Local government


Victoria County History



A F Wareham, A P M Wright

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'Wicken: Local government', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10: Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (north-eastern Cambridgeshire) (2002), pp. 568-569. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18970 Date accessed: 23 November 2014.


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In the late 13th century the lords of Wicken successfully claimed to have by prescription not only view of frankpledge, under the supervision of the local bailiff of the honor of Richmond, and the assizes of bread and of ale, with the right to a tumbrel and pillory, but infangthief, with a gallows. (fn. 51) In the 1410s Wicken gallows apparently stood close to the church and manor house. (fn. 52) At that time the manorial court was still regularly enforcing the assize of ale on the village's 2-3 alewives, and on as many 'regraters' of ale, and occasionally that of bread. It still reported minor breaches of the peace, sometimes swore men into tithings, and heard pleas of debt and trespass. (fn. 53) It also made bylaws to regulate farming by assent of the whole vill or homage, and appointed pairs of aletasters, and sometimes haywards, fenreeves, and constables. (fn. 54) In the 1650s the court, besides naming an 'ale founder', was still appointing constables, fenreeves, and pinders, (fn. 55) and continued occasionally to nominate to those last three offices until at least the 1780s. (fn. 56) It issued agrarian bylaws frequently in the 1650s, (fn. 57) but only at long intervals and in increasingly stereotyped form, (fn. 58) after Wicken's commons were mostly taken into severalty in the 1660s. (fn. 59) By the 1650s the court was concerned almost entirely with transferring title to copyhold. There are court rolls for 1413-22, and one for 1592. (fn. 60) The surviving court books which begin in 1656 are continuous thereafter until 1849. (fn. 61) In the early 19th century John Rayner still held the court at his home at Wicken Hall, but after his death in 1813 it was moved to the Maid's Head public house. (fn. 62)

In 1720 and later the court barred from feeding cattle on the common droveways and green 'certificated men', presumably those brought to Wicken by Poor Law certificates. (fn. 63) In 1772 the parish started a workhouse, where the poor desiring relief were to be housed under a master. (fn. 64) Between c. 1785 and 1803 the cost of poor relief increased more than fivefold to £443, of which £53 went to 20 people placed in the workhouse. Only 10 received permanent relief outside it, although 25 other adults were occasionally assisted. (fn. 65) In the early 1810s expenditure on the poor fell by a third to c. £560 between 1813 and 1815 when 35-40 people obtained regular relief, and c. 10 occasional outside assistance. (fn. 66) By then the 'workhouse' had presumably been abandoned as an institution. It had occupied a row of cottages at the east end of the village green, still owned by the parish in 1842, and, as Workhouse Yard, still inhabited by needy and aged people then as in 1861. (fn. 67) Poor relief still cost Wicken £620-795 yearly until the early, and £530-600 in the late 1820s, and almost £700 again in the early 1830s, (fn. 68) when large families were helped from the rates. (fn. 69) From 1835 the parish was part of Newmarket poorlaw union, (fn. 70) and belonged to the Newmarket rural district from 1894 to 1974, when it was included in East Cambridgeshire. (fn. 71)

The village had a resident policeman from the 1850s; (fn. 72) the second to serve who vanished one night in 1855 was supposedly murdered. (fn. 73) The parish council was still providing allotments, on land west of the village and behind the vicarage, in the late 20th century. (fn. 74)


51 Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 498; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 104; P.R.O., JUST 1/95, rot. 50d.
52 C.U.L., Doc. 3974 ([box] 3), ct. roll 6 Hen. V.
53 Ibid. ct. rolls 1-9 Hen. V, passim.
54 e.g. ibid.: 5, 6, 8 Hen. V.
55 e.g. ibid. ct. bk. i, pp. 24, 40; ct. bk. ii, p. 176.
56 e.g. ibid. ct. bk. iv, ff. 10, 20v., 26, 33v.; ct. bk. v, ff. 2, 53v.; ct. bk. vi, f. 97v.; C.R.O., 480/M 1, ff. 88, 121.
57 e.g. C.U.L., Doc. 3974 (3), ct. bk. i, pp. 12-13, 23-4, 31-2, 41.
58 e.g. ibid. ct. bk. ii, p. 93; ct. bk. iii, p. 49; ct. bk. iv, ff. 2, 20v., 33v.; ct. bk. v, ff. 53v., 81, 111v.-112; C.R.O., 480/M 1, f. 88.
59 Cf. above, econ. hist.
60 C.U.L., Doc. 3974 (3), ct. rolls 1-9 Hen. V; Norf. R.O., MC 268/198.
61 C.U.L., Doc. 3974 (3), ct. bks. i-vi (1656-1764); also ct. minute bks. 1752-94, 1815-50, 1873-8; C.R.O., 480/M 1-4 (1764-1849) = ct. bks. vii-x of same series as in C.U.L.
62 Camb. Chron. 22 Nov. 1811, p. 3; 22 Apr. 1814, p. 2.
63 C.U.L., Doc. 3974 (3), ct. bk. v, ff. 53v., 111v; C.R.O., 480/M 1, f. 88.
64 C.R.O., 480/M 1, f. 54; 480/M 2, ff. 113v.-114.
65 Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 38-9.
66 Ibid. 1818, 30-1.
67 C.R.O., Q/RDc 69, p. 118; P.R.O., HO 107/73 (9), ff. 7v.-8; ibid. RG 9/1036, f. 96.
68 Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 10-11; 1822-4, 37-8; 1825-9, 15-16; 1830-4, 15-16.
69 Rep. H.L. Cttee. on Poor Laws, 332-3.
70 Poor Law Com. 2nd Rep. 513.
71 Census, 1891, 1931, 1971.
72 e.g. P.R.O., RG 9/1036, f. 97v.; RG 10/1601, f. 102.
73 Camb. Chron. 1 Sept. 1855, p. 5; 13 Dec. 1856, p. 5; cf. Cambs., Hunts., & Peterb. Life, Mar. 1988, pp. 25-6.
74 e.g. Ely Standard, 14 Sept. 1972; 19 Jan., 22 June 1989; Newmarket Jnl. 21 May 1981; 24 Mar. 1983.