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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Manors and other estates
. In 1086 the largest estate was that of 4½ hides held by five sokemen, in 1066 under Eddeva, in 1086 under Count Alan, lord of Richmond. (fn. 1) Lordship over it descended with the Richmond manor in Swavesey (fn. 2) from the viscounts of Rohan (fn. 3) to the Zouches. (fn. 4) Walter of Bradenham held a yardland under the Zouches in 1232. (fn. 5) In 1279 his widow Agnes of Conington possessed 2 yardlands in free marriage. Sir Richard of Bradenham (fl. from 1269) was then mesne lord of 4¾ yardlands, partly in demesne, under Ellen la Zouche. Although neither Ellen nor her successors as lords of Swavesey had any demesne in Fen Drayton, (fn. 6) that vill was nevertheless reckoned a member of Swavesey. (fn. 7) In 1548 Henry Carey, then lord of Swavesey, sold his Fen Drayton manor with 200 a. of arable besides grassland to John Batisford of Chesterton. (fn. 8)
Batisford died in 1556, holding FEN DRAYTONmanor of the Crown, of the honor of Richmond. His son and heir John, (fn. 9) of age in 1569, (fn. 10) who bought additional land from the 1570s, (fn. 11) made after 1600 two contradictory entails of the manor, heavily encumbered by his debts. In 1604 he settled it upon his sons successively in tail male, also assigning leases of farmland at Fen Drayton to maintain them, but in 1618 settled the manor in tail general upon the marriage of his eldest son John, who leased it back to his father and died in 1624. After the elder John died in 1628 the estate was disputed between his next son and heir male Robert and the Crown, claiming as guardian of the younger John's minor daughter Elizabeth. (fn. 12) The dispute continued into the late 1640s between John Valence, to whom Robert assigned his rights c. 1633 and whose kinsman Robert Valence probably occupied the estate in 1645, and Humphrey Wingfield of Brantham (Suff.), husband of Elizabeth. (fn. 13) Probably after her death, Wingfield obtained possession by the late 1650s. (fn. 14) When he died c. 1670, he ordered Fen Drayton to be sold to pay his debts. Two of his daughters' husbands (fn. 15) conveyed the manor in 1680 to Dr. James Desborough (fn. 16) (d. 1690). (fn. 17)
Through James's daughter Elizabeth it passed to the Holworthys, (fn. 18) descending with their Elsworth estate (fn. 19) until in 1789 her great-grandson Matthew Holworthy sold his Fen Drayton estate to Stephen Priestly (d. 1790), an innkeeper of Buckden (Hunts.). His son and heir Augustine, then a child, (fn. 20) was lord until the 1830s. (fn. 21) At inclosure in 1840 he was allotted 1 a. for his manorial rights. (fn. 22) Manor farm, thenceforth c. 210 a., (fn. 23) which he occupied until after 1860, descended to Thomas Longland Priestly who farmed it from 1864 to 1892, (fn. 24) when his mortgagees foreclosed. They sold it in 1897 to John Longwill of Oakham (Rut.), who thought himself lord of the manor c. 1912. (fn. 25) In 1917 the farm was sold to its tenant, John Scambler, who occupied it until the 1930s. (fn. 26) It was again sold by mortgagees in 1938. (fn. 27)
The farm then included the Old Manor house, (fn. 28) west of the high street, which had not, however, been Priestly's farmhouse c. 1840. (fn. 29) The building, timber-framed and thatched, may include a small medieval cross wing to the south, but the hall to the north was rebuilt in the early 17th century. The two tall red-brick end gables, steeply stepped in the Dutch manner, have projecting chimney breasts topped by diagonal shafts.
Another substantial lordship was that over 3¼ hides held in 1066 by men of the king's thegn Ulf, one sokeman having 1¼ hides to himself. By 1086 the estate had passed to Ulf's successor as lord at Fen Stanton, Gilbert of Ghent (fn. 30) (d. c. 1095), whose heir was his son Walter (d. 1139). (fn. 31) Henry I, having allegedly seduced Walter's sister, obliged him to assign Fen Stanton with its dependencies for her support. (fn. 32) The Ghents never recovered even their tenancy in chief, although Walter's grandson Gilbert (d. 1242) repeatedly sued successive possessors of the manor between 1208 and 1231. (fn. 33)
After Walter's sister's death Henry II assigned the manor, by 1161 at latest, to the Breton noble Roland de Dinan, (fn. 34) who briefly forfeited it for rebellion in Brittany c. 1167-8. (fn. 35) Roland, Henry's governor of Brittany c. 1175-8, died in 1184, having adopted as heir his nephew Alan de Dinan. (fn. 36) Probably by 1194, however, the manor had been given to Drew de la Roche, (fn. 37) whose widow Agnes held it as dower between 1201 (fn. 38) and the mid 1220s. (fn. 39) In 1225 Richard Marshal, later earl of Pembroke, who had married Alan de Dinan's daughter Gervaise, (fn. 40) claimed the estate, and was granted its reversion; Agnes died in 1226. (fn. 41) Following the earl's insurrection in 1233 (fn. 42) Henry III gave the estate in 1234 to his justiciar Stephen de Segrave, who lost it when he fell from power later that year, and it was assigned to the king's sister, Joan, queen of Scotland. (fn. 43) Segrave recovered it shortly after her death in 1237. (fn. 44) He died in 1241 and his son and heir Gilbert, (fn. 45) also a judge, in 1254. Gilbert's son Nicholas, of age in 1258, (fn. 46) a Montfortian partisan, (fn. 47) vigorously despoiled his west Cambridgeshire neighbours in the mid 1260s. (fn. 48) Lord over 4¼ yardlands at Fen Drayton in 1279, (fn. 49) he died in 1295. His son John, (fn. 50) a leading commander in the Scots wars, (fn. 51) and John's eldest son Stephen, who apparently occupied the family's Cambridgeshire lands, both died fighting in Gascony in 1325. Stephen's son John, (fn. 52) of age in 1336, (fn. 53) died in 1353, (fn. 54) having married Margaret (d. 1399), daughter of his guardian Thomas, earl of Norfolk. (fn. 55) Tenants at Fen Drayton owed rents to her in the 1370s. (fn. 56)
Her rights descended with Fen Stanton manor to the Mowbrays, dukes of Norfolk, and upon the partition of their lands in 1483 to the lords Berkeley, (fn. 57) in whose name, as lords paramount, the tenants at Fen Stanton asserted rights of common in Fen Drayton in the 16th century. (fn. 58) The overlordship passed, after the sale of Fen Stanton manor to Sir John Spencer in 1600, (fn. 59) to his descendants the Comptons, earls of Northampton. (fn. 60) The landscape gardener Lancelot Brown (d. 1783), bought that manor from them in 1768. (fn. 61) His son Lancelot (d. 1801) also by 1789 owned a large freehold property at Fen Drayton, a single holding since the 1650s. (fn. 62) It eventually passed to his younger brother Thomas, rector of Conington, its owner c. 1820, (fn. 63) to whose sons Lancelot Robert and Thomas Charles, both clergymen, c. 125 a. were allotted at inclosure, (fn. 64) mostly sold after L. R. Brown's death in 1868. (fn. 65)
Sir John Knyvett, whose grandfather John Knyvett had property at Fen Drayton in 1327, (fn. 66) was buying land there in 1370 and at his death in 1381 held c. 150 a. of the two main manors. (fn. 67) His son John (d. 1418) conveyed KNYVETTS HALL, called a manor by 1435, to feoffees. In the mid 1430s the feoffees' representative John Hotot disputed its possession with John Knyvett's son Sir John, who in 1435 released it to feoffees for Hotot, including Gilbert Haltoft (fn. 68) (d. 1458), (fn. 69) possibly its owner by the late 1440s. (fn. 70)
The POLLARDfee derived partly from 3 yardlands held in demesne by Ramsey abbey in 1066 and 1086, (fn. 71) which were later granted to its vassals, the Moynes of Barnwell St. Andrew (Northants.). (fn. 72) The Moynes granted their estate to Huntingdon priory, under which Robert Pollard held ½ hide in demesne in 1235, (fn. 73) and William Pollard in 1253. (fn. 74) About 1280 Berenger le Moyne released his mesne lordship to Ramsey abbey. (fn. 75) In 1279 William Pollard held the 3 yardlands under the Moynes of the abbey, and paid the priory 12s. 4d. a year, still due at the Dissolution. In 1279 William also held freely of Barnwell priory another 3 yardlands once given to it by Robert de Furneaux. (fn. 76) The latter holding possibly derived from a hide held in 1066 by two king's sokemen and in 1086 by one Roger under Barnwell's founder Picot the sheriff. (fn. 77)
About 1300 both fees were probably held by John Pollard. (fn. 78) Another John Pollard (d. 1358) left 60 a. held of the two priories to his young son William (fn. 79) (d. after 1374). (fn. 80) Rose, perhaps daughter of another John Pollard (? fl. 1423) had by the 1470s brought 65 a. at Fen Drayton and Conington to her husband William Ashwyn. (fn. 81) The land later returned to the Pollard male line: Richard Pollard, gentleman, was the wealthiest villager in 1524. (fn. 82) William Pollard, perhaps his son, curate in the 1540s, (fn. 83) held the two priory fees perhaps by 1533, certainly at his death in 1558. George Butler, his sister Audrey's son by Edward Butler, (fn. 84) sold Butlers farm in 1578 with 200 a. to John Batisford, lord of the main manor. (fn. 85)
Another supposed manor was eventually called OFFORDS: (fn. 86) in 1350 feoffees, including Andrew Offord, rector of Over, acquired land at Fen Drayton, perhaps to endow a chantry for Andrew's brother John (d. 1349), lately chancellor. (fn. 87) Instead it passed, perhaps c. 1360, (fn. 88) to John's former ward, Sir Laurence Pabenham, (fn. 89) who at his death in 1399 held 70 a., partly of the Zouches. Pabenham's son and heir John (fn. 90) died under age in 1407. His sister and heir Catherine, (fn. 91) who married secondly Sir Thomas Aylesbury (d. 1418), died in 1436. (fn. 92) Her son by her first marriage, Laurence Cheyney (fn. 93) (d. 1461) of Fen Ditton, succeeded her. His son Sir John (d. 1489) left two sons. Laurence, son of the younger son William (d. 1500), (fn. 94) had a substantial estate at Fen Drayton until after 1545. (fn. 95) He sold c. 110 a. there in 1547 to William Lawrence, (fn. 96) and another 105 a. in 1550, partly to William Pollard, clerk. (fn. 97) Lawrence mortgaged his share, including 'Offords manor' and 80 a., to John Batisford, but his brother Henry Lawrence sold it c. 1580 to John Barton. (fn. 98) Barton's son John inherited c. 190 a. of arable at Fen Drayton and Conington in 1617. (fn. 99) The Bartons had land there until the 1670s, (fn. 100) probably the 66-a. farm called Bartons c. 1700. (fn. 101)
That farm, and others including one of 70 a. owned from the 1750s to 1828 by the Greens of Hinxton Hall, (fn. 102) were acquired, mostly between 1815 and 1830, by members of the Daintree family, five of whom owned altogether c. 545 a. after inclosure in 1839. (fn. 103) Much of their land, with the 121-a. Middleton's farm, was purchased from the 1850s by William Cooper (d. c. 1895), who from the 1870s possessed c. 470 a. in the south-west quarter of the parish. The land probably mostly remained in Cooper's family until purchased by John Evison, (fn. 104) who owned 320 a. in 1910. (fn. 105) In 1935 he sold his 350-a. estate to the Land Settlement Association. (fn. 106)
In the 1840s Capt. John Cole Daintree, owner of c. 150 a., built for himself north of Cootes Lane, 'regardless of expense', the square greybrick Fen Drayton House, then the largest in the village, sold in 1854 (fn. 107) after debts had driven him into exile in France. (fn. 108) Later occupied by Cooper and Evison, (fn. 109) it was empty and for sale in 1983.
Some land was given in the 13th century to St. John's hospital, Cambridge, (fn. 110) whose successor, St. John's College, in 1524 acquired c. 56 a. owned since the 1420s by the Wolf family. (fn. 111) After further purchases in 1729 (fn. 112) the college had altogether 118 a. after inclosure in 1839, (fn. 113) which were sold to its tenant in 1944. (fn. 114) The beneficial lease of the rectorial glebe, which was possessed from 1509 by Christ's College, Cambridge, (fn. 115) was from the late 16th century usually granted to local yeomen, (fn. 116) although between 1671 and 1705 it belonged to the Willyses, baronets, of Fen Ditton. (fn. 117) From 1807 to the 1870s it was held by the Daintrees. (fn. 118) The college sold the land to its tenant in 1958. (fn. 119) Land for which 11½ a. were allotted at inclosure (fn. 120) was owned by Trinity College, Cambridge, from the late 16th century (fn. 121) until after 1910. (fn. 122)