A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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The parish of Little Shelford (fn. 1) lies c. 6 km. south of Cambridge, on the south-west bank of the river Cam or Granta, (fn. 2) which separates it from Great Shelford, and whose shallow ford gave both parishes their name. (fn. 3) Little Shelford covers 484 ha. (1,196 a.) (fn. 4) It is very flat, rising little over 15 m. except at Cockle Hill, c. 30 m., near the south-west corner of the parish. It lies mostly on the Lower Chalk, with a strip of alluvium and valley gravels along the river. (fn. 5) The parish forms a rough square with a narrower projection at the northern end. The eastern boundary follows the river Cam, except at the south-east corner of the parish, where land east of the river, formerly intercommonable with Whittlesford, was granted to Little Shelford when Whittlesford was inclosed c. 1810. (fn. 6) The western boundary was also undefined, land there being intercommonable with Harston, Hauxton, and Newton until their inclosure in 1800. (fn. 7) The boundary with Hauxton on the north follows a watercourse, and the remaining western and southern boundaries follow field boundaries.
A number of streams and artificial watercourses drain from marshy meadow land along the eastern boundary into the river. Little Shelford village lies near the north-eastern edge of the parish. Land to the north and west was probably inclosed in the 16th and 17th centuries; apart from the riverside meadows and the Moor near the western boundary the rest of the land was cultivated in three open fields until their inclosure under an Act of 1813. (fn. 8) No houses were built outside the village before inclosure.
The shallow ford through the two branches of the river Cam and adjoining marshy ground had been crossed by the later 14th century by wooden bridges and a causeway. In 1399 there was a hermitage there. (fn. 9) Many inhabitants of both Great and Little Shelford left bequests for the repair of the bridge, presumably that at the eastern end of the causeway, in the 15th and 16th centuries. (fn. 10) By the 1590s the county was contributing to its repair. (fn. 11) The wooden bridge had been replaced by c. 1630 with a stone one (fn. 12) whose cutwaters survived in 1980. In 1662 the chief constable of the hundred was ordered to see to the cleaning of the river as weeds were undermining the bridge. (fn. 13) It was rebuilt in 1782; three round brick arches survived in 1980. The smaller bridge at the western end of the causeway, with two segmental brick arches, appears to date from the 19th century. (fn. 14)
The parish is traversed for almost its full length by a road running north-west from Whittlesford to Shelford Bridge. That road was turnpiked in 1729 and disturnpiked in 1871. There was a tollhouse on the bridge. (fn. 15)
Of the inhabitants recorded in Shelford in 1086 probably 25 were in Little Shelford. (fn. 16) By 1279 there were c. 60 tenants and 62 messuages there, (fn. 17) and 36 inhabitants were taxed in 1327. (fn. 18) The population changed little in the 15th century and 34 people paid to the subsidy in 1524. (fn. 19) There were 32 households in Little Shelford in 1563, (fn. 20) rising to c. 40 in 1666. (fn. 21) Ninety adults were recorded in 1676, (fn. 22) but in 1727 there were estimated to be only 32 families there. (fn. 23) By 1801 numbers had risen considerably, to 61 families, 220 inhabitants. They continued to rise to 580 in 1851, and after fluctuating between 580 and 440 until 1931, rose again after the Second World War to 658 in 1951 and 884 in 1971. (fn. 24)
There are remains of a pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery near to the river, south-east of the bridge. (fn. 25) The village of Little Shelford grew up west of there, around the point where the Whittlesford road turns east to cross the river. It spread from a nucleus near the ford, including the manor house and church, westwards along Church Street and southwards from the west end of Church Street along the modern High Street, known in the early 19th century as Thames Street Road. From the latter's junction with Church Street roads also ran northwest to Hauxton and west towards Harston and Newton. A number of 17th- and 18th-century cottages survive south-east of the church and on High Street. Hall Farm, at the southern end of High Street, is an early 16th-century building, extended in the later 16th century and again in the 17th and 18th centuries. White's Farm, also on High Street, dates from the 17th century and was altered in the 18th. King's Farm, near the northern end of the street, originated as a small cottage, which was altered in the later 18th century, and greatly enlarged in the early 20th century to designs by Frederick Lean. (fn. 26) Next to it stands a dovecot which was converted into a house in the 18th century. A 14th-century house on High Street was moved there from Eaton Socon (Beds.) in 1966. (fn. 27)
The number of houses in the village probably remained between 30 and 40 until the later 18th century, and although the number had almost doubled by 1831 it was not until the later 19th century that enough had been built to accommodate the growing population. (fn. 28) In the later 19th century several larger houses were built in the village and along the Whittlesford road, (fn. 29) but in the early 20th century it was difficult to find building land, and more labourers' cottages were needed. (fn. 30) By the 1940s there had been further building along the Hauxton and Newton roads. A number of council houses were built after the Second World War between High Street and Whittlesford road, and other post-war development has included single houses within the old village and c. 40 private houses east of the Whittlesford road. (fn. 31) The extent of the village has however changed little, and in 1980 much open land still remained within the village.
The Three Horse Shoes inn, on the south-east side of Church Street, occurs in 1787. (fn. 32) It was used for parish meetings in the 1830s and survived until 1908 when it was demolished and a private house built on the site. (fn. 33) The Prince Regent on the corner of Church Street and the Hauxton road, recorded in 1847, (fn. 34) survived in 1980. The William IV on High Street, which also occurs in 1847, was converted into private houses in 1910. (fn. 35) The Chequers, on the north-west side of Church Street, built in the late 1860s, also survived in 1980. (fn. 36) There were other public houses in the village in the later 19th century. (fn. 37)
From the 18th century the parish was much influenced by the Wale family whose main seat was Shelford House or Hall, later known as the Old House, south-east of the church. The family owned much land in Little Shelford, and many members lived there. (fn. 38) In 1862 a cottage on Church Street, later known as The Studio, was opened by Col. R. G. Wale as a reading room and adult evening institute. Between 1885 and 1908 technical subjects were taught there. (fn. 39) The Wales also provided the village with a recreation ground south of Shelford Hall on Whittlesford Road. In 1925 a village hall was built as a war memorial on Church Street on a site given by C. H. Clay, and enlarged by C. F. Clay of Manor Farm in 1932. (fn. 40)
John Rickinghale, bishop of Chichester from 1426, was a native of Little Shelford. (fn. 41) In the early 19th century a Mr. Preston ran at Shelford House a private school whose pupils included T. B. Macaulay and William Wilberforce's eldest son. It moved to Hertfordshire in 1814. (fn. 42)
Manors and other Estates.
In 1086 Hardwin de Scalers held altogether nearly 8 hides in Shelford, most of which formed the later manor of LITTLE SHELFORD. Part of that land, c. 1½ hides, which in 1066 had been held by six sokemen under Eddeva, was held by Hardwin under Count Alan, 2½ hides was formerly the demesne of Ely abbey, and the rest, former sokeland, was held in chief. (fn. 43) Little Shelford passed on Hardwin's death to his son Richard, forming the caput of his half of the Scalers barony. It descended from Richard's son Stephen (d. 1168) to Stephen's son William (d. 1199) and the latter's son, also William (d. by 1222), (fn. 44) being assigned in 1199 to his mother Sibyl as dower. (fn. 45) The younger William's son Richard (d. 1231) was succeeded by his daughter Lucy who married Baldwin de Freville (d. c. 1257). (fn. 46) Little Shelford thereafter descended in the Freville family for over 300 years. Baldwin de Freville c. 1235 held ¾ fee there in chief, ¾ fee of the honor of Richmond, and 1½ fee of the see of Ely, (fn. 47) and those overlordships were recorded until the 15th century. (fn. 48)
Baldwin's son Richard de Freville was succeeded in 1299 by his son John (d. 1312) (fn. 49) whose son Richard in 1325 settled the manor on himself and his wife Margaret. (fn. 50) Sir Richard was succeeded in 1328 by his son Sir John (d. 1372). The manor had been settled on John's marriage to Ellen Lucy and on her death in 1380 (fn. 51) passed to Sir John's brother Robert Freville (d. 1393) and then to Robert's son Thomas (d. 1405). (fn. 52) Thomas's son William (d. 1460) was succeeded by his son, also William (d. 1481). (fn. 53) The latter's son John was succeeded in 1505 by his son Robert (fn. 54) (d. 1521). Robert's wife Rose (d. 1529) held much of the Little Shelford estate for life, (fn. 55) and was succeeded by their son John (d. 1552). John's son and heir Robert (fn. 56) in 1556 granted the reversion of the manor of Little Shelford, then held for life by his mother Dorothy, to John's brother George. (fn. 57)
George Freville, a judge and a baron of the Exchequer, sold Little Shelford in 1577 to John Bankes (d. 1619). (fn. 58) Bankes sold the manor house and part of the demesne to Tobias Palavicino. The manor and the rest of the land was held by John's widow Priscilla until 1634 and was later sold by their second son John to Daniel Wigmore, archdeacon of Ely. (fn. 59) Palavicino sold his estate in Little Shelford to John Gill (fl. 1641). (fn. 60) By 1665 it had passed to Gilbert Wigmore, also rector of Little Shelford, who had inherited the rest of the manor in 1646 on the death of Daniel Wigmore, his kinsman. (fn. 61) Gilbert died in 1713 and the manor passed to his son-in-law Roger Gillingham, also rector (d. 1749). (fn. 62) In 1745 Gillingham sold Little Shelford manor to William Finch, a Cambridge ironmonger (d. 1762). Finch was succeeded by his great-nephew William Ingle Finch, later William Finch Finch, lord in 1808 (fn. 63) and 1815. (fn. 64) Henry Finch, presumably William's son, sold the manor in 1837 to James Law and his son James Edmund. The latter, also rector, sold the manor and land in 1879 to C. J. Clay, lord in 1883, (fn. 65) and the manor house to William Walton, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose daughter lived there in 1903. (fn. 66) C. J. Clay had been succeeded by 1908 by John Clay, lord in 1937. (fn. 67)
Little Shelford manor house, the main seat of the Frevilles, was recorded from the late 13th century, (fn. 68) presumably occupying the site of later houses near the river, north of the bridge and church. The house included a chapel in 1349, (fn. 69) and in the 1520s a hall, two parlours, and a great and little chamber. (fn. 70)
Tobias Palavicino built a new house in the earlier 17th century. It was of brick and had a three-storeyed main front of five bays with gabled wings, each of two bays, between which there was a colonnade with a two-storeyed central porch. Palavicino's arms were above the doorway. (fn. 71) In the 1610s the house was for a time occupied by the earl of Southampton. (fn. 72) In the 1660s it had 25 hearths. (fn. 73) It was largely demolished c. 1750 and a new house with a plain central block of five bays was built on the site. (fn. 74) Some material from the old house, including a 17th-century door and Palavicino's coat of arms, was incorporated into two pavilions which are joined to the new house by curving walls. The main block appears to have been refaced in the 19th century and the 18th-century panelling in some of the principal rooms had to be restored after a fire c. 1945 (fn. 75) The small park is bounded by the river on the east and by an early 18th-century brick wall on the south.
A considerable estate was built up in Little Shelford from the early 18th century by the Wale family. Gregory Wale (d. 1739) bought from Gilbert Wigmore a house and land there which he left to his son Hitch Wale (d. 1749), with remainder to his other son Thomas. (fn. 76) In 1765 Thomas leased the house from Hitch's widow who had a life interest. (fn. 77) Thomas, a Riga merchant, bought other land in the parish, and on his death in 1796 at the age of 95 was succeeded by his son Charles, later General Sir Charles Wale, (fn. 78) who after inclosure in 1815 held c. 380 a. in Little Shelford. Thomas had left his estate to his daughter, Margaretta Philippina, who after 1815 held c. 140 a. (fn. 79) Her estate, known as King's farm, passed on her death in 1841 through her niece Isabella Willis to Robert Gregory Wale, and then to Isabella's son-in-law J. F. Eaden. (fn. 80) Sir Charles Wale's eldest surviving son Alexander Malcolm succeeded his father in 1845, and in 1850 sold his Little Shelford estate to his brother Robert Gregory Wale (d. 1892). The latter's son R. F. Wale died in 1893 and was succeeded by his five sisters whose estates eventually descended to Miss Norah Cecil Wale Powell (fl. 1962). R. G. Wale's brother Charles Brent Wale (d. 1864) also held an estate in Little Shelford, known as Saintfoins. It passed in turn to his son Frederick and grandson C. G. B. Wale (fl. 1937). (fn. 81)
The Wale family's house, known as Shelford House or Hall or the Old House, south-east of the church, was of 17th-century origin. It was altered in 1764 by Thomas Wale (fn. 82) and largely demolished c. 1852. The north wing, which has walls of 18thcentury brick but has been much altered, was left as an entrance lodge to a new house built in a Gothic style for R. G. Wale by W. J. Donthorn. (fn. 83) Much of that building was burnt down in 1928. The north wing and parts of the mid 19th-century stabling, converted into private houses, survived in 1980. Between 1775 and 1845 a family mausoleum, designed by William Wilkins, stood west of the house in Camping Close. (fn. 84) The house stood in a small park adjoining the Whittlesford road.
In 1086 the estate which Hardwin de Scalers held from Count Alan included 1½ hide and 6 a. cultivated by 6 villani and 2 bordars with 2 ploughteams, and meadow for the 2 teams. The remainder of Hardwin's estate consisted of 6 hides, 1 yardland, and 7 a. One hide was in demesne, cultivated by 1 ploughteam, and the rest was cultivated by 13 villani and 4 bordars with 7 teams. There was meadow for 4 teams, and sufficient pasture. Apart from the Ely abbey land, much of Hardwin's estate had in 1066 belonged to sokemen, presumably the forerunners of the villani and bordars. (fn. 85)
By 1279 the demesne of Little Shelford manor included 300 a. of arable, 30 a. of meadow, and 10 a. of several pasture. (fn. 86) By the end of the century it was estimated as 250 a. of arable, 20 a. of meadow, and some marshy pasture. (fn. 87) In 1279 the parish included another c. 340 a. of arable land, c. 45 a. of meadow, and 6 a. of common moor. (fn. 88) As in later years (fn. 89) the meadow was presumably in the east of the parish along the river, the moor north-west of the village on the Hauxton road, and the open arable fields south of the village.
There were in 1279 13 free tenants holding between 24 a. and ½ a. each. Two held what were probably enfranchised villein tenements, and there were also 14 villein half-yardlanders who each held 12 a. of arable and 2 a. of meadow. The latter owed 3 works a week throughout the year, and 2 carrying services a week, and paid heriot, gersum, and leyrwite. There were also 35 cottars who held 1 a. each in return for reaping and threshing services, 2 boonworks, leyrwite, gersum, and a money rent. A further 12 customary tenants held small pieces of land for money rents. (fn. 90) In 1299 the labour services of all the customary tenants were worth £8 2s. a year; (fn. 91) in 1381, when they totalled only 200 a year, many had presumably been commuted. (fn. 92) The manorial estate dominated the parish, and in 1327 when Mabel de Freville paid 14s. 6d. to the fifteenth, only one other parishioner paid over 2s. (fn. 93)
By 1521, when the arable was divided between three fields, Wheat, later White, field, Southfield, and Homefield, there was apparently much inclosed meadow, besides some common meadow. (fn. 94) By 1615 the three fields were known as Whitefield, in the south-eastern corner of the parish, Middle field, on the southern boundary, and Danford or Dernford field, between the Whittlesford road and the riverside meadows. The common meadow presumably lay south-east of the village and the several meadow to its north, while the Moor was still on the Hauxton boundary. (fn. 95) Land in the south-eastern corner of the parish was intercommonable with Whittlesford until its inclosure c. 1810. (fn. 96) Little Shelford Moor was intercommonable with Harston and Hauxton until Harston's inclosure c. 1800 when the boundary was defined, and c. 64 a. were allotted to Little Shelford owners and c. 20 a. as common for the parish. (fn. 97)
In the 16th century barley was probably the parish's main crop, (fn. 98) and in the early 17th century c. 450 a. were sown with corn each year. (fn. 99) Saffron was grown in the 1620s, presumably as in the 1770s in closes, one third being ploughed up each year. Peas were then also grown in closes. (fn. 100) A shepherd was recorded in Little Shelford in the 13th century. (fn. 101) In 1615 there were c. 300 sheep in the parish. One farmer in 1618 had a flock of c. 120 as well as a herd of cattle, (fn. 102) and in the late 18th century Charles Wale had c. 300 sheep there. (fn. 103)
Until the Wale family came to prominence (fn. 104) the lords of the manor continued to dominate the parish. In 1523 Rose Freville was taxed on lands worth £20, a further 6 parishioners paid on goods worth between £4 and £15, and 5 on 40s. worth of goods, while 22 paid on wages of 20s. to 30s. (fn. 105) In the 1640s the lord of the manor was still the principal taxpayer. (fn. 106)
By 1814 (fn. 107) nearly 300 a. of land around the village and in the north of the parish had already been inclosed. The remaining arable was still divided between three fields, and there was common meadow along the river, May Common immediately south of the village closes, and the Moor and Back Moor to their west. The inclosure award, enrolled in 1815, allotted c. 860 a. of open and common land. The rector received c. 250 a. as glebe and in lieu of tithes. The largest allotment was to Sir Charles Wale who received c. 315 a. His sister Miss M. P. Wale received 105 a., and only three others had over 10 a. There were 8 allotments of 5 a.–10 a., and 25 under 5 a. The lord of the manor received 7 a. for manorial rights, the rest of his estate, c. 140 a., being already inclosed. Throughout the 19th and earlier 20th century the main owners have remained the lord of the manor, the rector, and the Wale family. (fn. 108)
By 1830 c. 70 agricultural labourers were employed on seven farms in Little Shelford, the two largest being farmed by William Clear, c. 400 a., and a Mr. Wilkerson, c. 250 a. (fn. 109) Hall farm, west of the village and extending into Hauxton, and Manor farm, in the north of the parish, (fn. 110) continued to be farmed from homesteads in the village, as did the smaller White and King's farms. Two farmsteads were built in the fields after inclosure, Rectory Farm on the glebe east of the Whittlesford road, and Saintfoins to its north-west, on land held at inclosure by Charles Finch. (fn. 111) Saintfoins was probably built by Francis Henson (fl. 1815) and passed through several hands before being bought in 1860 by Hamer Towgood (d. 1914). It had only c. 50 a. of land and was often farmed with Rectory farm. (fn. 112) In the 20th century the parish has been divided among one or two large farms and several smaller ones. (fn. 113)
By the mid 19th century c. 840 a. were cultivated as arable, the main crops being barley, wheat, and turnips ; oats, cabbage, and vetches were also grown. In 1905 c. 900 a. of arable and 450 a. of permanent grass were returned. Barley and wheat continued to be the major crops into the 1970s. By the 1950s sugar beet was also grown. (fn. 114) In 1866 the meadow land supported c. 80 cattle, and 240 pigs and over 1,000 sheep were also kept. The number of cattle increased as the sheep decreased and by 1905 there were c. 700 sheep and 106 dairy and 124 beef cattle. By 1955 few sheep were kept, but there were c. 30 dairy cattle, over 200 beef cattle, and large numbers of poultry. (fn. 115)
A fletcher was recorded in Little Shelford in the later 16th century, (fn. 116) and there was also a weaver there in the later 18th century, (fn. 117) but the main occupation in the parish long remained agriculture. In the 1830s some men and boys worked in the gravel pits, and c. 24 were tradesmen or craftsmen. (fn. 118) From the mid 18th century the Gall family made rope and twine in Little Shelford. They had a rope walk running east from their premises to near the church. From the mid 19th century the firm also made sacks and tarpaulins and from the later 19th century distilled tar. The business continued until the 1950s. In 1957 the premises were bought by a manufacturer of lenses and optical instruments and by 1974 were used by a small firm engaged in wrought iron work. (fn. 119) Arthur Austin (d. 1908), whose family had been long established in the area as windmill builders, farmed at Little Shelford from the 1890s. He was also a lime and coprolite merchant, and before 1875 he built a brewery on the Hauxton road. He may also have run a foundry for a time in the parish. (fn. 120) The brewery was disused in 1916 and had been demolished by 1966. (fn. 121) In the late 1930s there was a firm making straw plait at Little Shelford. (fn. 122) By the later 20th century most of the parish's inhabitants worked at Cambridge, Sawston, or Hauxton. (fn. 123)
A water mill was recorded at Little Shelford in 1279, 1299, and 1381. (fn. 124) Mill Lane was recorded there in the mid 16th century, (fn. 125) but the double water mill from which the rector received tithe in 1615 was probably King's Mill in Great Shelford. (fn. 126) A mill in Little Shelford has not been traced later.
In 1275 Richard de Freville claimed the assize of ale in Little Shelford, and a tumbrel. (fn. 127) Courts for Little Shelford manor are recorded in the late 13th and 14th centuries. (fn. 128) Court records survive for 1627 to 1635, (fn. 129) and a court was recorded in 1783. (fn. 130)
In the earlier 17th century a court leet and baron was held once a year. As well as dealing with tenurial matters the court issued and enforced ordinances about the cleaning of watercourses and the pasturing of animals on the commons, and elected a hayward and a constable. (fn. 131) It perhaps also exercised some control over poor relief, for in 1631 and later the leet ordered that no inhabitant should take in a pauper from outside Little Shelford without the permission of other parishioners. (fn. 132) The parish had an almshouse in 1666 ; (fn. 133) it has not been traced later.
In the early 19th century the parish's expenditure on poor relief included the payment of weekly doles to some paupers and occasional cash payments to others, as well as payments for coal, clothing, and medicine. Some wages were paid from the rates, and some men were employed digging gravel; occasional loans were also made. In 1830 c. 15 people received weekly payments. The parish employed a surgeon by 1829. (fn. 134) Little Shelford's rate in 1803 was the highest in the hundred; it thereafter fluctuated greatly, but generally remained high. Expenditure on poor relief rose from £275 in 1815 to £450 in 1833. (fn. 135)
By c. 1830 15 labourers were generally out of work, and to provide employment and prevent others being thrown on the parish it was agreed that farmers should employ a minimum number of men according to the value of their farms. (fn. 136) Men were also employed on the parish roads and drains. (fn. 137) In 1835 a close and regular check was kept on the overseers' expenditure in an attempt to keep the rate down. (fn. 138)
By 1830 the parish oversaw the maintenance of public ditches and maintained a fire engine in conjunction with Great Shelford and Stapleford. (fn. 139) In 1855 an improvement committee, appointed by the vestry, made plans for the better drainage of the parish. (fn. 140)
After 1834 Little Shelford joined the Chesterton poor law union, passing in 1894 to the Chesterton R.D., and in 1934 to the South Cambridgeshire R.D. From 1974 it has been part of the South Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 141)
The church at Shelford which had belonged to the monks of Ely and had been seized by 1086 by Hardwin de Scalers (fn. 142) was probably Little Shelford church. The living has remained a rectory, the advowson descending with Little Shelford manor until the 19th century. (fn. 143) In 1879 J. E. Law, then rector and patron, sold the advowson to St. Catharine's College, Cambridge. (fn. 144) The college retained the advowson, and after 1930, when the benefice was united with Newton, presented alternately with the dean and chapter of Ely. (fn. 145) In 1960 the advowson was assigned to the bishop of Ely. (fn. 146)
The rectory was valued at 12 marks c. 1217, at 14 marks in 1254, and at 16 marks in 1291. (fn. 147) By 1534 it was worth £15 9s. 8d. (fn. 148) and c. £100 by the mid 17th century. (fn. 149) In 1728 it was valued at £120, by 1830 at c. £370, and in 1883 at £400. (fn. 150)
In 1291 and 1367 as well as all the tithes of Little Shelford the rector received 2s. for tithes from 3½ a. in Whittlesford. (fn. 151) By 1615 the payment had risen to 6s. 8d., (fn. 152) and the rector was later allotted c. 1 a. in Whittlesford in lieu of tithes. (fn. 153) In the later 17th century it was established that he should also receive a payment of 28s. a year from Hauxton rectory. (fn. 154) At inclosure in 1815 the rector was allotted 224½ a. in lieu of all tithes in Little Shelford. (fn. 155)
In 1279 there were c. 26 a. of glebe, given by an earlier lord of the manor. (fn. 156) By the early 17th century there were c. 60 a., (fn. 157) but the rector was allotted only c. 28 a., close to his tithe allotment in the south of the parish, in 1815. (fn. 158) Rectory Farm had been built there by 1837. (fn. 159) St. Catharine's College gave the rector 4 a. more glebe c. 1885, (fn. 160) and in 1887 it totalled c. 255 a. (fn. 161) In 1952 Rectory farm was sold to Messrs. J. Fordham and Sons, (fn. 162) who still held it in 1980.
The rector had a house in Little Shelford in 1279, (fn. 163) probably on the site of later glebe houses immediately north-east of the church. It perhaps had 4 hearths in the mid 17th century. (fn. 164) From the 17th century the rector was often also lord of the manor and lived in the manor house, as in 1731. (fn. 165) The rectory was kept in good repair and let out. (fn. 166) In 1858 the old rectory, a long, low building with a deep roof and dormer windows, was demolished and a large new brick and stone house built in a Gothic style on the same site by J. E. Law. (fn. 167) That house, in 1980 called Priesthouse, was sold in 1962 (fn. 168) after a new rectory had been built to its north-east.
Thomas Eyton, rector of Little and Great Shelford, was licensed not to reside in 1337. (fn. 169) In 1378 besides the rector there were three chaplains in the parish, and two were recorded there in 1406. (fn. 170) In the early 16th century there was a Corpus Christi guild in Little Shelford. (fn. 171) Roland Swinburne, rector 1540–57, was also master of Clare College and held a prebend of Salisbury. (fn. 172) George Fuller, rector 1561–79, was non-resident; he also held Hildersham, and lived at Christ's College where he was a fellow. (fn. 173) His successor John Scurfield was also chaplain to the earl of Essex and rector of Hertingfordbury (Herts.). He was non-resident in 1579, and in 1590 employed a curate at Little Shelford. (fn. 174) In the late 16th and early 17th century a number of parishioners, especially the Bankes family, failed to attend church. (fn. 175)
William Alabaster, presented in 1627, was a Latin poet and divine who had been a convert to Catholicism earlier in his career. (fn. 176) Gilbert Wigmore, rector 1641–65, and his son-in-law Roger Gillingham, rector 1709–49, both owned the manor. (fn. 177) William Wells, rector c. 1665–75, was also president of Queens' College, vice-chancellor of the University, rector of Sandon (Essex), and archdeacon of Colchester. (fn. 178) A Mr. Hurst, rector in the later 18th century, also held Great Shelford and employed a curate for the two parishes, himself living at Boxworth. The curate held one Sunday service and thrice yearly sacraments in 1775. (fn. 179) Martin Hogg, rector in 1802, was chaplain to the earl of Cholmondeley. (fn. 180) His successor Henry Finch, rector 1806– 49, also held Great Shelford and Longstanton, (fn. 181) and in 1807 lived mostly in Cambridge. He held alternate Sunday morning and evening services, and quarterly communions attended by c. 12 people. He was resident at Little Shelford by 1825. (fn. 182)
James Edmund Law, rector 1852–92, was presented by his father, and, although licensed for non-residence in 1855, lived at Little Shelford from 1859. (fn. 183) By 1873 he was holding two Sunday services and monthly communions, and there was also a Sunday school. (fn. 184) His successor E. T. S. Carr, rector until 1929, was also a fellow, bursar, and president of St. Catharine's College. By 1897 he had introduced a choir and a parochial library. (fn. 185) After his death the benefice was united with Newton, but rectors have continued to live at Little Shelford. (fn. 186)
The church of ALL SAINTS, so called in 1521, (fn. 187) is built of field stones with stone dressings, and consists of a chancel with north vestry, a nave with a south chapel and porch, and a west tower. Part of the nave north wall, including a doorway and window, survives from a 12th-century building, as until the mid 19th century did a cross wall between the chancel and nave, pierced by a pointed central opening, with two smaller blind side-arches. The chancel was rebuilt or remodelled in the late 13th century. The vestry, the tower, and the south porch were added in the early 14th century, probably by Sir John de Freville (d. 1312) and his successors who may also have rebuilt the south wall of the nave. A new five-light east window was put in by Sir John (d. 1372) or his wife Ellen (d. 1380), (fn. 188) and in the early 15th century a south chapel was added, probably by Margaret, wife of Thomas Freville (d. 1405). In the mid 15th century the nave and tower were partly rebuilt and new five-light, squareheaded windows were put into the chancel. Some windows were blocked in 1638; (fn. 189) the west wall of the south chapel was rebuilt in brick in 1728 and the east end of the chancel was apparently rebuilt and the east window replaced in 1760. (fn. 190) By the mid 19th century the blind arches of the cross wall between nave and chancel had been pierced by square openings (fn. 191) and as a result that wall was insecure. It was taken down during restoration in 1854 and replaced with a large new chancel arch designed by Edward Walters of Cambridge. At the same time a squint between the south chapel and the chancel was filled in. (fn. 192) By 1873 further restoration was necessary: (fn. 193) it was undertaken in 1878–9 under the direction of R. R. Rowe. The chancel was largely rebuilt and given new east and south windows, the nave walls were repaired, and the roofs were rebuilt in the style of the old ones. The south doorway was renewed and a new porch built. (fn. 194) The tower was restored, also by Rowe, c. 1884, and again in 1950 when other repairs were also undertaken. (fn. 195)
In 1742 there survived 16 chancel stalls with canopies and a chancel screen painted with the Freville arms and St. George's cross. (fn. 196) The screen was removed in 1854 although the rood stair turret survived in 1980. Only the backs of the stalls then remained. The octagonal stone font dates from the early 14th century. There was a three-decker pulpit before 1854; (fn. 197) the carved oak pulpit and canopy which survived in 1980 dated from 1633. Against the north wall of the chancel, under an elaborate ogeeheaded arch, is an effigy of Sir John de Freville (d. 1312). To its west a slightly earlier arch once covered the tomb of a woman, perhaps his wife Eleanor (d. 1316). (fn. 198) The east window glass once contained inscriptions to Sir John (d. 1372) and Ellen Freville (d. 1380); with other painted glass which survived c. 1750 (fn. 199) it had disappeared by the 19th century. In the south chapel there survive brasses to Robert Freville (d. 1393) and his wife Clarice (d. 1399), and Thomas Freville (d. 1405) and his wife Margaret (d. 1410). In the 17th century monuments to several other members of the Freville family survived. (fn. 200) A monument to Gilbert Wigmore (d. 1683) is set in the outside south chancel wall. In the south chapel are monuments to William Ingle (d. 1767), his son William Finch Finch (d. 1826), and Samuel Ingle, rector (d. 1794). On the north wall of the nave are many monuments to members of the Wale family.
In the 13th century the church was richly provided with vestments, some given by the Frevilles. (fn. 201) In 1473 the rector John Catte left several vestments and a chalice to the church, (fn. 202) and in 1552 there was a silver chalice and paten. (fn. 203) In the 20th century the plate included a cup and paten of 1638. (fn. 204) Little Shelford had three bells in the steeple in 1552. (fn. 205) One was recast and a new one bought in 1608. (fn. 206) Another was recast in 1612, and four new bells were cast c. 1702. (fn. 207) Six bells were hung in the tower in 1961. (fn. 208) The parish registers begin in 1686, and there are bishop's transcripts from 1600. (fn. 209)
No nonconformists were recorded in Little Shelford in the mid 17th century, (fn. 210) but c. 7 families were described as Presbyterian in 1731. (fn. 211) In 1759 a house was licensed for protestant worship by the United Brethren. (fn. 212)
By 1807 the rector reported that there was no meeting house and the few dissenters often attended church, (fn. 213) although it was later said that the meeting house had been in use before 1800. It was refitted and licensed in 1823. Then described as a barn, it was presumably on the site of the later chapel, east of High Street near King's Farm. In 1851 c. 50 people attended each of the 3 Sunday services. (fn. 214) The meeting was served by the Home Missionary Society, a Congregational body. (fn. 215) The chapel was probably rebuilt in 1881. (fn. 216) In 1895 it was served with Sawston, as it was in the 1960s when it had c. 11 members. (fn. 217)
John Wesley preached at Shelford in 1759. (fn. 218) In 1761 a house in Little Shelford was licensed for Methodist worship (fn. 219) and in 1783 there were said to be many Methodists in the parish, (fn. 220) but they are not recorded later.
There was an unlicensed school master at Little Shelford in 1590. (fn. 221)
By the early 19th century Miss M. P. Wale supported a school which taught writing, bible reading, and needlework to c. 15 girls. After her death it was supported for a few years by other members of her family and the rector's wife, before closing. (fn. 222) In 1818, when many children attended Great Shelford schools, there was one other day school at Little Shelford for c. 15 children. (fn. 223) By 1833 2 dame schools there taught c. 35 infants, and a Sunday school, opened in 1823, taught c. 60 children. (fn. 224) From the 1840s Little Shelford children attended schools at Great Shelford. A Sunday school continued at Little Shelford, and evening classes were sometimes held there. (fn. 225)
Charities for the Poor. (fn. 226)
Little Shelford was amongst the parishes to benefit from Lettice Martin's charity, established in 1562. The income was distributed in small cash doles, usually with a £2 rent charge on Hall Farm, devised by John Bankes by will proved 1619. (fn. 227) By 1980 the income of the Parochial Charities, under £5, was used for the general benefit of the poor.