A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1973.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
The parish of Shepreth lies midway between Cambridge and Royston, and is the most southerly parish in the hundred. (fn. 1) It is roughly rectangular and is bounded on the north-west by the river Cam or Rhee. Other boundaries follow the course of several streams and drains; Foxton brook on the north-east, and Meldreth brook on the south-west. The southeast boundary cuts across Rush moor and Carver field. The parish is mainly agricultural although cement works were established at the end of the 19th century, and the village developed as a dormitory area during the 1960s.
The parish contains 1,318 a. and is generally flat, rising to 50 ft. in the north-east. The soil is light and gravelly, overlying chalk and clay, with a small seam of Lower Greensand across the north of the parish. (fn. 2) One area in the north was known as Whiteland in 1626. (fn. 3) The clay subsoil caused much of the land to be waterlogged, and the damp condition of the L moor, so called because of its shape, in the west of the parish, provides a particular habitat for certain plants and wild life. (fn. 4) Low-lying land along the north-east boundary is still liable to flooding, although an artificial system of drainage has partly eased the problem in the rest of the parish, and Meldreth brook has been straightened. Bernadyke existed by 1286, and by 1626 How ditch, Grave's ditch, and Hell ditch were established features. (fn. 5) Several other drains had been constructed by 1823. Broad Marsh drain had been excavated close to the existing natural watercourse of Meldreth brook, and Twin ditch and Back drain alongside the course of the river Cam or Rhee. Mill river, which runs through the village, across Barrington field, and into Foxton brook, had been artificially straightened, and New drain had been built to run from Mill river, north across Barrington field, and into the public drain. (fn. 6)
Fragments of Stone-Age weapons and tools have been found near Shepreth, and the site may have been a lake dwelling. There is evidence of a Roman settlement on the higher, drier ground in the northeast corner of the parish. (fn. 7) Later settlement concentrated near the centre of the parish, around the Mill river and its junction with the old MelbournHarston road. Shepreth meant the brook of the sheep, or the place where sheep may be washed, (fn. 8) and was a convenient resting place before Cambridge. The Sheep Bridge was still in use in 1626. (fn. 9) In 1970 a number of timber-framed and plastered cottages with thatched roofs survived, notably a group in Fowlmere Road near the village mill. Most of them date from the 17th and 18th centuries, while at least two were built on the Tyrells estate in the early 19th century. (fn. 10) At the former mill house (no. 8 Fowlmere Road), however, the survival of what is perhaps part of a cruck truss may be evidence not only of a medieval building but also of a form of construction of which only one other example has hitherto been recorded in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 11) The truss occurs at what was formerly the east gable-end of the oldest part of the house, a building of two bays which has been raised in height, reroofed, and much altered. The lower half of one cruck blade is visible internally, and its pair, revealed during alterations, (fn. 12) is covered with roughcast. The later east wing is not of medieval construction. The front of the house, of yellow brick, dates from the mid 19th century.
By 1569 Moor End had been settled, (fn. 13) and before or during the 18th century freehold settlements were established at Moor End and Frog End, away from the village nucleus. (fn. 14) No houses remained at Moor End in 1970 although a number of scattered thatched cottages and small houses still stand at Frog End and along High Street. Low Farm (later known as Nun's Manor) at Frog End is a substantial timber-framed house with a tiled roof. It consists of a central block of two bays flanked by gabled crosswings. A blocked window with moulded mullions of the earlier 16th century probably indicates the date of the building. The east wing, where the timbering is rougher, may be of later date or have been built for storage purposes. The central block appears always to have been two-storeyed and may at one time have had a jettied front. Above the upper room is an open arch-braced tie-beam truss, formerly ceiled at collar level. On the ground floor the incomplete base of a chimney, built of clunch and brick, incorporates the remains of a baking oven. A large weatherboarded barn to the east of the house was blown down c. 1890. (fn. 15)
The erection of cement works attracted labour to the village, and by 1903 Edieham Cottages had been built in Barrington field, south of the railway. (fn. 16) A row of council houses had been completed along Station Road by 1927 and one at Frog End by 1940. By 1955 a larger council estate had been established east of Fowlmere Road. After 1945 the south side of Meldreth Road was gradually built up. (fn. 17) The village continued to grow, and in the 1960s a small private estate, Huttles Green, was developed in the centre of the village. (fn. 18)
The population of the parish has increased steadily since 1086 when 30 of the inhabitants were recorded. (fn. 19) In 1377 147 adults paid poll tax, (fn. 20) and there were 35 families in 1563. (fn. 21) There were 45 families in the parish in 1728, (fn. 22) and 46 families in 1801 contained 202 persons. The population had almost doubled in size by 1891, when there were 89 occupied houses. The establishment of cement works in the village attracted labour into the area, and by 1911 there were 108 families. During the 20th century the general increase in population continued and in 1961 the total population was 530. (fn. 23)
Barrington Road was known as Archford or Archerford's Way in 1626, and the main highway from Melbourn to Harston probably ran along that route. (fn. 24) The road which later ran from Cambridge via Dunsbridge and Melbourn to Royston was turnpiked in 1793, and became the main highway, by-passing Shepreth to the south. (fn. 25) It ceased to be a turnpike in 1872. (fn. 26) A new road linking Shepreth and Fowlmere, and crossing the Dunsbridge turnpike, was created in 1811. (fn. 27) Numerous fords were used and bridges constructed to facilitate movement around the watery parish, and in 1626 there were King's, Gilton, and Huckles bridges, and the Sheep Bridge, in addition to Orlocke, Potter's, and Archer's fords. (fn. 28) In 1851 the Royston and Hitchin Railway Co. opened its extension to Shepreth, and although the extension to Shelford Junction was opened in the same year, passengers were, for a short time, conveyed to Cambridge by omnibus, five times daily. (fn. 29) The station was closed to goods traffic in 1965, but was open to passengers in 1970. (fn. 30)
Before 1782 a public house known as the Bottle and Anchor stood at Frog End on the CambridgeRoyston road, and since then the site has been occupied by the Green Man. (fn. 31) In 1840 there were two other public houses in the village, one of which in the High Street was later known as the Plough inn; it was burnt down and rebuilt in brick in 1896. (fn. 32) A brewery and beer shop were standing next to the village mill in 1840, but had disappeared by 1871. The Railway Tavern stood next to the station from 1873 (fn. 33) until it was closed c. 1960. (fn. 34) A fourth public house was recorded in 1878 but had disappeared by 1898. (fn. 35)
From 1859 to 1901 there was a reading room in the village, (fn. 36) and a village hall was built in 1909 at the junction of Station Road and Meldreth Road. It was used as a military hospital during the First World War, (fn. 37) and since 1960 has been extensively repaired and modernized. (fn. 38) In 1863 the Shepreth Mutual Provident Society was established. In 1911 it had 535 benefit members, (fn. 39) and at its dissolution in 1952 the sale of the 176 a. which it owned in Thriplow, Foxton, Melbourn, and Shepreth, realized £6,725. (fn. 40) A 200-yd. rifle range was set up in Rush Moor plantation at the beginning of the 20th century. (fn. 41)
Manors and Other Estates.
In 1086 the abbey of Chatteris held a hide and 1½ virgate in Shepreth. (fn. 42) The estate became known as the manor of SHEPRETH and was either regarded as or merged with the rectorial estate of Shepreth. The manor remained with Chatteris as part of a larger Cambridgeshire estate, (fn. 43) held of the honor of Boulogne, until the Dissolution; the Crown granted the manor and advowson in 1543 to Edward Elrington. (fn. 44) In 1556 Shepreth manor, comprising a water-mill and all the other lands in Shepreth which had belonged to Chatteris, and the advowson, were held by Sir William Laxton, an alderman of London. (fn. 45) Joan Wauton, widow and heir of Sir William, died in 1582 seised of the manor which descended to her son John. (fn. 46) He had died childless by 1593 leaving his brothers Thomas and Nicholas to inherit in turn. (fn. 47) Nicholas was dead by 1599, and John Layer (d. 1641), (fn. 48) the antiquarian, son of Nicholas's sister Martha and William Layer, was in possession of the manor in 1620, (fn. 49) and was succeeded by his son William (d. 1698). (fn. 50) William's son William held Shepreth manor in 1682, (fn. 51) and died in 1717. He was predeceased by his son John (d. 1706), and Shepreth was divided between his daughters and their husbands, Elizabeth and Berney Branthwaite, LL.D. (d. 1730), (fn. 52) and Susan and John Eyre. (fn. 53) Hale Wortham, grandson of Joseph Wortham, a grocer of Buntingford (Herts.), (fn. 54) married Branthwaite's granddaughter and by 1757 was lord of the whole manor. (fn. 55) He died in 1778 and his son Hale Wortham succeeded him and died childless in 1828. (fn. 56) His widow Mary held the property for a year, and in 1829 his brother James had possession of the rectory and other Wortham estates in Shepreth. (fn. 57) James's son Biscoe Hill Wortham succeeded him in 1844 (fn. 58) and died in 1896. (fn. 59) The estate was divided and sold in 1897, (fn. 60) and B. H. Wortham's son, the Revd. Biscoe Hill Layer Wortham, inherited property to the value of £200 a year in Shepreth, divided after his death in 1928 between his children and sisters. (fn. 61) The rectory farm was bought by G. A. Haywood in 1925 (fn. 62) and in 1970 belonged to his heirs in trust. (fn. 63)
Shepreth rectory probably stood to the south of the church, on the site of Manor Farm. John Layer built himself a 'pretty' manor-house there, incorporating some of an older rectory building, (fn. 64) and in 1666 it was the largest house in the village with ten fire-places. (fn. 65) That house was partly destroyed in 1844. (fn. 66) The present house appears to be entirely of 19th-century brick construction, but one room on the ground floor has deeply moulded ceiling beams of c. 1500, probably reset. Above the fire-place is a contemporary boss on a corbel bracket carved with a cock. (fn. 67) The house also contains two chimney- pieces, panelling, and a front door of Jacobean design, which are traditionally thought to have belonged to the earlier house on the site.
The roofless ruin of a dovecot stands south of the farm buildings. It is a rectangular timber-framed structure which formerly had a hipped roof of thatch with two gablets. (fn. 68) The weathering of the timbers on three sides indicates that they were formerly exposed and the building may therefore date from the 16th century or earlier. At some later period, perhaps in the 18th century, the timbers on the north side were replaced and the whole exterior was faced with lath and plaster.
Under the ownership of the Wortham family, the rectory manor, sometimes known as Tithe farm, was let. Henry Clear occupied the farm until 1843 when Edward Titchmarsh became the tenant. In 1880 the farm was let to Mr. Crick, and later to Mr. Board. He was still the occupier in 1909, (fn. 69) and in 1925 G. A. Haywood bought the farm and occupied it until 1933, when Mr. Kitchener, the tenant in 1970, took up residence. (fn. 70)
In 1086 the estate that comprised the later manors of Docwras and Wimbish was held of Geoffrey de Mandeville by Sigar, who T. R. E. had held the same lands of Ansgar the Staller. (fn. 71) In 1168 William de Mandeville, earl of Essex, gave 100s. rent in Shepreth to the prior of the hospital of St. John of Jerusalem; (fn. 72) the land of its preceptory at Shingay was recorded in 1279 as part of the fee of Mandeville. (fn. 73) Its lordship over Wimbish was recorded in 1511 (fn. 74) and over Docwras at the Dissolution. On the attainder of Sir Thomas Dingley, preceptor of Shingay, the lordship was granted to Sir Richard Long in 1539, (fn. 75) and in 1577 it was held by Lady Morison. (fn. 76) A quit-rent was still being paid in 1775 to Edwin Sandys, lord of Shingay. (fn. 77) In 1279 the hospital's tenant for 100s. fee farm was William de la Haye (d. 1316). (fn. 78) He was succeeded by his son, Sir John, (fn. 79) who died c. 1340. John's son and heir William, (fn. 80) who held the manor in 1346, was dead by 1365 when his sister and heir Margaret held it with her husband, Sir John Engaine of Teversham (d. c. 1392). (fn. 81) Their daughters and coheirs, Joan and Margaret, married respectively Sir Baldwin St. George (d. 1425), (fn. 82) and William Blyton. (fn. 83) Joan Engaine, widow of Sir John, held the manor in 1395 (fn. 84) and the estate was subsequently divided and descended as two manors. (fn. 85)
That which was later called DOCWRAS or DOCKWRAIES descended to Baldwin's grandson William (d. 1472), (fn. 86) who enfeoffed his son Richard (d. 1485) and Richard's wife Anne of the manor. (fn. 87) Richard's son William was his heir, (fn. 88) but Anne St. George held the manor as a widow at her death in 1506. (fn. 89) In 1548 Francis, son of Thomas St. George (d. 1540), (fn. 90) conveyed the manor to John, son of Thomas Docwra, (fn. 91) who married Francis's sister Anne. (fn. 92) Thomas Docwra sold the manor in 1568, (fn. 93) and in 1580 Thomas Ingrey, of Littlebury (Essex), settled the manor on his son Edward and Edward's wife Anne. (fn. 94) Edward died in 1613 (fn. 95) and his two daughters Martha Rydeman and Elizabeth Nightingale sold the property to William Hancock in 1617. (fn. 96) In 1642 John Hancock was found to be a lunatic, his sister Anne becoming heir to the manor of Docwras, alias Hallyards. (fn. 97) She and her husband Richard Hunt were dealing with the manor in 1656, (fn. 98) and their son John was lord of the manor in 1678. (fn. 99) After his death and that of his mother the manor passed to his two sisters Anne Cumber and Mary Challoner, (fn. 100) who sold it to William Fairchild in 1712. (fn. 101) William's nephew, William Fairchild of Cambridge, inherited the manor, and he and John Stevenson sold Docwras in 1743 to Joseph Woodham. (fn. 102) Joseph died in 1764 leaving his Shepreth property to his son William, (fn. 103) who died in 1785. William's son Joseph inherited, and dying in 1791 was succeeded by his brother William. William died in 1824 and devised the property to William, the son of his daughter Sarah and Frederick John Nash. In 1825 William Nash changed his name by licence to Nash-Woodham, and died in 1876. His son William Fuller Nash-Woodham inherited Docwras and Tyrells and died in 1888. (fn. 104) The estate was left in trust, except for a portion which had been acquired by George Gildea (d. 1918), his son-in-law. (fn. 105) Docwras manor was sold to John Gray in 1919, and was bought from him in 1920 by the Cambridgeshire county council to establish smallholdings. (fn. 106) In 1923 the Revd. Mr. Bourchier bought the manor-house and gardens, and sold them in 1927; (fn. 107) in 1947 Mr. George Scurfield bought Docwras from Mr. W. E. L. Brown. Mr. Scurfield sold the house in 1954 to Mr. J. Raven, the owner in 1970. (fn. 108)
A moated site north of Tyrells Hall was known as Hallyards. It may have been the site of William de la Haye's manor-house, in which he was licensed c. 1280 to have an oratory, (fn. 109) but no building remains. After the division of the manor in the 14th century new houses were probably erected for the two newly created manors and that which later became known as Docwras was occasionally referred to as Hallyards. (fn. 110) In 1401 Baldwin St. George's house was burned down. (fn. 111) The present house at Docwras lies about 250 yds. further north. It is L-shaped, consisting of a wing extending northward and a main block with its entrance front facing south. Apart from the south façade the building is timber-framed. The north wing, which probably represents a 16th-century house, is a structure of one and a half storeys and three bays with a massive chimney at its south end. The main block consists of two parallel two-storeyed ranges, each with its gabled roof. There are indications that the front range was built first, perhaps early in the 17th century. An altered staircase of that date may originally have been housed in a small wing in the angle of the L-shaped plan. Later the back part of the block was built, enclosing the staircase. In the 18th century the house was converted into a small but stylish gentleman's residence, presumably by Joseph Woodham soon after he acquired the property in 1743. The south front was faced in red brick, giving it a symmetrical elevation of five bays with a modillion cornice and sash windows. The central doorway has a rusticated surround, Tuscan pilasters, and a flat hood; above it is a Venetian window with a decorative fret in the central arch. The forecourt is bounded by iron railings and has wrought-iron gates between brick piers. The letter 'W', incorporated in the overthrow, is a modern replacement of the original. Internally the front rooms were evidently remodelled by Woodham and a new staircase was inserted. A timber-framed barn north-west of the house and a stable range near the Shepreth-Meldreth road may date from the 16th and 17th centuries respectively. (fn. 112) The NashWoodham family lived there, and at the time of its sale in 1919 John Gray was the occupier, and later a Miss Shipanson. In 1928 Mrs. Balfour was renting the house from the county council, which let the house to W.E.L. Brown in 1931. (fn. 113)
William Blyton conveyed his moiety or manor in 1420 to John Wimbish of Norton (Lincs.), in marriage with his daughter Margaret. (fn. 114) It came to be called WIMBISH manor and remained in the Wimbish family, being held by John Wimbish in 1511 and by his son Christopher, who died in 1530 leaving a son Thomas, a minor. (fn. 115) Thomas entered upon his father's properties in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire in 1543, (fn. 116) and married Elizabeth Tailboys. (fn. 117) In 1554 his sisters Frances and Abrahe entered upon all lands which had descended to them as Thomas's coheirs, (fn. 118) and Abrahe and her husband Francis Norton sold Wimbish manor to Edward Ingrey in 1566. (fn. 119) It descended to Edward's son Thomas (d. 1617), (fn. 120) and William and Elizabeth Ingrey sold Wimbish in 1623 to William Hancock, (fn. 121) who in 1626 sold it to Philip Richardson. (fn. 122) Fuller Mead held a court as lord of Wimbish manor in 1629, (fn. 123) and in 1668 the manor, with lands in Shepreth and Foxton, was settled on Philip Hale and his son Philip. (fn. 124) Robert Swann was holding the manor in 1708, and it had passed to his wife Elizabeth by 1731. John Stevenson of Pampisford was lord of the manor in 1737, and his son Robert in 1766. (fn. 125) He sold the property in 1771 to Ebenezer Hollick and John Gifford of Boxwell, (fn. 126) who was lord of Wimbish with Foxton (fn. 127) in 1775 and was dead by 1795. (fn. 128) John Ingle, nephew of John Gifford, owned and occupied the manor in 1811, (fn. 129) until his death in 1832, when the property passed to Joseph Ellis. (fn. 130) In 1862 John Ingle Ellis became owner of Wimbish, and at his death in 1893 his executors kept his property in hand, letting part of the land to Frederick Beldam-Johns, the brother of William Fuller Nash-Woodham, the house and farm to M. F. V. Webber, and a smaller house to Mrs. Ellis, who retained the title of lady of the manor. The estate was divided and sold in 1902, and by 1904 Webber and Mrs. Ellis owned the property which they had formerly rented. Mrs. W. J. Chapman, the owner in 1970, bought the property in 1955 from Mr. Webber's daughter. (fn. 131)
A house at Wimbish in the 17th century (fn. 132) was replaced by a substantial three-storeyed structure of red brick, the oldest part probably dating from the later 18th century. (fn. 133) The main entrance was originally on the north side, approached from the old Shepreth-Foxton road, and an 18th-century pedimented doorway on that side has been removed. The present entrance front, facing in the opposite direction, was raised in height and given a classical porch and an embattled parapet in the middle of the 19th century. The house was enlarged c. 1900 and again c. 1954. (fn. 134)
In 1086 Hardwin de Scalers held 3½ hides in Shepreth which later became the manor of TYRELLS. The land had been held T.R.E. as two separate estates, ½ virgate belonging to the demesne of the church of Ely, and the remainder being held by five sokemen. Of the sokemen, one was the man of Earl Alfgar and held ½ hide and 1½ virgate. After 1086 the smaller estate was held of Hardwin by Hugh Pedefoot, and the larger by an unnamed knight. (fn. 135) When Hardwin died his estates were divided between his two sons Richard and Hugh. (fn. 136)
The overlordship of Richard's estate passed in turn to his son Stephen (d. 1168), to Stephen's son William (d. 1199), to William's son William (d. 1222), and to Richard (d. 1231), son of William the younger. Richard's only child Lucy married Baldwin de Freville (d. c. 1257). The Freville family retained the overlordship, and it passed to Baldwin's son Richard (d. 1299), and to Richard's son John (d. 1312). John's grandson John (d. 1372) (fn. 137) was overlord in 1346, (fn. 138) and John the younger's heir was his brother Robert. (fn. 139) Walter Martin, tenant in 1166 of ½ knight's fee under Stephen de Scalers (fn. 140) was succeeded by Robert Martin (d. after 1205), (fn. 141) who before 1200 gave 20 a. to Old Warden Abbey (Beds.). Simon Martin, tenant c. 1235, gave 40 a. of his fee to Chatteris Abbey c. 1259. In 1279 Simon's son Walter Martin held ½ fee of Richard de Freville, and Margery de la Haye held 40 a. as a free tenant of Richard. (fn. 142) In 1311 Walter Martin sold his Shepreth property to William FitzRalph and his son Ralph, (fn. 143) and in 1313 William FitzRalph held ½ fee of John de Freville. (fn. 144) In 1332 William FitzRalph, probably William's son, sold the reversion of an estate in Shepreth to Sir John de la Haye, (fn. 145) and in 1346 William de la Haye was holding of John de Freville a fee once held by Walter Martin. (fn. 146) The estate was probably merged with the other de la Haye estates in Shepreth.
Hugh de Scalers's estate descended in turn to his son Henry, and to Henry's son Hugh. Hugh's eldest son Henry died without issue in 1221, and his other son Geoffrey (d. 1284) inherited the overlordship which passed on his death to Thomas, son of his son Geoffrey (d. 1267). (fn. 147) Thomas's grandson Thomas was overlord in 1346. (fn. 148) The unnamed knight who held 2 hides at Shepreth in 1086 was probably Tibbald, who was a juror in the adjacent Thriplow hundred (fn. 149) and held other lands under Hardwin in Hertfordshire, which later descended with Shepreth. (fn. 150) He was succeeded by his son Fulk (fl. 1130), (fn. 151) whose son Tibbald held four fees under Henry de Scalers in 1166. (fn. 152) Tibbald died c. 1199, and was succeeded by his son Fulk, (fn. 153) who was sheriff of Cambridgeshire from 1207 to 1212, (fn. 154) and was dead by 1221 when his son Ralph inherited. (fn. 155) Although Bernard of Rouen was said to be tenant of ¼ fee under the Scalerses c. 1235, (fn. 156) Ralph son of Fulk held it of Geoffrey de Scalers in 1242–3. (fn. 157) Ralph was dead by 1251 when Geoffrey had the wardship of his land and heir. (fn. 158) Ralph's son Ralph was captured with the Montfortians at Kenilworth in 1265, and his lands were confiscated, but his wife Maud was temporarily granted Shepreth for her maintenance. (fn. 159) Ralph had recovered the manor by 1279 when he held ¼ fee in Shepreth. (fn. 160) In 1291 he settled the reversion after his death on his brother William FitzRalph, (fn. 161) who was holding the fee of Thomas de Scalers by 1303. (fn. 162) William settled most of his Cambridgeshire lands in 1313 on his son Ralph, (fn. 163) whose son Richard's son John was returned as lord of the manor as a minor in 1346 and died after 1348. (fn. 164) By 1349 the FitzRalph estate had passed to Elizabeth (d. 1394), perhaps John's sister, and her husband Edmund Flambard. (fn. 165) Their daughter and heir Eleanor (d. 1422) married Walter son of Sir Thomas Tyrell. (fn. 166) In 1428 the manor was held by their younger son Edward, who on his death in 1442 devised it to his nephew Thomas Tyrell, in case his own young son Edward should die without issue, as apparently happened. (fn. 167) Sir Thomas Tyrell held the manors of Shepreth, Meldreth, and Malton of the honor of Richmond in 1447, (fn. 168) and on his death in 1477 his grandson Thomas inherited. (fn. 169) In 1479 Thomas settled the estate on himself and his wife Beatrice, and was succeeded in 1510 by his son Thomas. (fn. 170) Sir Thomas died in 1540 and his son and heir John later the same year. John devised his lands to his brother Henry, who in 1575 with his son Thomas conveyed the manors of Shepreth Tyrells and Meldreth Flambards, which included land in Shepreth, to Anne, widow of John Tyrell, and later wife of Sir William Petre of Ingatestone (Essex). (fn. 171) Anne died in 1582, leaving them to her son Sir John Petre, later Lord Petre (d. 1613), who had possession of them in 1583. (fn. 172) Lord Petre's son, Sir William Petre, held Tyrells and Flambards at his death in 1637, (fn. 173) and in 1670 John Petre, one of William's sons, left both manors to his wife Elizabeth for life, and then to his nephew Edward, son of his brother George. (fn. 174) The manors descended to Edward's daughter Elizabeth and her husband Roger Dickinson, who were in possession in 1706. (fn. 175) In 1712 they conveyed the manors to Samuel Coxall and John Browne. (fn. 176) The manor of Tyrells remained in the Coxall family: in 1731 it was held by Samuel, son of Samuel Coxall, who left it to his son Samuel in 1744. (fn. 177) When the third Samuel Coxall came of age in 1759 he sold most of Tyrells to William Woodham. (fn. 178) Tyrells manor descended with the other Nash-Woodham estate in Shepreth, and was bought in 1953 by Col. Peter Storie-Pugh, the owner in 1970. (fn. 179)
Surviving moated sites at Tyrells (fn. 180) suggest that there were at least two successive manor-houses there during the Middle Ages. At the more northerly site, which had the significant name of Hallyards, (fn. 181) the rectangular moat is largely dry. Further south a more complete rectangular moat is associated with a larger partly moated enclosure on which the present house stands. The oldest part of the existing building appears to be the central block which is two-storeyed and has, facing north, a symmetrical 18th-century elevation of five bays with a pedimented doorcase. The north wall and parts of the side walls are timber-framed and plastered. There is some evidence that the house formerly incorporated other timber-framed structures which may have been of an earlier period. (fn. 182) The low service wing to the east, also partly timber-framed, was probably altered and extended in the early 19th century; its somewhat picturesque east end has a back door set centrally between two projecting three-sided bays. Soon afterwards the house was enlarged on the west side by a grey-brick addition. The south front was remodelled at the same time and given a formal brick elevation with a classical doorway and tall ground-floor windows. A partly weatherboarded stable block may date from the 18th century.
After inclosure in 1823 the Woodhams evidently took the opportunity to give their house a park-like setting by planting belts of trees and using the existing moats as ornamental water. A new approach was also made from the Royston road where a picturesque lodge was built as a single-storeyed structure with thatched roof, rustic verandah, and Gothic windows. It was much enlarged in a similar style and converted into a motel c. 1955. (fn. 183) A smaller thatched lodge stands at the eastern entrance to the property. Other ornamental features of the grounds are two summer-houses: one, south-east of the house, has a curved front with classical columns, while the other, which overlooks the remains of the moat at Hallyards, is faced with flint in a Gothic style and has a small turret. A further example of the Woodhams' taste at the period was Field Farm, demolished c. 1960. It was a square timber-framed building with a thatched roof and a central gable on each face; the design is said to have been copied from the owners' china. (fn. 184) A brick bath-house with a domed roof and sunk bath was still standing in the grounds of Tyrells Hall in 1970. (fn. 185)
Count Alan, lord of Richmond, held in 1086 1½ virgate, which had been held in 1066 by a man of King Edward, who could sell his land, by service of watch and ward. (fn. 186) By 1279 the estate had evidently passed to Ellis Burel, who held 27 a. of the prior of Campsey, of the fee of Brittany. Six free tenants occupied the land, three of whom were members of the Burel family. (fn. 187) The estate may have been absorbed into the other Richmond fee, Tyrells manor.
The Reed End estate was created in the 17th century by Robert Swann and his wife Elizabeth. It was a small estate comprising several smallholdings, and may later have been merged with Docwras manor. (fn. 188)
Although Shepreth had one inhabitant with mercantile connexions in 1279, (fn. 189) it has been an agricultural parish since the 11th century. Most of the land has been devoted to arable farming, and some stock kept. There were probably three open fields before inclosure: that in the north comprised Fillcup field, Church field, part of Wright's moor, and land to the west of the old Barrington-Melbourn road; that in the east comprised Barrington field and land north of Wimbish Manor; and that in the south comprised Carver field, part of Rush moor, and the land east of the old Barrington-Melbourn road. A common field lay between Tyrells Manor and the turnpike road west of the old Barrington-Melbourn road, and contained c. 100 a. in the late 18th century. (fn. 190)
The south-west corner of the parish was probably all rough grazing and waste, and the low-lying land along the north-east and north-west boundaries was probably waterlogged until a system of drainage was introduced. It is likely that Wright's moor had been reclaimed for cultivation by the 18th century, and by 1823 Rush moor and How moor were also arable. (fn. 191)
The centre of the village already contained several ancient inclosures by the time of the inclosure award in 1823. John Layer inclosed about half of Church field in 1625 and there were several other closes in the parish by 1626 including Bushey close and two closes called Kettles. (fn. 192) The land around Docwras manor-house was inclosed by William Woodham in 1764, when he also inclosed the land to the north of Tyrell's moat and around the village mill. (fn. 193) The ridges along the edge of Wright's moor and to the east of the old Barrington-Melbourn road, including Huckles close, were probably inclosed by then, as was the land north of Wimbish Manor.
By Domesday the estimated value of the parish had fallen from 129s. T.R.E. to 102s. There were 4 villani, 13 cottars, 5 bordars, and 2 servi in 1086. The peasants on the Chatteris estate had one plough between them. The largest estate was the Scalers fee, of which 2 hides had been held T.R.E. by 5 sokemen for two carrying and two watch services. It supported 2 villani, 9 cottars, and a servus in 1086. Chatteris Abbey's demesne contained almost half the estate and had ½ plough. There were 5 plough-lands in the vill and pasture for 4 oxen, 2 horses, and 21 sheep in addition to the 5 plough-teams. (fn. 194)
By the late 13th century most of the parish was divided between four estates, and that division persisted until the early 19th century when two of them were merged under the Woodhams. In 1279 c. 73 a. of the divided Scalers fee, held by Walter Martin, was occupied by 14 free tenants and 7 villeins. Under Ralph son of Ralph c. 46 a. of the Scalers fee was occupied by 11 free tenants and 2 villeins. William de la Haye's estate was one of the largest and contained 120 a. which supported 4 free tenants, 8 villeins, and 9 crofters. (fn. 195) The largest estate was that of Chatteris Abbey. The rectory estate had been valued at £23 in 1268 (fn. 196) but had dropped to £13 in 1291, (fn. 197) probably as a result of a grant of 40 a. to the vicarage c. 1249. The estate contained 160 a. in 1279 and was occupied by 3 free tenants, 15 villeins, and 7 crofters. In addition to the four main estates there was the Burel holding of 27 a. which may later have been merged with Tyrells manor.
Of the 38 free holdings in the parish, Margery de la Haye's was the largest and comprised 40 a. of the Martin estate, while the majority of free holdings averaged less than 10 a. There were 32 villeins with average holdings of c. 9 a., and 16 crofters who held 3 a. or less in addition to their crofts. (fn. 198) The copyholders were liable for payment of heriots. William Woodham, who held c. 164 a. by copy of Shepreth manor, was released from payment of heriots in 1792. (fn. 199) In 1897 the income from heriots in Shepreth manor averaged £2 3s. 4d. a year, and from quit-rents £9 10s. 6d. (fn. 200)
The rectory estate was valued at £10 a year in 1539 (fn. 201) and by 1823 had been absorbed into the other Shepreth estates of the Wortham family. In 1840 the rectory estate contained c. 193 a. and the tithes were commuted for a corn-rent of £300. The remaining Wortham estates comprised c. 224 a. (fn. 202) By 1823 Docwras and Tyrells were owned by William Woodham. A small estate of c. 70 a. called Wrayes had been added to Docwras in 1617, (fn. 203) and by 1840 the combined Woodham estates contained some 600 a.; Wimbish manor contained c. 264 a. (fn. 204)
The parish was inclosed under an Act of 1811, and the inclosure award was made in 1823. By the arrangement of exchanges landholders consolidated their allotments so that most of the land in the three larger fields was held by a few. Of the 289 a. in Fillcup field, William Woodham held 164 a.; of the 304 a. in Barrington field he owned 164 a., and John Ingle 132 a.; and in Rush moor and Carver field, which together contained c. 231 a., John Ingle owned 78 a. and William Woodham 139 a. There were about 20 copyhold tenants in the parish in 1823, 7 of whom held of Shepreth manor. (fn. 205) The three large estates were generally divided and leased to tenants. Henry Clear rented 510 a. from William Woodham. (fn. 206) Other freeholds were much smaller, usually under 100 a. There were several small freehold estates around the centre of the parish, including some of 1–2 a. which were formerly openfield strips.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the three large estates were divided up and sold. Wimbish, Docwras, and Tyrells Hall were separated from their large arable allotments and retained only those fields and gardens that lay close to the three houses. The county council disposed of the lands of Docwras and Tyrells in smallholdings and in 1970 the four largest each contained 80 a. (fn. 207) The Rectory farm retained the former rectorial glebe and in 1970 had 190 a. (fn. 208)
About 1800 the arable fields in Shepreth were let for 9s. an acre, and pasture for 20s. an acre which suggests that pasture was in short supply. (fn. 209) Of the tithable land in 1840 there were 960 a. of arable land, 200 a. of meadow and pasture, and 30 a. of woodland, composed mainly of plantations. The Woodham estate contained c. 22 a. of the plantations in the parish. (fn. 210) Arable farming had long accounted for the greatest area of land in the parish, and barley, wheat, and oats were favoured. Before 1626 saffron had been grown. (fn. 211) In the late 18th century about 300 sheep were kept and a cross-variety of Derbyshire cow was preferred. Turnips and clover were grown for fodder. (fn. 212) The bias toward arable farming persisted into the 20th century, and in 1970 wheat, barley, potatoes, and sugar-beet were grown. Tyrells Hall farm has specialized in pig-breeding since 1953, (fn. 213) and Wimbish had the only dairy herd in the parish in 1970 although there had been other herds earlier in the century. (fn. 214) A nursery garden was established south of the railway next to Edieham Cottages by 1906, and although disused by 1946 (fn. 215) the glass-houses were still standing in 1970.
In 1086 Chatteris Abbey and Hardwin de Scalers each had one mill in Shepreth and Geoffrey de Mandeville had two. (fn. 216) No later record has been found of Geoffrey's mills. (fn. 217) The abbey's mill was a water-mill which stood on Mill river near the Royston-Cambridge road. In 1871 it belonged to William Nash-Woodham, remaining with his trustees until Mr. F. Brightwell bought it c. 1927. (fn. 218) He still owned it in 1970. The last mill building on the site was burnt down in 1927. (fn. 219) It was a timber-framed and weatherboarded structure with a mansard roof, probably dating from c. 1800; (fn. 220) the iron water-wheel and sluice were still in position in 1970. The mill house is timber-framed and has a late-18th- or early-19th-century addition with a mansard roof. The mill was used primarily for grinding corn. Water-cress beds were established there in the 1930s. (fn. 221)
The mill of the Scalers fee was one of two mills held in 1632 by Sir William Petre, lord of Tyrells manor. (fn. 222) By 1836 Tyrells mill, which stood in the middle of the village on Mill river, was owned by William Nash-Woodham who let it to William Carver. (fn. 223) It had been described as a paper-mill in 1807, (fn. 224) and in 1858 was let to Jonah Payne, a member of a Shepreth family of millers. He also rented the Royston Road mill in 1891, (fn. 225) and had bought the village mill by 1911. (fn. 226) By 1929 the mill had become a tea-room. (fn. 227) It is a large late-18th- or early19th-century structure of brick and weatherboarded timber with a mansard roof, and was converted into a private house in 1959. (fn. 228) The water-wheel survived in 1970. At the former mill-house standing further east there are traces of medieval consstruction. (fn. 229) In 1804 Thomas Wallis bought land on the Barrington road, on which he had built a windmill, from William Woodham. (fn. 230) It descended to George Hawkins Wallis who owned it in 1844. The mill was used for corn-grinding in 1890, (fn. 231) but was disused by 1903 (fn. 232) and was demolished soon after.
Like its neighbours the parish contains coprolites, and licences to dig were given in 1870 and 1885. (fn. 233) By 1890 the Rhee Valley Cement Co. was established on the Barrington road, on land of the Woodham estate. (fn. 234) In 1899 the Royston Cement Co. opened a depot in the Shepreth railway sidings, (fn. 235) at the end of the tramway from its Barrington works which were closed c. 1904. (fn. 236) The East Anglian Cement Co. had opened a large cement works by 1891, north of the railway and covering c. 60 a. of the Ellis estate. (fn. 237) The Ingleside Chalk Works had been opened by 1903, north of the Cambridge-Royston road, next to the eastern boundary of the parish. (fn. 238) The works were connected by a tramway to the main East Anglian Cement works. On 7 March 1925 100 of the employees of the East Anglian Cement Co. began a strike which left large numbers of Shepreth men unemployed. The strike concerned basic rates of pay, and with union support lasted until 8 March 1926. (fn. 239) The losses sustained by the company probably contributed to the eventual closure of the Shepreth works. The Rhee Valley works had closed by 1937. (fn. 240)
A brick-kiln stood in the north-east corner of Barrington field and was owned by William NashWoodham. In 1840 he let it to John Phillips (fn. 241) but it was disused by 1887. (fn. 242) In 1891 the Nash-Woodhams also owned the village smithy, (fn. 243) which was still standing in 1946. (fn. 244) The short-lived Shepreth Motor Works, established by 1929, may have developed around the smithy. (fn. 245) In 1969 W. B. Blydenstein opened a specialist workshop for improving car engines in the station yard, (fn. 246) and in 1967 a small factory belonging to Grant Instruments Ltd. was opened, south of the railway and west of Station Road. (fn. 247)
LOCAL GOVERNMENT. There are court rolls for Shepreth manor 1492–1543 and 1708–1913, (fn. 248) for Docwras manor 1502–1862, (fn. 249) for Tyrells manor 1730–1923, (fn. 250) and for Wimbish 1691–1790. (fn. 251) Chatteris Abbey, which had view of frankpledge under the liberty of Ely in 1279 and 1299, (fn. 252) held a court leet and view of frankpledge for Foxton, Barrington, Madingley, and Shepreth. (fn. 253) Shepreth manor had a court leet and view of frankpledge in 1757, but later sessions were more frequently styled courts baron. (fn. 254) The hospital of St. John of Jerusalem had view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and ale in Docwras and Wimbish in 1279. (fn. 255) Docwras had a court leet and baron in 1502, but after 1627 only courts baron were recorded. (fn. 256) There were two constables in 1316. (fn. 257) In 1790 a constable and hayward were appointed by the Wimbish court. (fn. 258)
In the later 16th century there were two churchwardens. (fn. 259) A system of poor-relief involving the compulsory apprenticeship of paupers by selected householders operated in Shepreth in the 17th century and was enforced by the courts. (fn. 260) Expenditure on the poor had risen from £41 in 1776 to £174 by 1803, when 20 people received regular and 14 occasional relief. (fn. 261) In 1840 the town estate included a town house next to the church (fn. 262) which was probably a poorhouse; it was sold in 1869 for £82 and the interest used by the Royston guardians to alleviate the poor-rate. (fn. 263) In 1829 some land was let to labourers to grow potatoes, and in the same year coal was sold to the poor at a reduced price to alleviate hardship. (fn. 264) Shepreth joined the Royston poor law union in 1835, (fn. 265) and on the division of the Royston rural sanitary district in 1894 became part of the Melbourn R.D., (fn. 266) from which it was transferred to the South Cambridgeshire R.D. in 1934. (fn. 267)
Architectural evidence shows that Shepreth church had been built by the mid 12th century. In 1214 Chatteris Abbey successfully asserted its claim to the advowson of the vicarage, (fn. 268) and by 1215 had been confirmed as appropriator of the great tithes; (fn. 269) no rectorial land has been identified apart from Shepreth manor. Chatteris retained the advowson until the Dissolution. In 1536, by grant of the abbess in 1533, a vicar was presented by Robert Cooper, John Parry, and Robert Day. (fn. 270) The advowson and rectory were granted to Edward Elrington in 1543 (fn. 271) and thereafter descended together. Mary Aiscough presented for one turn in 1604, (fn. 272) and after the death of William Layer in 1717 his daughters and their husbands, Elizabeth and Berney Branthwaite, and Susan and John Eyre, presented alternately. (fn. 273) Hale Wortham was patron as lord of Shepreth manor, but John Mowbray presented in 1749, and the dean and chapter of Ely presented for one turn in 1788. (fn. 274) The advowson descended with the manor to the Revd. B. H. L. Wortham, who was himself vicar from 1915 to 1927. (fn. 275) After his death in 1928 the rectorial estate was divided and sold, (fn. 276) and in 1934 the trustees of Henry Watkins Wells held the advowson. John Nash-Woodham was patron in 1935 (fn. 277) and a Mrs. Gardiner by 1953. (fn. 278) The bishop of Ely became patron in 1955. (fn. 279)
In 1249 the abbess granted the vicar 40 a. of arable land and 20s. a year, in addition to the small tithes. (fn. 280) The vicarage was valued at £6 11s. 1d. in 1535 (fn. 281) and in 1615 the vicarial glebe contained 13½ a. (fn. 282) The living was valued at £23 in 1650 (fn. 283) and at £50 by 1800. (fn. 284) The vicarage had the small tithes in 1809 excluding the tithe of hay, (fn. 285) and in 1823 the glebe contained 13½ a. (fn. 286) In 1840 the vicar's tithes were commuted for a tithe-rent-charge of £92. (fn. 287)
The vicarage was described in 1561 and 1663 as being in a state of great disrepair. (fn. 288) By 1727 its condition had improved although it was a 'sorry building, thatched, with mud walls'. (fn. 289) In 1783 it was described as a quite large house. (fn. 290) In the early 19th century the vicarage was an L-shaped, timberframed building with a thatched roof. In 1854, after a fire, the south wing was rebuilt in yellow brick and in 1966 the old east wing was also replaced. (fn. 291)
In 1374 the vicar was too ill to perform his duties, and a curate was appointed. (fn. 292) Between 1463 and 1473 five successive incumbents held the living, including a canon of Barnwell. (fn. 293) Richard Wardrop was an absentee vicar in 1567, and no curate was recorded during his incumbency. (fn. 294) Thomas Pilkington at his death in 1601 had been vicar for 32 years. (fn. 295) In 1607 the former schoolmaster, Edward Heneage, became curate, (fn. 296) and in 1620 there was a curate of Shepreth who was also paid to officiate at Malton. (fn. 297) A parish clerk was paid 30s. a year in 1638, his duties including the prevention of unreasonable bell-ringing. Communion was then being celebrated three times a year, there was a service each Sunday, and evensong twice a week. (fn. 298) In 1685 the railings around the altar had not been restored. (fn. 299) After 1725 (fn. 300) no curate was recorded although the living was held by non-resident fellows of colleges. Several vicars had at least one other benefice. Thomas Robins Ellis lived at his other vicarage at Melbourn in 1775, (fn. 301) and Robert Warlock at his at Whaddon in 1807, performing Sunday services alternately at Whaddon and Shepreth. (fn. 302) In 1825 there were three or four communicants, (fn. 303) and in 1836 there was no resident minister. (fn. 304) In 1853 W. Dixon took up residence in the glebe house, (fn. 305) and in 1851 the average congregation for morning service was 30, and for the afternoon service 100. (fn. 306) There were 26 communicants by 1897 and communion was given at least once a month. (fn. 307) Beginning with the 1918 Remembrance service, combined services with the Shepreth Congregational church were held in the parish church from time to time, until the closure of the Congregational church in 1964. (fn. 308) Thereafter regular joint Sunday services were held with Melbourn Congregational church. (fn. 309)
The church of ALL SAINTS, so called in 1498, (fn. 310) has a chancel, nave with south aisle, and a low west tower with a pyramidal roof. The tower is of clunch ashlar, the chancel is plastered externally, and the nave and aisle walls are of yellow 19thcentury brick. The narrow chancel arch dates from the earlier 12th century. Facing the nave it has a single roll moulding corresponding to a shaft on each of the jambs below; the imposts are chamfered and moulded and there are traces of volute ornament to one capital. The jambs of the north doorway are similar in character but its pointed arch suggests that it may be of later date. South of the chancel arch is a large recess with a trefoiled and heavilymoulded 13th-century arch, and at the back of the recess an unglazed 14th-century window of two lights was later inserted, perhaps to give a view of the chancel altar from the south aisle; the recess is presumably the chantry chapel mentioned in the early 17th century. (fn. 311) A blank 13th-century recess north of the chancel arch is partly obstructed by the nave wall. In the chancel a trefoil-headed piscina is probably a 19th-century copy. The chancel was rebuilt early in the 17th century (fn. 312) and partly rebuilt at a later period; it formerly had a north doorway. (fn. 313) The east window, with altered tracery, and the square-headed south window have existed in much their present form at least since the 18th century. (fn. 314)
The south aisle may have been added in the 13th century, for its arcade is of 13th-century character, the arch mouldings of two orders, each with a double hollow chamfer, being similar to those at Barrington church. (fn. 315) The arcade has four and a half bays, the half-bay at the west end perhaps designed to give abutment to an earlier tower; alternatively the aisle may have been truncated when the tower was built. Another sign of possible modification of the arcade is the absence of matching bases to the quatrefoil piers, the existing bases being apparently of re-used material. The windows in the nave and aisle all date from a 19th-century restoration of the church, but a single lancet at the east end of the north wall may replace an original one of the 13th century. The aisle windows formerly contained the arms of Engaine. (fn. 316) The late-14th- or 15th-century tower, from which the belfry stage is missing, has a large west window with Perpendicular tracery, angle buttresses at the base, and a north stair turret.
The church was reroofed in 1635, (fn. 317) a date which is carved on one of the arch-braced tie-beams of the nave. By 1685 the church needed tiling, plastering, and repointing; the pulpit was cracked and the seats broken. (fn. 318) The tower was complete in 1743; there were two-light windows to the belfry stage, an embattled parapet, and a large spire, and against its south wall was a low projecting structure with a porch. (fn. 319) In 1774, the tower having cracked and two bells fallen, the spire was removed; at the same time the south wall of the church was rebuilt, narrowing the aisle by three feet. (fn. 320) The chancel was remodelled or extensively repaired in 1777. (fn. 321) In 1853 the tower was lowered and presumably given its pyramidal roof. (fn. 322) An extensive restoration of the fabric in 1870 (fn. 323) involved the rebuilding or refacing of the north and south walls with yellow brick and the insertion of new windows in the Early English style. The north porch and the two Perpendicular windows which flanked it were destroyed, (fn. 324) but the original north doorway was evidently reinstated.
The church contains a 13th-century stone coffinlid with a foliated cross, found at Manor Farm in 1953. (fn. 325) The eight-sided font bowl, of the 12th or 13th century, has a carved volute at the base of each short diagonal side; it is supported on five shafts of the 13th century. There are four late medieval poppyhead finials fitted to 19th-century pews, one carved with the head of an abbess. In the chancel are monuments to John Layer (d. 1706) and Berney Branthwaite (d. 1730).
There were seven bells and a sanctus bell in the mid 16th century. (fn. 326) Two bells that fell and were broken were sold in 1774 to cover the cost of repairs to the church. (fn. 327) By 1883 three bells remained, (fn. 328) and only two by 1970, one of 1700 by Richard Keene, the other, which was cracked, of 1623 by William Haulsey. (fn. 329) The church had no plate in the mid 16th century (fn. 330) but in 1970 possessed a fine silver chalice made in 1569 by Thomas Buttell. In 1743 Elizabeth Branthwaite presented a paten to the church, extant in 1970. The registers date from 1559. The churchyard was enlarged by 1/6 a. from the glebe in 1964. (fn. 331)
From the later 17th century Shepreth had a strong tradition of religious nonconformity. In 1665 seven people were convicted for absence from church, (fn. 332) and 39 nonconformists were recorded in the parish in 1676. (fn. 333) Six people were presented in 1679 for absence from church, (fn. 334) and in 1686 eight people were summoned apparently for refusing to pay church rates. (fn. 335) In 1728 it was said that there were many dissenters, that nobody was sent to be catechized, but that there was no meeting-house. (fn. 336) Places for Protestant nonconformist worship were registered in 1730 (fn. 337) and in 1736, (fn. 338) and in 1775 most of the inhabitants were thought to be dissenters. (fn. 339)
Shepreth dissenters attended a meeting-house in Melbourn in 1783, when they were said to comprise about half the inhabitants, including the principal occupiers. (fn. 340) Many dissenters were recorded in 1807, (fn. 341) and further places of worship were registered in 1812, (fn. 342) 1816, (fn. 343) and 1818. (fn. 344) In 1825 children and servants were not sent to be catechized, though there was said to be no regular teacher or place of worship for the large number of dissenters. (fn. 345) In 1836 dissenters occupied all the land in the parish except the glebe. (fn. 346)
During the earlier 19th century a barn was used for Sunday evening services and prayer meetings during the week, and also for a Sunday school established by nonconformist teachers from Melbourn, which was later taught by residents of Shepreth. (fn. 347) It was apparently the same building that the Independents used as a meeting-place in 1851, when there was an estimated congregation of 50 besides c. 40 Sunday school children. (fn. 348) A site for a chapel was acquired in 1856, (fn. 349) the new Independent chapel was registered in the same year, (fn. 350) and it was enlarged c. 1863. The Sunday school was transferred to the new chapel when the old building was burned down, apparently in the 1860s. (fn. 351) From 1858 to 1873 the Shepreth chapel was listed as an out-station of the Independent church at Melbourn, and from 1888 to 1891 as a preaching station. (fn. 352) More than a third of the inhabitants were said to be dissenters in 1897. (fn. 353)
In 1901 the chapel became the Shepreth Free Church, to include Congregational, Baptist, and other Free Church worshippers, (fn. 354) and in 1912 it joined the Cambridgeshire Congregational Union. (fn. 355) A Sunday school was built at the back of the chapel c. 1916. By her will proved in 1918 Miss NashWoodham left £600 in trust for the chapel. (fn. 356)
Thirty members were recorded in 1902, but in 1963 there were only ten, (fn. 357) and the chapel was closed in the following year. The building was sold and it was used as a furniture store in 1970, when the remainder of the congregation used the Melbourn Congregational church and an interdenominational service was held regularly in Shepreth parish church. (fn. 358)
In 1783 the stipend of a schoolmaster was charged on the estate of Hale Wortham, and a school built by a deceased member of the Wortham family was used as a poorhouse. The schoolmaster was a gamekeeper who kept a public house, where the children were taught. He was not a dissenter, never went to church, and did not ensure that the children went. The school was apparently for children whose parents paid less than £4 rent a year. (fn. 361) Attendance rose from about 20 in 1818 (fn. 362) to 42 in 1833, (fn. 363) and the school was still supported by a member of the Wortham family in 1836. (fn. 364) It has not been traced later.
A British school was established in 1836, (fn. 365) apparently in the building used for Independent worship, (fn. 366) and it remained the private property of the Nash-Woodham family until 1903. (fn. 367) A new school was built in 1843, (fn. 368) and in 1859 W. NashWoodham and his son W. F. Nash-Woodham gave the site of a reading room, on the east side of Frog End road. (fn. 369) A new school was built beside the reading room in 1868 and 1869. In 1871 the teacher was not certificated, there was one schoolroom but no teacher's house, and the school was supported by school pence and voluntary contributions. In 1874 the only source of income was school pence, and it was apparently W. Nash-Woodham who made up any deficiencies in income in both years. (fn. 370) An annual government grant was received from 1874 onwards. The reading room became a classroom in 1901, and there was a separate room for infants by 1905. (fn. 371) An evening school in receipt of a government grant was recorded between 1894 and 1904. (fn. 372)
In 1903 the school premises were conveyed to trustees, including five members of the NashWoodham family. They were leased to the county council in 1904, when the school became a council school. In 1909 the school and the reading room were sold to the county council. (fn. 373) Average attendance increased from 32 in 1876 (fn. 374) to 90 in 1904. (fn. 375) The school was a junior mixed and infants' school by 1932, (fn. 376) and average attendance was 29 in 1938. (fn. 377) There were 40 pupils in 1970, when children over 11 went to Melbourn village college. (fn. 378)
Charities for the Poor.
Shepreth was one of 12 places to benefit under Lettice Martin's gift in 1564 of 60 a. in Chrishall (Essex), confirmed by her will proved in 1575. The payment to Shepreth was originally specified as 6s. 8d., (fn. 379) but it was 13s. 4d. in 1783, (fn. 380) and by 1836 £1 6s. was distributed to those poor who were not in receipt of parish relief. The yearly sum had risen to £2 8s. 6d. by 1864. (fn. 381) Shepreth's share of the endowment was represented in 1959 by £53 stock, which produced a gross income of £1 6s. in 1961, when no distribution was made.
Town crofts were mentioned in 1626, (fn. 382) the payment of town rents was recorded intermittently from 1729, and the inclosure award of 1823 allotted c. 11 a. to the trustees of the town estate. In 1837 the net annual rent of c. £13 was distributed mainly in coal to the poor. In 1859 the land was let to c. 40 people, each paying 8s. a year, and there was dissatisfaction about the distribution of the rent. The income of £17 was distributed in fuel in 1864. (fn. 383) There was great difficulty in letting the allotments in 1936, and in 1961 the annual rent was about £33, of which £20 was distributed in Christmas coal.
At inclosure in 1823 18½ a. called the L moor were allotted in trust as pasture for cottagers occupying less than 10 a. In 1837 the land was so used and in 1847 60 people had grazing rights. (fn. 384) The Royston and Hitchin Railway Co. paid £125 c. 1849 for part of the L moor. The money was apparently placed in a savings bank in Cambridge, and in 1859 there was some dissatisfaction over its use. By 1894 the money was invested in stock, the income was spent on maintenance, and there was considerable difficulty in deciding who was entitled to benefit under the 1823 award. The trustees made rules for the management of the L moor in 1896, but in 1902 their legal power to do so was questioned. A Scheme of 1905 directed that the charity should be for bona fide occupiers of cottages built in or before 1882, and that the trustees might let pasture to residents. By 1959 the L moor was virtually derelict, and there were no qualified cottagers who wished to exercise their grazing rights. (fn. 385) A Scheme combining the L moor with other charities (fn. 386) allowed the land to be let for normal agricultural purposes, and the poor to be helped with any surplus income. The L moor was let in 1964 and 1965 as rough grazing, and £100 was invested in stock in 1966. (fn. 387) In 1970 the status of the L moor was in doubt because in 1969 the tenants had provisionally registered it as a common under the Commons Registration Act, 1965.
Shortly before his death in 1876 William NashWoodham expressed the wish that his executors should invest £200 in stock for a Christmas coal charity which was formally established in 1887. In 1961 £5 10s., the gross income of the charity, was distributed in coal.
The four charities described above were combined as the Shepreth Charities for the Poor by a Scheme of 1966. The trustees were required to use the net income for the poor of the parish in specified ways. The Shepreth 1966 Charity was established by an anonymous donor who in that year gave £1,000 on trust that at least half the yearly income should be accumulated as a contingency fund, and that the remainder should be spent for the same purposes as the income of the Shepreth Charities for the Poor.
In 1783 it was reported that the parish officers received £9 a year from 14 a., which were said to have been given for the sick poor. There was no account of the distribution. (fn. 388)