Elsworth

Elsworth Map c1790 click to see larger imageElsworth wood stands near a source to the brook, in 1086 Ramsey Abbey had a grove adequate for repairs to its manorial buildings.  Under the charter of 1251 Ramsey Abbey and its successors enjoyed free warren over the parish, and in the 14th century a warrener was appointed.

The main village began to shrink from the late 14th century, although Ramsey Abbey could still let some newly built cottages in the 1390's.  Athelstan Mannesson (d 986) included Elsworth among the estates that he gave, subject to the life interest of his widow, possibly Leofgifu, to the newly founded Abbey at Ramsey.  The widow persuaded by her kinsmen, required the monks in 987 to leave Elsworth entirely to her, releasing in return her claims to the other lands.  Nevertheless Aelfwaru (d 1007), probably Athelstans daughter, gave the Abbey the Eastern part of Elsworth with the church. 

About 1020 King Cnut confiscated the Western half and gave it to Thorkell, a Danish commander.  After his second wife had murdered his young son, probably at Elsworth, Thorkell was obliged, having sworn to her innocence, to surrender that half to Athelric, bishop of Dorchester 1016-34, who assigned it to Ramsey Abbey.  The Abbey possessed 9 of the 10 hides in the vill in 1066 and 1086.  Ramsey Abbey retained Elsworth as a demesne manor until the Dissolution.

From the early 12th century Elsworth was required to render to the convent a two week food farm, perhaps four times a year.  That farm mostly commuted for 17 in cash from the early 13th century, was, after the manor was taken in hand, paid to the cellarer by the reeve until after 1350.  In the 13th century some land had been sub-infeudated by the Abbey, partly for Knight service.

By exchange with Gilbert of Eu, son of Guy, Abbot Reynold had by 1129 recovered 3 yardlands probably so granted.  Abbot Walter (1133-60) gave 5 yardlands to his kinsmen and clients.  In the 13th century the Abbey brought  much freehold land.  About 1230 it acquired 2 yardlands from William of Elsworth, whose family removed to Connington, and in 1249 another 20 acres from John of Elsworth.  In the 1270's it purchased 1 yardland held by or under the Conningtons.

The Elsworth manor was surrendered to the crown in 1539.

Ramsey Abbey's manor house probably stood among 12 acres of closes North of Brook Street, inside a rectangular moated site, 40 yards long.  In the 14th century the buildings included a hall, parlour and kitchen, and a chapel glazed by 1395, licensed by the bishop in 1254.

Freehold of 2 and 4 yardlands granted by Ramsey Abbey before 1200 for doing suit on its behalf to counties and hundreds, was held in the 13th and early 14th century by the Beeston and Graves families.

Ramsey Abbey had a windmill by the 1240's, probably in hand, by 1300 it was let to a miller, who paid his rent in kind until c1400.  Later it was let for terms of years at a rent cut from 2 in 1402 to 8s in 1437.  When it was burnt down in c1450 the abbey did not have it rebuilt.  It had presumably stood on the Milnhill mentioned in 1458, perhaps on the rising ground North of the village called old Mill field in 1800.

In the 13th century Ramsey Abbey claimed view of frankpledge, the assize of bread and of ale, the use of gallows and tumbrel, and, under a charter of Edward the Confessor, infangenethef.  The view and the assize, regularly exercised, were allowed in 1299 under a confirmatory charter of 1200, which also exempted the abbey from suit to counties and hundreds, but required that the Kings hundred bailiff might attend at the view.  The bailiff and his deputy were regularly rewarded until the late 15th century.  In 1291 Edward 1 formally granted the abbey the amercements of its men which it already received by custom.  By 1350 it took fugitives goods.  In 1437 one man was amerced for suing other tenants outside the Lords court, another for having a brewer presented at the sheriffs town.

In 1493 a villager was heavily fined for suing others in the hundred and the archdeacons courts, contrary to the orders made at the leet.

The Abbeys court, for which rolls survive for just over 100 separate years between 1278 and 1532, usually met twice a year in the 14th century, the leet being held at the beginning of winter, a court baron, which yields less profit, during harvest.  The later was not held in 1381, because of the revolt, and was frequently omitted in the 15th century.

Besides enforcing agricultural bylaws, recorded as being made with the assent of the whole community occasionally from the mid 14th century , and regularly by the mid 15th, it dealt with pleas of debt and trespass and cases of assault, bloodshed and slander, frequently in the 14th century, rather less often by the 1450's.  As late as 1527 the court had a plea of trespass put to the arbitration of prominent villagers.

Tithings from, which troublemakers were sometimes expelled, were still having boys of 12 sworn into them in c1530.  Aletasters were regularly appointed from the late 13th century.  Since the courts regularly tried to make alewives sell at very low price, the tasters were frequently amerced from c1310, for not doing their duty.

Regraters of ale were also fined from c1400.  In 1493 the court accused the alehouse keeper of harbouring a gang of dicers, and ordered that a harlot, a scandalmonger (FABULATREX), and a supposed leper quit the parish.  Constables, usually in pairs, were occasionally elected in the mid 14th century.  In the 15th century the court often named two or more men, from whom the steward chose a reeve, or later a bedell or rent collector.  By the mid 15th century the leet, usually held annually about Michaelmas, was more concerned with the tenants interests than with the lords.  Their mostly routine business included breaches of farming bylaws, keeping ditches and watercourses scoured, and the upkeep of highways.  In 1532 all those owning carts were ordered to bring two labourers and two loads of stone to repair the roads.

About 1180 Ramsey Abbey had promised to St Ives priory the whole crop of 5 acres instead of demesne tithes.  Elsworth had a church by 1000 AD whose advowson, then given to Ramsey Abbey, remained with it throughout the middle ages.  In the early 1180's  the abbey assigned Elsworth church reserving only its demesne tithes, to its dependant priory at St Ives, but the priory's interest was commuted c1220 for a 10 mark pension, still payable in the 1530's.

The first recorded rector c1180, Master Matthew, presumably a graduate, probably left the parish in the care of Manfred the priest, who had the house there.  Later Ramsey Abbey usually chose as rectors, other university trained, well connected clerks, after pluralists and absentees.

The patronage of Elsworth church was assigned to Ramsey Abbey, which nominated chaplains until the early 16th century.

BEDELL:- University name for a BEADLE

LEET:- Selected list of candidates for OFFICE

In 1540 the churchwardens held of Ramsey Abbey a guild hall, possibly the town house sold for the Crown in 1572.

The Domesday book in 1086, shows the agrarian holdings for the abbey in 1066 as 9 hides, 1 virgate.  (Ref 25)

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