The Flavells of Cambridgeshire

(last updated: 14 June 2009)

The Flavell antecedants, probably known by the name of de Flamville or somesuch, came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. They settled initially in the counties of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Yorkshire. By the time local parish registers were introduced in 1538, the name Flavell and its numerous variants had spread well beyond these three counties to many other places in Britain and Ireland, including a number of towns and villages in Cambridgeshire. These include especially Landbeach, Cottenham and Haddenham whose respective Flavells are summarised below. A detailed, and unfinished, listing of Cambridgeshire's various Flavel(l)s can be downloaded by clicking here.

Although this listing is far from complete, they enable us to surmise that the families from Landbeach, Cottenham and Haddenham are probably related, something that should not be surprising given the relatively close proximity of the three villages and the long period under review. The evidence to date also suggests that Cambridgeshire's earliest Flavells were at Landbeach, living there from at least the mid-1500s until the early 1700s when some or all of them moved to the neighbouring village of Cottenham where they lived for the next hundred years or so. In the late 1700s some from among the Cottenham Flavells went to live and work at Haddenham while others returned to Landbeach where they and their descendants could still be found at the beginning of the twentieth century. During this later period many members of the individual families also left their home villages either to live and work in such larger towns and cities as Cambridge and London or, in a few cases, to travel much further still, to Australasia or north America.

We should also be aware that there were Flavel(l)s also living in Huntingdonshire from at least the early 1700s at such places as Godmanchester, Swineshead and Kimbolton. Some of these have been included in the list of Cambridgeshire Flavells even though we have no evidence to date that they are connected. Again their relative proximity suggests that they could be offshoots of the Flavells of Landbeach or Cottenham although they could equally connect to the families that settled in Bedfordshire. Only time and more research will tell.

Landbeach Flavel(l)s

Landbeach, called at the time of the Norman conquest 'Utbech' and later 'Inbech', is a small rural village located some four miles north of the university city of Cambridge and on the original road to Ely. It is thought that the village's first inhabitants were shepherds and their families who camped on the high ground away from the marshes and fens that then dominated the area. Following the completion of a system of dykes and embankments in the 14th Century, the land surrounding the village began to be used for farming and grazing of stock belonging to the manorial farms of the Bray and Chamberlain families. Even so, the number of people living in and around Landbeach remained small compared with the neighbouring villages of Waterbeach and Cottenham. The population from the 1500s through to the late 1700s never exceeded 240 and although the early 19th century witnessed a spurt in Landbeach's population, peaking at 526 in 1851, it again declined to be 389 in 1911. This last reduction was due mainly to the younger inhabitants either seeking work and opportunities in Britain's rapidly industrialising cities or, assisted by the parish in some cases, emigrating to its overseas colonies.

According to British History Online, the village had 'in modern times five to seven public houses, including the Black Bull, established by 1765, at which a book club met, 1846-71'. Only one public house, the Slap-Up, which had opened in 1864, was still operating in the mid-1980s (it is now an Indian restaurant). 'The village Feast, still observed in the 1860s, had in 1779 been moved with that of Waterbeach to May. Football was traditionally played on Camping Close until c.1800'. From the late 1600s the village had two cottages that were used to house its paupers. Today Landbeach's population is around 825, the village has only two churches (Anglican and Baptist) but, in a reflection of the changing times, has gained a research park which was formerly a marina made from a flooded gravel pit.

high street landbeach

High Street Landbeach, c1920

The local parish registers show that there have been Flavel(l)s at Landbeach from at least the mid-16th century when John Flavell married Katering (Katharine) Cherington there on 6 June 1586. John was a tenant farmer who, in 1588, leased from the Masters and Fellows of the University of Cambridge's Corpus Christi College, 'a close called the Rose Close and five acres of land with a sheepwalk and land in Frith Fen' The lease was for 21 years at an annual rent of 7s 51/2d (Deeds relating to Landbeach, Janus Library Cambridge). John's farmhouse was one of only 36 dwellings present in the parish the population of which then numbered around 170. The sparse population and extensive common rights meant that small landholders like John could run relatively large herds or flocks and so were in many cases reasonably prosperous. This would change in the early 1800s when much of Landbeach's commons were brought under private ownership by the enclosure acts.

John and Katharine had six children we know of: William (1588-1618), Tobye (1594-before 1599), Gervase (1592-1627), Elizabeth (1594-), John (1597-) and Toby (1599-1659). The youngest of these, Toby or Tobias Flavell, married Elizabeth Manchett at Landbeach on 11 Nov 1634 and had at least six children there: Tobias jnr (1635-), John (1637-), William (1640-1686), Elizabeth (1643-) and two Susans (1646-1647) and (1649-1682). Toby snr, said on the register of burials to be a 'late clerk of the parish', was clearly a person of some standing in Landbeach where he was buried on 28 June 1659. His son, Tobias jnr, married Katheren Clarke at Rampton (near Cottenham) on 28 Nov 1669. There is no record of them living at or having children in Landbeach. The record does show that a William and two John Flavells had children baptised there around this time as follows: 1) William and Alice Flavell had John (1671), Martha (1673-3) and Martha (1675); John and Anne Flavell had John (1672-poss 1680) and Elizabeth (-1680); and 3) John and Mary Flavill had William (1680-80), Martha (1680) and Mathew (-1680).

One of this generation of John Flavells survived the fevers that decimated the village in 1680 and married Katherine Essex at Cottenham in 1699. The registers show that they lived at Landbeach after their marriage and had four children there: Mary (1700), William (1702-06), John (1707-07) and John (1709). John Flavell snr died at Landbeach in 1710. His wife Katherine died there four years later. We think that their daughter, Mary, married Charles Steward at Landbeach in 1733 and their son John married Mary Maile at Cottenham the following year (see below). By this time there were some 51 families in the village.

landbeach baptist chapel c1854No Flavel(l)s are recorded in the parish registers from around this time until the marriage of Eliza's grandparents, Thomas Flavell and Martha Webb, at Landbeach in 1795. The Flavells of Landbeach, it would seem, had either died out or moved away from the parish. Another possibility is that they converted to one of the dissenting Protestant religions that were gaining strength in the area and so disappeared only from the official records of births, deaths and marriages maintained by the Church of England. The account of Landbeach provided on British History Online notes that there was a constant and growing dissenting presence in the parish through the late 1700s and early 1800s. Between 1783 and 1807 there were said to be four or five dissenting families in the parish some of which were described as ''meetingers', adhering to no particular sect. The account continues that

a house was registered for worship in 1798 and 1814, and a chapel was built c.1816, seating 150. It was attended by some 50 people in 1825, by when its teacher was a General Baptist, and it was reckoned a Baptist chapel. By 1851 the minister held three Sunday services and claimed attendance of 110-150 adults. A new chapel seating 320 [pictured on the left] was built by subscription in 1854 ... and into the early 1880s was served by ministers resident in Landbeach

We know that Thomas and Martha were dissenters from the fact that the births of some of their children are recorded in the Protestant Dissenters' Registry at the Dr William's Library at Cripplegate in London. Unfortunately the records we have viewed to date, on, contain no other Flavells from Cambridgeshire. This may not be that surprising as registrants were required to pay to have births or deaths included, something that may have been beyond the means of most of Landbeach's poorer inhabitants. The Registry does include numerous Flavells from London, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire which raises the possibility that Thomas descended from one of these families rather than from the early Landbeach Flavells.

Whatever the case, virtually all of the Flavells who were born or lived at Landbeach after 1795 were the descendants of Thomas and Martha. Although most of their adult children moved away from the village, their son John Flavell and his wife Elizabeth Wakefield continued to live and had eight children there. Many of these, in turn, married and continued to live there with their children, Thomas and Martha's great-grandchildren. Thus at the time of the 1901 census there were still a fair number of Flavells and Flavell descendants at Landbeach. These included Ishmael and Harriet Flavel nee Barker and their two unmarried children Ellen and Herbert Barker Flavell; Ishmael's older sister Judith Brooks and her husband John; and Judith and Ishmael's sister Martha Leach and her husband Charles and granddaughter Kate Howard.

Cottenham Flavel(l)s

The village of Cottenham lies about one mile to the northwest of Landbeach on the road from Histon to Wilburton. Like its smaller neighbour, Cottenham possesses a strong non-conformist history, highlighted by the fact that its dissenters' cemetery extends across an area more an acre in size. The first Baptist chapel was erected at Cottenham in 1731. In 1837 a second Baptist chapel was built there followed some time later by a Wesleyan Methodist chapel and a Salvation Army hall. According to the Cambridgeshire History on the Net, the parish was first noted for the 'superior quality of its cheese'. By the late 1800s the arable lands surrounding the village were producing great quantities of wheat, barley, oats and vegetables of all kinds. The parish population was also growing, reaching some 2,500 by 1891.

The first Flavells to appear in the Cottenham parish registers were most likely the children and grandchildren of Tobias Flavell and Elizabeth Manchett of Landbeach. Their daughter Elizabeth married Robert Parish from Bottisham at Cottenham in 1673. Their grandson John Flavell married Katherine Essex there in 1699 but lived and had his children at Landbeach. We think that John and Katherine's youngest son, John Flavell (1709-68), married Mary Maile at Cottenham in 1734 although this has still to be confirmed. Unlike his father, John jnr lived in Cottenham after his wedding. He and Mary also had nine children there thus beginning the Cottenham line of Flavells: John (1734-5), Mary (1735-40), John (1738), Edward (1741), William (1744), Mary (1746-7), Mary (1749), Thomas (1752) and Sarah Flavell (1755). Mary Flavell nee Maile died and was buried at Cottenham in 1758. It appears that John snr then had a child, Rose Everitt, out of wedlock before marrying Rose's widowed mother, Mary Everit, at Cottenham in 1760. We think he died 'a poor man', and was buried at Cottenham eight years later, on 10 November 1768.

What of the children of John Flavell and Mary Maile? As we saw, their first John and Mary died young and were buried at Cottenham in 1735 and 1747 respectively. We haven't been able to trace what happened to their youngest son Thomas, born at Cottenham in 1752, and think that their youngest daughter Sarah (1755) may have married either Robert Netherwood at Swavesey in 1777 or John Green at Histon in 1789. The parish records, censuses and other data sources have yielded a little more information about John and Mary's remaining children as follows:

1. John Flavell (1738-1819)

We don't as yet have a record of John's marriage but it seems from Cottenham's baptism registers that he married an Elizabeth or a Lydia sometime before 1776 and may have had at least four children at Cottenham: Rebecca (1776), Lydia, an unknown child who was buried there in 1808, and possibly Jane (date of birth unknown).

2. Edward Flavell (1741-1819)

The local parish records show that Edward married Anna Ablet (1747-1814) at Cottenham on 9 July 1769. The couple continued to live at Cottenham after their marriage and had at least seven children there as follows: Elizabeth (1770-82), Susan (1771), Edward (1773-1830), Ann (1775), John (1779-1813), Rebecca (1782-5) and Thomas (1787-91). Anna and Edward both died and were buried at Cottenham in 1814 and 1819 respectively.

What of their children? We think that Susan may have married John Bennett at Willingham in 1793. Edward jnr appears to have married Lydia Knacker and had at least one child, Ann (1819-20), before his death in 1830. And John probably married Elizabeth Leat (1774-1852) at Cottenham in 1802 and had at least three children: Rebecca (1802) who may have married John Hopkins at Cottenham in 1826, Sarah (1803-30) and Mathew Flavell (1805). The 1851 census shows Elizabeth, aged 73 and described as a pauper, living by herself on High Street in Cottenham. She died at Cottenham the following year and was buried there on 2 July 1852. Her husband John had pre-deceased her by 39 years, being buried at Cottenham on 24 January 1813.

3. William Flavell (1744-1830)

We think that William was married twice, first to Lydia Lamb at Cottenham in 1769 and, following Lydia's death in 1792, to a widower, Susannah Anger at Cottenham the same year. While the records are a bit unclear, he seems to have had at least two children: Rebeccah (1780-80) with Lydia and William (1795) with Susannah. He may also have had a son, Alexander, who moved to and was married in the northern village of Haddenham (see below).

4. Mary Flavell (1749-1818)

According to the 'Hickey/Thomas Family Tree' on, Mary married William Wilkin (1750-1827), the son of William Wilkin and Sarah Richardson, at Cottenham in 1773. They had five children, all born at Cottenham: Sarah (1775), Robert (1783), Elisabeth (1786-1880), Alice (1789) and Ann (1792).

Haddenham Flavel(l)s

The village of Haddenham is some ten miles north of Landbeach, near the city of Ely. The parish was originally part of the patrimony of Queen Etheldreda, foundress of Ely Cathedral, and contains within it Aldreth, the place where William the Norman subdued the Saxons. Originally fens, the land surrounding the village is now farm land on which crops of wheat, barley, oats and turnips are grown. In addition to the local Anglican Church of Holy Trinity, which was originally founded by St Ovin in 673 A.D., the village contains both a Baptist and a Wesleyan chapel. Its population was 1900 in 1881 and 1719 in 1891.

I have not yet viewed the local parish registers, but the LDS igi and UK censuses show that there were at least two families of Flavells living at Haddenham in the early 1800s, one headed by Alexander Flavell and one by William Flavell. We suspect Alexander and William may have been brothers although this has still to be proven.

1. Alexander Flavell (1773-1852) & Sarah Kimpton

The 1851 census shows that Alexander was born at Cottenham in around 1773. This birth date indicates that his parents were possibly William Flavell and Lydia Lamb although this has still to be proven. The LDS igi shows that he married Sarah Kimpton from Stretham in Cambridgeshire at Haddenham in 1805. The couple continued to live at Haddenham after their marriage and had two children we know of there: William, born in 1806, and James (1810). They may have had a third son, Hallack Flavell, but this has still to be proven. The Catherine House index shows that Alexander and Sarah died and were buried in the Ely registration district of Cambridgeshire (which covers Haddenham) in 1852 and 1853 respectively.

What of their children? The records show that Alexander's son, William Flavell (1806-87), who worked as an agricultural labourer, married twice, first to Mary Ann Bowles (1816-48) in 1838 and, following Mary Ann's death in 1848, to Elizabeth ('Betsy') Pettitt (1823-prob1901) from Longstanton in 1849. William and Mary Ann had at least three children, all born at Haddenham: Louisa (1840), Felix (1843) and Mary Ann Flavell (1845). He and Betsey Pettitt had at least six children baptised at Haddenham: Naomi (1850), William (1852), Sarah (1854), Elizabeth (1855), Emily (1858) and James Flavell (1860). Felix married Elizabeth Rayner from Needingworth in 1867. The couple lived at Haddenham after their marriage and by 1871 had had one child, Susan Flavell, born at Haddenham in 1869.

Alexander and Sarah's second son, James Flavell (1810- ) and Mary Ann Hilger (1816-97) had at least nine children born at either Haddenham or Earith: Caroline (1838), Ellger (1838), Leah (1840), James (1842), Thomas (1848), John (1849), Leah (1850), Hannah (1853), Ruth (1857), William (1858) and David (1860). At the time of the 1851 and 1861 censuses, the family was living on the High Street at Earith in Huntingdonshire where James was working as a tea dealer. The 1881 census shows James and Mary Ann and their two youngest boys at 13 Wellington Rd Islington, the home of another of their sons, Elger Flavell, and his wife Susan. James was said on the census form to be a Baptist Minister while his son was a brewer's labourer. Also present were two of Elger's nephews: Charles (1867) and George Golding (1870), the sons of his older sister Caroline. Caroline Flavell had married George Golding in the St Ives registration district of Huntingdonshire in 1865. Her sister Leah Flavell married John Smith at Diddington three years later. Their brother James Flavell married Elizabeth Metcalf in 1881.

As already mentioned, we think that Hallack Flavell, about whom we know very little, may also have been a son of Alexander and Sarah. The LDS igi shows that Hallack and Sarah had two children baptised at Haddenham, Thomas, in 1824, and Mary (1827). The Catherine House index shows that a Thomas Flavell married Mary Louisa Scott in London in around 1848. The 1851 census shows Thomas, who was born at Haddenham in 1823, and Mary Louisa (Hinton, Essex 1823) residing in Cambridge where Thomas was working as a grocer. They were at 77 Harper St in Bedford in 1861. Thomas was a coal merchant and he and Mary Louisa had seven children: Louisa Jane (1848), Thomas William (1849), Frederick (1851), Walter (1853), Percey (1855), Harriet (1858) and Helen Flavell (1860). By the time of the 1871 census, the family had moved to London where Thomas worked as a commercial traveller. With them was Thomas' younger sister Sarah Ann Flavell, said to be born at Haddenham in 1853, and her 10-month old daughter, Helen.

2. William Flavell & Elizabeth Anderson

We think William may have been Alexander's brother although this has still to be confirmed. He married a local girl, Elizabeth Anderson, at Haddenham in 1814 and had at least seven children there: Sarah (1814), Rebecca (1816), James (1817), William (1825), Jabez (1828), James (1829) and Rebeccah (1832). We think that Rebecca married George Wheatley from Earith at Cambridge in 1857 and her brother, Jabez, emigrated to the United States.

Last updated: 14 July 2009

Image Sources:

High Street Landbeach and Baptist Chapel, courtesy of Snapshots of the Beaches: A people's history of Landbeach and Waterbeach.

Rootsweb site for the
Flavells and associated families
Flavell bdms
(pdf file)
Eliza Flavell
and family
Eliza Flavell's
Life in Australia

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