Higney Manor

Higney was an island in a detached part of the parish of Ramsey on the west side of Woodwalton parish.  The Manor of Walton, and the island 'which is called in English Higkeneia' was given to Ramsey Abbey in 1134 by Aubrey, widow of Eustace de Shelley, with the consent of her son Eustace, and her over-lord Walter de Bolebec. 

At this time there was a hermitage on the island where a hermit called Edwin lived with a servant.  He is mentioned in the life of Christina of Markyate, foundress of Warden Priory, whom he helped to escape from her parents in Huntingdon after a forced marriage.  She went on to be a famous anchorite and later Prioress of the house at Baddington in Bedfordshire, which was set up on the site of her hermitage.

Edwin figures in the foundation Charter of Sawtry, as the boundary of the Sawtry estates ran by the  boundary of the double ditched enclosure that surrounded his hermitage:-

"and so by all the hassocks on firm ground round Higney, by Denes Hutshites to the inner fosse of Edwin the hermit towards Higney, beyond which the same hermit made a swing bridge for he began an outer fosse in the fen of Sawtry because the shepherds wished to burn his house, but the men of Sawtry prevented him.  Bereger de Engaine permitted him to finish the outer fosse as far as Higney lode, and through the lode as far as Wibenstock upon Higney lode near the land, and so by every third hassock to Waltonholme".

It is assumed that the hermitage is on the site of Higney Grange near the boundary between Sawtry St Andrew and Higney, a distance of 1km and that Higney lode ran between it and Wiloweistoc-Willow Stumps-at the WSW corner of Higney near the Grange where Wood Walton, Higney and Sawtry meet.  It is likely that Edwin had become unpopular with his neighbours as a result of his territorial rights to the adjacent fen areas.  The ditched enclosure round his hermitage would have served the twin purposes of drainage and security, providing freedom from unwelcome visitors.    

 Aubrey de Shelley's sons later seized the lands granted, probably while Geoffrey de Mandeville occupied the Abbey in 1143.

Abbot William gained the land back for the Abbey, by marrying the widow of Aubrey's son, who held the Manor, to his brother Michael de Walton.  Then later Michael, son of Michael de Walton made agreements with Abbot Hugh of Ramsey in 1219.  Under these agreements Michael was to hold two caracutes of land in Walton of the Abbot, except Dermannesmere? and the island of Higney.  The Abbot also had total rights over the lands retained by Michael.  Apparently he exercised this right in 1229, when he assigned the lands to the use of the office of sacrist of the Abbey.

Higney remained with the Abbey until the Dissolution, when it was granted with Ramsey to Sir Richard Williams alias Cromwell.  In the 17th century Sir Oliver Cromwell sold it to the feoffees under the will of Sir Thomas Sutton for the endowment of King James's Hospital known as the Charterhouse London.  The Governors of Charterhouse held the property until 1918, when it was sold as Higney Grange ( 871.5 acres) and Higney Hundred or Lower Farm (114.5 acres) to Mr Thomas Roberts of Eye. 

No trace of either the hermitage or the monastic grange survive, although the present building on the site retains the same name.

Back