The History of Wistow in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Wistow in Cambridgehsire.

The parish of Wistow consists of a strip of land running north-east and south-west (some 4 miles long) and of varying breadth. It is crossed by the high road from Ramsey to St. Ives at a distance of 2.5 miles from Ramsey. Rather more than half the parish is on the west side of this road. In early days the possession of a portion of the fen for the supply of reeds for thatching, fuel, and summer grazing for stock, was very important, and to obtain these advantages Wistow was connected with the fen by a narrow strip of land about 300 yards. wide. The parish contains 2,408 acres, of which 1,853 acres are arable, including fen, 405 acres pasture, 80 acres and 3 roods wood, and there remain according to the rating returns about 60 acres to be accounted for by roads, waste, water, and fences.

The soil is a clayey loam, with subsoil clay, but here and there are deposits of gravel. Beans, peas, cereals, and occasionally potatoes are grown in the highland part of the parish. To the north east are about 700 acres of fen land, all of which are now arable, producing celery, potatoes, and cereal crops. About 187 acres of this fen land are let to small holders. At the time of the Domesday Survey there was wood for pannage, one league long and half a league broad. The ends of this wood probably still remain under the names of Rolt's Wood and Wistow Wood. A windmill is mentioned in 1252 to which the tenants of Wistow, Upwood and the two Raveleys owed suit. The mill now standing is nearly a mile west-southwest of the church on the Raveley side of Wistow and is probably on the site of the original windmill. In the survey of the manor at this date there is reference to Robert Ailmare as a tenant, a surname which still exists as Elmer in the parish. Some other placenames mentioned in this survey still survive, such as 'Kyngesland' represented by Kingsland Farm, and Cheselade, Littlehylle, now Little Illins, which are still names of fields.

There were formerly two brickyards in the parish, one of which near the village has been disused many years, the other at Shillhow, where the road from Ramsey to St. Ives crosses the parish, was closed at the end of the 19th century.

The village is rather more than half a mile west of the road from Ramsey to St. Ives, and on the west side of a brook that rises in Abbot's Ripton and crosses King's Ripton; it then partly bounds and partly passes through Wistow, emptying itself at Ramsey into the Fen drainage system. The compact little village is on a slight slope facing east, all but thirteen houses being within a quarter of a mile of the church. It is principally ranged round roads forming an irregular four-sided figure with the church at the south-west corner.

From the church a road runs nearly due west and then south west to Huntingdon, 7 miles distant. An early 17th-century half-timbered house with later additions on the south side of this road bears the letters S.E.G. for Stephen and Elizabeth Goslin. Stephen Goslin was farmer of the rectory of Wistow in 1637 and had a suit against William Campion, the former farmer, in which evidence was given by Sir Oliver Cromwell, the Protector's uncle. Farther on, north of the road, the last house on that side, is another half-timbered house faced with bricks, called Limetree Farm, and formerly Harris House, once the residence and property of Uriah Harris, a collector of the subsidy of 1642. This Uriah Harris is mentioned as of Great Raveley in 1620, but apparently came to Wistow soon after that date. The house dates back to the early part of the 16th century and contains good 18th-century panelling, staircase, and other fittings. A little farther along the lane is another 17th-century house, originally timber-framed but now refaced with brick.

Running north from the church is a road which since the inclosure award has become a cul de sac; on the right hand side of this road, where now stand some American oaks, was the house in which John Margetts, sheriff of Hunts in 1827, is said to have lived. The property had belonged for some two centuries to the Margetts family, and the house was not pulled down till about 1860. Beyond this stands the house mainly built by the late George Pryme about 1825, now called Wistow Lodge. George Pryme was born at Cottingham, Yorks, 4 August, 1781, only child of Christopher Pryme. His mother was Alice, daughter of George Dimsdale, of Napper Hall, Wensleydale. He was author of the Decline and Fall of States and other works and practised at the Bar; he married Jane Townley, daughter of Thomas Thackeray, surgeon of Cambridge, and took up his residence at Barnwell Abbey. Shortly afterwards he lectured on Political Economy at Cambridge and became a professor there. In 1833 he was elected member for the University of Cambridge, retaining his seat till 1841. He bought property at Wistow 1825–1833, and removed there in 1847. He died 2 December 1868, and lies buried at Wistow. His property passed to Mrs. A. Bayne for her life, and on her death in 1883 it went to his only son, Charles de la Pryme, barrister-at-law, who died in 1899, leaving it to his daughter and five sons. Almost the whole of the property was sold in 1924 to Mr. Thomas Dorrington, whose house, now called Cooper's Farm, partly Elizabethan, lies just beyond George de la Pryme's house. He purchased it, with the farm attached, from the Rev. W. W. Cooper. This house belonged to William Baker, who married Joan Cromwell, a daughter of Sir Oliver Cromwell.

On the opposite side of the street is a half-timbered house with the initials I. M., probably for John Margetts, and date, 1655. Here Mrs. Agnes Goslin, widow, was living in 1825. Going east along the road south of the church we come to the Manor House, which is a half-timbered plastered house bearing the date 1662, but parts of the building may be earlier than this time, and turning north we pass another old half-timbered and plastered house called Porch House, bearing the letters E.G. (for Edmund Goslin) and date 1662. Again starting from the church and going along the north side of the square, we find on the north side the residence of Mr. C. H. I. Forster, the lord of the manor, formerly a farm but much enlarged by him about 1891. On the south side is the residence of Mr. A. Cope. Crossing the brook which forms the boundary of the banlieu of Ramsey is a bridge built probably late in the 16th century, with three round arches, which has been recently widened.

Victoria County History: Huntingdonshire ~ Printed 1932