History of Chrishall

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chrishallchurch chrishall church from the fields church plaque


Chrishall is a straggling parish, lying among the chalk hills bordering south Cambridgeshire. It is found in the earliest records as Christhale. Other forms are Chrisshall, Cresshall, and even as Cryotissale.

There has been much speculation as to the origin of the name. Whether the name points toa church in pre-Norman times dedicated to our Blessed Lord, or whether it was the first part of the East Saxon kingdom to be Christianised, we have no means of telling. ‘Christhale’ seems to be the home , or nook, of Christ.

After the Norman Conquest William shared out the country, in slices more or less, to his backers and supporters. The village of Chrishall was presented to Count Eustace of Boulogne, the act says, 13 Manors thereabouts. Now Eustace decided he would live in the village and had a house built on an elevation to the south of the Church, there was a church here in those days in Chrishall. Before the Conquest a small Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary stood on the spot where the present church now stands and continued there till well over a century after the Conquest.

Eustace built himself a nice house and he named it ‘FLANDERS’ and there his tiny daughter was brought up until she became a Lady/ and when she grew up she became the wife of Stephen and became QUEEN MATILDA, but she never forgot the little village that was her home when she was a little girl. There is on record a letter sent by the QUEEN to Hubert the Chamberlain and several other dignitaries in the village commanding them to look after the people in her village of Chrishall. She went into some detail as to what they had to do to look after them. There is one telling sentence towards the end of the letter, when she finished off her story with: ‘As my father did before me’, and she never lost that personal touch with the little village in which she grew up, I think that is a very lovely story.

Long after Eustace died the house stood for nearly 400 years. At the end of the 15th century the old house was pulled down and the new house that stands on the spot was erected. I cannot prove it as have not written evidence, but I think the house name changed from Flanders to Chiswick Hall as it is known today.

There is an interesting record in the 13th century that the people who lived in Flanders - as it was then - had to pay to the King their rent and the first lot mentioned had to pay three arrows to the value of sixpence yearly. They must have been very special arrows because sixpence was a lot to pay for anything. A few years later the rent must have gone up a bit because there was no mention of the arrows but we find that the people who lived in Flanders in those days were expected to pay the King a pair of guilt spurs yearly.

At the same time as collecting rent, at the other end of the village about one and half miles from where Eustace lived, there was a man named Henry de-Uphook who lived at Crowley Bury and the rent he had to pay to the King was the sum of one rose and it had to be ‘plukt’ on the Eve of St John’s day the 24th June, so on the 23rd June Henry had to pick or pluck a rose and take it to the King for his yearly rent. I always wonder when the King resided in Winchester in those days, how Henry could get from the little village of Chrishall, with the roads in the condition they were, and manage to keep that rose fresh.

Irene Cranwell, Chrishall Historian &  Fred Davies, Chrishall Local History Recorder