Graveley (Gravelei)

About 1120 Ramsey Abbey acquired a wood, partly assarted, which covered 8 acres in 1279. Oaks and ashes were being felled there in c1348. Still fenced in 1458 it had probably gone in 1558. It may have occupied Wood Close, by wood Green Lane, South West of the village.

An estate at Graveley was among the four that Athelstan Mannesson (died 986) left to the newly founded Ramsey Abbey after the death of his widow, perhaps the ‘matron’ Leofgifu to whom the abbey later ascribed the gift. In 1066 and 1086 Ramsey held all five hides in Graveley. During the disorders of the 1140’s Robert Foliat, lord if Old Warden (Beds) seized Graveley, but restored it to the abbey c1147 under pressure from Archbishop Theobald. Thereafter Graveley remained a Ramsey demesne manor until the dissolution, by the mid 12th century rendering, to the cellerer a full weeks food farm, mostly commuted for cash by the 1240’s. The abbot was granted free warren there in 1251.

Probably by 1150 the abbey had granted 4 yardlands to be held freely by two tenants, who did suit for the manor to counties and hundreds. Two yardlands held c1190 by knight service by Richard Bonington descended in his family until Richard Bonington, despoiled c1264 as a royalist by Nicholas Segrave, sold 80 acres to the abbey to redeem his own property.

The other 2 yardlands were held c1190 by Walter of Knill and in the 13th century by the Hall family, headed by Robert of Gravely. The Abbey acquired the reversion in the early 1340’s. Thenceforth until the mid 19th century the whole parish, outside of demense and glebe, was held as copyhold of Ramsey Abbey and its successor. The manor surrendered to the crown in 1539.


Manor House

Ramsey Abbey’s manor house included by 1250 a hall and chamber, by 1300 also a kitchen and a chapel, licensed in 1254. The house probably stood within the 14 acre Home Close East of the church.

In 1086 when half the 5 hides in Graveley were in demesne and yield of the vill had fallen by a quarter since 1066 to £6, Ramsey Abbey demesne had 4 servi and ploughteams, while the 8 villani who shared the rest with 8 bordars had five teams. By 1160 the area occupied by Ramseys tenants had increased to 32½ yardlands, the villein ones nominally of 20 acres.

The 4 or 5 yardlands purchased by the abbey from the 1270’s were not incorporated into the demense farm and by 1300 were rented separately. By 1300 the abbey let six yardlands; the other holdings remained until c1400 subject to labour services, besides ancient assize rents called monksgold, and renders to the cellerer, mostly commuted to cash by 1250.

Foddercorn in oats, and benesede in wheat were still exacted in kind until c1400. The latter probably replaced the 12th century tenants duty to plough and sow ½ an acre a year. Occasionally the whole vill refused the services demanded: the register of customs at Ramsey was consulted in 1291 on whether the villeins had to fetch millstones from St Ives at their own expense.



The abbeys flock of sheep, whose wool was usually sold from Ramsey, varied in size at shearing time between 170 and 265. In 1395, when 75 sheep died in a murrain, the abbey bought 120 to restore the number to 366 sheep. In 1381 tenants sheep numbering 80 were folded with the demesne flock.

The abbey did not find it easy after the Black Death to keep tenants on its customary land. Whereas before 1350 those holdings were inherited by primogenitive, after 1400 they were normally taken for life.

By the mid 12th century Ramsey Abbey was entitled at Graveley to view of frankpledge, infangenethef, and a gallows and tumbrel, and by the late 13th century also enjoyed partly by prescription, partly under charter of King John, the assize of bread and ale. Court rolls for the manor survive for 40 years between 1291 and 1525. The view of frankpledge, which required the presence of the King’s hundred bailiff, was usually held early in winter until c1350, thereafter until 1525 or later mostly in October. Until 1400 it was supplemented by a second second court in July.



In the middleages the courts were managed by 8, after 1350 12, chief pledges. In 1421 the court forbade tenants of the manor to implede one another elsewhere.

The court continued to handle minor pleas of dept and trespass and to present assaults and bloodshed until the 1460’s, when boys were still being sworn into tithings. Constables were frequently chosen by the courts between 1446 and c1690. Aletasters were regularly named between the 1290’s and the 1650’s. The assize of bread was being enforced c1500 upon visiting bakers from Godmanchester and St Ives (Hunts). Harvest wardens were named in the 14th century, and haywards c1400, to enforce the agrarian bylaws, enacted by the homage with the lords assent from c1400. by 1490 the court regularly required repairs to roads and the scouring of ditches.

The patronage of Graveley church belonged to Ramsey Abbey by the mid 12th century until the Dissolution. Presentations under grants from the abbey were made in1338, 1545 and 1568. In 1558 the advowson was given with the manor to Jesus College, Cambridge. The church which has remained a rectory, was endowed with all the tithes, although in the 14th century the rector may have received only 2 acres of oats for all Ramsey Abbeys demesne tithes. By 1190, as in 1279, the rector held in free alms 2 yardlands of arable.

The rectory was taxed at £10 in 1217 and 1291, but at only 12 marks in 1254. It was worth under 6 marks in the late 14th century and £13-2s-6d in 1535. In the 1470’s Ramsey Abbey began to present University men, including a subdean of Lincoln. The grant of the Halls estate to Ramsey Abbey in 1344 had involved assigning a house and 20 acres to support a chaplain to sing for their souls. (Ref 25)