A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1086, when 11 of the 16 ploughlands in the vill belonged to the later Bolbec manor, the three demesnes, two with 5 servi between them, had five out of 16 ploughteams; the rest belonged to 16 villani with 4 bordars. Between 1066 and 1096 the yield of the manors was increased by £3 to £14 10s. (fn. 1)
In 1279 (fn. 2) the demesnes probably accounted for almost half c. 1,660 a. of arable reported, those of Michell and Burgh Hall each then nominally comprising 300 a. The latter's arable, though reckoned only as 80 a. in 1334 and 200 a. c. 1425, (fn. 3) came in 1574 to 287½ a., besides 55 a. of grass. (fn. 4) The priory's land, supposedly 165 a. in 1279, had increased by the 1530s to 308 a. with 37 a. of several grass. (fn. 5) The tenanted land had comprised in 1279 c. 550 a. of freehold, of which 400 a. belonged to eight men with 30 a. or more. Of 340 a. then held in villeinage only 90 a. was possessed by full yardlanders. On the Veres' Michell Hall 5½ of the 12½ yardlands were freehold, as were on Burgh Hall 90 a. out of c. 210 a. of tenanted land, partly in Swaffham Prior. The prioress had no land held by villeins, but 22 a. held, with 17 messuages, by freeholders. Most of the Vere free tenants were substantial peasants, including four with yardlands, only one partitioned; another three had 45-50 a. each and two 60-5 a. The customary tenants had mostly half yardlands, as did three of the Burghs' freeholders, most others having 6-10 a., but only two of the Burghs' villeins held over 10 a. each. Villeins' services were not heavy, comprising harvest boons, requiring three or more men at each. (fn. 6) On both manors half yardlanders also reaped ½ a. each and carted corn at harvest. Five large Vere freeholders still in 1279 owed various harvest works, also ploughing boons before the winter and spring sowings. Small freeholders rendered harvest boons. Similar services were still due on the Burgh manor in 1359 from 13 customary tenants occupying c. 105 a. (fn. 7) Considerable freeholdings ranging from one or two yardlands up to 100 a. or more were recorded from the early 13th century to the late 14th. (fn. 8) The lesser tenants frequently adjusted the effective size of their holdings by short-term leases of small pieces of land: licences for customary tenants to make such grants were regularly issued in the early 14th century on Burgh Hall manor. (fn. 9) That manor's demesne was still being directly cultivated for its lords, under the management of reeves chosen from among the villeins (fn. 10) or from the 1360s of bailiffs, (fn. 11) into the late 14th century. (fn. 12) Its villeins' labour services were exacted into the 1370s, especially the three harvest bedrips, attended in 1352 by 83 people. After 1350 evasion or refusal of such works was more frequently presented. (fn. 13) Tenants' sheep had still to be sent to the lord's fold in the 1370s, (fn. 14) although by 1380 some had set up their own sheepwalks in the fen. (fn. 15) Sometimes, mostly after 1360, the lords of Burgh Hall let small blocks of demesne for terms of years, especially in Swaffham Prior, where over 50 a. were leased by 1392. (fn. 16) Most of their demesne was only rented out among numerous tenant farmers after 1400; in 1425 and later those farmers were ordered to mark off leased demesne arable from their adjoining tenanted land. (fn. 17)
In 1230 it was claimed that widows of socage tenants were entitled to half their land as dower. (fn. 18) In the mid 14th century customary holdings on Burgh Hall manor were normally heritable, subject to widows' life interests. (fn. 19) Into the early 15th century those holdings remained liable on death to render heriots, best beasts if available, besides entry fines. (fn. 20) Widows succeeding their husbands were by custom excused such fines until they remarried. (fn. 21) Some customary tenements were being granted solely for rent for terms of years from the 1370s. (fn. 22) One was still granted for works in 1390, (fn. 23) when holdings might be left unclaimed in the lord's hands. (fn. 24) Only 80 villein works remained due on Burgh Hall, in 1422-3, when its customary tenants agreed to give the lord a cash sum to have all works released for 12 years. (fn. 25) By the late 1430s fines for not doing such works were effectively treated as regular commutation payments. (fn. 26) In 1446 six tenants were still required to compound for boonworks not performed. (fn. 27) Some copyhold held of Michell Hall was still claimed to owe heriots c. 1560. When, however, its lord's head lessee took a tenant's horse to enforce payment, the tenant had the parish constable bring the lord's agent, thereupon charged with theft, before the lord lieutenant, Lord North. (fn. 28)
Burgh Hall demesne remained on lease from the 15th century, and was occupied in 1574 by three local men, partly for a corn rent. (fn. 29) The Veres' 'Overhall' demesne, likewise at farm by 1426, (fn. 30) was actually occupied c. 1560 by several undertenants of its chief lessee, one working most of the land from the manor house site. (fn. 31) Swaffham priory, however, kept most of its demesne in hand until its surrender in 1535. (fn. 32) About 1481-2, when it had leased out only c. 21 a., sales of corn, mostly wheat, brought in c. £32 of its £60 cash income from Swaffham, other grain going directly to feed the nuns and their household. Its permanent waged staff then included a bailiff, shepherd, carter, and two ploughmen; others were hired at day or piece rates for haymaking and harvesting. (fn. 33) In the mid 16th century Thomas Rudston probably farmed much of the large Momplers estate himself: in 1556 he left his wife horses, milking cattle, ploughs and carts, and 100 sheep. (fn. 34)
By 1574 only 65 a. of copyhold was still held of Burgh Hall manor. (fn. 35) For the remaining copyhold, heritable subject on Michell Hall to fines at the lord's will, (fn. 36) there were allotted at inclosure in 1801 c. 58 a. to be held of Burgh Hall, but 238 a. of Michell Hall. Much of c. 200 a. of copyhold allotted to the Barkers and Thomas Bowyer (fn. 37) was enfranchised immediately, as provided in the inclosure Act, (fn. 38) the rest gradually from the late 19th century. (fn. 39)
By the mid 13th century the arable was divided into three open fields, then distinguished as the east, middle, and west fields. (fn. 40) Probably then as later they ran parallel south-east from the settlement line to the heath. (fn. 41) From the early 14th century those fields were named respectively Nuns' field, (fn. 42) which lay alongside Swaffham Prior, Middle field, (fn. 43) and Mutlow field, (fn. 44) which lay beside the Bottisham border: in 1574 it contained Mutlow hill. From the late 16th century to the late 18th the western field was also sometimes called Beacon field. (fn. 45) About 1800 the three fields probably contained almost 1,500 a. and the heath to their south-east another 770 a. (fn. 46)
Much of the heath, said in 1279 to have stretched for a league in length and breadth south to 'Horsedon' and between 'Brayedich' and 'Tweynham', (fn. 47) was from the 14th century held in severalty by the lords of the manors; (fn. 48) in 1433 the lords of Burgh Hall shared 180 a. of it with other lords. (fn. 49) In 1574 that manor's part of the heath lay between those of the former nunnery to the south and of the Veres to the north. (fn. 50) About 1800 those other two shares, possibly relocated, were represented by William Parker Hamond's Michell Hall and Abbey heaths, together c. 170 a. (fn. 51) The Momplers estate, which included by 1512 a sheepwalk over 200 a., (fn. 52) had its share considerably enlarged by the 1570s through later purchases, nominally to 400 a. or more. (fn. 53) Much other several grassland lay within the ancient closes around the settlements, which at inclosure totalled c. 335 a. (fn. 54) The Town meadow at the north-west end of Mutlow field was common: from the late 14th century at least to the late 16th it was reserved for the villagers' ploughbeasts. In 1574 Burgh Hall manor had 32 a. of meadow and pasture nearby, some apparently shared with other landholders. (fn. 55) Long meadow a little further north-west, recorded by 1400, gave its name to an adjoining moor intercommonable with Bottisham until the 1670s. (fn. 56)
North-west of those closes the Swaffham fens stretched to the river Cam. Their northern part was already known as the high fen in 1387, when the village community was ordered to maintain its drainage after flooding. (fn. 57) The southern portion, near the modern Crow Hill plantation, was called the Croyle in 1439 and later. (fn. 58) Supervised by fenreeves appointed from the 14th century, (fn. 59) the villagers then and later exercised rights of common pasture there for all beasts, still unstinted in 1574; of cutting hay and sedge for fodder and thatch; and of digging turf for fuel. (fn. 60) Mowing in the 'Sedge fen' might be restrained for two years at a time in the 15th century. (fn. 61) In the 1570s, when mowing in the Lugg fen was barred before Midsummer and in the Sedge and Low fens between Michaelmas and 1 May, villagers, though not allowed to carry turf from the fen more than once every two weeks, were required to have 2,000 turves stored in their houses by November. (fn. 62) Beasts feeding in the fen were probably mainly 'great cattle', which sometimes trespassed from neighbouring parishes such as Bottisham and Wicken. (fn. 63) In 1428 butchers in particular were forbidden to drive beasts there with dogs. (fn. 64)
From the early 14th century the profits of agisting outsiders' cattle taken on both the Swaffhams' fens were shared between Ely priory for Swaffham Prior and the lords of the two main Swaffham Bulbeck manors, each lord having a third. Cattle might still be agisted on the fen in the 1790s. (fn. 65) Until the mid 17th century the fenreeves of the two Swaffhams also divided equally the sums received at regular drifts of stray cattle there. (fn. 66) In the Middle Ages rights of fishery in the fen and river belonged to the manors. Those of Burgh Hall, still enforced in the 1370s, (fn. 67) was still claimed respect of 'Burgh Hall water' in the late 16th century. That fishery was then shared with the priory and its successors, (fn. 68) who were still then letting two fisheries, on the Cam and in the lode. Thomas Rudston as lessee put up a fisher's cot by the river c, 1550. (fn. 69)
By the mid 14th century, as later, Swaffham Bulbeck's open fields were probably subject to a triennial rotation. (fn. 70) The 'benefeld' was mentioned in 1349, (fn. 71) and in the early 15th century the wheat, (fn. 72) barley, (fn. 73) and pease fields (fn. 74) were frequently distinguished. In 1481-2 at least 65 a. of winter crops and 70 a. of spring ones were reaped on the priory demesne, whose produce included 98 qr. of wheat, 27 qr. of maslin, and 140 qr. of barley, mostly malted, but only 5 qr. of oats. (fn. 75) Later the proportion of barley probably increased: in 1559 a priory lessee left his son 20 qr. of wheat and 60 qr. of barley. (fn. 76) During the 16th century saffron was also grown on customarily fenced-in plots in the open fields. (fn. 77)
The fallow fields and the heath supported considerable flocks of sheep. In the 13th century lesser freeholders had had extensive rights of sheepwalk, one owning a fold for 400 sheep until 1263. (fn. 78) Most of those folds were probably later incorporated into the Momplers estate which already included three in 1380, (fn. 79) and had foldage for 300 sheep by 1512, and 4-5 folds by the 1560s. (fn. 80) In 1610 its owner Sir John Cage protested vigorously against his alleged losses when 50 a. of his part of the heath was taken for the king's hare warren. Besides the extra expense of hiring distant and damper pastures in winter for his flocks once kept there, he had had to reduce their number from three to two. (fn. 81) Of the medieval manors Burgh Hall, whose lord was letting his fold c. 1356 to stockmen (instauratores), had over 50 of its flock die in 1375 before shearing. (fn. 82) In 1574 that manor had sheepwalk for 300 sheep, (fn. 83) as the nunnery had had in 1535. (fn. 84) They had actually kept 96 grown sheep in 1481-2, while in 1559 the Nuns' farm lessee left his son 200 to be fed on Swaffham Bulbeck heath. (fn. 85)
By the late 16th century two thirds of the arable fields probably belonged to the manorial estates, with Momplers and the former priory one having the largest, almost equal, shares; much land was also attached to Vauxes manor in Bottisham. Of almost 40 lesser landowners barely ten had substantial holdings. (fn. 86) About 1600-50 most of the arable was probably similarly possessed, partly as lessees, by a few families such as the Granges, Folkeses, (fn. 87) and the inter-related Nicholases, rectory lessees by 1648, (fn. 88) and Rolfs. (fn. 89) In the late 17th century the Appleyards, well established by the 1640s, and Carrows probably occupied a similar position: the latter were reckoned as gentry under Charles II, (fn. 90) when that family's head occupied a house with seven hearths. About 1670 only 4-6 others, prosperous yeomen, had dwellings with four hearths or more. About 45 householders had only one hearth each and almost 30 others two. In 1664 out of c. 80 inhabitants reported 15 were too poor to be rated, while in 1674 27 out of 90 were excused the hearth tax. (fn. 91)
The poorer villagers' ability to support themselves was probably impaired by the appropriation from the 1630s, at first fiercely resisted, (fn. 92) of half the fen for the Adventurers under the Bedford Level drainage schemes, 404 a. of the Croyle being assigned to them. (fn. 93) By the 1660s a long, virtually rectangular block somewhat north of the village, covering in 1800 c. 430 a. within the modern parish was occupied by the Adventurers, mostly in lots of 45-55 a. There remained as common only 300 a. of the high fen further north together with 75 a. of a wide droveway to it beside the lode, and probably another 65 a. south of those lots. (fn. 94) In 1677 140 a. in Long Meadow moor was divided, under the Act of 1663, among the 50 owners of 72 commonable messuages. They each received, nominally in severalty, I½ to 2½ a. for each common right. (fn. 95) Other allotments there, totalling 45 a., partly for sheepwalk, were shortly made to Sir George Downing, who also received six 4½-a. lots in High Fen in 1683. (fn. 96) Swaffham Bulbeck's share of the moor was set out in two blocks of 140 a. and 40-45 a. respectively, separated and adjoined to the south by 107 a. simultaneously assigned to Bottisham landowners. Although those fen lots were regularly conveyed as private property thereafter, all the Long Meadow moor lots were treated as fully allottable at inclosure in 1801. (fn. 97)
In the 1790s the parish contained c. 14 larger farms, of which half were on the manorial estates, worked by ten actual farmers; only one, Thomas Appleyard's, was certainly owneroccupied. (fn. 98) An inclosure Act was procured with little opposition in 1797-8 (fn. 99) and the open fields and surviving commons and heath were probably divided in 1799, (fn. 100) the award being executed in 1801. (fn. 101) Apart from the ancient village closes, many of which were exchanged among the larger landowners, and the Adventurers' lands, it covered c. 3,235 a. of allottable land. After c. 530 a. had been assigned for tithe commutation and for glebe, the manorial and Downing College estates emerged with 1,940 a. and the Barkers with 495 a., while 63 a., mostly on the south-western border, went to the Jenynses' Bottisham Hall estate. Most of the remainder was divided among some 20 smallholders who had c. 175 a. between them; none received over 25 a., ten 5 a. or less, some solely for common rights. (fn. 102) Following inclosure the area under wheat, which had increased by a tenth to 500 a. in the 1790s, was at first reportedly halved, more barley and oats being grown. Rents rose initially as the fenland was brought under cultivation. (fn. 103) In 1812 the large Barker farm carried c. 530 grown sheep, including 140 Southdowns and 440 half-bred Norfolks. (fn. 104)
In the 19th and early 20th centuries (fn. 105) the southern half of the parish was still occupied by a few large farms mostly leased from the manorial and rectorial estates and from the Barkers and their successors. Their tenants still usually lived in the village, but worked the more distant land from new farmsteads built to the south, inhabited by farm bailiffs or labourers. The Parker Hamonds' Michell Hall farm, 808 a., from which New England farm, 543 a., was separated c. 1885, stretched along the north-east side of the parish. (fn. 106) Downing College's Heath farm, 538-90 a., occupied most of its southern angle. (fn. 107) To its north Chalk farm, c. 435-65 a., let 1845-75 to the Newmans who then farmed 650-1,000 a., combined most of the rectory and Barker land nearby. That holding also included until the 1870s 171 a. of arable in the former high fen. (fn. 108) Much of the block of former Adventurers' land south of the 171 a. was from the 1860s divided into smallholdings of 25-100 a. (fn. 109) In the 1850s, when there were 4-7 smallholders in the parish, the seven largest farmers with 100 a. or more, worked between them 2,600 to 3,200 a. The two largest, each working 650-950 a., each employed 35-40 men.
From the 1810s there was some discontent among the labourers. In 1816 c. 50 gathered to demand higher wages, attacking one who would not join them. (fn. 110) A fire at Michell Hall Farm in 1833, after its tenant, Charles Giblin, warned that wages must be cut until corn prices rose, was probably caused by arson. (fn. 111) Of the 80 adult farmworkers and 50 younger ones reported in 1830, however, none was unemployed. (fn. 112) Similarly in the 1850s, when there were c. 125 adults available and 30 lads, the farmers employed altogether 148 men in 1851, and 116 and 60 boys in 1861. About 1871 c. 60 men, five sixths recruited among the younger villagers, were attracted to coprolite digging, under way in the parish since the 1850s, leaving 100 for farmwork. (fn. 113) In 1873 many labourers assembled on the green to hear an 'agitator' from the Agricultual Labourers' Union. (fn. 114) The Ellises, tenants of Downing College's village farm since the 1840s, were still holding horkeys after harvest for their workers in the 1890s. (fn. 115)
In 1910 nine farmers with over 100 a. each, two working 720-750 a., cultivated c, 3,600 a., eleven others with 20-90 a. another 600 a., and there were 20 smallholders. Only one or two of the small fen farms and only one of the larger ones were worked by their owners. The Hare Park estate, in its owner's hands, was run through a bailiff into the 1920s. (fn. 116) Later in the 20th century there were often c. 15 smallholders working less than 50 a. In 1930 there were only four, but by 1950 supposedly ten farms of over 150 a. The number of labourers employed, still c. 110 until the 1950s, of whom a quarter were part-time in 1950, fell to 40 by 1970. (fn. 117) In 1981 a fifth of the resident workforce was still engaged in agriculture. (fn. 118)
The farmland remained predominantly arable during the 19th century: even on the former fenland most farms still had much arable about 1900. (fn. 119) The area actually recorded as under corn, within the long observed standard fourcourse rotation, declined from c. 1,750 a. c. 1870-90 to c. 1,400 a. in 1910 and to below 1,300 a. by 1930, but recovered later; from the 1950s wheat was reduced in favour of barley. Permanent grassland, under 150 a. in 1870, increased to 440 a. by 1890 and to almost 900 a. in 1930 before falling to 500-550 a. after 1950. By 1970 neither sheep, which had numbered 1,500 in 1870, almost 2,000 by 1890, nor milking cattle, earlier usually numbering 100-130, were any longer kept. Some mustard was grown from 1930, and 140 a. were under vegetables in 1970. (fn. 120) There were 2 poultry farmers c. 1925. (fn. 121)
After 1800 the turf on the 61 a. of Swaffham's fen common, surrounded by Bottisham, unaffected by inclosure, long continued, supervised by fenreeves, to be dug by the poor for fuel, while the grassland there was cut for hay. Entitlement to exercise those rights was in dispute in the 1870s, when any native inhabitant might claim them. By the late 19th century the turf had mostly been stripped, while coprolite digging created many large holes. By 1900 the 'poor's turf fen' had allegedly for some time been virtually monopolized by a few smallhold ing families, who mowed it heavily to feed their cows and and dug gravel for sale, without any control. In 1905 the parish council and its fenreeves had it declared a charity and let all that land, fit only for rough grazing, to the adjoining Bottisham farmer. The 'ill reputed' former occupants, nominally 20-25, initially chased out his cattle. Rousing some popular sympathy over their losing long-enjoyed 'customary' privileges, they exploited legal loopholes under the 1882 Allotments Act to recover possession from 1911 as tenants of 5-a. grazing allotments. (fn. 122)
Of the five mills recorded in 1086 three belonged to the Bolbec manor, later Burgh Hall, one to the Richmond fee. (fn. 123) A freeholder with 80 a. owned one mill in 1299, (fn. 124) but the two water mills which certainly survived in the late Middle Ages belonged to manors. Burgh Hall's, to which suit from tenants was exacted in 1340, was leased for terms of years by the 1330s. (fn. 125) It presumably stood on the stream north of the manorial farmstead, where a mill pightle and an 8-a. meadow named after its dam were still recorded in the 1570s. (fn. 126) Three mills were supposedly attached to Michell Hall manor in 1580, (fn. 127) but their sites are unknown. The water mill which Swaffham priory was letting in the 15th and 16th centuries, (fn. 128) stood, when owned by the bishop in 1583, lower down that stream, off Mill Lane, presumably the modern Mill Lane west of Newnham. (fn. 129)
The 'Nuns' mill' remained with the priory estate until 1800, (fn. 130) its lease being held in the late 18th century by the Rickard and Barker families. (fn. 131) In 1801 the Barkers acquired its ownership by exchange. (fn. 132) It passed to Thomas Bowyer, who before his death in 1824 built at Commercial End a substantial new greybrick house for its miller. (fn. 133) The mill itself, rebuilt in brick c. 1830 with five instead of three floors, was thenceforth called the New Mill. It was let by Bowyer's successors from 1847, (fn. 134) and worked c. 1860-1930 by Lewis Totman (d. 1901) & Co., who owned it from 1904. They also employed steam power by 1900. After 1936, milling having ceased, the mill was taken over by J. L. Newman from Bottisham, who used the building, which he bought in 1947, for dressing and cleaning seed. (fn. 135) The former mill was demolished in 1987 for replacement by housing. (fn. 136) The Newmans were still in business at Swaffham Bulbeck as corn merchants into the early 1990s, (fn. 137) when they had just built a large new office and depot on rising ground south of the council estate.
Two or more windmills stood nearby in the 19th century. About 1800 one owned by the Barkers, probably not recorded later, crowned a rise to the south-east; another, on land still belonging to the Jenynses in 1910, stood on Mill Hill a little south of the village street. (fn. 138) Another was new built, close to the second, in 1812, (fn. 139) so producing the pair which survived there in the 1890s. (fn. 140) They were worked 1850-65 by Thomas Livermore (d. 1867), who in the 1850s employed 4-5 millers, some of them at a tower mill sold in 1885. (fn. 141) One of that pair was apparently taken down after 1900. Of the other, a smock mill, still working when sold in 1904 and standing in 1910, only the base remained c. 1930. (fn. 142)
Clunch was being dug for sale by 1258 when the earl of Oxford in granting his manor reserved a quarry, (fn. 143) also worked c. 1350-80. (fn. 144) A quarry pit was mentioned in 1713. (fn. 145) A surviving quarry is deeply cut into the slope south-east of the street by the bend of Quarry Lane, so named by 1800. (fn. 146) There were also sandpits on the edge of the heath in 1574. (fn. 147) Medieval craftsmen other than those usual in a village included a collarmaker in 1440 and 1455 and a weaver in 1450. (fn. 148) Swaffham Lode was sometimes used for local trade in that period. In 1376 the villagers asserted their immemorial right to carry merchandise along it by boat against obstruction by the bailiff of Bottisham, (fn. 149) while Cambridge men were using boats on it c. 1435. (fn. 150) At inclosure ½ a. at its south end was allotted for a public wharf. (fn. 151)
Trade, run from the Merchant's House at the modern Commercial End, reached its apogee in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Said in 1824 to have been carried on for 200 years, (fn. 152) it was developed by the Rickards, established at Swaffham from the 1710s and substantial landowners there by the 1740s. Peacock Rickard, who then inherited their property, (fn. 153) by 1768 added a two-storeyed counting house behind his dwelling. (fn. 154) In 1759 he was selling bricks and tiles to the Kirtling estate. (fn. 155) Then and later, like his father John in 1725, he had a private 'staunch' on the lode to raise the water level for his navigation. (fn. 156) It was presumably on the older channel, later called the Fishpond, which led from the lode's south end past a right-angled bend to his wharf by the Merchant's House. He also probably owned the clunch-built 18thcentury maltings around a courtyard across the road. (fn. 157) At his death in 1782 Peacock Rickard left the reversion of his trading business to his niece's husband, Benjamin Barker (d. 1816), merchant, of Carbrooke (Norf.), while his lands were devised for Barker's sons. (fn. 158) In 1796 the Barkers took into partnership their Swaffham manager, Thomas Bowyer. When Barker's sons took holy orders 1803-6, they sold their twothirds interest in the business to Bowyer in 1806. He bought the merchant's premises from them in 1807. The Barkers' other Swaffham and Bottisham farmland, c. 1,150 a. in all, including the leased rectory allotment, which they had apparently farmed themselves, was sold in 1812. The 15 waggons and 32 carthorses then sold were still partly perhaps employed for transport for Bowyer. (fn. 159)
About 1790 the heart of the Barkers' business was the export of corn by barge and lighter along Swaffham Lode and the Cam to King's Lynn (Norf.) and then on ships, one part-owned by that firm, into the North Sea trade. Some corn was sold to Lynn merchants. The main destinations were Newcastle and Rotterdam, but cargoes also went to Liverpool and, sometimes by road, to London. Benjamin Barker travelled through East Anglia, buying corn to add to the produce of his Swaffham farms and tithes. The chief crops traded were barley, often as malt, and wheat, much of it milled into flour, presumably at the Swaffham water mill, supplemented after 1800 by that at Bottisham Lode. Much rye was also sold both to Newcastle and through Rotterdam for the German market. The bulkiest import was coal from the Tyne, but salt, timber, and Baltic iron were also largely dealt in, and wine and such goods as soap and candles were distributed among the local gentry and shopkeepers. (fn. 160) After 1801 Bowyer made a 'new cut' across land then allotted to straighten the connection between his quay and the lode, and reconstructed his premises, mostly in red or grey brick, so that he could handle most aspects of his integrated business on the spot. When he died, aged 79, in 1824, the buildings included two granaries 95 ft. long, one built in 1815, to hold 3,000 qr. of grain, warehouses for coal, salt, and timber, a limekiln that could produce 3,000 bu., and blacksmith's, carpenter's, and wheelwright's shops. There was stabling for 40 horses for his own waggoners and 60 for those of visiting carters. The maltings were re-roofed and the manager's house there enlarged with a new brick range towards the road. (fn. 161)
After 1824 the business was acquired by the brothers Henry (d. 1847) and Charles Giblin (d. 1855), along with the lease of Michell Hall farm, of which Bowyer had already occupied part. Charles's son B. G. Giblin (d. 1888) succeeded his father in farming its 850-900 a. almost until his death. (fn. 162) Henry and his son and namesake (d. 1857) apparently managed the trading side. The son won local applause in 1850 by repelling nocturnal robbers from his counting house. (fn. 163) About 1840 the goods traded were still largely those handled in the 1790s, also grass seeds and building materials, such as bricks, tiles, and slates. The principal business remained the dispatch of corn, gathered from within a radius of 7-8 miles around Swaffham, to Newcastle and southern Yorkshire. (fn. 164) Although the mercantile premises were offered for sale in 1858, (fn. 165) in the 1860s the Giblins took into partnership in the corn and coal trade Henry Baker, under whom it slowly declined into the late 1870s. (fn. 166) The Giblins sold the Merchant's House in 1878, but retained the water mill until 1904. (fn. 167) Traditional waterborne traffic was finally superseded with the arrival of the railway in 1884. The empty warehouses were partly derelict by the 1930s, stones of the quay being taken for doorsteps. One decaying barge still lay in the old 'Fishpond' c. 1955, but both old and new channels from the lode were filled in, save at their southern extremity, by the 1970s. (fn. 168) One granary was converted for office use in the late 1980s, while the maltings was made into housing; part had been used as a pottery c. 1960 and a sculptor's studio in the 1970s. (fn. 169)
In 1831 the parish contained only 22 families dependent on crafts and trades compared with 173 engaged in agriculture. (fn. 170) In the mid 19th century (fn. 171) it usually had 1-2 master carpenters and wheelwrights and a tailor until c. 1880, besides 2-3 shoemakers into the 1920s. The Greens ran a harness-maker's into the 1930s. The largest local tradesmen, working over five generations, were probably the Stevenses: blacksmiths from the 1840s, they were also described as machine makers by the late 1870s, and were in business as wheelwrights from the 1860s into the 1930s, and as builders c. 1860-1910. About 1860, when 6-8 bricklayers were reported in the parish, they employed fourteen men, eight on building, and another builder sixteen. There were usually 3-4 shops, one grocer's at Commercial End until 1939, and 1-2 bakers. The last bakery on the high street closed in 1963. (fn. 172) Only one small shop survived in the village by 1992 and by 1981 three quarters of the employed male population were engaged in commerce or services; most drove to work elsewhere. (fn. 173) About 1987 three medieval barns at Burgh Hall Farm were converted c. 1987 for business use: one was occupied in 1992 by an 'image consultant' commuting thither from Cambridge, another from 1990 by a maker of microchips. (fn. 174)