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.
THE long, narrow parish of Guilden Morden, (fn. 1) c. 13 km. south-west of Cambridge and covering 1,052 ha. (2,599 a.), (fn. 2) occupies the south-western extremity of Cambridgeshire. The river Cam or Rhee, which rises at Ruddery Spring 3 km. south of the village near the ancient Ashwell Street, forms the western boundary of both county and parish with Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, (fn. 3) while the southern one follows for 400 metres the line of the Icknield Way, later the Baldock-Royston turnpike. From there, where the parish has only a narrow tongue under ½ km. wide, once occupied by the Cistercian Odsey grange, Guilden Morden stretches north for 9 km. to Tadlow bridge across the Cam. It is separated from Steeple Morden to the east, from which it was not fully distinct in 1086, (fn. 4) by a stream rising near Ashwell Street and further south by field boundaries. It lies upon the Gault to the north and chalk further south. The ground rises gently from under 30 metres by the Cam to the north, an area called Morden fen in 1327, (fn. 5) to c. 40 metres around the village and 60 metres just south of Ashwell Street. Odsey lies rather higher on a west sloping plateau at over 75 metres. Since the Middle Ages the parish economy has been based mainly on farming, conducted before inclosure in 1801 upon a triennial rotation.
Upon a slight eminence just south of Ashwell Street was a Romano-British cemetery, partly eaten away by the village clunch pit. Over 180 burials of the 1st to 4th centuries A.D. there indicate a substantial settlement nearby, (fn. 6) perhaps linked with a villa standing 400 metres north-west. (fn. 7) The AngloSaxons perhaps settled the comparatively waterless Guilden Morden later than Steeple Morden, but the former, with 51 peasants in 1086, (fn. 8) was then slightly the larger village, though less populous than its neighbour after 1350. The names of c. 130 tenants survive from 1279. (fn. 9) From the late 14th century to the late 16th the population remained fairly stable. In 1327 32 people paid the subsidy, (fn. 10) and in 1347 58 owned wool. (fn. 11) There were 222 adults in 1377, (fn. 12) 59 taxpayers in 1524, (fn. 13) and 54 households in 1563. (fn. 14) Numbers perhaps rose by over half between 1600 and the 1630s, probably then falling by over 100 by the 1660s before stabilizing again. (fn. 15) In 1660 178 adult residents paid a poll-tax. (fn. 16) Under Charles II there were 80 or more households, (fn. 17) and in 1676 224 adults. (fn. 18) In 1728 85 families comprised c. 330 people. From the 1760s the population rose steadily to reach 428 by 1801. Thereafter it grew by 9 a year on average in the 1810s and 13 in the 1830s to 929 in 1851. Despite a slight drop c. 1860 the coprolite diggings of the 1860s reduced emigration, and numbers stood at 1,059 in 1871, falling again by 100 by 1881. In the 1910s the decline briefly halted at c. 660, but resumed after 1914, and by 1931 the population at 533 was lower than in 1821. After 1950 it grew very slowly to 590 in 1971. (fn. 19)
The main settlements lay in the wider northern section of the parish. (fn. 20) From the church a short street ran south-west to meet, south of Pound Green, a road past the site of the manor house that formed a long, winding high street. After a short gap in building still visible in the 1970s the street ran on south for 800 metres through the 'South End', mentioned in 1556, (fn. 21) to the Town's End, so named by 1625. (fn. 22) In the mid 19th century there were c. 40 houses along Church Street, over 20 at Pound Green, and c. 50 along the high street further south. Northeast of the main village were groups of dwellings at Great Green and Little Green, the latter recorded in 1699 (fn. 23) and perhaps, as Little End, in 1689. (fn. 24) About 1850 there were 15–20 dwellings at each, but they later shrank until in the 1970s there were only 3 cottages at Little, and 5 or 6 houses at Great, Green.
The medieval hamlet of Redreth, mentioned by 1100, probably stood c. 2 km. south of the village near Ashwell Street. Last clearly recorded in the 1340s, it was perhaps deserted after the Black Death. (fn. 25) The Cistercian grange at Odsey was succeeded by 1500 by a farmhouse (fn. 26) and from the 18th century by gentlemen's residences. (fn. 27)
The village contains some scattered minor 17thcentury houses, timber framed and plastered, and numerous 19th-century cottages, including one terrace of 10 on Church Street. Over 100 houses were built between 1821 and 1861, but by the 1920s barely 150 were occupied. (fn. 28) Growth after 1945 was slow, only 22 houses being added between 1951 and 1971. (fn. 29) In the early 1970s, however, two council estates were put up, one at the north end of Fox Hole Road which runs north-west from the church, the other by the road to Great Green. A private development of over 25 houses rose south of the latter, and another south of Church Street. (fn. 30) Apart from Odsey, the only substantial house outside the old inclosed area is the early 19th-century farmhouse at Cold Harbour.
The village was linked to its neighbours only by roads across the fields, mostly straightened at inclosure. (fn. 31) That to Steeple Morden crossed the brook at a ford replaced by 1593 with a bridge called the Trap. (fn. 32) The village's main public houses were the Six Bells by the church, recorded by 1801, (fn. 33) and the Three Tuns on the high street, opened by 1851. (fn. 34) The village feast was held at each in alternate Julys. The Six Bells closed between 1958 (fn. 35) and 1978 when the Three Tuns was still open. The maypole was restored at parish expense in 1660. (fn. 36) In 1912 the parish bought 8 a. for a recreation ground, on one corner of which a village hall was built in 1928. (fn. 37)
Under James I over 40 a. of the heath, owned by Joyce Norton, were attached as a hare warren to the royal hunting lodge at Royston. When they were sold in 1650 Joyce's heir Thomas Duckett of Steeple Morden, who had purchased the patent of master of the king's game there, was in possession. (fn. 38)
Manors and other Estates.
In 1086 the largest manor was that formed by Picot the sheriff from 3½ hides formerly held by 8 sokemen, including men of King Edward, Archbishop Stigand, and Earl Alfgar. (fn. 39) It passed c. 1110 to Pain Peverel of Dover. After Pain's son William died without issue c. 1147, lordship over the Guilden Morden land was divided among his sisters and coheirs, including in 1166 Maud (d. s.p. 1185), wife of Hugh of Dover, Alice, married to Hamon Pecche, and Asceline de Waterville. (fn. 40) Through its subinfeudation the manor had been divided into five estates, each nominally of ½ hide, and each held for ½ knight's fee. (fn. 41) The lordship over two of the estates passed with the barony of Bourn to the Pecches, and was acquired with it by Edward I in 1283. (fn. 42) Their tenure under the Crown, as of the barony of Pecche, was still recorded in the 16th century. (fn. 43) Another two estates were held of the heirs and successors of Asceline's elder daughter Asceline, passing with Orwell manor to the Torpels, Camoyses, Kirkbys, and Prillys. (fn. 44) In 1279 a mesne lordship over those two manors was ascribed to the heirs of the earls of Winchester: Asceline de Waterville had married Saher de Quincy (d. 1190), uncle of the first earl. (fn. 45) The fifth estate was by 1279 held of the heirs of Richard de Mucegros, descended from Asceline de Waterville's younger daughter Maud de Dive. (fn. 46) Those overlordships fell into oblivion after 1350.
Of the two manors held under the lords of Orwell, PICHARDS derived from the grant c. 1140 by William Peverel of his remaining demesne at Morden, to be held as ½ knight's fee, to Hamon Pichard (fl. to 1169), (fn. 47) to whose nephew and heir, William son of Hugh, Saher de Quincy (d. 1190) confirmed it. (fn. 48) The manor, later descending with the Pichards' Abington land, was held c. 1235–42 by William Pichard, (fn. 49) in 1279 by Hamon Pichard, (fn. 50) and in 1302 by William Pichard. (fn. 51) In 1332 the Morden estate was occupied by another Hamon Pichard, (fn. 52) in the early 1340s by Anastasia and Maud Pichard, (fn. 53) and in 1346 by William Pichard, dead before 1360. (fn. 54) In 1381 Joan, widow and allegedly murderess of a William Pichard, released land in Bedfordshire to Thomas Haselden, (fn. 55) to whose family's other Morden manors, Bondesbury and Foxleys, Pichards was attached by 1428, (fn. 56) descending thereafter to the Haseldens and their successors. (fn. 57)
BONDESBURY had also been held under Orwell's lords. Ralph de Banks (fl. from 1209) (fn. 58) held a fee at Guilden Morden of the Torpels between 1224 (fn. 59) and 1245. (fn. 60) Sir Hugh de Broc held that manor of Sir John de Camoys in 1279. (fn. 61) Before 1297 Sir Richard of Wells as nephew and heir of Geoffrey of Wells released to Robert Hereward the manor already granted to Robert by Geoffrey's widow Isabel. (fn. 62)
Hereward, while sheriff of Cambridgeshire 1300–1, entailed 1 carucate in Morden, held as ½ fee c. 1302, (fn. 63) and died c. 1305. (fn. 64) His heir was his daughter Margaret, who after 1313 (fn. 65) married Sir William Lovell, (fn. 66) lord in 1346, when he was granted free warren at Morden. (fn. 67) In 1348 he mortally wounded his steward in his own hall at Guilden Morden and fled, dying later that year. (fn. 68) His daughter and heir Beatrice died after 1361. (fn. 69) John son of Roger Chamber, tenant of Lovell's Buckinghamshire lands, (fn. 70) in 1383 granted Bondesbury to Thomas Haselden, (fn. 71) to whom Sir Ralph Lovell of Norfolk released it in 1384. (fn. 72)
Thomas Haselden, a Yorkshireman, (fn. 73) controller of John of Gaunt's household 1372–82, arrived in Cambridgeshire as Gaunt's steward at Bassingbourn c. 1370. (fn. 74) In 1381 the insurgent peasants destroyed Haselden's manor house at Morden and carried off his crops. (fn. 75) The aged Haselden sat for the county in 1384 and 1386 and probably died soon after. (fn. 76) He left two sons, Richard and Thomas. (fn. 77) Richard, the elder, M.P. for Cambridgeshire in 1394 and 1399, (fn. 78) died in 1405, holding also the family's Litlington and Steeple Morden lands. His son and heir Thomas was just under 21. (fn. 79) Richard's brother Thomas, four times M.P. for Cambridgeshire 1395–1401, and sheriff 1399–1400, (fn. 80) possibly inherited the reversion of Pichards manor, held for life by their father's widow Joan, (fn. 81) but died in 1404. (fn. 82) Thomas son of Richard had gone mad by 1408 and died by 1417. Control of the Haselden lands passed after 1408 to Sir William Hasenhull, his late guardian and Joan's second husband. (fn. 83) Hasenhull occupied most of the Guilden Morden fees in 1428, (fn. 84) apparently for life. He died in 1443. (fn. 85) William Haselden, son of Thomas, (fn. 86) under an agreement of 1433, had exchanged Avenels manor and lands elsewhere with his kinsman Hugh Haselden for the reversion of Pichards. Hugh released Bondesbury and Foxleys to feoffees for William. (fn. 87)
William Haselden (d. 1480) was succeeded by his son John (fn. 88) (d. 1504), whose son and heir Francis (fn. 89) died in 1522. The succession of Francis's daughter Frances and her husband Sir Robert Peyton (fn. 90) was challenged by Francis's brother Anthony Haselden (d. 1527), and, after Anthony's minor son William (fn. 91) died without issue in 1537, by the heirs male, William and Richard Haselden, London tradesmen and sons of John Haselden's brother Richard. Sir Robert Peyton won the ensuing lawsuits in the 1540s (fn. 92) and died in 1550. (fn. 93) When Frances, who had held the Morden manors in survivorship, died in 1582, (fn. 94) her son and heir Robert Peyton at once sold them to Thomas Mead, justice of the common pleas. Mead died in 1585, leaving them for life to his widow Joan. (fn. 95)
The judge's son and heir Sir Thomas Mead sold them in 1615 to William Hayes (fn. 96) (d. s.p. 1617). (fn. 97) William's heir, his brother Peter's son Robert, died without issue later that year and was succeeded by his brother Thomas, of age in 1620. (fn. 98) Thomas Hayes died in 1628, leaving a son William aged 2, during whose minority the estate was probably occupied by his father's creditors. Having recovered possession c. 1647, (fn. 99) William settled it in 1649 upon himself and his wife Frances jointly in fee simple. William died in 1651, and Frances married Thomas Storey in 1653. (fn. 100) He died in 1670, and Frances in 1675, leaving Guilden Morden to their son Thomas, (fn. 101) who died in 1702, ordering its sale, if necessary to pay his debts. (fn. 102) That was effected by the 1720s. (fn. 103)
The purchaser, Sir George Downing, Bt. (d. 1749), was succeeded by his cousin Sir Jacob Garrard Downing (d. s.p. 1764). The Morden estate, having been acquired after Sir George made his will in 1717, was not affected by his devise for endowing a college, so that Sir Jacob's leaving it to his widow Margaret was valid. (fn. 104) Lady Downing left it in 1778 to her nephew J. J. Whittington, (fn. 105) who owned c. 417 a. in the parish before its inclosure, (fn. 106) when his were the only manors recognized, and 376 a. thereafter. (fn. 107) In 1806 he sold that land to Lord Hardwicke, (fn. 108) and, with c. 300 a. more acquired by 1810, it remained with the Hardwickes' Wimpole estate until after 1900. In 1911 Viscount Clifden, purchaser of Wimpole, sold two farms, covering c. 700 a. Manor farm of 313 a. was bought by the Cambridgeshire county council, while the manorial rights passed to a firm of solicitors. (fn. 109)
The Bondesbury manor house probably stood in an 8-a. close of that name north-west of the village, where a moat survived in 1800. (fn. 110) The existing Morden Hall was probably built by the Haseldens in the 15th century. It stands 450 metres east of the village within a square moat nearly 10 metres wide, (fn. 111) and is timber framed with three gables facing west, two above an overhang. Thomas Hayes refurbished it c. 1620. (fn. 112) It had 9 hearths in the 1660s when the Storeys lived there. (fn. 113) From the early 18th century to the 20th it was used as a farmhouse, (fn. 114) but was sold separately in 1911. (fn. 115) The largish greybrick Morden House across the road to the west has no connexion with any manor. It was built, probably in the 1860s, for the family of Robert Merry, vicar to 1868. (fn. 116)
Of the two half fees later held of the barony of Bourn, one, later AVENELS manor, granted after 1135 to Gilbert of Beach, was held in 1166 by his minor son Alan under Hugh of Dover. (fn. 117) By 1231 it was held by Alan's son Robert of Beach, (fn. 118) from whose sister Ellen it descended after 1242 to the Avenels. (fn. 119) In 1279 John Avenel and Walter de la Huse held it of Gilbert Pecche. (fn. 120) Huse sold 4 yardlands at Guilden Morden in 1310. (fn. 121) John Avenel's share had descended by 1302 to his son William (d. 1331), (fn. 122) then to William's son John. At his death in 1359 John held part of it of the honor of Clare, (fn. 123) to which leet jurisdiction over the vill had been appropriated c. 1250. (fn. 124) John's son John died in 1382, and his son Robert (fn. 125) without issue in 1387. (fn. 126) In 1390 Sir Peter Courtenay, remainderman under a settlement of 1302, sold Avenels to Thomas Haselden's widow Joan and her sons. (fn. 127) From Hugh Haselden it passed after 1433 (fn. 128) with Brewis manor in Steeple Morden until the 1540s, being said in 1518 and later to be held of the honor of Clare. (fn. 129) Henry Fortescue did not sell Avenels with Brewis manor, and at his death in 1576 it passed to his son Francis, (fn. 130) who had alienated it before he died in 1588. (fn. 131) Henry and Francis had already enfranchised over 50 a. of copyhold. (fn. 132)
The Avenels demesne of c. 200 a. was settled in 1610 by Thomas Lilley, a local yeoman, upon his son Thomas. (fn. 133) The son in 1633 settled Avenels manor with 122 a. on his son Richard (fn. 134) (d. 1655), who left all his lands to two nephews, Richard and John Lilley. (fn. 135) In the 18th century Avenels belonged to the Leetes, a prosperous farming family. Simeon Leete, established at Morden by 1724, died in 1777. His son Simeon, (fn. 136) who had 433 a. before, and 414 a. after, inclosure, when his claim to manorial rights was rejected, (fn. 137) died in 1807. After his son, another Simeon, died in 1823, (fn. 138) the family land was divided c. 1828. Avenels house with 133 a. near the village passed to a fourth Simeon Leete, on whose death in 1842 his share was sold and broken up. (fn. 139) Tempest Leete sold Cold Harbour farm of 340 a. in the south end of the parish c. 1845 to its tenant Richard Bowman. The Smyth family owned it from the 1890s. (fn. 140)
The present house, once called Avenels, standing just west of the church and vicarage and dated 1680, has an 18th-century front with a massive porch, concealing an earlier structure. Separated from the estate by the 1850s, it was remodelled inside c. 1900 by Waring and Gillow as a country residence. (fn. 141)
The other fee held of the Pecches originated in ½ knight's fee, granted after 1135 and held in 1166 of Hamon Pecche by Everard of Beach, (fn. 142) joint sheriff of Cambridgeshire 1170–7 (fn. 143) and lord of Papworth Everard. (fn. 144) His successor Peter of Beach (fl. 1194– 1228) (fn. 145) was dead by 1233. About 1235 Peter's son Peter held with Walter of Isleham ½ fee at Morden, (fn. 146) probably that lately inherited in 1242 by John of Beach. (fn. 147) Their land was probably that, entirely occupied by customary tenants, held in 1279 under Sir Simon de Lisle, the Beaches' successor at Papworth, John of Papworth, and Maud de Somery, (fn. 148) in 1302 by Geoffrey Neckbone, who bought 43 a. at Morden in 1312, and William of Ashwell, (fn. 149) and in 1346 by Robert Neckbone, Peter of Ashwell, and Thomas Northbrook of Steeple Morden. (fn. 150) Part of the fee was perhaps the half manor, held from 1352 for life by Sir Richard Walkefare (d. 1371), and under him by two others. In 1365 Roger Curt and his wife Beatrice sold the reversion to Sir Thomas Fastolf (d. c. 1380). (fn. 151) In 1428 the fee was shared by John Hamelyn and Thomas Baldry. (fn. 152) It has not been traced later.
The ½ fee held of the Mucegros heirs probably belonged c. 1240 to William of Withenton, (fn. 153) steward of Ramsey abbey (Hunts.), (fl. 1220–60). (fn. 154) In 1279 it was divided among six men, none owning any demesne, (fn. 155) and in 1302 was held by Robert Canon and Nicholas Colmworth. (fn. 156) Part was probably held in 1311 by John Maidenbury (fl. to 1342) and Richard Caus. (fn. 157) Its tenants in 1346 included Thomas of Boxworth, Edward Maidenbury, Isabel Caus, and Sir William Lovell. (fn. 158) In 1394 Barnwell priory bought 62 a. at Guilden Morden held of the Mucegros heirs, (fn. 159) and by 1428 held most of the fee, (fn. 160) thereafter called Boxworths and yielding mainly assized rents. (fn. 161) The priory had appropriated the church given it by Pain Peverel, and by 1279 had lordship over 6 yardlands given it by Everard of Beach and 2 more given by Peter of Beach (fl. 1235). (fn. 162)
After the Dissolution the Barnwell estate was divided. The rectorial tithes and a tithe barn passed from the Crown to the see of Ely by the exchange of 1562. (fn. 163) From 1600 the bishops regularly leased them for terms of lives. The lease, yielding a profit of £185 in 1650, was acquired in 1695 by St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, to support scholarships. (fn. 164) The 263 a. allotted for the great tithes at inclosure (fn. 165) passed, when the last beneficial lease made in 1838 expired in 1875, to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. They sold 240 a. to the tenant, F. W. P. Hunt, in 1920, when another 17 a. were on lease to the county council. (fn. 166) The rectorial glebe had been absorbed into Barnwell's lay fee, which remained with the Crown in 1582, (fn. 167) and was perhaps on lease from it to Dr. Thomas Martin (d. 1593). (fn. 168) It was probably sold to William Hayes, whose nephew Thomas held of the Crown, in socage of Greenwich manor, a manor including Town's End farm of 105 a., (fn. 169) which as BARNWELL manor descended with the main estate to the Hardwickes. (fn. 170)
The 2¼ yardlands held by Goda, owner of Shingay, under Earl Alfgar in 1066 and by Earl Roger in 1086, (fn. 171) passed with Shingay manor to the Hospitallers, who in 1279 had ½ hide, mostly occupied by villeins, in Morden, (fn. 172) and to their successors. (fn. 173) In 1800 173 a. of copyhold were still held of Shingay manor. (fn. 174) The half-yardland held in 1086 by Alverad of Hardwin de Scalers (fn. 175) has not been traced later.
Ansgar the staller's man Godwin 'Wambstrong' in 1066 had 3 yardlands, held in 1086 by Richard of Morden of Geoffrey de Mandeville. (fn. 176) Perhaps through a link with Geoffrey's manor of Alferton in Great Dunmow (Essex), lordship over the Morden fee came by 1200 to Hugh, count of St. Pol, said in 1212 to hold ½ fee there of the honor of Boulogne, (fn. 177) and was presumably granted with Alferton in 1253 by Henry III to Sir Bartholomew Bigot, (fn. 178) marshal of his household (d. c. 1270), (fn. 179) of whose heirs it was held in 1279. (fn. 180) In 1198 William Rivel granted the 3 yardlands to Walkelin de Pernes (fn. 181) (fl. to 1230). (fn. 182) Baldwin de Pernes held them as ¼ fee c. 1235. (fn. 183) Thomas de Pernes, a younger son of Walkelin, (fn. 184) left a daughter Alice. She married Nicholas of Wendy, who in 1279 held the manor, including 80 a. of demesne. (fn. 185) In 1281 he and Alice exchanged it for land in Wendy with Geoffrey of Pitchford, (fn. 186) a servant of Queen Eleanor, who held the manor when Nicholas's son Ralph claimed it in 1286. (fn. 187)
Geoffrey, constable of Windsor castle since 1272, died in 1298, and his widow Alice brought the manor for her life to her second husband Robert Butler, tenant in 1302. (fn. 188) In 1307 Pitchford's son Richard sold the reversion to John Foxley, who at once bought out Alice's life interest. (fn. 189) Foxley, a baron of the Exchequer from 1309, (fn. 190) was granted free warren at Morden in 1317 (fn. 191) and died in 1324. His son and heir Thomas, (fn. 192) constable of Windsor castle from 1330 to his death in 1360, (fn. 193) held FOXLEYS manor in 1346. (fn. 194) Thomas's son Sir John Foxley (fn. 195) sold it in 1377 to Thomas Haselden, (fn. 196) with whose other manors it later passed, being said like them to be held in chief of the Crown. (fn. 197) Foxleys manor house probably once occupied a 9-a. close just north-east of Bondesbury, still called Foxleys in 1797. (fn. 198)
William Peverel granted to Warden abbey (Beds.) all his demesne between Ashwell Street and the Icknield Way. By 1160 that Cistercian abbey had established there its grange of ODSEY. (fn. 199) It was probably at farm by 1400, (fn. 200) when it was said to be held of Barnwell priory under the honor of Boulogne. (fn. 201) From 1500 to the 1540s it was held on lease by William Sewster, (fn. 202) to whose son John the Crown sold it in 1543. (fn. 203) It descended with his Steeple Morden lands, being occasionally styled Odsey manor, (fn. 204) until c. 1660 when Thomas Duckett (d. 1676) settled the land upon his younger son John. (fn. 205) The manorial title, however, passed with Duckett's other lands to the Hardwickes. (fn. 206) In 1705 John Duckett sold Odsey to Robert Chester. The latter sold it in 1722 to William Cavendish, duke of Devonshire, whose great-grandson William, the 5th duke, sold it in 1793 to the brothers Edward King Fordham and George Fordham (d. 1840), bankers at Royston. (fn. 207) They jointly owned the estate of 263 a. after inclosure. (fn. 208) E. K. Fordham died without issue in 1847, and Odsey passed to George's sons Edward George (d. 1868), and George George (d. 1848) whose son and successor Herbert died in 1891. Herbert's son and heir, Sir Herbert George Fordham, was prominent in Cambridgeshire local government (fn. 209) and an authority on cartographic history. (fn. 210) He was succeeded in 1929 by his second son William Herbert (fl. 1969), from whom Odsey passed to C. M. Fordham, son of Sir Herbert's brother M. E. Fordham, and his son Mr. C. J. K. Fordham, in possession in 1978. (fn. 211)
William Sewster left the monastic grange to decay. (fn. 212) Stables built by 1705 for horses to run on the 18th-century racecourse over Odsey Heath (Herts.) were remodelled in the 1720s by the duke of Devonshire. He added, close to the turnpike, a sporting lodge and jockey house in red brick, (fn. 213) later Odsey House. About 1865 Herbert Fordham replaced the old farmhouse, to the north-west, perhaps on the site of the grange, with a substantial mansion in grey brick, called simply Odsey. (fn. 214) Both houses were usually occupied by members of the Fordham family. (fn. 215)
Anglesey priory, refounded c. 1221, (fn. 216) had by 1236 received from Lawrence of St. Nicholas c. 120 a. at Guilden and Steeple Morden, (fn. 217) which with other land acquired by 1279 (fn. 218) were sold to John Sewster in 1543, (fn. 219) and descended thereafter with Odsey. In 1652 Dr. Robert Metcalfe left to Beverley corporation (Yorks. E.R.), partly for educational purposes, Siliards farm of 106 a. bought by him in 1651. (fn. 220) The 90 a. allotted for it at inclosure were sold to the Cambridgeshire county council in 1922. (fn. 221)
In 1086 the three smaller manors lay mainly in demesne, only one having even one villanus, but only 1 of 3½ hides did so on Picot's estate, which had three quarters of the peasants. They comprised only 9 villani as against 15 bordars and 27 cottars, the latter probably with only I a. each. The vill was understocked, having fewer than 8 ploughteams, including 2¼ demesne teams, for II ploughlands. The value of the vill had fallen from £13 10s. in 1066 to £10 when the new lords took over, and £8 15s. in 1086. (fn. 222)
By 1279 (fn. 223) the proportion of demesne had probably fallen. Pichards and probably Bondesbury manors had 120 a. each, but Foxleys had only 90 a. and Avenels 40 a. On the other, divided, fees no demesne remained, all the land having been subinfeudated. Although therefore, except on Foxleys where 157 a. were held freely at rent, the peasants held mostly by customary tenures, (fn. 224) many of them probably did not render labour services in practice. There were at least 30 holding 20 a., and 25 or more with 10 a., each. The Peverel fees had a uniform scheme of rents and services. The tenants of 20 a. paid 10s. a year, and sent to each of 3 harvest boons 2 men, fed by the lord; those with 10 a. paid 5s. and sent 1 man. Each also owed 2 or 3 days of hoeing, gathering straw, spreading manure, thatching, and carting. One man, a carpenter, had instead to make ploughs for his lord. Some customary tenants had to pay aids for knighting the lord's eldest son and marrying his eldest daughter. Villeins holding of Barnwell priory owed gersum to marry their daughters and tallage. Only the Hospitallers' tenants owed more frequent works, probably at Shingay. Tenants of 20 a. must reap 12 a. in harvest and work every Friday, except holidays, from Michaelmas to Lammas, besides 1 or 2 days' mowing, carrying hay, making malt, and harrowing. Those with 5–6 a. owed 2 harvest boons, mowing, threshing, and ploughing 1 a. It was probably because those holdings were tithe free that, of 173 a. held customarily of Shingay in 1279, 166½ a. were still known to be copyhold in 1850, when only 120 a. copyhold of other manors was left. (fn. 225) In 1470 50 day works, besides rents, were still nominally due on Avenels. (fn. 226) On the Barnwell estate the former customary tenants rendered only assized rents and poultry in the late 15th century. (fn. 227)
Warden abbey had no tenants at Odsey in 1279, but worked its land, 1½ hide, as a grange with lay brothers. Some of them were murdered c. 1260, (fn. 228) and the grange was run by a monk warden c. 1316 when there were four brethren there. (fn. 229) The grange, enclosed by 1232 from former heathland, (fn. 230) was probably mainly pastoral. About 1311 the abbot had at least 180 sheep, (fn. 231) and until 1800 succeeding owners claimed sheep walk for 300 sheep as far north as Ashwell Street. (fn. 232) Probably by 1386 (fn. 233) it was at farm. The claim c. 1520 by a disappointed applicant for the lease that William Sewster had converted much arable there to pasture, replacing 8 labourers with a single shepherd, was probably malicious. (fn. 234) In 1539 Odsey included meadow, pasture, heaths, and sheep leys. (fn. 235) In 1793 it supposedly covered 283 a., partly arable, (fn. 236) and at inclosure c. 260 a. (fn. 237)
Further north the land was under an open-field system. (fn. 238) Around the village lay c. 265 a. of old inclosures, stretching from a detached block near Little Green in the north-east to Town's End in the south. One block of 50 a. around Morden Hall belonged entirely to the lord. (fn. 239) The open fields fell into two sections. Five small fields, (fn. 240) together c. 620 a., centered around the village in a pattern established by c. 1650. (fn. 241) Further south long, narrow fields, covering c. 1,010 a., ran from the town's end southward towards Odsey. They had once partly belonged to Redreth, whose field was still in the late 14th century said to touch the Steeple Morden boundary. (fn. 242) Styled collectively in 1658 the high field, (fn. 243) at inclosure that area was divided from east to west into Odsey, Ruddery, and Marsh fields.
The principal crop from the Middle Ages was barley. In 1381 Thomas Haselden's barns were plundered of 155 qr. of barley. (fn. 244) One yeoman in 1512 bequeathed 90 qr. of barley and 16 of malt, (fn. 245) although John Morgan, apparently the rectory lessee, in 1557 left 10 qr. each of wheat and malt but only 3 each of barley and rye. (fn. 246) Saffron was apparently cultivated before the 17th century. (fn. 247) The open-field arable was still being farmed on a triennial rotation and divided between the tilth, edge, and fallow fields in 1800, when wheat and spring barley shared the lately fallow field and legumes were sown in the 'breach season' after them. Clover was also then being sown in the fields. (fn. 248)
Although what might have been its heathland was appropriated as Odsey grange, the parish retained extensive common pasture. To the west by the Cam lay c. 120 a. called the Marsh, used for meadow and Lammas ground, and along the northern border Pillam, later Pelham, common of over 80 a., recorded by 1525. (fn. 249) Cannon green in the north-east, named by 1528, perhaps later Little Green, was also common. (fn. 250) Only great cattle, not sheep, were allowed on the Marsh c. 1332. (fn. 251) In the 16th century sheep were excluded after 1 November from Pillam common, which was not opened to cattle until Candlemas. Commonable beasts might be fed on balks and small commons in the sown fields after Whitsun or Trinity. Byherds of sheep were forbidden from 3 May to Lammas. (fn. 252)
Numerous sheep were kept. In 1347 the parish contributed to the levy in wool c. 93 stone, probably representing c. 800 sheep ; 21¼ stone came from three manorial flocks and c. 56 stone from 32 other sheepowners rendering 1 to 3 stone each. (fn. 253) The manor was said in 1617 to have liberty of fold for 700 sheep, (fn. 254) and in 1517 Francis Haselden left his brother Anthony 320 sheep out of his flock. (fn. 255) In 1527 the vicar and three others had c. 300 sheep impounded. (fn. 256) In the 1790s c. 1,000 West country sheep were kept and 1,200 c. 1800. (fn. 257) At inclosure the lord of the manors claimed sole right of sheep walk over the fields encircling the village, and his leave was required for sowing them at any time when they were subject to that right. He also claimed to keep sheep on Pillam common from November to February and on the meadows from August to March. (fn. 258) Rights of sheep walk were, however, also claimed for Avenels and two other farms. (fn. 259) In 1663 one 100-a. farm had had common for 10 cattle and 150 sheep. (fn. 260) The smaller owners had by then concentrated on cattle. In 1578 a stint had been fixed of 4 cows for each plough owned, and 2 for each cottage, (fn. 261) but at inclosure there were 3 cow gates to each commonable messuage, a total of c. 180, although only 100 cows were actually kept. (fn. 262)
From the mid 15th century there was much inequality among the peasants. Some prospered, enlarging their holdings and enjoying the profits of leasing demesne. In 1620 Thomas Hayes leased out his newly inherited estate, having neither the experience nor the equipment to farm it himself. Part was let for share-cropping. (fn. 263) The Frosts, prominent from the 1410s to 1600, (fn. 264) one branch owning 80 a. until the 1470s, (fn. 265) were c. 1485 leasing the Barnwell estate on 5year terms. (fn. 266) The Morgans rose partly by holding the rectory on lease from c. 1510 to 1540. (fn. 267) Robert Morgan, worth £340 in 1522, was the richest yeoman in the parish. (fn. 268) John Morgan (d. 1581), styled a gentleman, married an heiress and left c. 480 a. (fn. 269) His son Thomas (d. 1622) left c. 460 a. in Guilden, and 160 a. in Steeple Morden, including three farms of 200, 100, and 80 a. (fn. 270) One mere yeoman c. 1650 owned 19 a. of closes and 112 a. of arable. (fn. 271)
Such prosperity contrasted with the poverty of others. In 1524 only 15 inhabitants had goods taxed at over £4, worth altogether £290, while 20 others paid on £1 to £4 each, and 24 only on their wages. (fn. 272) In 1660 5 farmers had land rented at £40–80, and 12 others land rented at £5–25 a year, while the remaining 74 adult men apparently occupied only houses or crofts. (fn. 273) Of the 80 or 85 households in the village c. 1670 there were 70 or more with only 1 or 2 hearths, (fn. 274) and over 40 people were too poor to be assessed for rates. (fn. 275)
By the 1790s the largest estates were Simeon Leete's 445 a., and the manor's 417 a.; Odsey covered c. 260 a., and one man had 278 a. Five outsiders with 100–165 a. each had together 640 a., while other residents, none with over 20 a., owned barely 170 a. of the parish. Leete farmed 220 a. besides his own land, and with the lessees of Morden Hall farm, 314 a., and another farm of 557 a., occupied more than half the parish. (fn. 276) Inclosure, first proposed in 1796, was delayed because the landowners would not, since the commons had never paid tithe, accept the impropriator's demands over tithe commutation. (fn. 277) Agreement was reached in 1799, (fn. 278) and an Act was obtained in 1800. (fn. 279) Its provision for a new common pasture for continued stocking by the commoners was ineffective because owners of commonable houses all elected to take separate allotments. (fn. 280)
The division of land was accomplished late in 1801, and the award was finally executed in 1805. (fn. 281) The area involved included 1,922 a. of open fields and commons. There were also 545 a. of old inclosure, almost half at Odsey. (fn. 282) After 400 a. had been allotted for glebe and tithes, the manorial estate emerged with 376 a., including 83 a. of old inclosures. By 1810 its purchaser, Lord Hardwicke, had added his own 64 a., and two other allotments of 198 a. and 93 a. Simeon Leete, besides his own 414 a., held on lease two other allotments, together 196 a. Six others of 20–90 a. amounted to c. 248 a., while 152 a. belonged to 32 others with under 20 a. each, including 10 allotments of 2¼ a. for common rights only. (fn. 283)
Following the division and sale by 1845 of the Leete estate, over half the parish was occupied by five large farms. (fn. 284) On the Wimpole estate Manor farm included 320 a. north and east of the village, while Town farm of 386 a. comprised the purchased land west of the village. To the south-west lay Cold Harbour farm of 338 a., occupied from 1839 to c. 1890 by Richard Bowman. Odsey beyond it was usually kept in hand by the Fordhams. Rectory farm, c. 260 a. north of the village, was from the 1860s to 1912 farmed with the adjoining vicarial glebe of 138 a. Previously it had been grouped with Lodge farm of 135 a., farmed from the 1870s to 1902 with Town farm. In 1851 the seven large farms of 100 a. or more occupied 1,990 a., while ten smaller ones covered only 185 a. In 1871 four large farms of 200 a. or more comprised c. 1,200 a., and three of 80–150 a. another 325 a., but there were still ten small farmers with 150 a. By 1900 only some 7 farmers remained.
The land was mainly devoted to arable farming, normally on a four-course rotation. More wheat than barley was usually sown. A steam threshing machine was in use on one farm in 1864. (fn. 285) Large sheep flocks survived for a time. One farmer had 240 mature sheep in 1812, another 400 in 1818. (fn. 286) Total numbers fell from over 1,400 in 1885 below 800 by 1905 and to under 300 by 1925. (fn. 287) Later the import of New Zealand lamb discouraged sheep keeping. (fn. 288) The area of permanent grass fell from 540 a. in 1866 to c. 290 a. from the 1880s to the 1920s and 108 a. by 1955. By 1911 Town farm had only 19 a. of permanent pasture to 366 a. of arable. (fn. 289) In 1910 on one farm the 80 a. cropped included 36 a. of wheat and only 6 a. of barley, the rest being divided between spring oats and beans. (fn. 290) In 1977 on c. 1,500 a. there were 530 a. of wheat and 425 a. of barley. (fn. 291) In 1911 the county council bought Manor farm, and in 1921–2 another 174 a., for division into smallholdings. It had already in 1911 leased the vicar's glebe for the same purpose, (fn. 292) to the chagrin of its former tenant who lost the light soil best fitted for grazing his sheep. (fn. 293) In 1925 c. 50 smallholdings of under 100 a. probably accounted for much of the 120 a. of potatoes, 87 a. of sugar beet, and over 200 a. of other vegetables then grown. From the 1920s the rest of the parish consisted mainly of owner-occupied farms. There were five of over 100 a. in 1925, four, covering 1,075 a., in 1955. (fn. 294) W. A. Sandeman, who occupied Morden House 1900–37, kept a pedigree herd of Aberdeen cattle. (fn. 295) By 1900, too, some closes were devoted to fruit growing. There were 20 a. of orchards by 1925, 51 a., mostly apples, by 1955. (fn. 296)
In the 19th century most inhabitants were farm labourers. (fn. 297) In 1821 101 families depended on farming, only 18 on trades and crafts. (fn. 298) In 1831 there were 90 adult labourers, and 40 more under 20. (fn. 299) The farms did not provide work for all of them. In 1851, when there were c. 130 adult labourers, and 38 more aged 15–19, the farmers employed only 87 men and 24 boys. The labourers' income was partly bolstered by many of their women, 87 in 1851, 83 in 1861, engaging in straw plaiting. (fn. 300) Relief also came through emigration. In 1845 23 former villagers were drowned on the voyage to Australia. (fn. 301) Coprolite digging, beginning c. 1860, (fn. 302) helped for a time. In 1871 the farmers employed all the 90 or so adult labourers available, while 70 men, only 10 of them born outside the parish, were engaged in fossil digging. (fn. 303) By 1900 the vicar was letting 19 a. in allotments to labourers. (fn. 304) There were still 45 adult farm workers in the 1920s and 1950s. (fn. 305)
Except in trades ancillary to farming, the village had few craftsmen. In the 14th century there were two or three butchers, sometimes fined for selling outside a borough. (fn. 306) Weavers were recorded in 1269, (fn. 307) 1440, 1680, (fn. 308) and 1768, (fn. 309) a chandler in 1470, (fn. 310) and a glazier c. 1742. Brick-kiln Furlong, so named by the 1690s, (fn. 311) was perhaps near the site of the brickworks, north of Great Green, where several water-filled brickpits survive. They were disused by the 1930s. (fn. 312) In the mid 19th century there were usually 8 or 9 carpenters, 3 blacksmiths, 3 or 4 shoemakers, and 2 tailors. (fn. 313) The Worboys's wheelwright's business grew into a small building firm, still active in the 1930s, and a saddler's shop survived c. 1930, but the traditional crafts gradually disappeared after 1914. (fn. 314) The last village blacksmith, of the Kaye family, active for 150 years, died in 1975. (fn. 315) By the 1950s some villagers worked in factories at Baldock or Letchworth (Herts.). (fn. 316)
Before 1150 William Peverel granted a mill with his manor to Hamon Pichard. (fn. 317) In 1279 Pichards manor included a water mill, (fn. 318) which passed with it to the Haseldens, being called Hooks mill by the 1530s. (fn. 319) Millers were frequently recorded in the 14th and 16th centuries. (fn. 320) After 1615, (fn. 321) and probably by 1649, the mill was sold to the lord of Hatley St. George; (fn. 322) at inclosure, when it stood on a cutting from the Cam, over 1½ km. north-west of the village, it belonged to Thomas Quintin of Hatley. (fn. 323) From him it passed in 1828 to the Dickasons, and from them c. 1865 to the Sandersons, (fn. 324) who worked it until c. 1920. There were then a water mill assisted by an oil-fired engine, and a brick tower windmill. (fn. 325) The water mill closed in the 1930s; the windmill was derelict by 1930 and had lost its sails by 1975. (fn. 326)
In 1279 the Hospitallers of Shingay held view of frankpledge and the assize of bread and of ale for all their tenants in the Mordens. (fn. 327) Warden abbey claimed in 1299 to receive, by royal charter, amercements imposed on its men. (fn. 328) The only court known, however, to have exercised leet jurisdiction in the parish was that of the honor of Clare. In the late 1250s the earl of Gloucester's steward, by what title is uncertain, annexed for his lord, over two knights' fees, rights which by 1279 covered the whole vill, including view of frankpledge, the assize of bread and of ale, and a gallows. (fn. 329) Their ownership descended with the honor's leet held at Litlington. (fn. 330) The sessions for Guilden Morden handled most public business there from the early 14th century, when the leet often tried minor affrays and disputes leading to bloodshed, to the 16th. It elected constables (fn. 331) and aletasters, (fn. 332) and supervised the numerous alewives, in 1357 penalizing those who stopped selling before the ale ran out or took down their signs too early. (fn. 333) In the 14th century it regularly enforced agricultural customs, and in the 16th frequently also made regulations defining them. By then its tenurial business involved registering transfers of freehold held of other manors, (fn. 334) though not of copyhold. It had, indeed, claimed in the 14th century suit of court from lords of several fees. (fn. 335) No record survives of its activity after the 1570s. Evidence survives of courts baron held for Avenels until the mid 16th century, (fn. 336) and the Shingay court baron also dealt with property in Guilden Morden until the 19th century. (fn. 337)
The vestry was formally reconstituted in 1662, no churchwardens having been appointed during the Interregnum. (fn. 338) In the early 18th century it consisted of from four to nine farmers; the vicar or his curate often presided. No highway surveyors were elected after 1705, and only one constable from 1751 to 1809, while three Simeon Leetes in succession served as sole churchwarden for 1751–1806 and from 1813. From the 1760s there were four overseers a year. The vestry probably enforced the bylaws on farming, naming a hayward from the 1730s and a herdsman until 1794. In the late 1740s parish meetings enforced locally the royal proclamations made to prevent the spread of the cattle pest. Expenditure on the poor rose from £20–30 a year in the 1710s to £40–50 by the early 1750s; by the mid 1770s it was usually well over £100, and c. £180 in the late 1790s. A townhouse owned by the parish by 1660, which perhaps furnished the six almshouses recorded in 1728, (fn. 339) was probably converted in 1779 into a workhouse with 4 beds. The parish allowed its master 1s. for each inmate.
By 1803, when poor relief cost £304, there were 31 people on outside relief, and c. 1814 still 16 or 17, besides the 4 or 5 in the workhouse. Expenditure fell from £455 then (fn. 340) to c. £380 in the late 1810s, but was seldom much below £300 in the 1820s, and was averaging £500 in the 1830s. (fn. 341) About 1830 the parish used 7 or 8 unemployed labourers on roadwork. (fn. 342) In 1833 an overseer was the victim of arson, supposedly committed by a man denied relief for refusing the work offered him. (fn. 343) From 1835 the parish was included in the Royston poor-law union. (fn. 344) The old poorhouse had been sold by 1842. (fn. 345) The parish belonged from the 1890s to the Melbourn R.D., was incorporated with it in 1934 into the South Cambridgeshire R.D., (fn. 346) and after 1974 inluded in the South Cambridgeshire district.
Picot's endowment of the priory which he founded at Cambridge c. 1090 included his church at Guilden Morden, which Pain Peverel confirmed to the priory on its removal to Barnwell c. 1112. (fn. 347) Pain's son William purportedly gave the church with a manor to Hamon Pichard c. 1140, (fn. 348) but Barnwell retained it or soon regained it, and had appropriated it by the mid 13th century. The bishop of Ely ordained a vicarage, (fn. 349) whose advowson remained with Barnwell until its surrender in 1538. (fn. 350) In 1558, at the request of Bishop Thirlby, the queen granted it to Jesus College, Cambridge, (fn. 351) which was still patron when presentation was suspended in the 1970s. (fn. 352)
Warden abbey enjoyed in substance exemption from tithes on its grange at Odsey, although c. 1270 1 mark was paid from it to Barnwell priory. (fn. 353) Later the vicar received 8s. 6d. from Odsey as a modus. At inclosure 260 a. there were found to be tithe free, as were c. 200 a. of freehold and copyhold of the Hospitallers' former lordship. (fn. 354)
The vicar's endowment was meagre. He had a glebe amounting until inclosure to only 16 a., the altarage, and part of the small tithes. The priory had retained, besides the great tithes, those of hay, the mills, and the rectory farmstead, and probably mortuary dues, while the vicar had to pay it a pension of 1 mark and rent for his dwelling. The vicarage was worth only £5 a year c. 1270, although the church yielded £46 13s. 4d. When Luke of Abington, vicar 1269–88, sought an augmentation, the priory thwarted him, despite support for his claims from Archbishops Kilwardby and Pecham, by repeated appeals to the pope. With the sheriff's help it repelled Luke's attempt to carry off the tithes awarded him by the archbishops' delegates. (fn. 355)
Eventually the vicar was allotted a £2 pension, paid out of the rectory c. 1500, (fn. 356) but his living was still worth under £8 in the 15th century, (fn. 357) and only £7 3s. 6d. in 1535 (fn. 358) and £24 in 1650. (fn. 359) By 1728 he also received, besides £40 a year for the small tithes including those of hay, £10 from an augmentation given by Bishop Gunning (1675–84), apparently out of impropriate tithe elsewhere leased to Jesus College. St. Catharine's College, the rectory lessee, had doubled his pension to the £4 still being paid in the 1870s. (fn. 360) At inclosure the vicar was allotted 8 a. for his glebe and 130 a. for tithes. (fn. 361) The vicarage was worth £170 c. 1830, (fn. 362) and by 1851 £356 gross, including augmentations of £160 a year, £114 of which Jesus College had given in 1846. (fn. 363) By 1873 the income was £412 gross, including £217 from the glebe. (fn. 364) Between 1928 and 1948 Jesus College gave over £1,300 more, raising the vicar's endowment income to £2,000. (fn. 365)
The original vicarage house probably stood just west of the church. It was ruinous c. 1560, (fn. 366) and again, though sometimes inhabited by a curate, c. 1790. (fn. 367) Although expensively repaired c. 1805, (fn. 368) by 1830 it was thought to need enlargement before a clergyman could live there, (fn. 369) and was next used successively as a schoolroom, carpenter's shop, and laundry. In 1874 a large greybrick wing was added, out of royalties on coprolites, to the old thatched, lath-and-plaster house; (fn. 370) the latter was removed c. 1956. (fn. 371)
A chapel at Redreth, recorded before 1100, was in the 13th century served thrice a week through a chantry maintained by the vicar. (fn. 372) About 1300 it had 11 service books, besides vestments and a chalice. (fn. 373) In 1343 the inhabitants nearby were licensed to hear mass in it instead of the parish church for five years. (fn. 374) A hermit recorded in 1362 (fn. 375) was perhaps the predecessor of the hermits, nominated by the prior of Barnwell, who c. 1520 still dwelt by a chapel of St. James, perhaps at Redreth, endowed with 8 a. (fn. 376) Its probable site is indicated by the chapel hill mentioned in 1633 near the parish claypit. (fn. 377)
Before 1500 vicars were mostly unlearned men, including under Richard II two former chantry chaplains. (fn. 378) The vicar served the cure alone in 1378, (fn. 379) but in 1406 there were two priests, (fn. 380) and in 1489 a chaplain. (fn. 381) The chaplain was perhaps connected with the chantry of Our Lady to which Richard Frost left 8 a. in 1472, (fn. 382) and John Morgan £2 a year more in 1495. (fn. 383) A brotherhood in the name of Jesus was being founded in 1512, (fn. 384) and in 1517 Francis Haselden asked to be buried before a Jesus altar in the north aisle. (fn. 385) The Crown sold 3 a. of obit lands in 1553. (fn. 386)
In 1564 the non-resident vicar was failing to catechize the children, and in 1573 had a curate. (fn. 387) In 1590 many parishioners failed to attend church, working or drinking instead. The vicar himself, John Knightley (1575–1615), neglected to wear his surplice and to read the homilies or the queen's injunctions; he was no puritan, gambled in taverns, and was twice, unsuccessfully, accused of witchcraft. (fn. 388) Of the seven vicars presented 1619–37, several held the living with fellowships at Jesus College, and two resigned within a year of their institution. (fn. 389) They were probably absentees, employing curates. (fn. 390) The last, Thomas Ansell, was sequestered in 1644. (fn. 391) His successor in 1650 was condemned as unfit for the place. (fn. 392) Andrew Stroud, minister by 1658, had himself episcopally ordained in 1660, and was formally instituted in 1662. (fn. 393)
From 1673 former members of Jesus College were usually appointed, the living being often, as for 1726–64, held with a fellowship. (fn. 394) In 1775 the vicar lived at Dunstable (Beds.), and, like most of his successors until the 1840s, left the parish to a curate, shared from the 1780s to 1814 with Steeple Morden. By custom there was usually only one Sunday service, in mornings and afternoons alternately, with communion three or four times a year. John Raworth, vicar 1777–1808, came briefly to reside c. 1802, and preached regularly to afternoon congregations of 250. He claimed to have doubled the number of communicants to 15, catechized regularly in Lent, and reduced the number of dissenters. (fn. 395) After his death matters declined to their former state. Thomas Clack, the curate in 1836, lived in lodgings at Litlington, being too poor to afford furniture or even a servant. To his vicar's alarm he 'spouted' in poor men's clubs against the new poor law, and encouraged the labourers to oppose the building of Royston workhouse. (fn. 396)
Later vicars were more diligent. Robert Merry (1844–67), resident by 1851, claimed an afternoon attendance of 170, besides 76 Sunday-school children. (fn. 397) In 1873 there were 370 churchgoers, although 130 others neglected all worship. Then, as later, there were two services with sermons every Sunday, and monthly communions, attended by up to 28 people. The vicar also preached weekly on winter evenings and gave cottage lectures. (fn. 398) In 1897, however, many of the 400 claimed as churchgoers attended irregularly, and the women's guild, workmen's club, and parish library attached to the church had barely 20 members each. (fn. 399) A. L. Williams, vicar 1895–1919, published much scholarly work on the Old Testament. (fn. 400) From 1960 the parish was held with Steeple Morden, and after 1970 served by a member of the Shingay group team of clergy. He lived at the vicarage. (fn. 401)
The large and stately church of ST. MARY, so named by 1472, (fn. 402) consists of a chancel, aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch, all battlemented and mostly built of field stones with freestone dressings, and a west tower, entirely of ashlar, with a short spire. The earliest surviving portion is the three eastern arches of the nave south arcade, probably representing its original length. Their double-chamfered arches on octagonal piers are probably of before 1300. Next, perhaps before 1350, four bays of the north arcade, with elaborately moulded arches with headstops on quatrefoil piers, were built as far as the crossing between the north and south doorways. The chancel, whose arch has similar responds, was probably contemporary. The two west bays of the north arcade, and three west bays on the south, were added later, in a similar style, but beyond a visible break. The tower arch, on octagonal responds, otherwise matches those western bays. The massive three-stage west tower is probably of the 15th century, when also all the windows were inserted, the taller twolight ones in the chancel being perhaps earlier than the three-light ones in the aisles. The roof line was raised to accommodate five two-light clerestory windows on each side. The south porch, whose outer doorway with pierced spandrels is like one at Ashwell church (Herts.), is also 15th-century, as is probably the ashlar vestry, added north of the chancel.
The font has a 12th-century basin on later columns. The south-eastern chancel window tracery is continued downward to provide sedilia and a piscina. A screen across the tower arch has elaborate curvilinear tracery under flat heads; (fn. 403) it stood in the north aisle in 1748. (fn. 404) The unusual rood screen is perhaps late 14th-century: its turreted rood stair is earlier than the south aisle east window. The screen has two enclosed compartments, each nearly 2 metres square, on either side of a passageway. Its tracery, pierced above, comprises intersecting ogees and quatrefoils. Renewed painted decoration includes two figures of saints. Its ceiling survived into the 19th century. The compartments may originally have contained two lesser altars, but from the 17th century to the 19th were used as pews for two principal farms. (fn. 405) Of the Hayes and Storey monuments recorded in 1748 a hanging one to William Hayes (d. 1617) survives in the north aisle. (fn. 406)
The medieval windows were possibly broken in the 1560s. (fn. 407) From the 16th century the rectory lessees consistently failed to maintain the chancel. (fn. 408) The nave, much neglected during the Interregnum, was repaired and reglazed in the 1660s, (fn. 409) and remained in a decent state into the 19th century. (fn. 410) The spire was possibly cut down when reconstructed in the 17th century. (fn. 411) The church was substantially restored in the late 1850s. The east window received new tracery, and the chancel a hammer beam roof supported by angels. The interior woodwork was almost all renewed, the rood screen itself being only saved by a direct appeal to Lord Hardwicke, who owned the pews in it. The chancel was again repaired c. 1875. (fn. 412) An organ acquired in 1876 was replaced in 1967. (fn. 413) The walling again required extensive repairs in the 1960s, and in 1972 the spire, then threatening to fall, was dismantled and re-erected. (fn. 414)
In 1552 there were four bells, (fn. 415) and in 1748 as in the 1960s six, dating from 1621, 1627, and 1708–9. The tower also contains a clock of 1749 with original works. (fn. 416) There were two or three chalices in the 14th century, (fn. 417) and five, silver-gilt, in 1552. (fn. 418) There are a cup and paten given in 1666 by Frances Storey, and an almsdish of 1682. (fn. 419) The registers begin in 1653. (fn. 420) The churchyard was closed c. 1897, and a new cemetery, managed then and later by the parish council, was established north of the road to Great Green. (fn. 421)
About 1475 Roger Giles left 18 a. at Guilden Morden and Ashwell for church repairs. (fn. 422) It probably formed part of the town lands, recorded by 1597, (fn. 423) amounting to 60 a. in 1662, (fn. 424) and after inclosure to 45 a. in Guilden Morden and 6 a. in Ashwell. The whole rent, £12 a year, was spent entirely on church repairs in the 18th century, (fn. 425) but only £12 went to the churchwardens after 1806. From 1857 half the income went for church repairs, and in 1896 was constituted as a separate charity, yielding £92 a year by the mid 1970s. (fn. 426)
The seven Presbyterians said to have a meeting house in 1728, (fn. 427) and the few Methodists mentioned in 1807 (fn. 428) were perhaps connected with those at Steeple Morden. By 1825 the neglected parish contained some Independents, meeting at first in a cottage. (fn. 429) An organized Independent congregation, including several leading farmers and tradesmen, was established by the late 1830s. In 1840 it opened a chapel, a plain classical building in white brick with an arcaded front, on the east side of the street north of Pound Green. The first professional minister, Joseph Stockbridge, who served from then almost until his death in 1892, (fn. 430) consolidated the congregation. In 1851, when the chapel could supposedly accommodate 520, he claimed that c. 230 adults were at the morning service, and 100 more came in the afternoon, besides c. 90 Sunday-school children. (fn. 431) In 1873 there were 550 chapelgoers in a population of c. 1,050, in 1897 still 420 out of c. 820. (fn. 432) In 1888 Stockbridge sold his house for a manse for future ministers, (fn. 433) and there were resident ministers until c. 1920. (fn. 434) From 100 in 1914 membership declined slowly to 56 c. 1935, 37 by 1953, and 24 by 1965. (fn. 435) A bequest of £500 in 1921 to augment the minister's stipend was received in 1951. (fn. 436) Local men serving the chapel, including the village postman 1964–76, still occupied the manse in the 1960s. (fn. 437) The chapel, still open in the 1970s when its adherents included several leading villagers, did not join the United Reformed Church. (fn. 438)
Schoolmasters were recorded in 1582 (fn. 439) and 1605. (fn. 440) In 1599 a prosperous husbandman directed that his son be taught to read perfectly and write legibly. (fn. 441) The parish had no school c. 1800, (fn. 442) but by 1818 there was a Sunday school supported by subscriptions, with c. 100 pupils. (fn. 443) In 1833 there were 6 day schools with 44 pupils paid for by their parents, and 2 Sunday schools, (fn. 444) one probably the church school, the other perhaps the origin of the British day school held by the Independents in their vestry c. 1850. (fn. 445) The church Sunday school reorganized c. 1845 was affiliated to the National Society by 1846, when it had c. 140 pupils. A National day school then at the old vicarage was moved by 1850 to a brick schoolroom, built with a teacher's house on a site given by Lord Hardwicke in 1848. Its 30 pupils were taught by a master and mistress, whose pay absorbed most of the £70 obtained from subscriptions and schoolpence. A government building grant was obtained in 1850. (fn. 446) In the 1860s that school had c. 100 pupils. The older children attended mainly in the winter, but few children in the parish were growing up entirely untaught. (fn. 447) The school was enlarged in 1867. (fn. 448) The vicar also supported a night school from the 1840s to the 1870s. (fn. 449) The proportion of the school's income raised from non-governmental sources fell from half of £170 in 1876 to only £60 of £270 by the late 1890s, when it was in financial difficulties. (fn. 450) The average attendance was usually over 120 before 1910. (fn. 451) In 1885 there were 74 older pupils and 40 infants. (fn. 452) Attendance declined from 109 in 1914 to 64 by 1927 and 47 by 1938. (fn. 453) From 1954 the older children went to Bassingbourn village college. (fn. 454) In 1972 some parents complained that the teaching was ineffective, only two pupils having passed the 'eleven plus' examination since 1965. (fn. 455) In 1974 new school buildings were opened at Pound Green. (fn. 456)
Elizabeth Clark, a member of the chapel, kept a private school at Saville House from the 1890s to the 1920s. (fn. 457)
Charities for the Poor.
In 1635 John Godfrey left £10, the interest to be given to the poor at Christmas and Whitsun. (fn. 458) In 1662, to pay for church repairs, the parish borrowed that £10 and two similar £1 bequests, undertaking to pay interest to the poor, (fn. 459) and doles were given, at long intervals, until the 1720s. (fn. 460) In 1843 the vestry, having learnt that £70 of arrears were due, decided to give £4 yearly, by way of interest, in coal at Christmas. Distribution in coal was probably absorbed from the 1880s into the town lands charity. (fn. 461)
In the 1660s the poor had apparently received 6 qr. of corn or grist from the yield of the town lands. (fn. 462) After inclosure it was decided in 1806 to use the balance of income from them, after allowing £12 yearly for church repairs, for apprenticeship fees, clothing, and other relief for needy persons not regularly on the rates. The income in the 1820s was £55. About 1830, when coal was being distributed to the widowed, the parish temporarily exchanged its 45-a. holding for 35 a. nearer the village, let as allotments to 43 labourers. (fn. 463) From 1843 the value of the 'town grain' went for a time to widows and old people in bread or cash doles. (fn. 464)
Those arrangements ended in 1857, when after complaints by the vicar the town land rent, £86 altogether, was divided equally between the poor and church repairs. Until the 1870s the trust was in the hands of an autocratic churchwarden, who allegedly gave over a third of the poor's share to nonresidents. (fn. 465) From 1896 the parish council managed that half share as a separate charity. Until the 1950s its income was commonly given in small cash doles, 368 people sharing £32 4s. in 1896. In the mid 1960s the poor's £51 went mostly in doles to 35 people. By the 1970s £90–100 was given yearly among 35–40 old people. (fn. 466)