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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Until inclosure c. 1816 open-field arable occupied the centre of the parish, between heath in the north-west and closes and woods in the south-east. The three principal manors had separate field systems. (fn. 1) That of Ditton Valence was apparently cultivated in three shifts in 1243 but conformed to the East Anglian pattern of inconstant names and irregular and perhaps variable sizes. (fn. 2) Among the more stable field names were Ditch, Church, and Down fields in Ditton Camoys, (fn. 3) and Kirtling, Wrongs, Cawdle, and Mill fields in Saxton. (fn. 4)
Each manor had a home farm in 1086. (fn. 5) Ditton Camoys's had only two ploughteams but expanded by the later 13th century to 880 a. of arable, (fn. 6) divided between a larger area 'on one side of the township' (evidently in the open fields) and a small part 'on the other side', presumably in closes or fields south-east of Ditton Green. (fn. 7) Ditton Valence's home farm, with four teams in 1086, was diminished by grants to Thetford and Swaffham Bulbeck priories; (fn. 8) it had 102 a. under corn in 1302 and c. 225 a. after 1350. (fn. 9) Saxton's home farm had three teams in 1086 and 300 a. of arable in 1331. (fn. 10) Swaffham priory's land was leased by 1328, (fn. 11) as was part of Ditton Valence's home farm in 1416 and 1417 (fn. 12) and the whole in 1431. (fn. 13)
The tenanted land was divided fairly evenly between villeins and freeholders. Ditton Camoys in 1291 had 32 villeins each holding 15 a. for weekwork and other services, and free tenants and molmen owing cash rents. (fn. 14) Ditton Valence had eleven greater and six or seven lesser tenants in 1302. (fn. 15) The larger holdings were evidently those of 7½ a. (a quarter yardland) recorded later in the century, when many other tenants had 2½ a. or less. (fn. 16) Freeholds in the 13th and 14th centuries were individually small, with the exception of the Banstead holding, (fn. 17) 46 a. bought by a Newmarket man in 1305, (fn. 18) and the Derisley family's 50 a. (fn. 19) Otherwise the largest recorded holdings which lay wholly in Woodditton were ones of 27 a. (fn. 20) and 20 a., (fn. 21) though many others also included land in Cheveley. (fn. 22)
Much land fell vacant during the epidemics of the mid 14th century and was relet in larger units. In 1367 the lord of Ditton Valence was leasing the holdings of 16 former tenants to only nine men (fn. 23) and by the early 15th century some individuals held whole yardlands (notionally 30 a.) and even a double yardland. (fn. 24) From 1500 to 1740 the richest farmers were probably those with leases of the manorial demesnes who also owned freehold and copyhold land, like the Pratt family, tenants at Camois Hall c. 1600, (fn. 25) and the Collins, lessees successively in the mid 16th century of the rectorial tithes with Ditton Valence manor and of Parsonage farm with Saxon Hall. (fn. 26) By c. 1630 the two largest farms were over 300 a. and there were another 11 over 100 a. (fn. 27) The consolidation of farms led to the grouping of open-field strips, so that from the 1730s most of the arable was cultivated in large rectangular 'pieces' rather than furlongs and strips. (fn. 28)
In the 1730s and 1740s the duke of Somerset bought all five manors and ten freehold and copyhold estates amounting perhaps to a further 500 a., the latter mainly from non-resident owners. (fn. 29) The duke's Cheveley Park estate included 4,100 a. of Woodditton in 1812, (fn. 30) and 3,900 a. (four fifths of the parish) after the inclosure award of 1823. (fn. 31) Consolidation, by exchange in 1805 (fn. 32) and by purchase during inclosure, (fn. 33) continued in the 1840s and c. 1900. (fn. 34) By 1910 the only large area not owned by the estate was a block of c. 500 a. in the south, divided among the Stetchworth and Kirtling estates and the Hammond family. (fn. 35) After the sale of Cheveley Park c. 1920 the farms on the west side of Woodditton belonged to the Stetchworth estate (fn. 36) and those on the east to owneroccupiers. (fn. 37)
Until inclosure the estate had four large farms based on the manorial farmhouses of Camois Hall, Church Hall, Saxon Hall, and the Parsonage, each over 400 a., and four in the range 100-250 a. (fn. 38) After inclosure three new farms were created in the north: (fn. 39) Crockford's (named from its tenant 1825-40, the London gaming-club owner William Crockford), (fn. 40) Ditton Lodge, and, later, Warren Lodge. The last served the existing heathland farm which was run from before 1843 to the 1890s by a partnership based at the Rutland Arms in Newmarket. (fn. 41) Farm sizes were adjusted twice between 1851 and 1910, but most remained between 300 a. and 600 a. apart from Camois Hall, which at 1,650 a. before inclosure (fn. 42) and 1,880 a. until the first reorganization was exceptionally large. Its tenant William Frost (d. 1807), rightly called 'opulent', lost £8,000 in corn when his stackyard burnt down in 1800. (fn. 43) Lord George Manners of Cheveley Park experimented with 'partnership farming' between 1872 and his death in 1874, dividing part of the profits of Ditton Lodge farm among his labourers. (fn. 44)
The field system allowed for variety and flexibility in the cereals grown in the Middle Ages, beyond the staple of wheat and oats. (fn. 45) Demesne flocks, numbering 520, 100, and 60 on Ditton Camoys, Ditton Valence, and Saxton in 1086, (fn. 46) continued to be important in the 13th and 14th centuries. (fn. 47) Ditton Valence's flock at Derisley, where the fold was rebuilt in 1301-2, numbered over 300 in the 1390s. (fn. 48) In the 1320s and 1330s sheep were also kept by Thetford and Swaffham Bulbeck priories, a freeholder with 27 a., the Ditton Valence manorial shepherd, and many others. (fn. 49) By the 15th century flocks infringing the common were both large and numerous: John Langham had 40 sheep in 1405 and 200 in 1417, a tenant of 9 a. had 240 in 1420, and a non-commoner had 80 in 1473. (fn. 50) The larger farmers continued to run sheep in the 16th century, when, for example, Edward Collin (d. 1559) had 300 ewes and 100 yearlings at Saxon Hall. (fn. 51) Cattle were kept before 1350, (fn. 52) but probably by more farmers after 1400, when many individuals trespassed with one or two animals apiece and some with up to nine. (fn. 53) The lord of Ditton Valence had only two dairy cows in 1302 but a herd of 30 or more in 1395. (fn. 54)
The three manors had separate arrangements for common pasture which were in force from the 17th century until inclosure. That of Ditton Camoys, called Ditton common, lay south of Ditton Green. The stint was set in 1669 at one cow and two sheep for each commonable house and every 12 a. of land and in 1788 allowed for a total of 79 cows. (fn. 55) The manorial flock of 160 animals may have grazed elsewhere, since the lessee Walter Pratt was separately rated on a sheepwalk c. 1630. (fn. 56) On Ditton Valence manor in 1694 the stint was 611 sheep, divided between Church Hall (300), Nunns farm (i.e. Parsonage farm) (240), and six tenants. (fn. 57) Saxton common lay west of Saxon Street over closes which belonged partly to the lord of the manor and partly to tenants. They were open for commonable cattle every third year from either 1 August (Lammas grounds) or 29 August (St. John's grounds) until 1 November, then only for the lord of the manor's sheep from 1 November to Lady Day. (fn. 58) In 1696 the tenants' stint amounted to 74 cows and 61 sheep, shared among twenty holdings. (fn. 59)
Inclosure under an Act of 1813 (fn. 60) was probably completed on the ground in 1816, (fn. 61) though the final Award was delayed until 1823 after an Award of 1819 was ruled invalid on a technicality. (fn. 62) On the eve of inclosure the parish contained an estimated 3,100 a. of arable, 600 a. of pasture (two thirds of it improved), and 650 a. of heath. (fn. 63) More accurate figures for the Cheveley estate alone were, in round numbers, open-field arable 2,400 a., closes 750 a., Lammas ground, meadows, and commons 250 a., heath 600 a., and woods 150 a. (fn. 64) Wheat, barley, oats, peas, and rye were grown on a three-course rotation, (fn. 65) and in 1813 the vicar also expected to claim tithes on clover, cabbage, trefoil, rye grass, and turnips. (fn. 66) Four-course rotations were apparently introduced on the Cheveley estate in 1816. (fn. 67) The traditional sheep and corn husbandry survived the late 19th-century depression by incorporating more cattle and more grass for hay and grazing. In both 1870 and 1910 over 45 per cent of the area cropped was under cereals and over 15 per cent under root crops for animal feed. The number of sheep in 1910, over 5,500, was far higher than the estimated 2,150 c. 1790. There were greater changes in the 20th century: stud farms took a steadily increasing proportion of land after 1920; sheep farming dwindled between the First and Second World Wars and ceased by 1950; cattle were kept for beef rather than dairying; while on the remaining arable, largely on the Stetchworth estate, wheat and barley ousted other crops almost entirely. (fn. 68)
The development of thoroughbred stud farms broadly followed the pattern in Cheveley. (fn. 69) The first stud in the parish, Bungalow stud (later renamed Eve stud, then Woodditton stud), was established at Ditton Green on 70 a. rented from the Hammond family in the mid 1890s by the Newmarket trainer Martin Gurry. (fn. 70) All the others were founded after 1920 on land formerly part of the Cheveley estate. North of the railway (and in Newmarket from 1894), the Jockey Club leased land for Wyck Hall, Cemetery, and Terrace House (later Crockfords) studs before 1925. The first two were united by the 1960s. (fn. 71) South of the railway, the block confined by the 1894 boundary, Duchess Drive, the Cheveley- Stetchworth road, and Woodditton Road was bought in the 1920s by Sir Alec Black, Bt. (d. 1942), who laid out 12 units with shelter belts, fencing, and buildings, gradually selling all but one. Following much rearrangement into larger units of 150-200 a. by 1950, five studs emerged. (fn. 72) Someries was set up in 1937 at the Newmarket end. (fn. 73) Hadrian (Black's own stud) on Woodditton Road, and Dunchurch Lodge (formerly Rockingham) on Duchess Drive occupied the centre. To the south were Derisley Wood stud on the west and Dalham Hall stud (called Derisley stud until 1970) on the east. (fn. 74) Further south, Edgar Cooper Bland (d. 1984) founded a stud at Rutland farm in Saxon Street in 1920. (fn. 75) Church Hall and North studs were established later. (fn. 76) A specialist stud researching equine fertility was inaugurated by the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association in 1989 on land leased from the Stetchworth estate at Crockford's farm. (fn. 77) Hadrian and Derisley Wood studs were combined in the early 1980s, then sold in 1986 to Darley Stud Management Ltd., the thoroughbred business of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, which had already bought Dalham Hall stud in 1981 and Rutland stud in 1984, and in 1989 added Church Hall in Woodditton and other studs in Cheveley. (fn. 78) Sheikh Mohammed spent copiously on new stud buildings, planting and fencing, roads, staff housing, and a palatial residence on a hilltop site at Dalham Hall stud. (fn. 79)
The hamlets of Woodditton lay too far from Newmarket for residents to take jobs there until motor transport came into use, and employment in the rural part of the parish remained based on agriculture until well into the 20th century, contrasting with the urban fringe at the north end of the parish. (fn. 80) Ditton Green and Saxon Street each supported only a narrow range of shops and the commonest types of rural craftsmen, like blacksmiths and carpenters. (fn. 81) In the 1930s families living at Ditton Green depended heavily on travelling tradesmen, including a milkman, baker, butcher, and the Newmarket Co-operative Society's van, to supplement weekly shopping trips to Newmarket. (fn. 82) Woodmen were required in numbers only on the rare occasions when felling was in progress, as presumably in 1851 when there were 11 of them. (fn. 83) Bricks were made from clay dug south of Parsonage Farm in the 1880s, but the works were abandoned between 1893, and 1901. (fn. 84) By 1961 there was 'quite an exodus' of workers travelling each day into Newmarket and by company buses to the Chivers jam factory at Histon and the Pye electronics works at Chesterton. (fn. 85) Apart from the surviving shops and pubs, a saddlery, and an electronics firm which briefly occupied the old school in the 1980s, (fn. 86) employment was restricted to the farms and studs. The studs, however, gave work to more people than farms would have done, particularly during the heavy investment of the 1980s and 1990s.
There were windmills at Ditton Camoys in 1277 and 1291, (fn. 87) and at Saxton in 1331. (fn. 88) Neither was recorded later. Ditton Valence had two by 1302, at Ditton and Newmarket. (fn. 89) The Newmarket mill stood on rising ground east of the Dullingham road until it was removed between the 1720s (fn. 90) and 1768. (fn. 91) The Ditton mill continued in use into the 15th century, (fn. 92) and was perhaps the same as the post mill recorded at Derisley in 1490. (fn. 93) A copyhold windmill in Ditton Valence, sold in 1742 to the duke of Somerset, (fn. 94) was replaced shortly before 1759 (fn. 95) by one which stood 500 m. east of the church. Later a smock mill, (fn. 96) it was burnt out in 1931 and dismantled down to the brick base. (fn. 97)