Wisbech Hundred: Leverington

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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T D Atkinson. Ethel M Hampson. E T Long. C A F Meekings. Edward Miller. H B Wells. G M G Woodgate, 'Wisbech Hundred: Leverington', 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. 186-197. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4/pp186-197 [accessed 17 June 2024].

T D Atkinson. Ethel M Hampson. E T Long. C A F Meekings. Edward Miller. H B Wells. G M G Woodgate. "Wisbech Hundred: Leverington", 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) 186-197. British History Online, accessed June 17, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4/pp186-197.

Atkinson, T D. Hampson, Ethel M. Long, E T. Meekings, C A F. Miller, Edward. Wells, H B. Woodgate, G M G. "Wisbech Hundred: Leverington", 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). 186-197. British History Online. Web. 17 June 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4/pp186-197.

In this section


Leverington is a large parish and village on the northwest of Wisbech. (fn. 1) The lay-out-a frontage upon the Ouse (later the Nene) outfall, a village site protected by the 'Roman Bank', and a landward extension into the fen-was originally the same as in the other Marshland villages of the Isle, but in Leverington has been considerably modified. In the first place, the fen portion of the ancient parish, containing Parson Drove (q.v.), has been separated both for civil and ecclesiastical purposes, and the hamlet of Gorefield is also a separate parish ecclesiastically. (fn. 2) Secondly, the proximity of Wisbech and the extensive development of small holdings have caused a rapid increase in population, particularly during the present century. (fn. 3) The main part of the village, around the church and Leverington Hall, stands on a ridge just inside the old sea wall. There is ribbon development along the new main road all through Leverington parish, and also along the Nene bank at its southern end. There is much scattered development along the minor roads, northwest from Leverington village towards Gorefield, and westwards along Leverington Common towards Parson Drove.

The Bedford Level Act of 1663 (fn. 4) authorized the inclosure, division, and allotting of 339 acres of marsh land, between the Roman Bank and the Nene outfall, to the owners of commonable messuages or tenements in Leverington. Each allotment appears to have averaged 2 acres. Before this time various creeks, such as Carlton's Creek, (fn. 5) penetrated a long way inland and allowed the conveyance of seaborne goods right up to the village. An old boat has been dug up in the vicinity of this creek, just under the sea wall.

A great development of small holdings took place in Leverington in the early 20th century, and the population rose by about 75 per cent. between 1901 and 1931.

The village is an attractive one, with several large houses in well-timbered grounds. (fn. 6) The church spire, perhaps the most graceful in the county, is a prominent landmark.

The parish fields are as follows. In Leverington: the Marsh, Spitalfield, Thummins, Margerie's Croft, Farthing Field, Outnewlands, Fen Croft, Church Croft, Paps Field or Hill Croft, Seafield, Ives Dyke Field or Doole, Park Field, Woolcroft or Walcroft, Wratfield, and Snailcroft, otherwise Fendyke Field, West Meadow, Beaconhoe, or Maysfield. In Gorefield: Ox or Fitton Field, Gorefield, Harp, Hart or Harpley Field, Long Meadow, Cat Field, Richmond Field, New Field, Shire or Shear Field, Black Lane Field. In Parson Drove and Southea: Pock or Poke Field, Remers Field, Popefield, Canon Field, Old Eaufield, Elbow Field, Flain Field, North and South Inham, and Parson Drove Fen.


Leverington is not mentioned in Domesday Book, and the method and date of its acquisition by the church of Ely is unknown. As at Wisbech, both bishop and prior obtained interests in Leverington after 1109. About a century later (c. 1210-12) William de Longchamp held 400 acres for 2 marks of the Prior of Ely. (fn. 7) This is probably the origin of the manor of Graces (see below). But the prior was more concerned as a tenant of the bishop. Two of the episcopal tenancies mentioned in 1221 (fn. 8) were held in 1251 (fn. 9) at the same rents by the prior. These were the tenement of Walter son of Walter (120 acres) who held by a rent of 20s. with suit of court, and the tenement of Ralph de Tirington (3 virgates) who held by a rent of 5s. 4d.

The bishop's manor of Leverington was in the 13th century a fairly large one, but it did not make so much progress between the surveys of 1221 and 1251 as some of the others in the Isle. At the earlier date there were 5 free tenants, 64 customaries, and 9 cottars; at the later 7 free tenants (counting the Prior of Ely's two holdings separately), 60 customary tenants, 5 others who held land by customary services without messuages, and 5 cottars. In 1251 there was a demesne of 44½ acres, probably in open fields though not so specified, and two areas of marsh totalling 84½ acres. It was stated that some of the larger piece, Northale, was overflowed and laid waste by the sea.

The lord had the usual manorial perquisites, including, since Leverington was near the sea, the rights of wreck and of royal fish. To the finder of such a fish 4d. were payable. The total rents amounted to £15 14s. 6¾d.

The later Middle Ages saw the rise of a number of manors in Leverington, and it is not easy to associate any of them with the episcopal estate mentioned above. (fn. 10) The manor of RICHMOND has been generally regarded as the chief manor. It lay in Gorefield, and the homestead moat that surrounded the manor house still remains near the modern Richmond Hall Farm. (fn. 11) The first mention of this manor under its own name occurs in 1390, when Geoffrey Richmond was granted the right to hear mass in the oratory of his house provided he attended the parish church on Sundays and festivals. (fn. 12) It is possible that this manor is identifiable with the messuage and 160 acres in Leverington held in 1344 by Sir John de Shardelow of the prior of Ely for 13s. 4d. yearly, (fn. 13) for the next definite mention is in 1391, when Robert de Shardelow, great-grandson of Sir John, (fn. 14) settled it upon trustees. (fn. 15) He died eight years later, (fn. 16) when the surviving trustees granted it to his relict Ela for life, with remainder to Robert's son, another John. (fn. 17) Ela survived until 1457, (fn. 18) and between 1432 and 1434 seems to have made over the manor to her son and daughter-in-law. In the former year Beatrice (Everard) and Alice (Caius), coheirs of John Hiptoft, released all their rights in the Shardelow property to Ela; (fn. 19) in the latter a fine was levied concerning the manor to which John Shardelow and Margaret his wife were the deforciants. (fn. 20) Another fine of 1453 brought Richmond manor to Sir Gilbert Haultoft and his wife Margaret. (fn. 21) Their daughter Mary married Thomas Kervile of Wiggenhall St. Mary (Norf.), and the manor remained in this family for more than a century. (fn. 22) Henry Kervile made a settlement thereof in 1592; (fn. 23) at his death (1615) it was stated to be held of the Bishop of Ely in socage as of his manor of Leverington. (fn. 24) His son, then aged 22, was a recusant; he suffered imprisonment for allowing meetings of a treasonable character at his house, but was released before his death in 1624. (fn. 25) His son died before attaining his majority, and this branch of the family thereupon died out. The manor eventually became vested in John Pell, of Holme next the Sea (Norf.). It is possible that he obtained it by descent, for his grandfather, John Pell of Dersingham (Norf.), married into the Gawsell family, (fn. 26) but the evidence is not conclusive.

In 1687 John Pell suffered a recovery of the manor and its appurtenances in Leverington and Wisbech. (fn. 27) The estate consisted of a messuage, 20 acres of arable, 5 of meadow, 200 of pasture, 20 of fresh marsh, and 100 acres of land covered with water. (fn. 28) He died in 1714, leaving three daughters as coheirs, Frances wife of Richard Mason of Necton (Norf), Mary wife of Robert Goodricke, and Elizabeth Pell. In 1718 they passed the manor by fine to Frances's husband, (fn. 29) who held his first court in 1721. He died the following year, and his only son Richard also (under age) in 1735; the latter was succeeded by his cousin William Mason, who bequeathed the manor and other property to his nephew, another William Mason. (fn. 30) In 1762 a private Act of Parliament (fn. 31) was obtained, authorizing the sale of the Mason property, and under this the Leverington Estate was in 1800 auctioned in 13 lots. (fn. 32) The buyer of the manor house and some 200 acres was George Johnson, whose family had for some time been occupiers under the Mason trustees. (fn. 33) Shortly before his death (1830) he sold the estate to Jonathan Peckover of Wisbech. During the 19th century the old manor house was replaced by the present Richmond Hall Farm. The estate remained in possession of the Peckover family until 1920, when shortly after Lord Peckover's death it was sold in lots by his daughters. The house, with a considerable part of the land, has now been reunited in the ownership of Mr. Michael Newling, who lives at Richmond Hall.

The last court baron of this manor seems to have been held in 1777, when William Mason the younger was lord; after this date manorial rights reverted to the Bishop of Ely as superior lord. A rental of 1750 shows 57 tenants, paying £9 1s. 2½d. There were then 22 messuages or cottages. (fn. 34)

The holdings of the Prior of Ely, in his own right and as a tenant of the bishop, have already been detailed. (fn. 35) Little is known about the early history of the conventual and capitular manor of GRACES. In 1291 the convent's property in Leverington was valued at £11 16s., and there was also a block extending into Wisbech and Elm which was worth £5 9s. 7d. (fn. 36) At the Dissolution the manor, so described, was worth £8 13s. 5d. net; the lessee was William Edwards. (fn. 37) As elsewhere, the estate was formally transferred to the newly constituted dean and chapter in 1541. (fn. 38)

The position of this manor in Leverington is shown by the fact that its demesne extended into the following fields: Farthing, Sea, Park, Oxfield, the west end of Gorefield, Catfield, Newfield, and South Inham. Little can be gathered as to its organization, as the court rolls are no longer extant, but it is known that lands were held at quit-rents. (fn. 39) As in the capitular manors in the Isle proper, lands in this manor were leased at beneficial rents, and during the 18th and 19th centuries the Colvile family were prominent tenants. The last Colvile lessee was W. E. A. Colvile of Horringer (Suff.), who died in 1860. (fn. 40) At this date the fines and fees levied at the seven-yearly renewals were £770.

In 1792 the demesnes amounted to 141¾ acres, (fn. 41) and there were seven sub-tenants. It seems probable that the manor house was in Newfield, on the site of the modern Bleak House. In 1860 there were five sub-tenants of this manor in Leverington and one in Parson Drove; they held 135½ acres for rents of £266 1s. 6d. (fn. 42)

In 1866 the dean and chapter let the manor for twenty-five years to the Revd. John Husband. Including a piece of pasture called Mill Hill and all the appurtenant lands the estate comprised 175½ acres. (fn. 43) Husband died in 1869, and the manor was sold for £4,850 to Emily Mary Colvile and C. B. Phillips, the trustees of W. E. A. Colvile, subject to the existing lease.

The manor of FITTON originated in lands held by Alan de Fitton of the Bishop of Ely. About 1210-12 these comprised 4¼ virgates at a rent of 16s. 2d. and 100 acres of marsh at 10s. (fn. 44) In 1221 they are specified as 4¼ virgates and 120 acres of newly reclaimed land (nova terra), held for 16s. 6d. (fn. 45) By 1251 Alan had been succeeded by Elias de Fitton, kt., who held as in 1221 with the addition of half a virgate for 3s. 8d. and the duty of suit of court. In 1327 Alice and Maud de Fitton are recorded as owning lands in Leverington; they were assessed at 7s. and 2s. 1d. respectively, and seem to be the last representatives of the family in this neighbourhood. (fn. 46)

In 1347 Sir Lawrence de Flete was granted free warren in his demesne of Fitton in Leverington. (fn. 47) His daughter Agnes married Sir Bartholomew Everard, into whose family the manor descended. In 1366 a chantry was founded by John Hode of Fleet and Simon son of Martin of Holbeach 'within the manor', and endowed with 41 acres of land in Leverington. (fn. 48) It was established for the good estate of Simon (Langham) Bishop of Ely (fn. 49) and his successors, and for the souls of Sir Lawrence de Flete, Isabel his wife and Margaret his sister, and Sir Philip Everard and Robert Braunch. The advowson of the chantry was granted to the last two. (fn. 50) Within a century the chapel of this chantry had become ruinous, and the income derived from the endowment so reduced-owing to flooding of the lands and other causes-that from 1449 onwards no chaplain had celebrated divine service there. Therefore John Everard and Henry Braunch, the holders of the advowson of the chantry, were in 1459 allowed by the bishop and convent of Ely to transfer the endowments to the chapel of Parson Drove (q.v.). (fn. 51) This transfer did not exempt them from the operation of the Act of 1545 for the suppression of chantries and diversion of their revenues to the Crown, and eight years later the original endowments of John and Simon Hode, with 64½ acres in Leverington and elsewhere which had been given since the foundation of the Fitton chantry, were sold for £1,539 15s. to Thomas Wren and Edward Slegge. (fn. 52)

Sir Bartholomew and Sir Lawrence Everard and their wives are represented in medieval stained glass in the church (see below). William Everard, Sir Lawrence's second son, succeeded his father in the manor, but at the date of his will (1419) had probably settled it on his own son John, (fn. 53) who resided at his other manor of White Hall in Wisbech, and at the time of the transfer of the chantry lands (1459) the Fitton Hall manor house was ruinous. (fn. 54) The manor continued in the Everard family for several generations. William Everard, grandson of John, died seised of it in 1534, (fn. 55) leaving a son, Bartholomew, aged 30. Bartholomew's only son died without issue and the manor devolved on his sister Grace, wife of Richard Buckworth of Wisbech.

It was probably under the Buckworths that the manor house was rebuilt. In 1827 it was described as a 'brick building' which still retained the name of Fitton Hall, though it appeared to be 'no longer known as a Manor'. (fn. 56) Anthony Buckworth, great-greatgrandson of Richard and Grace Buckworth, made a settlement of the manor, on his marriage in 1660 to Anne (Fisher) relict of James Edwards of Wisbech. (fn. 57) His grandson Thomas, who succeeded to the property in 1692, conveyed it in 1696 to Humphrey Hyde. In 1728, when William Hyde of Long Sutton (Lines.), clerk, made a settlement, the manor consisted of the house and 87½ acres, 5 of which were woodland surrounding the house, 11½ arable and the remainder pasture including 10 acres in Gorefield. The whole was in the occupation of Simon Hardy. In 1730 the property was sold to George Worrall of Long Sutton. Seven years later he settled it upon his second wife Elizabeth (Whitehall) and their issue if any. Worrall had no children by his second wife, and in 1761 she, with her stepson G. H. Worrall of Emneth (Norf.), barred the entail. Elizabeth Worrall survived her stepson, and in 1774 she devised the manor and estate to her nephew, W. H. Worrall of Spalding. In 1801 he made a settlement, giving his wife Ann a life interest, which she sold in 1818 to William Pass of Sheffield, her son-in-law. At this date the property comprised 92 acres, late in the occupation of John Musson, and then of Thomas and Humphrey Watts. In 1824 W. H. Worrall, the younger, with his sister Ann Pass, to whom the remainder in the estate had been granted by their father (d. 1806), sold it for £2,990 to Samuel Roberts of Sheffield, a silver plater. The younger Worrall was apparently a spendthrift, and enlisted in the 13th Dragoons; the sale may have been occasioned by his being drafted to the East Indies. The estate continued in the Roberts family until 1919, when Sir Samuel Roberts, M.P., sold it to Mr. Thomas Tansley. More recent owners have been Messrs. J. L. Cooper, E. L. B. Motley and Mrs. Ellen Wing. The present possessor is Mr. Aubrey Hammond.

The wood surrounding the house was cut down about 1750, and the manor house mentioned by Watson was replaced by the present farmhouse in the latter part of the 19th century.


The house at the south end of Church Lane, sometimes called CROSSE HALL but now BEECHWOOD, was probably built by Thomas Crosse who died there in 1633. (fn. 59) In 1624 Crosse was apparently living in Wisbech, which had been the home of his father and grandfather and other members of the family who had played a prominent part in the life of the town. (fn. 60) Thomas's second son John (d. 1639) (fn. 61) succeeded to Crosse Hall and was succeeded in turn by a grandson John II (d. 1666) (fn. 62) and a greatgrandson John III (d. 1704). (fn. 63) The next owner was John IV (d. 1743), the eldest son of John III. He was succeeded by a son Edward, who in 1788 was appointed a D.L. for the Isle. In 1762 he inherited a further 200 acres under the will of Adam Hawkins of Leverington, (fn. 64) but he appears to have dissipated much of his fortune through horse racing. Several of his race horses are buried in the paddock, including the noted Alonzo whose grave was marked by two pines. (fn. 65) Much of Edward's property was sold at his death (1795), (fn. 66) but Samuel (1763-1847) his third son, Fellow of Peterhouse and Vicar of Hunstanton (Norf.), retained a part of it including Crosse Hall. His son Samuel Massey Crosse (d. 1861) (fn. 67) succeeded to Crosse Hall. In 1853 the remaining property (190 acres) was sold by auction (fn. 68) and S. C. Crosse went to live at Barton Lodge, Wisbech, and subsequently in London. Henry Sharpe subsequently lived for many years at Beechwood (or Crosse Hall) where he kept his shrievalty. On his death (c. 1930) there the place was sold to E. J. Newborn, upon whose death it devolved upon his daughter Mrs. Tansley, the present (1951) owner.

A rough drawing of the house in an earlier state is given in the map of the Leverington Hall estate (fn. 69) made in 1782. From this it can be seen that the house consisted of a central block with wings extending forward on each side, something like an H. Sharpe demolished much of it in 1892 and built a completely new front with large rooms behind. The walled garden and some of the farm buildings are probably as old as the original house. The dovecote is at least 300 years old, (fn. 70) and is a fine specimen of its kind. It is an octagonal brick building with ingress through the top. Within was an octagonal wooden funnel, some 7 ft. long. This acted as a kind of decoy, for a bird flying down would find difficulty in making its way out, and by the time that it had done so would usually become accustomed to its surroundings and would remain of its own accord. Around the inside of the building are over 800 brickbuilt nests, arranged in tiers. Access to these was provided by a revolving ladder, which could be swung round in any direction to provide approach to every nest in the building.

DECOY HOUSE in Gorefield Fen, next the roadway known as Turnover Bank, was formerly in the possession of the family of Samuel Clark, from whom it passed to the Revd. Jeremiah Jackson (d. 1857), Vicar of Elm. About the middle of the 19th century the roof and walls collapsed and the house was rebuilt by Jackson, and was occupied for many years by Joseph Ellard Griffin and subsequently by his nephew Joseph Scrimshaw. On Jackson's death the estate devolved upon his son the Revd. Frederick Jackson, Vicar of Parson Drove, on whose death (1904) it was sold to Walter Ward. The latter's son Mr. George Tom Ward succeeded on his father's death and is now (1951) the owner, the property being in the occupation of his son Mr. Stanley T. Ward. It is said that one of the rooms formerly contained ten oil-painted panels, probably three centuries old, two of which were supposed to represent the duck decoy, from which the house derives its name, with fanciful additions. (fn. 71) The panels were taken from the old house and were built into the present one. (fn. 72)

The decoy itself (about 6 acres) lies about ¼ mile behind the house, on the opposite side of Goredyke Bank, and actually just within the Newton boundary, in the old parish field known as Leets Lane End. (fn. 73) The property was conveyed, with other lands in Leverington, in all about 125 acres, by Robert Mears of Wisbech to Robert Mears his son in 1761, for a life annuity of £80; and on the death of Robert Mears the son in 1781 (fn. 74) it descended to his only son, Noah Newton Tund Mears, who died in infancy. In 1786 Samuel Rolling of Leverington (cousin and next heir) owned the property and from him it passed to Thomas Smith (fn. 75) of Newton, the owner in 1833.

With the improvement of drainage in Newton and Tydd St. Giles fen, the decoy was eventually abandoned, as was also the similar decoy in Tydd St. Giles fen, and both decoys are now ordinary arable land. Aerial photographs of the site show no trace of them. These duck decoys, formerly a feature of the fenland, attracted the notice of Daniel Defoe when he visited Lynn and the Isle of Ely in 1722. (fn. 76)

FENCROFT, at the south end of Church Lane in Fencroft field, at the entrance to the village, is not much more than a century old, but stands on the site of, and incorporates some of the materials belonging to an older house. That this older house was of some importance is proved by the representation of it on the map of Leverington Hall, drawn in 1782. (fn. 77) A dovecote then lay to the west of the house.

In the 17th century the house with 12 acres belonging, extending from Church Lane to Paps Lane, belonged to Adam Denison of Leverington, grandson of Robert Denison of Leverington. (fn. 78) Adam Denison by will dated 1715 bequeathed all his lands in Leverington and Parson Drove to his grandson Richard Cumberland in tail. (fn. 79) In a deed of 1728 preliminary to barring the entail over the land devised to Richard the property is described as the capital messuage lately occupied by Adam Denison and then by Charles Gerbow, with 12 acres belonging called 'the Homestead' and other lands comprising 4 messuages and 274 acres in Leverington and Parson Drove. (fn. 80) After this the house with 12 acres was sold to William Hardy, who later sold it to John Swaine of the City of London, son of Thomas Swaine of Leverington Hall. (fn. 81) John Swaine occupied the house at his death (1753). John Swaine his son, in his will dated 1763, stated that the house was then in his own occupation, and gave it with much other land to his son Spelman Swaine, subject to his wife's life interest. Spelman Swaine bequeathed all his unsettled lands to trustees upon trust for sale; but the greater part of his property, including the house and 12 acres, had in 1790 been settled upon himself and his wife for life with remainder to his son Walter Swaine absolutely. He died in 1803 and apparently the house was purchased from the trustees by Captain Spelman Swaine, R.N. (1769-1848), the younger son. (fn. 82)

On his retirement from the Navy Swaine continued to reside at Fencroft, and became a J.P. and the last Chief Bailiff of the Isle of Ely. In 1846 he received the rank of rear-admiral. Prior to 1834 he sold his Leverington property. By 1834 Philip Godfrey had become the owner of the house with 12 acres. It was he who rebuilt the house. The property continued for many years in the Godfrey family. Early in the present century it was purchased by Mr. G. W. Whitehead, after whose death Mr. H. S. Littlechild purchased it and now resides there.

GLENDON, a square-built house on the west side of the Sutton Road, was built in 1831 (fn. 83) by the Revd. Samuel Crosse (see above-Beechwood), Fellow of Peterhouse. Latterly he lived at Glendon and died there. (fn. 84) He devised it, with other property, to his younger son Edward Bailey Crosse, subject to the payment of £600. E. B. Crosse commanded the merchant ship Violet of Wisbech on her last voyage. (fn. 85) The vessel left Glasgow in 1851 and was captured by Barbary pirates in the Bay of Bologna. E. B. Crosse died a prisoner in their hands in 1851. Just before setting off on this voyage he gave a party, at which the row of walnut trees now standing was planted.

In 1864 the property was in the occupation of Francis Nicholas Taylor. It comprised 'two parlours, two kitchens, good cellar, five chambers, brick and tiled stable with loft over, chaise-house and piggeries, enclosed by a brick wall and neat iron fence with paddock of prime pasture land'. It was then sold to Thomas Steed Watson of Wisbech. It eventually passed into the ownership of the Houlden family from which it descended to Mrs. Cook who lives there.

LANCEWOOD, a pleasantly situated house in Outnewlands, opposite Beechwood, originally belonged to Anne Crosse (d. 1685), (fn. 86) relict of Thomas Crosse of Crosse Hall (see above-Beechwood). Anne devised it as 'a messuage, stable, chaise-house, orchard and land containing 2 a. 1 r. 25 p.' to her daughter Mary Amry, (fn. 87) from which family it passed to Adam Hawkins of Leverington and appears to have been occupied by him. On the death of his sister Conquest Mayhew in 1762 the house and much other property was inherited by her aunt Elizabeth Denison, wife of the Revd. Richard Cumberland, Archdeacon of Northampton. His grandson Richard Cumberland, the memoir writer, sold it in 1789 with other lands to Samuel Stanton of Leverington, whose son Stephen was living there in 1806. (fn. 88) The property was bought by Frances, Elizabeth, and Ann, daughters of John Johnson of Richmond Hall, High Sheriff of Cambs. and Hunts., and it was they who erected the present house. They were living there in 1834 (fn. 89) and until the death of Ann Johnson in 1853, whereupon her two surviving sisters in the same year sold the place to James Gregory, a Wisbech merchant. (fn. 90) It was purchased from James Gregory in 1871 by Matthew Webster of Leverington Hall and was sold by his trustee in liquidation in 1879. After various changes in ownership it was purchased in 1931 by Mr. Francis Jermyn Smith, M.B.E., who has greatly improved it and now lives there.

Although not a manor house, LEVERINGTON HALL, standing in the middle of the village, near the church and school, is the principal house in the parish. It has been supposed, that the original house on this site was Durham's Place, the property and residence of William, second son of Sir Lawrence Everard (fn. 91) (see above-Manors, Fitton Hall). The first authentic owner and occupier of the present house was Robert (d. 1705) son of Thomas Swaine of Wisbech (d. 1639). Robert was living there in 1641. (fn. 92) He was a J.P. and became High Sheriff in 1681. He must have succeeded to some of his father's property in 1639, and in the same year he became entitled to substantial benefits under the will of his elder brother Thomas Swaine of Wisbech. (fn. 93) His marriage in 1640 with Mary daughter of William Freeman, merchant, of London and Leigh (Surr.), (fn. 94) may have brought him additional wealth. All this strengthens the belief that it was Robert Swaine who, out of his then abundance, rebuilt Leverington Hall. (fn. 95) He also added considerably to his property at Leverington. He was succeeded by his only surviving son Thomas (1645-1728), a J.P. for the Isle. Thomas's second surviving son, Spelman, succeeded to Leverington Hall and died in 1761, devising the Hall to his nephew Daniel, a merchant of King's Lynn (d. 1782). Daniel thereupon took up residence at Leverington Hall, and became a J.P. and in 1775 high sheriff. By will dated 1780 he directed his trustees to sell all his lands, and in 1785 Leverington Hall with much other property was offered for sale by auction with the buildings, dovecote (situate near the house, at the south-east corner) and about 38 acres surrounding it. The house (which had been let to the Revd. Joseph Plumtree), 38 acres surrounding it, and 32 acres on the opposite side of Church Lane (constituting the entire block between the rectory and the Fencroft house and land belonging to Daniel's nephew Spelman Swaine), were bought by Edward Stone of Tydd St. Mary, who subsequently sold the property to John Johnson. In 1842 Johnson sold the Hall to Thomas Webster of Newton. The latter died in 1862, and by his will (fn. 96) gave Leverington Hall with 140 acres of land in Leverington to his son Matthew Webster. Matthew resided at Leverington Hall. He became involved in financial difficulties, however, as a result of which the property had to be sold in lots by the trustee in liquidation in 1879. The Hall with much land was bought by Henry Sharpe of Leverington, who never himself lived there. The Hall was let successively to Medland Newsham, George Carrick, a Wisbech solicitor, and Harold F. M. Peatling. The last eventually purchased it in 1927. Peatling was chairman of the Isle of Ely County Council and High Sheriff in 1925. He died in 1938 and in 1946 the property was sold by Mrs. Peatling to Mr. George Campbell Munday, M.C., tenant for ten years previously, who now (1951) resides there.

Leverington Hall (fn. 97) is a building of mellowed brick with slated roofs. (fn. 98) It consists of two gabled wings connected by a slightly recessed central block. This plan suggests an Elizabethan or Jacobean origin-a surmise borne out by two chimney breasts, at the back and on the north side, which are certainly of late 16thcentury date. (fn. 99) The rest of the house may at that time have been of timber; there are no other remains. The house seems to have been rebuilt in the 17th century, probably by Robert Swaine who held the property from 1639 to 1705, and to this date most of the walling and windows belong. At the back there is a rainwater head, with the Swaine crest, the initials TSE and the date 1716, which points to a restoration by Robert's son Thomas (d. 1728). To this period may also be ascribed the four fine chimney-stacks of three linked shafts each, two of which' surmount the chimney breasts above mentioned, and the gables at the back, which are constructed in the Flemish manner with skew butts dovetailed into the horizontal courses. The front gables were probably rebuilt in the late 18th century; an estate map with drawing of the house shows curved 'Dutch' gables in this position. The porch is a 19thcentury addition. The forecourt has a pair of fine brick gate piers topped by stone pineapples.

Inside, several rooms have early Georgian wainscoting and exposed ceiling beams. There is a well staircase with turned balusters and plain newels, an early 18th-century fireplace of marble in the hall and one with Adam decoration in the drawing room. (fn. 100)

LEVERINGTON HOUSE lies in the Marsh next Peatling's Lane on the seaward side of the old sea-bank upon which it abuts. It was built c. 1852 by Thomas Peatling of Wisbech (d. 1881), brewer and wine merchant. It embodies several interesting features of earlier date, including carved woodwork taken from the premises of the Wisbech Literary Society and portions of the lantern tower from the Octagon Church at Wisbech, when the lantern was removed (see Wisbech). Peatling died there and the property passed to his daughter Emily Peatling (d. 1909). She devised it to her nephew H. F. M. Peatling (see above-Leverington Hall). Since 1925 the house has been occupied by Mr. G. M. G. Woodgate, the present owner.

PARK HOUSE lies in Park Field on the north side of the Gorefield Road. The first recorded owner is John Lumpkin (1655-1743), a member of a family recorded in the Leverington marriage registers in 1612. John Lumpkin was succeeded by his son Nicholas (1685-1748) and he by Nicholas II (1728- 94). The second Nicholas was D.L. for the Isle. In 1794 he owned 134 acres in Leverington and lands outside the parish also. He was succeeded as owner of Park House by his son Nicholas III (d. ante 1828), who in 1798 was obliged to mortgage the house to his brother-in-law Samuel Taylor for £2,300. He obtained a further £800 from this source two years later. By 1805 he found himself owing another £1,700, and decided to sell the property. (fn. 101) It was accordingly conveyed to trustees for sale for payment of creditors, the ultimate surplus to be returned to Lumpkin. At the auction in 1805 Samuel Taylor purchased the bulk of the property, but died before it could be conveyed to him, and accordingly, under directions in his will, Park House and about 40 acres were conveyed in trust for his son Nicholas, who went to reside there and by sundry purchases added considerably to it. Other parts of the Lumpkin property were conveyed to Samuel Taylor and Francis Taylor, two other sons. Nicholas Taylor died in 1869 leaving everything to his wife Sarah, who died three years later. In 1880 the property, about 150. acres, belonged to their son Francis Nicholas Taylor, being then in the occupation of his son Francis Nicholas Taylor. The greater part of the estate was sold in 1889 to Sir Samuel Roberts of Sheffield, who in 1919 sold it to Alfred Coates, the occupying tenant. After Coates's death it was sold in lots in 1944 when Park House with about 25 acres was purchased by Mr. G. A. Shippey of Gorefield, who subsequently purchased adjoining land to add to it. The house was empty on the outbreak of war in 1939 and some families of London evacuees who were installed in it did great damage to the interior. An attempt has since been made to repair some of the damage.

The front of the house is of 18th-century date and has been imposed upon an earlier structure. Oliver Goldsmith is reputed to have written She stoops to conquer under the shade of a fine old mulberry tree in the garden, for long pointed out to visitors but now removed. The pond in which Mrs. Hardcastle was 'draggled up to her waist like a mermaid' after her 'circumbendibus' is still pointed out. It is now within the paddock in front of the house, but when the play was written was part of the open common and therefore readily available on a dark night for such an accident as is related. It is also claimed that the play was written at Leverington rectory, where Goldsmith is reported to have stayed as a visitor, but there is no authentic evidence to support either tradition.


The advowson has always been held by the Bishop of Ely.

The living was a rich one in the early Middle Ages, being returned at £30 in 1217, £53 6s. 8d. in 1254, and £85 in 1291 (fn. 102) and 1341. (fn. 103) In 1463, however, the revenues of the benefice had so much decreased that the taxed value was reduced from £40 to £20. (fn. 104) In 1535 the rectory was valued at £25 0s. 8d. (fn. 105) In 1851 the rectory, with the chapelry of Parson Drove, was returned at £2,099; the tithes had been recently commuted for a rent charge of £2,415. (fn. 106)

A rectory manor existed from the later Middle Ages until the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 107) It was a small one, comprising land in some half-dozen of the fields of Leverington and in Sayers Field, Wisbech St. Mary. (fn. 108) The freehold quit-rents amounted to only 7s. 4d., a pound of wax, and a capon, and copyhold rents in Leverington to 1s. 9d. By 1706 the steward's fees, which amounted to 12s. 8d., had swallowed the income derived from the manor, and the rector seems to have allowed his rights to lapse. (fn. 109)

Under the Leverington Rectory Division Act, 1870 (fn. 110) the chapelry of Parson Drove (q.v.) was erected into a separate ecclesiastical district, and the ecclesiastical district of Gorefield was formed; they were given the status of vicarages, in the patronage of the Bishop of Ely.

The church of ST. LEONARD consists of chancel, south chapel, clerestoried nave, aisles, south porch, and west tower with spire. The material is Barnack stone. A large church was erected in the middle of the 13th century consisting of chancel, south chapel, nave, and west tower; the nave was probably aisled. The only trace of earlier work is a small 12th century cap preserved in the parvise. Early in the 14th century the east end of the chancel, the south chapel, and south aisle were rebuilt and the porch and spire added. In the second half of the 15th century there was a great reconstruction, which included the rebuilding of the chancel arch and the west arch of the chapel, the insertion of new windows in the lateral walls of the chancel and south aisle, a vestry on the north of the chancel, since destroyed, and the rebuilding of the nave arcades and the north aisle. In the 19th century there was considerable restoration and the roofs were renewed, with the exception of that of the north aisle. The spire was rebuilt in 1901.

Plan of St. Leonard's Church

The east end of the chancel is most effective. There is a large window of four lights with a massive forked central mullion and geometrical tracery of elaborate design; above in the gable is a trefoiled opening set in an arch. The gable has pierced and crocketed coping and there are diagonal buttresses with crocketed gables. There was formerly a vestry at the east end of the north wall, the plain 15th-century doorway of which remains and part of the west wall incorporated in a buttress. There are three windows on the north and one on the south, all 15th-century insertions of three lights; the north-east is curtailed to clear the roof of the former vestry and has cinquefoil-headed lights, while the others have transoms, cinquefoiled main lights and rectilinear tracery. There is a 15th-century buttress on the north with two set-offs and another formed of part of the west wall of the destroyed vestry. The chancel opens to the south or Swaine chapel (see below-Guilds) by a mid-13th-century arcade of three bays with two centred arches with deep mouldings and clustered piers and responds having moulded caps and bases. The lofty 15th-century chancel arch is two-centred and of two orders with moulded caps and bases and marks on the soffit for the fixing of a wooden tympanum. There are three carved stone corbels on the north and three rough wooden ones on the south for the posts of the former roof; the present low-pitched roof is modern. There are triple and graduated sedilia with continuous mouldings of the 13th century. The chapel has a five-light east window with flowing tracery of the 14th century. There are three windows in the south wall, the second of which is now blocked; they are of three lights sharply pointed and cinquefoiled under a square head. The 14thcentury buttresses have two set-offs. There is a plain brick parapet. The arch communicating with the aisle is similar to the chancel arch and of 15th-century date. There is a piscina with crocketed cinquefoiled head, two shields above and an embattled cornice of the first half of the 14th century. To the north of the east window is some 15th-century stone panelling with a mutilated canopy, which probably formed part of the reredos. The roof is modern.

The nave arcades are of six bays with wide and lofty two-centred arches of two orders, the outer of which continues to the ground, while the inner rests on shafts with moulded caps and bases. The clerestory windows are of three cinquefoiled lights under a square head. There are fine stone roof corbels carved with grotesques resting on semi-octagonal shafts which rise from the piers, but the roof itself, of the queen-post type, is modern. Three modern straining arches of wood span the nave beneath the clerestory. The rood stairs are contained in a turret at the south-east angle of the nave with upper and lower doorways, the latter approached from the aisle; the lower doorway has continuous mouldings and a hood terminating in the heads of a king and queen, and a plain contemporary door, all late 14th century. The turret is continued above the nave roof with a conical cap and finial. The tower arch is two-centred and of two orders with foliaged caps and moulded bases to the responds. The line of the high-pitched 13th-century roof is visible on the wall above the arch.

The north aisle appears to have been almost entirely rebuilt in the second half of the 15th century, and the windows and buttresses with two set-offs are all of this period; the east window has five cinquefoiled lights under a depressed head, and the west is similar; the five north windows have three cinquefoiled main lights. There is a plain contemporary parapet. The north doorway is of the 15th century with continuous mouldings and a hood; the original door with carved paterae round the frame remains. The roof is of lean-to type with braces and pierced spandrels, and is probably of the end of the 15th century. There is a piscina recess with continuous moulding. The south aisle has five windows in the lateral wall of three cinquefoiled lights under a square head, and a west window of four lights uncusped under a depressed head. All are late 15thcentury insertions. The buttresses are of the 14th century with two set-offs similar to those of the south chapel, but much renewed. The roof is modern.

The porch, a splendid design of the first quarter of the 14th century, is of two bays with sexpartite vaulting springing from shafts with embattled caps and moulded bases. The outer arch is two-centred and of two orders with moulded caps and bases and an ogee hood-mould with flanking pinnacles; there are two windows of two lights on each side and stone benches within. Above is a parvise, which has a narrow rectangular opening on the east and west, and a two-light window with an ogee hood and flanking pinnacles on the south and over all an empty niche. The parvise is approached by a newel stair contained in a turret at the north-west angle and with a lower door opening to the aisle. There are angle buttresses with two set-offs and niches with crocketed canopies, pinnacles, and finials. The gable has crocketed coping, a finial, and angle pinnacles. There is a buttress on the east and west with gabled top, two set-offs, and a niche on the face. The parvise is covered by a pointed stone roof supported on stone ribs with an external roof of stone slates and a stone cresting pierced with a running pattern. The inner doorway is two-centred with deep mouldings and plain moulded caps and bases; the door is contemporary with plain hinges and an 18thcentury wicket inserted.

The tower has four stages, the three lower of the 13th century and the top one of the early 14th. At the west angles are large octagonal buttresses, which terminate at the top of the third stage and support angle buttresses with gabled tops. The projecting west doorway has a two-centred arch with a gable above in which is a niche with the much-weathered figure of an ecclesiastic. The ribbed doors are probably late 13th century, but were badly handled in the 19th century and daubed with dark paint. The second stage has two lancets on the west with banded angle-shafts, and similar arcading of three bays on the north and south, the centre arch being pierced; the third stage has two lancets with clustered angle-shafts on the north, south, and west, those on the north being now bricked up; the top stage has two-light belfry windows with trefoiled heads and trefoils above, there is an embattled parapet and embattled octagonal turrets at the angles; the beautiful early 14th century spire has canopied windows of two lights. There are newel stairs in both the west angles, the approach being by a door in the south-west angle, and there is a connecting passage to the north stair along the sill of the west windows.

The 15th-century font, standing on risers, has an octagonal bowl and shaft; round the former are seated figures of saints under crocketed canopies and resting on foliated brackets, the panels being separated by pinnacled buttresses; the shaft has niches occupied by standing figures with folded hands with spreading foliage above, and the base is ornamented by paterae.

There is a 15th-century wooden eagle lectern with a hexagonal stem supported on lions couchant; the colouring has been restored. Inserted in the modern reading-desk are two 15th-century tracery heads, probably from stall desks. There is a plain oak chest probably of late-17th-century date.

The remains of 15th-century painted glass are most noteworthy. In the east window of the Swaine chapel are three panels, formerly in the south-east window of the chancel: in the centre is a Pieta beneath a flat canopy and on either side a kneeling knight and lady representing Sir Bartholomew Everard and Agnes (Flete) his wife and Sir Lawrence Everard and Margaret (Colvile) his wife; upon the mantle of the latter are the arms of Colvile, and beneath one of the ladies the word Margaret; over each group is a couplet:

Jesu fro Sine make us fre For Jonn's love wot baptisyd ye


Lady lede us wele fro Harm To hym that lay ded in your Barm; (fn. 111)

This glass was restored in 1908. In the central window on the north side of the chancel is good, but much restored, glass with figures of St. John Evangelist, St. Matthew, St. Philip, St. Andrew, St. Peter, and St. James the Greater; in the tracery are the arms of St. John's College, Cambridge, Ely, Drake, and Drake with a chief (or a mullet between two crosslets sable); the heraldry dates from the restoration of the glass in 1924. The east window of the north aisle is filled with glass, extensively restored in 1900, depicting the Tree of Jesse. The figures are placed in ovals within the loops of a vine; the kings bear scrolls and have attendant prophets; thirteen of the figures are original, seventeen partly restored, and thirty-one entirely modern. There are slight remains of mural paintings in the chancel consisting of 17th-century texts and borders, and in the north aisle is an 18th-century text and border. There is the base of a cross in the churchyard near the porch.

The Swaine chapel, the walls of which are adorned with fine monuments and hatchments, contains the family vault of the Swaines. Thomas Crosse (d. 1633) is buried in the chapel. Elsewhere in the church are monuments to Anne, relict of Thomas Crosse, John Crosse III (d. 1704), John Crosse IV (d. 1743). John Lumpkin (d. 1743), of Park House, his sons Anthony (d. 1747) and Nicholas (d. 1748) and Capt. Anthony Lumpkin (d. 1780) son of the last are also buried in the church. John's grave is before the chancel steps.

The plate includes a chalice, two patens, a large plate, and a flagon all of silver and inscribed: 'Leverington/Presented by J. H. Sparke, M.A./to replace the Ancient Service/The gift of Mrs. D. Spelman/Sacrilegiously stolen from the church/A.D. 1831.'

The tower contains six bells: 1st and 3rd by Taylor, 1871; 2nd by Osborn and Dobson of Downham, 1803; 4th and 6th by Lester and Pack, 1766.

The registers begin in 1558 and are complete. In a chest, kept in the north aisle, is a valuable accumulation of church records. Another accumulation, repaired in 1950, is kept in the church safe. It covers the period from Henry VII to Elizabeth.

The church of ST. PAUL, GOREFIELD, erected in 1870, is a stone structure in the 'Early English' style consisting of chancel, nave, vestry, south porch, and west turret containing one bell.

Leverington Rectory is a handsome Georgian building, with portions belonging to an earlier date. It is partly enclosed in a high wall of mellowed brickwork. A dovecote formerly belonged to it.

The following have been rectors: John Warkworth (d. 1500), Master of Peterhouse and reputed author of a chronicle of the reign of Edward IV, who became rector in 1473 and made several bequests to the church; Thomas Yale (? 1526-77), ecclesiastical lawyer; John Warren (1730-1800), Bishop of St. Davids and later of Bangor; James Nasmith (1740-1806), an antiquary who was also one of the clerical magistrates who have been so prominent in this county; J. B. Jenkinson (1781-1840), rector 1812-17 and later Bishop of St. David's and Dean of Durham. Richard Reynolds (1674-1744), Bishop of Bangor 1721-3 and of Lincoln 1723-44, was the son of a rector. (fn. 112)


Leverington had three guilds, of St. Mary, St. John and the Holy Trinity. The first of these was founded in 1386. (fn. 113) The guildsmen used the chapel now known as the Swaine chapel in Leverington church. The guilds of St. John and Holy Trinity are mentioned in the will of Richard Adam of Leverington (1528). (fn. 114) Adam left a dozen young swans every year for four years, the profits to be applied at the discretion of the aldermen and brethren of the guilds, and 6 acres in Pope's Lane Field, Leverington, for the priest of St. John's Guild to pray for his soul.

The guildhall, which occupied the site of the present school (see below), belonged to St. John's Guild. In 1525 a loft was added to it, and in 1529 it was let to Richard Salter the parish clerk on a five-year lease. (fn. 115) In 1549, when the tenant was William Taymer, the building was bought by William Warde. (fn. 116) It eventually became vested in the Hawkins family; in 1713 William Hawkins bequeathed it to the Leverington Feoffees, subject to a life annuity of his wife Sarah. Other property of St. John's Guild was sold in 1568. (fn. 117)

It is possible that this guild may have had some connexion with the Hospital of St. John Baptist in Leverington. By 1686 the hospital had 'long ceased to exist' and all its endowments had been 'swallowed up.' (fn. 118) Its name, however, survives in Spital Field, and it is conjectured that the almshouses in Little Dowgate (formerly Poor house) Lane, which adjoins this field, may have been built on its site.


In 1851 there were two Nonconformist chapels in the present parish, one at Gorefield, belonging to the Independents and dating from 1834, and the other at Leverington village belonging to the Primitive Methodists and dating from 1843. (fn. 119) Both chapels still stand. The Methodist chapel at Leverington was rebuilt in 1885. (fn. 120) The old chapel was then converted into a Sunday school; in 1904 a new Sunday school was built, but the original building is still in use for general purposes.


Provision for education was made in Leverington earlier than in many parishes in the Isle, thanks to the extensive and valuable Town Lands. In 1789 the feoffees of these lands provided a school giving free education to the children of occupiers rated at less than £30 a year; the master's salary was £25. (fn. 121) The school was held in 'an ancient house called the Town-hall', (fn. 122) which had once been the headquarters of the guild of St. John and was later the parish workhouse. (fn. 123) When Dr. Jobson, Vicar of Wisbech, reported in 1814 on the schools of Wisbech hundred, the master was teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, and the catechism to about 17 boys and 8 girls. He was said to be competent, although Jobson described his £25 salary as 'miserable' and expressed doubts whether the charity estates, which at that time produced about £200 a year, were properly administered. At this date there were 134 children of school age in the parish, 84 of whom were of poor parents. (fn. 124) Shortly afterwards the Town Lands, 111½ acres in extent, were let for £285 yearly, but when the Charity Commissioners reported (1837) for £239 only. By this date the schoolmaster's salary had been increased to £40, and there were two assistant mistresses who received £8 each. Between them they staffed three day schools and one Sunday school. The original school provided free education for 15 pupils and a varying number of fee-payers; the two new day schools had 20 and 10 children, and expenses were equally divided between the parents and the feoffees. The Sunday school, attended by about 30 children, was entirely supported by the feoffees. (fn. 125) The National Society's inquiry of 1846-7 showed 58 children at school in Leverington. (fn. 126)

In 1860 the long and useful life of the guildhall was brought to an end, and a new school with teacher's house built by the feoffees. Alterations and enlargements in 1885 and 1891 brought the accommodation up to 134 (84 mixed, 50 infants). In 1906 the school was transferred to the County Council. In 1922 St. Leonard's parish hall was temporarily hired to cope with an overflow from the village school, and three years later two new classrooms were provided at a cost of £1,245, increasing the accommodation to 201. In 1948 the school was 'decapitated', the older children going to the Queen's School, Wisbech. (fn. 127)

The rent paid by the County Council for the master's house at Leverington school, with a further fund producing about £40 a year, is managed by a special body of trustees known as the Town Lands Educational Foundation, on behalf of the inhabitants of Leverington and Parson Drove. In the past the income was applied in various directions for which the state is now responsible, and it is now used in aiding parents and schoolchildren in cases where assistance is unobtainable from elsewhere.

The subsidiary schools mentioned by the Charity Commissioners seem to have lapsed quite early, (fn. 128) and a School Board was compulsorily formed in 1875 (fn. 129) under the Education Act. This Board built a school at Gorefield in 1877. The accommodation (108 places) became inadequate, and in the latter part of the First World War the infants' classes were held in the parish room (erected in 1904). (fn. 130) In 1925 three new classrooms were built at a cost of £1,520, and the accommodation increased to 170. The school became one for junior mixed and infants in 1948. (fn. 131)

CHARITIES (fn. 132)

Leverington is well endowed with charities, which are administered by trustees known as the Leverington Feoffees. The feoffees control both the ancient charities derived from the Town Lands and charities subsequently established by various benefactors.

The full number of appointed trustees is twelve who hold office for life, and fresh appointments are made when the number is reduced to six. The two Churchwardens serve ex-officio, and three representative trustees are appointed by the Parish Council. In former days the charities were managed in rotation by one of the feoffees known as the town bailiff, who held such office for one year only; but this practice has long been discontinued and the administrative duties are now carried out by the clerk.

In connexion with proceedings in Chancery in 1696 a search was made for early documents relating to the charities. Nothing, however, was traced except a deed of 1557 appointing new trustees and the Chancery Master was only able to report that there were 117 a. 1 r. of the ancient endowments, of which about 13 a. 3 r. had been given in Henry VIII's reign to the Rector of Leverington on condition that he should pray for the soul of the donor and his ancestors; and that the remaining 103 a. 2 r. had been held by feoffees upon various trusts including the repair of the parish church. (fn. 133)

We are hardly better able to trace the accumulation of the Town Lands than was the Chancery Master of 1696. A close study, however, of the wills of 18 Leverington inhabitants, proved in the Ely Consistory Court (fn. 134) between 1450 and 1460, shows that in nearly every case money or the proceeds of the sale of land was given either in alms, or in various ways for the benefit of the church or of those serving it. Moreover the origin of the charity land in Oxfield is now known; for in 1503 William Digby of Godmanchester (Hunts.), son of John Digby of Leverington, quitclaimed to the 'provost' of Leverington church and to the inhabitants his right in a messuage and land in 'le Oxfield' or Fytton Field. (fn. 135)

The charity monies so bequeathed in early days were not, it seems, in all cases immediately distributed, but were, here as elsewhere, used to provide a stock which was lent to husbandmen and others to help them in starting or carrying on their business. Interest on the stock was charged, and two bondsmen were required to ensure repayment. These loans were generally arranged on or about Plough Monday.

Another form of stock consisted of cows which were hired out for the year at an agreed rent; and for poor people unable to buy cows this must have been of great value in providing milk and calves. The uninclosed commons afforded grazing. For many years the accounts of the churchwardens, feoffees, and parish officials were intermingled. It was not until the 17th century that distinct accounts began to be kept. The acreage above referred to cannot be fully reconciled with the existing acreage, for the standard acre differed from that used at an earlier period; moreover, additions have been made on the inclosure of the marshes, of the commons, and of the land in Parson Drove Fen; furthermore, certain sales have taken place and the proceeds have been reinvested in the purchase of other lands or in stock.

There are or were the following charities distinct from the Town Lands:

The origin of Charlton's charity, or (more correctly) Charton's, is obscure, but the most probable founder was Philip Charton, buried at Leverington in 1597. The income from this charity is given annually in money to poor people on the Sunday before Christmas.

Hawkins's charity was established by the will of William Hawkins of Leverington in 1713. Hawkins gave to the feoffees the messuage known as the town hall, upon trust that they should yearly 'new-clothe two poor men and two poor women on Christmas Day at the Town Hall and should allow each of them half a pint of strong beer and a halfpenny loaf for their breakfasts and half a pint of strong beer for each after dinner and allow the landlord or landlady one shilling each for their dinners, and also allow the same to their clerk, who should dine with them and go before them into the church both at morning and evening service and place them decently, as was usually done in Wisbech Church on like occasions'. The beneficiaries were obliged to qualify by at least five years residence in Leverington, and for greater secrecy the election was to be held in the little parlour. He also gave an acre of land in Gorefield Fen containing three riggs to buy books for any person to read that might come to church before the beginning of morning or evening service, the books to be chained.

Criplin's charity was founded by the will proved 1718 (fn. 136) of Thomas Criplin of Leverington, who charged his estate, subject to certain remainders, with a payment to two poor widows in Newton and Leverington, in alternate years, and an annual payment of 20s. to the rector and churchwardens of Leverington. The estate fell into possession of the feoffees in 1833, and consisted of 4 a. 3 r. 16 p. in Wratfield and 5 a. 1 r. 10 p. of pasture land in Park Field, Leverington. (fn. 137)

Anne Crosse's charity. Anne (d. c. 1681), relict of Thomas Crosse of Leverington, left £20 to be invested in land for the benefit of the poor of Leverington. It was lost by 1837.

Thomas Swaine's charity. Thomas Swaine of Leverington Hall by will dated 1725 charged 5½ acres of land in Alien's Drove, Leverington, with the payment of 40s. a year, at his father Robert's desire, for the provision of 2d. wheaten loaves of bread, to be given to poor people. It is still in force.

John Swaine's charity. In 1735 John Swaine of Leverington, son of the last, gave 4 acres in New Field, Leverington, called the Long Four Acres, and 5½ acres at the Horse-Shoe, in Leverington Marsh, to provide boots and clothing for poor people. (fn. 138) The election of beneficiaries was to be made on each first Sunday in September after evening service. The greater part of the land at the Horse-Shoe was required by the railway company when the railway line was being laid and was sold to good advantage, the proceeds being invested in the purchase from John Chamberlain of a house and two acres on the west side of the Sutton Road. This house, but not the land, was sold in 1950 and the proceeds invested in government stock. The remaining 1 a. 1 r. 20 p. of land at the Horse-Shoe has also been sold and the proceeds also invested in government stock.

Griffin's charity. Joseph Ellard Griffin of Gorefield, by will proved (fn. 139) 1895 gave to the feoffees the sum of £600. The money was invested in the purchase of 9 acres of land on Leverington Common and the annual income is applied according to the discretion of the feoffees. In exercising this discretion they have generally favoured such poor people as may have suffered unexpected misfortune through the loss of a horse or cow.

Almshouses. The feoffees administer twenty almshouses in Little Dowgate and Leverington Common. Three of these were purchased from Abraham Leahair, the village schoolmaster, in 1825. Six or eight cottages, or replacements thereof, were derived under the will of Thomas Crosse, proved 1633. (fn. 140) Crosse devised four newly erected tenements, with two others to be later erected upon the piece of ground called the Midd Feather to be used as dwellings for poor inhabitants of Leverington for ever. The original trustee and his successors were to keep these buildings in repair. The origin of the remaining almshouses is lost. The almshouses are let free of rent to poor people in Leverington.


  • 1. By the M. of H. Provisional Orders Confirmation (Ely, Holland, and Norf.) Act, 1933, and the Isle of Ely Review Order (M. of H. No. 76940) of the same year, 16 acres, with a 1931 population of 81 were transferred from Leverington to Wisbech Borough, and 145 acres (21 population) from Walsoken (Norf.) to Leverington.
  • 2. By the Leverington Rectory Division Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vie. c. clv). It may be noted, however, that Leverington is not divided into wards for parish council purposes, as is the case with some of the larger and more populous Isle parishes, e.g. Elm and Upwell.
  • 3. The 25 per cent, increase (1,124 to 1,424) between 1901 and 1911 was specifically attributed by the census authorities to the development of small holdings. A further rise of about 40 per cent. (to 1,981) took place between 1911 and 1931. (The 1921 figure of 2,484 was inflated by the temporary presence of fruit pickers.) Between 1931 and 1947 the population of Leverington itself continued to rise, while that of Gorefield remained stationary (Survey of a Fen County (I. of E.C.C. Planning Dept.), Map no. 52).
  • 4. 15 Chas. II, c. 17.
  • 5. This creek crossed the Sutton Road nearly opposite Chamberlin's Farm, by the old Mill Drain, and turning southward reached the bend at Parson Drove at the point occupied by the Pits. The old name of this road was Crooked Drove (Wisb. MSS., deeds of 1767 and 1787).
  • 6. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 551, mentions that Leverington village was 'scattered and partly shaded by trees'.
  • 7. Bk. of Fees, 630.
  • 8. B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. B. II, ff. 148a- 151a.
  • 9. B.M. Cott. MS. Claud. C. XI, ff. 82b- 86a.
  • 10. Leverington is not mentioned in the survey of episcopal manors made in 1356 during the seizure of the Ely temporalities in Bishop Lisle's episcopate (B.M. Add. MS. 6165), unless it is included with Wisbech.
  • 11. V.C.H. Cambs. ii, 34. Medieval pottery has frequently been dug up on this site.
  • 12. Reg. Fordham, f. 175.
  • 13. Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, no. 519 (p. 365).
  • 14. J. Gage, Hist. Suff. (Thingoe Hund.) (1838), 60.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 206-7 (Exemplification of 1455).
  • 16. C 137/8.
  • 17. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 206-7.
  • 18. Gage, Hist. Suff. (Thingoe Hund.), 60.
  • 19. Cal. Pat. 1452-61, 207.
  • 20. Cambs. Fines 1196-1485, ed. W. Rye, 151.
  • 21. Ibid. 154.
  • 22. C.P. 25 (1)/30/101/Mich. 10 Hen. VII.
  • 23. C.P. 25 (2)/262/Mich. 34-35 Eliz.
  • 24. C 142/348/141; Wards 7/52/55.
  • 25. M.I. in church of Wiggenhall St. Mary; Parkins, Topog. Freebridge Hund. (1762), 299.
  • 26. His wife Ursula was the sister of Sir Edmund Gawsell, the second husband of Winifred wife of Henry Kervile (d. 1615) (Visit. Norf. 1563, 1589 and 1613 (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 133).
  • 27. C.P. 43/719, ro. 287.
  • 28. Wisb. MSS.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. 2 Geo. III, c. 36.
  • 32. Wisb. MSS.
  • 33. John Johnson, George's father, was sheriff in 1781. He had six very tall sons, who attended him at the Assizes as javelin men.
  • 34. Wisb. MSS.
  • 35. See above, and notes 7 and 9.
  • 36. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 270.
  • 37. Dugd., Mon. i, 494.
  • 38. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xvi, g. 1226 (12).
  • 39. e.g. a toft in Oxcroft late of John Newbrook and Richard Odam, in 1574 held of the Dean and Chapter of the manor of Graces at rent of 3s. 4d. (C 142/168/23; Wards 7/15/14).
  • 40. Wisb. MSS.
  • 41. Ibid.
  • 42. Ibid.
  • 43. Ibid.
  • 44. Bk. of Fees, 630.
  • 45. B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. B. II, f. 148a.
  • 46. Lay Subs. R. Cambs. 1 Edw. III, ed. C. H. Evelyn White.
  • 47. Cal. Pat. 1345-8, 480.
  • 48. C 143/358/15.
  • 49. Appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1366; died 1376.
  • 50. Fenland N. & Q. vi, 377.
  • 51. Ibid.
  • 52. Cal. Pat. 1553, 218, 221.
  • 53. There is no mention of Fitton Hall in his will, in which he bequeathed his messuage called Durham's Place in Leverington to his son Lawrence, with 8 acres in the croft adjoining it called (Out)newland, abutting on 'le mylhill' on the east and Kirkgate on the west. This seems identifiable with the site of the present Leverington Hall; when the neighbouring Cherry Tree Hill was excavated in 1933 it was conclusively established that it was an artificial mound-probably a mill mound as a large fragment of mill stone (now in Wisb. Mus.) was dug up. William Everard also bequeathed to the image of the Virgin Mary of Aldenhale a golden cross enclosing some particles of the Holy Cross.
  • 54. Fenland N. & Q. vi, 377.
  • 55. C 134./57/100; E 150/85/1.
  • 56. W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. 472.
  • 57. The owner retains the title deeds of this manor from 1660. They form the sources for the remainder of this section, together with the Wisbech MSS.
  • 58. Except where otherwise stated the main source for this section is the title deeds which are the property of the respective owners.
  • 59. M.I. in church in Cole's time.
  • 60. It was in this year that his daughter Elizabeth married, at Leverington, William Steward of Barton Mills (Suff.). The children of Thomas Crosse were all baptized at Wisbech.
  • 61. Leverington par. reg.
  • 62. Ibid.
  • 63. Ibid.
  • 64. Wisb. MSS.
  • 65. Infm. Mr. W. F. Crosse.
  • 66. Ibid. The property was given to him for life, with remainder to the heirs of his body.
  • 67. M.I.
  • 68. Wisb. MSS.
  • 69. Penes Mr. G. C. Munday of Leverington Hall. It was drawn by John Watté, a local surveyor.
  • 70. Infm. Mr. W. F. Crosse.
  • 71. Infm. the late J. T. Marshall.
  • 72. F. J. Gardiner, Hist. Wisb. (1898), 381.
  • 73. Parish Map of Newton, revised to 1833, contains a drawing of the decoy. The map is in Wisb. Mus.
  • 74. M.I. in church.
  • 75. Wisb. MSS. The property belonging to Thomas Smith is numbered 237-40 on the Newton parish map, and contained 42 a. 2 r. 30 p.
  • 76. Fenland N. & Q. i, 19 and vii, 36.
  • 77. Penes Mr. G. C. Munday.
  • 78. Wisb. MSS.
  • 79. Ibid.
  • 80. Lease and release of 1728 between Richard Cumberland Archdeacon of Northampton, Richard Reynolds Bishop of Lincoln and Charles Parker, Richard Cumberland, Francis Tregeagle, and Robert Harper.
  • 81. It is not quite clear whether the purchaser was John Swaine or his father Thomas.
  • 82. Wisb. Mus., Copy of Leverington Terrier. He purchased other lands from his father's trustees in Feb. and Apr. 1805, being described as of Leverington (Wisb. MSS.). He sailed round the world with Vancouver and in the course of the voyage made some valuable ethnological collections which he presented to the Wisbech Museum.
  • 83. From particulars of auction sale' 1864.
  • 84. M.I. in Leverington church.
  • 85. M.I.; infm. Mr. W.F. Crosse.
  • 86. Leverington par. reg.
  • 87. Wisb. MSS.
  • 88. Wisb. Mus., Copy of Leverington Terrier.
  • 89. Ibid.
  • 90. Within three months of each other, in 1858; they were buried in Leverington churchyard.
  • 91. See above, note 53.
  • 92. The descent is authenticated in the pedigree recorded at the Visitation of 1684 (Coll. of Arms). The arms given were: azure a chevron between three pheons or on a chief argent three maidens' heads proper crowned or, the crest: a maiden's head proper resting on wings displayed.
  • 93. P.C.C. 69 Harvey.
  • 94. London marriage licence, Apr. 1640.
  • 95. In the Subs. R. for Cambs. 1640-1 (E 179/84/410) the six principal landowners in Leverington are: John Daye (£8), John Swaine (£4), Robert Swaine (£3 10s.), Thomas Crosse (£3), David Jones (£2 10s.), Nicholas Lumpkin (£2).
  • 96. Will proved in P.P.R., 1863.
  • 97. a. See plate facing p. 207.
  • 98. The original stone slates-a rare feature in the Fens-survive at the back of the house; in front they have been replaced by modern Welsh slates.
  • 99. Many very old bricks were discovered in the foundations when repairs and alterations were carried out c. 1920-30.
  • 100. Country Life, ciii, 126-8 (16 Jan. 1948) (illustrated article).
  • 101. By deed dated 1805.
  • 102. W. E. Lunt, Valuation of Norw. 539.
  • 103. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 203.
  • 104. B.M. Add. MS. 5805, f. 109.
  • 105. Valor Eccl. (Rec. Com.), iii, 500.
  • 106. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. 552.
  • 107. The earliest Ct. R. extant dates from 18 Edw. IV (1478-9), the latest from 1706.
  • 108. The Leverington fields were Woolcroft, Hillcroft, Fencroft, Spitalfield, Oxcroft, and Gorefield; place-names mentioned in the rolls include Mikelwellane (Muck Hill Lane), and Chapelgate south of Sayers Field.
  • 109. Ct. R. of Leverington Rectory Manor. See note 7 above.
  • 110. 33 & 34 Vic. c. clv. 'An Act for making better provision for the Cure of Souls within the limits of the Parish of Leverington and of certain adjacent Parishes. . . .'
  • 111. As given by Cole (B.M. Add. MS. 5805, f. 112).
  • 112. D.N.B.; Reynolds was described by Philip Doddridge as 'a valuable person' (Dict. Engl. Ch. Hist.). Nasmith 'distinguished himself by his edition of Bishop Tanner's Notitia Monastica and other works' (Gardner, Dir. Cambs. 552).
  • 113. W. M. Palmer, Village Gilds of Cambs. 360 (printing the 1389 certificate).
  • 114. P.C.C. 31 Porch.
  • 115. Leverington Par. Accts.
  • 116. Cal. Pat. 1548-9, 326.
  • 117. C 66/1046, no. 57.
  • 118. T. Tanner, Notitia Mon. (1744), 56.
  • 119. H.O. 129/7/193.
  • 120. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1900).
  • 121. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, B 6.
  • 122. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 553.
  • 123. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), [103], 265-9, H.C. (1837-8), xxiv.
  • 124. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, B 6.
  • 125. Rep. Com. Char. (Cambs.), s.v. Leverington.
  • 126. Archives of Nat. Soc.
  • 127. M. of Ed. File no. 12/28.
  • 128. There is no mention of any school in Leverington, other than the endowed school in the guildhall, in Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851).
  • 129. Lond. Gaz. 1875, 5809.
  • 130. Kelly, Dir. Cambs. (1933).
  • 131. M. of Ed. File no. 12/29.
  • 132. Information concerning the charities is derived mainly from the records of the charities, the par. accts., and the report of the Charity Commissioners ([103], 265-9, H.C. (1837-8), xxiv).
  • 133. In 1702 Henry Perne, Rector of Leverington, quitclaimed to the feoffees his rights, as rector, to the 13 a. 2 r. of land. The date 1696 is derived from a deed of 21 Nov. 1827 which cites the report and decree. No copy of the decree has been traced in the Chanc. Entry Bk. of Dec. and Ord. Rep. Com. Char., p. 266, gives 1796 in error.
  • 134. Now at Peterborough.
  • 135. Deed 7 May 18 Hen. VII (F. 74, D. and C. Wigorn docs.).
  • 136. Proved in Archdeaconry Court of Ely.
  • 137. Thomas Criplin is buried near the south entrance to Leverington church. His gravestone has recently been restored by the Feoffees.
  • 138. Swaine gave elaborate directions concerning the quality of the clothing to be provided, and the price to be paid for boots, overcoats, &c.
  • 139. In the Peterborough District Probate Registry.
  • 140. P.C.C. 91 Russell.