History of Hilton

(extract from A History of the County of Huntingdon: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1932).

Pages 315-318



Hiltone (xii cent.), Hulton (xiii cent.)

Hilton was not formed into a parish until 1873, before which date it was a chapelry of Fen Stanton. It lies on the south-east boundary of the county and covers 1,263 acres of heavy, rich loam, with a subsoil of Oxford Clay. It is for the most part low lying, being about 50 ft. above the ordnance datum and nowhere rising to more than 100 ft. The land is mainly arable.

The village, which is one of the prettiest in the county, lies off the east side of the road from Potton to St. Ives, about four miles south-west from the latter town. The church stands at the south end of the village, and to the east of it is Church Farm, which was unfortunately burnt down some years ago. A 17th-century chimney stack and a square 18thcentury brick dovecot, however, have survived. To the north-east is the large village green, around which stand the principal houses. On the south side is the Grange Farm, on the site probably of the grange of the Abbey of Tarant (co. Dorset). Adjoining it are two tithe barns of the 16th century or perhaps earlier. The old vicarage, now three cottages, is at the south-west end of the green. Near by is the Manor Farm, an 18th-century brick house of two stories with hipped roof probably built by the Malletts. Hilton Hall stands due north of the church. It is a brick house built in the early part of the 17th century and refronted some hundred years later. To the south of it is a 17th-century pigeon house, square in plan and built of brick. North-west is Hilton House. There are many 17th-century cottages in the village. A little to the west of the village on the road known as Graveley Way is St. John's College Farm, surrounded by the remains of a moat. The house was originally built in the 15th century with a central hall and wings at each end, but it was considerably altered and enlarged in the 17th century, when the west wing was removed and the hall received an upper floor. It is of half-timber construction with a tiled roof, and has remains of pargeting work. No doubt it was the house conveyed with 140 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 4 acres of pasture, and 6 acres of wood in Hilton by George Bowlys, clerk, in 1533–4 to the master and fellows of St. John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge, who are now the principal landowners. (fn. 1) Another 15th-century house similar in plan, with a central hall and two wings, lies north-east of the church. It was formerly the Red Cow Inn and was altered in the 17th century, when the north wing was demolished and the hall converted into two stories. Near it is Park Farm, built in the 16th century.

On the Green is a circular maze 53 ft. in diameter, originally cut in the turf in 1660, which has since been recut several times. It surrounds a stone obelisk terminating in a ball which bears on its south face the inscription 'Sic transit gloria mundi, Gulielmus Sparrow, gen. natus ano 1641, aetatis sue 88 quando obit, hos gyros formavit anno 1660.' and on its east face 'Ad hoc William Sparrow departed this life the 25th of August anno Domini 1729, aged 88 years'; on the north and west faces are respectively 'ab hoc' and 'per hoc.' We know little of William Sparrow, whose fame does not seem to have gone beyond his parish. He was overseer of the poor in 1675, (fn. 2) and left a charity for the poor of the parish. (fn. 3)

The nearest station is at St. Ives.


There was no separate manor of HILTON, which has always been parcel of the manor of Fen Stanton (q.v.), but it has comprised some large freeholds held of the lords of the manor. (fn. 4) Some of these had been formed by Joan Queen of Scotland, lady of the manor of Fen Stanton, who was evidently developing her property here. The estate she granted to the abbey of Tarent (co. Dorset), already referred to under Fen Stanton, included lands in Hilton. The abbess of Tarent, however, conveyed these lands to the succeeding lord of the manor and others shortly after the death of the queen in 1238.

It is evident that the queen was in debt to Thomas de Durham, citizen of London, and gave him as security 18 virgates and 70 acres of land in Hilton. (fn. 5) After the queen's death, in 1238, the king allotted her executors the issues of the manors of Driffield and Fen Stanton for payment of this debt. (fn. 6) In 1239 the lands in Hilton, lately held by Thomas de Durham, were restored to Stephen de Segrave, lord of Fen Stanton, in exchange for lands at Dunmow (co. Essex), but a messuage and virgate of land in Hilton were reserved to Thomas and his heirs at the rent of a pair of gilt spurs. (fn. 7) Isabel, widow of Thomas de Durham, in 1256–7 acquired from John Moryn and his wife Maud lands in Stanton, Gryseby, and Hilton. (fn. 8) It was probably over these lands in Stanton that Ralph Moryn and John his son had received a grant of free warren in 1253. (fn. 9) 'Jollen' de Durham (Duresme), who with his wife Ada dealt with property in Stanton and Hilton, (fn. 10) was presumably the heir, and probably the son, of Thomas and Isabel. 'Joiland' de Durham was returned in 1279 among the free tenants of Nicholas de Segrave in Hilton as holding 42½ acres of land and meadow at a rent of 1 lb. of cumin, with 15 acres of meadow in demesne, 2 villeins, and a cottar, of the abbess of Tarent. (fn. 11) A note entered in this return shows that the above land was part of 20 librates given by Queen Joan of Scotland to the abbey.

Durham. Argent a cross gules with five fleur de lis or thereon.

The Durhams continued to hold land in Hilton until, in 1342, Edmund de Durham died, leaving three daughters and co-heirs: Ada, Elizabeth, and Maud. He had alienated before his death to Alice de Hernestede, to hold for life, with reversion to his heirs, a messuage in Fen Stanton and Hilton, with 80 acres of arable land, 18 acres of meadow, and 40s. rent, held of John de Segrave, except 20 acres of arable land held of Maud Oweyn. (fn. 12) It was probably this property which John de Lacy, son and heir of Sir Henry de Lacy, kt, released to Sir Thomas de Clopton, kt., and his wife Ada, probably the eldest daughter of Edmund de Durham, in 1359. (fn. 13)

In 1529 Roger Grauntoft died seised of a messuage and land in Hilton, Fen Stanton, Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey, and in Elsworth (co. Camb.) called 'Danettesthyng,' held of Thomas Lord Berkeley as of his manor of Stanton. Roger Grauntoft had acquired this land of Gerard Danet, (fn. 14) possibly a representative of one of the co-heirs of Edmund de Durham. In the previous year Roger had made a settlement on his wife Joan, and on his grandson Roger, son of his son Henry Grauntoft, of Fen Stanton, with the condition that if Roger died before reaching the age of twenty all the property he was to inherit was to be disposed of for the good of his soul. The grandson Roger also died in 1529, aged 14, leaving four sisters as his co-heirs, Anne, Mary, Ellen, and Margaret. (fn. 15) During the lifetime of the elder Roger, messuages in Hilton were the subject of Chancery proceedings instituted against him, with others, as a feoffee, by Susan, late wife of James Berkeley, (fn. 16) and his death was followed by further proceedings instituted by John Clerke and his wife Anne, together with Eleanor, Mary, Margaret, and Elizabeth Grauntoft in connection with the bequest of their grandfather Roger Grauntoft, of Hilton, to their brother Roger. (fn. 17) This property probably passed to the Malletts, but its later descent is lost.

Henry de Frowick or Fresewyk, citizen of London, was another freeholder in Hilton who held of the abbess of Tarent 6 virgates and 10 acres of land, and 22 acres of meadow at a rent of 1 lb. of pepper. In 1279 he is returned as a free tenant of Nicholas de Segrave. (fn. 18) After the Battle of Evesham (1265) he forfeited his lands as a citizen of London, but they were restored to him before 1276. (fn. 19) Nicholas de Segrave was buying up the freeholds here and in Fen Stanton (q.v.) at this date, and probably acquired this property.

Lands called the Townlands and appurtenances in Hilton, in which were included a tenement with croft adjoining called the Vicarage House, another tenement called the Town House, were in 1572 granted to Richard Hill, of Heybridge in Essex, and William James, of London, (fn. 20) with much other chantry property.


The Church of ST. MARY MAGDALENE consists of a chancel (27½ ft. by 15 ft.), nave (40 ft. by 14½ ft.), north aisle (10¼ ft. wide), south aisle (10 4/1 ft. wide), west tower (10¾ ft. by 10¼ ft.), and south porch. The walls are of pebble rubble, with stone and clunch dressings and the roofs are covered with lead, tiles and slates.

The church, which was a chapelry to Fen Stanton, is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey (1086), but apparently there was a stone church here in the 12th century, of which small portions of walling and of impost moulding remain on each side of the chancel arch. The chancel arch and its responds are of the 13th century, and the tower of the late 14th century, but the rest of the church is wholly of 15th-century date. The church was restored in 1850 and 1889, and at the latter date was partially reseated and the chancel raised, the north-west corner of the tower was repaired in 1904–5, and the chancel in 1909.

The features, unless otherwise stated, are of the 15th century.

The chancel has a three-light east window and two two-lights in each of the side walls. In the east wall is a late 14th-century bracket supported by a carved head; and the two side walls have each a semi-octagonal bracket with rounded hole in the top, perhaps intended to hold candles. The south wall has also a 14th-century door and a small piscina of about the same date. The 13th-century chancel arch is two centred and of two orders resting on square responds with semi-octagonal attached shafts; on the east side of the north respond and on both sides of the south are portions of 12th-century impost mouldings. On the east gable is a 15thcentury gable-cross.

The nave has an arcade of four bays on each side, having two-centred arches of two moulded orders resting on narrow piers formed by the continuation downwards of the outer orders between two attached shafts. On the south side of the chancel arch is a fragment of a 15th-century niche, much modernised. The clearstory has four two-light windows on each side, largely modern. The contemporary roof is of plain king-post type, with jack legs and curved braces.

The north aisle has a three-light window at the east end, two two-lights and a plain door with stoup to the east of it on the north, and another two-light in the west wall; the windows are largely modern. The rood stairs are in the south-east angle, partly forming a turret outside; the lower doorway is in the aisle and the upper door is blocked. The roof is of 15th-century date, with cambered tie-beams and curved braces.

The south aisle is generally similar to the north, but there is no stoup nor rood stairs. In the south-east corner is a gabled and crocketed niche.

The late 14th-century west tower has a 15thcentury arch to the nave, of three moulded orders resting on attached shafts with moulded caps. The west doorway has a two-centred arch with continuous orders: above it is a two-light window, and the stage above has a small modern single-light in the south and west walls. The belfry windows are of two lights. The tower is finished with an embattled parapet. The stairs, in the north-west angle, were rebuilt in 1904–5, when a round-headed cross with crucifixion of early 13th-century date was found at the top, and has been built into the north wall. Some 12th-century cheveron ornament and other stones found at the same time have been similarly built in.

The south porch has a two-centred outer archway of two moulded orders resting on attached shafts. There is the stump of a cross on the gable.

The 15th-century font is a plain octagon on an octagonal stem and base.

There are four bells, inscribed: (1) Maria Magdalene will sing sweetli befoor cum mereli after, 1604; (2) Joseph Eayre, St. Neots, 1767. Walter Peck, John Hemington, Churchwardens; (3) Thomas Norris made me 1635; (4) I: Eayre, fecit, 1744. God speed us well. Tho: Pain, Edward: Martin, Churchwardens. The treble, probably originally by Richard Holdfield, was recast in 1898. The bells were rehung by Messrs. Taylor and Co., of Loughborough, in 1897.

In the nave is the matrix of a 15th-century brass to a priest; and in the chancel two pieces of 15thcentury alabaster panelling.

There are the following monuments: in the chancel, a window to William Theed, d. 1861, and Ann his wife. In the nave, floor slabs to Robert Walpole, d. 1699, aged 100; and Mrs. Alice Walpole, d. 1709. In the north aisle, to Thomas Sheppard, d. 1733; Mary (Clench) wife of Walter Powell, d. 1736, Walpole Clench Powell, d. 1796, and Ann his widow, d. 1801; Edward Theed, d. 1835, Jane (Searle) his wife, d. 1821, and Capt. John Theed, R.N., d. 1822; and Tace Davey, wife of William Theed and relict of George Goodman Hewett, d. 1855. In the south aisle, windows to John T. Carroll, 1845, and Anne his wife, d. 1877; and Thomas Percival Carroll, d. 1896; and floor slabs to Charles Sheppard, d. 1719; and the following to Peck: Roger, d. 1699, and Annis, his wife, d. 1722; Roger, d. 1740; John, d. 1766; Dennis, relict of John, d. 1776; John son of Walter and Ann, d. 1788; Catherine daughter of Walter and Ann, d. 1790; and Walter, d. 1798. In west tower, window to Spencer Martin Mayson, d. 1889.

The registers are as follows: (i) Baptisms, marriages and burials, 28 Sept. 1558 to 9 January 1785; marriages end 10 Oct. 1753; (ii) baptisms and burials, 12 May 1785 to 15 Nov. 1812; (iii) the official marriage book, 5 May 1755 to 16 Nov. 1812. The usual modern books.

The church plate consists of: A silver cup with band of Elizabethan arabesque ornament, hallmarked for 1571–2; a silver cover-paten, similarly hall-marked; a silver standing paten, inscribed 'Hilton Church in Huntingtonshire, 1682,' and hall-marked for 1681–2.


Hilton, until 1873, was a chapelry to Fen Stanton. In 1392, licence was obtained for the endowment of a chaplain to celebrate divine service daily at the altars of St. Mary, both in the parish church of Fen Stanton (fn. 21) and in the chapel of Hilton, (fn. 22) for the souls of the parishioners and all faithful departed. The list of presentations to the chantry of Fen Stanton dates from this year (1392). (fn. 23) The advowson was retained by the lords of the manor of Fen Stanton, (fn. 24) although that of Fen Stanton itself had been alienated in 1393. At first one chaplain (fn. 25)apparently served both chantries, but by 1402 the lord of the manor seems to have presented separately to the chantry of St. Mary in Hilton, when the king so presented owing to the minority of Thomas son and heir of Thomas Duke of Norfolk. (fn. 26) In 1535 the chaplain at Hilton was Laurence Mariet and that at Fen Stanton, Richard Stilbarne. (fn. 27) Later the rectory of Fen Stanton (q.v.), with the chapel of Hilton appropriated to it, was leased to George Symcote in 1545, to Henry Trafford in 1566, and to Sir John Spencer in 1599, but the advowsons were reserved. The lands of the dissolved chantry of Hilton, under the name of the Chantry Land in Hilton, were leased by the Crown in 1551 to John Tibbolde for 21 years (fn. 28) and in 1568 to Robert Rampton and Freman Young. (fn. 29)In the meantime the chantry chaplain seems to have continued to serve the cure as vicar. The orders issued for payments from the Countess of Northampton's impropriate rectory of Fen Stanton in 1645–6 included one for £22 10s. to Mr. Edward Ottaway, minister of Hilton, as an augmentation of the chapel there, (fn. 30) and another out of the Countess of Northampton's impropriate rectory of Hilton of £15 for an augmentation of the vicarage of Huntingdon. (fn. 31)

From 1873, when Hilton became a separate parish, the advowson was held by Mrs. Anne Hoare till 1890 when she was succeeded by the Rev. Thomas Carroll. In 1914 it was held by Mrs. Rogerson, eldest daughter of the Rev. Thomas Carroll, and in 1920 by the Rev. S. Rogerson, M.A., the present patron.


Charles Shepherd by will dated 8 October 1719 left £20 to purchase land the rent of which was to be given in bread to the poor of the parish.

William Sparrow by will dated 10 February 1723 left 30s. to be given in bread to the poor of the parish. This sum is paid as a rentcharge issuing out of land in Hilton.

John Peck by will dated 7 July 1864 bequeathed 20s. to be distributed in bread to the poor of the parish. This sum is paid in respect of a small close of land in Hilton.

The above-mentioned rentcharges amounting to £3 10s. are distributed to the poor in coals.

The trustees of the charities are the vicar and two trustees appointed from time to time by the Parish Council of Hilton.

Spencer Martin Mayson by his will dated 28 May 1889 gave a sum of £180 for investment: £2 per annum of the interest was to be distributed among poor widows and the remainder for the benefit of the poor. The endowment now consists of £190 4s. 6d. 2½ per cent. Consols with the Official Trustees, producing £4 15s. annually in dividends, £2 of which is paid to poor widows and the balance is distributed in bread to the poor. The charity is administered by the vicar and churchwardens.

Town Estate. The endowment of this charity consists of 26 acres of land let in allotments, two cottages and garden and a garden, all in Hilton, the whole producing in rent about £38 per annum.

Under an order of the Charity Commissioners dated 17 January 1899, the original charity was divided into two charities, namely: (1) The Church Charity, consisting of ½ of the clear yearly income of the property which is applied towards church expenses. The vicar and churchwardens are the trustees of this charity. (2) The Town Charity, consisting of the remaining half of the clear yearly income of the property, which is distributed in money to the sick, coals to the poor and a donation of £1 1s. to the hospital. The trustees of this charity are the vicar and two trustees appointed from time to time by the Parish Council of Hilton.


  • 1Cal. Feet of F. Hunts. (Camb. Antiq. Soc.) 126.
  • 2. H. J. Bolton, The Village of Hilton, p. 10.
  • 3. See below under Charities.
  • 4. John, fourth Duke of Norfolk, is returned in 1475 as having died seised of the manor of Hilton (Chan. Inq. p.m. 11 Hen. VI, no. 43), but this probably refers to the Durham holding.
  • 5Cal. Doc. Scotl. i, no. 1477.
  • 6. Ibid.; Cal. Close R. 1237–42, p. 150.
  • 7Cal. Doc. Scotl. i, no. 1491.
  • 8Cal. Feet of F. Hunts. (Camb. Antiq. Soc.) 30.
  • 9Cal. Chart. R. 1226–57, p. 422.
  • 10Cal. Feet of F. op cit. 55.
  • 11Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.) ii, 678.
  • 12. Chan. Inq. p.m. 16 Ed. III, no. 29; Cal. Inq. viii, no. 375; Cal. Close, 1341–3, p. 616. Gilbert Oweyn or Ouwayn and his wife Maud were dealing with land in Fen Stanton two years earlier: Cal. Feet of F. Hunts. (Camb. Antiq. Soc.), 71.
  • 13. Close R. 33 Ed. III, m. 6.
  • 14. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. ii), lvi, 102.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Early Chan. Proc. cclxxx, 87.
  • 17. Ibid. ccccxciv, 55.
  • 18Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.) ii, 678.
  • 19Cal. Inq. Misc. i, 718; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.) i, 198.
  • 20. Pat. R. 14 Eliz. pt. 2
  • 21Cal. Pat. 1391–6, p. 174.
  • 22. Ibid. p. 177.
  • 23Cambs. and Hunts. Arch. Soc. Trans. iii, 51, 122.
  • 24Cal. Pat. 1401–1405, p. 36.
  • 25Cal. Inq. iii, 167.
  • 26Cal. Pat. loc. cit.
  • 27Valor Eccles. (Rec. Com.) iv, 263.
  • 28. Pat. R. 41 Eliz. pt. 22.
  • 29. Ibid. 10 Eliz. pt. 5.
  • 30. Add. MS. 5494, p. 205.
  • 31. Ibid. p. 207