Gidding Manor

Historical notes about Gidding Manor, Huntingdonshire, England, UK


Domesday Hamerton - Land of the Abbot of Ramsey

In GIDDING the Abbot of Ramsey had 7 hides to the geld. There is land for 8 ploughs. There is now 1 plough in demesne, on 1 hides of this land; and 18 villans have 7 ploughs. There are 20 acres of meadow, and 2 furlongs of scrubland. TRE as now, worth 100s.

(Note: Demesne - Land retained by the Lord of the Manor for his own use and TRE - Tempora Regis Eduardis - In the time of King Edward the Confessor.)

Ten hides in GIDDING and Weldon given to Ramsey Abbey by Earl Ailwin, their founder, may be assumed to include the seven hides with twenty acres of meadow and two furlongs of underwood in Gidding which were held by the Abbot of Ramsey in 1086 of the king in chief. At this time there was one plough on the demesne on one hide and eighteen villeins had seven ploughs; and at a later date there was still one carucate of land in demesne, while six hides were held of the abbot by free or customary tenants. Pope Alexander III confirmed Gidding with the church and all its appurtenances to Ramsey Abbey. In 1193–4 the prior, as attorney of the Abbot of Ramsey, granted to Ralph de Stukeley 2 virgates of land in Gidding at a rent of 7s. a year saving foreign service. These 2 virgates may have been all that Nicholas, son of Aristotle de Stukeley, had in Gidding when in 1228 he quitclaimed to the abbot. The abbey seems to have held the manor in demesne and the revenues were assigned chiefly to the chamberlain of the abbey, who had £16 a year from them in 1202–7. About 1247 Abbot Ranulf allotted the profits to the improvement of the ornaments in the church, when compensation was given to the chamberlain.

Cotton Arms

The Armorial Bearings of the Cotton family.

The Armorial Bearings of the Cotton family.

Azure an eagle argent with beak and legs or.


After the Dissolution the property seems to have been held on lease from the Crown by the Boton family, who had long been tenants of the Abbey of Ramsey, until 30 June 1590, when Queen Elizabeth granted the reversion of the manor to John Cotton, the second son of Thomas Cotton of Conington. John Cotton died in 1635, but seems to have transferred his interest in Gidding during his lifetime to his nephew Thomas Cotton, the younger brother of the famous Sir Robert: for, according to a statement made later by Sir Thomas Cotton of Conington and Mary, widow of Thomas Cotton of Gidding, 'an Indenture was made in consideration of the marriage of John Cotton,' son and heir apparent of Thomas Cotton, to Frances, one of the daughters of John Gifford, about June 1632, 'conveying all the manor of Gidding Abbotts and the advowson of the Rectory with the pasture ground called Muckhills' to the use of Thomas Cotton during his life, with reversion after his death to the use of John Cotton and his heirs.

The younger John Cotton incurred considerable debts and, according to Robert Huit (who brought a suit in Chancery for the recovery of a debt of £389), 'did travel beyond seas,' leaving his wife to be supported by his father, who was obliged to make 'some conveance, by virtue whereof the manor aforesaid, which ought to come to John, did come to the hands of Sir Thomas Cotton of Conington, bart., and Mary, the widow of Thomas Cotton, in trust for the payment of the debts of the said John.' This, however, was denied by Sir Thomas Cotton, who declared that Thomas Cotton by indenture 30 March 1640, two days before his death, 'did covenant to the use of the said John Cotton and his heirs male; for default of such issue to the use of the defendant and his heirs male of himself and in default to his right heirs.' He seems, however, to have paid the debts of John Cotton, who died in 1646.

Heathcote Arms

The Armorial Bearings of the Heathcote family.

The Armorial Bearings of the Heathcote family.

Ermine three roundels vert with a cross or upon each.


The heir of John Cotton was his only daughter, Jane, married in 1648 to Basil Fitzherbert of Norbury (Derby) and Swinnerton (Staffs); but the manor of Steeple Gidding passed in accordance with the settlement of 1640 to Sir Thomas, though Mrs. Cotton seems to have retained an interest, presumably by way of dower. Her name appears in a list of those sequestered for recusancy in 1648. In Michaelmas term 1654 the manor was conveyed to William Witherington and John Davenport by Sir Thomas Cotton bart., John Cotton, Basil Fitzherbert and his wife Jane, with a quitclaim against the heirs of all the deforciants This, however, seems to have been done only in order to a fresh settlement, for after the death of Sir Thomas Cotton in 1662 William Witherington quitclaimed the manor to Sir John Cotton, and the estate subsequently followed the same descent as the baronetcy until the death of the last baronet, Sir John Cotton, in 1752. He left four daughters and co-heirs, Jane, Elizabeth, Frances and Mary. Jane married Thomas Hart; and Elizabeth, as the wife of Thomas Bowdler, became the mother of a more famous Thomas, whose surname and literary activities gave a new verb to the English language. This Thomas, with his cousin John Hart Cotton, their aunt Mary and her husband Basil, Earl of Denbigh, quitclaimed all rights in the manor in 1771 to John Heathcote, whose brother, Sir Gilbert Heathcote, had bought it from the coheirs and given it to him, reserving £400 for himself yearly until his death in 1785. The property remained in the possession of Mr. Heathcote's descendants until 1915, when it was sold by his great-grandson, Mr. J. Norman Heathcote, to Mr. Tower; he sold the estate in lots and the manorial rights fell into abeyance.

At the time of the Dissolution the largest freeholder in the parish of Steeple Gidding was Richard Boton or Button, whose surname seems to have been derived from the fact that his ancestors lived above the town. The family name appears first in the records of Great Gidding, where Robert Aboveton was living in Henry III's time, and in 1322 another Robert Aboveton had an interest in the Emberton fee. In 1290, however, the Abbot of Ramsey had a tenant, William the son of William a Boutoun, who was a juror of his court at Gidding, and may perhaps be identified with the William Abovetoun who was aletaster for the manor in 1300. William Aboveton died in 1302; his executors, Alice his widow, John le Hache and Simon Boylloun, are named in the roll of a court held in November that year, and his heir was perhaps the Alexander Boueton who appears as a juror of the court in January 1341. In 1419 and 1429 Richard Boton was a juror, and in the latter year John Boton, who may perhaps have been his son, was also of the jury. John Boton was the ale taster for the manor that year, and in that capacity helped to find that Maud Boton, a common brewster, had brewed against the assize. She was an old offender, having been amerced more or less regularly in the manor court for the past fifteen years.

A rental of Steeple Gidding about 1443 shows that the rent paid by John Boton was 23s. 4d. He seems to have been a trying neighbour, for we learn from a court roll about 1456 that he had not only failed to scour the watercourse near his house (a duty which, after all, any ordinary villager was apt to neglect), but kept;

'unum gappum apertum injuste contra Shalkhill ad nocendum vicinorum,'

and actually seems to have walked across a field trampling his neighbour's corn. It is, however, possible that this delinquent was John Boton, the younger, who, having in his turn become the elder, in 1460 ploughed up a part of the common at Alpyte, and in 1486 followed his forbear's example by neglecting to scour the ditch at the end of the village. Both the elder and the younger John were on the jury this year, and one of them was elected constable; Simon Boton was also a juror. A John Abeton of Great Gidding died in 1498.

About 1507 Robert Button was presented for 'being more than twelve years old and not sworn in a tything.' He had also acquired certain lands which carried the duty of 'repairing the watercourse running by Kyrke lane,' which he had neglected to do. He died in 1527, and was perhaps the father of Richard Boton, who obtained a lease of land in Sawtry in 1534 from the abbot and convent of St. Mary there, and a lease of the lands of Ramsey Abbey in Steeple Gidding from the Crown after the Dissolution. His successor in this lease was William Boton, possibly his son; but he bequeathed his freehold at his death in 1549 to his three daughters, who sold it in 1581 to Sir John Bedell of Hamerton. In the same year Sir John Bedell bought 180 acres of land and a messuage from Swithin Dixon, and in 1588 he acquired also Drewell's tenements in Gidding; but in 1597 he sold Boton's land, which is described as adjoining Hamerton, to John Bradly for £400. In 1607 John Bradly settled Dovehouse close on his 'second and hopefullest son' Peter on his marriage to Winifred Pickering. This son seems to have succeeded also to Botons, for he sold it in 1613 to Cotton; and in 1615 John Cotton consolidated his estate by buying the tenements formerly known as Dixons and Drewells for £1,000.