The Pike or Pyke family had connections with Meldreth from 1648 to 1810. Evidence of their time in the village remains at Sheene Manor and Holy Trinity Church.
George Pike senior, purchased Sheene Manor in 1648. In his will, dated 10th August 1658, he left his large estates to his only son and heir George Pike junior, who in turn left the same estate “in tail” for generations to come. The result was that many descendants of the Pike and subsequent families were required to adopt the surname of Pike/Pyke should they wish to inherit the estates originally purchased and bequeathed by George Pike senior.
This has led many a family historian on a merry chase in an attempt to unravel the past three hundred and fifty year history of the Pike family!
George Pike (1590 – 1658)
George Pike snr was born in about 1590, most likely in Essex but no official record of his birth or baptism has been found to date.
He married Margaret Woodcott, the daughter of Edward Woodcott of Ipswich in about 1624. Margaret died in London on 21st September 1637 leaving George with three young daughters to raise alone. The following year George married Elizabeth Gore, the daughter of Sir John Gore, Knight and Alderman of London . Sir John Gore had died the previous year and it is likely that Elizabeth may have been left a considerable dowry.
Throughout the 1640’s George purchased some very fine mansions such as Baythorne Manor in Birdwood, Essex and Sheene Manor in Meldreth.
In the 1640s, George Pike was nominated to the position of Sheriff of the County of Essex. The following is an extract from the House of Lords Journal of 1648:
“The Lords and Commons do nominate and approve of George Pike, of Bathan-end, Esquire, to be Sheriff of the County of Essex; and that the Commissioners for the Great Seal of England do issue out a Commission to him, to be Sheriff of the said County, accordingly.”
George Pike MP was very much involved with the parliamentarians at this time where his vote is noted on many parliamentary papers and discussions. Throughout his life, George Pike was documented as a Goldsmith, a Parliamentarian and Sheriff but was most often recorded, simply, as a Gentleman.
George Pike did not live to see his two youngest children married. He died in September 1658, aged 67 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Meldreth. When he died he left a legacy that was due to endure for hundreds of years. In his will dated 10th August 1658 he left his large estates to his only son and heir, George Pike junior.
In his will, George Pike stipulated that his funeral charge was not to exceed £250 and that £120 should be used for the erection of a monument in Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth where he wished to be buried. George also left a lasting legacy to the poor of the Parish of Meldreth and Melbourn and ensured that the poorest of both parishes would be well-dressed at his funeral!
In part, his will reads:
£ 10 to poor of Mildreth to be delivered to the collectors for the said poor, to remaine for ever for a stock for poor of the said Town to set them on work;
£5 to poor of Milborne adjacent, in like manner;
£30 to 30 poorest with preference for widows of Mildreth for black garments gownes and coats to be worne at my funeral;
£20 to 20 poorest of Milborne in same way
George Pike Junior, Master of Game for King Charles II
George Pike junior, only son and heir of George Pike and Elizabeth Gore was married at Aspenden Church, Hertfordshire on 2nd July 1660. He married Ann Freeman, daughter of Ralph Freeman of Aspenden Hall, Hertfordshire.
On 30th October 1662 a Royal Warrant was issued to George, “Whereas we are informed that our Game of Hare, Pheasant, Heron and other wild fowle” will be supplied by George Pike Esq. thereby appointing him to the position of Master of Game for King Charles.
Unfortunately, George and Ann had no surviving children and so decided to place an entail on his estate following his demise. This would ensure that his or his sister’s direct descendants would be the only ones to inherit the entire estate including Sheene Manor and the name of Pike/Pyke would continue for generations to come. An extract from his will dated 1680 stated “… all property … to John Crouch, second son of my sister Mrs Elizabeth Crouch, on condition that he change his name to Pyke, in tail male …..”. When the Crouch line died out, the estate then passed to “cousins” by the name of Tweed who, by Act of Parliament, changed their name to Pyke.
Elizabeth Pike, youngest child of George and Elizabeth Gore
Elizabeth was born in 1638 and was therefore still a minor when her father died. In his will he left “to daughter Elizabeth 3000 marks at twenty-one or marriage, provided she does not bestow herself without consent of sons-in-law (Thomas) James and (Sir James) Whitlock”.
With the permission of, or by arrangement by, her two brothers-in-law, Elizabeth was married in 1661 by licence to Gregory Baker, son of John Baker of Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. Unfortunately, Gregory died shortly afterwards and so less than a year after her first marriage, Elizabeth married John Crouch of Alswick Hall in Layston, Hertfordshire. John was the son and heir of John Crouch of Corneybury in Layston, Hertfordshire and the grandson of Sir John Scott of London.
The Pike Monument, Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth
In the 1650s a funerary chapel was built by the Pike family at the end of the south aisle of Holy Trinity Church. It was entered by an iron gate where the east window of the aisle now is. In 1658 George left £120 in his will for his monument, which was set on the wall of the chapel, necessitating the blocking of the south-west window of the chancel.
The chapel fell into disuse and was finally demolished in 1887. The east window of the south aisle was then unblocked and restored and the Pyke monument was moved to its present position at the west end of the south aisle.
The memorial reads (translated from the Latin):
In memory of George Pike Esquire, whose remains lie buried not far from here, whose wife was Margaret, daughter of Edward Woodcott of Ipswich, by whom he had three daughters: Anna (wife of William Violet of Norfolk), Cicely (wife of Thomas James of Hartford), and Maria (or Mary) (who first married Thomas Pitchard Esquire of Cambridge, then Jacob Whitlocke Esquire of Buckingham). After the death of Margaret, he married Elizabeth, dau. of John Gore of London, knight, by whom he had George and Elizabeth (who first married Gregory Baker Stanford, then John Crowch of Hertford).
Sheene Manor was sold to George Pike in 1648 by William Ayloffe. George was succeeded by his son, also George. George’s daughter and heir Elizabeth married John Crouch, whose descendants took the name of Pike. Although Sheene Manor remained in the Pike family for some time it was rarely occupied by them. It was sold in 1810 to Joshua Fitch, who had been its lessee since 1781.
Three adjacent moated sites have been identified as the sites of successive Sheene manor houses. The earliest location was probably further north of the present manor. One earlier home was partially demolished by George Pike junior when he rebuilt Sheene Manor using timbers and stones from his father’s original house. The main building now incorporates what was probably the service wing and part of the central range of a seventeenth century house, built partly by Thomas Sterne and partly by George Pike senior who erected the chimney stacks in 1656 just prior to his death. One window contains the arms of Crouch impaling Pike in a tribute to Pike’s descendants.
George Pike’s house was larger than the present house. In the old part of the present house there are thought to be seven fireplaces whereas Pike in his Hearth Tax Return in 1665 owned to having eleven fireplaces and may well have had more than that.
For further information on the family, view this extract from the Pike family tree or see the sources below.
Further information on the Pike family is available in the following sources:
- Notes and Queries
- The Victoria County History for Meldreth
- Meldreth Church by W M Palmer, 1921
- Melbourn, Cambridgeshire – Notes on Cambridgeshire Villages by W M Palmer and H H McNeice, 1925
- Meldreth Parish Records by W M Palmer, 1896
- Layston Church website which has a wealth of information on the Pyke/Crouch families including transcriptions of wills.
- Abstracts of the Carthew Yorstoun Family
- Will of Sir John Gore
- Will of George Pike