A brief history of this once independent parish

By Sue Miller

We think of Malton today simply as the beautiful farmhouse and its dovecot beside the River Rhee at the south end of our parish. However, Malton was once, long ago, a settlement independent of Orwell, and may have developed from the farmstead of a Saxon settler called Mealca. 

Photo:The moats at Malton, fed by the River Rhee

The moats at Malton, fed by the River Rhee

The remains of two rectangular moats in the farmhouse garden, connected to the river, may date from his time, but their age is unknown at present. Malton was a separate parish with its own church by 1216.

Malton was not recorded in the Domesday survey of 1086, but the records of the Cambridge Assizes show that it was a separate parish with its own church by 1216. Malton’s status changed several times over the next 500 years; sometimes it was considered to be an independent parish for the purpose of taxation and the collecting of the Poor Rate, but from around 1800 it was considered to be a part of Orwell, and remains so in the 21st century. 

The Hundred Rolls for 1279 show that the lords of the two manors in the parish had twenty tenants between them, mostly with very small plots of land on which to grow food for their families. Their cottages presumably stood on the higher ground, away from the river, but no trace of them remains.

By the year 1400 Malton was being farmed as one estate, and the cottagers, having lost their land, had moved away. The parish was depopulated by 1428, except for the occupants of Malton farmhouse, but the church, dedicated to St Nicholas, remained. It stood to the west of the farmhouse, but was partly demolished in 1509-10. Surviving builders’ accounts from 1510 show that “certen houses not necessarie” were also demolished at the time. The church chancel survived to be used as a cowshed, a chapel and a barn before becoming a ruin at the end of the 18th century. The sketch here,

Photo:Malton Church in 1639

Malton Church in 1639

by 17th century Shepreth historian John Layer, shows what survived of the church in 1639. It still had a thatched roof and “elegant pillars” in 1747, but was being used as a barn, and by 1797 it was a ruin, though the lower courses of the stone walls survived until the 1950s.
Photo:The ruins of Malton Church in the 1930s

The ruins of Malton Church in the 1930s

Henry VII's mother owned Malton from 1504 to 1510

The land of Malton was divided into two manors until Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, acquired both of them in 1504/06. She gave Malton to Christ’s College, Cambridge, intending that it should be a retreat for members of the college, and the farm house was extensively altered and enlarged in 1510 with money left in her will. Margaret intended that “the masters and scholars should resort thither and there to tarry in time of contagious sickness at Cambridge, and exercise their learning and studies.” However, Christ’s College chose to build itself a new house close to the old one. The new, up-to-the minute retreat was apparently not a great success, as it was demolished between 1609 and 1622, and no trace of it remains.

Photo:Malton farmhouse

Malton farmhouse

Photo:The dovecote at Malton

The dovecote at Malton

In 1639 John Layer described Malton as “now but one house, a pretty seat, a chapel for divine service, but belongs to Orwell. The river watereth it pleasantly, and a great store of good pasture ground.” The timber-framed house, dating from around 1430, has undergone many changes over the centuries, and was most recently renovated in 2008.  Click here for a detailed and illustrated account of the work carried out in 2008, and of the history of the house, written by Mark Collins, the owner at the time.

 You will also find additional items of interest on the page exploring Malton Lane


Photo:The extent of Malton in 1837

The extent of Malton in 1837

When the open fields of Orwell were enclosed in 1837 Malton was already being run as a single farm and was allotted 151 acres in Orwell as well as the 304 acres that had been enclosed and hedged at least 200 years earlier. Houses were built for farm workers alongside Malton Lane in the 19th and 20th centuries, and Christ’s College continued to own Malton until it was sold to the sitting tenants, the Marr family in 1978.

Ownership of the farmhouse and gardens, and of the farmland, has changed several times in the past forty years and a golf course, with clubhouse, was a feature for a while. In 2021 most of the land is farmed by Rand brothers of Reed, Hertfordshire.






This page was added by Sue Miller on 18/02/2013.

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