Wisbech: Fees

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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'Wisbech: Fees', 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. 245-246. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/cambs/vol4/pp245-246 [accessed 4 March 2024]


In 1221 the tenants by military service were as follows: William de Longchamp held 80 acres as 1 fee, with a messuage in the New Market belonging thereto, and also 240 acres at a money rent (20s.). Henry de Walpol held 80 acres with 4 messuages, as 1 fee, and 120 acres for 10s. 4d. Robert de Haustede held 94 acres and 3 cottages as 1 fee. John de Litlebury and Richard de Melkesham held 80 and 120 respectively, each as 1 fee. (fn. 1) These can all be identified in 1251, though the assessments had in most cases been reduced owing to flood damage. The Longchamp fee had been reduced to1/12 and equated with 40 acres only. The messuage had been destroyed by the sea. The 240 acres, however, were still rented at 20s. The Walpol fee, now held by another Henry, son of Osbert de Walpol, had also been reduced to 1/12 though the rent of the tenant's 120 acres had in 1251 been increased to 12s. 4d. The Haustede holding, specified as being partly in 'Brokene', was assessed as ½ fee, and the Melkesham 120 acres at 1/8. (fn. 2) In 1302–3 Osbert de Longchamp was associated with John son of Osbert de Denever in holding 1/6 of a fee in Wisbech of the Bishop of Ely, (fn. 3) which by 1346 had passed to the heirs of Sir John de Shardelowe. (fn. 4) The Haustede ½ fee had by 1428 passed to the Colvile family, (fn. 5) who had in 1302–3 held another ½ fee which in 1346 was in the hands of Reynold son of Thomas son of Nicholas de Waltone. (fn. 6) A 1/12; fee, probably that which in 1251 was held by Henry son of Osbert de Walpol, had in 1302–3 come to William son of Geoffrey and in 1346 to his son Nicholas. (fn. 7) Walter de Langton, Bishop of Lichfield, held a ⅓ fee in Coldham (in Elm and Wisbech), both in 1302–3 and at his death in 1321. (fn. 8) This descended to his nephew Edmund Peverel, in whose family it can be traced to 1428. (fn. 9) In the Alcock terrier of 1492–3 the Longchamp-Shardelowe holding, rated at a 1/12; fee, is shown as divided between Thomas Rowsyll, who held 40 acres in Bryggesfeld on the left bank of the river and had several subtenants, (fn. 10) and Thomas Hunston, who paid 20s. rent for 240 acres in Sayer's Field. (fn. 11) The Colvile ½ fee, rated on 94 acres in Brokene and owing suit of court, had come to Sir Robert Brandon through his marriage with John Colvile's relict. The 80 acres of the Litelbury family, assessed at a 1/12; fee, after having been held by Andrew Reynolds, were now in the hands of John Mabyll. The 80 acres of Henry son of Osbert de Walpol are also mentioned, but the tenant was stated to be unknown and the land divided amongst several subtenants. (fn. 12)

Stephen de Segrave, justiciar of Henry III, held lands in Wisbech, and in 1243–4 his son Gilbert acknowledged the right of his (Gilbert's) stepmother Ida to hold them in dower. (fn. 13) This estate was increased by Bishop Balsham's grant of certain new purprestures for ½ mark rent to the pittancer of Ely monastery, (fn. 14) and of a tenement and lands in Guyhirn from Reynold Serewynd of Cambridge. (fn. 15) At the death of John de Segrave in 1353 the property comprised 38½ acres, held by 19 tenants for £4 18s. 5d. (fn. 16) Rents in Wisbech descended through Elizabeth (Mowbray), John's daughter, to the Dukes of Norfolk, who held them in 1433. (fn. 17)

In 1235–6 Bishop Northwold granted to the Abbey of Thorney 1,000 acres in the marsh of Wisbech. (fn. 18) The Thorney property in Wisbech was worth only 8s. in 1291, (fn. 19) perhaps owing to floods, and there is no further mention of it until 1548, when a 21-year lease at 10s. a year was granted to Thomas Barrett and John Wrighte alias Goldwell. In 1560 the reversion in fee simple was given to John Norden of London and Clement Robertes of Little Braxted (Essex). (fn. 20) The priory of Spinney held 40 acres in Wisbech Fen, worth 10s. in 1291, (fn. 21) and known as Spineylond in 1347. (fn. 22) In 1544 it was granted in fee to George Carleton. (fn. 23) About 1275 Robert son of Edmund of Wisbech granted 10s. rent to Anglesey Abbey, from a messuage and 14 acres in Sayer's Field. (fn. 24)

The practice of leasing the manor or portions of it dates from at least 1330, when Bishop Hotham was licensed to approve or inclose waste land in Wisbech and his other manors to the value of £20 a year and to let the same to farm. (fn. 25) Three years later he granted a piece of land called 'Inlyk' (now Inlay Field) to Sir Simon de Drayton for life. (fn. 26) Bishop Alcock, who died at Wisbech Castle in 1500, was the last to be normally resident at the manor, and his successor (West) in 1529–30 leased the site of Barton manor and the demesnes to Thomas Megges for ninety-nine years at a yearly rent of £30. (fn. 27) Megges died in 1542, and three years later his relict Agnes sublet an 80-acre pasture called 'Cowleylond' for forty years. Nicholas Megges, his eldest son, (fn. 28) on whom the manor was settled after Agnes's death, sold his interest to Mark Steward and Thomas Wyseman. They resold it for 200 marks to Henry, the third son, but the transaction was declared invalid in Chancery. (fn. 29) Before her death, however, Agnes had conveyed her rights in the manor and demesnes to Henry for £40 a year. (fn. 30) Disputes later arose owing to a sublease executed by Nicholas Megges. (fn. 31) For 105 years after the Restoration the Southwell family leased the castle and manor, (fn. 32) until in 1793 the site of the castle was sold to Joseph Medworth and the estate finally broken up. (fn. 33) The Barton manor and its perquisites were sometimes leased separately, as in 1712 to Samuel Shepheard and in 1771 to Robert Wensley. (fn. 34)


  • 1. B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. B. II, ff. 143a, b.
  • 2. B.M. Cott. MS. Claud. C. XI, f. 73b. The 1/8 (Melkesham) fee is entered in a later hand, and the assessment of the Litelbury property is left blank.
  • 3. Feud. Aids, i, 141, 152.
  • 4. Ibid. i, 172. Sir John (d. 1342) had held three shops in Wisbech of the Bishop of Ely for 8d. yearly, his heir being his nephew, another John (Cal. Inq. p.m. viii, p. 365). Sir John was a commissioner de walliis et fossatis in 1336 (Cal. Pat. 1334– 8, 283, 291).
  • 5. Ibid. i, 191.
  • 6. Ibid. i, 141, 151, 173, 193.
  • 7. Ibid. i, 141, 152, 173.
  • 8. Ibid. i, 141, 151; Cal. Inq. p.m. vi, 330 (p. 196).
  • 9. Feud. Aids, i, 193.
  • 10. In 1536 these 40 acres (in Brigfeld) were held by Humfrey Carvyle for 1/12; of a fee (B.M. Add. MS. 5837, f. 200a).
  • 11. This piece was also held in 1536 by Carvyle by socage for 20s. (ibid. f. 201a).
  • 12. Peckover MSS., Wisb. Mus.
  • 13. C.P. 25(1)/283/11.
  • 14. B.M. Campb. Chart. ii, 3.
  • 15. B.M. Add. MS. 37671, f. 111b.
  • 16. Ibid., ff. 96a, b, 97a, b.
  • 17. C 139/60.
  • 18. Hist. MSS. Com., 6th Rep. (Leconfield MSS.), 292; C.P. 25(1)/24/17/51.
  • 19. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 268.
  • 20. Cal. Pat. 1558–60, 396–7.
  • 21. Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 270.
  • 22. B.M. Harl. Chart. 50, 55.
  • 23. L. & P. Hen. VIII, xix, i, g. 610 (54).
  • 24. Undated MS. at Wisb. Mus.
  • 25. Cal. Pat. 1327–30, 549.
  • 26. Hist. MSS. Com., 6th Rep. App. 296.
  • 27. C 3/214/23. In 1542 the rent was £32, and the commutation of labour services brought in £10 (Bp.'s Mun., Ely, D 5 (4)).
  • 28. Misc. Gen. and Heraldica, 2nd ser. ii, 378. The pedigree calls Thomas Megges's wife Ann.
  • 29. C 3/129/20.
  • 30. The whole manor was valued in 1588 at £142 4s. 10d. a year (W. Watson, Hist. Wisb. (1827), 116 n.).
  • 31. C 3/126/21.
  • 32. Edward Southwell paid £20 rent for the castle in 1778–9 (Bp.'s Mun., Ely, D 6).
  • 33. Gardiner, Hist. Wisb. (1898), 11. Permission to sell was granted by Act of Parliament (33–34 Geo. III c. liii). Medworth was a Wisbech charity boy who went to London as a bricklayer and prospered there.
  • 34. Gibbons, Ely Episc. Rec. 25.