The history of Godmanchester, in the county of Huntingdon, England

In submitting the History of Godmanchester to the consideration of the Public, the Author is aware of the rashness with which he may be accused, in having endeavored to give to a local history an interest beyond the precincts of the place to which it relates. In the announcement of this publication, he observed, that there is "no department of English Literature more interesting or more defective than local Topography. It embraces within its sphere not only the origin and decay of cities and towns, but local customs, which render us familiar with the institutions and habits of our forefathers. It wrests from the abyss of time those incidents which through all succeeding ages might otherwise be forgotten, and puts upon record, events which gave origin to establishments and sciences, productive of, and essentially connected with, the present state and best interests of the kingdom. General Topography, comprehensive and varied in its nature, as well as difficult in elucidation, can give but a brief survey, as a map portray s but the sites and distances of places; and it is only where particular Histories or Descriptions of Towns have been written, that satisfactory knowledge can be obtained with respect to them. The scattered fragments of information diffused through antient and modern writers, constitute the materials of which connected Histories are formed, wherein the general reader, at but a trifling sacrifice of time and labour, may become thoroughly acquainted with the place of his birth, locality, or the internal antient and present state of his country. No History of the Town of Godmanchester has ever yet been published. Its antiquity as a probable British Settlement— its importance as a Roman Station, — and subsequent Danish Encampment, — its peculiarities in Tenure, as Antient Demesne, — its celebrity for Agriculture, — and its connection with the drainage of the county of Huntingdon and the navigation of the River Ouse, have hitherto been only incidentally alluded to and never fully demonstrated. These defects the Author has endeavored to remedy, by a laborious investigation into every circumstance immediately or remotely connected with the Town, and confidently hopes that to the Historian, Antiquarian, and general Reader, his work wiU prove an interesting specimen of local Topography, on a scale sufficiently extensive to comprehend all matters of importance incidental to his subject."

How far these objects have been attained it is for the public to judge. He may perhaps be charged with having been too minute or too diffuse in describing events which are purely local, and that the essential matter of the work might have been compressed within the limits of a few pages; a plan generally adopted in topographical descriptions. Such objections can only obtain with those who are wholly indifferent to the history of our country; and, to the enquiring mind, these imputed faults will constitute whatever merit the work possesses. Some apology may be considered due for the multitude of Notes inserted in the course of the work; but, as the duty of the Historian is to record facts, and to connect or apply them in time and place to useful purposes, no position has been advanced without stating the authority on which it was founded. It must be conceded, that books are written for the instruction of those who are in pursuit of information, not those who are familiar with the subjects they illustrate: clearness and precision ought not therefore to be considered presumptive; and the free use of notes has been adopted, to disencumber the text as much as possible from the authorities quoted, and illustrations thought necessary.

The various occupations of Godmanchester, and its institutions as a corporate town, have enabled the Author, by the freedom and fidelity with which they have been investigated and discussed, to make its History a comparative textbook relative to Parochial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities. He has not hesitated to avail himself of information from whatever source it could be derived, from books, from records, or from men. In the two former instances he has invariably acknowledged the sources from whence it has been extracted; but in the latter, his obligations have been too numerous to admit of individual enumeration. To E. Martin, of Godmanchester, H. T. Barratt, of Huntingdon, and J. Fox, of Old Jewry, London, Esquires, he feels himself especially bound, to whom, and to all who have proffered or rendered him assistance, in the course of his enquiries, he re- turns his sincere acknowledgments. To his Printer, Mr. Taylor, he also feels particularly obliged, for the care with which the work has been printed, much of which was required from the varieties of orthography contained in the quotations, in many instances occurring even in the same document. — Lastly, to the Patrons of his work, the Author returns his respectful thanks, and trusts that on perusing "The History of Godmanchester," they will not consider their patronage has been bestowed in vain.


Table of Contents

Introductory Chapter — Antient Britons, their mode of living, religion, and government. — Conquered by the Romans. — Their ineffectual revolts. — State of Britain under Vespasian and Domitian. — The Britons harassed by the Picts and Scots — assisted by the Saxons, subdued by them, and the sovereignty of the Saxons established. — Irruptions of the Danes. — Their usurpation of the kingdom 1

The Durolipons of the Romans. — Authorities and argument — Erection and occupations of Huntingdon Castle 17

Godmanchester a Danish station. — State of England a.d. 875. — Contentions between the Saxons and Danes. — Guthrum, a Danish Chief, overpowers Alfred. — Alfred repossesses the kingdom, and enters into alliance with Guthrum, who is baptized, and appointed to the Vice-Royalty of Ekist-Anglia and Northumbrian — Danish Settlement at Godmanchester. — Death of Guthrum 42

Record of Domesday. — Compilation of Domesday-book. — Extract from, relative to Godmanchester. — Explanation 57

Municipal History to a.d. 1213. — Various Names of God- manchester. — The Manor granted in Fee-farm. — Dissertation on Antient Demesne Lands, and Fee-farm Rents. — Peculiarities of Tenure. — Surrenders and Seisins. — Descent of Property in Burgage-tenure or Borough English 70

Municipal History continued from a. d. 1213 to a. d. 1604. — Charter of John. — Inspeximuses of Edward 1st, Edward 3d, and Richard 2d. — Grant of Felons Goods and Freedom from customary Tolls. — Charter of Richard 2d, and Confirmation. — Inspeximuses of Henry 4th, 5th, and 6th, Edward 4th, Henry 7th and 8th, Edward 6th, Mary and Elizabeth: their illustration. — Grant of the Fee-farm Rent to Edmund Plantagenet, first Earl of Lancaster. — Earls and Dukes of Lancaster: creation of the Dutchy: its annexation to, and separation from, the Crown. — Grant of the Fee-farm Rent to Edward Montague, first Earl of Sandwich. — Manorial Courts 96

Municipal History continued from a. d. 1604 to a. d. 1831. — Charter of James 1st. — Creation of the Borough and present Corporation. — Authorities under the Charter. — Surrender of the Charter to Charles 2d. — Charter of James 2d. — Restoration of the Charter of James 1st, by Royal proclamation. — List of High Stewards, Recorders, and Bailiffs 133

Navigation and Drainage. — Rise and course of the River Ouse; its antient Navigation obstructed by the erection of Mills, in the reign of Edward 1st, at Houghton, Hemingford, and Hartford. — Inquests and Litigations relative thereto. — Decree of the Dutchy Court in 1515 confirmed in 1524, originating the jurisdiction of the Men of Godmanchester over the Waters during Floods; confirmed by a Commission of Sewers in 1591, and sub- sequent Acts of Parliament — Method of Navigating in 1467. — Navigation undertaken by Arnold Spencer, 3d of Charles 1st transferred by Act of Parliament to Sir Humphrey Bennet, Knight, and others, (16th and 17th of Charles 2d, cap. xii.) - Vested in Henry Ashley in 1689: his Lease with the Corporation of Godmanchester. — Ashley procures a new Act of Parliament in 1719. — (6th George 1st, cap. xxix.) Navigation extended to Bed- ford and Shefford. — Present defective state of the Navigation 180

Ecclesiastical History. — The Church of Godmanchester presented by Edgar to the Abbey of Ramsey — by Stephen, to the Priory of Merton. — Institution of the Vicarage. — Pope Nicholas's Survey. — Inquisitions of Ninths. — First Fruits and Tenths; their appropriations. — Valor Ecelesiasticus of Henry 8th. — Antient custom of Tithing. — Origin of Chauntries and Guilds; impropriation of their Revenues. — List of Vicars, Curates, and Chaplains 223

The Church. — Style of Building, Assistants' Seats, Rood Loft, South Porch, Record Chamber. — Epitaphs and Monumental Inscriptions. — Tower and Steeple. — Ramsey Abbey, Hinchingbrook Nunnery, and Huntingdon Priory 287

Miscellaneous. — Agriculture the chief employment in Godmanchester. — Royal Progresses, Population, Poors' Rates, Charities, Free Schools. — Court Hall. — Antient Road and Causeway to Huntingdon. — The present Road 319

Biographical — William of Godmanchester, Abbot of Ramsey. — Stephen Marshal, the Smectymnian 374


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The early History of Nations is, for the most part, traditional, and obscured by fable; and in no instance is this general proposition more exemplified than in that of our own country: we will therefore take but a cursory view of those circumstances which led to its names and colonizations, as far as regard the object of this work. It is supposed to have been called Albion from a king of that name, who is recorded to have reigned here, a. m. 2220; or Alpion, from the word Alp, which, in some of the original western languages, signified high lands or hills; or from the white cliffs which present themselves on approaching our shores from the Continent. By the Romans, even before Caesar's time, it was called Britannia, which name, it is conjectured, was given to it by strangers from the coasts of Gaul and Germany, who, trafficking here, called the inhabitants Briths, from the custom among them of painting their bodies and small shields with an azure blue, which colur was by them called Brith. The Romans, extending their conquests to, and establishing their colonies in Gaul, soon became acquainted with our Island, and Romanized its name, by adding to it a Latin termination, as was their usual custom, wherever their conquests or commerce extended, as is exemplified in Mauritania, Lusitania, Aquitania, &c.; hence we have the compound word Britannia.