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 largest manor in 1086 was the 4½ hides that Pain held of Hardwin de Scalers, of which 3½ hides had belonged in 1066 to a king's thegn. (fn. 1) By 1166 it was held as part of 5 knights' fees by Pain's successor, William son of Roger, under Stephen de Scalers, (fn. 2) lord of the Shelford moiety of Hardwin's barony, with which lordship over 1½ fees at Boxworth descended after 1230 to the Frevilles. (fn. 3) In 1506 it was supposed to be held of the Burgoynes, lords of the Frevilles' former manor of Caxton, (fn. 4) and later, erroneously, of Fen Stanton manor. (fn. 5)
The manor, called OVERHALLby 1480, (fn. 6) had descended by 1200 to Henry son of William, (fn. 7) also called by 1205 Henry of Boxworth, (fn. 8) who as a former rebel had his lands legally restored in 1217. (fn. 9) By his marriage to Alice of Conington Henry acquired 1 hide in Boxworth previously held by her family, supposedly of the honor of Huntingdon. (fn. 10) He died after 1223. (fn. 11) By 1235 he was succeeded by his son, William of Boxworth, (fn. 12) escheator for Cambridgeshire 1246- 54, (fn. 13) who died after 1268. (fn. 14) In 1279 William's widow Amice held 6 yardlands of his demesne in dower, while another 7 were held by his son Henry, (fn. 15) a knight by 1296. (fn. 16) In 1285 Henry had settled his two thirds of the manor on his marriage to Parnel, (fn. 17) who possessed them after he died in 1302. (fn. 18) Henry's son William of Boxworth (fn. 19) was lord in 1316 and 1327. (fn. 20) Probably by 1332, the manor descended to his son Henry, (fn. 21) of whom John Coupland in 1346 held two thirds of the Coningtons' hide. (fn. 22) Henry died after 1365, (fn. 23) perhaps after 1372. (fn. 24) His widow Maud occupied the manor in 1382. (fn. 25) Henry's son William having died without issue, the fee simple was inherited by 1374 by William's sister Alice, who married William Lovett (fn. 26) of Liscombe in Soulbury (Bucks.), owner by 1388 (fn. 27) and still in 1408. (fn. 28)
Lovett's son Roger (fn. 29) held Overhall in 1412 and 1428, (fn. 30) and Roger's widow Isabel in 1438. (fn. 31) Roger's heirs were his grandson Simon Lovett (d. after 1467) and Simon's son John (fn. 32) (d. s.p. 1479), (fn. 33) but the Boxworth manor had perhaps by 1468 passed to Roger Lovett of Soulbury (Bucks.), (fn. 34) who in 1479 conveyed it to feoffees for William Copley, (fn. 35) a Yorkshire merchant stapler. (fn. 36) After Copley died holding it in 1490, (fn. 37) his feoffees sold Overhall in 1496 to trustees for Lady Margaret Beaufort. (fn. 38) The Chancery clerk Thomas Hutton, archdeacon of Lincoln, (fn. 39) who used the revenues of his numerous preferments to acquire for his family a large landed estate in west Cambridgeshire, bought Overhall from her in 1501 for his brother John (d. 1501), whose young son Thomas inherited all the estates when the archdeacon died in 1506. (fn. 40) The younger Thomas, who acquired Huntingfields manor and other lands in Boxworth, died in 1552. His son and heir John (fn. 41) (d. 1596) left his Boxworth land to his second wife Elizabeth. (fn. 42) In 1599 she and her next husband Sir William Hinde sold it to Sir John Cutts (fn. 43) of Childerley (d. 1615), in whose family the Boxworth manors descended until the 1690s. (fn. 44) His grandson Sir John Cutts (d. 1670) left three large farms there for 80 years to his mother's sister Dorothy Weld (d. 1707). (fn. 45) John Cutts, the last of his line (d. s.p. 1707), who succeeded c. 1680, was a prominent military commander, honoured with an Irish barony in 1690. (fn. 46) Heavy debts obliged him in 1694-5 to sell the manors and the Cuttses' other Boxworth land to Josiah Bacon, a London merchant, who in 1702 acquired another farm owned by Lord Cutts's spinster sister Joanna. (fn. 47)
Bacon died c. 1704, having entailed the estate on his uncle Thomas's great-grandson Josiah Bacon, a minor, with remainder to the boy's sister Elizabeth. Their guardian Thomas Sclater secured in 1710 a foreclosure against Lord Cutts's sisters and heirs. In 1716 he married Elizabeth and, after her brother died overseas in 1717, took the name of Bacon, (fn. 48) retaining the estate, after his wife's death in 1726, until his own in 1736. Under Elizabeth's will their estates then passed to her half-brothers, John and Peter Standley, formerly London tradesmen. (fn. 49) When they were divided in 1742 Boxworth was assigned to John, but passed, (fn. 50) when he died in 1761, (fn. 51) to Peter, then of Paxton Place (Hunts.).
Peter at his death in 1780 left his lands to his protégé Henry Poynter, who took the name Standley. (fn. 52) Debts obliged him to sell Boxworth in 1784 to George Thornhill of Diddington (Hunts.). (fn. 53) After Thornhill's death in 1827 Boxworth descended successively to his son George (d. 1852), that George's son George (d. 1875), the latter's son Arthur John (d. s.p. 1930), and A. J. Thornhill's nephew Noel Thornhill. (fn. 54) After Noel died without issue in 1955, the manor was inherited, following his widow Cecily's death in 1970, by his cousin, Mr. G. E. P. Thornhill. His grandfather Capt. Edmund Henry Thornhill (d. 1936), youngest son of George (d. 1875), and father, Edmund Bacon Thornhill, had occupied Boxworth Manor farm from the late 1880s to the 1970s. (fn. 55) Between 1955 and 1970 most of the Thornhills' Boxworth land was sold, c. 800 a. south of the village being sold in 1956 to the Ministry of Agriculture, (fn. 56) and Brickyard farm, 272 a. to the north, in 1960. (fn. 57) Only Page's farm, 352 a., remained with the Thornhills in 1983. (fn. 58)
The medieval Overhall manor house presumably stood amid the ancient enclosures in the north part of Overhall grove, inside the rectangular moated site, c. 35 m. by 40 m., whose southern ditch is still wet. Pottery fragments indicate habitation there from the 11th century to the 14th. That moat is surrounded by an irregularly embanked enclosure, c. 165 m. by 210 m., possibly intended for keeping cattle. (fn. 59) Perhaps no longer occupied after the Lovetts inherited the manor, the house had disappeared well before 1600. (fn. 60) The earthworks, entirely concealed by trees by 1650, (fn. 61) were rediscovered only c. 1900. (fn. 62)
The 3½ hides held in 1066 by Leofsige under Earl Waltheof were held by 1086 by the sheriff Picot of Robert Gernon, (fn. 63) whose successor Gilbert de Munfitchet was overlord in 1185. (fn. 64) That manor, by 1550 called HUNTINGFIELDS, (fn. 65) passed to the cadet line of Picots seated at Quy, whose successors were usually said, as in 1242, to hold it of the Crown in chief, as part of the 'barony of Picot', as 1/4; knight's fee. (fn. 66) Occasionally the Picots' heirs at Quy were named as mesne lords over the Huntingfields. (fn. 67) The manor descended with the Picots' estate at Waterbeach, passing upon Robert Picot's death in 1218 (fn. 68) to his daughter Agnes and her husband, William of Heybridge, still tenant c. 1236. (fn. 69) Their daughter Joan married Roger of Huntingfield, lord by 1242, (fn. 70) who was granted free warren at Boxworth in 1253. (fn. 71) After Roger's death in 1257, (fn. 72) Joan retained Boxworth (fn. 73) until she died in 1297, when it descended to her eldest son William's son, Sir Roger (fn. 74) (d. 1302). His son and heir William (fn. 75) (d. 1313) granted his Boxworth manor c. 1311 for life to Sir John Swinford (d. 1332), then sheriff of Cambridgeshire, with reversion to William's minor son Roger. (fn. 76) That Sir Roger died in 1337, having c. 1335 granted Boxworth for 12 years to Thomas Cheyney. Roger's son and heir William, (fn. 77) still in 1346 a minor in Ralph Neville's wardship, (fn. 78) came of age in 1351. (fn. 79) Probably in 1372, having just lost his only son, William sold the reversion of his Boxworth manor to the judge Sir John Knyvett and his wife Eleanor jointly, and died in 1376. (fn. 80)
Sir John (fn. 81) died in 1381 and Eleanor in 1388, Boxworth descending to their son John, (fn. 82) an M.P. for Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire in the 1390s, (fn. 83) who later removed to Norfolk. He died in 1418. His son and heir Sir John (fn. 84) (d. 1445) granted his Boxworth manor in 1442 to his son John, (fn. 85) who survived until 1490, when his heir was his son Sir William. (fn. 86) Sir William died in 1515, having devised his Cambridgeshire estates to Edmund, son of his eldest son Edmund's son Sir Thomas and then aged six. (fn. 87) Edmund, a knight by 1539, (fn. 88) died in 1550 (fn. 89) having sold Huntingfields, probably by 1545, (fn. 90) to Thomas Hutton, who owned it when he died in 1552. (fn. 91) Thereafter it descended with Overhall manor. (fn. 92) The modern Manor Farm, a much remodelled 18th-century house with a 17thcentury brick core, standing within extensive closes at the north-east end of the village, (fn. 93) may possibly indicate the position of Huntingfields manorial farmstead.
Lordship over six sokemen holding 11/4; hides passed after 1066 from the thegn Ulf to Gilbert of Ghent, (fn. 94) his successor at Fen Stanton (Hunts.), with which manor that lordship later descended. (fn. 95) In 1279 Nicholas de Segrave, then lord of Fen Stanton, was lord over 6 yardlands at Boxworth. Probably by Nicholas's gift, Sir Simon of Stanton was lord over another 40 a. (fn. 96) A hide at Boxworth held by two other sokemen, in 1066 under Eddeva, in 1086 of Count Alan, lord of Richmond, (fn. 97) depended later on the Richmond manor at Swavesey. Independent freeholders occupied c. 60 a. of that fee in the 1220s and 1279. (fn. 98) The reversion of a larger holding, styled a carucate or 3/4; hide, was secured, following an assize of mort d'ancestor against William of Knapwell in 1234, by John of Shelford, (fn. 99) who entailed half of it on John FitzJohn in 1247. (fn. 100) When Shelford's son William was hanged in 1255 for parricide, Alan la Zouche, lord of Swavesey, claimed the forfeited land in 1257 as part of his lordship. (fn. 101) Through marriage to Margery la Zouche it probably passed to Robert FitzRoger, lord of Warkworth (Northumb.), (fn. 102) who by 1279 had granted it in tail to Sir Amaury de Lucy (d. s.p. 1284), and in 1285 regranted it to a retainer. (fn. 103) Robert's son John of Clavering alienated the reversion of most of his inheritance shortly after his father's death in 1310. (fn. 104) His Boxworth land was perhaps the 2 or 3 carucates held by 1311 by the Graunt family, tenants under the honor of Richmond in 1334, which passed after 1337 to William Muschet of Fen Ditton. (fn. 105) Richmonds grove, 5 a., recorded c. 1694 at the south-west end of the village, perhaps marks the site of the farmstead. (fn. 106)
The½ hide held in demesne by Ramsey abbey in 1066 and 1086 (fn. 107) was in the 13th and 14th centuries represented by 2 yardlands held of the abbey freely for rent. (fn. 108) By 1279 Tilty abbey (Essex) held, partly in free alms, mostly of Huntingfields, 13/4; yardlands, (fn. 109) perhaps given by Aubrey Picot before 1199. (fn. 110) That abbey's Boxworth grange, styled a manor when leased to Sir John Cutts (d. 1521), (fn. 111) and despite later royal claims (fn. 112) treated as his family's freehold, was probably part of the 230 a. at Boxworth and Dry Drayton that Sir John Cutts (d. 1615) sold in 1575 to his stepfather John Hutton. (fn. 113) The abbey's grange, mentioned c. 1300, probably occupied the moated site, c. 25 m. by 30 m., within the modern Grange wood. (fn. 114)
The yardland held of the Segraves in 1279 by 'Huntingdon' priory (fn. 115) was perhaps the land later held on lease under Hinchingbroke priory (Hunts.). (fn. 116) The Crown granted the priory to Richard Cromwell, who had sold 20 a. at Boxworth to Thomas Hutton by 1552. (fn. 117)
Bartholomew Burgoyne had land at Boxworth c. 1330, (fn. 118) as did his descendant John Burgoyne before 1436, (fn. 119) probably including 80 a. acquired from Roger Lovett in 1421. (fn. 120) By 1487 the Burgoynes' Caxton manor comprised 70 a. there, (fn. 121) which presumably descended with that manor to Sir Anthony Cage, (fn. 122) also lord of Knapwell. It perhaps formed the nucleus of the farm that he owned in the south-west part of Boxworth in 1650. (fn. 123) It passed with Knapwell manor to the Pernes c. 1690, (fn. 124) and later to the Squires. Bird's Pastures farm to the east was probably attached from the 1730s until after 1780 to the duke of Bedford's Dry Drayton estate. (fn. 125) About 1800 William Squire owned both estates as Bird's Pastures farm, with c. 310 a. (fn. 126) His successors also acquired between 1860 and 1869 the 83-a. farm to the south, which had belonged in the 1730s to the Haggar estate in Bourn and was inherited after 1803 from Henry Lyell by the earls de la Warr. (fn. 127) Both farms passed with the Knapwell estate until sold to their tenants in 1912 and 1921. (fn. 128)