The History of Abbots Ripton in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Abbots Ripton in Cambridgehsire.

The Parish of Abbots Ripton

The parish of Abbots Ripton, consisting of 4,191 acres, lies near the centre of the county, and directly north of Huntingdon itself. The land is flat and lowlying; a stream rising in the west of the parish runs through it, passing a little to the north of the village, by Abbots Ripton Hall, into King's Ripton. Farming is the chief occupation of the inhabitants, the principal crops being wheat, barley and beans. The soil is gravel with a subsoil of clay. There is a fair amount of woodland in the extreme east and west of the parish. Early records show, however, that the parish, with Somersham Chace and Sapley Forest near by, was at one time very much more wooded. In 1341 the Bishop of Ely claimed the right to hunt deer freely 'throughout the whole forest of Somersham, to wit, as the highway passes from Huntingdon to Ramsey through Ripton,' the foresters contending that woods bordering that road were the king's forest and not the bishop's free chace.

The timber on the manor at the time of the Dissolution was reckoned a substantial part of its value and, while it remained in the king's hands, the wood on it was reserved by the Surveyor of Woods for the Crown and its sale was not included in the ordinary accounts for the manor. At that time the trees in Holland Coppice, Hyghe Grove, Wytes, Foxeholles and other woods were returned as being from one to sixty years' growth and valued at £44 14s. 0d.; besides these, 700 oaks of sixty years' growth stood on the site of the manor, 300 of them being valued at 6d. per tree. The other 400 were reserved to the farmer of the site of the manor and to thirty-eight copyholders for the repair of their houses. It was probably soon after this, when the property came to the St. John family, that the value of the woodland began to fall quickly. In the troublesome years following the grant to the St. Johns it is evident that the inhabitants of the manor were impoverished by high rents and reduced privileges and, in return, constant actions for damage to trees and unauthorised cutting down of timber were brought by the lord against his tenants. An account is also found about this time of the decay of houses on the manor.

The Village of Abbots Ripton

The village lies somewhat scattered and is formed into three groups of houses. The church stands surrounded by trees on the road from Huntingdon to Wood Walton. On its north side is the rectory, a brick house with a large well-wooded garden. Northward of the rectory is a group of houses of the 18th century and later. A little to the south-east of the church is a picturesque group of some twenty 17th-century timber-framed cottages with thatched or tiled roofs. East of these cottages is the late 16th-century manor house now called Moat Farm. It is a timber-framed and plastered house with 18th-century and modern additions. Many of the internal fittings are of the 17th and 18th centuries. The moat still survives on its eastern side. To the south-east of the house is a further group of houses round a large green with a pond in the middle. Green Farm on the south side is a good specimen of a 17th-century house with exposed timber frame. Hall Farm, lying east of Moat Farm, is a 17th-century house with modern additions, while Shooters Green Farm, another 17th-century building, stands near Abbots Ripton railway station.

Among our minor 19th-century poets, Mary Sophia Stratton and Nicholas Stratton were residents in Abbots Ripton, and W. E. Martin, inventor of an automatic press for ensilage stacks and silos, also lived here.

The Hamlet of Wennington

Wennington lies nearly a mile to the north of the village. Most of the cottages are timber-framed, with roofs of thatch or tiles, and are of the 16th century and later. Some time towards the end of the Abbey's rule there is a record of the foundation of a house for the poor, called 'le Almeshouse,' 'next the church there,' and the rent of two capons, amounting to 6d., was allotted to its upkeep.

Victoria County History - Published in 1932