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Restoration and the Victorians

St Neots High Street decorated for the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897
St Neots High Street decorated for the Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in 1897

After the dissolution, Queen Elizabeth I became Lord of the manor of St Neots. James I, who succeeded her passed the title to Sir Richard Lucy in 1620 who, in turn sold it to Sidney Montagu in 1631, whose family subsequently became Earl of Sandwich and of Manchester. The Earls of Sandwich lived in Huntingdon allowed the St Neots affairs to be handled by a bailiff, Robert Payne whose son, Edward, succeeded him.

The Lordship of the Manor passed in 1902 to the Rowley family who still hold it. The Rowleys first appear on the scene, however, in the 18th century at Upper Wintringham when they acquired the house formerly owned by the Payne family. Then in 1793, Owsley Rowley bought Priory Farm at the north end of Huntingdon Street from his father-in-law William King. He set about laying out the farm as parkland and, in 1798, he built a large house on it. Rowley’s purchases of land, much of it to the east of the railway line, including Monks Hardwick Farm, the Mill at Little Paxton made him arguably the most powerful man in the town, long before the family became Lords of the manor. He was a JP and chairman of Quarter Sessions for 25 years. On his death in 1824, his son George William Rowley succeeded and acquired the advowson of St Neots in 1864. Owsley Rowley’s third grandson, Charles Perceval Rowley, who lived at Wintringham, was responsible for ten of the stained glass windows in St Neots Parish church. The second son, George Dawson Rowley became famous as an explorer and ornithologist. Some of his collection of stuffed birds is now in the British Museum. He and his father died within hours of each other in 1878, to be succeeded by his only son George Fydell Rowley.