bed and felled his trees. (fn. 35) In 1441 the successors of these disputants agreed that the boundary between their respective manors in Sutton and Chatteris should lie along the dike in the marshes of 'Hollode' (fn. 36) and 'Popilholt'. (fn. 37)

Many grants to the priory are recorded amongst the capitular archives, mostly small in amount. They are of little interest except to the student of place names; such names as 'Athelyngsbrygge', 'Waldhithewaye', the 'Haspehoue', and 'Fenhoue' occur. (fn. 38) The prior's vineyard is mentioned in 1312. (fn. 39) Most of these grants date from the early years of the 14th century, at which time, as in other of the conventual manors, the Fresyngfeld family made many gifts. (fn. 40) In 1371 it was reported that since the Statute of Mortmain (1279) the convent had acquired in Sutton, mainly without licence, no fewer than 68 properties, to the yearly value of £6 6s. 5d. These included a 100-acre estate called 'Pillerynestenements', worth £2, and marsh, worth 6s. 8d., held of the bishop. The latter was acquired in order to enlarge the manor place. (fn. 41)

At the end of the 16th century the lessees of the manor under the dean and chapter were the Jetherell family. (fn. 42) A member of that family, Henry, was a party to the disputes that occurred between the dean and chapter and the villagers of Sutton in the 1620's (see above). (fn. 43) Concurrently with the inclosure of the fens the fines were changed from arbitrary to certain. The sum of £40 was to be collected from the tenants to compensate the dean and chapter for this concession. In 1654 some portions of the sum still remained unpaid. (fn. 44) The parliamentary survey of 1649 gave the 'improved' value of copyhold lands in the manor as £98 13s. 8d. a year, (fn. 45) amended to £101 3s. 8½d. when in the same year George Perrier, scrivener of London, bought the manor for £2,243 9s. 2½d. (fn. 46) The fines certain were now fixed at 4d. per acre a year. Perrier did not hold the manor long; in 1651 it was regranted, for £2,048 8s. 2d., to Hamond Ward, a London merchant. (fn. 47) The demesne was in two parts, the larger, of 13 closes (140 acres), 33 acres of lammas ground in the North and South Meadlands and 105 acres of fen and marsh, was worth £132 17s. 4d. yearly and carried £50 of timber; the smaller, of 5 closes of 46 acres, and 24 acres of fen and marsh, was worth £42 19s.

At the Restoration the manor returned to the dean and chapter; in the early 18th century it was leased to the Ward family at a yearly rent of £8, 4 wethers, a brawn, and a calf; fines for renewal were £45 in 1710 and 1717 and £60 in 1724. (fn. 48) Courts baron were held until 1844. (fn. 49)

The manor house normally followed the descent of the manor. In 1541, however, it was let to Thomas Colin for £8 yearly. (fn. 50) In 1630 the tenancy was transferred by Richard Upcher and his wife Anne to David Dunbar and his wife Elizabeth. (fn. 51) The Dunbars made a settlement of their interest in 1637. (fn. 52) David Dunbar was engaged in a lawsuit with the dean and chapter about this time. (fn. 53) In 1851 John Vipan was the occupier of the Burystead. (fn. 54)

The Burystead Farm at the west end of the village incorporates a complete early-14th-century chapel which, though long desecrated and converted into a house, retains most of its original features in a remarkable state of preservation. In 1651 it comprised the main portion of the manor house, and was stated to consist of a block 39 by 24 ft., containing a hall and parlour on the ground floor and two rooms over. The south wing (rebuilt in 1742, see below) was 27 by 18 ft. and included another parlour, the kitchen, buttery, larder, and other offices downstairs and four small rooms above. (fn. 55) Judging from the position of the fine double piscina the actual chapel was raised on a low undercroft and was probably approached by an internal newel stair at the south-west angle. There was a large window in both the east and the west walls; that in the west, with plain intersecting tracery, survives complete though blocked. There were at least two lateral windows of two lights on the north and south which survive, though either wholly or partially blocked. There is a blocked two-centred doorway towards the east of the north wall. The present entrance on the south has a pointed arch, which however does not appear to be medieval. The materials are rubble with ashlar dressings, much of the surface being plastered, and there are angle buttresses with one set-off. On the west gable is the base of a cross. The roof, though retaining its original pitch, is a post-medieval reconstruction reusing some medieval material. The approximate internal length is 36 ft. and the walls are nearly 3 ft. thick. The fact that human remains have been discovered in the surrounding ground suggests that the building was something more than a private manorial chapel.

At right angles to the chapel and attached to it on the south is a brick two-story wing with sash windows and round-headed doorway with fanlight; on the front is the date 1742. Later additions have been made on the west.

In 1548 Sir William Fyldyng or Fielding held a capital messuage in Sutton, which he had settled in 1525 on his son Basil on his marriage to Goditha Wyllington. (fn. 56) Basil was in possession at his death (1586), having in turn settled it on his son William and his descendants. (fn. 57)

In the early 18th century 160 acres of fen in Sutton Holwoods were on lease to Mrs. Blatt at £30; fines for renewal ranged from £26 to £30. An area of 248 acres in Middlemore, which provided £20 a year for the schoolmaster, was let to feoffees at £3 11s. 6d.; fines for renewal were £65 in 1709 and 1716 and £68 in 1723. Other 'new rents' from inclosed and drained fen yielded £40 a year. (fn. 58)


The church was early appropriated to the hosteller of Ely monastery-an arrangement which Bishops Northwold (1254) (fn. 59) and Balsham (1276) (fn. 60) confirmed. It was valued at £13 6s. 8d. in 1217 and £12 in 1254. (fn. 61) A vicarage was ordained in 1254. (fn. 62) In 1291 the rectory was valued at £16 13s. 4d. of which £4 was set aside for the vicar. (fn. 63) The vicar's stipend had been increased to £10 by 1535. (fn. 64) Six years later the rectory was let to John Bucke for £13 6s. 8d. (fn. 65) A pension of £1 was granted to the Bishop of Ely from Sutton vicarage in 1562. (fn. 66) There is less documentary evidence for the subsequent history of the rectory than for other churches impropriate to the dean and chapter, but in 1610 it passed from Benjamin Hodson and Cassandra his wife to Robert Storye. (fn. 67) From about 1684 the rectory was held by Jesus College, Cambridge, as trustees for Bishop Gunning's charity for the improvement of poor livings. In the early 18th century the college paid a yearly rent of £13 6s. 8d. and 2 quarters of wheat or the price thereof at Ely market on the Saturday before St. John Baptist's Day; fines for renewal amounted to £80 in 1710, £76 in 1717, and £100 in 1724. The rectory then consisted of a barn, dovecote, 39 acres of arable, 12 of old pasture, 40 of meadow and fen, and the great tithes. (fn. 68) The vicarial tithes were commuted in 1840 for £1,175 and the rectorial for £500. (fn. 69) There were then 44 acres of glebe, which by 1900 had been reduced to 20 acres. (fn. 70)

The advowson of Sutton has been continuously with the prior and convent and their successors the Dean and Chapter of Ely. From 1735 to 1844 the rectory of Mepal was consolidated with Sutton vicarage. Bentham told Cole, who visited Sutton in 1745, that this had been done by Dr. John Warren, formerly Vicar of Wisbech and Rector of Elm. (fn. 71) Warren alleged that the two livings had not been a 'maintenance' separately, but Cole believed that Warren 'took them solely to build up a new rectorial house and barns and then to resign them'. (fn. 72) A later incumbent, Dr. Samuel Peach, was appointed to the livings (then worth £200 per annum) in consideration of giving up the papers of Dr. James Bradley the astronomer, his father-in-law, which had been bequeathed to the public. (fn. 73) In 1781 a faculty was granted to Peach to pull down the rectory at Mepal and to use the materials to repair the vicarage at Sutton. (fn. 74)

An area of 12½ acres in the common fields of Sutton, held by Robert Auker, William Bucke, and Henry Gunton, which had been given to anniversaries and lights in the church, was in 1553 granted to Sir John Butler and Thomas Chaworthe. (fn. 75) Various small pieces of land in the fields of Sutton which had been given for anniversaries and lights in the church, came in 1568 into possession of Hugh Counsaille and Robert Baker. (fn. 76) Three years later Thomas Jennings and Edward Forthe, other Elizabethan land speculators, undertook the disposal of other obit land in 'Southmede'. (fn. 77)

The church of ST. ANDREW consists of chancel, north vestry, clerestoried nave, aisles, south porch, and west tower. The material is rubble and Barnack stone. The roofs of the chancel and vestry are tiled, and the others covered with lead. The fabric dates from the second half of the 14th century, and exhibits the transition from Decorated to Perpendicular. The arms of Bishops Barnet (1366-73) and Arundel (1374-88) occur on the vaulting of the porch, and also those of the see of York, to which Arundel was translated in 1388. The design is uniform throughout, but the chancel seems rather earlier than the nave, and the tower somewhat later. The lavish use of battlemented parapets and the unusual window tracery give the church a marked individuality.

The chancel, of 3 bays, has a large east window of 5 cinquefoil-headed lights with a transom and elaborate tracery. There are 8 angle buttresses each with 1 set-off, 2 pairs at the eastern corners, 2 on the north wall, and 2 on the south. There are 3 windows on the south and 2 on the north, all uniform in design, consisting of 3 cinquefoil-headed lights with tracery above. All the windows in the chancel and aisles are set under lofty arches with moulded shafts-a feature common in contemporary East Anglian work and found in the Isle also at March and Wilburton. A low stone bench extends along the walls. In the middle bay on the south side is a doorway with continuous mouldings and a hood-mould. The walls are surmounted by a plain coped parapet. In the east bay on the north a doorway with continuous mouldings opens to the vestry. The absence of a window in this bay is proof that a vestry formed part of the original design. There are graduated sedilia and a double piscina in the usual position. On either side of the east window inside is a large niche with cusped and crocketed canopy and a bracket above; they are occupied by modern figures of St. Andrew and St. Etheldreda. The lofty chancel arch is two-centred and of two orders, the outer with continuous mouldings and the inner springing from semicircular shafts with moulded caps and bases; on the west face there is a hood-mould terminating in heads.

The vestry has been entirely rebuilt; it has a twolight east window, an external doorway on the west and a lean-to roof.

The nave has arcades of six bays with two-centred arches of two orders, the outer with continuous mouldings and the inner springing from semi-circular shafts with moulded caps and bases: there are hood-moulds terminating in heads and on the east respond there is a bracket. The clerestory consists of five windows on each side set over the columns and of two trefoilheaded lights with a quatrefoil above. The parapets are embattled. The rood loft newel staircase is situated in the north-east angle and has plain upper and lower doorways. The tower arch is two-centred and of two orders, the outer with continuous mouldings and the inner springing from semi-octagonal shafts with concave sides and embattled caps and moulded bases.

The aisles have uniform fenestration and buttresses with one set-off. The windows are of three cinquefoilheaded lights with tracery of late 14th-century character. The north doorway has continuous mouldings and a hood terminating in heads. The south aisle is embattled and the north has a plain coped parapet; both parapets have gargoyles. In the south-east angle of the south aisle is an elaborate piscina recess, above which is a large niche containing a seated stone figure almost life size and now headless; it is probably the Blessed Virgin and retains considerable traces of original colour, as does the niche. On either side of the east window of the north aisle is a stone bracket.

The porch is of two bays with parvise above, and an embattled parapet with gargoyles; there are angle buttresses with one set-off. The outer doorway has a two-centred arch of two orders, the outer with continuous mouldings and the inner springing from semicircular shafts with embattled caps and moulded bases; there is a band of conventional flowers beneath the caps and a hood-mould terminating in grotesque heads. The inner doorway has continuous mouldings. There is a lierne vault in two bays with moulded shafts rising from the lateral stone benches; the bosses at the intersection of the ribs are carved with the arms of Barnet, Arundel, and York, and various heads including a bishop. The parvise is approached by a stone newel stair contrived in the north-west angle and entered from the aisle.

Plan of St. Andrew's Church

The tower consists of four stages surmounted by an octagonal stage which is crowned by a smaller octagon. It is probable that a spire was originally intended, the second octagon being substituted owing to lack of funds. The resulting effect is unique in English medieval church towers and produces a somewhat bizarre outline. The tower, which is lofty in itself and on high ground, can be seen for great distances, e.g. from near Welney Bridge across the Bedford Rivers, and the railway between Ely and Stretham. There are diagonal buttresses reaching to the top of the fourth stage and crowned with mutilated crocketed pinnacles, and smaller additional angle buttresses at the base. Round the base and above the west window are bands of quatrefoils. The large west doorway has a four-centred arch set in a square frame springing from jamb shafts having embattled caps and moulded bases; in the spandrels are quatrefoils enclosing shields with the arms of Ely and St. Andrew. The west window has four uncusped main lights and a transom with rectilinear tracery, all renewed. In the third stage there is a twolight uncusped window on the north, south, and west. The belfry windows in the fourth stage consist of three plain lights contained within a square hood with quatrefoils in the spandrels. The first octagon has an embattled parapet decorated with quatrefoils and remains of crocketed pinnacles on alternate sides; the upper octagon has an embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles at each angle. There is a good lierne vault of wood with carved bosses and stone springers. The newel staircase is contrived in the south-west angle.

The roofs are modern; that of the chancel is of collar-braced construction with modern stone carved corbels, while the nave roof is of tie beam construction with the old stone corbels, embattled and carved with grotesque figures; the aisle roofs are of lean-to type with moulded stone corbels.

The plain octagonal font is probably of late 14th century date; beneath the bowl there are conventional flowers carved in relief. There are some old poupee heads in the nave seating.

The plate includes a communion cup, paten, and flagon of silver, 1784, inscribed 'The gift of Joseph Manwaring the younger of Islington in the County of Middlesex Esquire', and a plate of pewter.

The tower contains six bells: 1st by William Dobson of Downham, 1819, 2nd by Miles Graye of Colchester, 1654, 3rd by Charles Newman, 1691, 4th by the same, 1700, 5th and 6th by Henry Penn, 1722, inscribed respectively Plebem voce congrego clerum and Defunctos plango vivos moneo. The registers begin in 1558 but the entries between 1645 and 1655 and between 1686 and 1694 are missing.

In 1553 the church was more lavishly equipped with plate, ornaments, and vestments than' any in the Isle except Ely St. Mary. (fn. 78) In 1686, however, it was reported that the church had lacked a surplice for more than twenty years. (fn. 79)

A guild of St. John is mentioned in the will of William Daynes of Ely (1457), who bequeathed 3s. 4d. (fn. 80) In 1568 the guildhall of Corpus Christi (sic), which had been given to pious uses by Richard Yongeman, sometime vicar, was sold to Hugh Counsaille and Robert Baker. (fn. 81) A timber-framed and plastered cottage opposite the church is still known as the guildhall. (fn. 82)


Dissent was fairly strongly established in Sutton in 1676, where 52 out of 490 inhabitants were not members of the established church. (fn. 83) This may have been due to the influence of William Hunt, an ejected minister, who continued in Sutton as a schoolmaster, and from whom the Baptists (see below) traced a tenuous descent. The earliest dissenting congregation to be established seems to have been that of the Friends, whose existence is recorded in 1659 and 1664. In the former year there were four Quaker households, (fn. 84) and although there were few Quakers in the Isle generally 'who have any visible estate', it was stated that Henry Foster of Sutton, a member of one of those households, was 'fit for a justice'. Minute books of the Sutton Monthly Meeting survive for 1758-61, (fn. 85) and nearly a hundred years later there was an average congregation of 6 at the Friends' meeting house here. The meeting died out c. 1855. (fn. 86) In 1672 the house of William Hunt was licensed for Presbyterian worship. (fn. 87) A Particular Baptist chapel was built in 1791. (fn. 88) In 1820 it had a regular membership of nearly 60 and a congregation of 200 to 250. (fn. 89) In 1851 there was a Sunday-school attached to it. (fn. 90) A Wesleyan Methodist congregation was established in 1790. In 1851 a Sunday-school was attached to it. (fn. 91) The chapel was rebuilt in 1914. (fn. 92) A Primitive Methodist chapel was erected c. 1880 and closed c. 1935. (fn. 93) In 1900 the Salvation Army were holding meetings in the Jubilee Hall but their operations ceased after about ten years. (fn. 94)


William Heye was licensed as a schoolmaster at Sutton in 1579, (fn. 95) and a schoolmaster is recorded in the Visitation Return of 1596. (fn. 96) At the beginning of the 18th century £20 rents from Sutton Holwoods were appropriated to the salary of a schoolmaster, (fn. 97) and in 1798 an unspecified number of children were being taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and the Catechism. (fn. 98) The condition of this school was supposed to be good as there were no public complaints. The master may have been a certain Mr. Custnall, who kept a private school at Sutton and according to a report to the bishop of c. 1800-10 was a Methodist. This report also mentioned four dameschools, two of them kept by Dissenters. (fn. 99) In 1837 there were about 20 boys at school in Sutton during the winter; an 'efficient' schoolmaster received £15 a year from the dean and chapter; (fn. 100) some time before 1851 his salary was increased to £20. (fn. 101) According to the National Society, however, 'the educational wants in this parish are very great. The respectable inhabitants are strongly impressed with the necessity of a National School, and the attention of the National Society will shortly be called more fully to the condition of this parish'. In 1859 the existing school was united with the National Society, and two years later the Society granted £20 towards rebuilding the premises. (fn. 102) About 1867, when owing to the operation of the agricultural gang system the state of education in Sutton was 'very deficient', the numbers on the books were: (winter) 70, (summer) 51, with average attendances of 58 and 37 respectively. (fn. 103) The school building was a large one, providing 230 places in 1900. (fn. 104) In 1912 a new classroom, for which the National Society granted £8 and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners £30, brought the total accommodation to 285. The school was reorganized as one department (Mixed and Infants) in 1930. It has always been a voluntary school, and in 1937 a proposal was made by the church authorities to rebuild the premises and include a senior department for the older children from Sutton and the neighbouring villages. This proposal was favourably considered by the County Education Committee but was abandoned in the end as it was found impossible voluntarily to combine sufficient villages to make a Senior School at Sutton practicable. The older children were transferred to Chatteris in 1939, brought back to Sutton during the Second World War, and removed to Chatteris again in 1948. (fn. 105)

In 1873, when abortive proposals were made for a separate infants' school at Sutton Gault, it was stated that as many as 60 children in Sutton were attending private schools. (fn. 106)


The Charity Commissioners in 1837 reported that 81½ acres in Sutton supposed to have been the remainder of certain fen land after various allotments had been made in pursuance of a Chancery decree of 1624 were let for a sum varying between £122 and £160, according as the land was to be in pasture or arable. About £14 of this rent was given indiscriminately to the poor of Sutton and Mepal in money, and in providing coal at the rate of 25 bushels per family. (fn. 107)


  • 1. Probably from Middle English 'galle', marshy ground. There is no gault here (P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 240).
  • 2. Britannia, 145.
  • 3. B.M. Add. MS. 5807, ff. 129-31. Since Cole's time even these monuments have disappeared.
  • 4. p. 507.
  • 5. Cal. Chart. R., 1300-26, 185.
  • 6. The market at Whittlesey (q.v.) was not established until 1715, long after the church of Ely had relinquished its interest in that town.
  • 7. V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 87, quoting Carter's Hist. Cambs. (1753), 3. The lack of documentary evidence suggests that the market was obsolete by the time of the Interregnum, if not by the Dissolution.
  • 8. C 2/Jas. I/E 7/39.
  • 9. C 5/550/98; C 5/456/76 &/77.
  • 10. H. of C. Jnls. ix, 380.
  • 11. 1 & 2 Vic. c. ii.
  • 12. Award at County Hall, March.
  • 13. In 1794 there were said to be four fields, of 700 acres (W. E. Tate, 'Cambs. Field Systems', Camb. Antiq. Soc. Procs. xl, 81 (1939-42), quoting Vancouver, Gen. View Agric. Cambs.).
  • 14. Probably the name is an indication of superior fertility; this was the field lying nearest the fen portion of the parish, with a preponderance of peat over clay, in its soil.
  • 15. None of these names, except the Meadlands and Washes, survives on modern maps.
  • 16. V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 133.
  • 17. Infm. Publ. Relations Offr. Eastern Region, Brit. Rlys.
  • 18. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611-18, 552, 566.
  • 19. See The Times, 16 Mar. 1937,17 Mar. 1947 and subsequent days; personal observation of present writer, Aug. 1947.
  • 20. Jas. Bentham, Ely, 75.
  • 21. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 370.
  • 22. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, g. 1226 (12).
  • 23. C 54/3448, no. 22; C 54/3624, no. 13.
  • 24. Cal. Chart. R. 1226-57, 391.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1416-22, 184, 185.
  • 26. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, Liber M, ff. 374a, 374b.
  • 27. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 270.
  • 28. Treas. R. transcribed by Archdeacon S. J. A. Evans.
  • 29. Bailiff's R. of 3-4 Ric. II (D. & C. Mun., Ely, Cupbd. B). A good many similar rolls are preserved, but mostly in very bad condition and in several cases incomplete.
  • 30. S.C. 6/1257/4 to /9.
  • 31. Transcript penes Archdeacon S. J. A. Evans. Of this sum, £22 16s. 8d. was appropriated to the pittancer.
  • 32. D. & C. Mun., Ely, Treas. R. no. 20.
  • 33. B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 120.
  • 34. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 239.
  • 35. Cal. Pat. 1281-92, 578.
  • 36. Now represented by Holwoods Farms (Chatteris) and Sutton Holwoods at the extreme west of the common boundary towards Huntingdonshire.
  • 37. D. & C. Mun., Ely, Cista II D, Carta. 1149. See also E 60/14335.
  • 38. D. & C. Mun., Cartae 294, 672, 221.
  • 39. Ibid. Carta 228.
  • 40. Cal. Pat. 1313-17, 121.
  • 41. Cal. Inq. Misc. iii, no. 784 (pp. 293, 294).
  • 42. C 3/243/25.
  • 43. C 2/1/E. 7/39.
  • 44. C 3/456/76 and /77.
  • 45. D. & C. Mun., Cupbd. A.
  • 46. C 54/3448, no. 22.
  • 47. C 54/3624, no. 13.
  • 48. D. & C. Mun., Bentham Transcripts.
  • 49. Ct. r. exist up to this date in the capitular mun. at Ely (Cupbd. A).
  • 50. B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 120.
  • 51. C.P. 25(2)/400/East. 6 Chas. I.
  • 52. Ibid. 13 Chas. I.
  • 53. C 3/400/161.
  • 54. R. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 508.
  • 55. C 54/3624, no. 13.
  • 56. C 142/86/14.
  • 57. C 142/211/194.
  • 58. D. & C. Mun., Bentham Transcripts.
  • 59. Bentham, Ely, 147 n.
  • 60. Ely Dioc. Remembrancer, no. 193, p. 123.
  • 61. W. E. Lunt, Valuation of Norw. 539.
  • 62. Bentham, Ely, 147 n. The Norwich Valuation of 1254 mentions no vicarage, so that the ordination was presumably one of the last public acts of Bishop Northwold ; he died 9 Aug. of that year.
  • 63. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 265.
  • 64. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 499.
  • 65. B.M. Add. MS. 5847, f. 120.
  • 66. Cal. Pat. 1560-3, 226.
  • 67. C.P. 25(2)/177/Trin. 7 Jas. I.
  • 68. D. & C. Mun., Bentham Transcripts.
  • 69. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 507.
  • 70. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900).
  • 71. Cole's statement that he became bishop of St. Davids in 1779 appears to be a mistake. That John Warren was born in 1730 and admitted to Caius College in 1747; he held various Cambridgeshire livings but never Sutton, Wisbech, or Elm (see D.N.B. and Venn, Biog. Hist. Caius Coll. ii, 60).
  • 72. B.M. Add. MS. 5807, f. 126b.
  • 73. Ibid.
  • 74. W. M. Palmer, 'Faculty Bks. in Dioc. Regy., Ely', Camb. Antiq. Soc. Procs. xxxv, 69 (1933-4).
  • 75. Cal. Pat. 1553, 290.
  • 76. C 66/1046, m. 2.
  • 77. C 66/1077, m. 39.
  • 78. Cambs. & Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. ii, 152-3, printing the inventory of the 1553 commissioners (E 315/395).
  • 79. Ibid. 154.
  • 80. Fenland N. & Q. v, 112; W. M. Palmer, Village Gilds of Cambs. 398.
  • 81. C 66/1046, m. 2.
  • 82. Cambs. & Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. i, 151.
  • 83. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, A 6.
  • 84. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1658-9, 358; 1664-5, 142.
  • 85. Infm. Librarian, Soc. of Friends.
  • 86. It is last mentioned in Kelly's Dir. Cambs. of 1853.
  • 87. Cal. S. P. Dom. 1672, 100, 119.
  • 88. The meeting dated from 1749 (Bapt. Handbk., 1950).
  • 89. Cong. Mag. iii, 57 (1820).
  • 90. H.O. 129/7/190. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1858 and 1865) mentions two Baptist chapels in Sutton.
  • 91. H.O. 129/7/190.
  • 92. Inscr. on bldg.
  • 93. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1883 to 1933 editions).
  • 94. Ibid. (1900); not mentioned in 1912 edition.
  • 95. A. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec., 176.
  • 96. V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 338 n.
  • 97. D. & C. Mun., Bentham Transcripts.
  • 98. Bp.'s Mun., B 6.
  • 99. Ibid.
  • 100. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), [103], 329- 31, H.C. (1837-8), xxiv.
  • 101. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 508.
  • 102. Archives of Nat. Soc.
  • 103. Rep. Com. Empl. Children &c. in Agric., [4068-I], 338, H.C. (1867-8), xvii.
  • 104. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900).
  • 105. M. of Ed. File no. 12/45.
  • 106. Archives of Nat. Soc.
  • 107. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), [103], 329-31, H.C. (1837-8), xxiv.