Knapwell (Chenepwelle)

Eadnoth (Junior), bishop of Dorchester 1034-49, bought the main estate and gave or left it to Ramsey Abbey, which had 5 hides at Knapwell in 1066 and 1086. The abbey retained Knapwell manor in demesne until its surrender in 1539. About 1270 it had bought ½ yardland given to Tiltey Abbey (Essex), probably by Robert son of Aubrey of Knapwell (c 1200).

In the middle ages Ramsey Abbey manorial farmstead stood opposite the church, North of the lane to Boxworth, there were still buildings there c1775 and irregular earthworks survived in 1983.

The land probably 1½ hides, held by 4 sokemen in 1086, was perhaps represented in 1279 by 1 hide held freely of the abbey, including two fees. One was probably the hide held in c1200-40 by the bishop family, and by 1270 divided between the doheirs of Molton in Orwell. Half was bought by Ramsey Abbey in 1275.

In 1086 Ramsey Abbey demesne included only 1½ of the 8 hides and furnished only 2 of the teams needed for its 8 ploughlands.

After the Black Death (1348-50), when several tenements were left in the lords hands, including 6 half yardlands in 1364, the abbey commuted most of the labour services. All the smaller holdings were put at rent by 1360, as were 10 half yardlands, although 6 continued to owe labour services until after 1400, when the abbey retained boonworks for sheepshearing, haymaking, and harvesting. By 1408 all such services, except one harvest boon, had been commuted.

Ramsey kept no cattle at Knapwell except for its plough teams. Its enclosed pastures, there, recorded from the 1290’s, presumably fed beasts from Elsworth.

The abbeys arable farming, however, sometimes made a small cash loss even before 1350, while after 1350 the increase in the rates of staff wages matched that at Elsworth. Ramsey Abbey enjoyed the same franchises, including view of frankpledge, at Knapwell as at Elsworth. In the late 13th and 14th century its jurisdiction over Knapwell was exercised at a court held for both manors, Knapwell contributed 6 of the 18 jurors.

Knapwell had a church by the 1180’s, when Ramsey Abbey temporarily granted it to St Ives Priory (Hunts). The advowson remained with the abbey until the Dissolution.

In the late 12th century abbots of Ramsey gave a little land, including a site for the parsonage house. In 1279 the rector had besides that house only a croft and 2 acres held for rent. The living was worth only £4 in 1254, when the abbey took £2 worth of tithes, and £10 in the late 13th century, and was taxed on only £6 – 18s in 1535. (Ref25)