Manor of Elton

Historical notes about the Manor of Elton in Huntingdonshire, UK


Elton Manor

The manor of ELTON is said to have been given to the Abbey of Ramsey by Etheric, or Ethelric, Bishop of Dorchester (1016–34). He held the abbey in special affection in gratitude for the kindness shown by the abbot (who, as the 12th-century chronicler suggests, perhaps remembered his own youth) towards him when, as a boy at school at the abbey, he and his companions rang the great bell of the abbey until they cracked it. The same chronicler relates that the bishop acquired the manor in a curious way, being entertained at Elton, together with four of King Canute's secretaries, while the king was journeying through the county, by a Dane who had with the king's leave married a wealthy widow and the owner of Elton. As the evening went on, the Dane became excessively drunk and promised Etheric to give him the manor if he paid him 50 marks of gold. In the morning he repented, but the bishop held him to his promise and his appeal to the king also failed. The bishop then gave Elton to the abbey for ever for the support of the monks. t was never granted away to a subtenant, but its profits were paid directly to the abbey until its dissolution in 1538. Being assigned to the support of the monks, it paid its 'farm' to the cellarer, supplying grain, cheese, bacon, honey, fowls, geese, young pigs, lambs, sheep, butter, eggs, beef, and money for herrings, brewing, livery and dishes, in fixed amounts each year. Probably these supplies came from the demesne lands of the manor—that is, the lands which were cultivated by the bailiff, the chief official of the abbey in the manor; other lands were held by tenants, free-men, villeins and cottars, who paid variously rents in money or kind, or did work on the demesne lands. Certain of these rents were paid not to the cellarer, but to the abbot's chamber.

In 1086 there were 10 hides of land assessed to the geld; there was land for 24 ploughs, together with land for 4 more ploughs on the demesne; there were 28 villeins, a church and a priest, two mills rendering 60s. and 170 acres of meadow. In the time of Edward the Confessor it was worth £14 and in 1086 £16.

In Henry I's reign there were 7 free-tenants, 3 of whom did suit to the county and hundred, while others paid money rent and did a little ploughing for the lord. Thirty-five virgates were held by villeins ad opus, that is, for labour services. Later in the 12th century, only 28 virgates were held for labour services, while 8 were held for a money rent of 6s. a year and a varying amount of ploughing. In the early 13th century there were 13 hides, of which 3 belonged to the demesne. The services due from the villeins who held by labour services are fully set out, and obviously provided far more labour than the bailiff could possibly use on the demesne lands. Hence, when the series of manorial accounts begin in the early 14th century, the services were valued in money at amounts varying from 2.5d. to 0.5d., and the bailiff took what work he needed and received the balance in money payments. Besides their services, the villeins paid fixed amounts for Hewshire, Warthpenys, Brewsilver, Fisting pond (or Filsting pounde), Maltsilver, Lentonfaris, Wolles silver, Fish silver, Vineyard silver. The boon-works of both free and villein tenants were performed as late as 1392–3. Work was also due in the vineyard and was performed there in 1286–7, but ordinarily 3s. a year was paid instead to the cellarer of the abbey. The effect of the Black Death in 1349 is very clearly shown in the Elton records, and many of the inhabitants must have died of the plague. In the year 1350–51 some 22 virgates were in the hands of tenants, but 23 virgates were in the hands of the lord owing to the mortality of the preceding year and similar loss had taken place among the cottars. The following year the customary tenements were said to be all let at rent and the bailiff appears to have hired labourers for the harvest, although still calling on the tenants for boonwork. (Later, in 1359–60, two virgates were still held by the service of work, 14 others half at rent and half for work, 10.75 virgates were let at a money rent of 20s. a year, and 16.75 were still in the lord's hands. Gradually all the customary tenements were held for a money rent, and finally, instead of being managed by the bailiff, the manor was let at farm, probably in 1397, but certainly from 1422. The system seems to have been for the farmer to have a lease of the demesne lands and certain tenements at an annual rent, but to have accounted for all the payments still made as the 'farm' of the manor to the cellarer and for the abbot's rents, and also for the cost of repairs and of hospitality, salaries of officials, etc.

The Abbot of Ramsey held a view of frankpledge for the manor, which was a court rather for the inhabitants than tenants. At this, the same business was transacted as at the sheriff's tourn in the Hundred, but the Abbot of Ramsey, in right of the extensive privileges of his abbey, held it for the tenants of each of his manors. It seems to have been held once a year in the autumn, the steward of the abbey travelling from one manor to another in turn. The free-tenants claimed in the 13th century that they were not bound to serve on the jury of presentment, which was usually composed of villeins, but the names of free-tenants do apparently appear. The villeins paid a customary fine of 13s. 4d. a year to excuse the personal attendance of each of them, but the chief free-tenant, holding the Hall Fee (q.v.), paid 2s. separately for his men. From the 14th century to the early 16th century, the tithing system continued to be of importance and men were presented for not being in a tithing and boys, on reaching the age of 12, were put into a tithing. The abbot held the assizes of bread and ale and the offenders against the assize were presented at the view. The court also dealt with cases of trespass, assault and wounding, raising the hue and cry falsely and other minor offences, as well as cases of debt. The officials of the manor, the serjeant or reeve and the mace-bearer or bedel, and the ale-tasters were also appointed at this court. At a view of frankpledge held in 1446, presentments were made forbidding the playing of tennis, 'peny prikke' and other unlawful games. There was also a manorial court, simply called a Curia, but the first extant separate roll of this court is dated 1350, and before this the business of the two courts does not seem to have been separated on the days when the view of frankpledge was also held. There was apparently a recognised right of appeal to the abbot, but ordinarily in questions of tenure, services or status, appeal was made to the Register of Customs, which was apparently kept by the abbey steward at Ramsey.

In 1300 in a question of the custom of the manor, in which the customary tenants were at variance with the macebearer, the steward 'was unwilling to pronounce judgment against the said mace bearer but left the judgment entirely to the lord Abbot, so that the said lord, having examined the register, may do and ordain with regard to the custom upon this demand, as he shall think ought to be done in accordance with God's will.' The other important business of the manorial court was the issuing of ordinances regulating the common cultivation of the fields and the number of beasts allowed to the tenants in the commons of the manor. The Abbot of Ramsey had gallows and trebuchet in the manor. The free-tenants also owed suit to the abbot's court of the Honour of Broughton.

In 1541 Henry VIII granted the manor of Elton to Queen Katherine Howard as part of her jointure. In 1546 it was in turn granted to Queen Katherine Parr, in whose time considerable repairs were carried out at the manor house and its buildings. On her death in 1548 it reverted to Edward VI. The manor was held by Queen Elizabeth and passed to James I. He granted it at farm on 29 June 1605 to Thomas, Lord Ellesmere, and nine other peers for a term of 500 years. On 1 July following, however, he granted the manor to his son Charles, then Duke of York, to hold to him and his heirs by military service, but by August of the same year it had been mortgaged to the City of London.The grant of the manor to Charles was revoked in 1613, and in 1620 King James sold or mortgaged it to John, Lord Digby, the sale including the assized rents of the free and customary tenants amounting to £38 16s. 2.5d. per annum; all lands and tenements and hereditaments, which were parcel of the manor and the tenements of the customary tenants; the site of the manor and the lands appurtenant to it, let at an annual rent of £8 6s. 8d.; a piece of waste land, occupied by Henry Parkinson at an annual rent of 4d., 3 copyhold cottages built on the waste of the manor, held at a rent of 2s. 0.5d. per annum; an annual fine of 13s. 4d. from the tenants, together with the perquisites of the court, to hold in free socage of the manor of East Greenwich, paying £47 18s. 7d. a year.

In 1624, the king granted the manor, with the same premises enumerated in Lord Digby's grant, to Sir James Fullerton, master of the Court of Wards of the Prince of Wales, and Francis Maxwell, who had been nominated by Jane Murray, widow, and her son Henry, to hold the lands granted to them in exchange for certain pensions. She was the widow of Thomas Murray, late Secretary to Prince Charles. The rent, however, was reduced to £44 11s. 11d., certain reprisals due from the manor being deducted. Fullerton and Maxwell obtained seisin of the manor and were holding it in 1626. Before 1631 it had passed to Thomas Trigge, who with his wife Alice sold it in 1633 to Sir Thomas Cotton, bart. Cotton held his first view of frankpledge and court baron for Elton manor in October of that year. Before 1662 his daughter Frances married Sir Thomas Proby, who had been created a baronet in that year, and for the marriage settlement Sir Heneage Proby, knt., father of Sir Thomas, had agreed to purchase lands and leases at a cost of £2,400. Presumably on Cotton's side it was agreed that the manor should be given, with his daughter, to Sir Thomas, who in 1664 obtained a quitclaim of it from Lawrence Torkington and Samuel Pont, who appear to have been trustees of the Cottons.

Sir Thomas Proby was the grandson of Sir Peter Proby, a native of Chester, whose father had settled at Brampton, Hunts. Peter came to London in the service of Sir Thomas Heneage, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to whom he owed his advancement, becoming M.P. for Hull in 1593 and Liverpool in 1597–8. He is said to have been barber to Sir Francis Walsingham and was a member of the BarberSurgeons' Company of London, being alderman of Queenhithe Ward from 1614 to 1623. He was lord mayor in 1622–23 and during his year of office was knighted and also transferred to the Grocers' Company. He was alderman of Bread Street Ward from 1623 till his death in 1625. He was much concerned with the settlement of Ulster and was governor of the Irish Society from 1616 to 1622. In the earlier year he went with a commission sent by the king and the City of London on matters concerning the Ulster colony and presented swords of state to the mayors of Londonderry and Coleraine. In 1604, he obtained a grant from James I of the office of bailiff of the manor of Elton, which he still retained at the time of its alienation in 1624.

Proby Arms

The Armorial Bearings of the Proby family.

The Armorial Bearings of the Proby family.

Ermine a fesse gules with a lion passant or thereon.


Sir Thomas Proby died in 1689, his only son having predeceased him, and his widow was owner of the manor until her death in 1699. It passed to John Proby, Sir Thomas's brother, who held it till his death in 1710. His daughter and heir Frances died unmarried in 1711 and the property passed to his cousin William, governor of Fort St. George, the son of Charles Proby, the third son of Emanuel, fourth son of Sir Peter Proby. He was succeeded by his son John Proby, in whose marriage settlement the description of the Elton property was the same as in the grant of 1620 made by James I. John Proby gave Elton to his son John Proby, the younger, on the occasion of his marriage in 1750 to Elizabeth, daughter of Joshua, 2nd Viscount Allen. The first court of the manor under the younger John was held on 25 October 1749. He was created Baron Carysfort in the peerage of Ireland in 1752 and was succeeded by his son John Joshua Proby in 1772. The latter was created Earl of Carysfort in 1789, and in 1801 Baron Carysfort of the Hundred of Norman Cross in the peerage of the United Kingdom. The Earls of Carysfort were lords of the manor until the death of the 5th Earl in 1909, when his honours became extinct. His heir was his nephew Col. Douglas James Hamilton, the son of his sister Elizabeth and her husband Lord Claud Hamilton. He took the name of Proby in 1904 and succeeded to the property in 1909; on his death in 1931 he was succeeded by his son Mr. Granville Proby, the present owner.

Victoria County History - Published 1932