History of Hardwick
Last updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 07:58 AM
The name Hardwick is generally taken to mean Sheep farm. Why it should have been applied to our village no one knows, especially as it has been more noted in the ancient records for the quality of oats grown rather than sheep, and many of the records show little sign of flocks of sheep being kept.
The earliest mention of the village is in 991 A. D. and that only in tradition. In that year the Danes were again threatening this part of the country and Ealdorman Beortnoth, the local chief was leading his men, to join in the campaign against the invaders. The lands he had at Hardwick he gave to the priory at Ely as a burial offering in the event of his death in the coming battle. Much later we find that Edward the Confessor confirms the gift to the priory.
The next mention of Hardwick is in the Domesday Book compiled by order of William the Conqueror. At that time the manor covered 5 hides one virgate and 22 acres. There were 7 villeins (peasants, who farmed land in return for work done on the lord’s land) and 4 servi (landless servants) with 2 oxen plough teams.
In 1109 the See of Ely was created and the manor of Hardwick became part of the lands given to the Bishop for his use. Between 1166 and 1212 part of the Bishop’s lands passed by gift into the hands of the nuns of Swaffham Bulbeck in exchange for ½ Knights fee.
A knights fee was reckoned as the amount of land required to support one knight. This form of taxation provided for the defence of the country. In exchange for land from the king, landholders had to provide a number of knights and men-at-arms when called upon.
A further ¼ fee was held by Henry de Essex in 1212. By 1251 we find that the land was divided between:
- the Bishop with 232 acres arable land, 10 acres of meadow and 4½ acres of pasture in the Hay;
- the nuns with their fee;
- 80 acres held by Alexander de Essex;
- 106 acres by free tenants;
- 3 cottars each with 1 acre and a few other unfree tenants;
- 14 Villeins held 20 acres each and
- 11 Villeins held 10 acres each
These latter had various dues to the Bishop, the most important of which was 3 week works throughout the year. The villeins were permitted to cut fencing from the wood in exchange for 2 hens. Hardwick Wood (then called Bradclah) covered 21½ acres.
The main income of the Bishop (amounting to £28) seems to have been from the commutation of week works, so it is possible that by 1251 the Manor Farm was being worked by the tenants as was certainly the case in 1299.
As might be expected, with a Bishop as Lord of the Manor, there has been a Church in Hardwick for a long time and certainly since 1217 when the earliest record of the building is known. Throughout the history of our church the Bishop of Ely has had the right to appoint the rector to the Living, and until the Tithe Redemption Act of 1935, the right to receive tithes. In 1219 this amounted to the value of 10 marks (the mark being worth 66½p approx), in 1254 12 marks and in 1291 16 marks. In addition the Rector was granted a house with 40 acres of glebe land. At least once during this period the rector was an absentee from the parish and he appointed a vicar in his place. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the then rector paid nearly all the tithes to the Vicar. Absenteeism continued to plague the Church until the early 19th century when it was finally abolished, to the betterment of the Church and Village. Although, as mentioned earlier, there has been a Church building since 1217, our present building (except for the vestry) dates from around 1400. One of the south windows is earlier and perhaps comes from that earlier building. A little later the Chancel Arch was rebuilt and the steps in the left hand corner were added to provide access to a rood screen. This latter was removed during the Restoration, restored in the early 17th century and finally removed at some unknown date. Our Church in other words is very much as it was 570 years ago.
Life in the 14th Century cannot have been easy for the various tenant farmers. The figures that are available suggest that there was a decline in prosperity over the period from the early thirteen hundreds to the late fourteen hundreds. For example the rent of a full tenement is recorded as 17 shillings a year (85p) in the time of Bishop Fordham (1388-1425) soon reduced by him to 15 shillings (75p) because of the poverty of the inhabitants. By 1463 it had become 13 shillings and 4 pence (66½p). During this time rent was often in arrears, probably doe to the poverty in the village but also because of difficulties in actually getting to the village to collect the rents.
During this period the Bishop also had extensive judicial rights over the lives of the inhabitants. The court seems to have met once a year but unfortunately no details of the proceedings seem to have survived.
The poverty of Hardwick mentioned in above probably continued into the 15 hundreds. The rents from the Manor were stable by this time but bore no relation to the economic life of the village. However by 1535 we find that the Rector’s income had dropped to £8.14.1 (£8.70½ ) As his income was in part made up of tithes it is reasonable to assume that life was not very easy for the inhabitants. Around this time Henry VIII quarrelled with the Pope over his desire to divorce Katherine of Aragon and broke the English Church away from Rome. The Rector of Hardwick at that time, Ralph Baynes, was almost certainly opposed to Henry, as we find him in Queen Mary’s time (when the Church briefly returned to acknowledging papal supremacy) as Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry. How this affected the village we do not knew as he was probably an absentee Rector, a curate being mentioned as resident. Ralph Baynes’ successor Nicholas Stennett was deprived of the living during Mary’s reign for unknown reasons though possibly he opposed her church policy. Later he was re-instated in Elizabeth I’s reign. Another rector, William Middleton, was a prominent protestant, and was once reported for not wearing a surplice in disobedience of the Queen’s; orders. He served the parish himself from 1585 to 1613 and is buried in the churchyard. A cup and paten dating from 1569 are still the property of the church and are on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Our records of Births, Deaths and Marriages date from this time. In 1600 the manor of Hardwick passed out of the hands of the Bishop of Ely when Bishop Heton was forced to exchange the estate for another by Elizabeth I. The crown held the lands for only ten years until James I granted it to George Salter and John Williams of London. These gentlemen appointed the then Rector of Little Gransden who, two years later became the Lord of the Manor. Thirty years after this the Rector Edmund Mapletoft bought the Manor jointly with a John Tolly though it did not remain in their hands long after 1652, it being passed to a Doctor Franke and a Mr Sterne who held it in trust for Matthew Wren, the Bishop of Ely. The Bishop at the time was under confinement as a supporter of Archbishop Laud who had been executed 7 years earlier for his support of King Charles and his anti-Puritan measures. After the restoration of the Monarchy, Matthew Wren initiated the building of a Chapel at Pembroke College in Cambridge and gave the Manor of Hardwick to the College as part of the endowment. Since then the Manor has been held jointly by the Master and two trustees of the Chapel. As everywhere else the size of the holdings of land in the village had increased. The 25 villeins of 1251 had become 13 copyholders (a form of ownership halfway between freehold and leasehold) plus a few freeholders. The Bishop of Peterborough held 240 acres (180 freehold and 60 copyhold) and William Adams 100 acres plus. Enclosure was starting, Hatchmore field, Stockenden field and Puttocksrow field having been established and various closes of pasture are also mentioned. Edmund Mapletoft mentioned in last month’s article as Rector, was ejected from the living in 1644 after being accused of negligence and popish practices, and a puritan successor installed. After the Restoration, the then Rector, John Fido, was ejected for being part author of a work in praise of Parliament. Later he became a Congregationalist. During the 1640’s much early art work and stained glass was destroyed all over the country by the Puritans. Sometimes this happened by accident but mostly the work was done deliberately. In this area, one William Dowsing was charged with the work and in Hardwick he ordered 12 ‘superstitious” pictures and a cross to be removed and the Altar steps to be levelled.
Nonconformity survived in Hardwick after the ejection of John Fido, it being recorded that there was a Congregational conventicle at John Morley’s house with a preacher, Nathaniel Ball, an ejected minister. In the village itself there seem to have been only two dissenters. After the troubled years of the 17th Century Hardwick seems to have settled back to a relatively peaceful and placid life during the 18th Century. What record we have shows little of note happening. Farms were farmed as best they could and land continued to change hands. Among those who held lands in the period was a gentleman called Lancelot Brown better known as Capability Brown the famous English landscape gardener. He owned what is now known as Victoria Farm, though there is no mention of him living in the house.
A short boost to farming was given by inclosure so that by 1841 the population had risen to 202 and several new houses built. One of the main reasons that Hardwick remained less developed was the fact that the village was almost inaccessible in wet weather, making for poor communications. This is attested to by the curate in 1836 who felt that this was why Hardwick was a “very poor place and the people very ignorant”. Education in the first half of the 19th Century was taken care of by the Sunday School. Most people, no doubt think of this institution in terms of teaching children basic knowledge of Christianity, but when they were first founded they also taught children reading, writing and arithmetic. In many parts of the country this was the only education available to children, and had to be on Sundays for they worked all the rest of the week. When the Hardwick Sunday School was founded we do not know, except that there wasn’t one in 1789, the curate feeling it was impracticable owing to the general disposition of the. inhabitants. By 1818 the Sunday School had 9 children, the curate finding it hard work as he reports that the poor people “seem very indifferent whether their children have the advantage of education or not”. By 1833 attendance was 13 children and in 1846/47 it was 33. The Sunday School met in the Church and was free to all.
This 1836 enclosure map of Hardwick, which also shows the Toft fields enclosed in 1812, is reproduced from the book The History of the Fields in Ten West Cambridgeshire Parishes by Tom Richens, published by the Cambridgeshire Local History Council, 1973.