W. H. Bernard Saunders.

Legends and traditions of Huntingdonshire online

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Somershani: In Domesday, it is Summerlede. It is
probably a Saxon interpretation, summer station of the

Southoe: In Domesday Book, this is Sutham, and in
other ancient writings it appears as Sutho and Sudham.
It means the South town.

Staughton: The town on the Stour, i.e., running

Stoio: A dwelling place.

SpaldivicTc: Spey is the passage of a river; wica is a
town or village.

290 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Stilton: The word stiil, in British, means a column
or pillar. It is possible that a pillar or column com-
memorating some event once stood here.

Stanground; Or Strandground, for so it should and
used to be written, and which means a quay or place of
shipping business, in support of which there is historical

SiuJceleij: StifiE" clay.

Sivineshead : In Domesday Book, it is written
Swinestede and Swineshefet. Stede means a place,
which would make the origin of the word to be Swines
place, which is sufficiently explanatory.

TJiurning'. The last syllable, ing, has no distinct
meaning of its own, but is only used as further expressive
of the preceding word, as, for instance, in first, first-
ling. The Thurn is probably Thorn, and if so, the
origin of the word would represent a place standing in

Toseland: In Domesday Book it is written Toselunt.
It possibly derives its name from the obsolete Latin,
Tostare, to burn, the elevated situation of Toseland
making it probable that it may have been used as a
place for beacons.

Upton & Upivood carry their own meaning with them.

Warboys: In Domesday Book it is written "Wardes-
busc, i.e., the guai'd or ward of the wood.

Waresley. In Domesday Book this is written

Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire. 291

Wedresleie, and Wederesle, probably from Yerdier, the
Keeper of the Forest.

Washingley: In Domesday it is Wayingeleia. A
watery place is what the first word means, while the
Domesday word represents a public way.

WistoLV: The first syllable means water, and .s/ow a
dwelling place; for guy, uy, uys, ey, y, and i alike
denote water.

Wyion: In Domesday Book, TVitune. See Wistoiv.

Woodston: The Saxons were very fond of giving
the names of their heathen deities to places, and this
was probably named from Woden.

Wood Walton-. That is Wood-wood-town, a redund-
ancy of expression by no means uncommon.

WoolUy: The first syllable was originally TFbo^-ley,
which sufficiently explains the etymology.

Yaxley: There is no place in the county which has
been more differently spelled than this, a few of these
variations are: — Acleia, Acley (in Dugdale), Jakele,
G-eakeslea, and Lacheslei in Domesday. This last
exactly explains it, viz., a place by the lake, that is by
Whittlesey Mere.

Yelling: In Domesday Book this is Ghellenge and
Gelinge. Gh and g, with the Saxons, had often the
same sound as W, therefore the place would be
Welling, and no doubt so called from the medicinal
springs there.

(smttv xxxY^



In the Cotton M.S. are the following particulars of
the peculiar customs of the Manor of Godmanchester,
but from what source they were derived is not quoted:
" Also it is ordeigned and statutyd that if any man of
the s^ towne of Gumycester have two or three sons by
one woman, lawfully begotten, the younger of the s'*
sons shall be the ayer, according to the use and
custome of borough English, and although that he
have had two or three wives, and each of them children,
neverthelesse the younger sone of the first wife shall
be the heire. Also that if any man have purchased
any lands or tenements w'^ his wife y^ is lefTull for

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 29;

the s^ man, while he is alyve, to gyve, sell, or bequeath
the s"^ lands or tents, without the licence of his s'^ wife,
and such a woman shall have no dowres. Also that
men children shall be of full age, so that they may
gyve, sell, or assigne their land and tents, when
they come to the age of XX yeares, and women at the
age of XVI yeares. Also that if any man have two
sons married by his lyfe, and one of these sonnes hath
an ayer masculine, and the other an ayer femynyne;
and if it chance after, theyse two sonnes to depart and
dye, the father of them being alyve, and after it chances
the father of them to dye, then that same heir
masculyne shall be the ayer, and not the ayre femynyne,
though she be of the yonger son." "When James the
First passed through Godmanchester, on his way from
Scotland to London, they met him with seventy new
ploughs, drawn by as many teams of horses, and when
he inquired the reason, he was told that they held their
lands immediately from the Kings of England, by the
tenure of so meeting them on passing through their
town. This circumstance, it has been said, influenced
the King to grant a charter of incorporation to the


In Bonney's History of Fotheringhay it is stated
that Sir Robert Cotton, soon after 1625, purchased the

294 Legends, etc, of Huntingdonshire.

hall of the castle in which the Queen of Scots was
beheaded, and removed it to Counington, in Hunting-
donshire. Mr. Gough, in bis edition of Camden,
supposes that Sir Robert Cotton purchased only the
interior of the room — the wainscot, &c., and not the
room itself. Mr. Bonney differs from this opinion,
and considers that the arches and columns in the
lower part of Connington ('astle are those which
divided the hall at Fotheringhay into three aisles.


In January, 1861, a singular funeral took place in
the churchyard at Connington, viz.: that of a father,
mother, and daughter. The mother had been dead
24 years, the daughter 18 years, and the father 10 days.
The parties were a Mr. Dunham (who lived for many
years at what is called the " Three Shire House," from
the fact of it standing at the junction of three counties),
his wufe, and daughter. When the wife died there had
been some unpleasantness between Mr. Dunham and
the rector of Hargrave, in which parish the house
really stands, and the consequence was Dunham would
not have his wife buried, but the body was bricked up
in a lean-to outhouse, and when the daughter died, her
body was put with her mother's, and there they
remained until the old man's death, at the age of 85,
when the son had the three bodies properly interred.

Legends^ etc., of Huntingdonshire. 295


The following is an account of the payments made

by Eobert Stocker, one of the bailiflFs of the town of

Godmanchester, for a half-year, from Lady Day to

Michaelmas, 1723, the original of which is in the

possession of the Rev. G-. Pinder, of Godmanchester:

£ s. d.
Imp"*^ p^ towards building the Almshouses 05 03 00

P"! two Bottles of Wine for Mr. Mainlove for his

preaching the ffair Sermon 4 00

Pd M"^ Recorder Raby at the assizes for his fee... 1 10 00

Pd the Clerk of the Assizes 12 00

P^ that was spent at the Assizes 15 00

Pii for 2 nails to mend the Pounds 00 09

Pd that was spent at the Horshoe (sic) by ord"^ of

the companye 01 ^^

P<i for a Rump of & Rib Beef for the Election

ffeast 13 6

Pt* My Lord Manchester's Keeper for yo Venison 17 00

pa Parkinson's BiU as by his Bill 7 04 00

Pd 12 Jurymen their Wages 12 00

P Jo° Newman's Wages 9 4

P-i Jo° Steele Wages 4 6

pd W" Cole Wages 14 8

P'^ Jo" Dean mending Moreland Bar 2 2

Pd Jonathan Thompson baking the Pasties and

for bread for the Poor 9

pd \vm Cole, jun' in p'« of a Bill for the Almes-

house W. A 1-3

pd M' Town Clerk's fees 16 8

taxt biU _1 5 ^

22 17 3

296 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Written at the back is the following statement of


Rec*i from Mi^ Goode 10 00 00

Rec^ of M"^ Peacock for half a year's rent iu

money besides two tax bills 16 5 00

ReCJ part of the flashing Kent 01 00

ReC^ of Bird in pts of meadow rent 2 14

Rec'i of Su: Sutton part of rent for Rushes

Rec^i of W" Stevenson for a 5

Rev. Deane 30 4


The following ministers were ejected from their
livings in Huntingdonshire under this Act: —

Bluntisham Mr, James Bedford, B.D.

Bottlebridge Mr. Simon King.

Elton Mr, Cooper,

Hemingford Mr. Heath.

Lutton Mr. Wm. Hunt, B.A.

Overton LonguevUle Mr. Edward Spinks.
Overton Waterville Mr. Gibson, M.A,
Overton Mr. Robert Wilson, B.A.

Stanground. Mr. Rd. Kidder (afterwards

Bishop of Bath and Wells).

Mr, Scott was also ejected from a Huntingdonshire living.


Mr. "W. Lewis Baker, in a paper read on the occasion
of re-opening Covington parish church after restora-

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 297

tion, said: — *' There is at Covington a tradition that
must have been handed down through many generations
that the church once had a spire, which was destroyed
by the cannon of Oliver Cromwell. Part of this
tradition has recently been verified, for in taking down
the east and middle buttresses of the nave, some spire
stones were found, also two treads of a small winding
staircase. There was, therefore, once a spire possibly
surmounting an early English tower, but the tradition
that it was destroyed by Cromwell cannot be true,
because the spire stones were found built into masonry
of the decorated period, of an age three centuries before
his time.


Stilton cheese was first made by a Mrs. Paulet, of
Wymondham, near Melton Mowbray, who supplied a
celebrated sporting innkeeper, named Cooper Thornhill,
of the "Bell" Inn, Stilton. Thornhill got a great
name for his excellent cheese, and used to sell it for
half-a-crown a pound.


In March, 1845, a shock of earthquake occurred at
Huntingdon. It was preceded by a loud rumbling
noise, and every house in the town was more or less
affected by the shock. It was felt in a similar manner

298 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

at Grodmanchester, and all the towns and villages within
eight or ten miles of Huntingdon. The Governor of
the County Gaol described it in these terms: — " A severe
shock of an earthquake was felt here about nine o'clock
on Wednesday evening ; it seemed to shake the prison
to its centre, every part was aJGfected, and the inmates
were alarmed. The floors and furniture in my house
were observed to move whilst a loud report resembling
thunder beneath was distinctly heard in all parts of
the prison. Several prisoners said * the cells moved
with them,' but seemed to have no idea of the cause."
The shock was also distinctly felt at Kettering.


Near Earith there is a cm-ious artificial mound,
called Belfar's Hill, supposed to have been thrown up
by those persons who took arms against William the
Conqueror, in 1066, after he had defeated Harold at
the Battle of Hastings. — In a north-easterly direction
from Huntingdon, stands the small villages of Old
Hurst and Woodhurst, near the former of which, about
two miles from St. Ives, on the road to Ramsey, is a
very large square stone, in the form of a chair. The
remains of a very ancient inscription are discernible,
but this inscription is wholly illegible, and there is no
record concerning it. The only remains of the
once famous Abbey of Ramsey which exist is

Legends, etc., of Hun tmg dons hire. 299

the dilapidated gateway. — An ancient monument
is to be seen in Overton Longueville Church, to
which the village folk lore has attached a curi-
ous legend. The monument represents a Knight
*n Armom-, cross-legged, and a lion at his feet.
The legend concerning this monument is thus
told by Pinnock: — " A Lord Longueville, who, in
fighting with the Danes near this place, received a
wound in the abdomen, so that his bowels fell out ;
but wrapping them round the wrist of his left arm, he
continued the combat with his right hand till he had
killed the Danish King, and soon after fell himself."


In 1815, a violent riot occurred at Ramsey
originating, it is supposed, in the scarcity of pro-
visions and low wages. The windows of persons who
were most obnoxious were broken, and a variety of
mob-tricks committed, — In May, 1816, a con-
siderable inclination again manifested itself to
riot, and continued for some days. It had so
increased on Tuesday, the 19th, that it was
considered necessary to call out the Huntingdon
Yeomanry Cavalry, who proceeded to Warboys
immediately, but as their assistance did not appear
absolutely necessary, they returned to Huntingdon,
where they remained under arms during the whole of

300 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

Tuesday night. The following morning a messenger
arrived, stating that tranquillity had been restored at
Ramsey, and the cavalry were accordingly dismissed.
At the ensuing Assizes, at Huntingdon, in August,
W. Tibbs, W. Barrett, and John Bree were arraigned
for a misdemeanour, " By joining in a rabble of about
200 in the town of Eamsey, which had put the
inhabitants in the fear of their lives and property, by
breaking the windows and doors of Robt. Beard, the
Overseer, and insisting on the price of flour being
lowered." They were all convicted, and sentenced to
two years hard labour and imprisonment. The Judge,
Chief Justice Gibbs, during the progress of the trial,
expressed a doubt whether he should not direct a fresh
indictment to be preferred, and have the prisoners tried
for their lives.


The men employed in levelling Huntingdon Market
Place, in May, 1870, came upon a large block of stone,
a few inches below the surface. The plan of it was in
shape of a cross, and measured about 3 feet across and
18 inches thick. It appeared to have been the base
stone of an old market cross, the iron dowell connecting
the upper part remaining. A similar stone may be
seen in use as a guard stone on the road near St. Ives;
and another, with the upper part in good condition.

Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire. 301

standing in Ramsey Churchyard. — While excavating,
near "Wansford, to make the London and North
Western Railway, in 1844, the workmen turned up
some curious carved stones of great antiquity, represent-
ing human figures, lions, heads, &c.


During the restoration of Hartford Church, near
Huntingdon, in April, 1862, a large number of stone
coffins were discovered, upwards of 20 in all, of various
dates, mostly broken into four pieces, and employed as
quoins. The lids of eight or nine, some of which are
of small size, as if for children, bore the Saxon symbol
of the cross and anchor. There were several more with
richly floriated crosses of later date upon them ; all
were much mutilated, and none in their original
position, owing, probably, to the church having been
at various times within the last three centuries repaired
and enlarged, its exterior excavated for vaults, and
other works carried on. The hands of a recumbent
figure were found. The walls of the body of the edifice
bore traces of rude distemper paintings, amongst them
full length figures of a queen, St. George and the
Dragon, and large Maltese crosses, &c., were upon the
columns and walls.

;o2 Legends, etc., of Huntingdonshire.

In June, 1822, the wife of a farmer living in Ramsey
Hollow occupying land which then belonged to Mr.
Jones, of Flood's Ferry, brought to a shop in Ramsey
121bs. of good butter, for which she received, in
exchange, one stone of salt — the butter realising 5d.
a pound, and the salt 5s. per stone.


In January, 1850, in the neighbourhood of Wood
Walton, near Stilton, where the soil had been excavated
to supply material for the construction of the Great
Northern railway, some curious phenomena were brought
to light. The bones of land and sea animals were
discovered in the same spot, at a depth of between 20
or 30 feet below the earth's surface, and judging from
the large size of the former, and their peculiar form, it
is probable that they belonged to an extinct race.


In 1826, in a ditch dividing the meadows, lying
between Earith and Bluntisham Church, was found a
bronze statuette, inlaid with silver, of a Roman Jupiter
Martialis, in nearly perfect preservation. The statue
is now in the British Museum.

Legends, etc., of Huntingdojishire.



The Cambridge Chronicle, of May, 1837, published

the following census of attendance at Churches in

Huntingdonshire, on a given Sunday within the

month: —

Population No. attended
(census of 1837). Church.

Holywell-cum-Needingworth .. 951

Bluntisham with Ear ith 1,381

Colne 47G

Somersham 1,402

Pidley with Fenton 406

Warboys 1,550

Bury 358

Ramsey 3,006

Woodhurst 408

Houghton with Wy ton 649







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Online LibraryW. H. Bernard SaundersLegends and traditions of Huntingdonshire → online text (page 16 of 16)