Flambards Manor: an introduction
Anyone visiting Flambards Close off Meldreth High Street today could be forgiven for not realising the rich history of this site. The modern (c. 1970) houses are arranged around a small green (see photograph on the right) and look similar to many other housing developments. However, closer inspection reveals a number of clues. The traces of a ditch can be seen around the green; this ditch was once a moat surrounding a manor house. And just metres away, the remains of a mill race can be seen in the River Mel.
In June 2013, three archaeological test pits were dug on the green and another was dug close to the site of the former watermill as part of Meldreth Local History Group’s Heritage Lottery funded project. One of these pits produced the find of the summer: a medieval mirror case back (pictured above).
Hearing of our HLF project, Meg Shortt and Pam Wright of Melbourn and District U3A Group approached us and offered help via a Shared Learning project. After some consideration, we asked them to research the history of Flambards Manor. Meg and Pam began by piecing together what was already known, pulling together a lot of information. It became apparent, in the course of their research, that the history of the site and the manor was very complex and in investigating it, they had to look not only at Meldreth but also at the nearby villages of Melbourn, Wimpole, Wendy, Kneesworth, Shepreth, Malton, Orwell, Foxton, Bassingbourn and Whaddon.
Most of the information on this and the History and Ownership page has come from their research and Meldreth Local History Group would like to express its appreciation of the work they have done.
The history of the site can be split into a number of topics, as follows:
The site became known as Flambards Manor in the late fourteenth century after ownership of the manor passed to Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Flambard.
However, its origins lie several centuries earlier. It is one of several manors in Meldreth that are recorded in the Domesday Book. The manor had belonged to Ely Abbey and passed to Hugh de Scalers after the Conquest. According to W M Palmer ownership of the manor, which was spread over several parishes, had puzzled the King’s officials and also the general public. It continued to be a complex affair, as Meg and Pam discovered.
More information on the Manor itself will be added in due course, together with pages incorporating a timeline of the Manor and further details on ownership.
The history of the mill was not specifically part of the U3A brief, but Meg and Pam noted any references to the mill that they came across. We believe that there has been a mill on the site since at least Domesday. The mill has also been known as Quakers Mill and Sheldrick’s Mill.
The mill is thought to have been destroyed by fire c. 1910, after which only the chimney and the mill housing remained. Please see the existing pages that we have about the mill on our website.
The former County Archaeologist, Alison Taylor in her book, The Archaeology of Cambridgeshire, referred to Flambards as a “particularly interesting site because of its oval shape and because trial excavations by T C Lethbridge uncovered occupation layers of 11th to 13th century dates.”
In fact, an excavation in 1933/34 by T C Lethbridge is the only known major archaeological activity on the site. Unfortunately, no formal report was published although Lethbridge subsequently wrote about the dig in a number of articles. In 2013, as mentioned above, three test pits were dug on the green and another near the site of the mill and in 2014 a geophysical survey of the green was completed.
Archaeology has pointed to a possible first settlement date of c. 900AD. W M Palmer believed that the manor house was destroyed by fire in the late eleventh century. Archaeological finds suggest that the house did not exist beyond the 15th century. This is similar to the timeline suggested by a test pit dug on the site of Topcliffe Manor house, a mile to the north of the Flambards site.
A separate page on this site summarises the known archaeological activity on the Flambards site.