(O.S. 6 ins. aTL 36 S.W., bTL 35 N.W.)
Knapwell parish, roughly triangular in shape, comprises
1236 acres, of boulder clay except for Kimmeridge clay
alongside the brook; this forms the E. boundary with
Boxworth, flowing N. at a height of between 200 ft.
and 100 ft. above O.D. The Cambridge to St. Neots road
is the boundary to the S. though there is a narrow enclave beyond the road, Knapwell Plantation, characteristic verge waste which seems to have been already privately owned in 1775 when the parliamentary enclosure
of the parish took place. The N. boundary reflects pre-existing fields.
The village, which according to Cole, quoted by
Reaney ('Place-names of Cambs.', 168), was also known
as 'Little Wellesworth', is eccentrically placed at the
extreme N. tip of the parish; in the middle ages it would
have been practically continuous with the manor of
Overhall (Boxworth (15)) which itself was quite close
to Boxworth. The parish boundary thus cuts rather
awkwardly across the settlement pattern.
Knapwell seems to have been a place of average
pretensions at least until the end of the 13th century.
It is now decayed and must already have been so in
the 18th century, when its church was ruinous. The
comparatively early enclosure is characteristic of these
circumstances. Vancouver, in 1794 (Ag. of Cambs. 120),
noted a number of improvements which had since been
effected including 'farmhouses and offices ... judiciously
erected'. He was referring presumably to buildings
such as Monuments (3) and (6). New Inn Farm (Monument (7)) belongs to the same period and points to a
movement of population on to the turnpike, a movement which, as with neighbouring villages along the
same road, was not maintained.
a(1) Parish Church of All Saints, standing on an
oblong platform sloping E., having lost its aisles c.
1785. Except for the West Tower it was rebuilt in 1866
to the designs of W. M. Fawcett.
Architectural Description—The unbuttressed West Tower
(8½ ft. square), of fieldstones and clunch with limestone dressings, consists of a tall basement and three other stages with a
parapet having an asymmetrically placed gargoyle to the N.
and to the S. The fabric is 14th-century, except for the E.
angles which were rebuilt with the present nave.
Knapwell, the Parish Church of All Saints
The W. windows and four others in the top stage have been
renewed except for the labels and their head stops. The tower
arch is of three continuous orders to the E. above a chamfered
base, the inner one moulded and the others chamfered; to the
W. it is of a single chamfered order. The stair turret is in the
S.W. corner and is lit by small rectangular lights; these and
somewhat larger rectangular lights in the intermediate stage
Fittings—Altar cloth: of white damask with repeat picture
of the siege of Lille, 1708, and Latin quotation from Joshua x, 12;
Flemish(?). Bell: one by R. Taylor, St. Neots, early 19th-century. Bell frame: old, with pits for three. Book: black-letter
bible, imperfect, said to be by Robert Barker, 1617. Brass
indent: at W. end of nave, fragment of ledger with indent for
small figure or prayer picture; late mediaeval. Communion
table: with turned legs and chip carving on top framing; early
17th-century. Font: octagonal limestone bowl with under edge
carved with beast's heads, foliage and paterae; 14th-century;
octagonal clunch stem with window forms carved on seven
sides, the eighth plain, and chamfered base, all perhaps later
mediaeval. Floor slabs: In nave—(1) of Charlotte Francis A.A.
Mayso, 1843; (2) Elizabeth, wife of John Smith, 1798; John
Smith, 1822; and Elizabeth, relict of John Smith, 1829; (3) of
Ellen Cozen, 1706 (date illegible but recorded by Cole, B.M.
Add. MS. 5808, 164). Plate: includes an inscribed cup, restored,
and a paten, both by Thomas Buttell and inscribed '1569'; a
paten by Thomas Maundy, mid 17th century; and a pewter
flagon, inscribed and dated '1676'. Miscellaneous: (1) clunch
window head, of two cinque-foiled lights and a quatrefoil;
(2) portion of clunch window jamb; both 14th- or 15th-century.
a(2) House, L-shaped, of one storey with attics, framed and
plastered, with thatched half-hipped roofs. The appearance
suggests a hall and cross wing but there is no evidence that the
main range was open and the building does not seem to be
earlier than 17th-century. The ground-floor room of the wing
has a chamfered cross beam with notched stops.
a(3) House and Barn. The House (Class T), two-storeyed,
of red brick with tiled roofs, has tumbled gables and is probably late 18th-century. The small Barn, also of brick, is coeval
with the house.
a(4) Manor Farm, mainly of two storeys with attics, started
as a 17th-century framed Class-J house but was cased, under-built and extended in red brick during the 18th century and
subsequently. The hipped and gabled roofs are tiled. Some
original timbers are exposed internally, and a little 17th-century run-through panelling has been reset in the middle
ground-floor room of the original house. There is also some
a(5) House, c. 1700, is two-storeyed and of mixed construction being framed and plastered except for a N. gable end in
red brick; this last has a shallow chimney projection rising to
a stack at the apex, a continuous dentilled cornice at eaves
level and a parapet with moulded kneelers. The roof is thatched
and half-hipped to the S. Inside is a reset 18th-century wooden
a(6) Knapwell Wood Farm (N.G. TL 333607) consists of a
house and buildings. The late 18th-century House, originally
L-shaped but now squared off and with added bays on the S.
front, is two-storeyed and of red brick with gabled and slated
roofs. Much of the original detail has been altered. Buildings to
the N. and E. of the house and contemporary with it include
two of brick.
Knapwell, Monument 10, Village Remains
a(7) New Inn Farm (N.G. TL 324603), presumably built as
an inn as the name implies, is late 18th-century; it is two-storeyed and of red brick with hipped slated roofs. The chimneys have been rebuilt and there are some additions at the rear.
The U-shaped plan has some distinctive special-purpose features such as the arrangement of the W. wing with parlour in
front and back room over a cellar. The panelled front door,
with blind semicircular fanlight, panelled architrave and hood,
and the oddly disposed sash windows of the front elevation,
are original. There are a few simple original internal fittings.
a(8) and (9) Houses (Class J), single-storeyed with attics,
framed and plastered, with thatched roofs, appear to be early
19th-century but may be older.
a(10) Village Remains (not on O.S.), on Kimmeridge
clay sloping gently E. to the stream which forms the
parish boundary with Boxworth.
The village plan is now one long street with a lane
running E. to the church. Scattered among existing
buildings and in a more irregular group near the church
are a number of building platforms and former closes;
some of the platforms coincide with buildings shown on
the enclosure map of 1775 or on 19th-century O.S.
maps. The site of the manor house, opposite the church
at N.G. TL 33556304, is marked only by scarps forming
no coherent pattern, though to the E. there is an irregular
flat area measuring 100 ft. by 45 ft.
Hollow-ways either side of the main street are as follows:
(a), W. of the road, at the N. end of the village, is some 540 ft.
long, 30 ft. wide, 15 ft. across the flat bottom, and 5 ft. deep.
(b), roughly parallel to the church lane and turning S.E. to
join it, is 900 ft. long, 80 ft. wide at the S.W. end but narrowing to 20 ft., and 1 ft. deep. Similar tracks run from it N.W.,
and S.E. to the manor house. (c), 32 ft. wide, 15 ft. across the
flat bottom and 4 ft. deep, branches W. from the main road
at N.G. TL 33386266; its line is continued by a footpath to
Elsworth. (d), Thoroughfare Lane, crosses the S. end of the
main street at N.G. TL 33356242; the length E. of the street
leading towards Childerley is 40 ft. to 60 ft. wide, 30 ft.
across the bottom and 3 ft. deep.
a(11) Mound (N.G. TL 33686316; Plate 2), perhaps a
small Norman motte, on the flat Kimmeridge clay floor of
the valley, 50 yds. W. of the stream. Finds made during an
unpublished excavation in 1929 include St. Neots ware from
2 ft. to 3 ft. below the surface of the mound (J. G. Hurst in
C.A.S. Procs. XLIX (1956), 53).
The mound is circular, 6 ft. high and 80 ft. in diameter with
a flat top 30 ft. to 40 ft. across. The wet ditch is 30 ft. wide on
the N.E. and 20 ft. wide on the S.W. and holds about 2½ ft. of
water. On the S.W. the ditch is crossed by a flat causeway 10
ft. wide which, in view of the cupped ends of the ditch on
either side, is probably original. On the N. and W. a bank
15 ft. wide and 1 ft. to 2½ ft. high may be remains of an outer
enclosure or merely a hedge bank separating the mound and
ditch from an area of ridge and furrow to the N.
Knapwell, Monument 11
a(12) Mound (N.G. TL 33486286), on the E. of the road
through the village, rounded, 50 ft. across and 3 ft. high; it
overlies the headland of a block of ridge and furrow, but is
cut by the existing hedge ditch.
(13) Cultivation Remains (not on O.S.). Ridge and furrow
with straight ridges 23 yds. to 230 yds. long, 4 yds. to 12 yds.
wide and 3 ins. to 9 ins. high with headlands of 7 yds. to 12 yds.
survives around the village behind the house sites in old closes
and to the S. of the parish around N.G. TL 323603; all are in old
enclosures. Slightly curving ridges 25 yds. to 170 yds. long,
9 yds. wide and 1 ft. high with headlands of 11 yds., being
parts of larger blocks visible on air photographs, remain near
Knapwell Wood Farm, around N.G. TL 331606. Traces of
curving furlongs can be seen on air photographs over much of
the remainder of the parish.
(Ref: enclosure map 1775 (C.R.O.); air photographs:
106 G/UK/1490/3237–41; 3346–50; St. Joseph SD97–100.)
Engraving on pewter flagon (⅓ full-size)