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Old photos & postcards of the Manor House, Little Shelford

The Georgian Manor House stands in a secluded position in Manor Road. From the late 13th century, it was the main seat of the De Freville family, but after 300 years they sold it to Tobias Palavicino. who built a grand new house on the site. 

This house was largely demolished c1750 and the present house, designed by the son of the famous architect Inigo Jones, was built. Some material from the previous house, including Palavicino's coat of arms, was incorporated in the new building. At the beginning of this century John Clay M.A., J.P. of Newnham, was Lord of the Manor , and William Walton was living at the Manor House. It later became the property of the Pares Wilsons. Charles Felix Clay lived at Manor Farm for over thirty years from 1900.


A painting of the rear of Little Shelford manor house reproduced in A Record of Shelford Parva.  There has been a Manor House  on the site since the 1300s.From the late C13 it was the  seat of the De Freville family, but after 300 years they sold it  to Tobias Palavicino, who had commanded one of the English
men-of-war in the battle with the Spanish Armada in 1588.
This house was largely demolished in c.1750 and the present  house, designed by Inigo Jones, was built.

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Manor Road 1 HR Manor House.JPG
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Manor Road 8 MR Manor House painting_edited.jpg

From the Victorian County History of Cambridgeshire

In 1086 Hardwin de Scalers held altogether nearly 8 hides in Shelford, most of which formed the later manor of LITTLE SHELFORD. Part of that land, c. 1½ hides, which in 1066 had been held by six sokemen under Eddeva, was held by Hardwin under Count Alan, 2½ hides was formerly the demesne of Ely abbey, and the rest, former sokeland, was held in chief. (fn. 43) Little Shelford passed on Hardwin's death to his son Richard, forming the caput of his half of the Scalers barony. It descended from Richard's son Stephen (d. 1168) to Stephen's son William (d. 1199) and the latter's son, also William (d. by 1222), (fn. 44) being assigned in 1199 to his mother Sibyl as dower. (fn. 45) The younger William's son Richard (d. 1231) was succeeded by his daughter Lucy who married Baldwin de Freville (d. c. 1257). (fn. 46) Little Shelford thereafter descended in the Freville family for over 300 years. Baldwin de Freville c. 1235 held ¾ fee there in chief, ¾ fee of the honor of Richmond, and 1½ fee of the see of Ely, (fn. 47) and those overlordships were recorded until the 15th century. 

Baldwin's son Richard de Freville was succeeded in 1299 by his son John (d. 1312) (fn. 49) whose son Richard in 1325 settled the manor on himself and his wife Margaret. (fn. 50) Sir Richard was succeeded in 1328 by his son Sir John (d. 1372). The manor had been settled on John's marriage to Ellen Lucy and on her death in 1380 (fn. 51) passed to Sir John's brother Robert Freville (d. 1393) and then to Robert's son Thomas (d. 1405). (fn. 52) Thomas's son William (d. 1460) was succeeded by his son, also William (d. 1481). (fn. 53) The latter's son John was succeeded in 1505 by his son Robert (fn. 54) (d. 1521). Robert's wife Rose (d. 1529) held much of the Little Shelford estate for life, (fn. 55) and was succeeded by their son John (d. 1552). John's son and heir Robert (fn. 56) in 1556 granted the reversion of the manor of Little Shelford, then held for life by his mother Dorothy, to John's brother George. (fn. 57)

George Freville, a judge and a baron of the Exchequer, sold Little Shelford in 1577 to John Bankes (d. 1619). (fn. 58) Bankes sold the manor house and part of the demesne to Tobias Palavicino. The manor and the rest of the land was held by John's widow Priscilla until 1634 and was later sold by their second son John to Daniel Wigmore, archdeacon of Ely. (fn. 59) Palavicino sold his estate in Little Shelford to John Gill (fl. 1641). (fn. 60) By 1665 it had passed to Gilbert Wigmore, also rector of Little Shelford, who had inherited the rest of the manor in 1646 on the death of Daniel Wigmore, his kinsman. (fn. 61) Gilbert died in 1713 and the manor passed to his son-in-law Roger Gillingham, also rector (d. 1749). (fn. 62) In 1745 Gillingham sold Little Shelford manor to William Finch, a Cambridge ironmonger (d. 1762). Finch was succeeded by his great-nephew William Ingle Finch, later William Finch Finch, lord in 1808 (fn. 63) and 1815. (fn. 64) Henry Finch, presumably William's son, sold the manor in 1837 to James Law and his son James Edmund. The latter, also rector, sold the manor and land in 1879 to C. J. Clay, lord in 1883, (fn. 65) and the manor house to William Walton, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, whose daughter lived there in 1903. (fn. 66) C. J. Clay had been succeeded by 1908 by John Clay, lord in 1937. (fn. 67)

Little Shelford manor house, the main seat of the Frevilles, was recorded from the late 13th century, (fn. 68) presumably occupying the site of later houses near the river, north of the bridge and church. The house included a chapel in 1349, (fn. 69) and in the 1520s a hall, two parlours, and a great and little chamber. (fn. 70)

Tobias Palavicino built a new house in the earlier 17th century. It was of brick and had a three-storeyed main front of five bays with gabled wings, each of two bays, between which there was a colonnade with a two-storeyed central porch. Palavicino's arms were above the doorway. (fn. 71) In the 1610s the house was for a time occupied by the earl of Southampton. (fn. 72) In the 1660s it had 25 hearths. (fn. 73) It was largely demolished c. 1750 and a new house with a plain central block of five bays was built on the site. (fn. 74) Some material from the old house, including a 17th-century door and Palavicino's coat of arms, was incorporated into two pavilions which are joined to the new house by curving walls. The main block appears to have been refaced in the 19th century and the 18th-century panelling in some of the principal rooms had to be restored after a fire c. 1945 (fn. 75) The small park is bounded by the river on the east and by an early 18th-century brick wall on the south.

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