A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
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The parish of Hildersham, (fn. 1) covering 1,511 a., (fn. 2) lies 9 miles south-east of Cambridge, and extends from the line of the ancient Wool Street in the north to the Essex county boundary. The river Granta, flowing from south-east to north-west across the centre of the parish, divides it into two unequal parts. That to the south narrows towards its southern extremity. The river follows a winding course, except that where it passes through the village it was straightened c. 1889 after inclosure. (fn. 3) East of the village a tongue of Linton parish penetrates between two channels of the river to include the former Hildersham mill. To the west minor branches of the river meander through meadows, one formerly called Sluice meadow. (fn. 4) Except for the strip of alluvium and gravel along the river, Hildersham lies mostly upon chalk, overlaid on parts of the higher ground to north and south by boulder clay and glacial gravels. To the south the ground rises from a level area below 200 ft. to over 325 ft. at the county boundary. North of the river a shallow valley runs north-east between slopes rising to over 250 ft. The open fields of the parish, which has been devoted mainly to arable farming, were not formally divided until 1889, under the last inclosure award for the county. Even thereafter, since the bulk of the land was allotted to a single owner, few hedges were planted.
In 1086 Hildersham contained woodland for 20 pigs. (fn. 5) Hildersham wood by the Essex boundary was probably much reduced by assarting, as the curved shapes of ancient closes lying north of it suggest. (fn. 6) In 1279 it was said to cover 20 a., (fn. 7) in 1308 30 a. (fn. 8) In 1777 its estimated area was 21 a., (fn. 9) in 1849 and 1922 18½ a. (fn. 10) The extensive plantations in the park around Hildersham Hall, amounting by 1849 to 18 a., were laid out only in the 1810s on former old inclosures. (fn. 11) A wooded area just north of the river, called the Alder Carr, which covered only 3 a. in 1799, (fn. 12) had by c. 1850 been extended over former water-meadows to cover c. 15 a. (fn. 13)
Hildersham was among the least populous parishes in the Granta valley. In 1086 20 people were enumerated, (fn. 14) in 1327 there were 32 tax-payers, (fn. 15) and in 1377 47 adults. (fn. 16) In 1429 there were said to be only 6 resident householders. (fn. 17) In 1524 23 people were assessed to the subsidy, (fn. 18) and in 1563 there were only 17 households. (fn. 19) The population probably declined even further in the early 17th century, but had recovered by the 1660s. (fn. 20) In 1676 there were 72 adults, (fn. 21) and in 1728 32 families included 152 people. (fn. 22) The population began to grow again in the 1770s, (fn. 23) and rose slowly from 170 in 1801 to 248 by 1851; despite a temporary reduction in 1861, ascribed to emigration, it still stood at 245 in 1881. A gradual decline thereafter accelerated, numbers falling from 201 to 146 between 1911 and 1916, and after recovering to 181 by 1931 the population grew only slowly from 148 in 1951 to 177 in 1971. (fn. 24)
The village lies along a street which joins the two roads between Linton and the Abingtons that run along the valley on opposite sides of the river. Hildersham church and one manor-house stand north of the river, the other manor-house, later Hildersham Hall, south of the river. Before the 1880s the river was crossed by a ford, and when the water was high the two halves of the village were virtually cut off from one another. (fn. 25) The first bridge was built of iron in 1886 at the expense of the rector's sister, Elizabeth Hemington. (fn. 26) North of the river the street widened between the church and manor-house into the town green, of c. 4 a. in 1777. (fn. 27) Another smaller green lay close to the southern manor-house. On it there stood by 1682 the village forge, (fn. 28) in use until the 1930s and demolished in 1946. (fn. 29)
Apart from the manor-houses and rectory the village contained in the 1660s two or three farmhouses with 7 hearths. The other 20 or so dwellings were mostly cottages, only 4 having even 3 hearths. (fn. 30) The 26 houses recorded in 1801 were mostly divided, for they accommodated 45 families. (fn. 31) In 1807 there were said to be 4 farm-houses and c. 30 cottages. (fn. 32) The latter lay along the street in two groups, close to each manor-house, and separated by the area most liable to flooding. The farmsteads, which stood back from the street, (fn. 33) included Burford's Farm, named after an 18th-century village family, (fn. 34) which is an L-shaped, timber-framed, brick-fronted house of the late 17th or early 18th century. (fn. 35) The most ancient house surviving in Hildersham is Withleigh, a long, two-storeyed, timber-framed building of the 16th century, perhaps originally a guildhall; it has an overhang, and an early fireplace. (fn. 36) A few other timber-framed, thatched cottages survive, but most of the older buildings are Victorian cottages, of brick and flint or plastered, with slate roofs. The number of houses grew slowly from 29 in 1821 to 56 in 1871 and then fell. (fn. 37) In 1883 the rector thought most of the cottages damp and unwholesome because they lay too close to the river. (fn. 38) New building, mainly council houses opposite Hildersham Hall, enlarged the village from 42 to 55 houses between 1921 and 1931, but there were still only 59 in 1961 (fn. 39) and no expansion was planned; (fn. 40) there was some in-filling, mainly with bungalows, in the 1960s.
Of the two roads along the valley that south of the river was turnpiked in 1765 and disturnpiked in 1876. (fn. 41) About 1969 it was widened, and diverted at its western end, when the Abington by-pass was built. (fn. 42) Two fieldways, called in the 19th century Pen road and Wood road, led south from the village, and were crossed by Pampisford and Sawston ways. The road leading north from Hildersham forked into Newmarket way and Balsham way. (fn. 43) South of the river the Cambridge-Haverhill line was opened in 1865 and closed in 1967. (fn. 44)
The village feast expired in the 1890s, but the horkeys or harvest-suppers and the May-day celebrations survived until c. 1914, and men were still going round on Plough Monday, cracking whips and collecting money, in the 1930s. (fn. 45) Until inclosure the villagers had used Night common, where the street crossed the river, for cricket and other sports after the hay was cut. The inclosure award allotted 8 a. of the adjacent Midsummer meadow for a recreation ground. (fn. 46) The rector had set up a parish library by 1897 (fn. 47) and a cottage was hired in 1906 as a reading-room. (fn. 48) A village hut was built in 1920. (fn. 49)
A conical Roman burial-mound, 190 ft. round, and resembling those opposite Bartlow, survived in Dovehouse close west of the church until 1852. It had once been used as the site for the maypole. (fn. 50)
Manors and Other Estates.
The manor of HILDERSHAM, held before the Conquest by King Edward's thegn Wulfwin, had been granted by 1086 to Aubrey de Vere, (fn. 51) whose descendants probably held it in demesne until the mid 12th century. (fn. 52) Their overlordship was formally recorded until the early 17th century. (fn. 53) By 1166 Hildersham was held under Aubrey de Vere, earl of Oxford, by Richard de Camville, (fn. 54) who divided the manor, settling half upon his daughter Maud's marriage to William de Ros. (fn. 55) The result was a distinction, which lasted until the early 14th century, between the two moieties or manors, later called Overhall (or Upperhall) and Netherhall manors, (fn. 56) which apparently remained c. 1300 a single unit of jurisdiction. (fn. 57)
The NETHERHALL estate, which c. 1800 lay south of the river, (fn. 58) was evidently that which passed to Richard de Camville's son, whose successor c. 1279 had 20 a. of wood, presumably Hildersham wood. (fn. 59) Richard de Camville died in 1176. (fn. 60) His son and heir Gerard (fn. 61) was disputing the advowson of Hildersham with Maud de Ros in 1210, (fn. 62) and died c. 1214. Gerard's son and heir Richard (fn. 63) died probably in 1217, leaving as heir his daughter Idony. Idony's wardship was granted to William Longspee, earl of Salisbury, who by 1226 had married her to his son William (fn. 64) (d. 1250). (fn. 65) The moiety or manor, over which the mesne lordship of the Longspees' heirs was recorded up to 1285, (fn. 66) was subinfeudated, probably by 1228, to a follower of the Longspees, John le Daneys, (fn. 67) whose wife Philippa was said to hold it c. 1236. (fn. 68) John died in 1241, leaving as heirs two daughters under age, Joan (d. s.p. 1245) and Ela, whose guardian Nicholas de Boleville had married her to his son William by 1254 when she and William were granted free warren at Hildersham. (fn. 69) Ela apparently died without surviving issue for by 1269 the moiety or manor had come to Isabel, (fn. 70) daughter of Robert Grimbald and John le Daneys's sister Maud, (fn. 71) and formerly wife of Richard Pauncefoot (d. after 1262). (fn. 72) Isabel held the manor in 1274 and died after 1277. (fn. 73) By 1279 her son Grimbald Pauncefoot held that moiety. (fn. 74) He was granted free warren there in 1281 (fn. 75) and died in 1287. His son and heir Grimbald (fn. 76) had by 1288 granted his part for life to the judge Ralph Hengham (d. 1311). (fn. 77) In 1308 Grimbald's title was challenged by Brice le Daneys of Tickencote (Rut.), as male heir of the Daneys family. (fn. 78) Before his death in 1314 Grimbald had apparently sold his Hildersham estate to William le Busteler, who by 1316 had bought out the claims of Grimbald's brother and heir Emery, named as lord in that year. (fn. 79) William's ancestors, William le Busteler (d. c. 1250) and Robert (killed c. 1266), had held a small estate at Hildersham. (fn. 80) Busteler was succeeded c. 1334 by his son Robert, (fn. 81) who had held the other moiety of the manor since 1316 (fn. 82) and thus reunited the two.
What was evidently the OVERHALL or UPPERHALL estate, north of the river, (fn. 83) was held from before 1185 to after 1210 by Maud de Ros, who survived her husband, William de Ros (d. by 1185) (fn. 84) of Horton (Kent), and her son William (d. probably c. 1190). (fn. 85) She was eventually succeeded by her grandson William de Ros, who was of age by 1210 and died in 1223. (fn. 86) His eldest son William held that moiety c. 1236 (fn. 87) and had died without issue by 1243, leaving a widow Godehold, who had brought her dower land there to her second husband Hugh of Windsor by 1250. William's heir, his brother Richard, (fn. 88) was dead by January 1246, whereupon his lands were divided between his sisters and heirs, Maud, whom in that year Henry III married to Geoffrey de Percy, a member of his household, and Lora, who the same year married Gilbert Kirkby (d. by 1258). (fn. 89) In 1249 Geoffrey and Maud granted 1 carucate at Hildersham, with the reversion of Godehold's dower, to Roger de Ros, (fn. 90) Henry III's tailor, who was granted free warren there in 1251 (fn. 91) and died in 1257. (fn. 92) By 1262 his sisters and heirs Thomasine and Emmeline had granted that estate to Henry le Fleming, (fn. 93) who complained in 1268 that Percy had disseised him of land at Hildersham during the recent civil war. (fn. 94) Maud died, apparently without issue, in 1273, (fn. 95) whereupon her interest passed to the Kirkbys. In 1248 Gilbert Kirkby and Lora had granted ¼ knight's fee at Hildersham to Alan Kirkby, (fn. 96) to whom Geoffrey de Percy released his share of the manor in 1270, (fn. 97) and who died soon after. Possession of Alan's manor was thereupon disputed between Isabel Pauncefoot and the earl of Oxford, its overlord. (fn. 98) By 1274 the Kirkby manor was held of Lora de Ros under the earl by Gilbert Kirkby, (fn. 99) perhaps the justice of that name who died in 1294. (fn. 100) By 1297 the manor had come to Walter Kirkby, (fn. 101) whose daughter and heir Margaret was said to hold half the vill in 1299. (fn. 102) She was probably dead by 1310, when Roger Kirkby (d. 1313), son by John Kirkby of Margaret, daughter and eventual heir of Lora de Ros, had succeeded to her Kentish lands. (fn. 103) By 1316 the Ros moiety of Hildersham had passed to Robert le Busteler, (fn. 104) who c. 1334 succeeded his father William in the other moiety, as mentioned above, and died in 1366. (fn. 105)
Four of Robert's five coheirs sold four-fifths of his lands to Robert Parys (fn. 106) (d. c. 1377), (fn. 107) who was succeeded in them by his younger son Robert. The younger Robert died holding those four-fifths in 1408, leaving as heir Catherine, the infant daughter of his eldest son Robert. (fn. 108) She was said to hold Overhall manor in 1412, (fn. 109) but probably died soon after (fn. 110) and was succeeded by her uncle Henry (d. 1427), who also acquired the other fifth from his uncle Nicholas's executors c. 1425. (fn. 111) From Henry Parys Hildersham manor descended with the Bustelers manors in Linton and Duxford in the male line of the Paryses until the 1670s. (fn. 112) From 1523 to 1542 it was occupied as part of her jointure by Margaret, widow of John Parys (d. 1517), (fn. 113) and in 1544 by Elizabeth, daughter-in-law of Sir Philip Parys (d. 1558), and her second husband Sir William Cavendish. (fn. 114) When Philip Parys died in 1672, Hildersham was not sold with his other lands, but under his will passed for life to his mother Anne, widow of John Parys (d. 1667), who had married secondly Sir Joseph Colston (d. 1675). (fn. 115) She held Hildersham until her death in 1706. (fn. 116) The heirs-at-law were then the grandchildren of John Parys's five sisters. One of them, Sir Francis Andrews, Bt. (d. 1759), descended from two of the sisters, (fn. 117) bought out the other coheirs in 1706. (fn. 118)
In 1747, his son William being insane, Sir Francis settled Hildersham upon his daughter Bridget's marriage to Philip Southcote (fn. 119) (d. 1758). (fn. 120) Bridget died in 1783, having settled the manor upon her kinsman Robert Edward Petre, Lord Petre (fn. 121) (d. 1801). (fn. 122) In 1798 or 1799 Lord Petre sold Hildersham to the Cambridge banker John Mortlock, (fn. 123) who resold it c. 1811 to Thomas Fassett, (fn. 124) upon whose death it was again sold in 1820 (fn. 125) to Col. J. P. Hamilton. He owned it until c. 1828, when it was acquired by James Barker, vicar of Great Abington 1829–35. (fn. 126) In 1839 Barker sold it to Lt. Alexander Cotton, R.N., who sold it in 1849. (fn. 127) It was bought by 1850 by Edward Huddleston (d. 1852), whose son and heir Ferdinand (fn. 128) by acquiring the Stutfield estate (fn. 129) came to own virtually the whole parish, which descended with his Sawston estate (fn. 130) until 1922 when it was sold (fn. 131) to James Binney. Hildersham descended with Binney's Pampisford estate, (fn. 132) and in 1973 belonged to Mr. H. B. Binney. (fn. 133)
Hildersham Hall stands approximately on the site of the former Netherhall farm-house, (fn. 134) which probably survives as a two-storeyed range behind the main block of the Hall. The Hall, built c. 1807 to designs by Edward Lapidge, is a stuccoed villa, five bays by three, of two storeys with an attic. It has a porch at the south-east corner, a portico facing west towards a lake, and a central staircase-hall lit by a glass lantern. (fn. 135) Thomas Fassett probably laid out, on ground still divided c. 1810 into closes, (fn. 136) the park of 72 a., which includes an artificial lake and several plantations. Under the Huddlestons the Hall was usually let, (fn. 137) and in 1879 the Hall and park were sold to J. K. Thornton (d. c. 1904), whose widow occupied them until 1922. (fn. 138) They were then sold to Lady E. F. Miller, who lived there until c. 1930, (fn. 139) and in 1931 to F. W. Rhodes (d. 1938), a nephew of Cecil Rhodes. (fn. 140) About 1939 the Hall passed to the Rhodes Trust, which still owned it in 1973, when it was occupied by Miss G. M. Rhodes. (fn. 141)
The farm-house belonging to the Upperhall estate, north of the river, which was sometimes called Hildersham Hall in the 18th century (fn. 142) but later Manor Farm, includes a timber-framed, L-shaped, two-storey range, probably of c. 1600. Its north wing has a gabled overhang. An eastwards extension in brick probably dates from the early 18th century, and a brick wing north of the last was added in the early 19th. It was disused by 1973 and was sold soon after. (fn. 143) The name of Dovehouse close across the road (fn. 144) suggests the former manorial status of the house.
By 1546 King's College owned an estate at Hildersham, held of the Paryses' manor, (fn. 145) which it had probably acquired with its lands at Abington c. 1450. In 1583 the college had c. 50 a. at Hildersham, c. 1840 53 a., (fn. 146) which were sold in 1859 to Robert Goodwin, rector of Hildersham. (fn. 147) After his death in 1899 his sisters and heirs Sarah (d. 1909) and Frances (d. 1910) (fn. 148) vested the property in 1901 in trustees for the benefit of the church, who sold it in 1918. (fn. 149)
By 1800 virtually all the copyhold land in the parish had come into a single ownership. Its largest component derived originally from the Hildersham land acquired by Thomas Dalton (fn. 150) (d. 1602), who left his estate to his third son George (fn. 151) (d. 1638). (fn. 152) In 1649 George's sons Thomas and John sold it to Thomas Puckering, (fn. 153) whose land was sold in 1672 after his death to William Eedes, rector of Horseheath (d. 1709). (fn. 154) Eedes's son Francis sold c. 85 a. in 1709 to Thomas Rickard (fn. 155) (d. 1733), whose brother and heir John (fn. 156) sold them in 1739 to the unorthodox divine Conyers Middleton. When Dr. Middleton died at Hildersham in 1750 he left over 230 a. to his widow Anne; Anne sold them in 1751 to Thomas Hanway and Hanway in 1753 to Thomas Rumbold Hall. (fn. 157) Hall, who owned c. 313 a. by 1795, besides leasing the King's College estate, (fn. 158) died in 1799. His son Thomas sold his estate, probably in 1800, to John Burgoyne, (fn. 159) who had inherited from his father John (d. 1786) c. 90 a., bought in 1776 from William and Mary Fairchild, (fn. 160) and had himself acquired in 1795 c. 95 a., formerly owned by the Offord family, (fn. 161) and in 1798 the land of John, son of William Burgoyne (d. 1793). (fn. 162) At his death in 1827 John Burgoyne owned c. 550 a., which he left to his daughter Mary, who in 1829 married William Stutfield, (fn. 163) a London wine-merchant. In 1865 Stutfield and his wife sold their property to Ferdinand Huddleston. (fn. 164)
The substantial house attached to the Burgoyne estate in a close just north of the river was probably on the site of the seven-hearth house occupied in 1664 by Thomas Puckering. (fn. 165) It was rebuilt or enlarged by Conyers Middleton c. 1750, (fn. 166) and in the mid 19th century, when it was called the Rookery, comprised two blocks, with a five-bay Georgian front to the garden. It was demolished in 1868. (fn. 167) The site was later occupied by a large red-brick house, built after 1900 by Sarah and Frances Goodwin. (fn. 168)
In 1086 Hildersham contained 11 plough-lands, of which the demesne, assessed at 2½ out of 5 hides in the vill, probably comprised half, and had 4 servi and 4 plough-teams of its own to work them. Sixteen villani with 7 teams between them occupied the other 2½ hides. The yearly value had been raised from £8 to £10 since Aubrey de Vere received the manor. (fn. 169) In 1279 Grimbald Pauncefoot's demesne included 240 a. of arable and 10 a. of meadow and pasture. The tenants included some substantial freeholders, with undertenants of their own, such as Richard le Breton who had 30 a., and Roger Doget (fn. 170) who left 76 a. held of both moieties of the manor to his son Roger in 1295. (fn. 171) Most of the parish was probably held in villeinage by tenants, some of whom, probably half-yardlanders, owed week-work and had each to plough for the lord 24 days a year and carry 15 a. of his corn. (fn. 172) In the 16th century the standard copyhold tenement, presumably derived from the half-yardland, amounted to c. 18 a. (fn. 173) In later times, of c. 590 a. in the parish not included in the demesne farms, the glebe, and the King's College estate, only c. 65 a. were freehold, the rest copyhold. (fn. 174) In the 16th century the custom was that copyholds descended to the youngest son, (fn. 175) but by the mid 17th they were regularly inherited by the eldest. (fn. 176)
By the 16th century there was considerable concentration of ownership among the villagers. Thus the Snarston family, prominent in Hildersham from the 1460s, (fn. 177) held over 60 a. c. 1540. (fn. 178) One copyholder had 110 a. in 1545, another 155 a. in 1590. (fn. 179) Of 23 people taxed in 1524 only three were charged on goods worth over £2, including Simon Beteyn, (fn. 180) who with two relatives was thought to be worth £85 in 1522. (fn. 181) The prosperous Hamond family flourished at Hildersham from the 1520s to the 1690s. (fn. 182) Henry Hamond (d. 1660) left 98 a. there besides legacies amounting to £200. He was also, as his ancestors had been since the 1580s, lessee to King's College, (fn. 183) which until after 1800 regularly let its Hildersham estate to yeoman families there on beneficial leases at rents in kind fixed since the 16th century. (fn. 184) About 1700 there were 14 copyhold tenants, not all living in the parish, (fn. 185) and in 1786 ten. (fn. 186) In 1777 six of them, occupying respectively 323 a., 89 a., 89 a., 47 a., 40½ a., and 32 a., occupied virtually the whole parish excluding the demesnes and glebe, the others having only 17 a. between them. The manorial estate in 1777 included c. 740 a. out of 1,500 a. (fn. 187) By the late 19th century, having absorbed the Burgoyne estate, it covered almost the whole parish. (fn. 188)
By the 16th century the demesne had been divided into two large farms, probably corresponding to the land of the former moieties and lying respectively north and south of the river. One of them covered c. 300 a. about 1580. (fn. 189) From the 1660s Francis Westhorp (fn. 190) (d. 1689) occupied one of them at a rent below the full value because he also served Lady Colston as bailiff and agent, and was succeeded in turn by his son Francis and son-in-law. (fn. 191) About 1800 Overhall farm, north of the river, covered c. 320 a., and Netherhall farm, to the south, c. 400 a., later reduced to c. 320 a. when the park was made. (fn. 192) Much demesne land lay in ancient inclosures, which on Netherhall farm included c. 1800 some 100 a. north of the road from Linton to Great Abington and c. 75 a. near Hildersham wood, perhaps derived from medieval assarting. In the open fields the bulk of the demesne arable was concentrated in large blocks of 10 a. or more. Thus c. 270 a. of Overhall farm covered a virtually continuous area along both sides of the road from Linton to Little Abington. (fn. 193) The copyholders' land remained until inclosure in the narrow strips typical of open-field cultivation. (fn. 194)
About 1800 Hildersham, apart from over 250 a. of old inclosures around the village, (fn. 195) was considered as being divided by the river into a north field of c. 660 a. and a south field of c. 340 a. (fn. 196) In earlier periods the arable had been divided into smaller blocks, still called fields in the 18th century, (fn. 197) and themselves composed of furlongs or shots varying in size from almost 40 a. to 2 or 3 a. (fn. 198) The only permanent common pasture was the 12 a. of St. Margaret's Green, so named by 1590, north-east of the village, where a stream ran down a narrow valley. It was grazed from May to St. Thomas's day by certain cottagers, as well as by the lord and his farmers. (fn. 199) The village meadows, such as Broadmeadow, which was intercommonable with Little Abington c. 1730, and Midsummer meadow, lay along the river. (fn. 200)
How the arable was divided for the customary rotation of crops is unclear. In 1801 864 a., twothirds of the arable area including closes, were under cultivation, suggesting a triennial rotation. (fn. 201) In 1798, however, only half of the 400 a. on Netherhall farm had been cropped. (fn. 202) Moreover, the manorial farms each had land on only one side of the river, while the glebe and the King's College estate lay entirely on the north side. (fn. 203) In the 16th century a copyholder might devise his lands north and south of the river to different sons, (fn. 204) suggesting that even then a separate rotation may have been observed on each side. In the late 19th century it was said that according to tradition only one-sixth of the parish lay fallow each year, after five crops had been taken from it. (fn. 205)
The principal crop, as elsewhere in the neighbourhood, was barley. One man in 1527 left his wife 40 a. of barley and only 1 a. each of wheat and rye. Saffron was also grown at Hildersham from the early 16th century. (fn. 206) In 1801 319 a. of barley were sown, and 150 a. of wheat, but other grains had become more prominent, including oats at 138 a., and rye at 82½ a., and a variety of roots and grasses had been introduced. (fn. 207) Such innovations were probably less difficult on the demesne farms, where large closes and arable blocks could more easily be severed from the customary rotation. About 1690 a lessee of one such farm laid down several parcels of arable with sainfoin to convert them into pasture. (fn. 208) In 1796 the tenant of Netherhall farm was required to lay down land after every two crops with clover or grass for two years. (fn. 209) His planting of coleseed and turnips (fn. 210) probably accounted for most of the 100 a. of those crops recorded in 1801. (fn. 211)
The turnips were intended partly to feed a flock of c. 280 sheep and lambs. (fn. 212) In 1086 there had been 90 sheep at Hildersham, (fn. 213) which in 1347 provided almost 26 stone for a levy of wool, including 10 stone from Robert le Busteler's demesne. (fn. 214) In the 16th century copyholders were keeping flocks of 20–40 sheep. (fn. 215) In the early 18th century the flocks of Upperhall and Netherhall farms were allowed sheepwalk over the common fields only after the villagers' cattle had fed over the stubble for 24 days on the north side of the river and 9 days on the south. The demesne flocks also fed over the meadows and St. Margaret's Green, following the village herd, in the winter. Tenants were still in 1724 forbidden to hire their rights of common for cattle to outsiders or to exercise them unless resident. (fn. 216) About 1795 there were c. 540 Norfolk sheep in the parish, probably mostly in the demesne farm flocks, one of which included c. 260 grown sheep in 1816. (fn. 217) It was asserted in 1812 that no right of sheepgate was attached to copyholds, (fn. 218) although at inclosure some allotments were made for copyhold rights of common. (fn. 219) The lord still claimed in the 19th century to exercise right of sheep-walk over the one-sixth of the fields lying fallow, so preventing other occupiers from introducing more modern farming methods. (fn. 220)
About 1800 John Mortlock proposed the inclosure of Hildersham under the same Act as Great Abington but was obstructed by the aged rector, Thomas Salt, (fn. 221) who preferred to take his tithes in kind and did not wish the poorer villagers to lose common of pasture for their cows and pigs. (fn. 222) In 1812–13 the lord and other landowners exchanged rights of pasture over Broadmeadow, (fn. 223) and the disadvantages of open-field cultivation were partly mitigated because soon after 1800 almost the whole parish was concentrated into a few large farms. On the manorial estate Overhall farm was occupied from c. 1750 to 1817 by the Mabbutt family; at Netherhall farm William Burgoyne, tenant from 1759, was succeeded in 1793 by his son John (d. 1814), (fn. 224) whose bankruptcy compelled him in 1798 to surrender his lease to his kinsman and creditor John Burgoyne (d. 1827), (fn. 225) who also farmed in person most of his accumulated copyholds. From c. 1820 the manorial land was again for a time divided in two. (fn. 226) Old or Manor farm covered c. 350 a. north of the river. The glebe and tithes were let with it from 1830. To the south lay New farm of c. 343 a.: when Hildersham Hall replaced the former Netherhall farm-house, a new farmstead was built first at Cook's Pen, an old sheep-pen south-east of the village, and then at Pen Farm, established by 1849 in the centre of the south field. Thomas Webb (d. 1876) leased the northern farm from 1830 and Pen farm also from c. 1848. His son and partner Thomas eventually succeeded him as tenant after 1865 of virtually the whole parish. (fn. 227) The use of labour was intensive. The elder Webb was in 1851 employing 56 men, while William Stutfield, then farming c. 420 a., had 24. Only c. 35 labourers actually lived in the parish, (fn. 228) but men walked over daily to work from more populous villages such as Linton and Balsham. Both landlord and tenant found importing labour more convenient than building new cottages. (fn. 229) Webb was evidently disliked by some villagers. Attempts were made to burn down two of his farmsteads. He induced a diviner to 'identify' the suspected culprit, whom he forced to leave the village. (fn. 230)
The farm-labourers who then comprised most of Hildersham's inhabitants (fn. 231) were poor. Average wages barely rose from 9s. a week c. 1830 to 10s. or 11s. in the 1860s, (fn. 232) and few cottages had gardens. The cottagers gained little from the survival of the open fields, for by the early 1880s there were only two cows outside the farmer's herd. In 1849 the rector, Robert Goodwin, bought c. 6 a. near the church as allotments, (fn. 233) replaced at inclosure in the 1880s by 12 a. near the river. (fn. 234) In 1970 the land had for some time been let in one lot to the tenant of Manor farm. (fn. 235)
The death in 1881 of Thomas Webb the younger and the expected division of his farm into two or three holdings threatened to revive the disadvantages of open-field cultivation, (fn. 236) and a provisional inclosure order was obtained in 1883 (fn. 237) and confirmed by an Act the same year. (fn. 238) The land was divided in 1885, and the award executed in 1889. It allotted c. 55 a. for the rectorial glebe, 45 a. for the rector's private estate, c. 25 a. for the town land and other public purposes, and c. 9 a. to 5 people for rights of common. All the rest of the land involved, 945 a. including 93 a. for the right of sheep-walk, went to the Huddleston estate. (fn. 239) By 1895 that estate had been divided into four farms. One, Manor farm of c. 890 a. north of the village, was for some time kept in hand. After 1922 part of it was sometimes let separately as Green farm, for which a new farmstead was built north-east of the village. Another Huddleston farm north of the river was often held with the rectory farm, for which a homestead had been built out in the fields by 1912. South of the river were Cook's Pen, of 133 a., and beyond the railway line Pen farm of 373 a., sometimes, as from 1922, let together. (fn. 240)
In the 19th century there was little work available in Hildersham except on the farms. In 1831 32 families were engaged in agriculture, only 7 in crafts or trade. (fn. 241) The population in 1851 included a shoemaker and a coal-dealer. (fn. 242) The village retained its own blacksmith's shop until c. 1940, and a carpenter's business, employing 3 men in 1871, developed into a small building firm, which constructed the village bridge in 1886 and survived until c. 1925. (fn. 243) By 1960 the village shops had all closed, and except for those few employed on the farms the inhabitants worked in Linton, Cambridge, or Haverhill. (fn. 244)
In 1254 the Crown granted William de Boleville and his wife Ela a weekly market on Fridays with an annual fair on 19–21 July, (fn. 245) but no evidence survives that either was actually established.
Aubrey de Vere owned a mill at Hildersham yielding 10s. a year in 1086, (fn. 246) presumably that attached c. 1190 and later to the Ros moiety of the manor. (fn. 247) When the Parys estates were broken up c. 1675 Hildersham mill was sold with the Linton estate to Sir Thomas Sclater, (fn. 248) who had it rebuilt c. 1680. (fn. 249) It remained with his successors until after the 1770s, (fn. 250) but had been sold by 1800. (fn. 251) In the early 19th century the mill belonged to the Reeve family who occupied it until c. 1850; (fn. 252) it remained in business under various owners until c. 1915. The water-mill, which also used steam from the 1890s, (fn. 253) stands on a cut some way east of Hildersham village, and straddles the parish boundary with Linton. Its buildings, converted by 1925 into a private house, (fn. 254) comprised in 1973 a central mill-block, partly timber-built, spanning the former mill-race, with a brick house to the east, in Linton, and a tall greybrick block to the west. A windmill, in the same ownership, built by 1837 in a field south of the water-mill, (fn. 255) was rebuilt in brick in 1863 (fn. 256) and survived in 1973 without its sails. Its outbuildings, after use for an agricultural engineer's business, were sold in 1958 (fn. 257) and were used in 1973 for selling antiques.
In 1275 Isabel Pauncefoot and Gilbert Kirkby were said to have view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and of ale at Hildersham. (fn. 258) In 1299 Isabel's grandson Grimbald claimed to hold the view jointly with the Kirkby heir, presumably in a single court leet for the whole vill. (fn. 259) The manor court was still occasionally styled a court leet and baron in the 1650s, (fn. 260) when it was presenting encroachments on the waste and electing haywards. (fn. 261) It was still making regulations about common rights 'for the peace and quiet of the tenants' in the 1720s, (fn. 262) when purely formal leet sittings were still held and constables and pinders appointed. (fn. 263) In the 1790s and in 1836 it formally appointed pinders, (fn. 264) and in 1812, under a new lord, began again to declare rules on commoning and to present copyholders for letting cottages decay. (fn. 265) A draft court book survives for 1651–9, and there are court rolls for 1672–1732 and court books for 1706– 1897. They are principally concerned with copyhold transfers. (fn. 266)
In 1564 the churchwardens were said not to be making proper collections for the poor. (fn. 267) From the 1680s to c. 1835, probably because substantial inhabitants were few, only one churchwarden was usually elected, normally the principal farmer in the parish, who held office continuously for many years. (fn. 268) Poor relief was not expensive until the 1780s. In 1776 £14 was spent, a quarter of it on house-rent, c. 1785 £55, and in 1803 £87. Fourteen people, besides children, were then permanently supported. (fn. 269) In 1814 18 were permanently relieved at a cost totalling £232. (fn. 270) In 1829 two men were occasionally employed on roadwork; coal and clothing were distributed to the poor, and the roundsman system may have been in force. (fn. 271) In 1832 £93 of £133 expended went to the aged, sick, and widows. (fn. 272) Hildersham became part of the Linton poor-law union in 1835, (fn. 273) was incorporated with the Linton R.D. into the South Cambridgeshire R.D. in 1934, (fn. 274) and was included in South Cambridgeshire in 1974.
Hildersham church had probably been established by c. 1150 and belonged originally to the Veres, since Hatfield Broadoak priory (Essex), founded by the Veres c. 1135, received a portion of tithes at Hildersham, worth 5 marks in 1291. (fn. 275) In 1210 the advowson of the rectory was in dispute between Gerard de Camville and his sister Maud, (fn. 276) each holding half the manor, and by 1279 was held by Gerard's successors, from whom it passed to the Bustelers. (fn. 277) In 1347 Grimbald Pauncefoot's widow Clemence recovered her third turn to present in right of dower against Robert le Busteler. (fn. 278) Busteler's successors, the Paryses, retained the advowson, (fn. 279) and after the Elizabethan settlement, as papists, were importuned by bishops and such staunch protestants as Sir Francis Walsingham to accept recommendations for the living. (fn. 280) In 1638 Charles Parys sold the advowson to Isaac Appleton, who in 1649 sold it to Henry Smith (d. 1702), rector since 1642. (fn. 281)
Smith resigned the living in 1684 and presented his son Henry, upon whose marriage in 1685 the advowson was entailed. The younger Smith sold it in 1714 to James Salt, and died in 1736, (fn. 282) whereupon Salt had himself presented. He died in 1758 having settled the advowson successively on his sons James (d.s.p. 1797) and Thomas (d. 1806), who each in turn presented himself to the living. (fn. 283) In 1801 Thomas Salt sold the advowson to James Goodwin, who presented his son Charles in 1806 and died the same year. (fn. 284) Charles, who died in 1847, left the advowson to his second son Robert, (fn. 285) who held the rectory upon his own presentation (fn. 286) until his death in 1899. In 1901 his sisters and heirs Sarah and Frances vested the advowson in trustees, including the new rector, P. R. Phillips, for the benefit of the church. When Phillips resigned in 1947 presentation was suspended and the cure was thereafter served by neighbouring incumbents or retired clergymen. (fn. 287)
The rectorial glebe consisted of c. 50 a. of arable in 1279, (fn. 288) 62 a. in the 17th century, (fn. 289) and 67½ a., including closes, in 1777. (fn. 290) The 55 a. allotted for glebe at inclosure in 1889 (fn. 291) was sold in 1919. (fn. 292) In 1951 the church retained 9 a. of glebe. (fn. 293) The tithes, still being taken in kind in 1800, (fn. 294) were commuted in 1840 for a tithe-rent-charge of £423 15s. (fn. 295) The rectory house stood c. 1560 in a copyhold close opposite the church, held by successive rectors until its enfranchisement in 1848. (fn. 296) The house had seven hearths in 1664 (fn. 297) and was said to be large and in good repair in 1783. (fn. 298) A large brick house built in Tudor style c. 1851 (fn. 299) had been sold by 1961. (fn. 300)
The benefice was taxed at £12 in 1217, and at 20 marks in 1291, (fn. 301) but only at £15 in 1535. (fn. 302) By 1650 it was worth £80 a year and in 1728 £100. (fn. 303) The rector's gross income was £320 c. 1830, (fn. 304) and £450 in 1877. (fn. 305)
About 1300 a rector gave the church 3 a. in free alms. (fn. 306) By the mid 18th century the rent of 3 a. called the town land, yielding 10s. a year in the 18th century and £3 5s. in the 19th, was by custom devoted to church repairs and expenses. (fn. 307) From 1524 3s. 4d. a year for church repairs was also received from John Bolton's charity. (fn. 308) The endowment of the church by Sarah and Frances Goodwin in 1901 is mentioned above. (fn. 309)
In the early 14th century the patrons sometimes chose their kinsmen or dependents as rectors. Ralph Hengham presented his clerk John Hengham, rector 1311–21, and William le Busteler in 1321 presented his younger son William, still rector in 1332. (fn. 310) William's successor, William Gryselegh, c. 1338 until 1342, was frequently absent in the service of the countess of Norfolk or the earl of Suffolk. (fn. 311) In 1379 the rector had two chaplains to assist him. (fn. 312) In the late 15th and early 16th centuries Hildersham had a guild of the Assumption. (fn. 313) Margaret, wife of John Parys (d. 1517), whose dower included the advowson, presented in 1518 William Burgoyne, master of Peterhouse (d. 1523), and then his brother Thomas, rector 1523–50, who held Hildersham in plurality with Sandy (Beds.) from 1526. (fn. 314) Both were probably non-resident, employing curates. (fn. 315)
John Reston, rector 1550–1, was master of Jesus College, Cambridge. (fn. 316) His successor Dr. Thomas Heskyns, also usually non-resident, had abandoned the cure by 1561 to go overseas, where he became a Catholic controversialist. (fn. 317) George Fuller, rector 1561–91, usually resided at Hildersham, and built up an estate in the neighbourhood, (fn. 318) but regularly employed curates, (fn. 319) the first recorded being apparently a convinced protestant. (fn. 320) Fuller's successor John Smith held Hildersham with Fen Ditton until his death in 1614. In 1593 his curate was said to be failing to catechize the children. (fn. 321) Thomas Murriell, rector 1614–29, held two livings and was archdeacon of Norfolk. (fn. 322) Henry Smith, master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, was succeeded at Hildersham when he died in 1642 by his son Henry, (fn. 323) who held the living throughout the Interregnum, being described in 1650 as an orthodox and godly divine. (fn. 324) Through his purchase of the advowson in 1649 the rectory became a family living, held by three successive clerical dynasties until 1900. (fn. 325)
The third Henry Smith was resident in 1728, when he was holding communion seven times a year and two services every Sunday. He claimed up to 18 communicants. (fn. 326) James Salt was likewise resident in 1775 and conducted services in person, (fn. 327) but his brother Thomas, already vicar of Nazeing (Essex), employed the Revd. Andrew Perne of Little Abington as curate. (fn. 328) In 1807 the newly presented Charles Goodwin had few communicants (fn. 329) and only c. 20 in 1825, although he held services twice each Sunday and communion four times a year. (fn. 330) He was normally resident, as was his son Robert, who also held Great Abington from 1845, but both usually employed curates, including in 1877 the master of Saffron Walden grammar school. Robert then claimed that almost all the parishioners came to church and up to 47 people attended the monthly communion. (fn. 331) By 1897 he was also holding services on weekdays in Lent and on many saints' days, and by 1894 had instituted a surpliced choir. (fn. 332) There were 49 communicants in 1905, (fn. 333) 43 in 1939, when most of the congregation of 90 went to church every other Sunday. (fn. 334)
The church of the HOLY TRINITY, so called by 1521, (fn. 335) stands west of the street and north of the river. It is built of field stones with ashlar dressings, and consists of a chancel with a south chapel and north sacristy, aisled nave of two bays with a south porch, and west tower. The oldest portions, the vaulted sacristy and the west tower, are of the early 13th century. The tower, unbuttressed and surmounted by a small spike, has simple lancets to the two lower stages and double lancets under restored plate tracery to the third, and inside is divided from the nave by two low arches. The tall nave, rebuilt in the late 13th century, but probably retaining its earlier proportions, has one quatrefoil pier on each side; the clerestory has cusped windows in square frames, possibly restored. The aisle windows have simple Decorated tracery, and may be contemporary with the south chapel built by William le Busteler, rector 1321–32, (fn. 336) perhaps as a chantry for his parents. The chancel arch was rebuilt probably c. 1400. (fn. 337) In the 15th century the chancel was given new windows which still survived c. 1850, (fn. 338) and a new door to the sacristy.
The octagonal 13th-century font rests on five columns and has trefoiled canopies on each face. Screens between the chancel and the south chapel and nave survived in 1742 (fn. 339) but were swept away at the Victorian restoration, when the roof also was entirely renewed. (fn. 340) Despite William Dowsing's efforts in 1644 (fn. 341) much medieval glass survived in 1742, and a few fragments that remained c. 1880 were then reset. (fn. 342) Among notable monuments in the church are the effigies, carved in oak, of a crosslegged knight and a lady, perhaps commemorating William le Busteler (d. c. 1334) and his wife. (fn. 343) The chancel contains brasses with effigies ascribed to Robert Parys (d. c. 1377) and his wife Eleanor, to Henry Parys (d. 1427) and his wife Margery, and to Henry Parys (d. 1466). (fn. 344) A tomb-slab carved with a cross lies under an ogee-headed recess in the north wall of the chancel, where Robert Parys's brass once lay.
In 1601 the church windows were found to be much broken and the chancel not whitewashed, (fn. 345) and in 1638 the aisles were blocked by two large pews. (fn. 346) Both chapel and aisles were out of repair in 1665, (fn. 347) and in 1742 the chapel was unfloored. (fn. 348) In 1803 the churchwardens sold the lead off the roof and pulled down the south chapel. (fn. 349) Between 1853 and 1890 the church was heavily restored by the rector Robert Goodwin, latterly with C. A. Buckler as architect. (fn. 350) The chancel and north aisle were remodelled by 1855 and the south chapel rebuilt soon after. The chancel arch was refashioned, the walls were thoroughly scraped, and at Goodwin's insistence the Perpendicular tracery in the chancel windows was then replaced with reticulated tracery. The tower was raised 13 ft. and the roof replaced and slated in 1878. The chancel was entirely covered c. 1890 with paintings (fn. 351) which were restored in 1973. (fn. 352) Stained glass, including an east window by Clayton and Bell, (fn. 353) greatly darkened the church, and an alabaster reredos was installed in memory of James Raymond, tenant at the Hall in 1851 and 1871. (fn. 354) When work was completed in 1890 (fn. 355) the interior appeared, as in 1973, almost entirely Victorian.
In 1542 Margaret Parys bequeathed to the church an organ standing in it. (fn. 356) In the early 19th century music was supplied from a singing gallery at the west end erected since 1742. After its demolition c. 1870 several players never set foot in the church again. A new organ, given by Robert Goodwin, was installed in 1900. (fn. 357) In 1552 the church had three bells. (fn. 358) Three new bells were cast in 1581, two of which were sold in 1803. The third and lightest was used in 1880 by John Taylor & Co. of Loughborough in making three new bells, (fn. 359) which survived in 1973. A silver cup and paten by Thomas Buttell were acquired in 1569. (fn. 360) The parish registers are complete from 1559. (fn. 361)
In 1582 Thomas Dalton and his wife were said to have failed to come to church for a year. (fn. 362) Although the manor was owned until 1800 by papists there is no evidence of Catholic recusancy in Hildersham, nor of protestant dissent before 1783, when two families were said to attend a meeting at Linton. (fn. 363) In 1825 the number of dissenters was said to be increasing. (fn. 364) A house was registered for dissenting worship in 1828, and a building in 1837, the latter by Thomas Hopkins, (fn. 365) Independent minister at Linton. (fn. 366) Perhaps the same building was the out-station of the Linton chapel, lately adapted for worship, where the Linton minister, G. J. Hall, held Saturday evening services in 1851 with an average attendance of 100. (fn. 367) It had closed by 1877, and in 1897 all the inhabitants were said to be nominally church people. (fn. 368)
In 1524 money was left for four boys to go to school, (fn. 369) and Hildersham had unlicensed school masters in 1579 and 1601. (fn. 370) In 1818 the parish clerk kept a school for 30 boys and his wife taught girls to read and sew, while an evening school was held for young men. (fn. 371) In 1833 there was only one day-school with 10 pupils, for whom their parents paid. (fn. 372) By 1851 a day-school and Sunday school had been set up in a building south-east of the church. (fn. 373) The parochial school was supported in 1864 by contributions from parishioners and in 1879 by the rector and school-pence. It was rebuilt in 1879–80 (fn. 374) for up to 111 children. Attendance between 1893 and 1914 fluctuated around 40. (fn. 375) The school had separate mixed and infants departments in 1914. (fn. 376) By 1919 attendance had declined to c. 20. (fn. 377) Many children went to Abington school, and in 1928, when it had only 7 pupils, Hildersham school was closed. (fn. 378)
Charities for the Poor.
From 1524 Hildersham received 6s. 8d. a year under the will, proved 1509, of John Bolton of Little Abington, half for its church, half for its poor. The money was still being paid in 1965. Since 1929 it had been a rent-charge on Abington Hall whose owner redeemed it for £10 in 1966. (fn. 379) In 1573 the parish bought with its town stock the 4-a. Bodney's close north of the church, the income to be distributed twice a year to the poor. In 1590 one of the feoffees, Thomas Dalton (d. 1602), acquired the close subject to a rent-charge of £1, (fn. 380) which was still received in 1965. By the 18th century the churchwardens were distributing the two charities together, usually at Christmas, in doles of 6d. to 1s. 6d. In 1766 there were 22 recipients including 8 widows, in 1834 14. (fn. 381) In the early 20th century the income was saved for several years and then distributed in coal. (fn. 382) The cottagers' right to common over St. Margaret's Green, reputed a charity in 1837, (fn. 383) was replaced at inclosure in 1889 by allotments. (fn. 384)