Encompassing 325 acres, Caldecote is one of the
smallest villages in Hertfordshire.
It is a narrow strip of land, which runs East
to West, and is bounded on the north by Hinxworth, on the south
by Newnham, on the east by Ashwell, and on the west by Bedfordshire.
The Domesday Book says that Caldecote was held
by Ralph of Limesey for 1 hide and 1 virgate, and that there was
land for 5 ploughs. The 9 villagers and a priest had 2 ½
ploughs. There were cottagers and a meadow for 2 oxen. Ralph de
Limesey was a follower of William the Conqueror, and was rewarded
for his services by the grants of land including Caldecote, Amwell
and Pirton, and he founded the priory at Hertford. The manor passed
down through Ralph’s family until the reign of Henry III when
it went to the Furnivall family. Henry VIII granted the manor to
Ralph Rowlet of St. Albans . He was Sheriff of Hertfordshire as
well as Master of the Mint. During the reign of Elizabeth I the
manor was bought by Richard Hale, grocer and citizen of London .
Caldecote is a deserted mediaeval village. The
population in the 1870s had dwindled to 34, and is now 17. An archaeological
excavation in the 1980s revealed evidence that Caldecote had been
a prehistoric settlement, with continuous occupation from around
1050. The site was largely abandoned in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The only ancient building which remains is the
small church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. It is now redundant,
having been officially closed in 1978, and has since been in the
care of The Friends of Friendless Churches The church was built
from clunch found in nearby Ashwell quarry around 1400. There was
probably an earlier church, since the list of Rectors dates from
Stephen de Holewell in 1215.
The present church is a tiny building, measuring
51 feet long by 14 ½ feet wide. Its most notable feature
is a 15th century canopied water stoup in the south porch. The octagonal
font dates from 1480, and the pews from the same era. There is a
fine 18th century pulpit. It is possible that most of the mediaeval
windows were destroyed during Cromwell’s rule, but a few fragments
remain. The parochial church registers prior to 1726 have been lost.
However, the County Record Office holds Bishops' Transcripts from
1605 to 1882. There are now only 16 gravestones in the churchyard,
most of them in memory of the Flint and Inskip families, the latter
of which held the manor for nearly two centuries.
The church has a plaque in memory of Thomas Inskip,
the first Viscount Caldecote.