A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In this section
Foxton lies almost 9.5 km. south-south-west of Cambridge, (fn. 1) and covered in 1971 709 ha. (1,752 a.). (fn. 2) It extends for over 3 km., curving gently, from northwest to south-east, and is bounded on the north by the river Cam or Rhee, on the north-east and southwest by the Hoffer, formerly Hoppeforth, (fn. 3) and Shepreth brooks, and on the south-east by an ancient road running north-east from Fowlmere, called by 1315 the Mareway, (fn. 4) and further west by an earthwork called once Grim's ditch, later Thriplow bank. (fn. 5) An enclave of Foxton, 15 a., east of the Hoffer brook, recalls the period, in the mid 13th century, before the areas tithing to Foxton, Harston, and Newton parishes had been finally distinguished. (fn. 6) The parish rests upon chalk, overlaid near the river and Shepreth brook with valley gravel. It is mostly level and low-lying, at between 15 and 25 metres, though just south of the village it rises a little to over 30 metres at West Hill and Chalk Hill, where the village clunch pit has probably been since the Middle Ages. (fn. 7) Especially near the river and streams the ground was once marshy and boggy, as appears from 14th-century names such as Oslok and Dreymere. (fn. 8) About 1600 the farmers with land in that area were regularly admonished to 'gripe' or water-furrow their lands after the spring ploughing. (fn. 9) Foxton had little wood in historic times, (fn. 10) although a way, running south-east from the village, was named Woodway by 1315. (fn. 11) The parish has usually been devoted mainly to arable farming, on a triennial rotation until inclosure in 1830.
Settlement at Foxton goes back for almost 2,000 years. (fn. 12) A Belgic settlement of the first century A.D. was followed by a Romano-British farmstead near Hoffer bridge, and a pagan English cemetery has been traced north of Foxton station. (fn. 13) In 1086 43 inhabitants were recorded. (fn. 14) By 1279 there were 72 messuages, and c. 68 tenants had land there. (fn. 15) In 1327 37 people were taxed. (fn. 16) In 1524 45 people paid the subsidy, perhaps including 14 living-in servants, (fn. 17) but only 30 households were recorded there in 1563. (fn. 18) Numbers grew rapidly thereafter, and by 1630 there were said to be 60 'mansions'. (fn. 19) Under Charles II there were c. 50 dwellings, (fn. 20) and in 1676 132 adults. (fn. 21) In 1728 50 or 60 families contained c. 200 people. (fn. 22) By 1801 there were 322 inhabitants. The population grew steadily from 1811 to just over 450 by the 1840s, and after dropping slightly to around 410 between 1861 and the 1880s, had risen again to c. 480 about 1910. In the late 20th century it grew steadily to 567 by 1951, 643 by 1961, and 811 by 1971. (fn. 23)
The village stands slightly north of the middle of the parish along the line of a brook linking the bordering streams, and curving gently from southwest to north-east. The village street follows the central part of its course: very few houses were built away from it before the mid 19th century. The brook, called by 1500 the common stream, (fn. 24) once ran along the street and remained the village's main source of water until in 1873 Canon Selwyn paid for boring deep wells to supply pumps. (fn. 25) Thereafter the brook disappeared, being partly filled in, partly put underground. (fn. 26) The principal manor house stood near the middle of the street, nearly opposite the church. Two other manorial sites were at each end, and near the western one was a green, used for fairs until 1912. (fn. 27) By the 16th century the east and west ends of the village were distinguished. (fn. 28)
There was much rebuilding in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 29) About 1571 one house was put up by night in the street, (fn. 30) and in 1618 seven villagers had lately built new tenements to house immigrants. (fn. 31) Surviving 16th-or early 17th-century timber framed houses include Herods Farm, with decorated bargeboards and inside carved beams. There is a group of five near the western green, among them the L-plan Home Farm, with a massive brick chimney, topped by a tall shaft. There are over 20 one-storeyed cottages of the late 17th and the 18th century, many timber framed and thatched, such as Michaelhouse, or two on Station Road. (fn. 32) In 1788 several dwellings at the east end of the village were destroyed by fire. (fn. 33)
In the early 19th century Foxton included almost 50 dwellings. (fn. 34) About 1840 there were 14 houses and 25 cottages, subdivided to accommodate nearly 90 households. (fn. 35) In 1851 c. 80 dwellings were inhabited along the street, and almost 20 on the lanes leading off it, half of them on Stocker's Lane, later Station Road. It ran north from the middle of the street towards the main Cambridge road, beside which a few houses had been built by 1861. (fn. 36) The village grew slowly in the early 20th century from 95 to over 130 houses. (fn. 37) About 1908 four blocks of four dwellings each were built along Station Road for the workers at a new printing works, and named after authors. They were the first in the village to have piped water. (fn. 38) Council houses were built from the 1920s along Station Road. (fn. 39) Growth was rapid after 1945. The number of dwellings increased from 180 in 1951 to 290 by 1971. (fn. 40) Gaps along the street were mostly filled in, and many cottages refurbished for middle-class newcomers. (fn. 41) By 1961 the rural district council had built the Highfields estate on the rising ground south of the village, while between that and the street private estates totalling c. 100 houses were built in the 1970s. (fn. 42)
The parish is crossed slightly north of the village by the main Royston–Cambridge road, called by 1300 the Portway. (fn. 43) It was a turnpike from 1793 to 1872. (fn. 44) Lanes running north towards it from the village, including Pound and Baker's Lanes, were mostly stopped at inclosure; as were roads southward close to the Shepreth brook from the bridge at Barrington east mill into Fowlmere, and eastward from the village into Newton. Woodway, leading south towards Fowlmere, was then straightened. (fn. 45) The Royston–Cambridge branch of the Great Eastern railway, crossing Foxton north of the village, was opened in 1851. The station then built where it crossed the main road (fn. 46) was still open in 1979.
In 1542 the alehouse keepers were ordered to display their signs and provide decent beds for the king's lieges. (fn. 47) The Blackamoor's Head, later the Black Boy, occupying an 18th-century house in the west of the village, was open by 1783, (fn. 48) the White Horse, near the junction with Station Road, by 1841. (fn. 49) By the 1860s the Railway inn had been built west of the station. (fn. 50) All three were still open in the 1930s, (fn. 51) but had closed by 1961, except for the White Horse, rebuilt after a fire in 1880, and still open in 1979. (fn. 52) The village fair, held around Easter, survived into the mid 1950s. (fn. 53) Foxton still has an active village life, with numerous sporting and social clubs. (fn. 54) In 1922 land south of the church was bought for a recreation ground. A village hall was built at its northern edge, beside the street, in 1929. The parish council took over management of both in the 1940s. (fn. 55) Foxton House was once the home of Canon William Selwyn, scholar and theologian (d. 1875), and of his widow Juliana, both benefactors to the parish. (fn. 56)
The principal manor, 5⅓ hides, owned by the nuns of Chatteris abbey from before the Conquest, was held in chief in 1086. (fn. 57) In 1127 Henry I granted patronage of the abbey to the bishopric of Ely, (fn. 58) of which the Foxton CHATTERIS manor was held in free alms in 1279. (fn. 59) Following the abbey's surrender in 1538, (fn. 60) BURY manor, so styled by 1547, (fn. 61) was sold by the Crown in 1544 to certain London aldermen, including the great financier Sir Ralph Warren, sole owner from 1545. (fn. 62) Its tenure was thereafter in chief as 1/40 knight's fee. (fn. 63) Sir Ralph died in 1553. His son and heir Richard, of age by 1566, (fn. 64) died without issue in 1597. Richard's heir was his sister Joan's son Sir Oliver Cromwell, (fn. 65) who in 1598 bought out Richard's widow's life interest in Foxton. (fn. 66) About 1609 (fn. 67) Cromwell gave Foxton Bury to his ward Henry Palavicino of Babraham, husband of his daughter Catherine. (fn. 68) Sir Henry, on coming of age in 1613, granted the estate for life to his brother Toby, who inherited as lord when Henry died in 1615. Toby was obliged by his extravagance to mortgage the manor in 1622 for a 99-year term to a Londoner, Thomas Coteele. (fn. 69)
In 1627 Coteele's assignee, Sir Francis Clark, sold his interest in the unredeemed manor to Fuller Mead, (fn. 70) whose ancestors had occupied it as lessees since the 1530s. (fn. 71) After Mead's death c. 1630 Toby Palavicino sued his widow Rose and minor son Fuller Mead to recover it, eventually obtaining a decision in his favour from the Lords in 1641. By 1660, however, it had again passed to the mortgagees. (fn. 72) In 1643 courts were held for the lawyer Edward Bosden (d. 1649), (fn. 73) and from 1649 to 1672 for his executors. (fn. 74) From 1674 the 99-year term belonged to Christopher Hatton of Longstanton, a baronet from 1685, who retained it until 1720. (fn. 75) No lords were named thereafter until the 1770s. (fn. 76) The manor had, however, passed by 1743 to the numerous coheirs of the Bennets, (fn. 77) who by 1634 had acquired the freehold of Bury manor from Toby Palavicino along with his Babraham estate. (fn. 78) In 1769 the then coheirs, R. H. A. Bennet and James Mitchell, sold Foxton Bury to Thomas Parker. (fn. 79) He sold it in 1787 to Richard Bendyshe, (fn. 80) already lord of Mortimers manor, with which it descended thereafter. (fn. 81)
The Chatteris manor farmstead, called in 1513 the Bury, stood nearly opposite the church. About 1510 it was much dilapidated through its lessees' neglect. (fn. 82) Richard Warren largely rebuilt it between 1573 and 1593, and Fuller Mead (d. c. 1630) further remodelled and enlarged it. (fn. 83) The house is timber framed, of two storeys: a projection between its two original bays was perhaps once a porch. At the east end a gable fronts a brick cross wing added in the 18th century. The large, ancient chimney was rebuilt in 1895. After 1928 the house was severed from the manor farm. (fn. 84)
MORTIMERS manor derived from one hide held in 1086 by two knights of Count Alan, lord of Richmond, (fn. 85) of which honor it was later held as ½ knight's fee. (fn. 86) The Furneaux lords of Barham manor in Linton and their successors were nominally mesne lords under that honor from the 13th century to the 16th. (fn. 87)
By the 1180s the land at Foxton belonged to William de Banks of Kingston (fn. 88) (d. after 1205), (fn. 89) son of Eustace de Banks (fl. 1166). (fn. 90) William's Foxton holding passed successively to the brothers William (d. s.p. after 1228) and Geoffrey de Banks, (fn. 91) probably his sons. (fn. 92) Geoffrey, lord between 1233 and 1242, (fn. 93) had probably died by 1246 when Cambridgeshire lands were claimed by mort d'ancestor by Isabel, probably his daughter, and her husband Robert Mortimer of Attleburgh (Norf.). (fn. 94) Robert was probably granted free warren at Foxton c. 1250, (fn. 95) and died c. 1265. (fn. 96) His heir, his son Sir William, of age by 1268, (fn. 97) held the Foxton manor in 1279 (fn. 98) and died in 1297, leaving as heir his minor son Constantine. (fn. 99) Foxton was left for life to William's daughters Maud and Cassandra: the latter held it in 1302. (fn. 100) Their brother Sir Constantine, lord by 1316, (fn. 101) (d. 1355 × 59), had settled that manor by 1337 upon the marriage of his eldest son and namesake (d. v.p. and s.p. 1355). The son's heir was his brother Robert Mortimer, (fn. 102) who died in 1387. (fn. 103) In 1403 his Cambridgeshire lands were divided between his son Thomas's two daughters and coheirs.
Foxton Mortimers fell to Cecily, then widow of Sir John Harling. (fn. 104) By 1417 she had married Sir John Radcliffe, (fn. 105) K.G., seneschal of Aquitaine 1423– 36. (fn. 106) Cecily died in 1423, (fn. 107) but Radcliffe retained Foxton until his own death in 1441. It then passed to Anne, aged 15, daughter of Sir Robert Harling (d. 1435), Cecily's son by her first marriage. Anne was already married to Sir William Chamberlain (fn. 108) (d. s.p. 1462). (fn. 109) She married secondly, by 1475, Sir Robert Wingfield, controller of Edward IV's household, (fn. 110) (d. 1481), (fn. 111) and thirdly, in 1490, John Scrope, 5th Lord Scrope of Bolton (d. 1498). (fn. 112) Having no surviving issue by any husband, Anne left Foxton Mortimers at her death in 1498 to John Scrope, younger son of her third husband's eldest son Henry. (fn. 113)
John died c. 1545. His eldest son Henry (fn. 114) died in 1591, leaving the manor to his eldest son Francis, (fn. 115) (d. s.p. 1626). From Francis it passed successively to his brother Christopher (d. 1638), to Christopher's eldest son Henry (d. 1642), and to Henry's only son Robert (d. s.p. after 1648) and brother Simon, lord by 1650, who died in 1691. (fn. 116) After 1697 Simon's son Simon Scrope sold the manor to Thomas Bendyshe, lord by 1700 (fn. 117) (d. 1710). Mortimers descended thereafter with the Bendyshes' Barrington estate, (fn. 118) although a Thomas Bendyshe was named as lord from 1751 to 1777. (fn. 119) The elder Thomas's grandson Richard, lord from 1777, (fn. 120) (d. 1825), acquired the remaining manors in Foxton. His son John (d. 1855) owned after inclosure c. 860 a., almost half the parish. (fn. 121) His sons John (d. s.p. 1865) and Richard (d. 1914) successively owned that property, which Richard's grandson and eventual successor, Capt. J. N. Bendyshe, (fn. 122) sold in 1928. The purchaser, J. H. Stevens, tenant of Bury farm, resold 260a. in 1929. (fn. 123) Mortimers farm was acquired by the Walstons of Newton Hall, and remained in the 1970s part of their Thriplow estate. (fn. 124) Mortimers manor house stood at the east end of the village within a moat, c. 80 by 30 metres, whose south and west sides are partially filled in. (fn. 125) The site is occupied by an early 19thcentury farmhouse.
A manor comprising 32/3 hides was held by Sigar, in 1066 under Ansgar the staller, in 1086 of Geoffrey de Mandeville. (fn. 126) It probably remained with Sigar's heirs, being later held, together with his Shepreth estate, not by knight service, but for a fee-farm of £5. Geoffrey's grandson, William, earl of Essex (d. 1189), gave that fee-farm to the Knights Hospitallers to hold in free alms. (fn. 127) Mesne lordship over those manors was eventually attached to their preceptory of Shingay. Its later owners were still in the 17th and 18th centuries receiving quitrents from various fractions of the Foxton manor. (fn. 128)
By 1200 that manor was held in demesne by Alan son of Alan of Shepreth. (fn. 129) After his son Richard (fl. before 1240) (fn. 130) died without issue, Alan's daughter Parnel brought it c. 1250 to her husband William de la Haye, whose son John's son, Sir William de la Haye, (fn. 131) in 1279 held of the Hospitallers 160 a. in demesne, which he retained until his death in 1316. (fn. 132) His son, Sir John, granted free warren at Foxton in 1324, died c. 1340, (fn. 133) and Sir John's son William, lord in 1346, (fn. 134) probably in 1349. (fn. 135) By 1355 DE LA HAYES manor was held by his sister Margaret and her husband Sir John Engaine of Teversham, (fn. 136) sheriff of Cambridgeshire 1376–7. (fn. 137) When Engaine died c. 1395 his Foxton estate was divided between his daughters, Mary wife of William Blyton and Joan wife of Sir Baldwin St. George (d. 1425). (fn. 138)
Joan's moiety, later DOCWRAS manor, descended with the St. George estates. (fn. 139) Anne, widow of Sir Baldwin's great-grandson Sir Richard (d. 1485), held it as dower until her death in 1524. (fn. 140) About 1526 their son Thomas granted it to John Docwra, who married his daughter Anne and died c. 1532. Thomas's son Francis released his entailed interest in 1549 to Docwra's son Thomas, (fn. 141) who sold most of his Foxton land in 1568 to John Swan of Newton. (fn. 142) The manorial rights, purchased before 1580 with Docwra's Shepreth estate by the Ingreys, passed after 1617 to William Hancock. (fn. 143) By then the Foxton land had largely passed to the Welbores. The 96 a. acquired in 1591 by Philip Welbore, recorded at Foxton by 1578, (fn. 144) were probably the 96 a. which he held of Shingay manor at his death in 1616, besides other land held of Bury manor. They passed to his eldest son John (fn. 145) (d. 1661), whose son and heir Philip (fn. 146) (d. 1675) left his inherited lands to his son John Welbore, of age in 1685. (fn. 147) That John, a lawyer, died without issue in 1727. He ordered his lands, allegedly including Docwras manor, to be sold. (fn. 148) The former Welbore estate, c. 210 a., passed from Joan Seddon, widow (fl. 1760), by 1766 to Richard Seddon. (fn. 149) Acquired c. 1773 by Thomas Parker, it came with Bury manor to the Bendyshes, (fn. 150) who in the 19th century began to hold separate courts for Docwras manor. (fn. 151)
Docwras manor farmstead probably stood at the west end of the village street; a close there was called Docwras at inclosure. (fn. 152) A large croft to its west, called by 1400 the Conynger, and divided c. 1600 between the Welbores and Campions, (fn. 153) was perhaps once the De la Hayes' coney garth. Philip Welbore (d. 1616) built himself a large house near the junction of the high street and Stocker's Lane. (fn. 154) Enlarged by his grandson Philip it had 12 hearths in 1666. (fn. 155) As Welbore Farm it survived into the mid 19th century, being demolished c. 1879. (fn. 156)
The other moiety of the De la Haye fee, later WIMBISH manor, held from 1397 by William Blyton of Lincolnshire, (fn. 157) was c. 1423 given by him with his daughter Margery to John Wimbish (fl. to 1433). (fn. 158) Thomas Wimbish of Nocton (Lincs.), of age by 1465, (fn. 159) died holding the Foxton manor in 1505. His son and heir John (fn. 160) (d. 1526) settled it in 1511 on his son Christopher's marriage. Christopher d. 1530) left as heir a son Thomas, aged nine, (fn. 161) but until c. 1553 the Foxton issues went to his widow Mary for her jointure. (fn. 162) After Thomas Wimbish died without issue in 1552, his lands were divided between his sisters Frances and Abraha. (fn. 163) Abraha and her husband Francis Norton sold their Foxton estate in 1566. Richard Warren bought the manorial rights, (fn. 164) and he and his successors for a time held separate courts for Wimbish manor. (fn. 165) Its demesne, however, was mostly acquired by the Campions, a Foxton yeoman family, (fn. 166) who c. 1580 held of Shingay manor half of 135 a., later divided, (fn. 167) and eventually incorporated into the Welbore and Hatton estates. (fn. 168)
The impropriate rectory, belonging from 1275 to Ely cathedral priory (fn. 169) and its successors, the dean and chapter of Ely, (fn. 170) was regularly at farm from the 14th century. (fn. 171) From the 1490s it was held on long, virtually beneficial, leases, by the Fuller family. From John Fuller and his widow Annabel (d. 1519) it passed to John Fuller (d. 1545), (fn. 172) whose son Richard (d. 1583) also had 45 a. copyhold. Richard's son John (fn. 173) (d. 1588) left his freehold with leases worth £210 a year to his daughter Mary for life, then to her infant son Fuller Mead. About 1610, however, her husband Robert Mead sold the rectory lease to Dr. John Hills, (fn. 174) a canon of Ely and master of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge (d. 1626). (fn. 175) In 1650 Dr. Hills's widow Anne held the rectory, then worth £125 p.a., for his children. (fn. 176) From the 1670s it was possessed by the Hattons, passing from Sir Christopher (d. 1720) to his younger son John, later 7th baronet (d. 1740), and his widow Mary. Their son Sir Thomas, lessee by 1763, transferred the beneficial lease to William Hurrell, already occupying the rectory as farmer. (fn. 177) It remained in his family until the 1860s. (fn. 178) Hurrell (d. 1791) (fn. 179) and his son William built up from the 1770s (fn. 180) an estate, amounting after inclosure to 375 a. (fn. 181) The son died c. 1835. In 1856 his children sold 410 a., including 20 a. of rectorial glebe, to William Ward Asplen, (fn. 182) on whose death in 1896 his lands passed to his son W. J. W. Asplen. (fn. 183) From 1904 that estate was sold off. (fn. 184) The county council bought 157 a. of it in 1909, and another 70 a. later, including the rectorial 20 a.; in 1979 it owned c. 220 a. (fn. 185)
The rectory farmhouse just west of the church, rebuilt after a fire c. 1609, (fn. 186) was in 1650 a 3-roomed, timber framed house. (fn. 187) Only a tithe barn remained by 1775. (fn. 188) Its close, called Church croft, was conveyed to the vicar c. 1880. (fn. 189) By 1830 William Hurrell had built Foxton House, in extensive grounds, north of the western part of the street. (fn. 190) W. W. Asplen built Foxton Hall, a tall house with embattled bay windows, incorporating panelling from the Welbore house, west of Station Road in 1877. (fn. 191)
Between 1498 and 1526 Michaelhouse acquired from three yeoman families c. 55 a., (fn. 192) which passed to Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1546. (fn. 193) The college still owned in 1979 the 59 a. allotted to it at inclosure. (fn. 194)
Of 10 hides in 1086 almost a third was probably demesne, including all the Richmond manor, on which no peasants were recorded, but only a third of Chatteris abbey's 5⅓ hides. The rest of that was held by 16 villani, probably yardlanders. In all there were 21 villani with 9 ploughteams, compared with 5 demesne teams, and 21 bordars. Although the 14½ ploughlands were thus almost fully stocked, the total yield of the estates had fallen by nearly £2 since 1066 to £11. (fn. 195)
In the 13th century (fn. 196) the arable outside the demesnes was divided into yardlands, reckoned locally as 36 a., (fn. 197) and their fractions, halves and quarters, all later usually called warelands. That scheme remained nominally, and to some extent practically, in force until the 19th century. In 1279 the demesnes comprised just over 600 a. out of 1,450 a. of arable. Chatteris abbey had 300 a., and De la Hayes and Mortimers 160 a. each. (fn. 198) The remaining land was mostly divided between 6 tenants, all freeholders, with 27 a. or more, 21 half-yardlanders, and 24 quarter-yardlanders. About 333 a. were held freely by 22 men; only 77 a. of freehold belonged to the Chatteris manor, barely a tenth of its land. Of c. 500 a. held in villeinage, however, only 145 a. belonged to the two lay fees, which had between them only 11 villeins. Earlier in that century Sir Geoffrey de Banks and Richard of Shepreth had both readily enfranchised some villeins by giving them to Foxton church, to hold solely by rendering wax for candles. (fn. 199) Chatteris, however, had 13 customary half-, and 13 quarter-yardlanders in 1279. No villein had more than a half-yardland, while two substantial freeholders held 72 a. and 40 a. During the 13th century Chatteris abbey consolidated its demesne by exchanging holdings of 8–10 a. with other lords and freeholders. (fn. 200) It also regranted some purchased freehold on more advantageous terms, usually for lives at rent. (fn. 201) Thus its servant, Thomas de Banks, of a cadet branch of the early lords of Mortimers which survived, holding 30 a. freely, until c. 1340, (fn. 202) sold the abbey 5 a. and obtained 6 a. of inheritance and 6 a. for life. (fn. 203) Lesser men had both to pay for life tenancies of half-yardlands and to acknowledge themselves the abbess's neifs, the customary services that they owed being carefully spelt out. (fn. 204)
The villein services on all three manors in 1279 were basically similar. Tenants both of 18 a. and 9 a. mostly owed c. 102 works a year, virtually 2 a week, besides mowing, reaping and carrying corn, and other carrying works. Half-yardlanders had also to plough two days in winter. On Chatteris manor, however, they owed only one work a week, paying instead 2s. 6d. a year. All such tenants did two harvest boons, including the cottars, who on Chatteris manor also owed weekwork. All the abbey's villeins were liable to merchet, (fn. 205) leyrwite, (fn. 206) and similar payments, as for priesting their sons, (fn. 207) and regularly contributed to a nominally voluntary 'common aid' or tallage of 10s.–30s. (fn. 208) The abbey occasionally commuted weekwork, (fn. 209) but regularly exacted the harvest boons. Its tenants were often, sometimes collectively, recalcitrant, frequently neglecting suit of mill and to the abbey's fold. (fn. 210) Groups of twelve or more were sometimes accused of harvesting inefficiently, or not attending at all at harvest boons. (fn. 211) In 1294 the whole body of tenants refused to do their carrying service. (fn. 212)
Chatteris's customary tenants also paid both heriots (fn. 213) and heavy entry fines, up to 46s. 8d. for 9 a., (fn. 214) and up to £3 for 18 a. (fn. 215) By the custom of the manor a widow held for life her husband's inherited but not his acquired lands. (fn. 216) Second wives, however, received only a third of such property, the rest going to the eldest child of the first marriage. (fn. 217) If a father had endowed that child in his lifetime, his lands were inherited instead by the next eldest. (fn. 218) An heir who failed, even through impotence, to take up his holding lost all his rights, (fn. 219) but the sick might let their land to others who should do the services. (fn. 220) Subletting, with the abbey's leave, (fn. 221) was not uncommon, several acres being often leased for 2 to 4 harvests. (fn. 222) The abbey itself took one freehold on lease for a half-share in the crops, finally buying out its owner. (fn. 223)
Below the peasants with regular holdings was a class of smallholders and labourers. In 1279 there were ten small freeholders with 4 a. or less each, and nine cottars, owning only their 1-a. crofts. (fn. 224) About 1300 the manor court often penalized those harbouring outsiders during harvest. (fn. 225)
By the mid 13th century the arable lay in three large fields, perhaps formed by combining earlier smaller units, also called fields, or sometimes crofts. A few of their names survived as those of furlongs. (fn. 226) North of the village lay the West field, usually called from the 1320s Hayditch field after a neighbouring meadow, (fn. 227) and in the 18th century Hoffer or Hopper field. Down field, renamed after 1615 Hill field, (fn. 228) to the south was divided by Woodway from Chaldwell, later Chardle, field to the south-east. Down field being smaller than the other two, Ham field, recorded from 1300, (fn. 229) north-west of Hayditch field, was combined with it to make up equal areas for rotation of crops. In the 18th century the three areas thus created each covered nominally c. 340 a., although there were then only 110 a. of permanent grass. (fn. 230) Meadows stretching along the river probably covered 90 a. (fn. 231) In 1279 the two larger manors had had 51 a. of meadow and 18 a. of several pasture. (fn. 232) Sir William de la Haye and Chatteris abbey, who then shared Hayditch pasture, agreed in 1271 to let the rector keep 3 plough-oxen with the abbey's herd on its other pastures. (fn. 233) Mortimers manor had 20 a. of several pasture between its manor house and the Hoffer brook. (fn. 234)
A triennial rotation was in use by 1300, when even small holdings of 3–5 a. were divided equally between the three fields. (fn. 235) In the 18th century the farmers were still supposed to have equal acreages in Ham and Hill, Hoffer, and Chaldwell fields. (fn. 236) Rye was grown as well as wheat until after 1700, (fn. 237) but barley predominated. In 1522 one yeoman left 25 qr. of barley but only 10 qr. of wheat and rye. (fn. 238) In 1675 the lessee of Bury manor had probably c. 250 qr. of barley, 64 qr. of wheat and rye, and 16 qr. of oats. (fn. 239) By the 18th century the usual rotation had one field sown with wheat, rye, and barley, one under pease and oats or 'horse corn', and the third fallow. (fn. 240) A small farmer in 1713 had his 34 a. divided between 6 a. of barley, 4 a. of rye, and 3 a. of wheat in the tilth field, 8 a. of oats, pease, and lentils, and 13 a. of fallow. (fn. 241) From the early 16th century to the late 18th saffron was also grown, usually in small blocks of a few roods, temporarily fenced in, in the fields. (fn. 242)
In 1086 Chatteris abbey had a flock of 126 sheep. (fn. 243) The peasants probably still kept some sheep c. 1500, but by then some had unused sheep commons to let to outsiders. (fn. 244) Later they concentrated on milking cattle, often mentioned in their wills where sheep appear seldom. After 1520 stints and rules on commoning were also mainly concerned with cattle. Sheep farming was left to the demesne lessees. Their shepherds were often in trouble in the 1490s for driving their flocks too early onto the meadows and stubbles, which were reserved for ploughing beasts and milking cattle for 3 months after Lammas. (fn. 245) In 1649 Bury manor was entitled to fold 300 sheep on the common fields, Wimbish and Docwras manors 200 together, and Mortimers 100. (fn. 246) In 1675 the Bury farmer had, however, only 163 sheep, but 72 cows. (fn. 247) In the 1790s the only flock belonged to the manorial farm. (fn. 248)
There was probably a shortage of grassland, the only permanent common being the meadows, which were held in severalty from Candlemas till after the hay harvest. (fn. 249) In 1492 a butcher was overcharging them with fattening cattle. (fn. 250) In the 1520s some land in the fields was being kept unsown as leys, (fn. 251) but then and thereafter the villagers were repeatedly admonished not to feed cattle on balks and headlands, but to put them in the common herd. Byherds were especially prohibited for the three months after Lammas. (fn. 252) In 1523 those without land were forbidden to keep more than 1 horse and 1 cow each. (fn. 253) From 1578 the farmers might have, for each 18 a. that they owned, only 1 cow and 2 horses outside the common herd. In 1610 those occupying houses built since 1590 were forbidden to common any cattle outside the herd, (fn. 254) and in 1618 newly built houses were entirely denied common rights. (fn. 255)
By the late 15th century the customary tenants had copyholds of inheritance, held on Chatteris manor for rents scarcely higher than the value of their rents and services in 1279. (fn. 256) Entry fines were until after 1550 mostly taken at a rate equal to a year's rent, or less for larger holdings. (fn. 257) Although heriots were still due, in 1513 the abbess agreed, during her pleasure, to take only 1s. 8d. for each tenement. (fn. 258) After 1550, however, the lords of Bury manor again demanded beasts or their value as heriots, and raised entry fines to over 3s. an acre by the 1580s, (fn. 259) and over £3 for 9 a. by 1600. (fn. 260) Heriots in chattels such as featherbeds were still exacted in the 18th century. (fn. 261) On Bury manor copyhold equivalent to almost 12 yardlands survived c. 1540, (fn. 262) and at inclosure it still comprised nominally 10 halfand 13 quarter-yardlands, for which 309 a. were allotted. (fn. 263) Only 48 a. of copyhold of the other manors then remained. (fn. 264) The remaining copyholds were steadily enfranchised from 1861. (fn. 265)
In early modern times the agriculturalists of Foxton fell into three classes. Most prosperous were those occupying the manorial demesnes, which together comprised almost half the arable, besides extensive closes. The Bury farm c. 1790 included 332 a., half of it lying in blocks of 5–10 a., Mortimers farm had 153 a., and the fractions of Wimbish and Docwras incorporated into the Welbore and Hatton estates 117 a. and 95 a. (fn. 266) Those demesnes were usually leased from the 15th century. That of Chatteris, at farm from the 1490s to the 1510s to the Thurlows, who owned 36 a., (fn. 267) had passed before 1532 to the Fullers, (fn. 268) also tenants of the rectory since the 1490s. (fn. 269) John Fuller (d. 1545) was the wealthiest villager in 1524, being taxed on £20. The next richest, then farmer of Mortimers, (fn. 270) who died c. 1525, held 2 yardlands of Bury copyhold. (fn. 271) The Fullers later accumulated c. 45 a. of copyhold and 80 a. of freehold, (fn. 272) besides their leases. William Miles, farmer to Trinity College, could bequeath over £380 in 1651. (fn. 273)
In the mid 17th century the Welbores dominated the parish, owning over 210 a. by the 1660s. (fn. 274) John Welbore (d. 1661) also held the rectory on lease in the 1640s. (fn. 275) His son Philip, who bequeathed a stock of grain and cattle, still apparently farmed his land, (fn. 276) but Philip's son John was by 1727 leasing it to three farmers. (fn. 277) From Nathaniel Singleton, farmer of the rectory by 1649 (fn. 278) and of Bury demesne by 1652, (fn. 279) a 400-a. farm passed at his death in 1675 to his son and namesake (fl. 1690). (fn. 280) During the 18th century the Hurrells, tenants of only 9 a. c. 1600, (fn. 281) gradually accumulated the larger farms. Tenants under John Welbore by 1727, they occupied Bury farm by 1743, (fn. 282) besides the rectory, (fn. 283) and from the 1760s the former Welbore farm and that of Trinity College. (fn. 284) In 1775 William Hurrell (d. 1791), though owning only 9 a., was leasing 308 a. of the Bury, Bendyshe, and Hatton estates, and his son William farmed another 184 a. (fn. 285)
A stratum of small yeomen holding fractions of yardlands, from 9 to 36 a., survived until the late 18th century. Such were probably most of the 12 men taxed in 1524 on £2–£4, and possessing together c. £35 of the £90 then assessed. (fn. 286) About 1540 there were probably three men with 30–36 a., two with 27 a., seven with 18 a., and five with 9 a. each. (fn. 287) Occasional accumulations were usually dispersed by division among several children. Thus of 81 a. held by the Wells family 18 a. were assigned to a younger son in 1537, and the rest divided among the next tenant's three sons in 1559, the eldest receiving 36 a. (fn. 288) By 1660 the average size of yeoman holding had risen to 27–36 a. rather than 9–18 a. as earlier. Such families as the Chapmans, Brightwells, and Rayners, the last continuously recorded at Foxton from 1308 to the 1850s, (fn. 289) still occupied their own land in the 18th century. (fn. 290) In 1775, besides two men with 95 a. and 79 a., there were still three farming 36–45 a., seven with 27 a., and three with 9–18 a. each. (fn. 291)
Labourers were represented by the 28 taxpayers in 1524, nearly two thirds of the total, who depended on their wages. (fn. 292) In 1544 the farmer of Mortimers left money for all his poor neighbours who kept no plough. (fn. 293) In 1598 money was left for 30 poor inhabitants. (fn. 294) Under Charles II only 12 out of 50 houses had 3 hearths or more, and 20 had only one. (fn. 295) There were some craftsmen. A blacksmith in 1642 owned a croft and 8 a. (fn. 296) A weaver died in 1658, owning besides his shop and looms 2 a. of freehold and land under saffron. (fn. 297)
In the late 18th century consolidation of landownership and farms and some agricultural innovation occurred together. To the manorial estates, covering 696 a. in 1800 after their union, were added by purchase 60 a. of copyhold. (fn. 298) The Hurrells had gradually by the 1820s acquired 200 a. of freehold and 5½ nominal copyhold yardlands. (fn. 299) About 1825 two local men had 70 a. and six others 27 a. each, no other resident owning over 15 a. (fn. 300) Sainfoin was grown by 1782, (fn. 301) and cinquefoil by William Hurrell in 1795, when he had also a large flock of the local breed. (fn. 302) Turnips and grass seeds were also possibly grown in the fields. (fn. 303)
An Inclosure Act, briefly opposed by a few small landowners, was obtained in 1826. (fn. 304) The award, executed in 1830, (fn. 305) dealt with 1,556 a. of open fields and common, besides 43 a. given for exchanges out of 137 a. of old inclosures. (fn. 306) John Bendyshe, who owned after inclosure 56 a. of closes, was allotted 788 a., most of the east side of the parish. William Hurrell had 25 a. of closes and 350 a. in the west. Eight other owners with 20–60 a. each shared 277 a., and six, with under 20 a., 110 a., while 12 a. was allotted to nine men solely for common rights. (fn. 307)
By 1839 the Bendyshe estate was divided (fn. 308) from north to south into Bury farm, c. 340 a., Mortimers farm, 285–300 a., and Barons farm, 210 a., all still cultivated in 1928 from farms in the village. (fn. 309) The Hurrells' 385 a., called Herods farm by 1856, were leased as one farm from the 1830s to 1856, (fn. 310) but later kept in hand by the Asplens, and divided after the sale of 1904. The Heffer family, lessees to Trinity College by 1817, (fn. 311) built up a 110-a. holding around College Farm, erected north of the village. They were using a steam engine there by 1856. (fn. 312) Three smaller farms of 50–90 a., including the owner-occupied Home farm, 52 a., (fn. 313) survived into the late 19th century. After 1870 the number of farmers declined from eight or nine to six by 1900, half occupying over 300 a. (fn. 314) In the 1950s there were four with 100–300 a. and two with over 300 a. (fn. 315)
Foxton remained mostly arable, growing cereals, during the 19th century. In 1839 there were 1,495 a. of arable compared with 167 a. of permanent grass; (fn. 316) in 1885 c. 1,300 a. was cropped under the standard four-course rotation, including c. 440 a. of barley, and only 120 a. was under grass. (fn. 317) Many sheep were still kept, over 1,500 in 1866, (fn. 318) and W. W. Asplen had a flock of prize Lincolns in the 1870s. (fn. 319) By 1905 although only 600 sheep were kept there were c. 360 a. of grassland, and barely 700 a. under grain. (fn. 320) Fruit growing increased, the area of orchards trebling by 1925 to 31 a., containing c. 12,000 apple, pear, and plum trees. (fn. 321) It later declined. There were still over 1,100 sheep in 1925, but sheep keeping had ceased by the 1950s. Foxton was then, as in the 1920s, mainly growing cereals, in 1955 including 360 a. of wheat and 490 a. of barley. Sugar beet, by then over 120 a., had also been grown since the 1920s. (fn. 322)
About 1830 there were 58 adult labourers and 37 under 20. (fn. 323) In the mid 19th century emigration, partly to Australia, (fn. 324) helped to keep the number of labourers stable around 55 men and 15–20 boys, the farmers usually employing c. 50 men and 15 boys. (fn. 325) There were still c. 60 regularly employed in 1925, (fn. 326) but numbers fell rapidly to 30 in the 1930s and 20 by 1960. In 1971 there were only 6 labourers, and 6 working farmers. (fn. 327)
In 1086 the abbess of Chatteris and Geoffrey de Mandeville were said to share equally a mill on the Cam, (fn. 328) later Barrington west mill. The suit of mill due from the Chatteris tenants c. 1300 (fn. 329) was perhaps directed to one in Barrington. (fn. 330) Foxton has had no mill of its own in modern times. In 1310 Constantine Mortimer was granted a three-day fair at the patronal feast of St. Lawrence (10 August). (fn. 331) In 1337 that fair was assailed and his toll collectors obstructed by rioters from Melbourn and elsewhere. (fn. 332) In 1326 William de la Haye was granted two fairs, for 28–30 June and 29–31 November, and a weekly market on Fridays, (fn. 333) presumably held on the green at the west end of the street called c. 1500 the market stead. (fn. 334) The market probably survived in the early 16th century, when butchers and bakers from Cambridge, Fowlmere, and elsewhere traded at Foxton. (fn. 335) One fair was still held for each manor c. 1630. (fn. 336) A fair held at Easter c. 1800 (fn. 337) continued, as an entertainment, into the 1950s. (fn. 338)
Foxton had few craftsmen in the 19th century. The number of families supported by trades and crafts fell from 12 in 1811 to 8 by 1831, when 75 were maintained by farming. (fn. 339) The necessary blacksmith's and carpenters' shops survived until 1930, the Pinks running one carpentering business from 1800 to the 1920s. (fn. 340) Tailors and shoemakers were recorded c. 1850, and a clock and watch maker worked at Foxton in the 1860s. (fn. 341) In the 1870s W. W. Asplen had gravel and cement marl dug, and made cement. (fn. 342) From the 1890s to the 1930s one man was hiring out threshing machines. (fn. 343)
By 1900 small businesses began to gather near the railway station. Coal merchants, established there by the 1860s, (fn. 344) were supplemented c. 1930 by a petrol depot, enlarged in 1974. (fn. 345) From a garage opened nearby by 1937 a coach hire business was run from 1959, (fn. 346) and by the 1960s there was a small builders' yard. (fn. 347) In 1908 Dr. William Briggs, having just bought Foxton House and Hall, established the University Tutorial Press, mainly to produce textbooks for his correspondence courses. Its works, containing printing and bookbinding workshops, (fn. 348) occupy the site of Welbores Farm by Station Road. They are in Arts and Crafts style. (fn. 349) Briggs's descendants still ran the press in the 1960s, when with 60–80 staff, half living in Foxton, it was the village's largest single employer, most other inhabitants working outside the parish. In 1975 it was taken over by a Cambridge printing company, renamed the Burlington Press, and used mainly to produce ephemera. (fn. 350)
In the 1270s the tenants of Mortimers manor were drawn to local tourns held for the honor of Richmond. Its bailiff held view of frankpledge at Foxton with Sir William Mortimer. The preceptor of Shingay's bailiffs obstructed action by the sheriff within the Hospitallers' fee. (fn. 351) Later jurisdiction at Foxton belonged mainly to the Chatteris manor. In 1279 the abbey had, under the bishop of Ely's liberty, view of frankpledge with the assize of bread and of ale, (fn. 352) and later courts leet. Court rolls survive for 1293–1325, (fn. 353) and from 1492 to the 1660s, (fn. 354) followed by court books for 1700–1939. (fn. 355) The other manors had only courts baron. On Mortimers manor such a court was revived in the 1590s after 40 years of desuetude. (fn. 356) There are court rolls for 1607–1715, (fn. 357) and court books for 1709–1939, (fn. 358) largely concerned with land in Harston. A court book for Docwras, newly started in 1801, runs to 1896. (fn. 359) Wimbish court baron was gradually absorbed in the late 16th century into that of Bury manor. (fn. 360)
It was through that court that the village managed its business, tenurial, civil, and agricultural. About 1300 it probably met 5 or 6 times a year. In the early 16th century courts leet were normally held at Michaelmas and the end of spring, the date from the 1530s of the single sessions held annually until the 1620s. Aletasters were regularly appointed and amerced in both periods. Constables, one of the pair at a time, were elected between 1513 and 1713, (fn. 361) as were haywards occasionally from the 1490s. (fn. 362) Villagers were often forbidden to empty their drains and cisterns into the common brook along the street, except at night. (fn. 363) Its description c. 1630 as 'a pleasant small rill of sweet water' (fn. 364) suggests that such orders were not entirely unavailing. Numerous bylaws for agriculture were made in the 16th century, and enforced until the 1620s. From the 1660s, however, the court merely reissued occasionally a stereotyped set of such bylaws. (fn. 365) Thereafter, like the other courts, it dealt almost solely with copyhold title.
In 1497 some penalties were divided between the church fabric and the lord. (fn. 366) By 1621 the churchwardens were supervising the scouring of the brook. (fn. 367) In the 18th century the parish was managed by a few farmers: William Hurrell served almost continuously as both churchwarden and overseer between 1771 and 1783. (fn. 368) Besides the rates the parish raised money by letting pasturage rights in the town meadows, c. 5 a., and balks, and selling willows. The main expense, on poor relief, rose steadily from over £40 in the early 1770s to c. £120 by 1780, when 7 women, mostly widows, and 4 men received the weekly pay. Thereafter until 1795 expenditure fluctuated between £130 and £160. Money was spent on clothing 'town children', and even more on fuel, over 450 bushels of coal being sold at cheap rates in 1788.
In 1803 18 people, 7 of them old or sick, were on permanent outside relief, besides 20 children, costing £242. (fn. 369) About 1814 the 34 people on permanent relief, with 30 or more occasionally helped, came to a fifth of the population. The cost, then £350, was reduced next year, the number regularly assisted being cut to 20, (fn. 370) and was usually kept between £200 and £250 until the mid 1820s. Between 1825 and 1829 it rose gradually from £280 to £320, and after 1830 usually exceeded £400. (fn. 371) About two thirds then went to widows and the old and sick, but a fifth on casual relief and to paupers employed by the parish. (fn. 372) No allowances, even for families, were given to able-bodied labourers, but coal was still distributed. The rates were fixed at a general parish meeting, which the unrated cottagers did not attend. (fn. 373) From 1834 Foxton was included in the Royston poor law union, (fn. 374) and from the 1890s in the Melbourn R.D. After 1934 it belonged to the South Cambridgeshire R.D., (fn. 375) and from 1974 to the South Cambridgeshire district.
The church at Foxton, recorded by the mid 12th century, had perhaps originally belonged to Chatteris abbey. In the late 12th century the abbey obliged two successive rectors to admit that 2¼ yardlands that they occupied belonged to its demesne, and were held by them personally for their lives, not in right of their church. (fn. 376) Later there was a glebe of only 36 a., partly obtained through individual donations. (fn. 377) The church was still worth 20 marks c. 1217, and 40–50 marks later in the 13th century. The 12th-century rectors had been local men, one probably a servant of Chatteris abbey. By 1256, however, the church was at farm, so probably held by an absentee. (fn. 378) The last rector was the Italian Manuel de Bagnaria, presented by the bishop of Ely, who had annexed the advowson, probably as overlord of Chatteris. (fn. 379) In 1269 Bishop Hugh of Balsham undertook to appropriate the church to Ely priory to support its almonry. The appropriation was effected in 1275. In 1277 the priory bought out Manuel's nephew, who had a papal provision to Foxton, for a £24 pension, still paid in 1302. (fn. 380) In 1298 the prior was fined 500 marks for not having obtained a licence in mortmain. (fn. 381)
Bishop Balsham ordained in 1275 a vicarage, whose collation he reserved to himself and his successors. (fn. 382) The bishops of Ely retained that right thereafter, (fn. 383) except between 1852 and 1951 when under an exchange of patronage it belonged to the bishops of Peterborough. (fn. 384) Balsham had ordered that the vicarage should eventually be endowed with 15 marks a year, about a third of the benefice's value. (fn. 385) In 1302, however, the vicar's income, from altarage, was barely £2 6s. He complained to Archbishop Winchilsey, following whose intervention the vicars received, besides the small tithes, (fn. 386) a £2 pension, at first from the priory almoner, and by 1375 out of the rectory, which vicars were sometimes allowed to farm in the 14th century. (fn. 387)
By the 1530s the pension had risen to £4 13s. 4d.: (fn. 388) the vicarage, worth £11 3s., was then the second best endowed in Barton rural deanery. (fn. 389) Worth £26 in 1650, (fn. 390) its income was further augmented from 1673 by £20 more from the rectory lessee, (fn. 391) and stood at £55 by 1728. (fn. 392) It was £80 by 1830, (fn. 393) when the vicar, who had previously no glebe save for the small close east of the church in which his house stood, received at inclosure 1½ a. by the Thriplow boundary for his common rights. (fn. 394) The tithes were commuted in 1839, £540 being assigned for great and £120 for small tithes. (fn. 395) The vicar's 'miserable benefice' yielded only £89 in 1851, probably less by 1873. (fn. 396) About 1880 the Ecclesiastical Commissioners gave to the living £179 of rectorial tithe rent charge, besides Church croft where the rectory had stood. By 1887 the vicar had 5 a. of glebe and a net income of £230. (fn. 397) Church croft was sold in 1922. (fn. 398) The old vicarage house, described in 1825 as a 3-roomed thatched cottage, had then been long disused. Expensively repaired in the 1830s, (fn. 399) it was replaced in 1876 with a greybrick house, enlarged in 1908, (fn. 400) where the vicar still lived in 1979.
Medieval vicars were often content to remain in the living for periods of up to ten years, (fn. 401) although around 1400 a few quitted it more rapidly, (fn. 402) and were occasionally assisted by chaplains. (fn. 403) A guild of St. Anne, recorded from 1519 to 1524, which possibly employed its own priest, (fn. 404) was perhaps so named partly in honour of Dame Anne St. George: in 1523 she asked to be buried in its chapel in Foxton church. (fn. 405) In 1549 the Crown sold 15 a. of chantry or obit lands in Foxton. (fn. 406)
The vicars still employed curates in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. (fn. 407) The negligent Henry Brampton, 1593–1609, and his curate both refused to wear the clerical attire required by law. (fn. 408) Brampton also allegedly failed to reside or catechize the villagers' servants and children. (fn. 409) William Vaughan, vicar from 1630, (fn. 410) retained his living through the civil wars, being variously described in 1650 as a company keeper and an 'able, painful man'. (fn. 411) The living was vacant by 1656, (fn. 412) and in 1663 the vicar of Melbourn was licensed to serve it, (fn. 413) but from 1669 incumbents were again regularly collated.
Thomas Stukes occupied it from 1697 to 1734, but his successors in turn rapidly resigned it, perhaps because its relative income had declined. (fn. 414) From the 1750s to 1814 it was usually held by sequestrators, (fn. 415) the last two serving for c. 15 years each. (fn. 416) In the late 18th century those ministers lived in neighbouring parishes such as Thriplow, or in Cambridge colleges. They came over only on Sundays, when two services were usually held. Of the sacraments held 3 or 4 times a year barely six people partook, despite frequent admonitions. (fn. 417) From 1814 the vicarage was held by Butler Berry, vicar of Thriplow, who provided one Sunday service and sermon alternately morning and evening. (fn. 418)
His son Joseph Walter Berry, his successor in 1832, began energetically, holding two services and preaching at one, starting a Sunday school, and raising the number of communicants to 12. (fn. 419) But, although he hardly quitted the parish for one Sunday in 40 years, he had little lasting success. In 1851 his afternoon congregations, averaging, besides 50 Sunday-school children, 80 adults, though double the morning attendance, were hardly a quarter of the population. By the 1870s there were only 8 communicants drawn from the poorest classes, and the children would no longer attend his catechizing. (fn. 420) The next vicar fared a little better. By 1885 there were three services on Sundays, besides some on other holy days. Communions, held weekly by 1897, drew nearly 30 people. A choir had been started, and the rectory barn converted for a mission room. The number of churchgoing households, at 40, at least equalled that of dissenting ones, although another 40 neglected all worship. The vicar could still catechize on Sundays in the Board school. (fn. 421) Foxton retained its own incumbent down to the 1970s. (fn. 422)
The church of ST. LAWRENCE, so named by 1225, (fn. 423) consists of a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave with porch, and west tower. It is built of field stones, with ashlar dressings and tracery, much renewed. The existing church was probably begun in the early 13th century with a chancel and nave of equal width in one continuous range. (fn. 424) A plain, early font, rediscovered c. 1880, survives. (fn. 425) The chancel east wall has three lancets, with dogtooth in their heads, separated by slim shafts. Aisles with arcades on quatrefoil piers were added in the early 14th century. On the north side there are three full bays, but to the south only the two east bays, perhaps slightly earlier, were completed. The aisle windows are Decorated, the eastern ones being reticulated. The chancel then received new two-light side-windows in its western part, those further east being earlier. That work was perhaps partly paid for by Master Thomas of Foxton (fl. 1300–30), a successful clerical lawyer from a local peasant family, the Goudloks. (fn. 426) He gave one aisle window, besides books and a chalice. (fn. 427) The moulded nave north doorway is 14thcentury, the south one 15th-century.
In 1456 and 1466 indulgences were issued to raise money for further building. (fn. 428) The new work that followed included the three-storeyed, battlemented west tower, which has a cut-down spire. (fn. 429) A clerestory was added. Its three-light windows mostly resemble the tower west window, although those nearest the tower look Decorated. The south aisle was extended westward by one bay, and an arch matching the tower arch cut to it through the nave south wall. There is no chancel arch: a timber framework, renewed at the 19th-century restoration, covers the join between the earlier high-pitched chancel roof and the flatter 15th-century nave one, whose main tiebeams survive. Carvings on them include a man and woman praying, perhaps the donors. The present chancel roof, with braced collars, supported by restored angel figures, and the north aisle roof are also 15th-century. A simple Perpendicular parclose screen (fn. 430) and ornate brackets at the north aisle east end perhaps belonged to the guild chapel. The rood loft was being made c. 1510 (fn. 431) and painted and gilded in the 1520s. (fn. 432) A rood stair, formerly blocked, was built in the angle between the chancel and south aisle. Of the medieval screen only the base and posts survive. The traceried upper parts date from the restoration, (fn. 433) while the existing rood was erected c. 1950. (fn. 434) Two large blocks of seating with buttressed ends in the nave and seats in the chancel with poppyheads also survive from the 15th or early 16th century. Of the glass inserted from the late 14th century to the mid 15th, (fn. 435) only fragments, reset in the north aisle east window, survived William Dowsing's attack in 1645 on 60 'superstitious pictures'. (fn. 436)
The fabric remained in decent condition in the 17th and 18th centuries, (fn. 437) although not always well kept. A north porch was to be rebuilt in 1598. (fn. 438) The chancel needed repair, reglazing, and refurnishing under Charles II, when timber was stored in the former chapel. (fn. 439) In 1783 Sir Thomas Hatton as rectory lessee rebuilt the chancel north wall, at the bottom in brick. His roundheaded windows were replaced at the restoration with copies of those in the south wall. (fn. 440) In the early 1870s the church was said to be greatly decayed. (fn. 441) The chancel was repaired by 1879. (fn. 442) The rest was restored by Ewan Christian between 1879 and 1881. The cost was £2,000, of which Mrs. Selwyn gave £1,200. The aisle walls were reconstructed, a new window being opened in the north aisle west wall. The brick, 18th-century south porch was replaced by a north porch facing the village street, a west gallery was removed, and four large pews were cleared away. (fn. 443) An organ, replacing a barrel organ, was installed in 1882. (fn. 444)
There were three chalices c. 1350, (fn. 445) two silver ones by 1552. (fn. 446) The present plate includes a cup and paten of 1569. (fn. 447) There were three bells in 1552, (fn. 448) and fol- lowing recasting in 1654, six in 1742, of which one was broken by 1836; two of the remaining five were recast in 1881. (fn. 449) A clock from Saffron Walden (Essex) was installed in the tower in 1723. (fn. 450) The parish registers (fn. 451) start in 1678 for burials, but only in the 1690s for baptisms and marriages. Bishops' transcripts from 1599 include the Interregnum. (fn. 452)
There were ten dissenters in 1676, when nine women refused to come to church. (fn. 453) In 1685 19 householders, a third of those resident, including the largest farmer, did not receive the Easter sacrament. (fn. 454) In 1728 there were many Presbyterians, who had a meeting house. (fn. 455) Methodists were active by 1761, when their teachers and six others registered a house and two barns, owned by a farmer who had joined them. (fn. 456) Methodist preachers occasionally gave sermons in 1783, when two thirds of the inhabitants were said to be Methodists or dissenters: the latter were perhaps the Presbyterians still mentioned in 1807, who then had long lost their meeting house. (fn. 457) Buildings were registered for dissenting worship in 1811, 1817, and 1824, (fn. 458) the last perhaps for the Methodist meeting formally organized in 1823. (fn. 459) The Wesleyan Methodists established their chapel by Stocker's Lane c. 1825, buying the site in 1827. In 1851 it could hold 160. The steward claimed average attendances of 150 at Sunday afternoon services and evening prayer meetings, besides 40–60 Sunday-school pupils. (fn. 460) In the 1880s and 1890s almost half the population were said to be dissenters, including a few Baptists. (fn. 461) The Methodists were then supported by the Asplens and other farmers. (fn. 462) Their chapel was rebuilt in 1880, to seat 120. (fn. 463) It was still open in 1975. (fn. 464)
Schoolmasters occasionally recorded from 1590 to the 1620s (fn. 465) included between 1599 and 1613 successive curates. (fn. 466) There were no schools in the late 18th century. (fn. 467) In 1818 a schoolmaster had nine pupils, paid for by their parents. (fn. 468) In 1833 there were two day schools, and two Sunday schools. The Wesleyan one, maintained by subscriptions, had 56 pupils, the church one, wholly supported by the vicar, only 45. (fn. 469) The latter, held in the church, had 57 by 1846, when it was linked to the National Society. (fn. 470) In 1851 two dame schools had probably c. 40 pupils. (fn. 471) By 1871 over 80 children were being taught by two women, one an innkeeper's daughter who kept a British school; (fn. 472) the vicar maintained a night school. (fn. 473)
A school board was established in 1876. (fn. 474) Although at first it used premises lent by the vicar, it was dominated by the Methodists. The new school building, eventually opened in 1883, stood just behind their chapel, and the first mistress there was a Methodist. (fn. 475) The two classrooms could hold 80 pupils, and attendance, although it dropped below 65 soon after 1900 and c. 1920, was usually well over 70 into the 1930s. (fn. 476) The building was enlarged in 1911 (fn. 477) and an infants' department was opened in 1926. (fn. 478) From 1954 the older children went to Melbourn, after 1958 to its village college. (fn. 479) The Foxton primary school was still open in 1979, when it had again been recently extended.
Charities for the Poor.
The 6½ a. by the Thriplow border, allotted at inclosure in place of the town meadows, was by the 1830s let to labourers in one-rood allotments at 5s. each. Part of the rent was given in coal to widows, the rest carried to the rates. (fn. 480) By the 1860s the rent, then £5 12s., was all given in kind. (fn. 481) The letting as allotments continued after 1895, as did the distribution of coal at Christmas, not only to poor aged people but to each married wage earner. After 1920, however, it was given only to widows and usually male old age pensioners. The land was no longer wanted as allotments by 1945, so its rent was raised from £13 in the 1950s to £90 by 1976. In the early 1940s c. 15 people were given coal, (fn. 482) by 1969 40. From 1970, when a Scheme was obtained, the money was given in groceries. (fn. 483)
A town house, recorded in 1664 and in the 1770s, (fn. 484) probably stood north-west of the church. In 1843 a 4-roomed almshouse was built by subscription at the north edge of the churchyard for four poor widows. (fn. 485) In 1851 and 1871 it housed four elderly paupers. (fn. 486) Having no endowment for its upkeep, the building was derelict and unoccupied by 1908. It was removed after 1930. (fn. 487)