Encompassing 325 acres, Caldecote is probably one of the smallest villages in Hertfordshire, bounded on the north by Hinxworth, on the south by Newnham, on the east by Ashwell, and on the west by Bedfordshire.
The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded that the manor of Caldecote was held by Ralph (Ranulph) de Limesy, a Norman lord, who may have come here with William the Conqueror and was awarded substantial grants of land in Hertfordshire and beyond.
The manor of Caldecote passed down through Ralph’s family until approximately latter part of the 13th century when the last in line, an heiress named Basilia de Limesy, married Hugh Oddingselles, a Wiltshire land owner. Their son, Sir John Oddingselles, surrendered his rights to the manor of Caldecote to the Abbot of St Albans, in 1321. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the manor reverted to the Crown in 1549 and was subsequently sold, in 1540, to Sir Ralph Rowlatt, Master of the Royal Mint as well as Sheriff of Hertfordshire.
Caldecote is a deserted medieval village. The population in the 1870s had dwindled down to 34 and is now 17. An archaeological excavation between 1973-77 revealed evidence of a pre-historic settlement (numerous artefacts from Bronze and Iron Ages were found), with continued occupation since around 1050. The site was largely abandoned in the aftermath of Black Death, which claimed 64 lives between 1348-49.
These days the hamlet of Caldecote consists of six former farm cottages, recently modernised, a manor house and a church. The church, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene, still bears evidence of an earlier Norman stone/flint structure, but owes its current look to the 14th century re-building in clunch, which also included an addition of a tower and a south porch.
The church, which is a grade II* listed building, was declared redundant in 1974 and was vested in the Friends of Friendless Churches charity in 1982.
The church measures 51 feet in length and 14 ½ feet across and is probably the smallest church in Hertfordshire. Its most notable feature is a 15th century canopied and at one time richly ornamented holy water stoup in the south porch. The font dates from 1480 and the pews from the same era. A list of rectors dates back to 1215 (when records began) and a small window in the south wall has in it what is known as “poor man’s stained glass”, now sadly badly decayed. The surviving fragments of medieval stained glass were mounted into two small lights of a south window: one of them bears a headless figure of William Makeley, a priest here in 1415.
There are only 16 gravestones in the churchyard now, most of them in memory of the Flint and Inskip families, the latter of which held the manor of Caldecote as well as the advowson of the church in the 19th century. A plaque to the memory of Thomas Walker Hobart Inskip, the 1st Viscount Caldecote, is inside the church. He is buried at the east end of the graveyard.