The manor of GREAT OR UPPER GRAVENHURST, otherwise TEWELSBURY, originated in the land held by the family of Tivill under Ramsey Abbey in Upper Gravenhurst. The overlordship continued vested in the abbey until 1266, when the abbot purchased the ownership in fee of Ralph Tivill, by which act the over- and under-lordships became merged. It so continued till the Dissolution, when the crown took the place of the abbey. (fn. 2)
Ralph de Tivill was holding land in the parish as early as 1212, when he acquired several acres from Joscelin de Stivecle. (fn. 3) He was also a tenant of the abbey of Ramsey, holding one-third of a hide from the abbey in the early part of the thirteenth century, and again in 1255; (fn. 4) this land the abbey took into its own keeping in 1264. (fn. 5) These lands were augmented by a virgate acquired by Ralph from Miles de Mentmore in 1232 at a yearly rent of a load of wheat and a load of barley. (fn. 6) In 1234 Ralph was granted a tenement in Gravenhurst by his uncle Hugh de Tivill. (fn. 7) These various lands were apparently sold under the name of the manor of Gravenhurst to the abbey of Ramsey in 1266 for 250 marks, (fn. 8) while lands held formerly by Walter de Holecot, parson, and Elena widow of Hugh de Tivill, were leased to the abbey by Ralph for ten years, or until the abbey should have received ten crops. (fn. 9)
The manor remained in the possession of the abbey until the Dissolution, when it was taken into the hands of the king. (fn. 10) The hamlet of Gravenhurst was leased out in 1318 by the abbey to Sir William de Herle and others, (fn. 11) and in 1452 the whole manor was let for £24 5s. 3½d. (fn. 12)
At the court held at the manor in the following year it was deemed that ‘the water running under the Waterend from the Redie by the Mone to the Millway was the Lord’s, and no one was to fish in it.’ (fn. 13) In 1535 the abbey’s possessions in Gravenhurst were worth £12, (fn. 14) and in 1540 the rent of the manor was £8 5s. 4d. (fn. 15) In 1542 the manor of Gravenhurst was granted by the crown to Sir Henry Grey of Wrest and his wife Ann, together with tenements called the Copyland in Gravenhurst about 18 acres in extent, in the tenure of William Maister, and the tenement called the Shrine, about 40 acres, also in the tenure of William Maister, both of which had formerly belonged to Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 16) The manor remained in the Grey family, whose descendant, Lord Lucas, holds it at the present day. (fn. 17) It followed from 1542 the same descent as that of the manor of Wrest in Silsoe in the parish of Flitton (q.v.).
Ramsey Abbey also owned in Upper Gravenhurst a capital messuage which was known after the Dissolution as the manor of SCHEPEHOO. It is first mentioned in 1212 as lying near land which belonged to Joscelin de Stivecle. (fn. 18) This family evidently held this capital messuage from the abbey, for a few years later, Walter, Joscelin’s son, was holding one-third of a hide from the abbey. (fn. 19) Joscelin’s widow Aline married James Wake, and on her death in 1254 her dower in Gravenhurst was inherited by Barnabas, son of Walter, who was then seventeen years old. (fn. 20) Barnabas died without leaving children, and the messuage passed to his sister Alice, who had married William le Coynte. William and Alice in 1260 bestowed 36 acres of land, 4 acres of meadow, and 26d. of rent upon the abbey of Ramsey, for which gift William and Alice and her heirs were to receive the prayers of the church. One acre of this land lay in the great culture called Schepehoobrade and pasture was also granted in the land which extended to the door of the capital messuage of Schephoo belonging to William and Alice and their heirs. (fn. 21)
Alice’s mother Joan, after the death of Walter de Stivecle, had married as her second husband William le Waleis, and in 1262 William le Coynte and Alice granted to Joan, her husband, and their issue, together with other lands, one third of the messuage of Schepehoo, (fn. 22) and between 1262 and 1267 the abbey of Ramsey leased to William le Waleis and Joan those lands which it had of the gift of William le Coynte and Alice. (fn. 23) Soon after this Joan granted 6 acres of land to the abbey, (fn. 24) and there is no further mention of Schepehoo until the Dissolution, when it was granted under the name of the manor of Schepehoo to Sir Henry Grey of Wrest, when he received the manor of Upper Gravenhurst. It was held by the Greys jointly with the Manor of Upper Gravenhurst until 1613, when Henry, earl of Kent, alienated the manor to William Whitbread and William Milward as trustees for the parish of Upper Gravenhurst. (fn. 25) Since then the estate has belonged to the parish, and it is now comprised in the Town Farm Charity.
There is mention of another manor in Upper Gravenhurst, but its legal status is very problematical. In 1375 William de Risceby the elder was granted for his life a rent issuing from lands, demised in feefarm by Ramsey Abbey to William le Waleis and Joan in Great Gravenhurst, (fn. 26) and in 1377 this same William de Risceby was stated to be holding for life the manor of LAHYDE in Great Gravenhurst, which belonged to Agatha, the wife of Henry Barker of Hitchin. After the death of William this manor was to pass, according to agreement, to Gerard Braybrook and his heirs. (fn. 27) The manor, however, apparently continued in the possession of the Risceby family, for in the reign of Henry VI, John Risceby, probably a son of William, left it to his wife Alice, who had married as her second husband John Cavendish. John Cavendish bought the reversion of the manor, but notwithstanding this, the feoffees, John Meppershall, William Snowe, and others, granted the reversion of the manor to Lord Grey de Ruthyn. (fn. 28) There is no further trace of the manor, but it is likely that the Greys retained it, holding it in conjunction with their other manors, into which it was probably absorbed.
Upper Gravenhurst had no parish church, and to supply the need of the inhabitants a chantry was founded before 1189 for a priest to administer sacraments and bury the dead. Licence was granted by the archbishop of Canterbury and was confirmed by the king ‘for the easement of the parishioners because they were wont to go to the parish church of Shytlington which is a mile from the said church of Gravenhirste.’ (fn. 30) The first mention of the existence of the chantry occurs some time between the years 1189 and 1195 when Hugh, bishop of Lincoln, granted the tithes belonging to the chapel of Gravenhurst to Ramsey Abbey. (fn. 31) In 1369 licence was given to the inhabitants of Gravenhurst to hear mass in the chapel there, (fn. 32) and in 1535 the salary of William Smith the chaplain was 106s. 8d. (fn. 33) When the chantries were dissolved by Edward VI, it was stated that the value of the chantry of Upper Gravenhurst was 106s. 8d., all of which was expended on the priest for his salary. The ornaments and goods were worth 37s. 4d. There were two chalices, one of which, partly gilt, was worth 40s., and the other, silver white, 20s., which were then in the keeping of John Fawcett and Thomas Barker, the wardens. (fn. 34) Elsewhere it is said that the net annual value of the parochial chapel was 108s. 4d., and that the chaplain, Jerome Johnson, who was resident there, was thirty-six years old, but ‘meanly learned and had no other living.’ (fn. 35) There were also lands in Silsoe and Gravenhurst devoted to the use of the chantry worth 69s. 4d., and Henry Grey and Edward Daniell were the patrons and presented the incumbent. (fn. 36) The chantry, tithes and lands attached were granted by Queen Elizabeth to Theophilus and Robert Adams and to the heirs of Theophilus in 1583, (fn. 37) but a vicarage was instituted, apparently shortly after the dissolution of the chantry, as in 1605 it is stated that Trinity College, Cambridge, was the patron of this benefice, (fn. 38) to which a curate ministered. By 1786 the presentation was in the gift of the parishioners, while the great tithes still belonged to Trinity College, Cambridge. (fn. 39) At the present day the rector of Lower Gravenhurst also performs the duties of vicar of Upper Gravenhurst, and he is elected to the latter living by the parishioners.