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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For centuries Cheveley was divided into arable land in the Chalk valley north of the village, pasture closes and woods with a little arable on the clay around the village and in the south, and heath providing grazing for sheep and rabbits in the north. (fn. 1) Much woodland had been cleared before 1086, when there was arable for 15 ploughteams. (fn. 2) Three shifts, and perhaps three fields, may be implied by the mid 13th-century names of West and Middle fields, (fn. 3) but otherwise a regular three-field system never crystallized, and fields proliferated and were of irregular sizes. (fn. 4) On the clay, Stubbing field west of the village had arable strips in the 1450s, (fn. 5) and High field at the southeast corner of the parish was partly arable in 1588, (fn. 6) but most of the land south of the village was probably farmed in pasture closes as soon as it was assarted. On the eve of inclosure there were 1,479 a. of arable mainly on the Chalk and 478 a. of pasture mainly on the clay. (fn. 7)
In 1086 the manors had four ploughteams and the peasantry nine. (fn. 8) The demesne of Cheveley manor was reckoned to occupy 3 carucates in the early 13th century, (fn. 9) while in the 14th century Bansteads had a similar notional amount, actually c. 280 a. (fn. 10) The successors of the 13 villani and 11 bordars recorded in 1086 (fn. 11) soon differentiated into a numerous free tenantry and neifs about whom little is known. (fn. 12) Freeholders c. 1200 included one with 3 yardlands (fn. 13) and another with 40 a. (fn. 14) The Scalers family of Thriplow acquired 2 carucates before 1253, and by 1303 had 200 a. of arable and 30 free tenants. (fn. 15) The tenants of another outsider, Adam Brachet, held at least 70 a. c. 1270. (fn. 16) In 1327 the owners of the two manors held under half the taxed wealth of the parish, the rest being divided among 25 other landowners. (fn. 17) Two long-lived freeholding dynasties emerged around the mid 14th century: the Cheveley family was recorded from the 1340s to 1528, (fn. 18) when Luke Cheveley sold all his land; (fn. 19) and the Sibyls from the 1360s to the 1490s, (fn. 20) after which they sank into smallholding obscurity. (fn. 21)
From the 16th century freeholders co-existed with an expansionist estate centred at Cheveley Park. Alice Cotton (d. 1543) (fn. 22) and her son and grandson, both called Sir John (d. 1593 and 1620), bought much freehold land, starting with Luke Cheveley's 340 a. (fn. 23) and including over 100 a. in 1557 (fn. 24) and over 250 a. in 1594. (fn. 25) Between 1528 and 1598 some 560 a. of arable and 260 a. of meadow, pasture, and wood were added to the manor, partly in neighbouring parishes. (fn. 26) In 1671 the manor nominally included 530 a. of cultivated land and 500 a. of heath, and in 1732 nominally 1,190 a. and 550 a. (fn. 27) In Cheveley itself the park and tenanted farms covered 700 a. in the 1690s. (fn. 28)
Yeomen farmers remained a significant element, however, partly because 226 a. of freehold land was released on to the market and divided among 10 purchasers when the Stutevilles sold Bansteads manor in 1587. (fn. 29) The Pratts bought 129 a. of it, became tenants of the rest in 1588, (fn. 30) and remained at Cheveley for at least a century. (fn. 31) The husbandman Thomas Salisbury took a lease of 300 a. of Cheveley manor's home farm in 1663, (fn. 32) establishing the prosperity of a family associated with the parish until c. 1800. (fn. 33) In the 1720s the Goodchilds, grocers of Exning (Suff.), accumulated c. 200 a. by purchase and inheritance. (fn. 34) Copyhold land was insignificant: by the early 18th century there were no more than 10 or 12 copyholds, none larger than c. 30 a., most much smaller, and several in any case owned by freeholders. (fn. 35)
Cheveley manor was enlarged again under the duke of Somerset. In Cheveley he bought 100 a. in 1731-2 and the Goodchilds' 200 a. in 1734, besides making more extensive purchases in neighbouring parishes. (fn. 36) In 1775 the estate included just over 1,500 a. in Cheveley, (fn. 37) almost two thirds of the parish. The 5th duke of Rutland (owner 1787-1857) added more land as it became available. (fn. 38) He attempted to secure parliamentary inclosure from 1801 onwards, (fn. 39) but the rector was slow to assent and an Act was passed only in 1841. (fn. 40) Common rights were extinguished in 1843 and the award was made in 1844. (fn. 41) Numerous exchanges allowed the duke to consolidate his estate to include all the parish north of Park Lane and the Moulton road, with large wedges to the south, amounting in all to 1,969 a. (79 per cent of the parish). Bansteads manor emerged with a ring-fenced 256 a. at the south end of the parish. No-one else had more than 50 a. (fn. 42) Apart from the temporary acquisition of Bansteads manor in 1895, (fn. 43) the Cheveley Park estate remained at about the same extent until it was broken up in 1920. (fn. 44) In 1775 and for most of the 19th century it was mainly let as one large farm of up to 1,000 a. and one or more smaller units in the range 150-300 a., only the park being kept in hand. (fn. 45)
Farming until the 19th century was based on sheep and corn. The smaller manor had a flock of 57 in 1086. (fn. 46) Later in the Middle Ages some freeholders enjoyed pasture rights: in 1262 the holder of 22 a. had pasture for 120 sheep, (fn. 47) in 1370 a freeholder had a fold for 121 sheep, (fn. 48) and another fold was mentioned in 1378. (fn. 49) Foldcourse for 400 was sold with one of the larger freeholds in 1576. (fn. 50) Members of the Scalers family in 1260, the Cheveleys in 1428, and the Sibyls in 1491 had flocks. (fn. 51) Manorial sheep farming became more important from the 16th century. When John Cotton leased Bansteads manor in 1588, he retained the right of foldcourse for 300 sheep, allowing his lessee to keep 60 animals in the flock. (fn. 52) Cheveley manor had foldcourse for 800 in 1663. (fn. 53) Turnips were being grown as fodder by 1724. (fn. 54)
The three-course rotation operated in the 1730s and the 1790s (fn. 55) had been altered to fourcourse by 1838, when the main crops were wheat, barley, and clover, with turnips and beans sown on most of the fallow field. The wheat was sold through Newmarket and the barley went for malting. (fn. 56) Inclosure allowed more sheep to be kept, and well over 2,000 were recorded until c. 1900, after which the flocks dwindled rapidly to virtually none by 1930. (fn. 57) Before the 19th century a few cattle were kept by the larger farmers (fn. 58) and by commoners exercising rights in the stubble field. In 1820 the duke of Rutland induced 12 commoners, owning at least 25 cow commons, to give up their common rights in exchange for allotments in the open fields. (fn. 59) Mixed farming survived the agricultural depression by tilting in the 1880s away from wheat and towards hay, only to be extinguished by the rise of racehorse breeding after 1890. By 1910 over half the cultivated area was under grass and by 1930 four fifths. In the 1930s two dairies and two smallholders survived but after the Second World War the thoroughbred had all. (fn. 60)
The bloodstock industry in Cheveley can be traced from the duke of Somerset's stud in the early 18th century, (fn. 61) which was maintained by at least some of his successors at Cheveley Park in the later 18th and the 19th century. (fn. 62) Modern stud farming was established after the agricultural depression and in response to the growth of Newmarket as a centre of thoroughbred training and sales. (fn. 63) Within a few years around 1890 studs were founded by Sir George Chetwynd and the jockey Charles Wood at Chetwynd Farm (later Warren stud) on New Road south-west of Broad Green, (fn. 64) by the trainer George Dawson at Lensfield stud (later incorporated into Brook stud) east of the village street, (fn. 65) and at Side Hill stud at the foot of Warren Hill. (fn. 66) More important, because of its lavish scale, was Harry McCalmont's revival of Cheveley Park stud in the 1890s. It was nationally famous mainly because of the successes of McCalmont's horse Isinglass, which has been called 'perhaps the greatest racehorse that ever ran'. (fn. 67) By 1901 a fifth stud, White Lodge, had been created northeast of Broad Green. (fn. 68)
Stud farming advanced greatly after the First World War as a result of the break-up of the Cheveley Park estate in 1920. (fn. 69) Cheveley Park stud itself expanded between the wars to cover c. 300 a., (fn. 70) while in the new park to its north Beech House stud (c. 200 a.) was established in the late 1920s. (fn. 71) Longholes farm (c. 300 a.) north of the Ashley road was divided after 1925 into Sandwich stud to the east and Longholes stud to the west. (fn. 72) Banstead Manor, which had been partly let as paddocks before 1914, and Brook farm at the south end of the village street were both bought in order to be turned into studs in the late 1920s. (fn. 73)
After 1945 two smaller farms also became studs: Glebe House (from 1983 Danton and Glebe House stud) c. 1958, initially on the glebe land behind the former rectory house, (fn. 74) and Fittocks in 1967 to its south. (fn. 75) Three smaller studs, Strawberry Hill south-east of Beech House (1976), (fn. 76) and Fresh Winds (c. 1978) (fn. 77) and Farmers Hill (c. 1985) south and west of Broomstick corner, (fn. 78) brought the tally in 1989 to 14 studs covering virtually all the agricultural land in the parish.
Except for the smallest studs, ownership throughout the 20th century was a pastime or a business interest for the very rich, mainly established owners of successful racehorses. (fn. 79) Banstead Manor and White Lodge were owneroccupied, with small purpose-built country houses. Those owned by business tycoons and aristocrats were managed by resident stud grooms who gave the businesses continuity despite in some cases frequent changes in ownership. Almost all were English-owned until the late 1980s, when the Arabs who had recently come to the forefront of English racing began to buy studs. The Saudi Prince Khalid Abdullah bought Banstead Manor in 1987, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, of the ruling family of Dubai, acquired Beech House, Warren, and White Lodge studs in 1989. (fn. 80)
Nineteenth-century Cheveley had its share of poverty, (fn. 81) assisted emigration, (fn. 82) incendiarism, (fn. 83) and sheep-stealing. (fn. 84) Though agriculture was predominant, the village was not exclusively dependent on it. By the early 19th century many men worked outside farming. (fn. 85) The Cheveley estate employed directly an agent, gatekeepers, gardeners, gamekeepers, and indoor servants, (fn. 86) and gave work to numerous others, (fn. 87) probably accounting for the presence in the 18th century of a grocer's shop by 1724, a chimneysweep (d. 1759), and a painter (d. 1764). (fn. 88) The neighbouring Kirtling estate also employed Cheveley tradesmen, including a wheelwright in 1664, and a bricklayer, a carpenter, and a thatcher in the 1750s. (fn. 89) All the common rural trades- blacksmith, carpenter, wheelwright, bricklayer, butcher, tailor, and shoemaker-were practised throughout the 18th century as in the 19th. (fn. 90) A windmill was first mentioned c. 1290, (fn. 91) and one served the parish (fn. 92) until the post mill east of High Street was dismantled in 1876. (fn. 93)
Shopping facilities, which by the 1930s included specialists like a tobacconist and a stationer, (fn. 94) declined slowly from the 1960s (fn. 95) as Cheveley became more of a commuter village. (fn. 96) There were still two food shops besides the post office in 1981. (fn. 97) Local employment was available at the Home Office's wireless (later telecommunications) depot, established south of the village by 1961, (fn. 98) which employed over 50 people in 1989. There were then also small firms dealing in saddlery and safety wear, two building contractors, and a dental laboratory. (fn. 99) The studs came to provide many jobs in the 20th century, raising the number recorded as full-time farm workers from 43 in 1930 to 72 in 1950, (fn. 100) and employing at least 80 people, including administrative staff, in the village alone in 1973. (fn. 101) By the later 1980s Banstead Manor and Cheveley Park studs had 20 and 34 employees respectively. (fn. 102)