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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Before 1066 the largest estate in Papworth St. Agnes was the 31/2 hides possessed by Ordnoth the man of Robert son of Wymark. By 1086 the new lord Eustace, sheriff of Huntingdon, had given half to his knight Walter de Beaumes, leaving Ordnoth as undertenant of the rest. (fn. 1) Lordship over both manors remained until c. 1250 with Eustace's barony of Southoe, (fn. 2) held from c. 1100 by the Lovetots. When that barony was divided among their coheirs in 1219, (fn. 3) the rights over Papworth were assigned to Ellis de Amundeville (d. 1231), (fn. 4) whose brother and heir Niel sold them c. 1250 to Richard de Clare, earl of Gloucester. (fn. 5) The tenancy in chief descended thereafter to the Clares and their Stafford coheirs until after 1400. (fn. 6)
The BEAUMESmanor, said in the 13th century to be held as 1/2 or 1/3 knight's fee, (fn. 7) belonged by 1166 to Walter de Beaumes (fn. 8) (fl. 1156-76) (fn. 9) and by 1197 to his son Walter. (fn. 10) He died after 1220. (fn. 11) His heir by 1224 was Robert de Beaumes, (fn. 12) who held the Papworth manor c. 1236. (fn. 13) When he died in 1263, leaving as heir his son Reynold (d. c. 1277), all the land had apparently been alienated to undertenants. The lord retained only the £8 of assize rents which Reynold's heir Sir Robert de Beaumes (d. after 1282) received in 1279. (fn. 14) Sir Robert's son William, of age by 1301, (fn. 15) had alienated his manorial rights by 1316, perhaps c. 1306, to John Francis of Wimpole (d. 1337), to whose son and heir Richard (fn. 16) William's son John finally released them c. 1340. (fn. 17) Richard Francis died after 1346. (fn. 18) His daughter and heir Eleanor married secondly Geoffrey Cobb, who briefly forfeited property at Papworth as an insurgent in 1381. (fn. 19) By 1428 the former Beaumes manor belonged to William Malory (d. 1445), (fn. 20) descending thereafter with his other Papworth manor of Russells.
The 13/4 hides remaining to Ordnoth in 1086 (fn. 21) probably comprised the hide that Alfred of Goldington gave before 1147 to Eustace the sheriff's foundation, Huntingdon priory. (fn. 22) In 1166 its canons held 11/2 fees of Niel de Lovetot (d. 1179). (fn. 23) By 1279 the priory's demesne, including gifts from Ellen of Papworth and others, comprised 70 a. (fn. 24) In 1321 John de Grey of Wilton undertook to give a carucate in Papworth held of the see of Ely. (fn. 25) The manor remained with the priory until its dissolution in 1538. (fn. 26) Sold by the Crown in 1546 and at once bought by William Malory (d. 1585), (fn. 27) it descended thereafter with Beaumes and Russells.
The Malorys' principal Papworth estate, RUSSELLSmanor, probably derived from a hide held before 1066 by 7 or 8 sokemen and in 1086 occupied by Picot the sheriff, who possibly held another hide under Countess Judith. (fn. 28) By 1160 that estate was probably held by Agnes of Papworth, (fn. 29) perhaps the elder of the two unnamed sisters, kin of Wimar of Stanton, who held land there of the king in 1185 by service of feeding the poor. (fn. 30) Ellen, widow of Geoffrey of Papworth, was tenant by 1200 (fn. 31) and was dispossessed by King John in 1205. He gave Ellen's 10 yardlands to Robert Russell of Kimbolton (Hunts.) to be held by feeding two poor men daily for the king's soul, as Ellen had done. (fn. 32) That service was recorded until the early 14th century (fn. 33) but after 1400 the manor was said to be held in chief by knight service. (fn. 34) Ellen and her son Walter of Papworth (fl. to 1228) resisted the grant to Russell, but in 1208 a jury found that they had not held heritably but of the king's alms. The Papworths retained 22 a. (fn. 35) held in socage of the Scalers fee, which were occupied in 1279 by William of Papworth, probably Walter's grandson. (fn. 36)
Robert Russell was lord until he died c. 1240. His elder son Robert (d. s.p. 1249), of Grafham (Hunts.), (fn. 37) left as heir his brother John. (fn. 38) The 21/2 hides that Sir John possessed in 1279 and 1286 (fn. 39) descended at his death in 1290 to the former owners' descendant William of Papworth as John's nephew and heir. (fn. 40) William died in 1314. His son John, of age in 1321, (fn. 41) served as sheriff in 1341 and was knighted in 1346. (fn. 42) By his death in 1361 he had another 100 a. of demesne at Papworth, (fn. 43) a mesne lordship over which was attached from 1363 until after 1500 to the Knyvetts' Boxworth estate. (fn. 44) Sir John Papworth's son and heir William, (fn. 45) twice sheriff of Cambridgeshire and thrice knight of the shire, (fn. 46) was knighted c. 1386. (fn. 47) He died in 1414 and his widow Agnes in 1416; the manor then passed under settlements of 1391 and 1408 to William, younger son of Sir Anketil Malory. (fn. 48)
William Malory, knighted c. 1430, (fn. 49) died in 1445. His son and heir Thomas, then aged 19, (fn. 50) who has occasionally but probably wrongly been thought the author of the Morte Darthur, (fn. 51) died in 1469. The Papworth manor was inherited successively by his sons John (fn. 52) (d. under age 1471), Robert, (fn. 53) of age in 1479 (fn. 54) (d. s.p. 1492), and Anthony (d. 1539), (fn. 55) whose widow occupied it, surviving their eldest son Henry (d. s.p.m. 1542), until her death in 1546. Anthony's next son and heir William, a London mercer, (fn. 56) died in 1585, having in 1578 settled over 250 a. of demesne farmland for life upon his younger sons Nicholas and John. The manor, comprising the whole parish since the 1540s, descended to William's eldest son William (fn. 57) (d. 1611), whose son and heir Henry (kt. 1605) (fn. 58) was obliged, probably by debt, (fn. 59) to sell the estate in 1626 to the Londoner William Cater. (fn. 60)
Cater died in 1634, leaving Papworth to his eldest son Thomas (fn. 61) (d. 1668). (fn. 62) In 1681 Thomas's son and heir Gerard agreed to sell it to a London merchant, Samuel Thompson. (fn. 63) In 1689 Thompson sold it to John Dryden of Chesterton (Hunts.), who owned adjoining estates at Toseland and Yelling (Hunts.). (fn. 64) Dying without issue in 1708, Dryden devised those lands to his sister Anne's son Robert Pigott (d. 1746) of Chetwynd (Salop.), (fn. 65) from whom they descended to his son Robert. (fn. 66) Between 1747 and 1758 Pigott bought a 150-a. farm at Papworth, settled in 1665 by Thomas Cater upon a daughter's marriage. (fn. 67) After Robert's death in 1770 his son and heir, the eccentric Robert Pigott, disentailed and sold all his English estates in the 1770s. (fn. 68)
Papworth was bought by Henry Grace (d. 1798) of Tottenham (Mdx.), who left it to his widow Sarah (d. 1815) for her life and then in tail to his elder daughter Sarah Anne (fn. 69) (d. 1850), wife of Henry Piper Sperling (d. 1847). The Papworth estate then descended in the direct male line to the Revd. Harvey James Sperling (d. 1858), Arthur Sperling (d. 1908), chairman of the Cambridgeshire quarter sessions from c. 1860 and first chairman of the county council, Arthur H. B. Sperling (d. 1949), and Lt.-Col. Herbert Harvey Sperling, an Indian Army officer (d. s.p. 1958), whose brother Mr. St. John Henry Sperling (fn. 70) still owned almost all the parish in 1982. (fn. 71)
Of the medieval manors only Russells and Huntingdon priory's certainly had manor houses, (fn. 72) which may have stood within moats north-west of the church. (fn. 73) Russells, where Sir John Papworth was allowed a private oratory in 1346, (fn. 74) perhaps occupied the larger moated site to the north, c. 110 m. long by c. 65 m. wide, while the priory manor house, a farmhouse in the 16th century, (fn. 75) possibly stood in the smaller, c. 40 m. by 10 m., south-west of the street. In the 1530s Anthony Malory had brickworks at Papworth for repairing his buildings. (fn. 76) In 1546 his manor house included a hall, chamber, buttery, and kitchen. (fn. 77) His son or grandson began to rebuild it in stone in the late 16th century. (fn. 78) Only the hall and one gabled cross wing on the north, with mullioned and transomed windows, were then completed, no kitchen wing being built. Behind the hall a square 16th-century stair turret rises to the roof. Inside are contemporary doorways and clunch fireplaces. The hall and parlour and the chambers over them have elaborately moulded plaster ceilings of c. 1600, bearing the arms of Malory quartering Papworth (fn. 79) and the initials w.m. In the mid 17th century the Caters added, in brick, a room west of the hall and made a five-bay south front. Under Charles II their house had 7 or 8 hearths. (fn. 80) The existing west wall, of red brick, was reconstructed when a large room was added c. 1700 to make the house square. From that time to the 1930s it was used as a farmhouse. (fn. 81) It was empty in the mid 1970s but from 1977 efforts were being made to restore it. (fn. 82) Near it stand two 17th-century barns and a dovecot of c. 1700, all of red brick and by the 1960s derelict and ruinous. Traces of ponds and other earthworks across the road to the south-west may derive from a garden or park: a Park close was mentioned in 1611. (fn. 83)
The Sperlings had their Papworth residence until the 1950s in the house at Lattenbury Hill, (fn. 84) built c. 1820 as the rectory, which they had acquired from the living by exchange in 1854. (fn. 85) That house, surrounded by 55 a. of grounds, including 26 a. of woodland, (fn. 86) was demolished in 1962 by St. J. H. Sperling, who thereafter lived at the Old Rectory near the church. (fn. 87)
By 1086 21/2 yardlands held in 1066 by two priests under the abbot of Ely had been seized by Richard son of Gilbert and Eustace the sheriff. (fn. 88) Ely later recovered the land and by 1279 c. 90 a. were held of the bishop by rendering yearly 22-24 wooden dishes, commuted after 1500 to a £2 rent, at his manor of Little Gransden. (fn. 89) In 1278 the ELYfee, including 100 a. of demesne, was settled on Richard of Knill, the main tenant in 1279. (fn. 90) By 1321 it was held by John de Grey, also lord of Toseland and Yelling (Hunts.). His proposal to grant it and 2 demesne yardlands to Huntingdon priory to support a chantry (fn. 91) was ineffective: John still occupied the demesne at his death in 1323. (fn. 92) In 1328 his son and heir Henry settled 80 a. at Papworth upon his eldest son Reynold's marriage. (fn. 93) Reynold's grandson Richard, 6th Lord Grey of Wilton, was receiving a £2 rent from Papworth when he died in 1442. (fn. 94) The land apparently passed to the Malorys, who in 1445 held it of the bishop by the ancient dish rent. About 1540 it comprised 130 a. (fn. 95)
A yardland held in 1066 by two king's sokemen and in 1086 by Hardwin de Scalers (fn. 96) was by 1279 held by the Conington family of the Scalers barony. Sir Robert of Conington had given part c. 1260 to Ramsey abbey and subinfeudated the rest to his younger son Nicholas, of whom the Papworth family held it in demesne in 1279. (fn. 97)