The first mention of Cavenham is in the Domesday Book, the tenant was recorded as ‘Richard, son of Count Gilbert’ known as Richard Fitz Gilbert. “Withgar, Richard’s predecessor, held Cavenham as an outlier (the lands of) Desning for 5 curacates of land, with the jurisdiction. Always 25 villages, 5 ploughs, a church, 60 acres of free land then 5 mills, now 4, meadow 3 acres. It has a league in length and 4 furlongs in width; 20d in tax” “Eudo the Steward’s lands in Suffolk: In Cavenham 1 free man under the patronage of Canute (and) in the jurisdiction of St. Edmund; 60 acres. 1 small holder, always 1 plough value 5s........... Eudo the Steward’s lands in Suffolk....In Cavenham 1 free man under the patronage of Canute (and) in the jurisdiction of St. Edmund....60 acres. Always 1 plough...Value always 5s.”
Richard Fitz Gilbert came to England with William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy. In William’s absences Richard was regent of England jointly with William de Warenne. For these services William rewarded his cousin Richard well granting him one of the largest fiefs in the territory. The lordship centered around Clare, Suffolk.
Cavenham Manor was one of 95 Suffolk manors that made up the great Honor of Clare held by Richard Fitz Gilbert or de Clare afterwards Earl of Gloucester and Hertford.
Over the next two centuries the de Clare’s rose to a position of pre-eminence in the ranks of the aristocracy becoming one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the kingdom. But by 1317 the male line of the senior branch of the family became extinct. The last, Gilbert Fitz Gilbert de Clare, 4th Earl of Gloucester, 8th Earl of Hereford, falling at the battle of Bannockburn on the 24th June1314, was buried at the right hand of his father in Tewkesbury. The English defeat secured Scottish independence for almost four centuries to come.
Gilbert Fitz de Clare’s wife, Maud, continued to insist on her pregnancy for a further two years but on her death in 1317 Edward II’s hope for the birth of a child to preserve this inheritance was reluctantly concluded. In Nov. 1317 the great Clare inheritance was partitioned between the Earl’s three sisters.
Cavenham manor passed to Gilbert’s sister, Margaret, and in turn to her husband’s daughter, Margaret who married in 1336 to Sir Ralph, Lord Stafford, later the Earl of Stafford.
The manor passed down through the generations of Staffords until 1521 when Edward de Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Earl and Baron of Stafford was beheaded and all lands forfeited to the crown. Thomas Bedingfield apparently died seised of the manor on 9th April 1590.
Cavenham Manor then devolved in the same course as the Manor of Denham. The Lord of the Manor, Sir Edward Lewkenor left the family estate in Sussex to reside in Denham but died 1st May 1618 Eger. 2713 A sermon lamenting the death of Sir Edward was preached upon a lecture day at Canham in Suffolk, by Bezaleel Carter, describing the subject as ’wise, learned, religious, prayed extempore in his family, erected building near his house with a large table to the only use and relief of the Poor.’
Sir Edward’s grand daughter married Lord Townshend, created Viscount Townshend, 11th Dec 1682. He was described as ‘a gentleman of the greatest interest and credit in that large county of Norfolk’. Lord Clarendon. The Townshend’s appeared to have held Cavenham Manor until the time of George Townshend, 4th Viscount and Ist Marquis who inherited the title on his fathers death in 1767 and died in 1807. It is unclear at what time during this period he sold the manor.
It is uncertain who next held the manorial lands of Cavenham though John Kirby in ‘The Suffolk Traveller notes that; “the lordship now belongs to Lord Viscount Townsend - Johnson Esq. hath a seat in the parish where he commonly resides” J.Kirby, The Suffolk Traveller, 1732, ‘33,& ‘34. P 239. The names Johnson Esq. (Kirby’s map of 1736), Webb Esq. (Bowden’s map of 1777) and Le Blanc are all clearly marked as owners of Cavenham land. Webb’s name crops up again in the census records of the time, given as a place of birth. While Thomas Le Blanc and his three sons probably resided in the hall, articles and notices in the local press show a strong involvment in the rearing and selling of sheep and wool. Thomas Le Blanc sold the estate in 1794.
For a short period Cavenham Manor was vested in Charles, Ist Marquis Cornwallis, who had purchased the estate from Thomas Le Blanc in 1794, later the 2nd Marquis Cornwallis inherited.
The Marquis sold the Manor to Henry Spencer Waddington M.P. in 1809. His son, Henry Spencer Waddington J.P. inherited the land and Hall in 1864 and in turn his son, Spencer Beauchamp Waddington. Spencer Waddington is known to have sold the park and hall to Mr.H.E.M. Davies who employed an architect to design a large rambling Georgian style hall for the park.
During the nineteenth century the holding of manor courts gradually came to an end, and in 1925 copyhold tenure formally ended in accordance with the Law of Property Acts, 1922 and 1924. It is unclear when the manorial rights of Cavenham became distinct from the direct ownership of the Hall and Park. Further information on the Hall from 1736 can be found on the article ‘Cavenham Hall’
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