The hundred of Norman Cross

Pages 129-132

A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1936.

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containing the parishes of Alwalton; Caldecote; Chesterton; Conington; Denton; Elton; Farcet; Fletton; Folksworth; Glatton; Haddon; Holme; Morborne; Orton Longueville with Botolph-Bridge; Orton Waterville; Sawtry; Stanground; Stibbington; Stilton; Washingley; Water Newton; Woodston; Wood Walton; Yaxley

The Hundred of Norman Cross took its name from the Norman Cross, which formerly stood on the Ermine Street, where it was crossed by the road from Yaxley to Folksworth, roughly in the centre of the group of parishes forming the hundred. The name was derived from some Scandinavian settler from Norway, to whom the descriptive name of Northman was given, while the word Cross is also a Norse loan-word. (fn. 1) Presumably the original English name of the hundred has been lost.

The hundred included a considerable part of the parish of Whittlesea (Cambs).

In 1086, the Huntingdonshire portion was assessed at 188 hides (fn. 2) and already had its 13th-century boundaries. (fn. 3) The boundaries are given in a document of the following century: 'the circuit of the Hundred of Norman cros begins at the bridge of Walmesford and so leads by the bank of the Nene as far as the mill of Neuton' and includes a certain meadow which is called Fremannesholt between Sibston' and Neuton'; and so leads from the said mills [sic] by the said bank as far as the mill of Alwelton'; and from the said mills by the said bank as far as Gunneswade; and from Gunneswade by the said bank it leads under Peterborough to Medwelle, by the said bank as far as Cheselawe and from Cheselawe by the said bank as far as [the] Wodeshed' of Stangrond'; and from [the] Wodeshed by the said bank as far as Holde[i]he under Wytlyseye and thence as far as Frydaylake and thence as far as Sadilbowe, and thence as far as Wyshammowthe and thence as far as Benewyk' and so by the middle of the town of Benewyk' as far as Schirmere; and it includes the whole of Schirmere; and from Schirmere by the said bank of the Nene to Rammesmere and so by the middle of Rammesmere, including half of Rammesmere, as far as Co[u]clys by the said bank; and thence as far as Walton'stok, so as to include the fen of Glatton' with Ubmere; and from Waltonestok as far as the wood of Stallyng, including the said wood with the assarts of the said wood; and thence as far as the wood of Rypton', so as to exclude the wood of Rypton', by a certain small bank, which separates the wood of Rypton' and the wood of Walton' and so separates the Hundred of Normancross and the Hundred of Hirstyngston'; and so by that bank as far as Siwardesheye, including Siwardsheye, by a ditch under the wood of Rypton' as far as the corner over against the wood of Alkemundebury; and so from the corner descending by the same ditch as far as the wood of the monks of Sautre, including Sewardesh', under the wood of the monks as far as Upton Hanger; and thence as far as Stangate, and so by Stangate as far as the wood of Copman- forth' and so by a certain ditch under the said wood as far as [the] Wodeshed', excluding the wood of Copmanforth'; and thence as far as Slakkemere by a certain ditch including the whole field of the monks of Sautre; and thence by another road as far as Albound; and thence to Glatton' dyke by the said road including the whole field of the whole township (villata) of Sautre.' (fn. 4) Here the record ends, but the boundary evidently followed the county boundary until it reached the Nene at Elton and so came to Wansford Bridge.

Index Map to the Hundred of Norman Cross

William Rufus granted the hundred to the Abbey of Thorney in Cambridgeshire at a fee-farm rent of £5 a year to be paid to the sheriff. (fn. 5) The abbot originally paid 4s. a year for the toll of the 'passagium' of the hundred, from which he was freed by King Stephen, (fn. 6) and 20s. for the right to hold the view of frankpledge, and 40s. 3d. for sheriff's aid. He paid the aid as late as 1230, but in 1285 he claimed to be freed both from suit to the county and sheriff's aid under a charter of Henry II and at the same date paid nothing for the view of frankpledge. (fn. 7) The different townships in the hundred were assessed to make payments to the Abbey of Thorney towards the farm, the manor of Elton paying 4 summa of oats and 20d. a year. These seem to have been withheld by the Abbot of Ramsey, as lord of Elton, and after an inquiry ordered by the Exchequer, it was agreed in 1221, that 1 mark of silver should be paid from Elton to cover all dues to the hundred. (fn. 8) The two townships of Alwalton and Fletton paid 20s. a year to the farm, but in 1194 this payment was withdrawn by the Abbot of Peterborough, and the Abbot of Thorney only paid £4 a year, for which the sheriff accounted at the Exchequer, no question being raised apparently as to the reduction until 1285. (fn. 9) In the lawsuit which was then brought by the Crown under a writ of quo warranto, it was decided that the Abbot of Peterborough had no charter acquitting him of the payment and that the Abbey of Thorney must pay the full farm of £5, besides the arrears due for 91 years. (fn. 10) The hundred in the meantime was taken into the king's hands, and in 1290 was granted to Queen Eleanor. (fn. 11) In 1292, however, it was restored to the Abbey of Thorney at the increased farm of 10 marks. (fn. 12) In 1301, the abbey complained that in spite of this the sheriff was entering the hundred and holding his tourn there, as he had done apparently since 1241, and an inquiry was ordered. (fn. 13) The abbey evidently recovered its rights and held the tourn and view of frankpledge in the following century. (fn. 14) In 1445, the abbey complained that the hundred was so much wasted and the lands destroyed by floods that it hardly received 40s. a year and so obtained a grant of various privileges to increase the profits received from the hundred. (fn. 15) Certain townships in the hundred paid rents to it: 11s. from Chesterton, 11s. from Morborne, 8s. from Sawtry Moyne, 6s. 8d. from Orton Longueville, 4s. 8d. from Orton Waterville and 4s. from Washingley. (fn. 16) After the dissolution of the Abbey of Thorney, the Crown held the hundred until 1611, when James I granted it to Sir Robert Cotton, Thomas Cotton, his son, and John Cotton, his grandson, at an annual rent of 53s. 4d., (fn. 17) but in the following year he granted it to Edmund Sawyer and Thomas Brinley, probably merely fishing grantees, (fn. 18) from whom Sir Robert Cotton and his son bought it together with the office of bailiff of the hundred. (fn. 19) They held the hundred court, of which rolls are extant from 1628 to 1632. (fn. 20) From a lawsuit between the Cottons and certain citizens of London who had bought the manor of Yaxley, which had also belonged to Thorney Abbey, it appears that the abbey had had one bailiff for both the hundred of Norman Cross and the manor of Yaxley, and consequently the different courts, their perquisites and profits were not differentiated. Thus when the hundred and the manor were granted to different purchasers by James I, both parties claimed the rents already referred to. (fn. 21) The hundred afterwards passed to the Probys, probably at the time of the marriage of Sir Thomas Proby, bart., to Frances, daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton, bart. (fn. 22) John Joshua Proby, the 2nd Baron Carysfort, owned the hundred in 1773 (fn. 23) and in 1801, when he was created a baron of the United Kingdom, he took his title from the Hundred of Norman Cross. (fn. 24)


  • 1. Place Names of Beds and Hunts (Place Name Soc.), 180.
  • 2. V.C.H. Hunts, i, 320.
  • 3. Ibid. 318.
  • 4. Add. R. (B.M.) 34354. Walmesford is Wansford; Gunneswade is Gunwade Ferry; Medewelle is near to Peterborough bridge; Cheselawe and Wodeshed are on the boundary of Hunts and Cambs S.E. of Stanground church; Holdeihe is Oldea, S.E. of Whittlesea, Cambs; Wyshammowthe was near Floods Ferry, Cambs; Schirmere is now called Ramsey Fen, the point indicated is the S.E. corner; Rammesmere is Ramsey Mere; Walton'stok was near the N.E. corner of Wood Walton, and Stalling Wood was near the S.E. corner; Siwardesheye seems to have been Bevill's Wood; Upton Hanger is Upton Wood; Slakkemere is where four parishes come together at the south corner of Aversley Wood. The woods were all larger, and there were more woods then than now.
  • 5. Cal. Pat. R. 1281–92, p. 473; 1301–7, p. 236.
  • 6. Cal. Chart. R. 1300–26, p. 242.
  • 7. J. W. Clark, Lib. de Bernewelle, 279–80; Proby MS. 115 (1), fol. 15; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 298.
  • 8. Proby MS. 115 (1), fol. 10.
  • 9. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 298.
  • 10. Ibid. 299.
  • 11. Cal. Pat. R. 1281–92, p. 369.
  • 12. Ibid. 473.
  • 13. Cal. Pat. R. 1292–1301, 624; 1301–7, p. 236.
  • 14. Proby MS. 115 (1), fols. 58–9.
  • 15. Cal. Pat. R. 1441–6, p. 329.
  • 16. Cott. Ch. (B.M.) I, 2 (1).
  • 17. Proby MS. 115 (1), fols. 73–4.
  • 18. Pat. R. 10 Jas. I, pt. xii, no. 10.
  • 19. Proby MS. 115 (1), fol. 77.
  • 20. Cott. Ch. (B.M.) I, 2 (3); III, 14 (1).
  • 21. Cott. Ch. (B.M.) I, 2 (1).
  • 22. G.E.C. Baronetage, iii, 246.
  • 23. Feet of F. Hunts, Trin. 13 Geo. III.
  • 24. Complete Peerage (2nd ed.), iii, 70.