Parishes: Holme

Pages 184-188

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

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Hulme, Holm (xiii cent.).

Holme, until the early 19th century, was a hamlet or chapelry of Glatton. It was then made a parish, with an area of about 4,435 acres—more than twice that of Glatton. It includes the greater part of what was formerly Whittlesea Mere, which occupies the northern end of the parish.

Holme is about a mile east of the Ermine Street, or Great North Road, and is separated from Ramsey, on the east and south-east, by the Nene (old course) and Burbeach stream; and from Conington, on the south, by the Holme Brook; drains and dykes intersect the parish from south-west to north-east. 'A place by the stream at Holme for washing herrings' is mentioned in 1300. (fn. 1) Holme Fen (parts of which are still unreclaimed) lies south of Whittlesea Mere, and the whole parish is so low-lying that little of the land is more than 10 ft. above Ordnance datum. The soil is chiefly fen, peat and clay, producing potatoes, wheat, oats and mustard.

The small village is situated about half a mile from the western boundary of the parish, with the church in the north-west corner, and the school and vicarage to the east of it. A 17th-century cottage finished with Dutch gables is close by. There is a station on the main line of the London and North Eastern Railway with a branch line to Ramsey.

Holme Wood House, built in Holme Park by William Wells about 1874, replaced an earlier house known as Holme House, occupied by Captain William Wells, R.N. (d. 1826). It followed the descent of the manor of Glatton with Holme, until 1918, and is still the residence of Mr. John Ashton Fielden. Holme was not included in the sale of Glatton in 1918.


The Domesday Survey does not mention HOLME, but it was evidently included in the 8 hides in Glatton held by Ulf, which were granted by William the Conqueror to Eustace, Count of Boulogne. (fn. 2) Glatton and Holme thus were attached to the Honour of Boulogne, which after the death of Reginald, Count of Boulogne, who was taken prisoner in France in 1214, escheated to the Crown. Holme has always been a member of Glatton (q.v.). (fn. 3)

In 1218 Baldwin de Rivers paid three good palfreys for licence to inclose 15 acres of his wood for a park at Holme. (fn. 4) In 1314 the king ordered that a fair should be held at his manor of Holme, on the eve, day and morrow of the feast of St. Gregory the Pope, and another on the eve, day and morrow of St. Giles the Abbot. (fn. 5) A market was already in existence, but it appears to have had no profits in 1368. There were three burgesses holding burgages in the town which they could alienate at will, but the silting up of the river at Welle near Wisbech, stopping the passage of ships from Lynn, adversely affected the prosperity of the town, in common with other places in the neighbourhood. (fn. 6)

Disturbances occurred in Holme Fen in 1632, when the cattle were driven away during the operations connected with the Bedford Level drainage. 'A crowd of men and women armed with scythes and pitchforks uttered threatening words against anyone that should drive their fens.' Mr. Castel of Glatton took part, and with his men prevented the overseers of the dykes from driving off his cattle. (fn. 7)

A family of de Holme was living during the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1210–12 Robert de Holme is included in a list of knights holding lands in Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, and was possibly one of those whose services were owed by Baldwin de Dudeauville (de Rivers) for Glatton and Holme. (fn. 8) In 1308 Thomas, son of Agnes de Holme, complained that the men of Denton had cut his turves at Holme, and he was apparently open to the same accusation as regards Denton, though these marshes were separated by a dyke called Frithdyke, and did not intercommon. (fn. 9)

A messuage and croft was held by 'Mariota of the Hall,' in 1279, of the Earl of Cornwall, for a rent of 14d. and the finding of a lamp before the high altar of the church. (fn. 10) In 1589 a 'cottage' called Hall Place, with land in Holme, was held of the queen by William Somersam, for 1½d. yearly, his heirs being his daughters Avice and Sencia. (fn. 11)

WHITTLESEA MERE (Witlesmere, x–xii cent.; Witelesmere, xi-xii cent.; Witelesmare, 1086; Wittlesmere, xvi cent.; Whittlesea, xviii cent.) was the largest fresh-water lake in the southern parts of England. It lay chiefly in the eastern part of the parish of Glatton cum Holme (now Holme), but a small part towards the north was in the parish of Farcet. It was traversed from the north-west to the south-east by the River Nene (old course), and was fed, in addition, by many water-courses running down from the surrounding high lands. Camden (fn. 12) describes it as six miles long and three miles broad. He says that the sons and servants of Cnut, when crossing it on their way from Peterborough to Ramsey, were caught in a violent storm and whirlwind, and some of them were drowned. The king thereupon ordered a dyke to be made by his soldiers with their swords (hence called Swerdesdelf or Cnut's-dyke), in the adjoining marshes between Ramsey and Whittlesea. Presumably Cnut's intention was to put a limit to the waters on the northeast side. To arrive at Camden's dimensions we must include the whole of Farcet Fen up to Horsey Hill (thus bringing the Mere much nearer to the town of Whittlesea), and we must bring it south to Hook's Lode; it seems very doubtful if the Mere really was as large as this. The width of three miles would not necessarily apply to the whole Mere, and possibly the part south of Swere Point was much less, and known as Chelfremere. The area given in 1786 (fn. 13) is 1,570 acres, and it is shown as about 2 miles from east to west and 1½ miles from north to south. Its depth is stated to vary from 2 to 7 feet. The original 1 in. Ordnance Map (1824) shows it the same size, but Heathcote says that its size decreased after 1786, and was continuing to decrease, and that it went temporarily quite dry in 1826. (fn. 14) That it must have decreased in size when Morton's Leam was cut (c. 1485), and when each step in the drainage of the Fens became effective, seems inevitable, and, therefore, without necessarily accepting Camden's dimensions, we may reasonably assume that it was once much larger than it was in Bodger's day.

The waters of the Mere were free from weeds, but were surrounded by a wide belt of reeds called shoals. The Mere was subject to violent storms, high winds and great waves; it was full of a great variety of fish and fowl, and during the 18th and 19th centuries seems to have been a favourite yachting resort, and there were yacht houses at Meremouth and at Port Sandwich.

The drainage of the Mere was commenced in 1849 and was completed in 1853. (fn. 15) A silver censer and incense boat were found a little west of the eastern boundary dyke, in the former year, (fn. 16) and an ancient spear head in 1866. (fn. 17)

Whittlesea Mere is said to have been given by Wulphere, King of Mercia, to the Abbey of Peterborough, on its foundation in 657; (fn. 18) the abbey, however, was destroyed by the Danes in 870, and its property lapsed to the king.

When Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester (963–984), refounded the Abbey of Peterborough, he gave it onefourth part of the Mere, (fn. 19) and King Edgar, in his foundation charter, in 963, confirmed this to the abbey. (fn. 20) The same king, in his foundation charter to the Abbey of Thorney, in 973, says that Bishop Aethelwold bought two parts of Whittlesea Mere from Ufan and his uterine brothers; and it goes on to say that the fourth part of the Mere, and two fisheries and ten acres, were exchanged between the Abbeys of Thorney and Burgh [Peterborough] for 120 pigs, and for the repair of houses, hedges and stables. (fn. 21) The Liber Niger of the Abbey of Peterborough tells us that Abbot Aelsius (1006–1055) bought a fourth part of Whittlesea Mere from a nobleman named Thored, giving him in exchange land at Overton and a sum of money. This he added to another fourth part which he held before, which had been given to the monastery by Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester—and thus the Abbey of Peterborough possessed half the Mere. This purchase, together with the right to the entire moiety, with all the adjacent waters and marshes, was confirmed to the abbey by King Cnut. (fn. 22) It is not clear how the Abbey of Peterborough's property in the Mere passed to the Abbey of Thorney, if it did, but possibly the Peterborough property consisted only of fishing rights, whereas Thorney held manorial rights as well.

In 1086 the fishing and mere of the Abbot of Ramsey were valued at £10, those of the Abbot of Thorney at 60s., and those of the Abbot of Peterborough at £4. The Abbot of Ramsey had one boat, the Abbot of Peterborough one, and the Abbot of Thorney two, but of these two the Abbot of Peterborough held one with two fisheries and two fishermen and one virgate of land. (fn. 23)

In 1125–1128, the fisheries are set forth in connection with the boundaries of the Mere, with its fisheries, marshes (paludibus) and waters, thus: 'In the northern part of the pool is a water by name Merelade, going out of the river Nene where is the northern boundary of the pool itself. This with its marshes (paludibus) adjoins it [the Mere] having at the end one fishery called Aethemuthe. In the east part are two pools called Wellepol and Trendmaere. (fn. 24) Between these pools is a narrow water two furlongs long, called Trendmaere Bece [i.e. beach], (fn. 25) having in it two fisheries. There is also a narrow water one mile long, called Falet, having in it one fishery. In that part between Witlesmere and Kyngesdelf, where is the eastern boundary, is a marshy place three miles broad, having in it a narrow water called Thescuf, and a wood called Ragreholt. In the south part is a narrow water three furlongs long called Scaelfremaere Bece [i.e. beach] having in it two fisheries. At the end of this is a pool called Scaelfremaere having in its southern part a narrow water called Ubbemaere-lade, half a mile long. Also at the head of this, that is at the end of the pool, is one fishery. Halfway along this water [Ubbemaere-lade] is a place on the opposite side in the marsh (palude) called Aldwines Barwe, where is the southern boundary. In the western part is a narrow water two furlongs long called Trendmaere bece [i.e. beach] having in it one fishery. At the end of this is a pool called West Trendmaere. There are also in that part waters whose names are Dreigmaere, Wellepol, Withibuscemaere, Langemaere, Keninges and Musclemaere. And also there is a water one mile long, even up to the land, called Deop Bece, having in it one fishery. At the end of this water is the western boundary of the marshes (paludum) and waters belonging to Witlesmaere.' (fn. 26)

In 1306 it was found by inquisition that the Abbot of Thorney had five cotes abutting on the mere, and that the greater part of the fishery belonged to him; he had five boatsgates to fish in the mere at all times, except during Shelrode, which began a fortnight before St. George's Day and lasted until a fortnight after. Each boatsgate had forty pollenets, forty swerenets, twenty-five widenets, twenty-four bownets, one drage, one tramaile, also setting-tawe and syrelepes at the will of the owner. (fn. 27) In 1401 the Abbots and Convents of Thorney and Sawtry were holding free fisheries. (fn. 28)

In 1553 Edward VI granted the manor of Farcet to Sir Walter Mildmay, (fn. 29) when the manor included the north part of Whittlesea Mere from Arlmyndes Hills to Falstubb; and this part passed with the manor of Farcet (q.v.). (fn. 30) In 1629 Francis, Earl of Westmoreland, died seised of a free fishery in Chaldebeach, Archbeach [Ashbeach], and Conquestloadend in the parish of Glatton, late belonging to William Hansard. (fn. 31)

Notwithstanding these grants to the Abbeys of Thorney and Peterborough, the greater part of the Mere probably lay in the manor of Glatton cum Holme, as it lies in the parish of Holme to this day.

Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to whom the manor of Glatton cum Holme (q.v.) had been granted by the king in 1243, gave all his right and claim in fisheries in 'Ubbemere' and 'Birkemare' and in three cotes on Whittlesea Mere to Ramsey Abbey, in 1261. (fn. 32) The inquisition taken on the death of Edmund Earl of Cornwall (1300) mentions fisheries in Ubmere [Uggmere], Birshemere and Whittlesmere, for fishing wherein with boats the Abbot of Ramsey and others pay rents, a liberty of testing the nets with a certain billete by which they ought to be knotted for taking small fish, with power to the bailiff of the manor to burn all nets found beyond the assize, or take a fine. (fn. 33) The overlordship of this part of the Mere passed with the manor of Glatton (q.v.) and was included in the purchase by Sir Robert Cotton in 1611; (fn. 34) and Sir Robert died in 1631 seised of a free fishery called a boatgate in a water called Whittlesmere in Conington, Holme, and Glatton. (fn. 35) It apparently passed with the manor of Glatton cum Holme, in 1752, to Mr. Wells, whose grandson, William Wells (d. 1889), drained the Mere in 1849–53.

In 1318 the Abbot and Convent of Peterborough were granted 3 acres of marsh by the perch of 20 feet in the king's marsh of Glatton, next the water of Wytlesmere where the abbot had free fishery. (fn. 36) They could enclose the three acres with a ditch and build there, and their fishermen could spread out their nets to dry, and save themselves 'in time of tempests which often happen there.' The fishing rights held by the Abbey of Sawtry were granted with the rest of that monastery's possessions to Richard Williams, alias Cromwell, in 1537, (fn. 37) and those held by Peterborough Abbey went to the Dean and Chapter. In 1614, at an inquisition held at Holme, it appeared that there were then 15 boatsgates belonging to the mere; the Earl of Lincoln had one, the church of Peterborough two, Thomas Glapthorne one, Sir Anthony Mildmay one, Sir William Fitzwilliam one, Robert Apreece one, and the lord of the manor seven. In 1786, Mr. Wells, lord of the manor, had eleven; Lord Brownlow, lord of the manor of Farcet, one and a private fishery; the church of Peterborough two, and Lord Carysfort one. (fn. 38)


The church of ST. GILES consisted of a chancel, nave with side aisles, south porch and a bell-cot for two bells on the west gable. Some of the piers were of the 12th century and others of the 13th, while the bell-cot was of the latter date. The windows were insertions of the 15th century and later. The porch was modern and there were modern dormers in the roof. The font was a plain octagon. (fn. 39) The nave arcades were presumably of three bays each.

This church was pulled down and an entirely new church built in 1862, consisting of a chancel (24 ft. by 16½ ft.), with organ chamber and vestry on the north (16 ft. by 8½ ft.), nave (48¼ ft. by 16½ ft.), north and south aisles (9 ft. wide), south porch (6 ft. by 8 ft.) and a bell-cot for two bells on the west gable. The walls are of hammer-dressed stone, and the roofs are covered with tiles.

The chancel has a three-light east window with tracery in a two-centred head; a segmental-pointed arch and a plain doorway in the north wall; and two single-light windows in the south wall. The chancel arch is two-centred, of two chamfered orders resting on moulded corbels.

The organ chamber and vestry has a two-light window with tracery in a two-centred head in the east wall; two single-light windows in the north wall; and a pointed arch to the north aisle.

The nave has a north arcade of four bays, the arches two-centred, of two chamfered orders, and carried on three octagonal columns and two semioctagonal respond shafts. The two responds and the capitals of the two eastern columns are of 13th-century date reset, and the three eastern arches incorporate a considerable number of old stones, but the western arch and its column are entirely modern. The south arcade, also of four bays, has two-centred arches of one plain order resting on three circular columns and two semicircular respond shafts; the capitals of the eastern respond and the eastern column are cushion capitals of 12th-century date, part of the capital of the second column is of the 13th century, and small parts of the three eastern arches are ancient, but the western bay is entirely modern. On the north side of the chancel arch is a trefoiled-headed opening giving access from the vestry to the pulpit. The clearstory has four circular traceried windows on each side. The west window is a two-light with tracery in a twocentred head; above it is a stone bell-cot for two bells.

The north aisle has four square-headed threelight windows with tracery in the north wall; and a two-light window with tracery in a two-centred head in the west wall.

The south aisle is generally similar to the north aisle, but has a doorway in the south wall, and a twolight window similar to that at the west in the east wall.

The south porch has a pointed outer arch with a niche above it; and a circular window in each of the side walls.

All the roofs are modern—and so is the octagonal font. The Communion table, c. 1630, is of oak with heavy turned legs.

There are two bells, inscribed: (1) Stanley Peterboro' 1885; (2) 1670. The second is by Norris. There were two bells in 1709. (fn. 40)

Just outside the churchyard is the base of a 13thcentury cross; it is square, reduced to an octagon above with large rounded stops.

There are the following monuments: in the chancel, to Edmund Woodstock, d. 1728, Ann (Freeman) his wife, d. 1720, and their children Ann, d. 1723, Dorothy, d. 1720, and John, d. 1762; Thomas Wells, ViceAdmiral of the Red, d. 1811; Cecil Grenville Wells, d. 1884; Grenville Hilton Wells, d. 1886; William Wells, d. 1889; and William John Selby, d. 1916; in the south aisle, window to William Wells, d. 1889.

The registers are as follows: (i) baptisms, marriages and burials, 2 Jan. 1683 to 6 Dec. 1761; (ii) the same, 10 Jan. 1762 to 20 Dec. 1812, the marriages end 3 Nov. 1777; (iii) marriages, 21 Sept. 1754 to 1 Dec. 1806; (iv) marriages, 16 Jan. 1807 to 24 Dec. 1812. Neither (iii) nor (iv) are the usual printed books, and the marriages down to 1777 are entered in the older books as well.

The church plate consists of a silver cup inscribed: 'Holme Com: Hunt 1710' and hall-marked for 1709–10; (fn. 41) a silver cup inscribed 'Holme Church 1862' and bearing the Sheffield hall-mark for 1861–2; a silver paten and a silver flagon similarly inscribed and hall-marked; a silver standing-paten inscribed 'This Service the Gift of Marianne Widow of Colonel John N. Wells, R.E. to Holme Church, Easter Day, 1862' and hall-marked as the rest.


The chapel of Holme was united to Glatton until 1857, when it was separated and constituted a perpetual curacy (fn. 42) and is now called a 'new vicarage.' Mr. J. M. Wingfield presented in that year, but the advowson was apparently acquired very soon after by William Wells, who presented in 1858. (fn. 43) It afterwards followed the descent of the manor of Glatton, (fn. 44) but was retained by Mr. John Ashton Fielden with the Holme Wood Estate, when he sold Glatton in 1918, and he is the present patron.


Holme Poor's Land or Charity Land.—It is stated that Sir John Cotton gave to the parish of Holme a close called Constable's Close, the rents to be disposed of as the rector of Conington and the churchwardens of Holme should think fit. (fn. 45) On the inclosure of the open fields the Commissioners by their award, dated 15 Feb. 1820, awarded a piece of land containing 11 a. 1 r. 24 p. in Sweet Hall Field, Glatton, in exchange for Constable's Close. The land was sold in 1905 and the proceeds invested in the purchase of £588 15s. 10d. Consols. The endowment of the charity now consists of £761 7s. 3d. Consols with the Official Trustees, and the dividends are distributed in money to deserving and necessitous inhabitants of Holme, in accordance with the provisions of the scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated 14 May 1869, under which the charity is now regulated.

The Charity of Sir John Cotton for the Poor.— By an indenture of feoffment, dated 23 March 1707, Sir John Cotton gave a sum of £120 for the use of the poor of Holme. This sum was laid out in the purchase of about 12 acres of land at Wistow the rent of which, together with the dividends on £78 18s. 11d. War Stock with the Official Trustees, is applied in accordance with the provisions of the scheme of the Charity Commissioners, dated 26 November 1901, under which the charity is now regulated.


  • 1. Cal. Inq. iii, no. 604. The stream must have been Holme Lode.
  • 2. V.C.H. Hunts, i, 330 n, 346b.
  • 3. Bk. of Fees (P.R.O.), 236; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 652; Chan. Inq. p.m. 28 Edw. I, no. 44; Feud. Aids, ii, 473; Cal. Pat. R. 1327–30. p. 67; 1396–9, p. 76; Duch. of Lanc. Misc. Bks. 25, fol. 48d.
  • 4. Pipe R. 2 Hen. III, m. 8.
  • 5. Cal. Close R. 1313–18, p. 119.
  • 6. Cal. Pat. R. 1313–17, p. 242; 1321–4, p. 386; Add. Ch. (B.M.) 26835.
  • 7. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1631–3, p. 501.
  • 8. Red Bk. of Exch. (Rolls Ser.), 529, 576.
  • 9. Abbrev. Plac. (Rec. Com.), 305.
  • 10. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii, 652.
  • 11. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), cclxxvii, 184.
  • 12. Camden, Britannia, c. 1586.
  • 13. John Bodger, Map of Whittlesea Mere, etc. (1786).
  • 14. J. M. Heathcote, Reminiscences of Fen and Mere.
  • 15. Miller and Skertchley, Fenland Past and Present, pp. 163–165.
  • 16. R. F. Whistler, Hist. of Elton, 68–70.
  • 17. 6 in. Ord. Map, Sheet x, N.W.
  • 18. Anglo-Sax. Chron.; Bodger's Map.
  • 19. Cbron. Petrob. (Camden Soc.), App. pp. 182–183.
  • 20. Gunton, Hist. of Church of Peterborough, p. 137. The Anglo-Saxon Chron. E (Ingram's Transl. p. 93) says two parts.
  • 21. App. to 29th Ann. Rep. of Dep. Keep. of Pub. Rec. (1868), pp. 17, 18.
  • 22. Chron. Petrob. (Camden Soc.), App. pp. 182, 183.
  • 23. V.C.H. Hunts, i, 346a.
  • 24. This seems to be a mistake; Well pool and Trundle Mere are in the west.
  • 25. On the borders of Whittlesea Mere, the word 'beach' means a stream; cf. Place Names Beds and Hunts (Place Name Soc.), 189.
  • 26. Chron. Petrch. (Camden Soc.), Appendix, p. 183.
  • 27. Bodger's Map (1786); Hatfield's Gazetteer, p. 635.
  • 28. Duchy of Lanc. Misc. Bks. v. 15, fol. 143.
  • 29. Cal. Pat. R. 1553, pp. 225, 226.
  • 30. Chan. Inq. p.m. 1 Eliz.; Hatfield's Gazetteer, p. 636.
  • 31. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), ccccli, 97.
  • 32. Add. Ch. (B.M.) 34104; Cartul. Mon. de Rames. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 330; iii, 157; Bodger's Map; Hatfield's Gazetteer, p. 635.
  • 33. Cal. Inq. iii, no. 604, p. 460.
  • 34. Feet of F. Hunts, Hil. 9 James I; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1611–18, p. 57.
  • 35. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), cccclxiii, 88.
  • 36. Chart. R. 11 Edw. II, m. 3, ro. 7.
  • 37. L. and P. Hen. VIII, ii, g. 1311 (20).
  • 38. Bodger's Map; Hatfield's Gazetteer, p. 636.
  • 39. The Eccles. and Arcbit. Topog. of Engl. part v, Hunts, 1851. In 1506 a bequest of 20d. was made for 'ye hye windowe glased in ye chapell of St. Giles' (Wills, Archd. Hunt. Reg. ii, fol. 82).
  • 40. Rec. Archd. Hunt. no. 229, Terriers.
  • 41. In 1709 the church plate consisted of one silver chalice and cover, about 6 oz., and a pewter flagon (Rec. Archd. Hunt. no. 229, Terriers); in 1748, the Archdeacon ordered two new plates and a flagon for the altar (ibid. no. 305, Archdeacon's Notebook).
  • 42. Parl. Ret. to H. of Commons, 1869.
  • 43. Bishops' Reg. Ely.
  • 44. Cambs and Hunts Arch. Soc. Trans. iii, 123.
  • 45. Hatfield's Gazetteer, 1854.