The History of Hilton in Cambridgeshire

Historical notes about the town of Hilton in Cambridgehsire.

The Geography of Hilton

Hilton was not formed into a parish until 1873, before which date it was a chapelry of Fen Stanton. It lies on the south-east boundary of the county and covers 1,263 acres of heavy, rich loam, with a subsoil of Oxford Clay. It is for the most part low lying, being about 50 ft. above the ordnance datum and nowhere rising to more than 100 ft. The land is mainly arable.

The Village of Hilton

The village, which is one of the prettiest in the county, lies off the east side of the road from Potton to St. Ives, about four miles south-west from the latter town. The church stands at the south end of the village, and to the east of it is Church Farm, which was unfortunately burnt down some years ago. A 17th-century chimney stack and a square 18th century brick dovecot, however, have survived. To the north-east is the large village green, around which stand the principal houses. On the south side is the Grange Farm, on the site probably of the grange of the Abbey of Tarant (co. Dorset). Adjoining it are two tithe barns of the 16th century or perhaps earlier.

The old vicarage, now three cottages, is at the south-west end of the green. Near by is the Manor Farm, an 18th-century brick house of two stories with hipped roof probably built by the Malletts. Hilton Hall stands due north of the church. It is a brick house built in the early part of the 17th century and re-fronted some hundred years later. To the south of it is a 17th-century pigeon house, square in plan and built of brick. North-west is Hilton House. There are many 17th-century cottages in the village. A little to the west of the village on the road known as Graveley Way is St. John's College Farm, surrounded by the remains of a moat. The house was originally built in the 15th century with a central hall and wings at each end, but it was considerably altered and enlarged in the 17th century, when the west wing was removed and the hall received an upper floor. It is of half-timber construction with a tiled roof, and has remains of pargeting work. No doubt it was the house conveyed with 140 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 4 acres of pasture, and 6 acres of wood in Hilton by George Bowlys, clerk, in 1533–4 to the master and fellows of St. John the Evangelist in the University of Cambridge, who are now the principal landowners. Another 15th-century house similar in plan, with a central hall and two wings, lies north-east of the church. It was formerly the Red Cow Inn and was altered in the 17th century, when the north wing was demolished and the hall converted into two stories. Near it is Park Farm, built in the 16th century.

The Hilton Turf Maze

Hilton Maze (circa 1911)

Hilton Maze (circa 1911)


On the Green is a circular maze 53 ft. in diameter, originally cut in the turf in 1660, which has since been re-cut several times. It surrounds a stone obelisk terminating in a ball which bears on its south face the inscription

'Sic transit gloria mundi, Gulielmus Sparrow, gen. natus ano 1641, aetatis sue 88 quando obit, hos gyros formavit anno 1660.'

and on its east face

'Ad hoc William Sparrow departed this life the 25th of August anno Domini 1729, aged 88 years';

on the north and west faces are respectively 'ab hoc' and 'per hoc.' We know little of William Sparrow, whose fame does not seem to have gone beyond his parish. He was overseer of the poor in 1675, and left a charity for the poor of the parish.

Victoria County History - Published 1932