Girton (Gretone)

The largest medieval estate in Girton was that of Ramsey Abbey, derived from gifts of the rich layman Godric in 992 and of Athelric bishop of Dorchester 1016-34. In 1086 Ramsey manor comprised 8½ hides.

Abbot Aldwin 1091-1102, 1107-12, gave it to Hervey the monk, but his successor Abbot Reynold recovered it in 1114. Abbot Bernard, 1002-07 had meanwhile repulsed claims by Pain Peverel, the new overlord of another Girton manor. Girton remained henceforth until the dissolution a demesne manor of the manor of the abbey, being reckoned in 1279 at 6½ hides. The income from it was partly devoted from the mid 12th century to clothing the monks. There was apparently no manor house, although under Henry 1 the abbey’s lessee was required to build next to his own dwelling a house in which the abbot could honourably reside when he visited Girton.

In 1543 the Crown sold the manor, along with land in Girton attached to Barnwells priorys Moor Barns grange in Madingley.

In 1086, when the overall value of the vill had fallen since 1066 by almost half to £9, Ramsey Abbey had a third of its manor, 2 out of 6 ploughlands, in demense, the rest being occupied by 7 villani and 6 bordars. On the other two manors over half the land, 3 of 5½ ploughlands, was in demesne, and they had only 3 villani between them, although there were 14 bordars and cottors. The three manors had only 3 demesne plough teams. Ramsey had 2 servi to drive its one team, and 6 peasant teams.

In the 13th century the demesnes still accounted for almost half the arable. About 1240 Ramsey Abbey was said to have half its 8 hides in demesne.

From the mid 12th century to the late 13th the Ramsey tenants were formally heavily burdened with customary works. Each half yardland owed works every Monday, Wednesday and Friday throughout the year, the Friday being assigned except during harvest, to ploughing ½ acre.

In 1279 the abbey had sixteen 30 acre yardlands held in villeinage, divided among 3 yardlands, 24 half yardlands and 3 cotmen with 10 acres each, besides nine ½ acre crofters. Its only large freehold was a yardland granted by Abbot Reynold (1113-31) to Robert of Girton, then lessee of the manor.

In the early 13th century the Ramsey Manor was usually at farm to local men. Although its demesne was probably in hand c1240 when the contents of a days work was specified in detail, from the 1280’s it was regularly let for a rent, including £2 for the annual tollage, this remained unchanged at £30 from then to the 1410’s and was cut to £25 after the 1440’s. Although ostensibly let to a single farmer in the 1490’s, the demesne was apparently occupied in the early 16th century by the tenants as a group.

In the early 12th century Ramsey Abbey had a demesne flock of 100-120 sheep. In the 1490’s separate folds were kept for its manor and called the Knights fee.

A windmill belonging to the customary tenants owed suit in 1356, was leased by Ramsey Abbey between the 1280’s and the 1370’s, but was not recorded after 1400. It presumably stood near Church field on the rising ground South of the village, where the mill hill and mill way were recorded in the 17th century.

Ramsey Abbey had by 1260 set up a gallows and long withdrawn tenants from the sheriffs town. The Abbey claimed in 1279, and successfully in 1299, to have infangenethef by a charter of Edward the Confessor, and view of frankpledge with the assize of bread and ale through a general confirmation of King John.

Medieval court rolls survive only for the Ramsey manor, covering 37 years between 1290 and 1517. Besides handling tenurial and agrarian business, they regularly fined ale-wives and ale-tasters and enforced the rules of tithings. Until the 1420’s they heard minor civil pleas and in the 1490’s chose constables. In 1495 men were forbidden to quit court before the jurys verdict had been given, and in 1493 copyholders insulting the jurors or disputing their verdicts and bylaws were threatened with forfeiture.

The church which has always remained a rectory, although at first some incumbents were styled vicars, belonged from the 12th century to Ramsey Abbey, with which its advowson remained until the dissolution. The Abbey granted turns to present in 1466 to Sir John Cheyney of Long Stanton, and c1530 to Henry Wright of ‘Barkstead’, who exercised them respectively in the 1490’s and in 1558. In 1543 the Crown conveyed the advowson to John Hinde with the Ramsey Manor.

The glebe derived from a 20 acre yardland and croft with which Ramsey Abbey had endowed the church in 1135.

In the 15th century Ramsey Abbey usually chose as rectors graduates in cannon law, some later eminent, such as John Booth, rector 1454-5, later the Kings secretary and a bishop.

The Domesday Book of 1086, states that the agrarian holdings of Ramsey Abbey stood at 8 hides and 3 virgates, valued at £8, and rose to £10 in 1140 and 1160, £12 in 1201 and £20 in 1212. (Ref 25)