(O.S. 6 ins. aTL 36 N.E., bTL 36 S.W., cTL 36 S.E., dTL 35 N.W.,
eTL 35 N.E.)
The mediaeval parishes of Great and Little Childerley,
not differentiated at Domesday, were united about 1489.
Even their combined area, 1069 acres, is smaller than all
but three of the other parishes treated in this volume.
The land, averaging about 200 ft. above O.D., drains
N. towards the fen; boulder clay is the predominating
Little Childerley, probably never a large village, may
well have decayed before the end of the 15th century.
Great Childerley was depopulated by the fifth Sir John
Cutt, during the reign of Charles I, in order to enlarge
his deer park. A private chapel, apparently built in the
previous reign, replaced the two parish churches, the
incomes of which were diverted in spite of protests
from the ecclesiastical authorities. Apart from the
occupants of Childerley Hall (Monument (1)) and of
one or two estate cottages the parish is without inhabitants.
Mediaeval and later earthworks in the parish include
the two village sites (Monuments (2) and (3)).
c(1) Childerley Hall, comprising a house and chapel,
is set in parkland between the sites of the two former
villages of Great and Little Childerley (Monuments (2)
and (3)). Described by Cole (B.M. Add. MS. 5819,28)
as 'one of the most absolute and compleate seats if not
the best of the whole shire', it must have been reduced
in size subsequently.
The property was acquired by Sir John Cutt in the
reign of Henry VII. His male descendants, who bore the
same name and title for the next five generations, continued to own it and often resided there, especially after
the sale about the end of the 16th century of Horham
Hall in Essex, the earlier family seat. Charles I was confined by Cromwell at Childerley Hall one night in
June 1647; the principal room on the upper floor, which
he is said to have occupied, is called after him. Its
elaborate painted decoration (Plate 72) had probably
been executed after the fourth Sir John Cutt's second
marriage, to Margaret Brockett, and before 1615 when
he died. The fourth Sir John may also have built the
chapel (Plate 76), which was said to have been consecrated
by Bishop Heaton 1600–1609 (see Archbishop Laud's
account of his province for the year 1639 in History of
the Troubles and Tryal of William Laud (1695), 560–1).
The Cutt family sold the property at the end of the 17th
century to the Calverts who continued in possession
until after 1850.
The House, consisting of a brick-faced two-storeyed E. and
W. range, is of the mid 16th century, but was remodelled by
General Calvert in 1850 when the original brickwork was
grouted over and covered with bastard tucking, considerable
additions made especially to the N. and E., and the interior
including the painted chamber refurbished. The new work was
in Tudor idiom with dressings in Roman cement. Drawings by
Relhan (C.A.S. Library) give some idea of the appearance of
the house and the painted chamber early in the century.
The detailing of the principal elevation, S. to the garden and
moat, is of the mid 19th century, although the walling generally is old. Two exterior chimneys, with stacks rebuilt on the
original lines, divide it into a central and two side lengths. The
E. chimney has a stack with three square flues, the outside ones
diagonally set; the W. chimney has two flues, one octagonal,
the other cylindrical with net ornament formed by intersecting
cables; planted against the W. chimney is an irregular bay or
oriel of full height. The E. length incorporates the main staircase block and has a single-storey porch; both are probably
original features, though the porch may have lost an upper
chamber. The rest of the exterior is almost entirely of the mid
19th century, except that the Victorian surface has flaked off
an area of the main N. wall towards the W. end revealing
some original diaper.
The interior has a ground-floor hall slightly curtailed on the
W., and having a centrally placed chimney in the S. side;
Relhan shows an added oriel between the chimney and a front
door at the W. end of the wall, but both these features have
been suppressed. The hall ceiling is divided into eight panels
by intersecting roll-moulded beams and has an 18th-century
enriched marble fireplace surround with flanking Ionic
columns of giallo antico and central frieze panel carved with a
relief of Bacchus and Ariadne. N. of the hall the 19th-century
staircase hall, lit by a tall window divided by a mullion and
transom into four lights with vertical tracery in a four-centred
head, houses a light stair of two flights in line, having turned
balusters, moulded rail and cut string.
E. of the hall is the old staircase hall, of square plan, with solid
treads winding around a brick newel to the first floor; above
this point a boarded continuation gives access to the roof by an
old doorway with continuous chamfered jambs and four-centred head. The drawing room, W. of the hall, retains no
early features. The entry from the stair hall has a boldly
moulded, mid 19th-century, wooden door-case with attached
shafts rising to a stilted segmental head. The white marble
fireplace surround, of the late 18th or early 19th century, has
side pilasters carved with ox heads and pendants, and lintel
The room over the hall, called by Cole 'King Charles's
Chamber', has a cambered ceiling divided into 36 panels by
intersecting moulded beams, and the E., N. and W. walls are
lined with old wainscot; all are painted, but the painting of the
ceiling panels is of c. 1850 and the wainscot painting was
evidently restored and in part completely repainted at the
same time. The three walls are uniformly decorated with
antique work in early 17th-century style, the end walls with a
single large panel and the long N. wall with three similar
panels in elaborate borders beneath a tall frieze. The panels
(Plate 72), executed in what are now sombre tones, feature
symmetrical compositions of dogs and monkeys against a free
arabesque of foliage, flowers and fruit. The borders are festooned with fruit, much in the manner of the main panels,
between narrow bands of geometrical ornament. The frieze, in
a somewhat more stilted style than the rest, has continuous
strapwork relieved by terminal and other figures and interspersed with birds, beasts and conventional foliage. Repainted
coats of arms over the fireplace and in the frieze at either end
of the room include allusions to the fourth Sir John Cutt and
Margaret Brockett his second wife; the superimposed arms of
Calvert in the central wainscot panel on the N. side no doubt
refer to General Calvert who restored the house in the mid
19th century. The 18th-century white marble fireplace surround, not shown by Relhan, has an eared architrave with side
pendants and cherub heads; the frieze is decorated with acanthus trail and central mask.
W. of 'King Charles's Chamber' a second room, now
divided up, has a ceiling divided into six panels by intersecting
moulded beams; this ceiling also is cambered to a slight pitch.
Childerley Hall, the Chapel
The Chapel (Plate 76), 35 yds. W.S.W. of the house, with a
small turret-like wing on the N. and a gallery in the last half
bay, of brick with tiled roofs, is of the early 17th century; it
seems never to have been the parish church. After years of
desecration it was repaired in the mid 19th century. Only the
E. end is now retained for worship; the remainder, at one time
a smoking room for the gentlemen of the hall, and then a
cottage, is now derelict.
The E. window of seven lights (Relhan shows six) and the
W. window of four lights, both with vertical tracery in four-centred heads, have dressings covered with 19th-century
stucco; one or both have probably been wrongly restored.
The E. door, set in an area of rebuilt brickwork, is modern and
modern buttresses have been added on the S. side. The N. wall
of the N. wing retains two original clunch windows, the upper
now in a gable: each is of two elliptical-headed lights in a
square outer head, and the lower has a horizontal label or
cornice. Jambs of a doorway, now blocked, are visible below
a later W. window.
The original roof of the chapel, apparently divided into five
half bays by alternate tie-beam and collar-beam trusses, has
been modified and is partly ceiled in. The ties and collars are
moulded, the ties having elaborate shaped and jewelled stops.
Few fittings survive: a small bell (unexamined) is housed in
the apex of the E. gable; a loose bowl of veined white marble
may be that of a miniature 17th-century font.
c(2) Deserted Mediaeval Village (around N.G. TL 358614,
ponds only on O.S.) consists of (a) to (d) hollow-ways, (e) a
cobbled street, (f) church site, (g) manor house site, (h) to (n)
house or building sites, (o) fish ponds, and (p) quarries.
Childerley, Monuments 2 and 4
The remains are probably those of Great Childerley, which
was depopulated by the fifth Sir John Cutt in the reign of
Charles I. They lie to the E. and S.E. of the Hall, for the most
part in a triangular area bounded to the N.W. and E. by
streams which unite at the N. tip of the triangle. The land is
highest in the centre, about 170 ft. above O.D., and slopes
towards the streams; most of it is pasture but some house sites
as well as the cobbled street (e) beyond the stream on the
N.W. appear to have been ploughed up. The remains are
variously orientated; most of them follow the E.N.E. and
W.S.W. main street with variations either way of some 20°.
In the following description the street is treated as if it ran E.
and W., and cardinal points have been used throughout as far
as possible to simplify description.
(a), the main street, survives as a hollow-way 40 ft. to 60 ft.
wide, running E. and W. for 800 ft. in continuation of a farm
track from the Hall and dying out 50 ft. from the E. stream.
It is 20 ft. to 25 ft. wide across the bottom and 1 ft. to 1½ ft.
deep but narrows to 30ft. at the E. end after intersecting with (d).
(b), S.W. of (a), encloses a roughly rectangular area on three
sides. It is generally 25 ft. to 30 ft. wide and 2 ft. to 3 ft. deep.
Two branches, only traceable for 30 ft., run to the E. Hollowway (b) finally joins (a), but 50 ft. from its N. end a third
branch, 25 ft. wide and 9 ins. deep, runs E. for 160 ft. and
then curves N. to join (a).
(c), to the S. of (b), is a pair of hollow-ways running S. and
S.E. from an open area some 50 ft. across: the first is 160 ft.
long, 30 ft. to 40 ft. wide, 2 ft. deep and 20 ft. to 30 ft. across
the bottom; the second is slighter.
(d), in the shape of a T with its foot to the N., intersects with
(a). To the N. of (a) it is 25 ft. wide, 1 ft. to 1½ ft. deep, and
10 ft. to 15 ft. across the bottom; to the S. of (a) it is a shelf
30 ft. to 50 ft. wide with scarps 2½ ft. high on the W. and 9 ins.
to 1 ft. high on the E. The cross bar of the T runs W. from the
E. stream; it is 30 ft. wide with a scarp 2½ ft. high on the N.;
the scarps to the S. are slighter.
(e), in the ploughed area on the far bank of the N.W. stream,
immediately W. of the junction with the E. stream, is an E.
and W. belt of cobbles 20 ft. to 30 ft. wide which probably
marks the line of another street.
(f), the reputed church site, is an irregular platform, roughly
120 ft. square and 2½ ft. high on the S. and E., with a W. spur
of about 100 ft. at its S.W. corner. Some masonry is said to
have been still standing in the early 19th century (F. A. Walker,
Some account of the parishes of Childerley (1879)).
(g), probably the manor house site, is a rectangular area
265 ft. N. to S. by 180 ft. E. to W., limited to the E. and S. by
(b). The N. and W. sides are formed by an irregular ditch 30 ft.
wide, 2 ft. to 3 ft. deep, partly filled on the W. where another
ditch, 35 ft. wide and 2 ft. deep, crosses it. A causeway 10 ft.
wide crosses the W. side near its centre. The irregular interior
has a rectangular building platform in the S.E. angle, 100 ft.
N. to S. by 50 ft. E. to W. and 2 ft. to 3 ft. high. Along the
N. half of the W. side of this platform is a ditch 15 ft. wide and
2½ ft. deep; the S. half has a later pond 30 ft. wide and 4 ft. deep.
(h), house or building site E. of the foregoing, is a platform
defined by scarps 2 ft. to 3½ ft. high on the E., S., and N.W.,
a bank 15 ft. wide and 9 ins. to 1 ft. high on the N.W., and a
scarp 9 ins. high on the W. A later pond, 2 ft. deep, cuts into
the S.E. corner.
(i), house or building site S. of (g), is marked by scarps,
9 ins. to 1½ ft. high, on all sides but the W.N.W.
(j), house or building site, is bounded by (a) and a branch
from (b); it is bisected by a ditch 15 ft. wide and 9 ins. deep.
(k), house or building site N. of (a) and immediately E. of
the modern farm buildings, is a rectangular depression 100 ft.
E. to W. by 30 ft. N. to S., 9 ins. to 1½ ft. deep and divided
into two by a W. scarp 6 ins. high, 45 ft. from the W. end.
Excavations by J. Alexander in 1962 produced, among other
finds, pottery of Saxo-Norman type; there were no indications
of occupation after the 14th century.
(l), (m) and (n), three house or building sites N. of the N.W.
stream, each consisting of an irregular area of cobbles 30 ft. or
40 ft. across; the area in which they are placed is separated by
a curving bank 600 ft. long, visible as a belt of cobbles 10 ft.
to 15 ft. wide, from N. to S. ridge and furrow. Excavations
by J. Alexander in 1961 (D.M.V. Research Group, 9th Annual
Report (n.d.), 9), revealed two cobbled areas, perhaps yards,
and produced Romano-British pottery as well as sherds from
the 11th to the 14th centuries; ploughing and bull-dozing had
left very little stratified material.
(o), fish ponds, set in pairs at the W. corner of the village site
and to the E. of the moated site (Monument (4)). The ponds,
which are much overgrown, are roughly rectangular and 2 ft.
to 3 ft. deep.
(p), seven irregular scarps or quarries, 3 ft. to 4 ft. deep with
boggy interiors, lie to the S. of the village site and N. of the
stream, cutting remains of ridge and furrow.
c(3) Village Remains (around N.G. TL 353617, not on O.S.).
Earthworks, probably remains of the village of Little Childerley, standing on a level site of boulder clay 200 ft. above O.D.
and 300 yds. N.W. of Childerley Hall, were completely destroyed by ploughing between 1955 and 1959; only oblique
air photographs give any idea of their appearance. There was a
straight E. and W. track about 900 ft. long and 20 ft. to 30 ft.
wide with a continuous line of rectangular platforms on either
side and ridge and furrow running up to their outer sides;
ploughing is said to have revealed a wide cobbled strip, probably the street. Sherds of the 11th to 13th centuries occur on
c(4) Moated Site (Class B; N.G. TL 356615), on the S. slope
of a shallow open valley along which a small stream once
flowed to the E.; it is clearly not defensive but represents a
formal garden probably contemporary with the Tudor house.
The N. side of the moat, which is rectangular, 300 ft. E. to
W. by 250 ft. N. to S., is formed by the terrace in front of the
Hall (Monument (1)); the other sides consist of a bank 32 ft.
wide, 4 ft. to 5 ft. high and 7 ft. to 12 ft. across the flat top,
within a V-shaped ditch 20 ft. to 35 ft. wide and 6 ft. to 8 ft.
deep. The W. bank acts as a dam for the large irregular pond
to the W., and the stream now flows around the S. and E.
sides. At the two S. angles are circular prospect mounds
14 ft. to 18 ft. in diameter and 2½ ft. to 3 ft. higher than the
bank on which they stand, making them 9 ft. higher than the
interior. The interior is flat except for a scarp facing N. 1½ ft.
high S. of the centre.
b(5) Embanked Pond (N.G. TL 349615), now drained, in
Wood Walk Spinney, 200 ft. above O.D., consists of an area
100 ft. square, N. and S. of the stream which flows E. to the
ponds near the Hall, with enclosing banks 20 ft. wide and 3 ft.
high on the outside, and 4 ft. to 5 ft. above the interior. The
interior was wet in 1808 (estate map 1808, C.U.L.).
b(6) Linear Earthwork (N.G. TL 349622–349615), perhaps
most likely to be connected with emparking in Tudor or
Stuart times. A park pale is marked along its line on a map of
Boxworth of 1650 (Hunts. R.O.). The site is towards the E.
edge of a ridge covered with boulder clay, level to the W. and
falling gently towards the Hall on the E. with a slight rise to
220 ft. above O.D. near the centre of the line of the earthwork.
The remains consist of a bank and ditch facing W. with a
slight counter-scarp bank, running N. from the embanked
pond in Wood Walk Spinney (Monument (5)) for 720 yds.
before ending on a modern hedge line. The dimensions vary
considerably but, where best preserved, the bank is 37 ft.
wide and 6 ft. high with a flat top 10 ft. wide; the ditch is 30 ft.
wide, 3 ft. deep and 6 ft. across the bottom; the outer bank is
10 ft. wide and 1½ ft. high. The only notable features are a
double bend of 30 ft. eastwards, 230 yds. from the S. end and
an entrance 60 ft. wide 200 yds. further N.; here the bank and
ditch have rounded ends with the N. side, partly destroyed by
ploughing, 30 ft. E. of the line of the S. stretch.
c(7) Dam (N.G. TL 361621, not on O.S.). The stream which
flows N. from the deserted village site (Monument (2)) was
formerly dammed 700 yds. N.E. of the Hall to form a triangular pond of 9¼ acres. This pond has been drained but the dam
remains: it runs N.W. and S.E. for 618 ft. and is 62 ft. wide
and 9 ft. high. On the inside, halfway down the slope, is a
ledge 13 ft. wide, above which are remains of a brick revetment. The stream now flows through a cut 30 ft. wide and
15 ft. deep in the centre of the dam: the pond had already been
drained by 1808 (estate map 1808, C.U.L.) when the interior
was called Fish Pond Pasture; it is now covered with trees.
c(8) Moated Site (N.G. TL 354598, not on O.S.). A ditched
enclosure formerly existed on flat clay land 100 yds. W. of
Childerley Gate and adjoining the Cambridge to St. Neots
road, 234 ft. above O.D. The E. side remains as a wet ditch
162 ft. long, 22 ft. wide and 1½ ft. deep to the water level and a
depression 30 ft. wide and 1 ft. deep marks the line of the N.
side. 19th-century maps (estate map 1808, C.U.L.; tithe map
1839, T.R.C.) show that it was an elongated rectangle with an
entrance in the centre of the N. side, measuring about 450 ft.
E. to W. by 160 ft. N. to S.
(9) Cultivation Remains. Ridge and furrow survives near
the Hall (e.g. around N.G. TL 357618, 354615 and 359615; not
on O.S.) but formerly existed over a larger area since ploughed.
The remains all have straight ridges 80 yds. to 280 yds. long,
7 yds. to 9 yds. wide, 6 ins. to 9 ins. high with headlands of
7 yds. to 9 yds. An access way 20 ft. wide and 6 ins. deep runs
N. and S. through the block around N.G. TL 354615. These
were probably all in old enclosures.
Traces on air photographs show a few blocks of both straight
and reversed-S ridge and furrow in Great Park and to the S.E.
of Monument (2). Curved field boundaries suggest that fields
were formed by enclosing open-field furlongs or blocks of
(Ref: estate maps of 1808 and 1817 (C.U.L.); tithe map of
1839 (T.R.C.); air photographs: 106G/UK/1490 3240–2,
3345–6; 106G/UK/1953/0098–100; St. Joseph, PH 08–74, XT 89.)