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.
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Cheveley occupies a slice of chalk downland and clay-capped hills stretching south-east from Newmarket (Suff.). (fn. 1) Its boundaries (fn. 2) enclose 1,035 ha. (2,559 a.) (fn. 3) in a rectangle no more than 2¼ km. wide and 6½ km. long. The boundary with Newmarket was adjusted slightly in 1993. (fn. 4) The land rises from 38 m. (125 ft.) in the northwest to over 115 m. (375 ft.) in the south. The northern half, below 90 m. (300 ft.), is on Middle and Upper Chalk underlying soils of gravelly loam, incised by the valley of a stream followed by the Newmarket-Ashley road. (fn. 5) In the Middle Ages the stream was bridged at Farmer's or Broomstick corner where the road crosses that from Cheveley to Moulton, (fn. 6) but in modern times it has run dry and serves as a drainage ditch.
The steep-sided spur north of the valley was Cheveley's heath, scene of a murder in 1336, (fn. 7) and long divided by a thorn-set ditch into rough grazing on the lower slopes and rabbit warrens on the flat summit, which became known as Warren Hill. (fn. 8) With the development of the Newmarket races in the early 17th century and the arrival of permanent training stables after 1660, (fn. 9) the heath was much used for exercising racehorses. (fn. 10) Gallops were set out along both flanks of Warren Hill, Long Hill gallop to the north and Side Hill gallop to the south. On the hill top in 1768 stood two structures associated with sport: a hawk ladder and the King's Chair. The latter was supposedly in origin a real wooden chair used by Charles II, but by 1790 had been rebuilt as a small gazebo. (fn. 11) Before 1851 the Jockey Club had a lease from the Cheveley Park estate of all the heath in the parish, comprising 345 a. in 1838. (fn. 12) The Jockey Club bought the freehold in 1920. (fn. 13) By the 1880s tan gallops had been laid and walking tracks for horses set out around the perimeter and within an earlier plantation. (fn. 14) In the 20th century increasingly elaborate arrangements were made to allow intensive use of the natural turf and of prepared surfaces for walking, cantering, and galloping. (fn. 15)
South of the heath, open fields extended over the Chalk valley and the rising land to its south until their inclosure in 1844. After 1920, the part nearest Newmarket was taken for housing and the rest became paddocks for stud farms. (fn. 16)
Above 90 m. the Chalk is capped by glacial boulder clay, the lower gradients of which provided sites for the church and village, the 14th-century moated castle, and the park of the great house which succeeded it and dominated the parish from 1600 to 1920. (fn. 17) The clayland, especially the flat-topped ill-drained summit, (fn. 18) was heavily wooded in Anglo-Saxon times, when the parish name was probably coined from a word for a chaffinch and the common term for woodland, leah. (fn. 19) A charter of 1022 called Cheveley a 'woody township' (fn. 20) and at the Norman Conquest the king's wood there customarily sent fencing poles every year to Snailwell. (fn. 21) The lower slopes were largely cleared at an early date, judging from the extent of ploughland in 1086. (fn. 22) West of the village Stubbing field was named from the stumps left after felling. (fn. 23) In the mid 14th century the manorial wood, apparently north-west of the village, covered only 6 a. or 8 a. (fn. 24) but there were also trees in the park around Cheveley castle. (fn. 25)
Further south on higher ground, some woodland remained long after the 11th century. The main focus of clearance was Broad green 1 km. south of the church, where a large freehold estate evolved in the 14th century into Bansteads manor. (fn. 26) The green once covered 4½ a. but was encroached upon by squatters before inclosure in 1844, when it was reduced to 1¼ a. (fn. 27) Smaller greens called Blabbers green and Little green lay to the south and west. (fn. 28) Between and around the greens lay closes grouped into blocks each with a single name, perhaps the assarts of eponymous freeholding families: Fittocks, Boothams, Chowns, Hornets (Harnets in 1724), Broughtons, Days Leys (Derisley close in 1459), Constables ground (Constables croft and grove in 1588), Gannocks (Gannocks grove in 1445 and later), and Gibes ground (Gibbs close in 1459). (fn. 29) Among the closes, linking the greens, meandered lanes between thick hedges set with pollards, (fn. 30) several of the lanes being straightened or blocked at inclosure. (fn. 31) The groves recorded in 15th- and 16th-century place-names did not survive in the late 18th century, and Southey wood at the southern tip of the parish, 26 a. c. 1724, (fn. 32) was felled and converted to pasture before 1762. (fn. 33) The clayland, once it was hollowdrained, provided ready-made paddocks within dense shelter belts from the 1880s. In the late 20th century Cheveley's landscape was thus divided between the open expanses of the heath, which furnished a daily spectacle of hundreds of thoroughbreds at exercise each morning, and picturesquely wooded and expensively maintained stud farms. (fn. 34)
The parish lay just off Icknield way, a major route between London and East Anglia, beside which the town of Newmarket grew up c. 1200. (fn. 35) Cheveley village was originally reached by a road running across the open fields, which Henry Jermyn diverted into the valley to the east, away from his park, c. 1675. (fn. 36) A shorter but steeper and worse route followed the western parish boundary and (as Park Lane) the southern park wall. After a bad experience on the road in 1796, (fn. 37) the 5th duke of Rutland had it remade and planted as an avenue in 1813 to form a convenient and imposing approach to the park gates. (fn. 38) Thenceforth called Duchess Drive, it remained handsomely wooded over most of its length in 2000. The southern end round the park wall was straightened in 1894. (fn. 39) The 5th duke maintained other roads in the parish, (fn. 40) which in 1838 were described as excellent. (fn. 41) The tangle of lanes connecting Cheveley to neighbouring settlements on the clay plateau was rationalized at inclosure. (fn. 42)
The parish has never been very populous. Twenty-five families lived there in 1086, (fn. 43) and in 1327, besides an unknown number left untaxed, 27 households were wealthy enough to be listed, (fn. 44) evidently reflecting considerable growth since 1086. The poll tax of 1377 was paid by 146 people over the age of 14, (fn. 45) perhaps from a total population of at least 350, (fn. 46) and there were 180 of communicant age in 1676, (fn. 47) indicating a population of c. 240. (fn. 48) Baptisms exceeded burials by over 200 between 1560 and 1640 and c. 400 from 1685 to 1800, with a small surplus in the intervening years, but as the population in 1801 was only 398, the natural increase must have been offset by out-migration. (fn. 49) After 1801 the population grew steadily until 1841, then was stable at 600-650 until 1891. A rise in the 1890s to over 700-perhaps due to employment on the Cheveley Park estate under its new owner-was reversed in the 1910s, so that in 1921 the number of inhabitants was again 600. Thereafter it rose without pause to 1,750 in 1971, most of the increase taking place because new housing was built as a suburb of Newmarket at the north end of the parish. The population fell by c. 100 in the 1970s, when few new houses were built, but then rose steadily to an estimated 1,810 in 2000. (fn. 50)
There were 59 houses in 1674 (fn. 51) and c. 60 in 1801, subdivided to make over 80 dwellings. (fn. 52) Most lined the village street from the church northward to the park wall, or clustered around the churchyard. The few scattered along the lane south of the church and at Broad green (fn. 53) were perhaps the relics of a somewhat more dispersed pattern over the assarted claylands. At least one of five ruinous houses listed in the 1440s had stood there, (fn. 54) and there was once a house at Hobbs Warren, a close fronting Oak Lane south of Little green. (fn. 55)
The growing population of the late 18th and early 19th century was probably accommodated as much by dividing existing houses and adding new rooms (fn. 56) as by new building. Cottages encroached on the roads and greens (fn. 57) but made little lasting impact on High Street, where a number of timber-framed and thatched farmhouses dating from the 16th century and later survived in 2000. (fn. 58) One-storeyed cottages of timber and thatch were built at Broomstick corner shortly after 1820. (fn. 59) Despite the importance of the Cheveley Park estate, Cheveley never assumed the appearance of an estate village. Other proprietors had cottages at Broad Green and in High Street, (fn. 60) and the owners of the estate built only four pairs of model cottages in the village and at Broomstick corner in 1871 and 1895. (fn. 61) Harry McCalmont (owner of the estate 1893-1902) instead built within the park in order to have his stud men and domestic staff close at hand. The stud farms founded outside the village after 1920 also provided staff accommodation near their stables.
The wedge of land between the Ashley road and Duchess Drive began to develop as a residential extension of Newmarket in the 1920s, after building plots were laid out on either side of the lower 1 km. of Centre Drive in 1921. (fn. 62) The drive was rapidly filled, mainly with small bungalows, while housing of a mixed character extended as ribbon development up the south side of Ashley Road and the east side of Duchess Drive. In the wedge as a whole there were already 74 houses by 1932, and the population rose from an estimated 450 in 1937 to 700 or 800 in 1944, among whom there were said to be 'no Cheveley people at all ... only Newmarket people'. (fn. 63) Most remaining gaps in the frontages were filled in the 1950s and 1960s. (fn. 64) Under the planning guidelines established after 1974 the area was designated part of the 'Newmarket Fringe', and further residential building was permitted only within a tightly drawn 'development envelope'. (fn. 65) Thirty houses were built in the 1980s in a space north of Centre Drive, (fn. 66) and by 1989 the whole neighbourhood, by then confusingly called the Cheveley Park estate, contained over 300 houses, as many as in the village. (fn. 67) It lacked shops or other facilities of its own. (fn. 68)
Although some council houses were built in the village between the First and Second World Wars, they replaced condemned cottages, and the total number of houses there did not grow significantly until after 1945. By 1970, however, ribbon development north and south of High Street had extended to Broomstick corner and Little green respectively, leaving Broad Green as a separate cluster of houses. Most new houses after 1945 were for owner-occupation. (fn. 69)
Cheveley Park became the centre of a great landed estate as a result of the duke of Somerset's purchases in the 1730s and 1740s. (fn. 70) In 1893 the estate covered over 7,800 a. in all (1,984 a. in Cheveley). (fn. 71) The house was never the main country seat of its owners from 1750 to 1892, the Manners dukes of Rutland. One of its principal attractions for them was the shooting, notably partridge, for which the estate gained a high reputation by the late 19th century. (fn. 72) In late September and October the house was normally filled with family and guests, ranging from the dukes of Wellington and York in the 1820s (fn. 73) through the exiled Prince Juan of Spain in 1849 (fn. 74) to the Prince of Wales in 1873. (fn. 75) Both the heath and (until inclosure) the open fields provided coursing for the estate's tenants and other local gentlemen. (fn. 76) From 1750 until the Ballot Act of 1872 Cheveley Park was also the fulcrum of the Manners political interest in Cambridgeshire. (fn. 77)
Successive owners of the estate were not equally devoted to the noble pursuits which it offered. John Manners, marquess of Granby, a successful general in the Seven Years' War and owner 1750-70, spent little time there. (fn. 78) His son Charles, the 4th duke, in contrast, was often resident and extremely active locally from 1776 to 1784. (fn. 79) He paid duty on 17 manservants at Cheveley in 1780. (fn. 80) From 1784 to 1799, however, the house stood empty, (fn. 81) and it was little used outside the shooting season in the earlier 19th century and probably hardly at all during the widowerhood from 1825 to 1857 of the 5th duke, who lodged instead at the former royal palace in Newmarket. (fn. 82)
In the absence of the dukes, the social leadership of the estate and parish was assumed by their agents, notably Capt. Underwood (c. 1828-39), (fn. 83) John Fairlie (c. 1840-57), and James and Herbert Garrod, father and son (1860-91 and 1891-c. 1912). Fairlie presided over audit dinners for the tenants and estate suppers to celebrate the 5th duke's many birthdays, and both he and the elder Garrod were busy members of the vestry. (fn. 84) The 5th duke, in old age, took an active part only in a charitable distribution of winter clothing to the poor begun by his wife. After his own death the tradition was continued by Mrs. Garrod. (fn. 85)
Lord George Manners (d. 1874), the younger brother of the 6th and 7th dukes, had Cheveley as his country residence after 1857 and was involved in local affairs. (fn. 86) More significantly, the lease of the estate in 1890 to Harry McCalmont (followed by its sale to him in 1893) brought to Cheveley a big spender who stamped his ebullient personality on the parish during the remaining decade of his life. Multi-millionaire, lavish host, patron of the Turf, M.P., and Boer War volunteer, he poured money into the estate and played the role of squire to the full. (fn. 87)
Cheveley's inn, (fn. 88) originally the White Hart, was renamed the Star and Garter c. 1787 after the 4th duke of Rutland was made a knight of the Garter. (fn. 89) It remained the village's principal public house (fn. 90) until gutted by fire in 1987; the ruin was itself burned down in the mid 1990s, and a completely new thatched and rendered 'period' house was built around its surviving central chimney stack in 2000. (fn. 91) Its place was taken by the Red Lion at Little green, opened as a beershop in the mid 1850s. (fn. 92)
A friendly society with 26 members in 1804 had failed by 1818, (fn. 93) but the Granby Lodge of Ancient Shepherds, established in 1847, (fn. 94) was by 1873 the largest lodge of the order in Cambridgeshire, with 165 members. (fn. 95) Otherwise, organized social life in the mid 19th century owed much to individual initiatives, often short-lived. (fn. 96) Phenomena of the 1850s, for example, included a farmer's club inspired by its counterpart in Newmarket, (fn. 97) a choral society, (fn. 98) and fêtes in the park, put on by the agent John Fairlie. (fn. 99)
In many ways Cheveley has had closer ties with Suffolk than with Cambridgeshire. Until 1837 the parish, with others in Cheveley hundred, was in the diocese of Norwich and archdeaconry of Sudbury. (fn. 100) Bury St. Edmunds served as if it were the county town, where professional services were obtained (when not from Newmarket), (fn. 101) to where the only carrying service ran in 1853, (fn. 102) and from where (with Newmarket) nonconformist revivals were inspired and organized. (fn. 103) Migrants to the parish in the 19th century were more likely to come from a wide area of Suffolk bounded by Exning, Clare, and Bury than from anywhere in Cambridgeshire except Cheveley's immediate neighbours. Almost all the farmers and most master craftsmen and shopkeepers in 1851 and 1881 were Suffolk men. (fn. 104) Only in the 20th century were links with the Suffolk interior eclipsed as Cheveley was absorbed into Newmarket's growing bloodstock industry. (fn. 105)
Cheveley's proximity to Newmarket attracted wealthy residents connected with horseracing in the later 19th and the 20th century. Among the new dwellings built for them was Warren Tower, a large red-brick neo-Tudor house built on a plot straddling the Cheveley-Moulton boundary on Warren Hill sold by the 5th duke of Rutland before 1853. It was occupied by a succession of rich people, including the leading racehorse owners R. C. Naylor in the 1880s and Sir Daniel Cooper, Bt. (d. 1909), followed in the 1930s by two widows of peers. (fn. 106) After falling into multiple occupation and disrepair, Warren Tower was demolished in 1989, when the site was intended for a large new house for an Arab racehorse owner. (fn. 107) Among the tenants of Banstead Manor between the 1880s and the 1910s (fn. 108) was Lord Randolph Churchill during his flirtation with the Turf 1887-91. (fn. 109) Other public figures owned or were associated with the stud farms. (fn. 110)
In the later 20th century the social character even of the rural part of the parish became very mixed. The stud farms, which employed and housed increasing numbers of people, belonged, as part of the racing industry, to a world of enormous personal wealth enmeshed with international business and politics, in which social deference from staff to managers and owners was the norm. (fn. 111) Elsewhere in the village, quite large numbers of council bungalows and fairly modest private houses were intermingled with older dwellings which were increasingly attractive to commuters, especially after the completion of the M11 made London more accessible in the 1980s. (fn. 112)