Oliver Cromwell, the Farmer of St Ives

Residing at Wood Farm and/or Old Slepe Hall from 1631 until 1636

The Armorial Bearings, or Arms, of the Cromwell family

Oliver Cromwell moved from Huntingdon to St Ives in 1631 and took up residence either at the "old" Slepe Hall or on part of its estate, not to be confused with the property of the same name that exists today as Slepe Hall Hotel. The Slepe Hall estate at that time was owned by Henry Lawrence related to the Cromwell's via the Waller's of Beaconsfield.

The location of the old Slepe Hall, on the eastern boundary of St Ives, is clearly marked on the Parish Map drawn by Edward Pettis in 1728 as can be seen below. From the map it would appear to be a substantial dwelling, the largest on the map, with a large circular courtyard on its western approach and formal gardens to the east of the house.

The location of old Slepe Hall on the Pettis Parish Map of St Ives in 1728

The location of old Slepe Hall on the Pettis Parish Map of St Ives in 1728

 

Below we have overlaid the modern map with street names and one can see that the modern roadway of Cromwell Place runs right past where the front door of the hall once stood and the long-stay car park is in Oliver's back garden

Modern map overlaid on the 1728 Pettis Map of St Ives to show the location of old Slepe Hall

Modern map overlaid on the 1728 Pettis Map of St Ives to show the location of old Slepe Hall

 

It is also unclear whether Cromwell actually resided in the old Slepe Hall or, as Pettis infers, in a farm house called 'Wood Farm' on its estate. Although Oliver's actual place of residence in St Ives is uncertain the fact that he lived here between 1631 and 1636 is not, nor that he farmed all or part of the Slepe Hall Estate during that period.

Oliver’s great, great, great Uncle Thomas Cromwell, ‘Lord Privy Seal’, was responsible for requiring all parishes to maintain records. This has given us a wealth of historical information, unfortunately, very few references to Oliver are found for St Ives, the best being dated August 7th 1634, at the top of a list of people present at a vestry meeting. These records indicate that he took an active role in the affairs of the parish. There is also one surviving letter from Oliver Cromwell in St Ives, dated 11th January 1635, to a Mr Storie, which proves beyond doubt that that he had interests at the time greater than his own personal affairs. The rest of what Oliver Cromwell and his family did whilst they lived in St Ives is purely conjecture. Pettis states that Cromwell farmed in St Ives till he was poor whilst Carlyle seems to think he was quite successful, but who knows.

The old Slepe Hall was dismantled around 1848 and very little, if anything identifiable, remains on the site above ground. There are records indicating that foundations and even the cellars were discovered in later building works but whether or not even these remains were destroyed is unclear. A good portion of the ornate carved stonework of the front doorway of old Slepe Hall was removed to the Rectory at Bluntisham where it still exists today and although it appears to be the front door of the rectory it is actually a window!

Statue of Oliver Cromwell

A statue was raised by the people of St Ives as a memorial to Oliver Cromwell in 1901. Follow this link for more information and the location of the statue of Oliver Cromwell