The area surveyed in this volume is roughly triangular in shape and extends from the City of Cambridge
on the E. to the borders of Huntingdonshire and Bedfordshire on the W. The greater part is a gently
undulating block of land between 100 and 250 ft. above O.D. The Boulder Clay with which this part is
covered varies within short distances from heavy clay to light loam, with consequent changes in the
soil conditions. The centre of the area is drained by the Bourn Brook, flowing roughly E., which has cut
down through the Boulder Clay to expose first lighter Chalk Marl and then heavy Gault clay. On the
N.E. edge of the Boulder Clay upland, the tributaries of the Ouse have also cut down through the glacial
deposits to expose areas of heavy Jurassic clays; the S.E. edge of this upland is marked by a steep scarp,
100 ft. high, of Chalk Marl capped with Boulder Clay. At the base of this scarp the wide valley of the
river Rhee cuts into the underlying Gault. The W. edge of the triangle is drained by tributaries of the Ivel
and Ouse, which have exposed Gault and Lower Greensand around Gamlingay and underlying Jurassic
clays S. of Croxton. There are narrow strips of alluvium and patches of river gravel along the valleys of
the Rhee and the Bourn Brook. These areas of light soil and the chalk hill-slopes were most easily cleared
and settled in prehistoric times, but place-names indicate weald ('wilds') or wooded country stretching
from Croydon to Dry Drayton (Reaney, 'Place-names of Cambs.' xxvi–xxvii, 54). It is probable that
much of the higher ground was at one time wooded, although by the time of the Domesday Book timber
resources do not appear to have been particularly rich.
The commonest location for villages is close to the outcrop of the junction of the Boulder Clay with
the underlying solid rocks. On the N.E. slope of the Rhee valley this junction coincides with a spring line
at the base of the Chalk Marl; in the valley of the Bourn Brook and on the slopes facing the Fens the
locations are more commonly in the vicinity of small streams draining off the clay. Whilst the evidence
is not conclusive, it is probable that villages on the clay, like the Hatleys and Hardwick, are later and
were associated with the clearance of the woodland.
It is of interest that many of the villages retain distinctive plan forms which are of considerable age,
although no historical significance can at present be adduced from this observation. The most striking of
these is Barrington, which lies around an elongated oval green, now partly enclosed, of about 33 acres.
Closes or crofts with narrow frontages fringe this green, and the earliest surviving houses, (5) and (17), are
set back from it. Smaller greens survive at Eltisley and Kingston, both being within the irregular intersection of early route-ways and now somewhat altered by encroachment. At Orwell, the former existence
of a green is inferred from the topography on a 17th-century map. On the evidence of their existing
lay-out, Caxton, East Hatley, Gamlingay, and Haslingfield may also have had central greens. That at
Comberton appears to have been little more than a widening of two intersecting streets to allow for a
variety of routes in bad weather.
At Tadlow, the old village street is integral with a rectangular field system which has its axis parallel
to the valley side. On the W. the parish and county boundary respects this field pattern, for which an early
date may therefore be inferred. Other rectangular field arrangements have been recorded in and around
the villages of Dry Drayton, Grantchester, Graveley, Great Eversden and Toft.
What may be evidence of village growth away from an old centre can be seen in the way that crofts
extend along a road or stream out of a village. This pattern occurs adjacent to the Barrington road at
Orwell, along the Brook at Bourn and S. of Little Gransden. The adjoining street villages of Arrington
and Caxton both appear to have taken shape in late mediaeval times, as the result of migration from
nearby centres, now indicated by the locations of the parish churches.
The pattern and shape of the parish boundaries in the area are evidence of the settlement history. The
boundaries often follow natural features such as streams, for instance Bourn Brook; in other places, they
coincide with man-made elements in the landscape such as the edges of furlongs in the mediaeval open
fields (e.g. between Caxton and Eltisley), or roads, as at Lolworth where the S. boundary butts up against a
former road between Dry Drayton and Boxworth. It has already been noted that part of the W. boundary
of Tadlow is secondary to the field lay-out. Further N. the boundary is marked by a low bank, which
follows a straight course for two miles, and it is probable that it was defined prior to the clearance of the
woodland. The effect of modern adjustments is often to obliterate topographical evidence, as at
Papworth Everard, around N.G. TL 281635, where the old boundary reflected a detour away from
Documentary and place-name evidence for the creation of new parishes by subdivision can often be
confirmed from study of the boundaries. Bourn and Caldecote, Great and Little Eversden, Grantchester
and Coton, Hardwick and Toft, Lolworth and Childerley, were all probably once single parishes. The
subdivision of the former woodland area in the vicinity of Hatley is of interest. The parishes of Hatley St.
George, East Hatley and Cockayne Hatley (Bedfordshire) may have been formed from the upland ends of
parishes on the edge of the Rhee valley. Pincote, now part of Tadlow, appears to have been an independent
settlement in a similar position which did not achieve parochial status. Irregular boundaries suggest that the
distribution of available woodland was considered when subdivision took place, e.g. between Toft and
Hardwick around N.G. TL 353575. A spring, the Nil Well, in a rather dry area, is shared by Graveley,
Papworth St. Agnes and Yelling (Hunts.). Five parishes converge on a maypole, probably also the hundred
moot, at about N.G. TL 367515 on Orwell Hill. The ridgeway road from Cambridge to Eltisley is a
parish boundary for much of its length, and minor variations may reflect the width of the old track before
modern surfacing. Two comparatively important houses in the area, Tetworth Hall, Gamlingay (42),
and Manor Farm, Papworth St. Agnes (2), straddled the county boundary with Huntingdonshire.
Roads and Trackways
The Boulder Clay upland is intersected by a number of old trackways, few of which are now continuous for any distance although their length can be extended from the evidence of place-names and old
maps (cf. Reaney, 'Place-names of Cambs.', 18–33; Fox, Arch. Camb. Reg., 141–158).
Cambridge, at the lowest convenient bridging point of the River Cam, was already a focus of routes
during the Roman period, and roads from Wimpole Lodge and from Godmanchester, both of which
remain in use today, were laid out then. The ridgeway from Caxton Gibbet to Cambridge, now the third
main road to the W., may also have been in use at this time, but no evidence has been found for Roman
metalling. Two other roads of this date run N. to S. in the W. part of the area. One, from Godmanchester
to Sandy, is presumed to cross the W. part of Gamlingay but has not been located in the field; the other is
the Ermine Street or Old North Road. The importance of this main route from London to the North
seems to have fluctuated a number of times before it was finally replaced by the W. route through Sandy
and Buckden. Records of royal progresses suggest that the latter was in use in the reigns of John and
Henry III, and the mediaeval field pattern at Caxton includes strips which appear to have straddled the
Roman line. The revival of Ermine Street is probably related to the rise of Royston (V.C.H., Herts. III
(1912), 254) and the improvement of the bridge at Huntingdon. It is reflected in the growth of Caxton as a
staging town with a number of inns and a posting station. In 1663 a stretch of Ermine Street in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire was the subject of the first turnpike act. The preamble stated
that 'the road is very ruinous and becomes almost impassable' and puts the blame on 'the great and many
Loades which are weekly drawn in waggons ... as well as ... the great trade of Barley and Mault that
cometh to Ware and so is conveyed by water to the City of London'. By 1820 the three western main
roads from Cambridge had also been turnpiked, together with that from Gamlingay to Papworth, and
under an act of 1826 a turnpike was instituted from Arrington to Tadlow, much of it being a new
Of the building materials used in the area local sources provided timber, field stones, clunch, carstone
and thatch; limestones, alabaster, slate and lead are among the more commonly found imported materials.
Brick, perhaps originally imported from the Netherlands through King's Lynn, was made in the area at
least as early as the 16th century.
In mediaeval times, wood was, with a few exceptions, the usual material for the walls of secular
buildings in the area. Surviving churches are of stone except for adjuncts, such as the wooden porches at
Little Eversden and Grantchester, which are mediaeval or of mediaeval origin. The number of stone
towers which are later than the body of the church may suggest that wooden towers, or at least bell
turrets, were once usual. Certain of the later mediaeval fabrics include small fragments of 11th- or
12th-century stonework, and where this is altogether absent, the possibility of a timber predecessor should
not be dismissed. The scantling of timber in mediaeval secular buildings is generally less than in those of
N. Essex and W. Suffolk, suggesting that local sources were comparatively limited, a conclusion which
is corroborated by the quantities recorded in the Domesday survey. The timber used in such early structures
as Manor Farm, Bourn (8), and The Old Rectory, Kingston (3), is of this light scantling. Comparatively
prodigal use of timber is a feature of some 16th-century framed structures. A possible explanation is the
release of the reserves which had belonged to the religious houses and chantries. Although oak is usual,
other sorts of wood occur (cf. R.C.H.M., Cambridge, 346). At Madingley (2) the large mast-like newel of
softwood, in the 16th-century stair turret, was presumably imported. Beams of pine or deal are also
occasionally to be seen. These extraneous timbers could have reached the area from King's Lynn where
Baltic or Scandinavian timber has been found in domestic roof-construction of the 14th century.
It was in the parish churches that stone first made its appearance as a building material in West Cambridgeshire. The body of the walling is usually of glacial erratics, known as field stones, taken off arable
land. Freestone dressings were used for external features such as windows, quoins, plinths, buttresses and
parapets, and internally for piers, arches and the like. Two native stones used for this purpose in West
Cambridgeshire were clunch and carstone. Clunch, in this area, comes from the harder beds of the Lower
Chalk, although elsewhere the same word is used for similar material from other strata of the Cretaceous;
quarries or pits survive at Barrington, the Eversdens, Harlton, Haslingfield and Orwell. Carstone comes
from the Lower Greensand, which is exposed in Gamlingay and Little Gransden. Clunch, reputedly
employed by the Romans, was used widely from the 12th century onwards both for walling and for dressings; its weathering properties varied but the better quality stones were resistant to deterioration. The
commonest extraneous stone used for dressings in the mediaeval period was Jurassic limestone, much of
the earlier work being in Barnack or a similar freestone.
Apart from the plinths of framed structures, which are sometimes of field stones, and one or two
external chimneys, such as one of carstone at Gamlingay (9), little stone occurs in lesser secular building
before the 18th century, when clunch comes into use. The Old Rectory, Kingston (3), Kingston Wood
Farm, Kingston (12), much of which may have been originally of field stones and clunch rubble, or Manor
Farm, Papworth St. Agnes (2), where there is reused stone from a monastic or other religious source, were
large in comparison with the other buildings of their time.
Brick was the most common alternative material for timber in secular buildings. The earliest evidence
for its manufacture locally is in the will of Anthony Mallory of Papworth St. Agnes (PCC 32 Dyngeley),
dated July 1530, which provided for a bequest to Randoll Lynne of as much brick as he should need for
making a chimney at his farm in Graveley from the testator's 'brikkyll in the field at Papworth'; the residue
of brick was bequeathed to his wife Alice 'for her necessary and nedeful reparacion and bylding to be
made upon the said manor', and to his son Henry. A field at N.G. TL 267656, shown as 'Brick Walk' on
the tithe map of 1839, is further evidence for brick-making in the parish. Such field names are frequent.
At Hatley St. George, a map of 1601 shows a 'Brick Close' immediately W. of 'Mr. St. Georg his house'
(Hatley (3)) and, to the N., 'The Brickkyll upon ye Queen's Land', traces of which, or of its successor, are
to be seen on the ground (Hatley (11)). At Childerley a field called 'Brick Clamps' is known from a sale
prospectus dated 1842 of Childerley Hall, Childerley (1); it can be traced back to 1686, and may be older.
Building accounts, dated 1509–11, for work done by Christ's College on their estate at Malton,
include payments to bricklayers; the chimney on the S. side of the hall range at Malton Farm, Orwell
(24), may include brickwork of that date. The entrance doorway to Kingston Wood Farm, Kingston (12),
which is of brick, is early 16th-century. The E. front of Madingley Hall, Madingley (2), c. 1543, is the
earliest brickwork of any extent surviving in the area. After the middle of the 16th century brick was used
increasingly. Red brick was general up till the end of the 18th century, when white brick made its
appearance in the area; Tudor white brick, as at Jesus College, Cambridge, or Hengrave Hall, Suffolk, has
not been recorded. Throughout the first half of the 19th century, white brick was gaining popularity,
and by 1850 red brick was largely confined to a few localities, among which Gamlingay is notable. Red
bricks with vitrified heads were usual in the 16th century; the variation was exploited decoratively as
'diaper' or similar patterning, for example at Madingley Hall and the Manor Farm, Papworth St. Agnes.
The size and shape of bricks varied according to foreign fashion and the vagaries of fiscal policy, especially
in the 18th century. The 19th-century bricks of unusual design and exceptional size, found at Arrington
and Bourn, were probably estate-made. There are elaborately decorated chimney stacks of 17th-century
origin at Bourn Hall, Bourn (2), of the kind often described as 'Tudor'.
Clay bats, that is to say comparatively large blocks of a material resembling cob, were used for smaller
dwellings, utilitarian buildings and boundary walls; most are 19th-century. Occasionally rather larger
houses (e.g. Comberton (22)) are predominantly of these bats or 'lumps'; prefabricated nesting boxes for
pigeons at Toft (6) are of the same material and somewhat earlier. The constituents seem to be a chalky clay
and chopped straw or other dry vegetable matter. A common size is 18×9×5 ins.; they were used in
combination with ordinary brickwork or a light timber framework, and were generally plastered inside
The traditional material for roof covering in West Cambridgeshire is thatch or tile. Whilst no church
in the area retains its thatch, in 1593 that at Arrington was described as lacking 'covering with rede', and
at Orwell the churchwardens reported in 1544 that the thatch on the church roof was in need of repair
(Cambs. and Hunts. A.S., Trans. V (1935), 263). At Arrington, the continuous roof of the nave and
chancel, which is completely ceiled, may be original; its pitch is reflected on the E. face of the W. tower,
added c. 1300, in a weathercourse about the thickness of a covering of thatch above the existing tiles.
On the edge of the fens at Rampton and Long Stanton (St. Michael's), both within a few miles of West
Cambridgeshire, thatched church roofs have survived. The nave at Rampton has a queen-post roof
similar to those at Hardwick (Plate 52), where there is a redundant weathercourse on the tower, and to
that at Arrington. Coton (Plate 62) shows the same feature. Churches of the 13th century and earlier
were sometimes tiled, and at Bourn a covering thinner than thatch is indicated by the position of the
weathercourse on the tower and its relationship to the clearstorey windows. The importance and wealth
of Bourn may have made the use of an expensive material possible. Elsworth and Harlton, both 14th-century, seem to have been designed to receive lead-covered roofs, and some aisles of 13th-century
origin, for example the S. aisle at Barrington, may have been leaded from the start. The introduction of
lead as a roof covering, making possible a flatter pitch, was associated with structural modifications such
as the addition or heightening of clearstoreys, and the widening and heightening of aisles; at Coton
(Plate 62), the heightening of the S. aisle in the later middle ages is indicated by a change in material and
by the low diagonal S.E. buttress.
Before the introduction of lead, aisles of the width of Coton or Little Gransden probably had a series
of transverse gables to give height to the doors and windows. A number of such gablets may have been
built in Cambridgeshire during the 13th century, although none survives. The aisles at Long Stanton,
(St. Michael's), just out of the area, have transverse gablets which, though modern as they stand, probably
reproduce old features.
For the roofs of lesser secular buildings, tile is a common replacement for thatch. The pitch required by
both coverings is similar and it is not always possible to determine for which material the roof was designed.
The lost S. aisle of the hall of The Old Rectory, Kingston (3), is known to have been thatched, the pitch
and thickness of which are clearly indicated by a diagonal band of unplastered masonry on the E. wall
of the 14th-century cross wing (Plate 101). Some houses of mixed construction having brick gable ends
with generous parapets were presumably designed for thatch, but most are tiled today.
A few larger 18th-century houses (e.g. Wimpole Hall and Hatley Park) are roofed today with Westmorland or similar slate. The introduction of Welsh slate during the first half of the 19th century influenced
developments in the design of smaller dwellings. The growth in popularity of houses planned in double
depth or double pile (see below: Class U) is related to the gentler pitch of roof structure made possible
by the new material. Before that time, houses of this class were roofed in a variety of ways, all of which
were complex and correspondingly expensive. With slate, other house types (e.g. Coton (6), Plate 32)
could also be roofed more economically, and older dwellings, either open to the roof or with low attics,
could be heightened to create bedrooms by raising the walls without altering the position of the ridge. Slate
was also used in churches, but there were no comparable structural consequences.
A rendering of plaster was widely used both to simulate stonework in an original design, as on the
surrounds to the brick windows of Caxton (8), and to give a weatherproofing surface to less pretentious
buildings in clunch or timber framing. In the 19th century Roman cement was employed for this purpose
for the repair of architectural detail, especially in churches; at Harlton, head stops were moulded in this
In the earlier middle ages, Jurassic limestones were general for coffin lids and effigies. With the exception
of a floor slab at Tadlow, which is in a hard white stone, later floor slabs are usually in a shelly marble
similar to Purbeck, although the quarry at Alwalton in Huntingdonshire is a more likely source for this
area. Mediaeval alabaster, presumably from Nottinghamshire, occurs in fragments from a large sculptural
group at Toft (Plate 13); this material was also used in early 17th-century monuments at Harlton (Frontispiece) and Madingley. For the rest there is a wide range of extraneous marbles and other stones in monuments and floor slabs of the 17th to the 19th centuries.
The ecclesiastical buildings of West Cambridgeshire consist for the most part of parish churches, with
a few Nonconformist chapels of little architectural interest. Domestic chapels, such as that serving almshouses at Gamlingay (21), or that at Wimpole Hall, Wimpole (2), have been described with the secular
monuments of which they form a part, and so has a putative chapel in an attic at Papworth St. Agnes (2).
There are 37 modern parishes, but Hatley, recently formed by the amalgamation of East Hatley and
Hatley St. George, has two churches, while Childerley, an earlier amalgamation, has lost the churches of
both Great and Little Childerley, a chapel in the grounds of the Hall being now the sole place of worship.
Churches have also disappeared with the former villages of Clopton (Croydon (15)), Malton (Orwell (24))
and presumably Whitwell (see Barton, p. 12) and Wratworth (see Wimpole, p. 210); the sites of the first
two only are known.
No standing remains of religious houses exist, but one earthwork, Longstowe (14), has been identified
as the site of a mediaeval hospital.
Characteristically, churches in the area lie among or adjacent to the houses, and exceptions are probably
the result of a shift in population. At Caxton, and probably also at Arrington, there has been migration
toward the Ermine Street from the original settlement, which was a short distance to the W.; at Croxton,
as at Wimpole, the isolation of the church is the result of emparking and the rebuilding of the village
elsewhere. As Fox points out (Arch. Camb. Reg., Map 5) Comberton church lies with Toft and Caldecote
on an E. to W. trackway which has been abandoned in favour of an alternative route.
The churches of Barrington, Haslingfield and Gamlingay probably occupy positions on village greens
which have been reduced in extent by their churchyards and other enclosures. The determining factor of
the siting of Coton, and of Eltisley where there was formerly a well dedicated to St. Pandionia (Pandona),
may have been a spring. At Bourn there is a typically Norman association of church and castle. The small
church at Tadlow seems to post-date the field and village-street lay-out.
The majority of the churchyards are rectangular, with banks and ditches of indefinite age, some almost
substantial enough to qualify as moats, e.g. at East Hatley (Hatley (18)). Croydon is one of several places
where the churchyard is a levelled platform; the tower has been affected by subsidence, apparently due to
the made-up nature of the ground. The churchyard at Grantchester has a mediaeval boundary wall and
several others have old walls. Churches are commonly placed more or less in the middle of their churchyards but at Elsworth and Haslingfield the churchyards are irregular and hardly extend to the N. beyond
the structures. In both cases the explanation seems to be that the churches and their churchyards were
originally small; subsequent extensions have involved encroachment on neighbouring roadways, and
subsidence has resulted which, in the case of Elsworth, has necessitated the total rebuilding of the N. aisle.
The tower at Conington is also built over or against a decayed village street on the W.
The churches follow a basically uniform plan; a three-cell arrangement made up of chancel, nave and
W. tower is usual, though aisles and porches are common elaborations. Papworth Everard, which has a
modern tower on the N. side, lost its W. tower in 1741, and E. Hatley has never had more than a W. bell-cote. Most of the towers are additions, although some churches were rebuilt, like Arrington in the 13th
century, to a design in three parts carried out in a single extended operation. An important early exception
is Orwell, where the base of the tower is 12th-century and bonds with the W. wall of the Norman nave.
The archaeological complexities associated with the addition of a tower at the W. end are well illustrated
in several cases. At Grantchester a tower was added c. 1400 a short distance W. of the 11th-century nave,
which was then lengthened to effect a junction. At Caxton and Little Gransden the E. wall of the tower
was built up on the earlier W. wall of the nave, but at Bourn the W. wall was largely removed in preparation for a new tower of exceptional size. Thickening of the existing W. wall was resorted to at Madingley
and perhaps at Gamlingay. At Tadlow, the addition of the tower was complicated by an effort to correct
the faulty orientation.
Evidence of the addition, heightening or widening of aisles has survived in a number of churches. The
12th-century quoins of unaisled naves survive at Coton (Plate 62) and at Orwell, aisles having been subsequently added at both. At Coton the S. aisle walls have been heightened, as were those of the low and
narrow S. aisle at Little Gransden. At Barrington, evidence for the widening of the N. aisle of the nave
in the 14th century can be seen at its E. end, where two windows are strangely juxtaposed. Transeptal
chapels are found at Croydon, Eltisley and Tadlow, and others have been removed at Grantchester and
Longstowe. They are a more ambitious feature at Bourn and Gamlingay, although at neither do they
interrupt the clearstorey. At Barrington the chapels are in the position of outer aisles, to the E. of the
porches. A room on the N. side of the chancel of the church at Orwell is probably a sacristy and there are
indications of a similar annexe at Kingston and elsewhere. Three churches, Arrington, Graveley and
Lolworth, have been reduced in size by the removal of aisles since the Reformation (Plate 11).
The relation of roofing materials to the provision of clearstoreys has already been discussed. The
steeply pitched roof at Bourn, which has a late 12th-century clearstorey, probably had a covering of tiles
or stone slates. At Elsworth the church, which is of the first half of the 14th century, has an original
clearstorey with quatre-foiled circular lights over the piers; Haslingfield, a generation later, is similarly
arranged, but the windows are square-headed. The sequence is continued at Barrington and Little
Gransden, where there are windows over the arches. Harlton, of the second half of the 14th century, has
a hall-type nave with lofty and slender piers designed to include the aisles spatially, and without top
lighting (Plate 92). A number of other churches have clearstoreys with two-light windows of indeterminable date. Comberton is the only late example of any pretensions; the four-centred windows each of
three cinque-foiled lights are quite large and presumably coeval with the N. arcade.
Whilst some churches (e.g. Croxton) retain elements of a simple and early type of plan, no structural
remains have been found which can certainly be ascribed to a date before the Norman conquest. Part of
the walling of the chancel at Barton and of the nave at Grantchester is likely to be 11th-century, and
there is a possibility that the nave at Boxworth is of the same period. Dressed stonework of this date
includes some jamb-stones of a doorway at Grantchester and a small opening, hardly large enough to be
a doorway, at Barton. Carved or moulded fragments of small windows having monolithic round heads
are to be seen at Boxworth and Grantchester (Plate 4), but none is in situ. Displaced stonework in other
churches includes four fragments carved with interlace at Caxton, Conington, Grantchester and Orwell,
probably all fragments of coffin lids, and what is apparently a small baluster, cut down, at Caxton. None
is necessarily pre-Norman.
Apart from the remains and fragments described above, all of which could be ascribed to the SaxoNorman overlap, identifiable work of any importance earlier than c. 1200 is confined to some half a dozen
churches, of which the earliest may be at Coton. Here the design of the chancel, with windows having
nook shafts inside and out, resembles that at Stourbridge Chapel, Barnwell, which has been assigned to the
mid 12th century (R.C.H.M., Cambridge (62)). The surviving S.E. quoin of the nave at Coton (Plate 62)
and the similar W. quoins of the nave at Orwell may be contemporary. The chancel at Haslingfield retains
a short length of external string-course with saw-tooth or axe-work ornament closely resembling that on
the string-courses of Stourbridge Chapel, and may also be placed in the mid 12th century. The most
important 'Transitional' work of the later 12th century is at Bourn. Were it not that there are no traces of
a stone castle at Bourn, it would be tempting, on the analogy of other 12th-century churches adjacent to
castles, to think of the nave as a parergon by masons engaged on improvements to Picot's original stronghold. The extra elaboration of the piers, with their scalloped capitals, on the S. side and the fact that the
N. aisle may not have been completed until some considerable time after the S. aisle, suggest a possible
relationship between church and castle. The arcades and S. doorway at Eltisley, likewise 'Transitional',
can hardly have been built much before the end of the century although the stocky proportions of the
piers and plain treatment of the pointed arches in a single order look primitive.
Architectural fragments ascribed to the 12th century have been noted at Croxton, Elsworth and Little
Gransden, and with less certainty at Graveley, Lolworth and Madingley. To these should be added the
evidence of fonts at Arrington, Coton, Croydon, Madingley and Orwell. The presence of a 12th-century
font at Coton is unexplained in view of the late date at which parochial status was apparently granted.
The possibility should be considered that it was brought from elsewhere, as is alleged of the font at Madingley, though for reasons which are not conclusive. Thus there is some evidence for the existence in the
12th century of stone-built churches or chapels, on or near the sites of the present buildings, for less than
half the villages of the area, but the number was probably greater.
The majority of parish churches in West Cambridgeshire contain some work of the 13th century when
many were substantially rebuilt. Three of the largest, Gamlingay, Barrington and Haslingfield, were
planned anew, on an ample scale, in the second half of the century, but in each the work was carried out
piecemeal and continued into the next century.
At Gamlingay the nave arcades are in a simple idiom with arches of two chamfered orders carried on
octagonal piers having moulded caps and bases. Differences between the two arcades and between the piers
and their responds indicate a time lag, and the detail suggests that work was protracted into the 14th century,
when transeptal chapels were added. The unadorned stonework was offset by architectural painting, some
of which survives, to counterfeit costlier materials. The 13th-century remodelling of Barrington is similarly
characterised by minor discrepancies in the treatment of the arcades. The work is more ornate than at
Gamlingay, with quatrefoil piers having moulded caps and bases, some of the former carved with nailhead ornament; the arches are in two orders but the double hollow chamfers create a more lavish
impression. Traces of painted scroll-work, probably contemporary, have been recorded beneath later
mediaeval figure subjects. Haslingfield was rebuilt somewhat later than Gamlingay or Barrington, although
a beginning was made before the end of the 13th century when the chancel arch was refashioned and the
nave adumbrated by the four responds. The detail of the arcades has affinities with Barrington, but progress
appears to have been slow and the S. arcade is noticeably later than the N. A further period must have
elapsed before the aisles with their fine 'Decorated' windows were glazed; the fan tracery on the S. side
is ostensibly later than the reticulated tracery on the N. The hesitant manner in which all three of these
projects was executed is in marked contrast to the precision which is so noticeable and characteristic of
parish church building in West Cambridgeshire and elsewhere from the mid 14th century onward.
Other churches with 13th-century arcades are Arrington, Comberton, Croxton, Dry Drayton, Graveley
and Little Gransden. The last mentioned is substantially of the mid 13th century, except for the tower, and
though restored, retains some plate tracery. The narrow S. aisle is largely original and although the low
long wall, which included a gablet for the S. door, has been heightened, the original roof line is clearly
traceable. The work in these smaller churches, though usually of good craftsmanship, tends to be economical, with chamfered arches and with simply moulded caps and bases to octagonal piers of clunch and freestone. However, the blocked N. arcade at Graveley, of the second half of the century, was sophisticated,
and there are occasional signs of comparative affluence, such as the rear-arches of the E. window in the N.
chapel at Eltisley and of the W. window in the S. aisle at Croxton.
The aisleless church at Tadlow, but not the added tower, is of the mid 13th century; that of East
Hatley is later. Both have been heavily restored and the latter is now derelict. Further works of the 13th
century include the tower at Bourn and the chancel at Caxton. The former incorporates stonework which
has been affected by burning both before and after construction, possibly as a result of civil commotion
in 1266. Generous in scale and assured in design, despite its deformed wooden spire, Bourn tower (Plate
49) must rank as the most considerable construction of the 13th century in West Cambridgeshire. By
contrast, Caxton chancel is pedestrian, but has side windows with elegant geometrical tracery in developed
'Early English' style.
Barton church, remodelled about 1300, has window tracery resembling that at Caxton, but the quatrefoils in the tracery heads are placed on a vertical instead of a diagonal axis, foreshadowing the reticulated
pattern which was to dominate the 'Decorated' style for the next generation or two. The most important
work of the first half of the 14th century is the nave at Elsworth (Plate 74) where the 'Decorated' idiom is
fully developed. The scroll mould is a common factor with Barton, but the hollow chamfer has been
almost completely discarded. The piers are filleted quatrefoils on plan, with small rolls between the foils;
the windows, except for one of experimental design in the S. aisle (Plate 5), are uniformly reticulated.
Elsworth, with lofty arcades, generous aisles and low clearstorey lit by roundels, has affinities with three
other Cambridgeshire churches—Bottisham, Isleham and Trumpington. The proliferation of wave moulds
on the two orders of the arches and the lifeless and mechanical handling of the design as a whole suggest
that Elsworth should be placed late rather than early in this local sequence. More or less contemporary with
Elsworth are the nave arcades at Orwell, the S. arcade at Coton, and the N. arcade at Madingley. These
are all relatively low and were presumably inserted into the older fabrics without disturbing the main
At the end of the series comes the chancel at Grantchester. The flowing tracery of the S. window (Plate
69) and that of the side windows (Plate 10), in which reticulation is alternated with a pattern based on
four quatrefoils in a large circle, resembles work of the first half of the century, but some of the internal
detail, such as the shafted splays and the emaciated double niches (Plate 71), may indicate a later date, though
hardly as late as 1384, which a documentary reference suggests.
The transition between the styles traditionally described as 'Decorated' and 'Perpendicular' is well
illustrated at Harlton, a church almost entirely of the second half of the 14th century. The chancel has
broad windows with two-centred heads filled with early vertical tracery; that in the E. window (Plate 69)
occupies half the total height and combines upright panels with others formed by intersecting tracery bars.
It bears a very close resemblance to the E. window at Ashwell, Hertfordshire, for which a date c. 1370 has
been widely accepted (R.C.H.M., Herts., 38; N. Pevsner, Buildings of England, Hertfordshire (1953), 41); a
similar dating is here to be inferred. The nave at Harlton is stylistically quite different from the chancel,
but is likely to be contemporary. The elegant interior (Plate 92) embodies a solution to the problems of
design evident at Elsworth by the mid 14th century and arising from the need to provide a large well-lit
space. This development probably arose directly or indirectly out of the increased emphasis on preaching.
The clearstorey lighting has been eliminated in favour of an arcade of more slender proportions than
those of its prototypes. The aisles are lit by tall windows divided by transoms, some embattled, and having
four-centred heads. Most of the tracery is vertical, although the E. windows, otherwise similar in design,
have a variety of branching reticulation, which is an element in the E. window at Grantchester (Plate 69)
and of which the W. window of St. Michael's in Cambridge (R.C.H.M., Cambridge, 284) is probably the
earliest example in the district. The piers and arch moulds at Harlton are in part continuous and of a
refinement verging on the finical; they are not unlike those of St. Edward's, Cambridge, but the arches
are less pointed and the composition as a whole is more generous.
The chancel at Orwell, which has been extensively restored, was built in the last years of the 14th
century as the framework for an elaborate ensemble, which included painting, sculpture and glass, in
memory of Sir Simon Burley who had been executed in 1388. The side windows are of the same design
as those in the aisles at Harlton, with embellishments such as embattled transoms and internal labels with
carved stops. The similarity of the tracery at Harlton to that at Orwell, which has been closely dated,
confirms the ascription of the former work to the two decades 1370–90. Of comparable style and date are
the doorway and windows in the remodelled N. wall of the nave at Grantchester which may be regarded
as contemporary with the tower; the W. doorway, now converted to a window, bears the arms of John
Fordham, Bishop of Ely from 1388 to 1426.
The stylistic dating of church architecture of the period 1350–1530 in the area, as elsewhere in East
Anglia, is fraught with difficulty. Much of the work was a remodelling of older structures, and the openings
and other details introduced are commonly of an economical, even impoverished, quality, revealing little
stylistic progression. The emergence of local schools and the stagnation in design aggravate the difficulty.
Surprisingly few documentary references to building activities during these 180 years are known, and much
work within this period has therefore been described in the inventory as 'late mediaeval'. Any closer date
that may have been ventured should be regarded as tentative. Exceptionally at Gamlingay documentation
has indicated that the chancel was being refurbished in 1442–3 and, judging from the similarity between
this work and that in the body of the church, the latter may also be ascribed to the middle of the 15th
century, a date confirmed by the fact that the N. chapel is known to have been restored by Walter
Taylard (d. 1466). The windows are of three or more graduated cinquefoil lights in depressed four-centred
heads and have at most perfunctory tracery. Other features include occasional sculptural detail in the form
of label stops and gargoyles; in the absence of the documentary evidence much of this work might have
passed as 16th-century, when not dissimilar work was being done elsewhere.
Mouldings of Tower-Arches
The majority of the W. towers of churches in the area were, as already indicated, added to earlier naves;
they were mostly built in or after the later 14th century in the 'Perpendicular' style. The problem of the
development and dating of these towers constitutes a special study, particularly in connection with the
arch mouldings. Twelve have distinctively tall arches of two or more chamfered or moulded orders
continuous with the responds. Five of the arches, at Barton, Caldecote, Coton, Hatley St. George and
Knapwell, are almost identically moulded in three orders to the E.; the middle order is a filleted bowtell
flanked by narrow and deep casements, and the other two are chamfered. These five towers form a group,
having other features in common, such as similar belfry windows.
The local prototypes of the continuously moulded tower arches are found at Comberton and Elsworth
in the 14th century. The arch at Comberton is relatively short and wide and has a repertory of mouldings
which includes a wave mould suggesting a rather retarded date for other details such as head stops, ball
flower and reticulated tracery. The Elsworth arch, which is not actually continuous although it has no
imposts or capitals, tends to the more slender proportions which are logically consequent upon the provision of a clearstorey and which permit in turn a comparatively tall W. window. Here the window has
three lights with reticulated tracery; the three orders of the arch are wave-moulded.
The tower at Harlton was probably remodelled at the same time as, or soon after, the nave was rebuilt
in about 1370–90. The mouldings are a more elaborate version of those used in the Coton group, with a
triple fillet to the central bowtell; the flanking casement mouldings are only slightly wider and shallower
than three-quarter hollows. The Coton group is likely to be slightly later than Harlton, but both may be
of the late 14th or early 15th century. The tracery of the tall four-centred W. window at Coton is a
simplified version of that in the aisle windows at Harlton and in the chancel windows at Orwell. This
would indicate a date of c. 1400, notwithstanding the evidence of a scratching of 1481 on the S. respond
(Plate 16). Of the remaining towers with arches of this kind, those at Conington and Kingston have
continuous chamfers, whilst those at Little Eversden and Lolworth are moulded. At Lolworth the mouldings suggest a fairly advanced 14th-century date, which is confirmed by the tracery of the W. window.
Those at Little Eversden include both the wave and the three-quarter hollow or deep casement, and at
Grantchester, where the tower is securely dated between 1388 and 1426, the same two components are
found. The later mediaeval towers have arches with the inner order carried on attached shafts with
moulded caps and bases, the other orders being continuous. The largest and finest of the later towers is
that at Haslingfield (Plate 94). The lofty arch is moulded in three orders, the inmost rising off part-circular
attached shafts; the series includes a double ogee, a casement scarcely developed beyond a three-quarter
hollow and a filleted bowtell, as in the Coton group. These mouldings and the mannered W. window
(Plate 10), with tracery based on 'straight-sided reticulation', suggest that construction of the tower had
at least been begun during the closing decades of the 14th century. Part-circular attached shafts with
double ogee and casement mouldings also occur in the smaller towers at Croydon, Graveley and Tadlow,
but the casements are shallower, indicating a somewhat later date. Little Gransden tower, while in no
sense a rival to Haslingfield, has both scale and character, which once may have been enhanced by a stone
spire. The unusually generous top stage has belfry windows with a type of 'straight-sided reticulation'
often ascribed to the reign of Richard II, and the pointed W. window suggests a similar early date.
On the basis of this analysis of arch mouldings in these later mediaeval towers, it appears that the
group having continuous arches and responds overlaps with that having shafted responds, the latter being
perhaps somewhat later in date, and that the bulk of both groups may be dated within the period 1377–1422.
This short period, evidently one of great activity (see for example Fittings, Screens, below), may well
include much of the 'Perpendicular' work in the area, but the evidence is far from conclusive.
Stone spires survive at Conington, Coton, Eltisley, Hardwick and Madingley, the last rebuilt. All are
octagonal, rise from behind parapets, and have one or two tiers of windows in gablets. They lie N. and
W. from Cambridge and should presumably be regarded as outliers of a main concentration centred in the
limestone country. The majority of West Cambridgeshire churches no doubt had wooden spires, one or
two of which survive in a modified form.
No complete church of the post-Reformation age exists in West Cambridgeshire. The chapel at
Childerley, of 1600–09, replaced two mediaeval churches and was itself intended as a church, but it was
not accorded parochial status. It is brick-built in a 'Perpendicular' idiom without the Mannerist overtones
with which the survival of this style came to be associated during the succeeding decades. Subsequent
alterations have obscured the original internal arrangement, but a western gallery has been inferred. The
church at Croxton was embellished c. 1622 and later in the century by Edward Leeds (d. 1679). The
chancel at Boxworth was remodelled c. 1640 and that at Croydon seems to have been commissioned by
the second Sir George Downing (d. 1685). In 1748–9 Henry Flitcroft rebuilt all but the N. chapel at
Wimpole; 18th-century rebuildings at Conington and Graveley were confined respectively to the nave
and the chancel.
Church building and restoration in the early 19th century was carried out under the shadow of the
evangelical revival set in motion by Charles Simeon, and associated in Cambridge itself with revived
Perpendicular and Tudor styles. Harlton and Haslingfield were among the five churches chosen by the
Camden Society for their exemplar of 1845; no drastic alterations resulted. In the western part of the area
the little new work done prior to 1850 nowhere rises much above the level of Eltisley chancel which is in
a nondescript Gothic style of c. 1840 in white brick and slate. Despite earlier criticisms by the Camden
Society, Roman cement continued to be the favoured material to combat decaying clunch dressings after
the middle of the century, and was often used with comparative restraint and sympathy, as in the restored
S. doorway at Barrington. The chancel at Dry Drayton, rebuilt soon after 1850 in a late 13th-century style,
favoured by high churchmen, was evidently the work of the 'squarson' family of Smith. The church at
Papworth St. Agnes (Plate 24) was rebuilt about the same time by the Rev. H. J. Sperling, likewise a
'squarson', in a style approximating to 'Decorated'.
Mediaeval roofs survive in less than half the churches in the area. That of the nave at Coton, of trussed-rafter type, can hardly be later than the early 14th century. Similar roofs at Arrington, Croydon and
Haslingfield are ceiled and have not been inspected but are likely to be of comparable age. Apparently
related to them are the 14th-century roofs over the aisles and the nave at Barrington, the latter coeval
with the added clearstorey. The Haslingfield aisle roofs (Plate 95) have unusually elaborate reticulated
openwork in the spandrels formed by the arched braces. The five-bay king-post nave roof at Barrington
(Plate 43) is of rather low pitch and has openwork spandrels of simpler design than at Haslingfield and
looking somewhat later.
The thirty-seven churches listed are well supplied with ancient fittings including such diverse items as a
mediaeval banner-stave locker at Gamlingay and an 18th-century linen damask, illustrating the siege of
Lille in 1708, at Knapwell.
Interest attaches to those fittings which from their materials are likely to be of local origin, but objects
such as coffins, floor slabs and funeral monuments made from imported materials are also of note in so far
as they are evidence of trade channels. The following comments are designed to supplement the conspectus
of fittings provided in the index to this volume:
Bells and Bell frames
In several places in the Inventory the descriptions of bells will be found to differ from those given by
Raven (Church Bells of Cambs.). A number of bells have been attributed to foundries or to particular
founders, the largest early group being that from Bury St. Edmunds. Of the sixteen pre-Reformation
bells, eleven are dedicated to saints and most of them to the Virgin. Lombardic lettering was usual for
dedicatory inscriptions before the 15th century, and continued in use afterwards both on its own and in
conjunction with black-letter or occasionally with Roman capitals; for example on the 5th bell at Croxton
a Roman capital appears in an otherwise Lombardic inscription. By contrast with the mediaeval period,
when inscriptions normally carried a dedication and no date, the reverse is true after the Reformation.
Very few 16th-century bells are recorded in the area, and possibly the earlier bells survived at the time,
but in the 17th century many of the churches acquired a new peal or at least augmentation of a depleted
peal. This is apparent at all periods of the 17th century, but particularly in the second and third decades
when eleven churches received new bells. Barton obtained a ring of three in 1608 and Graveley of four
in 1624. Strangely, more bells were installed during the Commonwealth than in the Laudian period,
notably at Gamlingay where four were hung in 1653, three of which survive. Of the 18th-century bells,
the three at Hardwick (1797) and a peal of five at Dry Drayton (1746) are the most complete series.
About half the churches in the area contain bell frames of considerable antiquity, but precise dating
has not been attempted since it has not been possible to attach a chronological sequence to the variations of
design. Two such frames, at Comberton and Gamlingay, are examples of this diversity and are illustrated
in the text.
Brasses and Brass indents
By comparison with other parts of the county, West Cambridgeshire has relatively few brasses. The
largest is that of a priest at Wimpole (Plate 112) which was originally enhanced with enamel inlays. The
number of indents which have been recorded indicates that many more brasses of the 15th and 16th
centuries once existed, but 18th-century descriptions show that they had already been removed by that
time. The largest collection is at Elsworth, where there are nine indents.
Conventional methods of dating, based on constructional and decorative features, have been used, but
they are of doubtful reliability. The most primitive, a 'dug-out', is at Boxworth. This has been assumed to
be mediaeval, as has that at Coton, and there are other early examples at Hardwick and Little Gransden.
Part of a coffin lid at Orwell, carved with interlace and a Maltese cross, may not be earlier than the
12th century. Other small stone fragments carved with interlace, at Caxton (Plate 4), Conington and
Grantchester, may likewise be post-Conquest. The remainder, many fragmentary, for the most part
carved or incised with crosses of various designs, are 13th- or 14th-century (L. A. S. Butler: 'Mediaeval
Grave Stones of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and the Soke of Peterborough', C.A.S. Procs. L (1957),
89–100; 'Minor Mediaeval Monumental Sculpture in the East Midlands', Arch. J. CXXI (1964), 111–153).
The material is usually limestone, often Barnack. Remains of mediaeval grave stones of clunch at Barrington,
mentioned by Butler, have been described in the Inventory as floor slabs, there being no very clear distinction between these two classes of fittings.
Some ten are of the first half of the 17th century, more or less restored, and have turned legs at the
corners and shaped brackets to the top rails. These last are sometimes carved with stylised natural forms,
jewel ornament or fluting. A more elaborate table, at Bourn, has carved legs, and that at Barton, also 17th-century, has arcading of architectural character. The finely-carved table of c. 1720 at Wimpole (Plate 136)
is presumably of London origin.
Fourteen of these, mostly in towers, have been accepted as mediaeval, or, more cautiously, as 'ancient';
several retain old furniture. Plank construction, like that of the door to the rood stair at Harlton (Plate 8),
is common. The number also includes a fine, delicately traceried S. door at Barrington (Plate 81) and an
equally fine but now mutilated former W. door at Gamlingay. Both are in two leaves and possibly of the
The retention of early fonts, and especially their bowls, in churches of later construction, is particularly
evident in the area; exceptions are the 12th-century fonts at Coton and Orwell which are contemporary
with parts of the fabric. Only the bowls of 12th-century fonts have survived and these are either cylindrical
or rectangular, the latter being sometimes carved with geometric designs or rudimentary arcading. The
majority of fonts in the area belong to the 13th century, and most retain their original stems and bases,
which with their bowls are usually octagonal, the latter being undecorated and slightly tapered, e.g.
Comberton (Plate 17). At Barton the base of the font appears to be an inverted bowl; the upper bowl is
an earlier one, refashioned in the 13th century, and was possibly reused from the deserted village of
Whitwell. The later mediaeval fonts continue the octagonal form, but are generally more slender, and the
sides are usually enriched with sculpture of an architectural character. The S. aisle was the favoured
position, but the original siting is not always clear. The font at Croxton (Plate 5) was presumably placed
against the W. pier of the S. arcade when the 13th-century bowl received a new stem, and that at
Haslingfield originally stood in a similar position. The number having later stems may be due to re-siting
and to alterations for ritual reasons; the elaboration of the new stems is often in contrast to the severity of
the earlier bowls, e.g. Kingston (Plate 5). The mid 19th-century font at Harlton (Plate 92), in the 14th-century style, was introduced as a result of the strictures on the previous 'absurd pagan vase' by the Camden
Society (Churches of Cambridgeshire (1845), 93).
The churches of West Cambridgeshire have lost nearly all their mediaeval glass. Much must have been
destroyed by the 18th century, but the notebooks of William Cole show that the last two hundred years
have seen further significant losses. The largest surviving quantities are at Wimpole and Haslingfield, both
of which have 14th-century glass in contemporary tracery, although now largely reset.
Post-Reformation work includes a made-up window of the late 16th century at Madingley, an armorial
display of the Yorkes and their connections at Wimpole, and memorial windows in the 19th-century
Gothic revival style at Dry Drayton (Plate 24).
A feature common to a number of churches in the area is the small window rebated for a shutter,
appropriately and customarily called a 'low-side', which usually occurs at the W. extremity of the S. wall
of the chancel; at Coton it is on the N. and at Gamlingay there are low-sides in both N. and S. walls. The
window may be a distinct aperture or be part of a larger, conventional window. The earlier tend to be
plain rectangular openings, for example those at Arrington and Coton, which are probably late 13th-century. The great majority are of the 14th century, whether they are simple openings, as at Elsworth, or
part of a more elaborate arrangement below a transom, as at Barrington, Comberton (Plate 68) or Kingston. At Harlton the late 14th-century S. window is a homogeneous design of three lights with a low
transom, below which are quatrefoil-headed low-sides. Those at Gamlingay (c. 1442–3) were presumably
still in use when the late 15th-century stalls were put up; the latter block the windows, but original sliding
panels provide access. Such an arrangement perhaps favours the explanation that the low-sides were used
to display lights, but the absence of such windows in chancels built in toto at a time when these features
were particularly in vogue (e.g. Grantchester and Orwell) remains unexplained.
Monuments and Floor slabs
The survival of Elizabethan and early Stuart memorials made of clunch in Cambridge and the
surrounding countryside points to the existence of local schools of monumental masons. Those in the area
include a wall monument to Anna Lyng, 1586, at Barrington and the canopied tomb of Edward Leeds,
1589 (Plate 82), at Croxton. Fragments of another canopied tomb at Longstowe are presumed to be from
that of Anthony Cage, 1603, and his wife Dorothy, the existing monument being a pastiche. Wall monuments of Fogge Newton at Kingston, 1612, and of Andrew Downes, 1627, at Coton illustrate the modest
elegance appropriate at the time to persons of academic standing; another, at Orwell, to Jeremias Radcliffe,
1623, is in a genre represented in Cambridge in St. Botolph's (Thomas Plaifere, 1609–10) and in St. Mary
the Great (William Butler, 1617–18) (R.C.H.M., Cambridge, 268, 279, and Plate 13).
The church at Wimpole contains a number of monuments to the Yorke family and its connections,
and also one of Sir Thomas and Lady Chicheley, whose son built the mid 17th-century nucleus of the
existing house nearby. Pride of place must go to the impressive memorial in the N. chapel of the first earl,
1764, and his countess, 1761 (Plate 127), designed by James Stuart and executed by Peter Scheemakers.
These two were also responsible for the smaller but still considerable adjacent monument to Catherine,
1759, wife of the Hon. Charles Yorke, mother of the third earl. A third piece, companion to the foregoing and also by Scheemakers, commemorates the Hon. Charles Yorke who died in 1770. Among other
monuments at Wimpole are signed works by Flaxman, Banks, Bacon and the Westmacotts, father and
The nave of Conington church, rebuilt as a pantheon in or about 1737, has recesses in the side walls
housing monuments of the Cotton family. Among them are those of Robert Cotton, 1697, by Grinling
Gibbons, and of his mother Alice, 1657, which incorporate portrait busts (Plate 14). Somewhat later is
the wall tablet, with twin portrait medallions in low relief, to the daughters of Dingley Askham who
remodelled the church (Plate 90). Smaller groups of monuments at Haslingfield, Longstowe and Madingley
include that of Sir Thomas Wendy, 1673 (Plate 83), of Haslingfield Hall and that of Sir Ralph Bovey of
Longstowe, 1679 (Plate 138), whose naked demi-figure reaches for an anchor dangling from a cloud. The
Fryer monument at Harlton (Frontispiece), an elaborate composition in painted and gilt alabaster, presumably of the third decade of the 17th century, would be scarcely more than an average period piece
but for two terminal figures (Plate 89) of unusual quality.
The uncertainty of earthly survival is recorded on a number of monuments to the young. At Madingley, a brief Latin epitaph tells of the birth and death of a nameless innocent on a single day in 1636; at
Conington, a monument is shared by the two young Askham sisters who died within a few days of each
other in 1748 (Plate 90); and at Graveley, a wall tablet narrates how May Warren's short career of three
years and three months began in the East Indies and ended at the Rectory in August 1838, after a series
of picturesque vicissitudes (Plate 15).
The terms 'coffin lid' and 'floor slab' or 'ledger' are overlapping. The 13th- or 14th-century floor slab
of shelly limestone at Comberton fulfils the same basic function as an 11th- or 12th-century coffin lid,
the most important difference being the inscribed epitaph, in this case in Norman French. There are several
mediaeval inscribed slabs in the area; one at Tadlow of a fine-textured white limestone has incised effigies
and inscription, now much worn, and is not regionally a common type.
Most of the floor slabs recorded are of the 17th to the 19th centuries, the commonest material being the
dark grey or black stone sometimes called 'Tournai marble'. There are fine series of these ledgers in the
chancels of Caxton (members of the Barnard family) and of Haslingfield (the Wendys and their connections). The earliest example in the area is ostensibly that at Barton to Mathyas Martine, who died in 1613,
although the slab may be considerably later. 'Tournai marble' or its equivalent seems to have remained
in use until the second quarter of the 19th century. A ledger of this material at Orwell records deaths in
1840 and 1846. Adjacent is another, of 1830, by Gilbert of Cambridge, who also signs a ledger at
Outstanding among the few noteworthy monuments in churchyards are those of the 17th century at
Orwell which are coffin-shaped and decorated with skeletal ornament (Plate 15). Most churchyards
contain memorials of the 18th and 19th centuries, but these have not been individually described in the
Inventory. A group, dating from the early 18th century, at Gamlingay, exhibit a high standard of
craftsmanship but lack originality in design.
Corbels and elaborated brackets are often associated with niches, and when internal usually indicate
the former positions of altars or images. Clunch is a favourite material for niches, even outside, and they
are often badly worn or mutilated and despoiled of their images. Most are of the later middle ages and
octagonal on plan; the brackets are as a rule simply moulded and may be carved with supporting half
angels or heads; the niches characteristically have side buttresses rising to miniature canopies, vaulted and
arched, with crocketed and spired finials, as at Harlton (Plate 69).
Two churches, Barton and Kingston (Plate 105), retain substantial areas of mediaeval figurative painting.
The subjects include scenes from the New Testament, allegories and mysteries. Fragments of similar
subjects occur at Barrington and formerly at Lolworth, and painting in imitation of architectural decoration
survives at Gamlingay.
Piscinae and Sedilia
The relatively large and elaborate double piscinae at Arrington and Caxton (Plate 6) are early, and the
former is comparable to one of the first half of the 13th century at Jesus College (R.C.H.M., Cambridge,
Plate 27). Later examples, such as those at Barrington and Gamlingay (Plate 7), are little more than decorated
niches. Uncanopied piscinae in window sills, as at Barton and Comberton, where there are respectively
two and three sinkings, are difficult to date owing to resetting and re-use within the window embrasure;
ritualistic purposes may account for these alterations.
Sedilia, too, are commonly simple seats on low window sills, but more elaborate triple seats occur, as
at Bourn (Plate 6) and Gamlingay, and these are often contrived with little regard for a relationship with
the S. windows of the chancel. At Elsworth (Plate 6) the early 14th-century double piscina and sedilia are
combined in a single architectural composition of high quality.
No pre-Reformation plate has been found in the area, but cups resulting from Archbishop Parker's
liturgical reforms survive in a number of parishes. Nine of these cups, seven of which have cover patens,
are unassayed but marked with the flat fish of Thomas Buttell, who was working in the diocese of Norwich
in 1567–8 and Peterborough in 1570. The bowls are of a simple cylindrical form and are inscribed in
capitals around the centre (Plate 23). The matching patens are all dated '1569'. Late pieces of interest
include a set of Laudian revival plate at Wimpole by the 'hound sejant' goldsmith, c. 1655, and a finely
engraved communion set at Hatley St. George, presented by Margaret Trefusis in 1723.
A fairly complete but restored mediaeval pulpit survives at Elsworth (Plate 17), and those at Barrington,
Boxworth and Haslingfield incorporate similar work. They are wooden and have central supporting
posts. Of the 17th-century pulpits, that at Barton (Plate 54), dated 1635, is the most complete.
The fine texture of the clunch used for church interiors has acted as an enticement to doodlers and
scribes of all kinds from mediaeval to modern times. The resultant graffiti take the form of both drawings
and inscriptions. The drawings, which include human figures, animal subjects, windmills, houses, shields
and heraldic devices, are by nature of uncertain date and have not always been listed in the Inventory.
Inscriptions, apart from names, tend to be phrases alluding to the brevity of life or to local events like
storms or epidemics; there are also sacred monograms, guidance for change-ringing, scraps of plain chant
and possibly names of masons. A neatly written notice on a pier at Gamlingay (Plate 16) illustrates the
tendency in the later middle ages to claim rights to a specific place in church, an added interest being that
the claimant is known from other evidence to have been the wife of a local personality who was a benefactor. Among a large number of scratchings at Harlton are several having votive inferences. Scratchings
are also to be found in secular buildings, though less frequently.
Wood was the usual material, but an interesting exception is the late 14th-century stone screen, originally adorned with sculpture, at Harlton (Plate 93), and others have been inferred at Eltisley and Madingley.
Most were designed to separate chancel from nave, and there is evidence that some at least were originally
associated with a wooden tympanum to take a painted iconographical scheme for which there was no
space above the high chancel arch, e.g. Harlton and Gamlingay. The commonest position for the stair to
the rood loft was in the N.E. angle of the nave, and judging from the date of their doorways, the screens
were in general insertions of the second half of the 14th century or later. The stone screen conjectured at
Eltisley would have been an exception of the 13th century or earlier. As well as chancel screens, there
were evidently others, like those of the 15th century at Croxton (Plate 75) which enclose the eastern parts
of the aisles and are apparently coeval with the seating.
The dating of screens, as of mediaeval woodwork generally, presents difficulties, and therefore special
interest attaches to the screen at Barton (Plate 55), which on heraldic evidence has been assigned to the
episcopacy of Bishop Thomas Arundel of Ely (1377–88). If this dating is correct, the Barton screen is a
point of reference for similar works in the district, for example at Little Gransden, where the screen,
heavily restored and repainted, bears a general resemblance to that at Barton, though with window forms
ostensibly somewhat earlier in character.
Mediaeval seating for the laity in the body of the church is a notable feature in a number of places, but
none is earlier than the 15th century. A few benches of simple design, with shaped ends rising to poppy
heads, are to be found at Elsworth and Orwell; otherwise the pews are of a characteristic pattern with the
fronts, backs and ends divided by applied buttresses into panels which are enriched with an applied tracery
and carving at the head, as at Barrington and Croxton. Almost identical with these is the seating at Comberton (Plate 17) and Bourn, but the buttresses and tracery are more elaborate; the Comberton pewing
also includes some carved finials (Plate 18).
The remains of stalls at Harlton, principally desks, of solid and distinctly rustic construction, and two
simple ranges at Orwell, were probably introduced soon after the construction of the chancels, respectively
in the late 14th century and c. 1400. A developed form may be seen in the return stalls at Gamlingay
(Plate 19) which have carved haunches and misericords. They have been ascribed to c. 1442, when the
chancel was apparently remodelled; the side stalls (Plate 18) are later 15th-century. The stalls at Elsworth
(Plate 19), which incorporate cupboards below the desks, include a quantity of linenfold panelling, which
could be as late as the time of the Dissolution.
Two of the earlier stoups, respectively of c. 1300 and the 14th century, at Barton and Haslingfield,
are just inside and immediately to the E. of the S. door. When external, as was usual in later examples, they
were placed on the W. of the N. door or the E. of the S. door, and mostly in porches; that at Gamlingay
is on the S. of the W. door. The most usual form is a shallow bowl projecting from a recess, which is
sometimes canopied. The Barrington stoup was exceptionally large and elaborate before its mutilation.
It is unlikely that any dwellings of the labouring classes remain in West Cambridgeshire which are of
earlier date than the 18th century, and except in a few contexts the word 'cottage' has been avoided in the
descriptions of secular monuments. The surviving houses of early date, although sometimes now in 'cot
tage' occupation, were originally built for people of some substance in the rural community. The two or
three generations after c. 1620 saw something like a 'general rebuilding' or housing revolution in this, as
perhaps in some adjoining areas; the process may be thought of as extending gradually to those lower in
the scale, so that by the middle of the 18th century, houses were being built according to types evolved in
the course of this revolution for all but the very poorest. Although there is no standing structure in the
area to show how these humbler inhabitants had been housed previously, evidence may be forthcoming
from the excavation of abandoned house sites in deserted or diminished villages.
The great variety of house-types in West Cambridgeshire is notable and lends itself fairly readily to a
classification based on plan-form. It comprises twelve classes, of which A, B, C and D are mediaeval, or
are in the mediaeval tradition, and are characterized by the existence of a hall open to the roof. Class H
first appears in the 16th century and classes I, J, K and L in the 17th century; these are separated from the
earlier group (classes A to D) by a transitional period of house-construction for which no practical system
of classification has emerged. Houses in classes H to L are normally distinguished by having an internal
chimney. These are followed by classes S, T, and U, which are mostly of the 18th and 19th centuries,
although the earlier classes continued to be built in this period.
The accompanying diagram, which illustrates these classes of houses, is based on examples listed in this
Inventory, although it should not be taken that the plans necessarily record the buildings in their present
state. The classes may be briefly described as follows :—
Class A: having an open hall with aisles.
Class B : having an open hall, and cross wings usually of two storeys.
Class C: having an open hall with end bays of two storeys, all roofed as a unit, i.e. a 'Wealden' house.
Class D : having an open hall, extended by a bay at one end and with a cross wing at the other, the latter
usually of two storeys.
Class H: having a central range, cross wings and usually an upper floor throughout.
Class I: having two ground floor rooms and an internal chimney.
Class J: as class I, but with three rooms in line.
Class K: as class I, but with four rooms in line.
Class L: as class I, with an additional room placed behind one of the others.
Class S: having two ground-floor rooms and one end chimney.
Class T: having a central entrance and chimneys at either end of the range.
Class U: having an approximately square plan, with rooms arranged in double depth.
(Houses in classes H to U are usually of two storeys. Missing letters in the alphabetical sequence allow for
an extension of the classification. The end bay adjacent to the screens passage has normally been described
as the 'service' end or wing.)
Remains of three aisled halls survive; two (Bourn (8) and Kingston (3)) are probably late 13th-century,
and one (Barrington (17)) is 14th-century. All three houses have been assigned to class A because of this
structural similarity, although they may originally have had little else in common. Barrington (17) retains
much of a service end, coeval with the hall, and apparently roofed in continuation of it. In the other,
earlier, examples there is no evidence of the lay-out at the ends of the hall. No trace has been found in
the area of any aisled dwelling later than these three, but a small and possibly late example survives at
Ickleton in S. Cambridgeshire; another at Fulbourn, some miles to the E. of Cambridge, was demolished
a few years ago. However, the tradition of aisled timber-construction continued to be used in barns at
least as late as the 17th century, e.g. Gamlingay (4) (Plate 27).
Classification of Houses
The diagrams illustrating types of houses are based upon existing houses in the area covered by this Inventory, but they are
schematic in so far as later additions have been omitted. In Classes A to D, door and window openings which are known to be
coeval with the building are indicated by 'd' and 'w' respectively, and the position of screens passages, whether existing or
inferred, by 's'. In the walls shown without openings, the original features are not traceable.
The following houses have been used as the basis for the diagrams; those marked with an asterisk are shown with later
additions in plans in the Inventory:—
Class: A, Barrington (17)*; B, Comberton (2)*, Croxton (6)*; C, Barrington (20); D, Eltisley (5), Haslingfield (6)*, Eltisley (9)*;
H, Gamlingay (4), Great Eversden (16), Elsworth (3)*; I, Gamlingay (38), Bourn (11); J, Gamlingay (40), Elsworth (20);
K, Elsworth (4); L, Elsworth (21)*, Toft (12); S, Barrington (26); T, Barrington (5); U, Little Eversden (4), Barrington (24).
The class-B houses, of which there are at least eight, are mostly of the 15th or 16th century and are
somewhat smaller than the 14th-century prototypes existing elsewhere. The front elevation of these
houses, having gabled cross wings often with first floor overhangs or jetties, and a ridge line of differing
levels, produces a characteristic appearance. The Manor House, Croxton (6) (Plate 18), may be taken as
typical of the class in this area. Its open hall of two bays has a cambered tie beam with arch braces, and
the tall side window originally rose as far as the wall plate, being divided horizontally by the middle rail.
Within the hall, the screens passage had twin doors to the butteries and an opening to the stair. The service
wing projected to the rear to accommodate the kitchen, which contained an external door adjacent to
that into the screens passage. Above this wing were rooms of some pretension. The solar wing had two
rooms on each floor and a stair.
Class C is the house type, often described as 'Wealden', in which the ground plan, though often with
other proportions and scale, is similar to that of the class-B house, the difference being in a unified roof
structure which covers the wings as well as the hall; the wings are jettied, as in class B, and thus the eaves
of the hall are correspondingly deep. Such houses, though most frequent in S.E. England, have a wide
distribution. Only one (Barrington (20); Plate 36) is here recorded. Grantchester (2) and Barton (9) are
interesting late mediaeval houses which approximate to class-C design in lay-out and unified structure,
but which were not jettied along the fronts.
A number of houses occur in the area which have an open hall and only one cross wing, and these have
been grouped as class D. It appears that there are at least two distinct varieties within the class. One of
these, of which Eltisley (9) is an example, has a second room at the far end of the hall from the cross wing,
roofed with the hall and, like it, open; the function of this adjunct is not clear. The other variety, best
represented in this Inventory by Haslingfield (6), consists merely of a hall and one cross wing but the hall
is rather longer than normal. At least one such structure, in the village of Fen Drayton, just outside the
area, is an inn, 'The Three Tuns'; others, for one reason or another, also appear to have been inns. The
typological variety which has emerged suggests that a wider choice of material might make a sub-division
of class D necessary.
The open-hall group of houses is superseded by those buildings which have a simple rectangular plan,
two storeys, and one or both long sides jettied. The modification of the design of the class-B house by the
introduction of a jettied first floor in the hall range produces a distinctive elevation best seen in the nearby
Ouse valley, as at Godmanchester (R.C.H.M., Hunts., Plates 68, 69); examples occur locally at University
Farm, Barton (2) (Plate 47), and at the Rectory, Wimpole (3), which was built in 1597 but later substantially altered.
Special-purpose buildings of the kind sometimes called 'guild halls' are frequently of jettied construction.
Among the houses with a jettied long side are a number which otherwise conform more or less closely to
classes I and J. The 16th-century houses of West Cambridgeshire, though limited in number, fit into this
general picture. Great Eversden (3) is a fairly early example of such a house, although the jetty has been
interrupted at the W. end of the elevation. The ground plan has the characteristic three-room arrangement
with internal chimney, but the entrance, instead of being at the side of the chimney, as in the developed
type, is into a screens passage, on mediaeval lines. This house was built with a stair and was evidently of
some pretensions. A humbler dwelling, single-storeyed and therefore unjettied, also 16th-century and
approximating to the class-J plan-form, but with a cross passage, is Comberton (10). The corresponding
jettied prototype of class I is rare; examples are Dear's Farm, Elsworth (5), which bears the date 1601,
and Craft's Farm, Dry Drayton (5). They were originally similar. Small houses of internal-chimney
type with end jetties are also to be found during this transitional period. Orwell (21), approximating to
class J, is an example.
The tendency to adhere to the characteristic elevation of the class-B house finds its immediate expression
in class H, which consists of houses in which the main range, devoted in the case of class B to an open hall,
is floored in the same way as the two cross wings. Most early examples of class H continued to have end
jetties to the cross wings. Avenell's Farm, Gamlingay (23) (Plate 87), and Manor Farm, Great Eversden (11),
are the best preserved examples of class H in the area. Green Farm, Eltisley (3), is a variant which originally
had one cross wing, perhaps a kitchen, open to the roof. Merton Manor Farm, Gamlingay (4) (Plate 76),
is in effect assignable to class H, although the structural evidence indicates two or three successive building
phases, not necessarily separated by long intervals.
The category of houses in Cambridgeshire which reflects most clearly a period of general rebuilding is
that consisting of buildings which have a single range with an internal chimney and two, three or four
rooms, classed respectively as I, J and K. Whilst precise dating is difficult, it seems likely that the type
evolved in the early 17th century from the prototypes previously described and persisted with some
variations into the latter part of the 18th century. The variety in size is often expressed in the elevation,
which can be of one or two storeys, with or without attics. In each case the plan had a common arrangement for the entrance into a lobby at the side of the chimney stack. The lobby was all that survived of the
cross passage of the earlier types. Sometimes the stack was made sufficiently narrow to allow a stair to be
built on one side of it.
Class-I houses have a basic symmetry which enables them to be accepted as rather later than those in
classes J and K. Whilst the two-roomed plan is by nature limited in size, it was sometimes used for semidetached pairs; a possibly early example of this is Gamlingay (38) which is dated 1675. Class-K houses were
also symmetrical and often semi-detached, as at Elsworth (4) (Plate 79), but had the disadvantage of having
two unheated rooms, which may account for their less common occurrence and their lack of popularity
in later times.
The characteristic elevation of the class-J house, with the chimney rising about two-thirds of the way
along the ridge, and the windows echoing the three-room plan, is to be seen in almost all villages in West
Cambridgeshire. As far as can be judged from the documentary evidence available at Orwell, it seems
that the three ground-floor rooms were used as kitchen, hall and parlour, the first being without a fireplace; one of these rooms, presumably the kitchen, occupied the position of the former service rooms
and was sometimes open to the roof. The class appears to have evolved from a simplification of the
mediaeval three-roomed plan when changing social conditions and fashion brought about the eclipse of
the open hall.
Houses in class L have two ranges of more or less equal proportions at right angles to one another;
the characteristic 17th-century form has three gable ends and a chimney at the junction of the ranges.
Liberally interpreted, this class might be said to go on into the 18th and 19th centuries, by which time
the main elevation is symmetrically treated, the chimneys often being placed in the end walls, and the
rear wing being reserved for the kitchen and service rooms. Dale's Farm, Elsworth (22) (Plate 31), typifies
By the end of the 17th century the appearance of houses in Cambridgeshire was changing as a result
of the increasing use of brick and tile, although framed houses of classes H to L, mostly repetitive and
unambitious, continued to be built in considerable numbers. The use of brick made changes in the planning possible, the most significant being the replacement of the multiple internal chimney by single
external stacks often incorporated in gables. In their rural environment these gables have a notable architectural quality (drawing, p. l).
A chimney in one or both gable-end walls is characteristic of classes S and T although their internal
planning is not necessarily related. The former, which represents the simplest plan-form found in the area,
is not common and Barrington (26) is one of the few certainly identified examples. It is typically small.
Class T, like class I, common in the 18th and 19th centuries, could readily be designed to have a symmetrical front. A variant of class T is Brockley Farm, Elsworth (12), dated 1753, which has three rooms,
the central one formerly unheated, and end chimneys.
The tenacity with which the characteristic elevation of the late mediaeval house was adhered to, even
into the 17th century, for medium-sized houses, has already been noted. This entailed at least some
conformity to the earlier plan-types. The house of double-pile or double-depth design first makes its
appearance in England towards the end of the 16th century, and for the earliest example in the locality,
Toseland Hall (R.C.H.M., Hunts., 276–7 and Plate 147), lying only a mile or so to the S.W. of Graveley,
the date c. 1600 has been suggested. Whereas Hatley Park, Hatley (3), and Wimpole Hall, Wimpole (2)
are the largest and earliest of the 17th-century houses of this class in the area, Caxton Hall, Caxton (15),
and Manor Farm, Harlton (2), are both smaller and later, suggesting the beginning of a descent in the
social scale. Although instances occur throughout the 18th century, the bulk of class-U houses are
parsonages, mansions and farms built in the two or three generations before 1850, often in the wake of
Brick Gable Ends
Houses assigned to class U exhibit considerable variation in internal arrangement. Roof structure
played an important part in determining this, since double-depth planning, even on a small scale, raises
roofing problems. The earlier 17th-century double-pile houses built for the nobility and gentry were
normally finished with a single steeply-pitched hipped roof rising to a central flat. Chimneys were usually
excluded from the peripheral slopes and, in consequence, fireplaces were placed in internal walls; these
often ran in pairs parallel to the front elevation and enclosed a relatively narrow space which was devoted
to stairs and passages between a front and a back range of principal rooms. Such an arrangement was too
complex for the smaller, derivative houses of the 17th century. Manor Farm, Harlton (2), possibly of 1687
though drastically remodelled, illustrates the preferred solution in which the ground-floor plan is divided
by a central cross passage and a middle wall, into four rooms, with four fireplaces arranged back-to-back
in the cross wall. Barrington Hall, Barrington (6), incorporates the carcase of a small double-pile house,
presumably of the 17th century, to a plan which probably resembled that of Manor Farm, Harlton. The
Rectory, Little Eversden (4), built as late as 1725–30, is similar.
The central passage was to remain a normal feature for houses of this class throughout its history, the
stair being often placed at the opposite end to the front door. In Rectory Farm, Comberton (3), this arrangement is combined with a tiled roof of two parallel ridges, having a small central valley, ingeniously contrived to terminate in large hipped gables each with a chimney stack; fireplaces are thus in the side walls.
Merton Grange, Gamlingay (49), is a smaller house of the same date with a simpler double-ridge roof
and end chimney stacks. Middle Farm, Longstowe (6), has parallel gabled roofs and end chimneys, and
is also 18th-century in its present form, although it seems to be a 17th-century class-U house remodelled.
Clare Farm, Caldecote (5) (Plate 32), and Hill Farm, Papworth St. Agnes (8), are later versions. The former
is divided unequally by a wall giving larger rooms at the front and smaller rooms at the back with little or
no interconnection ; the back rooms must have been for a manager or may correspond to the 'gander loft'
provided for unmarried labourers in some Cambridgeshire farms built in the generation before 1850.
A number of houses of the 19th century show a variation of plan stemming from the class-U type.
Some of these variations are insignificant, but others are quite inventive, such as Gill's Hill Farm, Bourn
(15), where a T-shaped plan is filled out to a four-sided one by balancing lateral outshuts. Vernacular
architecture in West Cambridgeshire in the hundred years prior to 1850 becomes less and less susceptible
to classification on the lines described. Houses which conform to it continued to be built but the decline
in standards of construction is in general very marked. The pressure of population on housing manifests
itself not only in the growth of squatter enclosure but also in the division of existing houses and in the
conversion of agricultural or other buildings into dwellings, e.g. Barrington (7), Grantchester (3) (Plate
25). The need was also met by grouping in semi-detached pairs or in terraces, formal or informal, with
corresponding economies, and by the use of outshuts which provided service rooms at minimal cost.
Alterations and conversions
The introduction of an upper floor and a chimney stack into a former hall house was the dominant
constructional alteration undertaken to bring it abreast of changing requirements. In the case of the
aisled hall, the new first-floor room required natural lighting by way of dormers or by the removal of an
aisle; the former expedient was used at Bourn (8) (Plate 47), and the latter at Barrington (17) (Plate 46)
and Kingston (3) (Plate 101). The houses of classes B, C, and D could be converted more readily, but it
was often found necessary to raise the whole roof, for example at Malton Farm, Orwell (24), in order to
give sufficient headroom and lighting to the new upper rooms. In West Cambridgeshire the inserted
chimney stack was often placed at the service end of the hall, and back-to-back fireplaces could serve both
the 'floored' hall and a kitchen, now no longer detached, on the site of the former butteries, e.g. Barrington
(17). An exception to this arrangement was at Croxton (6) where the chimney stack was built at the solar
end, but here there was already provision for a kitchen with its fireplace at the service end. Arrangements
such as these were copied uncritically to become houses of class H and hence class J. In post-mediaeval
times small barns were likewise made into dwellings, but detection of the alteration is often difficult owing
to the similarity in constructional techniques and the short interval between the initial building and the
conversion; the siting of such a dwelling, behind or slightly away from the other houses, may afford some
evidence of its original use, e.g. Comberton (39). Pigeon houses, too, were commonly converted for
domestic occupation, and the result is more obvious, e.g. Grantchester (3) (Plate 25).
The classification suggested in the previous section for smaller houses is less relevant to those larger ones
of which the architects and patrons were influenced, even if only at second hand, by national trends in
house design. The distinction is of course arbitrary, and there has already been occasion to notice how the
elevational conservatism, which is so marked a feature of the vernacular, extends to the more self-conscious
architectural creations of the 16th and 17th centuries.
Madingley Hall, Madingley (2) (Plate 110), the most impressive of the earlier houses, was conceived
c. 1543 on the lines of a mediaeval hall and cross wings, although the resemblance is concealed to some
extent by changed proportions and by additional embellishments; the N. wing is of late 16th-century
origin. The main range had a first-floor hall or great chamber, and a service end containing butteries on
the ground floor and rooms above. On a much smaller scale, Manor Farm, Papworth St. Agnes (2)
(Plate 122), believed to be of c. 1585, is of the same traditional form and was also entered, or was to have
been entered, off centre. Bourn Hall, Bourn (2) (Plate 58), c. 1602, is a larger version of the same design.
Both these last had rectangular turrets in the inner angles, that surviving at Papworth containing an
original stair. The original Croxton Park, Croxton (2) (Plate 67), built a generation earlier but drastically
remodelled in the 18th century, had been E-shaped with a central porch. The H plan persisted well into
the 17th century: the Manor House, Elsworth (3), was put up during the Commonwealth for Samuel
Disbrowe, Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, basically in the Tudor tradition. Samuel's father (?),
James Disbrowe, had built himself a pretentious timber-framed house, Eltisley (2) (Plate 77), a few miles
away, in 1612.
Contemporaneous with these houses of U and H shape are others, mostly rather smaller, which consist
of a single range, with one or more shallow, often narrow, projections of full height. Kingston Wood
Farm, Kingston (12), originally of the early to mid 16th century, but greatly altered, may have been the
first of the single-range houses in the area. On a map of 1720 (Plate 29), the front is depicted with two symmetrically placed turrets, one of which must have been a porch. Childerley Hall, Childerley (1), somewhat
later in the 16th century, and Haslingfield Hall, Haslingfield (2) (Plate 28), may have had similar features,
but both are mere fragments. Longstowe Hall, Longstowe (2), late Elizabethan but almost completely
modernised, had a front with three projections, the middle one a porch. Caxton Manor, Caxton (8)
(Plate 59), also probably late Elizabethan, is an adaptation of this lay-out to a more urban context; in
principle it consists of a range fronting on to the Ermine Street in which a central carriage entrance takes
the place of the usual doorway; at the back are two balancing projections facing into a courtyard which
is enclosed on two further sides by a service wing and by a low stable block.
Many of the larger houses in the area are thus in the mediaeval tradition and their plans and elevations
reveal some sort of indebtedness to mediaeval prototypes. Four 17th- and 18th-century houses, of which
Wimpole Hall, Wimpole (2) (Plate 133), is the chief, can be thought of as classicist in that the vestigial
elements which were part of the Tudor tradition have been finally discarded in favour of the logic of
double-pile planning. As designed c. 1640 for Thomas Chicheley, Wimpole exemplified a new orthodoxy
in which a central passage, no doubt containing stairs, separated two blocks of rooms; in spite of major
enlargements and internal reorganisations during the 18th and 19th centuries, the original plan is still
clear. Hatley Park, Hatley (3), incorporates the shell of a much smaller double-pile house, contemporary
with or even slightly earlier than Wimpole. Conington Hall, Conington (2), the date of which is uncertain
but which may be early 18th-century, resembles Wimpole in having the central passage with staircases.
Tetworth Hall, Gamlingay (42), built in 1710 as a prospect house on a sloping site, has an unusual lay-out,
with more than half the ground floor given over to an entrance hall and staircases. Whilst the area does
not contain any major new houses of the later 18th century, Croxton Park (Plate 29), Hatley Park and
Wimpole Hall (Plates 130, 131) underwent considerable alterations and extensions to keep their plan and
scale in line with changing requirements.
Parks, Gardens and Ancillary Buildings
Few of the gardens and parks described include features earlier than the 18th century, and in most
cases the immediate surroundings of the houses have been landscaped within the last two or three generations, often on 'period' lines. Something remains at Haslingfield Hall of the formal 17th-century moated
garden including brick enclosing-walls and ornamental piers. At Eltisley (17) comparatively elaborate
earthworks appear to be the remains of a garden contemporary with the associated early 17th-century
house, Eltisley (2); they include moats or canals such as are to be seen elsewhere (e.g. Great Eversden (11
and 21)). At Wimpole Hall elements of the gardens drawn by Kip (Britannia Illustrata (1707), No. 32) can
be traced on air photographs. The age of formal gardening had not ended when the third Sir George
Downing laid out his house and park, now reduced to earthworks, in 1712–13 at Gamlingay (61) (Plates
The setting of Wimpole Hall has been developed on a scale much beyond anything else in the area;
the 2½-mile long South Avenue extends beyond it into the parish of Whaddon. Many of the famous landscape gardeners, notably Charles Bridgeman, Lancelot Brown (who also worked at Madingley Hall) and
Humphry Repton, as well as others less well known, have left their mark (Plates 121, 132). A number of
adornments, including the 18th-century Gothic Tower (Plate 137), designed by Sanderson Miller, survive,
although others, like 'Athenian' Stuart's Palladian Park Building and John Soane's Castello d'Acqua have
perished. Landscaped parks of smaller proportions, with or without lakes, are at Conington Hall, Croxton
Park, Hatley Park and Madingley Hall.
Extensive walled gardens, in addition to those at Haslingfield Hall, survive at Croxton Park, Madingley
Hall and Wimpole Hall, the last fairly securely dated to c. 1752. Stables were often built to some degree of
architectural consciousness, for example at Hatley Park and Longstowe Hall; that at Bourn Hall (Plate 45)
is a diminutive reflection of a larger house of the time. At Wimpole (4) the early 19th-century loose boxes,
reputedly for deer, and the stable court by H. E. Kendall, near the Hall, are among a considerable number
of structures ancillary to the house.
The red-brick terrace of ten almshouses at Gamlingay (21) was built in 1665, and a chapel was subsequently added at one end. They form a symmetrical architectural composition of two storeys with an
emphasised centre. Smaller dwellings, with only one room, are at Elsworth (25), possibly built as a result
of a bequest of 1695, and at Grantchester (7) which is in timber-framed construction with a thatched roof.
The E-shaped group at Arrington (8) (Plate 45), a mid 19th-century foundation of the Hardwickes, is in
a Tudor idiom with stone dressings.
Bread ovens are a common and conspicuous feature of the smaller house, but none is identifiably earlier
than the late 18th century, which seems to coincide with the rise in the home consumption of wheat flour.
They are usually placed at the side of the chimney stack, often projecting externally as at Little Gransden
(7) where it has a thatched roof. A large one at Great Eversden (3) is built at the back of an end chimney.
By the 19th century bakeries are to be found in villages or small towns, e.g. Elsworth (13) and Gamlingay
(15). At Papworth St. Agnes (4) there is a communal bakery on the green.
Specialised workshops and shops cannot always be assigned to specific crafts or trades. Thus whilst a
17th-century building at Haslingfield (5) is of unknown purpose, Orwell (7), which in 1700 contained a
coal store, is now in domestic occupation. Comberton (19) (Plate 31) is a well-preserved example of a mid
19th-century village shop with associated outbuildings; later in the century it was a general store and
saddlery. A distinction between domestic workshops and industrial buildings cannot always easily be
drawn in practice. At Gamlingay (19) is a range of industrial buildings resembling maltings. Elsworth (11)
is a 16th- or 17th-century warehouse of the sort more familiar in villages outside the area adjacent to the
Fenland waterways. Little Eversden (7) consists of clunch-quarry workings, including a pit shaft, and an
associated 18th-century building.
Larger barns in West Cambridgeshire are almost invariably aisled; the walls are usually of boarding
over a frame. The roofs were initially thatched. Such structures are not easily dated; the aisled form is a
survival, and structural detail tends to archaism. Great Eversden (4), ostensibly the oldest, in five bays, is
of uncertain date; subsidiary bracing to the main trusses is of a kind found in 13th- and 14th-century
framed houses and, if this is original, the barn may be presumed, allowing for archaism, to be at least late
mediaeval. An alleged tithe barn at Gamlingay (5), which has some subsidiary bracing of similar character,
appears to be a 17th-century or later reconstruction. Such reconstruction was probably quite common
and, where a large amount of the old frame is reused, dating becomes hypothetical. The 16th-century barn
at Cantelupe Farm, Haslingfield (21), is re-erected and probably came from Haslingfield Hall. A barn at
Gamlingay (4) (Plate 27), dated 1660, has structural details which suggest that it may only have been
repaired in that year. Orwell (7), bearing the date 1776, is a further instance in which it would be unwise
to place too much reliance on such an inscription.
Granaries were probably a feature of most farms; comparatively few survive, probably because of the
heavy weights to which these buildings were subjected. They are mostly quite small, suggesting that cereal
crops were normally stored unthreshed in the barns. The earlier examples are usually framed and carried
on staddle stones or brick piers. The framing may be filled with nogging or covered with boards, although
the earliest example, Tadlow (5) (Plate 36), now destroyed, was of plank-and-muntin construction. Clunch
and brick-built granaries, commonly but not invariably 19th-century, mostly have a continuous brick
plinth pierced by small arch openings for under-floor ventilation. Inside the granary the grain is usually
kept in rectangular boarded bins on either side of a central gangway.
In the 16th century most of the larger villages probably had small public buildings which were variously
described as 'town houses', 'church houses' or 'guild halls'. Five buildings of this sort have been listed:
Barrington (4) and (23), Comberton (29), Gamlingay (7) and Orwell (5). These may not all have originated
in the same way, and they should only provisionally be treated as a homogeneous group. It is difficult
to be quite certain of their identification as special-purpose buildings in every case, but the absence of the
usual provision for heating, and sometimes the siting, e.g. near the church or on a green, are possible
It appears that only the larger inns, designed to accommodate travellers, developed a specialised plan
whilst the small village 'houses' could be established in buildings indistinguishable from normal dwellings.
No mediaeval inn survives for certain, but the Royal Oak, Barrington (20), may have always been for this
purpose. The class-D house at Haslingfield (6) is another possible example on account of its position in
the village and its ancillary buildings which were formerly used as maltings.
Two houses in Caxton, a posting station of long standing, are former inns, both no doubt stylish in
their day. The Crown House, Caxton (11) (Plate 64), a U-shaped structure enclosing a yard approached
by a carriage entrance from the street, is predominantly 17th-century and has the remains of a gallery of
that time; Red Lion Farm, Caxton (6) (Plate 31), solves the problem of access to the upper floor by means
of two original stair turrets at the rear instead of a gallery. Caxton Manor, Caxton (8) (Plate 59), c. 1600,
which was at one time adapted as an inn, is an interesting large manor house built to a design which could
meet the changed function with relatively little alteration. Later inns on the Ermine Street include the
Hardwicke Arms, Arrington (10), The Red House (formerly The Golden Lion) at Longstowe and The Fox
at Bourn, all 18th-century. The Leeds Arms at Eltisley (8), 18th-century likewise, has original lean-to semibasements at the rear, on either side of a stair block, presumably for cellarage. The name is taken from the
Leeds family at Croxton Park and a family origin may be also assumed for the name of The Golden Ball
at Boxworth; the Cutts family, lords of the manor in the 17th century, bore a bend engrailed with roundels
sometimes tinctured as besants. Croxton (8) and Great Eversden (13), respectively 18th- and 19th-century,
have unusual plan-forms; both were formerly inns. The White Swan, Conington (4), and The George,
Hatley (5), are village beer houses of c. 1850; both resemble adjacent estate dwellings, indicating that the
traditionally close association of inn and manor was still a reality. Inns on the main roads appear to have
acted as 'post offices' and at Caxton (11) part of the Crown House was set aside for this purpose.
The few existing water mills, notably in the valley of the Rhee, are of comparatively recent date but
probably replace earlier buildings on the same sites. The artificial alteration to the courses of streams may
sometimes indicate the position of vanished mills. Many of the lesser watercourses were capable of driving
mills of low power, and even springs could apparently be used to build up intermittent headwater, as at the
deserted village of Clopton, Croydon (15). At Wimpole, considerable expense was incurred by the 3rd
Lord Hardwicke at the beginning of the 19th century in harnessing a small brook for the purpose of
driving a threshing mill at Thornberry Hill Farm, Wimpole (17). A number of windmills have been
listed including a very early post mill at Bourn (22) (Plate 57) which may date from the first part of the
17th century. Three tower mills are recorded and all are probably 19th-century.
The development of houses with specialised planning to provide space for activities beyond those of a
domestic nature is a matter of interest. However, a specialised use, known from other sources, is not always
reflected in the structure, and The Old Rectory, Kingston (3), and the former Vicarage at Comberton (2),
both of which are mediaeval, closely resemble contemporary houses of the laity. Six other parsonages were
built before c. 1820: Caldecote (3), of late mediaeval origin, Wimpole (3), 1597 but considerably altered,
Grantchester (4), c. 1683, Little Eversden (4), 1725–30, Haslingfield (15), 1761, and Conington (7), as
planned in the late 18th century, are equally without identifiable special-purpose features. They differ
little from the houses of the upper middle classes in general.
Specialised planning of parsonages, which had made its appearance in the pattern books of the late
18th century, is unrepresented in West Cambridgeshire before the 1830's when three, Dry Drayton (2),
Papworth St. Agnes (5) and Toft (2) were built as manor houses for clergymen of the 'squarson' sort.
The new plan arose from the need to provide a 'study' for receiving parishioners, which, for the sake
of privacy, came to be placed as near as possible to the main entrance. The lay-out is usually in double
depth with a garden front having tall sash windows, lighting the principal rooms, but no door. The former
rectory at Harlton (7), built in 1843, is an attractive specimen of parsonage planning on these lines. The
plan is T-shaped, so permitting a symmetrical arrangement with larger rooms for family occupation on
the garden side, and a smaller room near the entrance for the incumbent's study. The entrance faces on a
lane leading towards the church, so that plan and siting, in this as in other cases, are intimately related.
Dry Drayton (2), 1830–1, Longstowe (4), 1839, Coton (6) (Plate 32), c. 1840, and Papworth St. Agnes (5),
1847–8, are planned on similar lines, as are also Croydon (2) and Barrington (9), which are undated.
At Conington (7) a large room fronting on to the garden was added c. 1840 to the rectory built a generation
or so earlier. These seven examples are all in Regency idiom. During the fifth decade of the century the
attacks launched by the ecclesiologists against 'pagan architecture', and extending even to the dwellings
of the clergy, began to bear fruit. Parsonages in 13th- or 14th-century style began to appear in high-church
circles, but evangelical Cambridgeshire responded in 'Perpendicular' and 'Tudor'. S.W. Dawkes's Toft (2),
c. 1845, in knapped flints with stone dressings, represents stylistically a complete breakaway, but the
planning is still on lines developed in the previous decades.
The two principal manses listed, Gamlingay (36), dated 1761, and Elsworth (2), c. 1830, are without
special characteristics but are associated with groups of buildings related to Nonconformist activity.
There are some score of pigeon houses in West Cambridgeshire. As the keeping of pigeons was a
manorial right, most examples are on manor farms, although lords of manors could license pigeon houses
elsewhere. Those whose crops were affected naturally resented the privilege, and one aggrieved local
farmer in the 18th century managed to catch and clip the tails of the depredators, so preventing them from
sallying out of their house (Cambridge Chronicle, 21 Dec. 1810, 16 March and 11 May 1827; Cambridge
Independent Press, 25 Feb. 1837, etc.). Later in the century pigeon-rearing apparently declined, for a number
of pigeon houses were then converted into dwellings. The large one at Grantchester (3) (Plate 25) may be
the 'Great Duff House' referred to in a lease of 1467, but nothing earlier than the 18th century is now
visible. The remainder are generally 17th- or 18th-century, built on a square plan, of brick or of framing,
boarded or plastered, with hipped tiled roofs rising to two or more gablets for ingress and egress. The
red brick one at Haslingfield (2) (Plate 25) has a circular plan with conical roof topped by a cupola, and
is architecturally the most significant. Nesting boxes may be of wood or brick, or be prefabricated in
clay bat; the pigeon house at Toft (6), which is of average size, contained about 750 boxes.
The emergence of buildings recognisably designed as schools is a product of the spread of the educational movement in the early 19th century into the area. Those at Barrington (3), 1839, Conington (6),
1840, Elsworth (18), 1847, and Papworth St. Agnes (3), c. 1840, are described in Gardner's Directory of
1851 as 'National Schools' and were presumably administered on lines recommended by the National
Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, which was
heir to the system devised by the Rev. Andrew Bell towards the end of the 18th century. The Directory
gives details of subscribers in the cases of Barrington and Elsworth. The sitings of some of the others, not
specifically described as 'National', proclaim them as church schools. The earliest, at Grantchester (13), is
dated 1830. The prevailing style is Tudoresque, generally following that considered appropriate at the
same time for parsonages, but with rustic or cottage overtones suited to the accommodation of the
rural labouring classes. A favourite lay-out is one resembling the mediaeval class-B or class-D house, in
which the hall is the schoolroom and the cross wings are dwellings for the staff or, less commonly, extra
teaching space. At Gamlingay (6) and (37) two schools, both dated 1848, stand in the immediate vicinities
respectively of the church and of a Nonconformist chapel. The church school, of red brick in Tudor style,
bears the arms of Clare College; the other, a 'British' school, presumably conforming to the system of
Joseph Lancaster, of which the British and Foreign School Society had been the instrument, is in a severer
idiom with round-headed windows and a pediment to the street. A degree of sectarian rivalry can be
inferred, especially as Gamlingay was evidently something of a dissenting stronghold.
School rooms linked to Nonconformist chapels, for example at Elsworth (2), were presumably only
for religious instruction.
The vernacular timber buildings of West Cambridgeshire are entirely in the framed tradition characteristic of the lowland, south-eastern zone of Great Britain. The timber frame usually rests on a low footing
or plinth which is commonly of brick but may also be of field stones or, more rarely, clunch. A ground sill
rests on this wall and the principal posts are morticed into it. At their heads these posts commonly thicken
internally to support horizontal beams and they may also be haunched at a lower level to carry a floor beam.
The technique by which timber-framed buildings were erected can sometimes be deduced from the
arrangement of the framework and from non-structural features in it. At Merton Manor Farm, Gamlingay
(4), the three main units of the class-H house are structurally independent below roof level. The occurrence
of wedge-shaped notches in the principal post, e.g. Little Eversden (5), shows that the walls were prefabricated, reassembled on the ground, and then raised into position on struts. This system facilitated both the
phased construction of a house and the renewal of separate sections with the least disturbance to the remainder. The numbering of roof trusses, and occasionally of floor joists, e.g. Eltisley (5), suggests that these
were also prepared in advance.
Tie beams were occasionally omitted to give headroom and were frequently cut away for that reason
if a floor had been intruded into an open structure. Many of the mediaeval roof trusses have a crown post
rising off the centre of the tie beam and taking a central purlin supporting a series of collar beams, although
simpler types with only a collar above the tie beam are common. In open halls and in the upper chambers
of solar wings, both of which are commonly in two bays, the dividing tie-beam truss is frequently of
selected timber carefully worked and intended for display. The crown post is often treated as an octagonal
column with cap and base, and the tie itself may be cambered to add to the impressiveness.
The roofs invariably adhere to the lowland tradition in which the backs of principal and secondary
rafters lie in the same plane. Where there are side purlins these frame into the principal rafters, which are
deeper than the secondaries or are clasped in the angle between the principal rafters and the collars.
Some mediaeval roofs are without side purlins; the rafters are halved and pegged at the top, ridge pieces
being virtually if not entirely unknown. In the end walls the closing ties act as intermediate plates; above
them the end may be gabled or half hipped from the level of the collar.
The walls may be divided into two heights by a middle rail, e.g. Croxton (6) (Plate 80), and the other
secondary timbers consist principally of upright studs which enclose comparatively tall narrow areas of
filling, giving the effect sometimes described as 'post and pan'. The squarer and more irregular treatment
so common in some other parts of the country is rarely encountered. The filling of wattle and daub is
built up on a few upright sticks interwoven with lighter horizontals sprung between the studs; the 'pan'
is completed with a mixture resembling cob and was no doubt finally lime-washed or coloured. The
pronounced vertical lines add an extra touch of dignity; they are interrupted, if at all, only by the openings
and by bracing between the principal timbers. The bracing is often internal, suggesting that the decorative
effect created by the exposed timber was deliberately cultivated. This tendency to expose the framing
would explain the comparative rarity and unpretentious character of pargetting in West Cambridgeshire.
Rectangular panels with simple combed or stamped patterns of the late 17th to 19th century occur, as at
Gamlingay (12), but the ornate external plasterwork of Essex and Suffolk is not here represented.
Whereas wattle and daub is the commonest filling for external walls, some other materials are found.
Much of the brick-nogging, which is the usual alternative, is obviously replacement but in one or two
buildings, such as the granary at Caxton (3), it may be original. Vertical plank filling, which was no doubt
costly, was to be seen in a recently demolished granary at Tadlow (5) (Plate 36).
During the two centuries 1650–1850 there was a progressive decline in the volume and quality of
timber building in the area, and walls of studwork completely plastered inside and out became the rule.
This seems to be largely the result of a decline in the amount of good hardwood that was available and its
replacement by softwood, much of it imported. Eventually brick became the usual material for external
walls. At Haslingfield (2) and a number of other 17th-century brick houses, plastered timber-framing was
used for some of the secondary elevations, and the practice of building a brick gable wall at the conspicuous end of a house is seen at Comberton (16) and Knapwell (5). Mixed construction continued to be
common in smaller houses up to the beginning of the 19th century.
Earlier bracing is usually upwards, from main posts to tie beams and to the plates, from crown posts to
collar purlins and usually to adjacent collars; and there are often wind braces from principal rafters to side
purlins, sometimes rather perfunctory. Down bracing is mostly post-mediaeval, but earlier examples
occur, as at Madingley (3). An occasional variant is a system in which down braces from the main posts of
the walls are set with their feet framed into the lower end of a stud rather than into the corresponding
The commonest form of joint consists of a mortice and tenon secured by one or more pegs. A structure
consisting entirely of timbers so joined cannot easily be modified, short of dismantling and re-erecting,
without clear traces being left from which it can be inferred that changes have been made. Other kinds of
joint are often involved, notably halving, where the ends of two timbers are married, and notching, for
fixing braces to main timbers. In the three mediaeval aisled halls and also in an aisled barn at Great Eversden
(4) the long raking struts, or passing braces, which have been found in similar structures elsewhere in
eastern England, have been recorded. Because these struts are notched in and thus potentially insertions, it
is sometimes assumed that they are not original. The evidence from West Cambridgeshire suggests, however, that here they are coeval with frames to which they belong. Similar doubts about contemporaneity
apply to some intermediate floors which are carried on axial beams supported on the brickwork of a
chimney, or on a short post rising off the bressummer, or on a bracket added to an axial post; in such
cases the outer ends of the corresponding joists may rest on planking fixed to the framing of the side walls.
These forms of construction suggest a floor inserted into a structure which was originally open, but there
are indications, e.g. at Bourn (6), that this method was used from the start. It is thus unsafe to assume that
the occurrence of joints such as would be involved in making alterations to a framed building is outright
proof that such alterations have been made.
Indications of vanished doorways and windows take the form of gaps left in the studwork, often marked
only by the arrangement of peg holes; mortices for mullions and inner heads of doorways are additional
evidence. The lintels of openings are frequently formed by the main plates, a strong and economical
arrangement, but sometimes there is a short trimmer at a lower level framed into the relevant studs,
e.g. Barrington (20) (Plate 9). In the larger windows of mediaeval halls, the middle rail was carried through
as a transom, for example at Croxton (6) and Little Eversden (5). The simplest form of window mullion
is of square section, set diagonally, and framed into the sill and the lintel; more elaborate specimens are
moulded and may be rebated on the inside for glass. There are however no indications of glazing for
smaller dwellings until well into the 16th century at the earliest. Instead, protection against the weather
was afforded by an internal shutter made to slide in a groove channelled in the soffit of the corresponding
plate and in a guide rail affixed to the window sill. None of these shutters survives in the area but the
grooves are frequently found. At Eltisley (9) (Plate 103) flame marks are to be seen where a candle or rush
light has been rested on the guide rail. Oriel windows were probably quite common, especially in conjunction with jettying, as the projecting timbers could be used as a lintel; a mediaeval example was
destroyed at Barrington (20) (Plate 36) in 1953–54. Post-mediaeval oriels remain at Comberton (28),
Croxton (5) (both Plate 38) and Eltisley (2).
The roofs of halls, originally open, retain in several instances smoke-blackened timbers. Smoke from
the central fire was dispersed either through a louvre or through gablets. The latter are often brought
nearer to the hall by the use of hipped roofs, for example at Haslingfield (6). Evidence for louvres survives
at Bird's Farm, Barton (9), and Little Eversden (5). At Croxton (4) the framing of a plastered hood or
chimney exists above tie-beam level, and may have extended below it.
Access to upper floors in the simpler dwellings must often have been by ladders. Fixed stairs in the form
of a straight flight of short blocks contained between two partitions survive at Croxton (6) and Great
Eversden (3). Stair turrets, with treads turning through half a circle and framed into a post in the main
wall, first appear at Elsworth (16) which is late 16th-century. Winding stairs at the side of the chimney
occur in many 17th-century houses. Some of the stairs have shaped balusters cut out of planks, resembling
turned balusters in silhouette, e.g. Barrington (17) and Elsworth (19), but they are probably not earlier
than c. 1700.
The angles of exposed timbers, even in the smallest buildings, were normally finished with a chamfer
or moulding. Plain chamfers, which were common in the mediaeval period, continued in use until the 18th
century. At junctions they either return through a mitre or run out into a stop which, in the 16th and 17th
centuries, is commonly elaborated. It is in roofs and ceilings that their use often shows a high level of
ingenuity. The carefully contrived mouldings, such as those used in the roof at Kingston (5), have a greater
aesthetic quality than mechanical. With the eclipse of the open hall, elaboration by way of mouldings was
transferred to the beams and joists in ceilings. Such a ceiling was inserted at Malton Farm, Orwell (24)
(Plate 38), where the roll mouldings may be compared with those at Christ's College (R.C.H.M., Cambridge,
30, 396); Malton was a property of Christ's College and both ceilings can be dated from documents to
1510. Carving is rare but is used occasionally for leaf-stops to chamfers, on ceiling bosses and wall posts,
e.g. Madingley (3) (Plate 36). The use of clunch, already discussed in connection with mediaeval buildings
(see Building Materials, above), continued for secular purposes well into the 19th century. The chimney
stacks in houses otherwise of timber were frequently in clunch, and examples in the area date from late
mediaeval times, e.g. Grantchester (2) and Kingston (3). The tradition survived into the 17th century,
when the stack often ceased to be external, e.g. Longstowe (7). The material lent itself readily for the
carving of internal detail such as jambs of fireplaces and overmantels, such as Great Eversden (3) and
Kingston (3) and (12). Clunch was used in conjunction with brick for quoins and other architectural
embellishments in the 18th century, e.g. Barrington (22), and more extensively for houses in the 19th
century, e.g. Great Eversden (5). It was also employed for agricultural and utilitarian purposes from
mediaeval times onwards, for example: the sewer at Manor Farm, Grantchester (2); the Granary, Haslingfield (26); the Mill, Barrington (25).
Interior Wall Treatment
Panelling of the kind described as 'run-through', formed with a continuous rail joined by short stiles,
both usually moulded, is prevalent in the 17th century. The panels are plain but the composition sometimes
extends to carved friezes or articulating pilasters, e.g. Comberton (28). Doors were also of run-through
panelling and sometimes retain cocks-head hinges and latches. A simpler form is of three vertical planks,
the middle one recessed, the outer ones with moulded inner edges.
Surviving examples of 17th-century decorative wall painting suggest that it was a popular wall finish
at that time. The decoration was often continued arbitrarily over the studs and plasterwork, and consisted
of arabesque patterns or sham marquetry as at Caxton (11). Walls, even of the smaller houses, were ornamented with plasterwork friezes in relief, as at Bourn (11) (Plate 124).
Few monuments of prehistoric date have been found in the area. Recorded finds include Mesolithic
flints from Gamlingay and Haslingfield, Neolithic stone and flint axes, and a number of Bronze and Iron
Age objects including flints, bronzes, and a small quantity of pottery. Although the activities, during the
19th century, of coprolite diggers along the chalk scarp and of gravel workers beside the river Rhee, have
exaggerated the concentration of prehistoric finds on the drier soils, there is a notable lack of such finds
in the boulder clay area.
The Roman Period
The distribution of finds of the Roman period indicates some penetration of settlement into the boulder
clay upland. Remains of a substantial building at Comberton (49), probably the bath block of a villa, and
finds indicating other buildings S. of Grantchester, and less certainly near Barrington, Harlton and
Haslingfield, show that the main area of settlement was still on the river gravel. The remains of a Roman
building and associated finds at Wimpole (N.G. TL 33354866) have been interpreted as a posting station. (fn. 1)
Earthworks at Grantchester (23), often called a Roman camp, are mediaeval or later.
There are four Roman roads in the area. The two major roads, Ermine Street running N.N.W. on
its course from Braughing to the N. and the so-called Via Devana from Cambridge N.W. to Godmanchester, are notable for maintaining their straight course over considerable distances, but the modern
A.14 and A. 604 roads completely mask any remains of agger or ditches which might have survived into
this century. The road running N.E. from the settlement at Sandy to Godmanchester crosses the W.
projection of Gamlingay parish for half a mile where its course is preserved in the line of a cart track.
The only road of which any surface traces remain is that S.W. from Cambridge to Wimpole Lodge.
From the city boundary to Barton village its course is intermittently visible on air photographs; it can be
seen on the ground as a slight ridge to the S. of Dumpling and Haggis Farms (N.G. TL 420571, 416567).
A section cut N.E. of Barton in a field covered with ridge and furrow showed a layer of cobbles 12 ft.
wide between ditches 4½ ft. wide and 3 ft. deep. Already in 1750 the road could only be traced with
difficulty and since then much of the line from Wimpole to Lord's Bridge, Barton, has been followed
by the A. 603 and any further traces obliterated. (fn. 2)
Several other roads and tracks in West Cambridgeshire have been described as Roman or prehistoric
routes but there is no proof that any was in use before the middle ages. The most notable are the ridgeway
followed by the modern road from Cambridge to Eltisley and the Mare Way N. of Orwell. (fn. 3) There is also
a bank, 60 ft. to 70 ft. wide and 1½ ft. to 2 ft. high, running N.W. to S.E. and now traceable for 700 yds.
to the N. of Grantchester. This apparently gave the name 'Ridgeway' to the adjacent furlong and
surrounding field, and could be a minor Roman road. It points towards the ford on which the Roman
road to the S. of Cambridge also converges and an excavation produced evidence of Roman occupation
below it, but no road metalling. (fn. 4)
There are no field monuments in the area which can be attributed with certainty to the period between
410 and 1066. The Anglo-Saxon cemeteries of the 5th to the 7th centuries in Barrington and Haslingfield
parishes together with isolated finds at Grantchester and perhaps at Barton are the only remains from
this period. The earliest graves in the cemeteries may indicate a settlement of foederati founded in the
mid 5th century to protect the town of Cambridge and the routes leading inland from it. (fn. 5)
The wide distribution of St. Neots ware ascribed to the 11th and 12th centuries would confirm the
evidence from the Domesday survey for the extension of settlement into the boulder clay area by 1086.
Earthworks listed as mounds range in date and purpose from a barrow of the Bronze Age (Haslingfield
(36)) to post-mediaeval garden features, e.g. Longstowe (15).
The sites of two villages, now completely deserted, have been recorded, as well as remains resulting
from the contraction of certain villages or a shift to a new location.
Clopton, Croydon (15), a well-documented deserted mediaeval village, was finally abandoned as a
result of enclosure for pasture between 1490 and 1520. The remains, though quite extensive, are confused
by quarrying in comparatively recent times, and there seems to have been continuous rebuilding on the
house sites before desertion. The two villages of Great and Little Childerley were finally deserted in the
17th century owing to emparking; the surviving remains (Childerley (2)), probably those of Great
Childerley, also have a rather confused plan and, as at Clopton, the usual arrangement of toft-and-croft
is not found. There are no identifiable remains of the deserted villages of Whitwell in Barton, Malton in
Orwell or Wratworth in Wimpole, although a fragment of Malton church was standing until recently.
At Wimpole (21), where there was a long period of gradual desertion from the 17th to the 19th century,
owing largely to the making of the great park, the remains of the former village houses and streets are
very slight, and without the parish map of 1638 (Plate 121) it would be difficult to interpret the widely
scattered earthworks. At Croxton (16) part of the village was removed from the park between 1811 and
1826 and the enclosure map serves as a guide to the origin of the earthworks which survive.
Deserted house sites ranged along a street occur in the villages of Knapwell (10), Longstowe (12), and
Tadlow (6). At East Hatley the location of a number of moated enclosures marking old house sites is
evidence of a former lay-out round a green. Some remains of former settlement survive at Caxton (24)
where hollow-ways suggest an earlier site of the village in the vicinity of the church. Other remains are
at Conington (8), Croydon (8), much damaged by coprolite digging, and the former hamlet of Woodbury,
Gamlingay (62). A small settlement at Pincote in Tadlow parish has been entirely destroyed except for the
moat at Tadlow (9) but scatters of stones, probably marking house sites, remain and can be traced on
The only certain castle in West Cambridgeshire is at Bourn (42), but the ramparts and ditches of its
motte and bailey have been much altered by 17th- to 19th-century gardening. A circular mound at
Knapwell (11) (Plate 2) and another, now levelled, at Orwell may also have been small mottes. The
impressive earthworks at Caxton Moats, Caxton (19), are as formidable as those of many castles but have
been classified as a moated site.
Sixty-three earthworks in the area have been listed as moated sites and to shorten the descriptions a
classification has been devised. Class A, which is divided into four groups, comprises sites with homestead
moats; Class B includes those with post-mediaeval moats or gardens.
Class A: Homestead Moats
There are forty-seven Class-A moated sites, of which forty-three have enclosures completely surrounded
by wide, initially wet, ditches. The ditches, where not altered, are 30 ft. to 35 ft. wide and 3 ft. to 6 ft.
deep. Outer banks are common, but usually appear to be made of spoil from the periodic cleaning out of
the ditches and not to have had a defensive purpose. The interiors are not usually much higher than the
surrounding land, the main enclosures at Caxton Moats, Caxton (19) (a), and at the moated site at Eltisley
Wood, Eltisley (24), being exceptions. Internal banks occur occasionally, but it is difficult without excavation to distinguish between banks formed from the original construction of the ditches and those created
from spoil deposited since the interior was abandoned. There is evidence of some former structure within
most of the moats which are now unoccupied. Attached enclosures are sometimes bounded by ditches of
similar dimensions to those of the moats, but banks and ditches around such enclosures are usually much
slighter, rarely being more than 10 ft. to 12 ft. wide and 3 ft. from top to bottom.
The initial method of entering the enclosure is seldom discernible; some sites have two or more causeways across the ditches but it is not always possible to determine which, if any, are original. At Caxton
Pastures, Caxton (22), there are six causeways, all probably later than the moat itself. Certain causeways,
however, appear from their position and form to be coeval with the moats, e.g. those in the N.E. corner
at Overhall Grove, Boxworth (15), and at Gilrags Wood, Croydon (19). Wooden bridges were probably
usual, but none survives although what may be the stone footings of such a bridge remain at Jesus College
Farm, Eltisley (21).
The need for water to fill the ditches influenced the siting of many moats. Some were constructed on
wet sites although there was drier ground close by; for example at Birdlines Manor Farm, Comberton (47),
an earthwork, now destroyed but probably the site of Burdelys Manor, lay on clay close to a stream,
although most of the village is on well-drained gravel only forty yards to the N. The moats at Gilrags
Wood and Rouses Wood, Croydon (19) and (20), are also on clay and close to a river which is liable to
flood, yet much of the parish is well-drained. With the exception of Papworth Everard (7), which is on
a spur overlooking a length of Ermine Street, the siting does not appear to have been influenced by
strategic considerations. Approximately half lie in or near settlements, the rest being distributed up to a
mile away; some of these lie on the edge of former open fields, as at Swansley Wood, Caxton (21), and
some in areas of 'old enclosures' of unknown date, as at Caxton Pastures, Caxton (22). The connection
between their sites and the villages does not therefore follow a particular pattern, and the number of
outlying sites, in an area where settlement is otherwise nucleated, may be related to the process of extending
the cultivated area.
The only moat excavated, Barton (23), was inadequately published, but the pottery indicated 12th- to
13th-century occupation. A further fourteen sites have produced surface finds of mediaeval pottery,
including six where the earliest pottery is 11th-century but none of it is definitely pre-Conquest. Although
this pottery indicates the period when the moats were occupied the absence of earlier artifacts does not
eliminate the possibility that some of the sites had a pre-Conquest origin.
Although imitation, with an eye to prestige, of the greater defended houses of the mediaeval period
may have influenced the design of moats, few would do more than protect the interior against animals
or individual intruders. An exception is Caxton Moats, where the arrangement and scale of the earthworks
are more defensive. (fn. 6) Some may also have served as fishponds or for drainage, but in many instances the
measures taken to keep the moat filled with water seem at variance with the latter use. Some still contain
substantial houses of the 15th and 16th centuries, as at Pond Farm, Eltisley (18), but these buildings are
likely to be replacements and of later date than the moats. It is however certain that most homestead moats
were at one time occupied by farmsteads and although some, as at Caxton, can be equated with manors,
many cannot, and occupation by a yeoman class may be inferred for them.
Classification of Moated Sites
The plans illustrated are: A 1(a), Eltisley (22)*; A 1(b), Eltisley (19); A 1(c), Papworth Everard (7); A 2(a), Madingley (8)*;
A 2(b), Comberton (46)*; A 2(c), Boxworth (16); A 2(d), Boxworth (17); A 3, Papworth St. Agnes (9) and (10)*; A 4, Gamlingay
(60)*; B, Childerley (4)*. Those marked with an asterisk are shown at a larger scale in the Inventory.
Class A can be divided into four groups on the basis of the size and lay-out of the moats; this classification may be applicable to other areas. (fn. 7)
Group 1 comprises simple homestead moats having only one enclosure and is sub-divided into:
(a) those less than half an acre, (b) those more than half an acre, and (c) circular moats. Most of the moats
in (a) enclose a quarter of an acre or less, which might be sufficient for a small farm, whereas those in (b)
would be ample for several buildings and yards. Extremes of size are at Gilrags Wood, Croydon (19), of
about one sixth of an acre, and at Caxton Pastures, Caxton (22), of more than 4 acres. Circular sites (c)
have been included in the classification although the type is rare in Cambridgeshire; often they are not
easily distinguishable from low mottes.
Moats in Group 2 have more than one enclosure but are nevertheless of small total area. Their arrangement may suggest successive phases of construction and presumably reflects a segregation of house from
farmyard, e.g. Croydon (13). The group has been sub-divided into four categories according to the present
condition of the earthwork.
Group 3 includes a number of homestead moats which were modified, often with the addition of
further ponds and ditches, to form gardens. An early example of this development is to be found at Manor
Farm, Grantchester (21), where an outer wet ditch and pond were added to the homestead moat, and a
new house was built outside it in the late 15th century. The process continued into the 18th century and
later, e.g. Kingston Wood Farm, Kingston (12) and (17).
The homestead moats in Group 4 had only two or three sides. Their non-defensive character might
suggest a post-mediaeval origin but both Gamlingay (59) and (60) were the sites of mediaeval manor
houses and, at the latter, pottery of the 11th to the 14th centuries has been collected. Mediaeval origins
are thus indicated; possibly the moats were fishponds, as has been proposed for a similar site in Leicestershire. (fn. 8)
Class B: Garden Moats
In addition to the alterations made to mediaeval homestead moats in the 16th and 17th centuries,
already noted under Class A3, moats primarily designed for ornamental purposes appear to have been
constructed at this period. The moat at Childerley Hall, Childerley (4), almost certainly of the same date
as the 16th-century house, forms a formal sunken garden enclosed by a bank with prospect mounds at
the angles, and an outer ditch. At Croydon Wilds, Croydon (14), a square moat, again with prospect
mounds, was constructed in the early 17th century together with a house, perhaps replacing the moated
homestead which stood to the N. (Croydon (13)). At Eltisley (17), the earthworks S. of the church, long
thought to be connected with a pre-Conquest nunnery, are probably an early 17th-century formal water
garden belonging to the adjacent house (Eltisley (2)); it has ditches, ponds, banks and prospect mounds.
At Haslingfield (2), the Hall and its walled gardens (Plate 28) are associated with a three-sided moat which
is presumably 16th- or 17th-century. All these moats appear to have been dug in accordance with the
principles laid down at this period for the construction of gardens. (fn. 9)
Eight moats are too mutilated to be classified with certainty. Of these the earthworks at Birdlines
Manor Farm, Comberton (47), Manor Farm and Holpotts, Croydon (9 and 11), and Great Eversden (19)
are all likely to have begun as mediaeval homesteads. A moat near Ermine Street (Longstowe (14)) was
apparently the site of a hospital or almshouse founded c. 1250. In addition there are a number of roughly
rectangular ditched platforms at East Hatley (18); like similar earthworks at Longstowe (12) and Tadlow
(6), these seem to have been former house sites, with ditches serving both for drainage and as boundaries.
Classification of Moated Sites
(Villages with house sites bounded by wet ditches have not been included in the Classification.)
Class A. Homestead moats
Group 1. Simple enclosures bounded by a wet ditch with no associated enclosures:
(a) rectangular enclosures with an internal area of less than ½ acre.
(b) rectangular enclosures with an internal area of more than ½ acre.
(c) circular enclosures under 1 acre.
Group 2. Simple enclosures bounded by wet ditches with associated enclosures of various types:
(a) rectangular enclosures with attached enclosures bounded by wet, or formerly wet, ditches.
(b) rectangular enclosures with attached enclosures bounded by dry ditches and/or banks.
(c) rectangular enclosures set inside a ditched and/or banked enclosure.
(d) rectangular enclosures with former attached enclosures of unknown type.
Group 3. Enclosures with wet ditches, probably mediaeval, altered or set in a post-mediaeval garden
Group 4. Rectangular enclosures with a wet ditch on two or three sides, mediaeval or of unknown
|Class||Monument number||Location||Area of moat in acres||Area of Enclosures in acres||Associated Standing Monuments (giving monument numbers and dates in centuries)||Pottery finds (dates in centuries)||Equivalent manor|
|A1(a)||Coton (14)||Rectory Farm||About ¼||—||—||—|
|Croydon (19)||Gilrags Wood||1/6||—||—||—|
|Hatley (15)||N.E. of The Palace, East Hatley||Under ½||—||13th–18th||—|
|Hatley (16)||Manor Farm||½||(6) 17th||—||East Hatley|
|Elsworth (44)||N.W. of Manor House||¼||(3) 17th||—||—|
|Eltisley (18)||Pond Farm||¼||(7) early 16th||—||—|
|Eltisley (22)||Papley Grove||About ⅓||—||—||Papley|
|Hardwick (6)||S. end of village||⅓||—||—||Hardwick|
|Kingston (18)||Eversden Wood||1/8||—||—||—|
|Kingston (19)||Queen's College Farm||⅓||(4) late mediaeval||—||Kingston St. George|
|Tadlow (9)||Pincote||Under ¼||—||—||Pincote|
|Wimpole (21) (c)||1/7||—||12th–14th||Baunce|
|A1(b)||Caxton (22)||Caxton Pastures||About 4||(16) 18th||—||Brockholt|
|Coton (13)||Rectory||1||(6) early 19th||—||—|
|Croxton (17)||Westbury Farm||Not less than 3||(4) late mediaeval||—||Westbury|
|Eltisley (19)||Manor Farm||About 1||(5) late mediaeval||—||—|
|Hatley (14)||Buff Wood, East Hatley||About 1½||—||—||—|
|Little Eversden (16)||S. end of village||About 1||—||14th and later||Little Eversden|
|Lolworth (6)||Lolworth Grange||About 1||—||13th||Lolworth|
|Tadlow (7)||Batterborough||1||—||—||Tadlow or Hobbledods|
|A1(c)||Croydon (16)||Deserted village of Clopton||¼||—||—||Clopton Bury|
|Papworth Everard (7)||Papworth Hall||¼||(2) early 19th||—||—|
|A2(a)||Barton (23)||E. of University Farm||1||¼||—||12th||—|
|Caxton (19)||'The Moats'||½||½||—||13th–14th||Caxton|
|Croydon (13)||N. of Croydon Wilds||¼||1/8||—||—||—|
|A2(a)||Madingley (8)||Moor Barns Farm||⅓||⅓||—||—||Burdelys|
|Orwell (41)||Malton Farm||About 1||About ½||(24) 15th||—||Malton|
|Wimpole (19)||Cobb's Wood||About 1¾||About 1||—||—||Cobbs|
|A2(b)||Comberton (46)||Manor Farm||About ½||About 1¼||(30) 17th||—||Greens|
|Croydon (17)||S. of deserted village of Clopton||1/5||About ¼||—||11th||—|
|Eltisley (21)||Jesus College Farm||About ⅓||About 3||(6) 17th||11th–12th||—|
|Eltisley (24)||Eltisley Wood||About ½||About 2||—||13th||—|
|A2(c)||Boxworth (15)||Overhall Grove||¼||6¼||—||11th–14th||Overhall|
|Boxworth (16)||Grange Wood||¼||4||—||—||—|
|Croydon (20)||Rouses Wood||¼||6||—||13th–14th||Rouses|
|A2(d)||Boxworth (17)||S. of Upper End Farm||¼||—||—||—|
|Caxton (21)||Swansley Wood||¼||—||11th–13th||Swansley|
|A3||Caxton (23)||Peter Street||⅓||About 1½||—||—||? Colne|
|Croydon (12)||S. of village||About ¼||6||—||—||—|
|Grantchester (21)||Manor Farm||1||4¾||(2) 15th||—||—|
|Harlton (16)||N. of village||⅓||6||—||17th||—|
|Kingston (17)||Kingston Wood||¾||About 1||(12) early 16th||—||? Kingston|
|Papworth St. Agnes (9)||Manor Farm||2||1||(2) 16th||—||Russels|
|A4||Barrington (40)||Barrington Hall||1½||(6) 17th||—||—|
|Barton (24)||University Farm||1||(2) early 17th||—||—|
|Gamlingay (59)||Merton Manor Farm||¾||(4) late 16th or early 17th||—||Merton|
|Gamlingay (60)||Dutter End||2½||—||11th–early 14th||Avenells|
Class B. Garden moats
|Class||Monument number||Location||Area of garden in acres||Associated standing monuments (giving monument numbers and dates in centuries)||Date (in centuries)|
|B||Childerley (4)||Childerley Hall||2½||(1) mid 16th||mid 16th|
|Croydon (14)||Croydon Wilds||2||(7) early 17th||early 17th|
|Dry Drayton (13)||E. of church||About ¾||—||? 16th or 17th|
|Eltisley (17)||E. and S. of church||About 4||(2) 1612||c. 1612|
|Great Eversden (21)||Manor Farm||2||(11) c. 1600||c. 1600|
|Haslingfield (34)||Haslingfield Hall||2||(2) mid 16th & later||? early to mid 17th|
|Longstowe (13)||Longstowe Hall||About ¼||(2) 16th||early to mid 19th|
|Class||Monument number||Location||Area of moat in acres||Pottery finds (dates in centuries)||Equivalent manor|
|Unclassified||Barrington (41)||S. of Green||Under ¾||—||—|
|?A||Childerley (8)||Childerley Gate||About 1½||—||—|
|?A||Comberton (47)||Birdlines Manor Farm||Unknown||—||Burdelys|
|?A||Croydon (9)||S.W. of church||Unknown||—||Holpotts|
|?A||Croydon (11)||Manor House||Unknown||—||—|
|?A||Great Eversden (19)||Adjoining Full Brook||About 2||13th||—|
|?A||Longstowe (14)||S. of cross roads||About ¼||—||—|
|Unclassified||Tadlow (8)||Bridge Farm||Unknown||—||—|
A number of moats are listed as unclassified owing to the destruction of the site or to their indeterminate
The cultivation remains in the area, none of which is pre-mediaeval, can be classified into four groups:
ridge and furrow of the open fields, ridge and furrow in 'old enclosures', strip lynchets, and post-enclosure
ridge and furrow.
Ridge and furrow of the open fields
Most parishes show, either on the ground or on air photographs, much of their pre-enclosure openfield lay-out including traces of ridge and furrow. The lay-out at Caldecote and Eltisley is almost complete,
and is visible on air photographs; much of that at Wimpole is traceable on the ground, and there are also
extensive remains at Caxton and Bourn.
Every existing parish appears to have had an open-field system as did the former parishes of Clopton,
Whitwell and Malton; the hamlet of Woodbury in Gamlingay also seems to have had its own open-field
system. The number of fields in each parish varied considerably and changes in lay-out and organisation
took place throughout the mediaeval and later periods. This and other aspects of Cambridgeshire open
fields have been discussed in a recent thesis. (fn. 10) All the open-field ridge and furrow in the area appears to
have been of the usual type, with straight and curving furlongs abutting each other, and it is perhaps
significant that this arrangement seems once to have covered the whole area of most parishes. There is
probably very little land which has not been cultivated at some time. At Wimpole in one of the few parts
of the parish which was not cultivated in 1638, the Ree Pasture, ridge and furrow indicates that it was
Variously dated maps showing the open fields of Boxworth, Caldecote, Eltisley, Gamlingay, Grantchester, Lolworth, Orwell, Toft and Wimpole have survived, as well as partial or complete terriers of
Barrington, Coton and Croydon. These make it clear that in W. Cambridgeshire the ridges on the ground
represent 'lands' or 'selions', but 'strips' on the other hand were holdings of one person, often having
more than one ridge.
There are few steep hills in the area, and the lay-out of the furlongs and the orientation of the ridges
and furrows bear little relation to the slopes, which are usually under 5 degrees. In those places where the
gradient is more than 5 degrees, notably on the chalk-marl and boulder-clay scarps, the ridges usually
run up and down the slopes; where furlongs are adjacent to water courses, the ridges are normally at
right angles to the banks. The field evidence suggests that in some places the orientation of ridge and
furrow is connected with drainage.
The shape of the furlongs varies considerably. Furlongs with straight ridges are usually rectangular or
approximately so, but furlongs with curving ridges can be of almost any shape, particularly triangular.
The size of the furlongs is also variable; it is related to the width and length of the ridges and their number,
but the available space afforded by adjacent features must have been a determining factor. The majority of
ridges are flat-topped and less than 1 ft. high, but others are rounded. The generally low height and
flattish profile is in sharp contrast to the high rounded ridges of some of the Midland clay areas where
the heavier soil has presumably retained the form imposed on it by the plough.
The majority of the open-field ridge and furrow in the area is between 7 yds. and 9 yds. wide; the
narrowest is 3 yds. wide at Caxton, and the widest 15 yds. at Grantchester. It is not uncommon for the
width of ridges within a furlong to vary. Typically there are 5 to 10 ridges of perhaps 6 yds. width, and
then 5 to 10 ridges of 11 yds. width. Occasionally there is a single wide ridge within a furlong of narrower
ridges. The variation of width of ridges does not appear to be connected with slope, shape of furlong,
or soil. (fn. 11) It is perhaps best explained as the result of different occupation over a long period of time when a
man might find it more convenient to plough either one ridge as two, or two ridges as one. There is some
confirmation for this at Lolworth where, in an area shown as open field on the 1841 Tithe map, variations
in the width of ridges appear to coincide with holdings. This particular example is post-mediaeval.
The traditional length for a ridge is the linear furlong or furrow length of 220 yds., but this is rarely
found and the length varies according to the shapes of the furlongs. Most are between 140 and 260 yds.
long but longer and shorter ones occur in the area; at Papworth St. Agnes there is a block just over
550 yds. long probably as a result of combining four former furlongs lying end to end. Other long ridges
are similarly explicable; at Boxworth a block, now destroyed, had a double reversed-S shape, which was
explained on an air photograph as an underlying headland at the junction of two former furlongs. (fn. 12) Ridges
vary in shape; the majority are curved in a C-shape to a greater or lesser extent although a considerable
number are straight. Reversed-S ridges occur but no S-curved ridges have been found.
Headlands are not universal in the open-field ridge and furrow and they do not normally occur where
one furlong abuts against another; presumably the plough was turned on the ridges of the adjacent
furlong. Furlongs lying end to end are often separated by headlands; they are flat or slightly rounded
raised areas less than 1 ft. high and 7 yds. to 11 yds. wide, on to which the ridges run out. In Wimpole a
7-yd. headland overlies a block of reversed-S ridges 10 yds. inside the original headland which itself was
11 yds. wide; two periods of ploughing can be inferred.
The headlands were also used as access ways and in most places, where ridge and furrow remains in
quantity, the two are indistinguishable. Where separate access ways through the ridge and furrow do
exist, these are usually 20 ft. to 30 ft. wide and slightly hollowed and may be lanes leading from one
village to the next. In Wimpole, where extensive ridge and furrow remains, there are no access ways to
be seen on the ground, nor does the 1638 map show any. Access ways were called 'havens' in Boxworth
and 'haydens' in Eltisley.
On two dated maps showing open-field lay-out, Wimpole (1638) and Grantchester (1666), there are a
number of strips of land, between the arable open-field strips, which are marked as 'balks'. In addition,
in an Elizabethan survey of Coton (fn. 13) a number of 'balks' are described between strips. Nothing remains of
these balks on the ground in Coton or Grantchester, but in Wimpole a few can still be seen near the South
Avenue around N.G. TL 33654985; they appear to be indistinguishable from the adjacent ridges. W. J.
Corbett said of those at Coton 'the balks... seem to be comparable with the "selion" or "land" in size ...',
and the balks shown on the Grantchester map also appear to be of the same size as the ridges. It seems,
therefore that the term 'balk', in these three parishes, was used for a ridge, once ploughed, which was out
of use at the time of the relevant survey. There are also two features called 'balks' which are strip lynchets.
In Barrington a massive tree-covered strip lynchet is called 'Balk Plantation', and in Orwell a former strip
lynchet, used as an access way, was called 'Sloe Croft Balk'. Both were divisions between furlongs. There
is no evidence in the area for unploughed upstanding turf 'balks' dividing individual strips in the open
fields, even on the lighter chalk soils, (fn. 14) but they occur at Gamlingay in a post-enclosure context. (fn. 15)
Many features associated with open-field ridge and furrow, such as banks and ponds, are difficult to
interpret without an open-field map. At Wimpole on the W. side of the South Avenue a mound 40 yds.
long, 15 yds. wide, rounded and 1½ ft. high, on to which ridge and furrow runs, is shown on the 1638 map
as a grass-covered area apparently used as an abnormally wide headland. Irregularities of this nature,
inexplicable in the absence of an open-field map, may be the result of random laying out of the field
Ridge and furrow in 'old enclosures'
Ridge and furrow occurs in many fields which are described on enclosure and other maps as 'old
enclosures', i.e. land which had been enclosed into fields prior to general enclosure. These 'old enclosures'
are generally thought to be post-mediaeval, (fn. 16) but this dating is open to question. They can be divided into
(a) Those lying immediately around villages. They are survivals of mediaeval paddocks or closes, and
rarely have ridge and furrow in them.
(b) Those lying close to villages but within the area of the former open fields, and sometimes covering
large areas of the parish. They appear to be largely the result of piecemeal enclosure of one or more of the
open-field furlongs which have been surrounded by hedges and brought into unified occupation. The
resulting fields retain the original irregular shapes and curved boundaries, and fit in with the surrounding
open fields which they often adjoin. This type of 'old enclosure' can be seen in most parishes, but particularly well in the N.W. part of Caxton which was enclosed before 1750 and possibly contemporaneously
with the making of the moat at Caxton Pastures, Caxton (22). These enclosures were separate from the
rest of the parish which still had its three open fields. There are also good examples at Graveley and
Eltisley. In terms of field remains, the ridge and furrow in these 'old enclosures' is similar in height, width
and length of ridges, and also in the shapes and sizes of furlongs, to open-field ridge and furrow. There is,
however, one distinction: since the plough was confined to an enclosed field it could not run on over the
ridges in adjacent furlongs and, as a result, headlands were formed within the field boundary. These
headlands are always flat-topped or slightly rounded, 7 yds. to 11 yds. wide, and up to 1 ft. high.
(c) Those lying close to parish boundaries, e.g. in Conington. They are usually small rectangular fields
and have, or had, ridge and furrow which fits the fields exactly and has headlands at the ends of the ridges.
Often the adjacent open-field ridge and furrow appears to be secondary to the 'old enclosures' which
were probably taken in from former waste or pasture at a comparatively early date.
All the 'old enclosures' described so far may be enclosures for arable, but there is at least one example
of enclosure for pasture in the area. In Eltisley, S.E. of Pond Farm, an 'old enclosure', which from its
shape must have been taken from the open fields to the E., has normal ridge and furrow in it. The N. end
of the ridge and furrow has been truncated by the field boundary and there is neither a headland nor room
for the plough to turn. It is clear that this 'old enclosure' could not have been ploughed after it was
Strip lynchets, the formation of which is due to ploughing steep slopes along the contours, are rare.
There is a set in Hill Plantation, Barrington, and there was formerly an isolated example to the W. A strip
lynchet survives in Balk Plantation, also in Barrington. Three other strip lynchets, one called 'Sloe Croft
Balk', formerly existed in the N.E. of Orwell, two in Great Eversden and one in Haslingfield. Another
remains at Woodbury in Gamlingay. Though there is no ridge and furrow to be seen on the surface
round any of them, air photographs show that all, except the one at Gamlingay, were part of the usual
open-field lay-out. Elsewhere steeper slopes have been ploughed across the contours to form normal ridge
Post-enclosure ridge and furrow
Little post-enclosure ridge and furrow can be seen on the ground, but much that has been destroyed
is visible on air photographs. In parts of the contiguous parishes of Croydon, Arrington, East Hatley and
Tadlow, there are rectangular fields, formerly covered with ridge and furrow which fit the field boundaries
making a pattern unlike that of the open field. These rectangular fields are rarely more than 30 acres in
area and usually considerably less. The ridge and furrow usually runs down the slopes. The height of the
ridges is 6 ins. or less, the width is consistently 7 yds. to 9 yds., and the length varies between 150 yds.
and 470 yds. Most of the ridges are straight or very slightly curved, but two in Clopton are reversed-S.
There are no access ways and, in contrast to open-field ridge and furrow, headlands always occur.
This type of ridge and furrow appears to be confined to a small group of parishes in the S.W. of the
area where the mediaeval open fields were totally or partially enclosed at an early date, and at least by
1750. At Clopton enclosure, which took place around 1500, is known to have been to provide pasture
for sheep and in the late 18th century the district was known as the 'Dairies'. (fn. 17) In a few places the outline
of the old furlongs seems to have survived in the post-enclosure boundaries, and the orientation of those
fields which are parallel to the river Rhee is probably ancient (see Tadlow parish introduction and parish
Among other earthworks in the area are a number of unknown date and purpose. They include the
'Asparagus Beds' at Caxton Moats, Caxton (19), the pillow mounds at Clopton, Croydon (18), and the
only substantial linear earthwork in the area, Childerley Dyke, Childerley (6). This last is probably
connected with emparking and an Anglo-Saxon or earlier origin is unlikely.
Scratching (2) on 3rd pier of N. arcade