In 1767 Lancelot Brown bought the Manor of Fenstanton (which included the Parish of Hilton) from the Earl of Northampton for the sum of £13,000. This was paid in two instalments with the deduction of £1,500 for work done by Brown at Castle Ashby for the Earl of Northampton. With this title came an official residence, the Manor House, which still stands today. Brown is thought to have used this house as his estate office when visiting his parish.
Brown commissioned surveys of his manor, although these were not completed for ten years. A copy of his vision is displayed in the village.
It has been speculated that this map was Brown’s plan for his retirement with the landscape changed to parkland spreading out from Manor Farm (now called Fenstanton Manor) as his new home.
Brown did not permanently reside in Fenstanton, his main home being at Wilderness House, Hampton Court, which came with his post as the King’s Master Gardener. He did however, at the suggestion of the Earl of Sandwich at Hinchingbrooke, serve as High Sheriff from 9 February 1770 but with his busy life his eldest son Lance Brown was nominated as a ‘pocket Sheriff’ and secretary to Lord Sandwich
Brown died on the night of 6 February 1783, having collapsed the evening before on his way back to the Mayfair house of his eldest daughter, Bridget, after dining with Lord Coventry in Piccadilly.
It is recorded in the Church register that Brown was laid to rest here in Fenstanton on 16 February 1783. However, as this was a Sunday, it would have been unusual and most unlikely.
For many years people have puzzled over the location of Brown’s grave but it is likely that he was laid to rest just outside the chancel wall on the north side of the Church. A headstone, installed in recent times, marks the approximate spot.
The Cowling family has a vault beneath the chancel in this Church, very close to Brown’s memorial. It has been rumoured that the Browns, being acquainted with the Cowlings, were actually laid to rest in this vault and not in the grounds of the Church.