The History of Kimbolton and Stonely in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Kimbolton and Stonely in Cambridgehsire.

The Parish of Kimbolton and Stonely

The parish of Kimbolton, of which the area is 5,140 acres, including 17 acres of inland water, comprises the town or village of Kimbolton and the hamlets of Stonely, to the east, and Wornditch, 0.5 mile to the west. Newtown in the north and Over Stow, adjoining Long Stow, also represent old hamlets; while the site of the 14th-century district of Werkwell (Wertwell, Qwertwell) is now unknown.

Kimbolton stands on the Bedfordshire border and the jurisdiction of its lords has always extended into that county. It gave its name to a hundred in 1086.

The soil and subsoil are Oxford Clay, but chalk is found and there is gravel in the Kym valley. The land is mostly pasture, and the district was formerly noted for its shorthorns. There is, however, a fair amount of arable land, which in 1279 amounted to 700 acres, a considerable quantity for that date. Kimbolton has always been a woodland district, and in 1086 there was woodland for pannage a league square. From the grove called 'la haie' Richard Russell, who had custody of Kimbolton from 1178 to 1185, took 222 oaks for building a court and chamber in Leicestershire.  'La Haye' or 'Heywode,' containing 200 acres, belonged to the manor in 1275–9. In the next century there is mention of 'Lythlehay' (now Littless Wood) in Stonely between the park called Brythamwyk (Brihtelmewick, xii-xiii cent.; Brykhamwyke, xvi cent.; Brycknell, Brightholme, xvii cent.) in the lord's demesne and Lyminge (now Lymage) Wood in Great Staughton. A keeper of this park and of Hyghwode wood (now represented by Highpark Farm) was appointed in 1544. The park was parcel of the castle demesnes in 1610, and in 1615 was conveyed to Sir Henry Montagu. Dudney (Dudenhey) Wood, on the east side of the parish, is mentioned in the 13th century, and was perhaps one of the three groves belonging to the Earl of Hereford in 1301. In 1544 Stonely Priory was recorded to have held four groves of wood in Kimbolton. There were two foresters among the 'burgenses and cottars' of Kimbolton in 1279.

The River Kym, which before it enters the western boundary of the parish is known as the River Til, flows south-east through the middle of the parish and town. The land adjoining it is about 100 ft. above the Ordnance datum and rises to just under 250 ft. on the northern boundary and to just over 200 ft. on the southern boundary. The chief hills are Honeyhill (Honyhill, xvi cent.), Hungry Hill, Over Hills and Warren Hill.

The "town" of Kimbolton

The 'town' of Kimbolton is 2.25 miles from Kimbolton station on the London Midland and Scottish Railway. It lies along the road from Higham Ferrers to St. Neots in the valley of the Kym, which skirts its north-east side. As occurs in so many market towns, the main road has been diverted so as to pass through the High Street and Market Place in order to collect the tolls from passengers and merchandise. The street leading south-west from the line of the main road is called George Lane, after the George Hotel, a good 17th-century house, at the end of the lane, which has been converted into an hotel. The High Street, which carries the main road through the town, is a fine wide road with a footpath on either side marked off by posts, and having the arched gateway of the back entrance to the castle precincts at one end and the church at the other. The Market Place probably adjoined the churchyard and extended as far as might be necessary along the broad High Street. Here probably stood the cross to which there is reference in 1487, and here was the Market Hall, a wooden building on pillars, the site of which is marked by a flat stone. The houses on both sides of the street are timber-framed buildings of the 17th century or brick buildings of the 18th century, many of them converted from private houses into shops or inns and remodelled to adapt them to their new uses. On the north-east side a good 16th-century house with 17th-century additions has been divided and converted into an inn and a shop, and the White Horse Hotel has a stone at the back bearing the date 1640. The remainder of the houses on this side of the street are of the 17th century and later, as also are those on the opposite side. In the vicarage garden, south-west of the church, are the remains of a moat. At the church the street curves back to the line of the main high road. Parallel to the High Street on the north-east is East Street, which has some 17th-century houses much altered and remodelled in the 18th century and later. A house towards the north-west has a painted sundial.

Although we have reference in 1279 to the burgesses and cottars of Kimbolton and of burgage land, and in the wills of the 15th and 16th centuries we find references to 'burgages,' there does not seem to be any other evidence of a borough with its court and other appurtenances. The lord had a market, view of frankpledge, gallows, pillory and tumbril. The villeins of the manor held at the will of the lord, paid aid and made redemption of flesh and blood for their sons and daughters. The market town evidently grew up under the shadow of the castle and continued an important place until the 19th century, when it ceased to be a market town about 1890, and now has a decreasing population. So far as we know, the first market was held under the charter granted by King John in 1200 to Geoffrey Fitz Piers, Earl of Essex, whereby a market was to be held on Friday and a yearly fair for three days on the eve of St. Andrew's Day and the two following days. In 1441 the Earl of Buckingham was granted two fairs—namely, on Tuesday and Wednesday in Easter week and on 2 and 3 July. When Kimbolton was bestowed on Sir Richard Wingfield in 1522 he received a grant of the market on Friday and a yearly fair on old St. Andrew's Day (11 Dec.); the following year he was granted a yearly fair on St. Mary Magdalen's Day (22 July). The market was discontinued about 1890. Four fairs are now held yearly, three for toys on Friday in Easter week, Friday in Whitsun week and the Friday after old Michaelmas Day respectively, the fourth on 11 December, called Tandry Fair (St. Andrew's Fair, held on old St. Andrew's Day), while a statute fair for hiring servants is held on 21 September or the nearest Wednesday. Lacemaking was carried on early in the 19th century.

The Hamlet of Wornditch

About a mile westward along the high road leading from the village is the hamlet of Wornditch, with Wornditch Farm, a 16th-century brick and stone house with a part of timber framing, remodelled in the 17th century, and Wornditch Hall, which from early in the 18th century was the residence of the Day family. Thomas Day, who died in 1775, left his property here and at Spaldwick to his eldest son Thomas, with reversion under certain conditions to a younger son John. Thomas married late in life, leaving a son Thomas, whose paternity was disputed by his uncle John. Two lawsuits followed in 1784 and 1797, at both of which the paternity of the younger Thomas was confirmed. In 1801, however, to save further litigation, Thomas conveyed Wornditch to his cousin John, son of John Day, but retained his property at Spaldwick. From John Day Wornditch passed to his descendants, who sold it to Charles Robert Wade-Gery about 1900. His widow lived there until her death about 20 years later, when it was sold to Mr. Reuben Llewellyn Farley, the present owner.

Ilfield, apparently in Wornditch, is mentioned in the 14th and 15th centuries.

Warren House, about half a mile south-east of the village, is a square building with a porch on the southwest front, over which is a gable. It was built in the 17th century from 16th-century material brought from the old castle.

The Hamlet of Stonely

The hamlet of Stonely is about three-quarters of a mile south-east of the town of Kimbolton and to the east of Kimbolton Park. Along Hatchet Lane here are some 17th-century timber-framed cottages. The site, in Easton Road occupied by Priory Cottage, of the Augustinian priory dedicated to the Blessed Virgin is now marked by portions of the moat which surrounded it and the remains of some masonry in a little building on the site. In 1582 it was stated that a chapel called 'Our Ladie Chapple' sometime stood near the late priory, which would probably be the church of the priory. A way called 'Saynte Marye Waye' led from the chapel to Perry; it lay along a highway until it came to Lady Grove, then entered the Prior's Pasture, and through this pasture to Perry Green and Perry; the way through the Prior's Pasture was first 'dyched' in Sir Oliver Leder's time. An investigation of 1591 as to the lands of the priory in Overstow, Wornditch and Newtown mentions a Great Pasture in Overstow on the north side of Fylmans (Fillman, Feldman) Waye, Longbreach Furlong north of the way by the Upper Pasture called Beggerums, Ridds Way, Overshortlands, Nethershortlands, Yardes Endes, Goodwinsellhill, Badwinsellhill, Fernellhill and other field-names.

There were meeting-houses at Kimbolton and Wornditch in 1672. The vicar, Philip Nye, who died in that year, organised an Independent church here before 1643, when he was summoned to the Westminster Assembly of Divines.

John Martin (1741–1820) was Baptist minister here towards the end of the 18th century. A Moravian chapel was built in 1823, a dissenting chapel was registered for marriages in 1839, and a Baptist and Independent chapel in 1854.

The endowed Grammar School was founded in 1600 by Henry Bayle, a fuller, and William Dawson, a baker, of Kimbolton. Being dilapidated, it was demolished in 1874, and a larger school was constructed in 1877 on the Tilbrook road. The Council School dates from 1838. There was an almshouse before 1500, apparently in the High Street near the church, and buildings were erected for the poor in 1701 adjoining the south-west corner of the churchyard, but were pulled down in 1877, when houses were built in the Grass Yard at the opposite corner of the churchyard for four women. Mandeville Hall (1914), on the Thrapston road, was raised in memory of Louise, Duchess of Devonshire, previously Duchess of Manchester.

In 1279 there was a windmill at Newtown, perhaps the windmill, etc., described as in Kimbolton, Great Staughton, Overstowe and Netherstowe sold to Sir John Popham in 1607 by Sir Anthony Mildmay, Sir Richard Wingfield, Sir Francis Popham, Sir Robert Wingfield, Sir Thomas Wingfield, Robert Throckmorton and John Pickering.

There was an inclosure of 1,038 acres in Kimbolton, the award for which is dated 1769, and also an inclosure of 748 acres at Wornditch, the award for which is dated 1795.

Victoria County History  - Huntingdonshire Published in 1932