A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Charities for the poor
In the late 14th century Crowland abbey regularly gave 1½ qr. of maslin among the poor. (fn. 1) In 1477 the church reeves granted a copyhold messuage by the vicarage to the vicar for life; the entry fine was remitted since the gift was for the use of the vill. (fn. 2) That was perhaps the copyhold almshouse and orchard transferred to new trustees in 1545. In 1548 the villagers, resisting an attempt by Anthony Pope to appropriate the profits, claimed to have long used them for the relief of the poor and the common charges of the town. (fn. 3) In 1664 there were an almshouse with four hearths and some other town houses. (fn. 4)
By 1700 and until the 1830s Oakington Church and Town lands amounted, besides 4 a. of closes, to 28 a. of freehold arable, for which 22½ a. were allotted at inclosure in 1834. The parish also built cottages, two by 1715, five by the 1830s, let to poor people at low rents. (fn. 5) Henry Holford, by will proved 1617, had left 12d. a year each for Christmas dinners for six poor people of either sex. The income, originally drawn from London property, (fn. 6) was later thought to be the rent of 3½ a. in Westwick owned by Oakington parish, which by 1786 went solely to widows. That land brought in £2 a year in the 18th century, £5 in the early 19th. (fn. 7) The income of the other parish lands, £13-18 in the 18th century, c. £36 by 1830, was largely devoted to church repairs and other public purposes. (fn. 8) From 1814 the parish spent £10-12, besides the rent from its houses, on turf and later coal for the poor, called the 'town firing', also using part to maintain the town houses. Between 1830 and 1837 of c. £200 received, including £40 from Holford's bequest, £54 was indiscriminately distributed in coal. After inclosure the town lands were divided, as the farmers recommended in 1834, into allotments for poor people. (fn. 9) They continued to be let thus throughout the 19th century and probably until 1940. (fn. 10)
Although Holford's £6 a year was given c. 1860 in cash and later in coal, the remaining town land income was diverted, first to repay inclosure costs, and from 1843 to the 1870s to loans for church repairs. (fn. 11) In the 1840s the labourers, encouraged by a Baptist churchwarden, complained of losing their supposed ancient entitlements. (fn. 12) The whole income, £43- 50, went to the church (fn. 13) until the parish council procured a Scheme in 1894 which allowed the church only a quarter of the net income until 1914, but half thereafter. The rest was devoted to charitable purposes, the income of Holford's part being assigned to poor widows. (fn. 14) Of the six town cottages, (fn. 15) by 1914 derelict beyond repair and unfit for habitation, pairs were successively sold in 1933, 1934, and 1953. The Oakington land, part of the airfield from 1940, was sold to the Air Ministry in 1950. In the early 20th century the parish half of the income, c. £30 from 1910 to the 1930s, was regularly distributed in coal, that of Holford's charity to 80-100 poor people until c. 1940. By 1950 the money was being given indiscriminately among old age pensioners. The rent from the widows' land let as allotments, £5 c. 1950 but £15 in the 1980s, and the £100 from the accumulated stock, were in the 1960s and 1970s largely given in grocery vouchers to old people.