In the early 970s
Beorhtnoth, ealdorman of Essex, presided over
a hearing at Fen Ditton, at which the priest
Leofstan was judged to have failed to have
transferred to Beorhtnoth 1 hide of land at
Horningsea. (fn. 50) After the decision had been promulgated at Cambridge, Leofstan was 'driven
out'. In the late 13th century the judicial rights
of the bishop of Ely, effective at his manorial
court in Fen Ditton, included view of frankpledge, the assizes of bread and of ale, and privilege of gallows. (fn. 51) In 1636 the greater part of the
rights of Fen Ditton's manorial lordship had not
been exercised for many years. (fn. 52) Court books
survive for Fen Ditton with Horningsea manor
from 1684 to 1922. (fn. 53) The court met annually,
and the business was largely tenurial. Orders
relating to fences, drains, and cutting timber
were made between 1701 and 1710; and pinders
and fenreeves were appointed during those
years. Inhabitants who failed to clean the watercourses were fined. Copyhold tenants had the
right to cut timber to repair their carts and
ploughs. (fn. 54) In the early 1700s court orders sought
to control the movement of cattle between the
pastures of Fen Ditton and Horningsea parishes,
and limited the number of cattle who grazed on
the fenland. In 1710 the court appointed two
haywards for Fen Ditton, and three for
Horningsea. (fn. 55) Pinders were still being appointed
for Fen Ditton in 1761 and for Horningsea in
1775; the last record of court orders was in
1768. (fn. 56) In the late 18th and 19th centuries the
manorial court played a less active role in the
management of the landscape of both parishes.
From the 17th century the churchwardens and
overseers managed the town lands and the almshouse. A possible guildhall stands north-west of
Ditton Hall. It is a three-bayed, two-storeyed,
timber-framed building with later weatherboarding. Probably 16th-century in origin, it was
later altered to serve as a barn but the quality of
the original carpentry and the former first-floor
entrance suggests a different original use. (fn. 57) Since
c. 1897 the owners of Fen Ditton Hall have been
responsible for its upkeep.
Between 1816 and 1820 expenditure on the
poor fluctuated between £287 and £454. (fn. 58) Fen
Ditton was part of Chesterton poor-law union
1836-94, and lay within Chesterton rural district
between 1894 and 1974. (fn. 59) Proposals to include
the parish within the city's jurisdiction in 1967
were not implemented, and since 1974 it has been
within South Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 60)
Liber Elien. (Camd. 3rd. ser. xcii), p. 108.
Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 431; C.U.L. Add. MS.
6980, f. 9.
||C.R.O., L 75/57.
||Ibid. 132/M 26-36; R 59/14/25/1a-b.
||Ibid. 132/M 26, ff. 46-7, 49, 59v., 62v.-3, 65v.-67, 73 and v., 78v.-79.
||Ibid. 132/M 28, pp. 17-19, 75-8.
||Ibid. 132/T 383; Camb. Chron. 7 Apr. 1855, p. 7.
||R.C.H.M. Cambs. ii. 56.
Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 10-11; 1822-4, 37-8;
1825-9, 15-16; 1830-4, 15-16.
||Youngs, Guide, 49.
Camb. Evening News, 18 July 1967.