Encompassing 325 acres, Caldecote is one of the smallest villages in Hertfordshire.
It is a narrow strip of land, which runs east to west, and is bounded on the north by Hinxworth, on the south by Newnham and Baldock, on the east by Ashwell, and on the west by Radwell and Bedfordshire.
The Domesday Book of 1086 says that Caldecote was held by Ralph de Limesey, a follower of William the Conqueror, who was rewarded for his services by the grants of land including Caldecote, Amwell and Pirton, and he founded the priory at Hertford. The Book gives further details of the manor of Caldecote: there was land for 5 ploughs and a meadow for 2 oxen, with 14 households and a population of around 70, including a priest. The manor passed down through Ralph’s family until the end of the 13th/beginning of the 14th century when the last in line, Basilia de Limesey, married Hugh Oddingselles. Their son, Sir John Odingselles, surrendered his rights to the manor to the Abbot of St Albans in 1328. After the Dissolution of Monasteries in 1536 the manor reverted back to the Crown to be sold, in 1541, to Sir Ralph Rowlett, Sheriff of Hertfordshire as well as Master of the Mint. Following his death, the manor changed hands several more times and was owned by the Dowmans, the Hales, the Inskips, the Dowes and the Farrs to mention but a few.
Caldecote is a deserted mediaeval village. The population in the 1870s had dwindled to 34, and is now 17, with only a manor house and 6 modern cottages remaining. An archaeological excavation between 1973-1977 revealed evidence of Bronze and Iron Age settlements, with continuous occupation from around 1050. The site was largely abandoned in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The only ancient building which remains is the small church, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. It is now redundant, having been officially closed in 1974, and has since been in the care of The Friends of Friendless Churches, supported by Caldecote Church Friends. The church was re-built from clunch, sourced in nearby Ashwell quarry, around 1400. There was probably an earlier church, and the list of Rectors dates from Stephen de Holewell in 1215.
The present church is a tiny building, measuring 51 feet long by 14 ½ feet wide. Its most notable feature is a 15th century canopied water stoup in the south porch. The octagonal font dates from 1480, and the pews from the same era. There is a fine 18th century pulpit. It is possible that most of the mediaeval windows were destroyed during or post Reformation, but a few fragments remain and have been incorporated into the existing windows. The parochial church registers prior to 1726 have been lost. However, the County Record Office holds Bishops' Transcripts from 1605 to 1882.
There are now only 16 gravestones in the churchyard, most of them in memory of the Flint and Inskip families, the latter of which held the manor for nearly two centuries.
The church has a plaque in memory of Thomas Inskip, the first Viscount Caldecote, and a curious example of “poor man’s stained glass” window in the south wall.