The Manor of Holywell

Historical notes about the Manor of Holywell, Huntingdonshire, England, UK


Ramsey Abbey Arms

The Armorial Bearings of the Abbot of Ramsey.

The Armorial Bearings of the Abbot of Ramsey.

Domesday Holywell - Land of St Benedict of Ramsey

In HOLYWELL the Abbot of Ramsey had 9 hides to the geld. [There is] land for 9 ploughs, and [he had] land for 2 ploughs in demesne apart from the foresaid hides. There are now 2 ploughs in demesne; and 26 villans and 3 bordars having 6 ploughs. There is a church and a priest, and 30 acres of meadow, woodland pasture 1 league long and  4 furlongs and 1 league broad, [and] as marsh 1 league long and 1 broad. TRE, as now, worth £8. Alweald has 1 hide of this land of the abbot, and has 1 plough there, and 3 bordars. It is worth 10s.

(Note: Demesne - Land retained by the Lord of the Manor for his own use and TRE - Tempora Regis Eduardis - In the time of King Edward the Confessor.)

HOLYWELL and NEEDINGWORTH seem at one time to have been distinct holdings. Holywell was given to the monks of Ramsey by Alfwara, who died in 1007 and was buried at Ramsey; the church and the land held with it were added by Gode, the priest of Holywell, on his death. Needingworth is said to have been bought from King Edgar by St. Oswald (c. 969) in order to bestow it on Ramsey Abbey, but realising its distance from the abbey, Oswald exchanged it with the king for Kingston or Wistow. Needingworth may have been part of the lands in Slepe bestowed on the abbey by Aethelstan Manneson and confirmed by Edgar in 974, and may have been the 9 carucates of land in Holywell which later are said to have been given to the abbey by Aethelstan Manneson. Needingworth is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), but was no doubt included in the 9 hides in Holywell held by Ramsey Abbey. One of these hides was held by Aluuold, who was possibly the forerunner of the owners of Moyne's Hall, for the holding of Berengar le Moyne in Holywell and Needingworth was in 1252 assessed at one hide. It was apparently bought with Barnwell St. Andrew (co. Northants.) under the name of Needingworth by Abbot William de Godmanchester on behalf of the abbey in 1276.

In 1252 the holding of the abbot in Holywell and Needingworth was only eight and a half hides and half a virgate, but this excluded the half hide and half virgate which the Prior of St. Ives held at Needingworth; possibly these are represented by the presentday 'Priory.' Berengar Le Moyne did suit at Broughton court. The prior's tenants should have appeared at the abbot's leet, but he withdrew them. The demesne lands were scattered through many fields, and the hay from the fen-land was of such importance that the manor was occasionally styled Holywell with Holywell Fen. The value of the manor during the 15th and 16th centuries was between £48 and £78. The abbey cellarer also had a fee in Needingworth, and the abbot's bondmen paid fines in kind, e.g. two capons, if they removed to that land.

When the abbey was suppressed in 1539, considerable parts of the land were in lease to Thomas Peche, who had succeeded Robert Emmotts as tenant of the demesne lands, and also leased the Hoo and certain meadow land. The abbot's stewards still held the courts, for which the profits in the year after the suppression amounted to the considerable sum of £4 12s. The fishery, with the weir of 'Ovyr Coote,' was rented by the Kynge family, who also occupied 'le Pondeyard.'

In 1545 the crown appointed Richard Brandon as bailiff and collector. The manor was assigned with St. Ives to the Princess, afterwards Queen Elizabeth, who in 1577 granted a reversionary lease of the site from 1599 when Emmott's lease terminated, to her physician Richard Master. The manorial rights were purchased from the crown with those of St. Ives by Henry Earl of Manchester in 1628. The manor remained with his descendants, lords of Kimbolton Castle, until about 1877. It was then acquired by Robert Sandifer, who occupied the manor house. It was put up for auction in 1888, but withdrawn, and then passed to Mrs. John Watts, who was lady of the manor in 1890. It afterwards came to John Watts, who died in 1918, aged 90, and from him to the present lord, Mr. Edmund L. Watts.