Victoria County History



A. P. M. Wright & C. P. Lewis (Editors)

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'Lolworth: Introduction', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9: Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds (1989), pp. 156-157. URL: Date accessed: 27 November 2014.


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The small, almost square, parish, (fn. 30) covering only 449 ha. (1,110 a.), (fn. 31) lies south-west of the Cambridge-Huntingdon road, a turnpike from 1772 to 1876, (fn. 32) some 7 km. (5 miles) west of Cambridge. In the southern two thirds the ground, which falls from c. 40 m. (125 ft.) by the southern boundary to c. 30 m. (100 ft.) by the road, lies upon gault, mostly overlaid with boulder clay, and in the north upon narrow belts of greensand and Ampthill clay. Two watercourses on the west, once called Sandhill and Collin brooks, join as Caldwell brook; further to the east runs Cowpasture, formerly Northstowe, brook. (fn. 33) Between them is a slight ridge along which the former Broadway, so named by 1615, led from Childerley toward the village and the road beyond. No ancient woodland survives. In 1785 there were c. 40 a. of groves and coppices around the village, (fn. 34) and there were 16 a. of wood in 1841. (fn. 35) By the 1880s the largest block, covering c. 12 a., lay on former pasture land surrounding the field called Lolworth Spring, north-east of Lolworth Grange. (fn. 36) The parish, which has been devoted mainly to arable farming, was cultivated on a triennial rotation until it was inclosed in 1844. (fn. 37)

The village stands near the main road, in the centre of the northern half of the parish, just where the land slopes more sharply down from 40 m., amid ancient closes covering in 1785 c. 135 a. (fn. 38) Before the late Middle Ages it was well populated for its size, containing 16 peasants in 1086, (fn. 39) some 50 tenants in 1279, (fn. 40) 45 taxpayers in 1327, (fn. 41) and 154 adults in 1377. (fn. 42) Not long afterwards the population shrank sharply, perhaps following the destruction of many houses by fire after a great thunderstorm in 1393. (fn. 43) By 1524 there were only 17 taxpayers, (fn. 44) and 17 households in 1563. (fn. 45) The 22 dwellings reported in 1664 had been reduced by 1674, perhaps by demolishing 7 one-hearth cottages c. 1665, to 14, (fn. 46) which in 1676 housed 49 potential communicants. (fn. 47) The 17 families comprising 90 people recorded in 1728 occupied only 6 buildings. (fn. 48) In 1801 (fn. 49) there were 98 people. After 1811 the population grew slowly, with occasional setbacks, to c. 135 in the 1850s and a peak of 170 in the 1870s. It fell again to 139 by 1891, partly through emigration by the young. (fn. 50) It rose again to 184 in 1911 before undergoing a steady decline to 128 in 1931 and 86 in 1951. From 1961 to 1981 it was stable at c. 130. (fn. 51)

The houses of the modern village lie mostly along a street running east of north, called by 1860 Front Street. (fn. 52) Near its middle is the common green, mentioned in 1615, covering c. 3 a. in 1785, from which Church Lane, so named in 1615, (fn. 53) leads to the church while Long Lane winds north-east toward the manor house, and beyond it by a circuitous route to the main road. A direct link with that road was laid out further west along a former baulk only at inclosure in 1844. (fn. 54) Only after that date were farmsteads built away from the village in the former open fields: Clare College Farm to the north, Yarmouth Farm to the west, (fn. 55) and Radical Lodge, so named by 1885, (fn. 56) to the south. The existing houses are almost all 19th-century or later. Their number gradually grew from 16, including 3 farmhouses, in 1807 (fn. 57) to c. 32 in the 1850s (fn. 58) and after several cottages had been built in the 1860s (fn. 59) was static at c. 40 from the 1870s to the 1930s. In 1910 there were 4 houses and 32 cottages occupied by 44 households. (fn. 60)

Lolworth had one alehouse called the Three Horseshoes from the 1760s to 1798. (fn. 61) The village Feast, traditionally held four weeks after Easter, had probably been succeeded by 1913 by a flower show held in August. (fn. 62) The village children kept May Day customs until 1914. (fn. 63) After 1900 the disused smithy by the green was converted into a reading room, (fn. 64) which probably served the working men's club, revived as a village club in the late 1940s. (fn. 65) In 1960 T. B. Robinson of Lolworth Grange bought the former school from the county council and gave it for use as a village hall named after him. (fn. 66)


30 This account was completed in 1985. For the parish, O.S. Maps 6", Cambs. XXXIX. NW., NE. (1890-1 and later edns.).
31 Census, 1891, 1931.
32 Below, Elsworth, intro.
33 For the names, C.U.L., E.D.R., H 1/Lolworth 1615; C.R.O., L 65/10 (map, late 18th cent.).
34 C.R.O., L 65/5 (field bk. 1785).
35 C.U.L., E.D.R., G, tithe award 1841.
36 Cf. C.R.O., 296/SP 1112.
37 Below, econ. hist.
38 C.R.O., L 65/5.
39 V.C.H. Cambs. i. 395.
40 Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 456.
41 Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 62-3.
42 East Anglian, n.s. xii. 255.
43 Walsingham, Hist. Anglicana (Rolls Ser.), iii. 213.
44 P.R.O., E 179/81/163, m. 13d.
45 B.L. Harl. MS. 594, f. 198v.
46 Below, Analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments.
47 Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 166.
48 C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 22.
49 Rest of para. based on Census, 1801-1981.
50 Cf. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/31.
51 Cf. C.R.O., P 110/25/1, p. 7.
52 Road names from P.R.O., RG 9/978.
53 C.U.L., E.D.R., H 1/Lolworth 1615; C.R.O., L 65/5.
54 C.R.O., Q/RDc 68, p. [16].
55 Cf. Camb. Chron. 25 Nov. 1843.
56 O.S. Map 6", Cambs. XXXIX. NW. (1890-1 edn.).
57 C.U.L., E.D.R., C 1/4.
58 P.R.O., HO 107/1749; ibid. RG 9/978.
59 Ist Rep. Com. Employment in Agric. 362.
60 C.R.O., 470/O 18.
61 e.g. C.R.O., Q/RLv 2, pp. 23, 132; Q/RLv 3, p. 351; Q/RLv 4, pp. 16, 95 (from card index).
62 Camb. Ind. Press, 16 Oct. 1961; cf. E.D.R. (1901), 39; C.R.O., P 110/25/1, p. 41.
63 Porter, Cambs. Customs, 112.
64 O.S. Map 6", Cambs. XXXIX. NE. (1890-1 and 1903 edns.).
65 C.R.O., P 110/AM 1, s.a. 1922 and later.
66 Ibid. P 110/25/5.