Economic history


Victoria County History



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

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'Madingley: Economic history', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9: Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds (1989), pp. 171-173. URL: Date accessed: 28 November 2014.


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Out of 10 ploughlands recorded in 1086 3 were held in demesne by Picot, who had only 2 ploughteams with 3 servi, the rest mostly by 11 villani, probably with 6 teams. There were also 8 bordars and 6 cottars. The under-equipped land had fallen in value by almost a third from £12 since Picot had taken it over. (fn. 7)

By 1279 (fn. 8) Burdeleys manor had a demesne reckoned at 2 hides, which c. 1320 comprised 160 a. of arable and c. 15 a. of meadow and pasture. (fn. 9) In 1279 Barnwell priory's accumulated estate had 41/3 of its 52/3 hides in demesne. The rest of the vill was then almost all possessed by freeholders. Even Chatteris abbey's customary tenants, occupying 4 half yardlands, paid only cash rents. Some freeholds had once been large: one on the Burdeleys fee comprised 100 a., (fn. 10) while on the Hospitaller and Templar fees the chief undertenants had held 30-60 a. each. On the Barnwell estate 102 a. of 135 a. of freehold had been let as uniform holdings of 13 a. and 10 a. at standard rents of 6d. an acre. By 1279 the freeholds had been broken up and subdivided in a maze of subinfeudation, which left the heirs of some former head tenants with only a few acres, while each occupier held only 2-3 a. of any one mesne tenant. Only two 100-a. holdings survived as units. Some 75 men had land in the fields, 11 others only messuages or cottages. Of the smaller landholders, occupying c. 480 a. altogether, five had 20-30 a. each, 14 had 10- 16 a., 15 had 5-10 a., and 40 others together shared 78 a.

In the later Middle Ages there was some consolidation of ownership among the peasants: one man settled 40 a. in 1326, (fn. 11) and holdings of c. 60 a. were recorded in 1418, (fn. 12) 1500, (fn. 13) 1527, (fn. 14) and 1550. (fn. 15) A Cambridge alderman sold 80 a. to the Hindes in 1582, (fn. 16) and the Bushes, lessees under Barnwell c. 1500-20, (fn. 17) held 100 a. until 1590. (fn. 18) Of £65 taxed at Madingley in 1524, four peasants were assessed on £6-13 each, nine others were worth £2-5, and 16 men were taxed merely on their wages. (fn. 19)

The arable, probably amounting to 1,320 a. in 1279, (fn. 20) was divided by the 1230s (fn. 21) into three fields. (fn. 22) Early assarting was perhaps reflected in the name of Stocking closes in Wood field mentioned in 1609 and 1627. (fn. 23) The northern field, after 1600 called Bernard ditch field, perhaps from Bernulf's ditch recorded c. 1205, (fn. 24) stretched along the Girton boundary to the 'moor end' mentioned in 1615. Moor field, so named by 1230, renamed by 1600 Wood field, lay south-east of the village. West field, by 1600 called Mill field and by 1740 Drayton Mill field, stretched north from the St. Neots road. About 1790 the open fields were said to contain 1,030 a. (fn. 25)

A great meadow was mentioned c. 1230. (fn. 26) Burdeleys manor had 18 a. of meadow c. 1320. (fn. 27) Later the largest area of permanent grassland was the ill-drained cow common, perhaps of 70 a., (fn. 28) in the northern angle of the parish. Narrow strips of meadow ran c. 1800 along watercourses west of the park and north-east of the village. (fn. 29) In the Middle Ages an extensive common moor apparently lay at the east end of the parish. Probably by the 1440s much of it had been taken over by Barnwell and inclosed in severalty to form the tithe-free Moor Barns grange, on lease by 1500. (fn. 30) Its successor, Moor Barns farm, contained in the late 18th century 160 a. of arable and 130 a. of pasture, (fn. 31) of which 75 a. of grass and 125 a. of ploughed closes lay in Madingley c. 1810, besides 48 a. of 'new closes'. (fn. 32) Expansion of inclosed pasture converted from arable was probably represented by the 'new pastures' between the park on the west and the common fields on the east, attached to the Hall in 1612. (fn. 33)

In the 1320s the open-field arable was cultivated on a triennial rotation: one field had winter, another spring crops. The fallow field was left unsown until Candlemas of the next year. (fn. 34) The largest crop was probably barley: (fn. 35) in 1678 one yeoman had 11 a. of his 56 a. in Wood field under wheat and 40 a. under barley, while of 20 a. in another field two thirds were sown in August with oats, the rest with peas and beans. (fn. 36) The system of two crops and a fallow was still in regular use in the 1790s, the Cottons' steward thinking the bare fallowing still necessary. (fn. 37) Of the crops recorded in 1800 the 160 a. of wheat and 166 a. of barley were presumably sown mostly in the winter field, the 120 a. of oats and 150 a. of legumes in the spring one. (fn. 38)

In 1270 Barnwell priory accused John Burdeleys of overcharging the common and claimed common rights in respect of 400 a. compared with John's for 80 a. The traditional stint was then said to be of 4 great cattle for each 25-a. yardland, besides 2 on the moor, and 4 sheep per acre. (fn. 39) The village had yielded 400 lambs to plunderers in 1265. (fn. 40) The priory, which had a flock of 160 c. 1320, was again in dispute with the lord and tenants of Burdeleys manor over rights of foldage in 1324. (fn. 41) In the 1540s John Hinde's flock of 700 sheep often trespassed over the border into Cambridge fields. (fn. 42) In the 1790s, when the farmers were apparently entitled to common 2 cows and 10 sheep for every 30 a. of arable occupied, (fn. 43) 700 sheep were still kept. They were of the old Cambridgeshire breed, (fn. 44) which Sir Charles Cotton was changing c. 1800 for Southdowns. (fn. 45) By 1820 Southdown and Leicester sheep formed a large proportion of the 100-200 kept by each tenant. (fn. 46)

The Hindes' estate, which already in 1550 included c. 600 a. of arable and 115 a. of grass exclusive of Moor Barns, (fn. 47) was steadily enlarged by purchase of the remaining independent freeholds, (fn. 48) although a few survived in the early 18th century. (fn. 49) By the late 17th century the Cottons were leasing their largest farm for £323, Moor Barns for £88, three others for £45-50, three for £25-30, and three smallholdings for £9-10. (fn. 50) There were still nine small farmers in 1714. (fn. 51) In the late 18th century the arable had been consolidated into two farms of 240 a., one of 180 a., and three of 120 a., each also including 30-50 a. of grass. (fn. 52) The farmers' land lay in large blocks, perhaps derived from the open-field furlongs, and in the 1790s inclosure was neither intended nor desired. Under Sir Charles Cotton's guidance improvements were undertaken c. 1800, such as hollow-draining the heavy land, and flattening the mole-infested common pastures. (fn. 53) His purchase in 1807 of the last remaining freehold (fn. 54) enabled him to have Madingley inclosed, probably in 1808, informally without an Act of Parliament in conjunction with his adjoining Girton estate. Several of the farms laid out after inclosure overlapped the boundary. Apart from Moor Barns, all but 30 a. of whose 158 a. in Madingley were ploughed up by 1810, the inclosure created one large farm of 374 a., three of 203 a., 237 a., and 295 a., and two smallholdings of 40 a. and 20 a. attached to the village windmill and inn. All were mostly arable, though they included 90 a. of closes around the village. (fn. 55)

By the 1840s (fn. 56) the farms had been rearranged. Park farm, south-west of the park, covered 290 a. and was sometimes in hand, as in 1842. Across the centre of the parish lay Home farm with 222 a. within Madingley and another 189 a. in Girton, Church farm with c. 300 a., and Middle farm with 258 a., all three farmed from the village. Moor Barns farm comprised 207 a. in the parish and 246 a. outside, mostly in Girton. In 1842 there were 975 a. of arable and 14 a. of grass, besides the park (c. 200 a.), the Moor Barns closes (158 a.), and those around the village (80 a.). Farming in Madingley prospered little in the 19th century: all tenants of the five main farms recorded in 1809 had quitted their holdings within a decade, (fn. 57) and between the 1830s and the 1870s few remained on their farms for more than 10 years. Even in the 1850s the Cottons sometimes returned rents to their tenants. (fn. 58) Only one farm was let in 1881, (fn. 59) and from the 1870s the landowners usually had most of their land managed by farm bailiffs. (fn. 60) In 1910, after further rearrangement, Col. Harding, who in 1915 claimed to have made no profit from his farming since he bought the estate, (fn. 61) had three farms, 475 a., in hand, and only 335 a. let. (fn. 62)

About 1830 there were 55 adult labourers, to 18 of whom the Cottons let ½-a. allotments, and 34 boys. (fn. 63) In the mid 19th century the number of adults available had fallen to 40-45 with 10- 15 boys, and the farmers had work for that number. (fn. 64) Nevertheless there was some emigration, assisted by the landlord, as to Australia in 1854, (fn. 65) and 22 adult labourers were engaged in 1871 in the recently started coprolite diggings. (fn. 66) There were still 20-30 labourers in the 1920s and 1930s, but only 17 by 1955. (fn. 67)

Madingley remained predominantly arable, growing mainly wheat and barley, although the area under those crops diminished between the 1870s and 1900 from c. 570 a. to only 150 a., before recovering in the 1910s. The area of permanent grass rose to 430 a. in 1895 and 676 a. in 1905, even though the number of grown sheep fell to 100 in 1895 and none were kept later. (fn. 68) In 1955 five farms of 100-500 a. occupied 1,341 a. of the parish. (fn. 69)

There was a watermill c. 1100. (fn. 70) The windmill that belonged to Burdeleys manor between the 1260s (fn. 71) and the 1340s (fn. 72) probably stood in Mill field, where a Mill furlong adjoined the Dry Drayton boundary c. 1600. By then a Mill way also ran north through Wood field. (fn. 73) The windmill at the modern site by the St. Neots road was built by a Cambridge grocer on a plot newly leased in 1787 from the Cottons, to whom his successors ceded it in 1807. (fn. 74) That windmill, a post mill, in regular use until the 1870s (fn. 75) but not later, fell down in 1909. (fn. 76) About 1935 W. A. H. Harding brought an early 19th-century post mill from Ellington (Hunts.), and erected it on the site, purely to serve as a landmark. By the 1970s the new mill in its turn was falling into disrepair. (fn. 77)

Madingley had few craftsmen or tradesmen, although a smithy was in use from 1856 (fn. 78) to the 1930s. (fn. 79) The village had a shop between the 1850s and the 1880s and a bakery c. 1875, (fn. 80) and a tailor was there in the 1930s. (fn. 81) In the 1880s there was a small brickworks off the road to Girton. (fn. 82) The carpenters and joiners once attached to the Hall estate (fn. 83) were succeeded by the university woodyard. (fn. 84) Boarding kennels were established at the south end of Church Lane by the 1970s. (fn. 85)


7 V.C.H. Cambs. i. 363, 395, 399.
8 Para. based on Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 446-8, 465- 6; supplemented from P.R.O., SC 5/Cambs. Tower ser. no. 6, mm. 1, 13-14; Liber de Bernewelle, 307-10.
9 P.R.O., C 133/34, no. 2; C 135/46, no. 33.
10 Cf. B.L. Add. MS. 5824, f. 80.
11 P.R.O., CP 25(1)/27/69, no. 11.
12 Ibid. CP 25(1)/30/95, no. 3.
13 Ibid. C 1/145, no. 29.
14 Ibid. CP 25(2)/4/19, no. 15.
15 Ibid. CP 25(2)/55/399, no. 3.
16 Ibid. CP 25(2)/93/846/24 Eliz. I Hil. no. 7.
17 Ibid. SC 6/Hen. VII/37, m. 2; SC 6/Hen. VIII/245, m. 1d.
18 Ibid. CP 25(2)/94/854/32 & 33 Eliz. I Mich. no. 16.
19 Ibid. E 179/81/163, m. 14d.
20 Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 446-8, 465-6.
21 Cf. St. John's Coll. Mun., 25/124.
22 For medieval field and furlong names, and evidence of their position, ibid.; Feet of Fines (Rec. Com.), 315; P.R.O., CP 25(1)/24/14, no. 32; for those in use c. 1625, ibid. E 178/3613, mm. 5, 8; C.U.L., E.D.R., H 1/Madingley 1615; c. 1745, C.U.L., E.D.R., D 3/1, f. 62v.
23 P.R.O., E 178/3613, m. 5; C.R.O., 588/T 157.
24 Feet of Fines (Rec. Com.), 315.
25 Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 104; cf. C.R.O., 588/E 9.
26 P.R.O., CP 25(1)/24/14, no. 32.
27 Ibid. C 133/34, no. 2.
28 Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 105.
29 C.U.L., MS. Plan 558.
30 e.g. P.R.O., SC 6/Hen. VII/36, m. 6d.; cf. C.R.O., 588/E 9.
31 C.R.O., 588/E 39.
32 C.U.L., MS. Plan 558.
33 C.R.O., 588/T 167.
34 P.R.O., C 135/46, no. 33; C 135/84, no. 12.
35 e.g. B.L. Add. MS. 5861, f. 105v.
36 C.R.O., 588/T 239.
37 Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 105; Gooch, Agric. of Cambs. 96.
38 List & Index Soc. vol. 189, p. 59.
39 Liber de Bernewelle, 118-19; perhaps correctly a sheep for every 4 a.
40 P.R.O., JUST 1/83, rot. 19.
41 Cal. Pat. 1317-21, 174; 1321-4, 455.
42 Cooper, Annals of Camb. ii. 38.
43 C.R.O., 588/E 38; cf. ibid. 588/T 232.
44 Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 104-5.
45 Gooch, Agric. of Cambs. 272.
46 e.g. Camb. Chron. 22 Apr. 1809; 11 Apr. 1817; 30 Jan. 1818.
47 P.R.O., E 150/9, no. 3.
48 Above, manors.
49 e.g. C.R.O., 588/T 169-73, 177, 180-5.
50 Ibid. 588/E 4.
51 Ibid. 588/T 100.
52 Ibid. 588/E 9, 13A.
53 Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 104; Gooch, Agric. of Cambs. 48-9, 187, 242, 244.
54 C.R.O., 588/T 295.
55 C.U.L., MS. Plan 558 (estate map, 1810); cf. Camb. Chron. 22 Apr. 1809.
56 For 19th-cent. farms and farmers, C.U.L., E.D.R., G, tithe award 1842; C.R.O., 588/E 49A, 61-2; ibid. 296/SP 877, 1013; P.R.O., HO 107/69; HO 107/1759; ibid. RG 9/1022; RG 10/1584; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1858-96).
57 Camb. Chron. 22 Apr. 1809; 29 Apr. 1814; 25 July, 12 Sept. 1817; 30 Apr. 1818.
58 Ibid. 22 Jan., 16 July, 31 Dec. 1853.
59 P.R.O., RG 11/1663.
60 Cf. ibid. MAF 68/1543, 2113.
61 Char. Com. files, corr. 1912, 1915.
62 C.R.O., 294/O 76.
63 Rep. H.L. Cttee. on Poor Laws, 322-3.
64 P.R.O., HO 107/69; HO 107/1759; ibid. RG 9/1022.
65 e.g. Camb. Chron. 8 Apr. 1854.
66 P.R.O., RG 10/1584; cf. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1869-75).
67 P.R.O., MAF 68/3232, 3752, 4489.
68 Ibid. MAF 68/7-8, 403, 973, 1543, 2113, 3232.
69 Ibid. MAF 68/4489.
70 Liber de Bernewelle, 40.
71 e.g. P.R.O., JUST 1/83, rot. 19; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 446.
72 e.g. P.R.O., C 133/34, no. 2; C 135/84, no. 12.
73 Ibid. E 178/3613, m. 5.
74 C.R.O., 588/T 291-2; 588/E 41.
75 e.g. C.U.L., E.D.R., G, tithe award 1842; C.R.O., 588/E 49A; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1858-75).
76 Camb. Ind. Press, 23 Aug. 1935; cf. Proc. C.A.S. xxxi. 30.
77 Trans. C.H.A.S. vi. 437; Smith, Windmills in Cambs. 22; Camb. Ind. Press, 19 June 1936; 26 Mar. 1971.
78 C.R.O., 588/E 49A.
79 Ibid. 294/21.
80 Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1858-79).
81 Ibid. (1933-7).
82 O.S. Map 6", Cambs. XXXIX. SE. (1886 edn.); cf. P.R.O., RG 11/1663.
83 e.g. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1925-37).
84 e.g. Camb. Ind. Press, 25 Sept. 1980.
85 Ibid. 6 Apr. 1978.