Great Gidding History Group
Gidding History Group no longer holds meetings, if you have a specific question relating to the village history and it’s past residents, please make contact on email@example.com. There is a small group of residents who are researching various aspects of the village, such as families/buildings/landscape features. Once again, if you have a subject you would like to research, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
At the time of the Domesday Survey, in 1086, what are now Great and Little Gidding were one parish. This parish was owned mostly by William Engaine and Eustace the Sheriff, with about 300 acres being part of the estates of the Abbots of Ramsey.
Some 700 acres of the Engaine portion were separated off in the twelfth century, being known at one time as Gidding Engaine before it became Little Gidding. The remainder of the parish continued to be owned by three different Lords of the Manor until the time of Elizabeth I. That part originally owned by the Abbots of Ramsey was sold to the Moyne family and thereafter was called Gidding Moyne, whilst Eustace the Sheriff had sold his 1400 acres to St Mary’s Priory and this was known as Gidding Priors. The remaining 650 acres was described as Engaine Manor.
The dissolution of the Monastaries and the Elizabeth I’s purge of the Catholics resulted in the whole parish coming under the ownership of the heir to Gidding Moyne. This was the Watson family of Rockingham Castle, Near Corby, in Northamptonshire. For exactly 200 years, from 1587 to 1827, the Watsons and their descendents were Lords of the Manor of Great Gidding.
Which part of the village was originally owned by who, the development of the village and its roads and the location of the manor house, or houses, are not certain, and are discussed in The Millenium History.
The Open Fields
Great Gidding was a farming community. With the possible exception of wool spinning, all the employment in the village was either directly concerned with farming or with a trade in support of farming – blacksmiths, wheelwrights etc. In the nineteenth century there were a few families who made boots and shoes.
Most parishes in the area became enclosed in the eighteenth century or in the first half of the nineteenth. Great Gidding was the last in Huntingdon and the second last in the enlarged Cambridgeshire to give up the open field system – completed as late as 1869.
As the Watsons of Rockingham did not live in the village, they appear, on a regular basis, to have appointed men from outside the village to farm the only enclosed area in the parish – the 360 acre Gidding Grove Farm. These men became, successively, the Squires of the village. How they ran the village can be seen from the village officer’s account books and the Manor Court roles. We are lucky that several surveys of the village exist for the last few years of the sixteenth century. A detailed map survives of the village and its inhabitants for 1641 – also the year of a Protestation Return.
In 1827 the Watsons sold their Lordship of the parish to the Fitzwilliams of Milton, who retain it to this day. For the first thirty or forty years nothing much changed, until enclosure.
There is a tithe map of the village showing where the rate-payers lived and who owned each property for 1851 which happily coincides with a census year. During the period of enclosure from 1858 to 1869 there are good maps of the parish and furlong names can be ascertained, but which name belongs to which furlong has yet to be worked out. Lists of furlong names can also be found in the late sixteenth century documents and at can be seen that about 50% of the 100 names survived the 250 year period.
The houses were originally timber-framed and thatched. The belt of limestone built villages starts about five miles to the north of Great Gidding. There was one stone built house built in 1629, but otherwise timber-frame houses were still being built right up to the end of the eighteenth century, although there is evidence that brick houses were built as early as 1723. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments wrongly suggests that as many as nine seventeenth century buildings were still standing in 1926. It was just that changes of fashion were late arriving in Great Gidding.
The population of the village remained more or less constant at about 250 or 300 until the second half of the eighteenth century. There is no sign of any spread of the village to absorb the increase, when it did occur, nor indeed when the number reached over 500 in about 1840. Houses and cottages were subdivided or extended and tenements were built in yards behind existing buildings.
A major spur to rebuilding, however, occurred in 1861 when about 150 yards of cottages burned down. Not only was this stretch of Main Street redeveloped, but there was some “keeping up with the Jones” with cottages in Chapel End, Church Farm and the Baptist Manse all being built in 1862. It is not established how much of the brick used in this building boom came from Gidding’s own brickyard, which was certainly active throughout the mid nineteenth century.
The Baptist Chapel
The Baptist Chapel was built in 1790 towards which 43 people contributed £33. In 1862, the Manse was built from the subscription of £250 from 250 residents. Some records exist, but they are not complete. An early pastor was Joseph Norris whose autobiography is contained in the Huntingdon Record office’s archives.
The Wesleyan Chapel
In 1846 the present school was built. There are records of schoolmasters, and schoolmistresses from about 1750 onwards. There were some notably long serving teachers. Benjamin Horsford and his son Cornelius were between them in office for over 80 years from 1764, whilst Richard Hall married his predecessor’s daughter and stayed for 42 years.
Fox and Hounds
The earliest Inn recorded was the Bull and Boar, first mentioned in 1754. This changed it’s name to the Fox and Hounds before 1839, perhaps soon after the Fitzwilliams became Lords of the Manor in 1827. The Crawley family ran the pub continuously from 1780 to 1861.
The Rose and Crown – later the Crown – was built as a pub in about 1780 and stayed in business until 1931. The Crawley family also ran this pub for at least 35 years in the mid nineteenth century and were followed for the next 30 years by the Garratt family.
The White Hart
The third pub, the White Hart, was in operation for 50 years from 1840. The Crawleys did not appear to run this !
From the period 1617 to 1780, there survive some 50 inventories of all their possessions, taken when people died, and listed by each room and valued. These show how many rooms their houses had, what , if any, luxuries, how many animals, what farm implements and carts, etc.
Because so little changed for such a long period, the families in the village remained for many generations, and their progress in the village can be traced through the Manor Court records and the village officer’s account books. Lists of these long-lasting and successful families, an idea of what they paid in rent, four of their inventories, some of the rules under which they used the common lands, how they looked after the poor are some of the items contained in The Millenium History.