City of Ely: Manors

Pages 47-50

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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In 1086 there was but the single manor of Ely and its berewicks. (fn. 1) When the see was created, in 1109, the bishop's charter (fn. 2) spoke of granting tithes of his 'manor of Barton' to the prior and convent, and of their right to hold courts in the manors allotted to them, but said nothing of a priorial manor in Ely. (fn. 3) Nevertheless, the berewick of Stuntney and the demesne manors of Beald, Turbutsey, and Shepey (fn. 4) were specifically allocated to the prior and convent by this charter. Moreover, there is no evidence that the pre-1109 grange of Brame ever passed into episcopal hands. Some central administrative body must have been necessary for these possessions and for the external priorial manors: it could readily have given rise to a local court, if none existed, as soon as town property began to be acquired by the monks. Many transfers of property, by grant, exchange, or purchase, had certainly occurred by the 13th cen tury, and probably began earlier. (fn. 5) A manor called Brayes manor was in conventual hands not later than the 14th century: its gateway almost fronted the Porta Monachorum. (fn. 6) Possibly priorial courts were held in this gatehouse before the Ely Porta was built late in that century. (fn. 7) Whatever the date of the formal constitution of the monastic manor, it clearly existed by 1320. (fn. 8) Priory courts seem to have been held in the Ely Porta by 1423: (fn. 9) the name ELY PORTA manor appears in the 16th century. (fn. 10) The manorial courts of the dean and chapter were held here down to 1865.

The farm-buildings of the bishop's manor called ELY BARTON manor opened upon Back Hill, in 1416: (fn. 11) its fields extended westward. The bishop's vineyard lay on the eastern side of the city, approached from the market-place. In the built-up areas, by 1416, (fn. 12) the city properties of bishop and prior were much intermingled. Ely Barton was known in later centuries as the 'paramount manor', (fn. 13) and must have held pride of place from the outset. The extensive wastes appurtenant to the manor were claimed exclusively by the bishop, save where intercommoning rights of neighbouring townships had to be respected. Such sections of the waste as were enjoyed by the prior were granted, from time to time, by the bishop, except such rights as already pertained to Stuntney and the monastic demesne farms. (fn. 14) Barton farm was held on lease by the bishop's bailiff in the 15th century. At the Dissolution Nicholas Steward leased the manor. (fn. 15) It was sold to Richard Cromwell, the Protector's son, at the close of the Civil War, but later returned into episcopal hands and was henceforward granted on lease. (fn. 16)

Constant nibbling at the waste occurred from early times. Thus inclosed or semi-inclosed farms or submanors came successively into existence. Some were ancient monastic properties and remained so until the Dissolution: others were episcopal demesne farms.


The farm, or fishery, of 'Bramewere' appears as early as 1086. (fn. 17) Between 1166 and 1175 Salomon the Goldsmith acquired a rentcharge on the estate. (fn. 18) It figured in the extent of 1251, held by another Salomon. (fn. 19) Prior Fressingfeld eventually secured the property for the monastery early in the 14th century. (fn. 20) In 1417 Brame was held by the sacrist. Inclosure disputes arose here in the 16th century. (fn. 21) At the Dissolution Brame was granted to the dean and chapter, who thenceforward retained it. (fn. 22) Brame lay in St. Mary's parish.

The farm or hamlet of TURBUTSEY was a very early possession of the church (fn. 23) and was among those granted to the monks by the charter of 1109. In the arbitration award of 1417 it appears as one of the seven granges or manors, near to Ely, over which the sacrist had special jurisdiction: the others were Brame, Stuntney, Thorney, Northney, Quaveney, and Shepey. Turbutsey supplied a considerable part of the sacrist's food in the 14th century. (fn. 24) Inclosure disputes, especially over rights of way, arose in the 16th century. (fn. 25) The estate was granted to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution and repeatedly appears among the chapter leases subsequently. (fn. 26) It was called a dairy in the 16th and 17th centuries (fn. 27) and had fishing-rights, an ancient quay, a willow-holt, a kiln for brick- or tile-making, and a chapel. The remains of brick-pits and old brick buildings, near the present Thistle Corner, probably mark the site of what was known in the 16th century as 'Little Turbutsey'. Turbutsey manor house was pulled down to make room for the Ely beet factory in 1925. The remains of a tile-baking furnace, of Tudor or Jacobean date, were exposed at the same time. (fn. 28) The estate was in the parish of Holy Trinity.

SHIPPEA, allocated to the Convent in 1109, lay in Holy Trinity parish. Its name occurs frequently in the sacrist's rolls and, after the Dissolution, among the chapter leases. (fn. 29)

The farm of THORNEY, lying in a detached part of Holy Trinity parish, was in the possession of the monastery as early as 1206. (fn. 30) In 1527 it was inclosed for dairy-farming and passed to the Crown at the Dissolution, being then let on lease to a local man, William Clay. (fn. 31) It was sold in the later 16th century, (fn. 32) but was apparently recovered by the dean and chapter before 1649. (fn. 33) In the early 19th century it was the freehold property of Harry Spencer Waddington. (fn. 34)

NORNEA farm also was a detached part of Holy Trinity parish. It was mentioned in 1279 and subse quently, as a possession of the monks, (fn. 35) and was granted to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution. (fn. 36) It figured among the 16th-century dairy inclosures, (fn. 37) leased by John Croplaye of Ely. It was still a leasehold dairy property of the chapter in the 19th century. (fn. 38)

QUANEA was another outlying portion of Holy Trinity parish. It was monastic property in 1279, (fn. 39) and a valued perquisite of the sacrist in 1335. (fn. 40) It appeared in the award of 1417. Quaney hithe was the farthest downstream of the medieval city quays. At the Dissolution Quaney was granted to the dean and chapter. Early in the 19th century it was held on a chapter lease by the son of Bentham, historian of Ely. (fn. 41) A very ancient hall survived as a farmhouse until the mid19th century. A portion of the original farm had by that date been sold; the remainder was let, partly on lease and partly as copyhold of Stuntney manor. (fn. 42)

BEALD FARM lay in the intermixed lands of the two parishes. It was allotted to the prior in 1109 and is frequently mentioned in 12th and 13th century documents. (fn. 43) It passed to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution. Sixty acres were directly inclosed by that body in the 16th century. (fn. 44) The farm remained a chapter estate.

BED WELL HAT FARM, in St. Mary's parish, belonged to the monastery in 1302. It frequently appears in later documents and maps. (fn. 45) In 1548 it had become episcopal property, let on lease. The inclosure of 120 acres of the farm was a subject of complaint at this date. (fn. 46)

The almoner, in 1251, held scattered city tenements: (fn. 47) by 1327 ALMONRY GRANGE, a fair-sized property, was attached to the office. (fn. 48) In 1548 Almoner Cotes was accused of having pulled down the manor house and burnt a cottage, situated on the 100 acres which he had inclosed prior to the Dissolution, (fn. 49) at which date the estate passed to the dean and chapter. It remained in their hands.

KETONS (fn. 50) manor-farm lay in Holy Trinity parish. John of Keton was almoner before his selection as bishop in 1310. (fn. 51) Ten years later, among the fixed charges on the almonry, was a rent, paid to Simon de Keten. (fn. 52) Probably ties of kinship had secured this lease, which continued to be held by Simon's heirs. Some time after 1362 (fn. 53) the cellarer bought the manor of 'Ketens' with money received from Denny Abbey. The main building of the manor stood opposite the Ely Porta, in what was called Walpole Lane (Silver Street). The estate passed to the dean and chapter at the Dissolution and remained in their possession. In 1548 (fn. 54) the farm was in the hands of the heirs of Thomas Rydley: Prior Walpole had previously converted to pasture two closes, called 'Orwell Pylk closes', and the 'mansion house' had become a barn. The modern Orwell Pit farm probably occupies the site of the old manor.

The demesne farm of NEW BARNS, in the parish of Holy Trinity, lay to the north-east of the city. It came into prominence in the Inclosure Inquiry of 1548 and was then held by Thomas Goodrich. (fn. 55) It figured as a valuable episcopal property of 700 acres in Bishop Cox's award of 1566, under which 200 acres were to be separately inclosed and let to representative citizens for thirty years. Presumably these acres reverted to the bishop at the end of that time and gave rise to the smaller estate known as Little New Barns. (fn. 56) The farm was sold at the close of the Civil War. (fn. 57) It was apparently bought back, for Great New Barns and Little New Barns were severally leased from the bishop, in 1799, by Edmund Tatersall, the horse-breeder. Both estates continued to be episcopal property. (fn. 58)

The hamlet of STUNTNEY, in the former Holy Trinity parish, was appendant to Ely long before 1087, when it was recorded as a berewick. (fn. 59) It was given to the secular clerks of Ely by Wolstan de Delham, in King Edgar's reign. (fn. 60) The eel-fishery was always highly valued, as was the strategic importance of Stuntney, a major entrance to the Isle. The upkeep of this passage was a constant care of the monastery. (fn. 61) On the creation of the see, Stuntney was granted to the priory and was appropriated to the cellarer's office. (fn. 62) Later it was transferred to the sacrist. (fn. 63) Stuntney was farmed, in 1527, by Edward Bestney of Soham, who did a considerable amount of inclosing. (fn. 64) In 1540 the manor was granted by the Crown to Sir Edward North; (fn. 65) thenceforward it held its own courts. Bestney's daughter and heiress married Simon Steward, brother of the first Dean of Ely; hence Stuntney passed to the Steward family. Edward, son of Simon, held the manor on a sevenyear lease in 1548; (fn. 66) subsequently Sir Mark Steward settled there. (fn. 67) Oliver Cromwell inherited the estate in 1636. The manor passed out of the family's ownership in 1723 and repeatedly changed hands later.

The hamlet of CHETTISHAM, in the former parish of Ely St. Mary, first occurs in 1170, (fn. 68) and appears as a wooded assart in 1251. (fn. 69) In the late 15th century-the land was held by the lessee of New Barns. (fn. 70) Bishop West inclosed a park of 180 acres in 'Chettesham busshes', about 1515, and aroused deep resentment among former commoners. Other smaller inclosures in the hamlet were made by episcopal lessees at this period. (fn. 71) The wooded parkland was depicted in the Ordnance Map of 1835.


  • 1. See above, p. 34.
  • 2. Bp.'s Mun., Ely, Liber M., f. 143; see also n. 25.
  • 3. There is no mention of priorial lands in Ely in the charters of endowment cited. in Dugdale, Mon. i, 462; Liber M., ff. 143-4; B.M. Cott. MS. Tib. A. VI, ff. 111-12; Titus A. I, ff. 35-35b.
  • 4. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 217, 219, 222. These granges are listed as in the jurisdiction of the Sacrist in the Award of 1417 (Cal. Pat. 1416-22, 183).
  • 5. B.M. Cott. MS. Claud. C. XI, esp. ff. 25b-29b, which give the details of present and past holders of 'free' tenements; cf. above, p. 35.
  • 6. Sacrist R., ed. F. R. Chapman, i, 145-6; Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. 292 (Leconfield MSS., ff. 16b and 17) (1313). Stewart says that the Brayes manor was absorbed by the larger manor of Ely Porta. Stewart, Archit. Hist. of Ely, 192c.
  • 7. It seems a traditional arrangement: Stuntney was granted to the abbey at a court held in one of the gateways in the time of King Edgar (Liber Elien. 133-7).
  • 8. Perhaps by 1229: 'By inquisition taken in 1229, the Prior and Convent had a prison, a court and vineyard in the close of the priory' (Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 467); Ely Treas. R., 12-13, Edw. II, but no such reference in Treas. R. for 9-10 or 10-11 Edw. II. Mr. E. Miller suggests that this may mean that the conventual manor was formally constituted about 12 Edw. II.
  • 9. Court 'ad Portas Prioratus' (Treas. R., Ely, 1423-4).
  • 10. The name was used in 1526. In the 17th century both monthly manorial courts of D. & C. and Courts held by the surveyor of all the chapter manors were held in the Ely Porta. The Survey of 1649 calls the Ely Porta 'the Manor House' (Atkinson, Archit. Hist. Ely (1933), 153, n. 2).
  • 11. Survey of 1416-17 (B.M. Harl. MS. 329).
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. D. and S. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 191.
  • 14. 'The soil of the wastes and marshes of Ely shall pertain to the Bishop as parcel of his manor of Ely, because nothing was said of them by the old separation' (Cal. Pat. 1416-22, 185). The extent of 1251 B.M. Cott. MS. Claud. C. XI, ff. 24b- 25a) also assumes the episcopal claims to the wastes (above, p. 35).
  • 15. W. M. Palmer, 'Enclosures at Ely ... 1548', Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 16. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 192; Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1851), 477.
  • 17. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 217.
  • 18. Sacrist R., ed. F. R. Chapman, i, Appx. C. 151 et seq.
  • 19. In 1280, in consideration of the bad roads, the bishop, with consent of prior and convent, permitted a chaplain, answerable to the sacrist, to conduct daily offices in the oratory at Brame. The property was then held by two knights, More and Waleham (Hist. MSS. Comm., 6th Rep. (Leconfield MSS.), 291).
  • 20. Sacrist R., ed. F. R. Chapman, i, 155-6.
  • 21. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 22. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 192.
  • 23. There are many refs. in Liber Elien. (P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 319).
  • 24. Sacrist R., ed. F. R. Chapman, i, 120.
  • 25. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 26. Leases and Pattents viewed at the Court of Survey, belonging to the Deanery of Ely (1649), 33-34 (Ely Cath. Lib. MSS.).
  • 27. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 28. Ibid. 383-4; G. Fowler, 'Fenland Waterways Past and Present, Pt. II' (Cambs. Antiq. Soc. Proc., vol. xxxiv, 25).
  • 29. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 193; J. H. Clements, Hist. of Cambs. (1868), 60.
  • 30. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 221.
  • 31. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 32. Ibid.
  • 33. Leases and Pattents (1649), 33-34 (Ely Cath. Lib. MSS.).
  • 34. Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1841), 476; Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 193.
  • 35. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 219.
  • 36. Leases and Pattents (1649), 27.
  • 37. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 373-84.
  • 38. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 193.
  • 39. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 220.
  • 40. D. and C. Mun., Sacrist R. 1335.
  • 41. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 193; J. H. Clements, Hist. of Ely and the neighbouring Villages, 60.
  • 42. Lysons, Magna Brit. ii (1), 193.
  • 43. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 223.
  • 44. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 45. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 217.
  • 46. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 47. See above, p. 36.
  • 48. Almoner's R., 1-2 Ed. III. The sacrist also had a city grange (Sacrist R., ed. F. R. Chapman, i, 120).
  • 49. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 50. Mr. E. Miller supplied various refs.
  • 51. B.M. Add. MS. 41612, f. 48.
  • 52. B.M. Cott. MS. Vesp. A. VI, f. 120.
  • 53. By 1374 the rent was paid to the cellarer for 4 ac., once belonging to Sir Henry Walpole and afterwards to the Ketenes (Almoner's R., 1374). A rent charge on Denny Abbey, devoted to hospitality for guests at feasts of St. Etheldreda and St. Luke, was sold to the abbey by the prior and convent of Ely (cf. Stewart, Archit. Hist. of Ely, 201, quoting Lambeth MSS. 448).
  • 54. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 55. Ibid.
  • 56. See above, p. 41.
  • 57. For £2,805-twice the sum paid for Barton Farm (Gardner, Dir. Cambs. (1841), 476-7).
  • 58. See n. 79.
  • 59. See above, p. 35.
  • 60. Liber Elien. ii, c. 24.
  • 61. A duty of the sacrist (Bp.'s Mun., Liber M., f. 184).
  • 62. Wharton, Angl. Sac. i, 617; Cal. Chart. R., 1226-57, 391 (1252); claim upheld, Award of 1417 (Cal. Pat. 1416- 22, 185).
  • 63. It frequently appears in Sacrist R. of 14th century, e.g. 33 Ed. 3.
  • 64. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 65. Magna Brit. ii (1), 198.
  • 66. As for n. 86.
  • 67. Probably Edward's brother, as he was also a nephew of the first Dean. Simon Steward was great-uncle of Oliver Cromwell (Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84). The Stuards, or Stewards, were descendants of a Scots family of Stewards of Dundevale. Dr. Steward was last prior and first dean of Ely. The family continued to live in the neighbourhood until mid-18th century (Bentham, Ely, 2nd ed., 190).
  • 68. P. N. Cambs. (E.P.N.S.), 217.
  • 69. Bp.'s Mun., G. 3 ('Old Coucher', f. 1), Caius Coll. MSS. 485/489, f. 19. Mr. Reaney's etymological problem seems thus answered; 'Checham bushes', in 1606 (E 134/4, Jas. 1/M, 14); and Leases and Pattents (1649) (Ely Cath. Lib. MSS.).
  • 70. Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. v, 369-84.
  • 71. As for n. 92. Bishop West sat on the Anti-Inclosure Commission in Cambridge, 1517.