Papworth Hundred

Pages 267-268

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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The hundred of Papworth extends along the former western boundary of Cambridgeshire between the river Ouse on the north and the road from Cambridge to St. Neots on the south, including at its south-west corner in Papworth St. Agnes and Graveley a projection of Cambridgeshire into what was Huntingdonshire. Until 1895 the northern half of Papworth St. Agnes lay in Huntingdonshire, and in the 16th century claims were made that parts of Fen Drayton intercommonable with Fen Stanton (Hunts.) also belonged to that county. In 1086 Papworth hundred, assessed at 96¼ hides, comprised 11 vills: to the south-west were Graveley (5 hides), the two Papworths (7 and 5 hides), Elsworth and its probable offshoot Knapwell (10 and 5 hides), Boxworth (10¾ hides), and Conington (6 hides), while north of the CambridgeHuntingdon road along the edge of the fen were the relatively extensive vills of Fen Drayton (10 hides), Swavesey and Over (15 hides each), and Willingham (7½hides). The hundred retained that composition into modern times, the Papworths being distinguished from 1200 as Agnes and Everard after late 12th-century owners.

The hundred remained in the king's hands throughout the Middle Ages, (fn. 1) being controlled and farmed in the 13th and 14th centuries by a bailiff shared with its eastern neighbours Chesterton and Northstowe hundreds, with which it was still sometimes combined administratively after 1600. (fn. 2) In the early 13th century nine of the vills owed 14 suits to the county, Papworth St. Agnes alone owing one suit to Huntingdonshire. (fn. 3) The lords of 13 manors, at least one in each vill except Fen Drayton and two in Boxworth, Conington, and Papworth St. Agnes, were entitled to view of frankpledge and associated franchises in the late 13th century. Ramsey abbey had the view together with higher liberties in the whole of Elsworth, Knapwell, Graveley, and Over, while the bishop of Ely enjoyed additionally return of writs at Willingham. Tenants of manors held of the honor of Richmond in Swavesey, Fen Drayton, Boxworth, and Papworth Everard still did suit in the 1330s to a tourn established by the 1250s at latest for that honor's Cambridgeshire lands. (fn. 4) In the 11th century several estates belonging to a predecessor of Count Alan, lord of Richmond, had been dependent berewicks of Swavesey manor, and in the 13th century the court of Swavesey claimed suit from tenants of dependent manors in Fen Drayton and Boxworth; the lords of Fen Stanton (Hunts.) similarly asserted in the 14th century jurisdiction over three Cambridgeshire manors, at Boxworth, Conington, and Fen Drayton, which had been held under those lords' pre-Conquest predecessor.

From 1835 Elsworth, Knapwell, and the Papworths were included in Caxton and Arrington poor-law union and Graveley in that centred on St. Neots (Hunts.). In 1836 Willingham was placed in Chesterton union, while Boxworth, Conington, Fen Drayton, Over, and Swavesey belonged to another Huntingdonshire union, that of St. Ives. (fn. 5) From 1894 the parishes in Caxton union were with Graveley part of Caxton and Arrington rural district, and Willingham of Chesterton district. The other Cambridgeshire parishes once linked to St. Ives were detached to form the small Swavesey rural district. All the parishes in the hundred were included from 1934 in the enlarged Chesterton rural district and from 1974 in South Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 6)

Figure 15:

Papworth Hundred 1845


  • 1. e.g. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 469; Feud. Aids, i. 152.
  • 2. Above, Chesterton hundred.
  • 3. Liber de Bernewelle, 238-40.
  • 4. e.g. P.R.O., SC 2/155/71; cf. Assizes at Camb. 1260, 20; Rot. Hund. i. 53.
  • 5. Poor Law Com. 1st Rep. 248; 2nd Rep. 512, 527.
  • 6. Census, 1911, 1931, 1971.