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.
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In 1086 the vill had the relatively low assessment in proportion to its area of 6 hides, of which half belonged to the two demesnes. They had, however, only two ploughteams between them. One manor had three villani, probably with a team each, the other none, while there were altogether 21 bordars and 23 cottars. Although there were only 5 ½ ploughlands, the meadow could support 7 ½ teams, while the overall value of the vill had risen since 1066, despite a decline on one manor, from £4 10s. to £7 10s. (fn. 1) Probably then as later until the 19th century arable and pasture were equally important to Waterbeach's economy. Although the cultivated land largely belonged to the manorial estates, numerous smallholders with little or no arable could support themselves on the extensive commons and from the produce of the fens. (fn. 2)
Of the open-field arable, divided into three fields by c. 1150, (fn. 3) c. 645 a. lay in 1814 on the higher land north of the village, c. 265 a. to the south and west. (fn. 4) By 1200 the area to the north was divided into Wulfholes and Banholes fields, (fn. 5) called after 1400 Winfold and Bannold fields. (fn. 6) Of approximately equal acreage, they were separated by the early 17th century at latest by Haverstock field, (fn. 7) called c. 1515 Halfwaystoke. At inclosure it was perhaps represented by the 40 a. then styled Middle field, immediately north of the village. By 1638 Denny Bannold and Denny Haverstock at the northern end of two of those fields were distinguished from the Bannold and Haverstock Town fields in the south. (fn. 8) The smaller fields south of the village were perhaps divisions of an earlier third field, perhaps called Rudich c. 1200, matching the two northern ones in size. (fn. 9) The field west of the village, 55 a. in 1814, was called Mill field c. 1325, (fn. 10) later usually Hill, sometimes Millhill, (fn. 11) field. To its south lay Croft field, so named from 1350 to 1500 after the village crofts, later Cambridge Way field or furlong. About 1868 it was reckoned as 68 a. (fn. 12) Hall field to its east, perhaps the Haw field of 1332, comprised 50 a. in 1617, when it was all demesne, although styled a common field. Another 40-a. field, then called Fen close, (fn. 13) was perhaps the 39-a. Hall field allotted to the lord at inclosure.
South of those fields, on lower ground that sometimes flooded, lay the Great Hallugh or Hollow, c. 223 a. in 1868, (fn. 14) with the Little Hollow, c. 9 a. in 1814, at its north-east corner. Although part was under the plough c. 1356, (fn. 15) it was normally described as marsh in the 14th century; (fn. 16) in the 1410s and the early 17th century it was mostly meadow, (fn. 17) and was divided into doles by the 1440s. (fn. 18) From c. 1370 parts were distinguished as Rush Fen or Hollow, Lugg Hollow, (fn. 19) and later, by the 1540s, Reed Hollow, (fn. 20) after their characteristic products, including the lugs used to feed cattle in winter when no better hay was available. (fn. 21) Meadow there amounted to c. 40 a. in 1617. To the east along the river bank was a line of osier holts held in severalty, numbering 15 and covering at least 13 a. in 1617, (fn. 22) and 16, covering 21 a., in 1814.
West of Winfold field some land above the flood level was retained as permanent common. Turning ploughs from the adjoining field on the common there was forbidden in 1562. (fn. 23) By the 1540s called Winfold common, (fn. 24) it possibly covered 265 a. in 1814. (fn. 25) North of it the Templars at Denny gradually inclosed extensive areas of the fen alongside the Roman road. That process was probably nearing completion c. 1275, when the lady of Waterbeach manor agreed that they might hold the high meadow and the Frith Fen in severalty, renouncing her common rights. The villagers vainly tried to recover common rights there in 1438: (fn. 26) closes called High meadow in 1617 and then reckoned as 20 a., but in 1814 comprising 65 a., lay immediately north-east of the abbey site. Another 31-a. close south of the abbey was still called New close in 1814. (fn. 27) A chain of other closes stretched northeast from Denny towards Elmney, including the later Oxpen meadow, Challis Frith, so named by the 1540s, and High and Low Elmney. Containing supposedly 66 a. in 1617, but 95 a. in 1814, they formed from the mid 16th century the separate Causeway End farm. (fn. 28) By 1617 465 a. of closes, almost all meadow and pasture, surrounded the Denny Abbey farmstead, including the 53-a. Far Fen and the 100-a. Bannold closes, (fn. 29) which were perhaps among the 140 a. sometimes flooded and reckoned as fen. About 1760 Denny low grounds of 145 a. were brought under permanent cultivation for corn, following the drainage Act of 1741. (fn. 30) In 1814 the whole area around Denny held in severalty measured c. 800 a.
The reclamation left ample fenland. About 1250 the lords and tenants of Waterbeach intercommoned their cattle with the bishop of Ely's men of Stretham, whose own claims extended into Beach Fen, over all the fen south of the Ouse. (fn. 31) The lords of Denny still owned a fishery in the river in the 16th and 17th centuries. (fn. 32) Intercommoning was ended in 1293, by an agreement which fixed a boundary running between Chear lode and the Cam along a line of meres, and empowered the lords to make boundary ditches. (fn. 33) Intercommon in c. 50 a. there was also claimed c. 1295 by the men of Wicken. (fn. 34)
From the mid 15th century Waterbeach's North Fen, so named in 1332, (fn. 35) was gradually divided into sections devoted to specific uses. (fn. 36) The most southerly part between Bannold field and the Cam was Middle Lode (later Midload) Fen, so named by the 1480s, (fn. 37) which was primarily pasture. It covered nominally 466 a. in the early 17th century, but was reduced to c. 300 a. by the creation after 1637 of the Drainers' Ground, 112 a. held in severalty. (fn. 38) Geist (later Joist) Fen, so named by 1500 (fn. 39) from the practice of agisting outsiders' cattle there, 2 miles wide, stretched north of the Drainers' Ground along the eastern side of the parish for 3 miles. About 1600 it was said to cover almost 1,100 a., of which a sixth was often flooded. (fn. 40) After 1637, when it was reckoned as 2,211 a., it lost 638 a. to the Adventurers' Fen, (fn. 41) and at inclosure comprised c. 1,018 a. Westward, north of the Denny closes, lay Chittering, so named by the 1420s, (fn. 42) principally mown for hay and reckoned at 300-400 a. in the early 17th century and at 763 a. in 1814. About 1630 the northernmost fens were divided by banks planted with willows, whose lopping the copyholders claimed as their right. (fn. 43)
From the Middle Ages the demesnes had probably the larger share of the arable. In 1261 Waterbeach manor had 110 a., besides 32 a. of meadow. (fn. 44) It was perhaps represented by the land leased as a single farm in the 1530s, (fn. 45) which combined with the rectorial glebe eventually formed Hall farm. About 1617 it included 120 a. of several arable in Fen Close field and Hall field, 31 a. of leys in Cambridge Way field, and 21 a. of marsh in the Great Hollow. (fn. 46) About 1750 it comprised 122 a. of open-field arable, 43 a. of meadow, and 41 a. of pasture. (fn. 47) In 1279 the arable of Denny manor included, besides its three hides owing rent to Ely, 80 a. derived from the Richmond fee. (fn. 48) About 1310 the area sown was 250-300 a.; (fn. 49) much of the probable total of 400 a. of arable presumably lay in the Denny closes. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Denny Abbey demesne farm had c. 250 a. in the open fields; all was said c. 1617 to lie in Denny field, which in 1630 apparently comprised the northernmost parts of the northern open fields. (fn. 50) About 1730 the farm's 243 a. of arable included 64 a. in Winfold field, 98 a. in Haverstock field, and 82 a. in Bannold field, (fn. 51) but no land further south. At latest after the manors were united in the 1340s, each demesne thus had its arable in a group of three fields, north and south of the village, observing separate though parallel crop rotations.
The tenants of the two manors had relatively little arable. In 1279, excluding the 34-a. glebe, their field land amounted only to 85 a. (fn. 52) In 1617 181 a. of freehold and copyhold arable were recorded, of which 112 a. lay in the three northern fields, (fn. 53) and in 1630 193 a. (fn. 54) In 1813 claims made, exclusive of the manorial estate, came to barely 175 a. of open-field arable, almost all copyhold. (fn. 55) There had been little freehold in the Middle Ages also. In 1279 Waterbeach manor's 16 rent-paying free tenants had 8 ½ a., while its 3 villeins had 8 a. each. On Denny manor there were 42 freeholders, occupying 43 a. in all, of whom 28 owed harvest boons. Their successors were probably assimilated. as copyholders to those of the one villein with 10 a. On both manors the few larger villein holdings owed 3 works a week. Denny's 10 tenants with 2 ½-a. crofts owed two, and cottagers on both manors one. Besides carting the demesne crops in one day with 30 or more carts, each attended by two men, all the Denny customary tenants owed 1 day a year each for haymaking, and all, except cottagers, owed harvest boons. (fn. 56) Services at the same rate in all seasons were due on Denny manor in the 1320s from 15 'greater' tenants, including 4 cottagers, and 5 'lesser' ones. At its haymaking boon some 167 men and at six harvest boons up to 140 could be called on. (fn. 57)
On the united manor holdings were still often granted for weekwork into the 1350s. (fn. 58) Weekwork was sometimes dispensed with by the 1360s, but harvest boons or bedrips were required as late as 1429. (fn. 59) Mowing services were still enforced c. 1370. (fn. 60) By the 15th century, however, most customary land was held at rent, by 1429 by copies. (fn. 61) Small parcels of demesne, up to 15 a., were granted at rent even before 1330, (fn. 62) and 65 a. on the winter fallow were let to villagers in 1325 to sow with legumes. (fn. 63) By the 1340s Denny abbey frequently made such leases, (fn. 64) for life (fn. 65) or by the 1370s for terms of years. The terms, ranging initially from 5 to 12 years, (fn. 66) had by 1400 increased to 20 years or more, and by 1420 were often of 40-60 years. (fn. 67) Only a few tenants were reckoned neifs by blood by the 1420s. (fn. 68) Heriots, called obits on the Denny fee, (fn. 69) were exacted in the 14th century from customary tenants on death, surrender for their children, (fn. 70) and alienation. (fn. 71) By 1617, when only five holdings still owed them, the copyholders asserted that their lands were fully heritable, subject only to entry fines at the lord's will, and that they might make entails, and leases for up to three years, and fell timber, without his licence. (fn. 72) By then they mostly paid a standard rent of 12d. an acre for their open-field land. (fn. 73) Copyhold fines remained arbitrary into the 19th century. (fn. 74) At inclosure in 1814, apart from the manorial estate, glebe, and Drainers' Ground, only 197 a. was allotted as freehold, of which 86 a. was land newly purchased as such from the Standleys. (fn. 75) The copyhold allotments were largely enfranchised soon after 1855. (fn. 76)
Few copyholders had much arable: only one or two 'worklands' of 9 a. were recorded in the 15th century, (fn. 77) while most grants of customary land in the 16th included less than 5 a. (fn. 78) A few holdings of 15-20 a. recorded from the 1510s probably derived from former demesne land. (fn. 79) There was no great variation in wealth among the peasantry in the 1520s: apart from two men taxed on £20 each, possibly the demesne lessees, only five had goods worth £5 to £10, while eighteen were worth £2 to £4, but only six paid on wages. (fn. 80) By the 1560s a few families, such as the Hasells, Bankses, and Sheringtons, had built up copyholds of 15-25 a., (fn. 81) which were liable to dispersal among several sons: in 1608-10 the vicar, Thomas Payne, divided his accumulated 4 messuages, 7 a. of arable, and 57 a. of grassland among four sons. (fn. 82) In 1617 only two copyholders possessed over 15 a., 40 a. together, while seven others with 5-10 a. each shared 53 a., and 37 had less than 5 a. Likewise in 1630 two had 23 a. each, nine had 5-15 a., c. 78 a. in all, and 25 with less shared 66 a. In 1617 sixteen men, who owned between them 23 a. out of 78 a. of copyhold closes, had no arable at all, while in 1630 fifteen, perhaps outsiders, had no messuage. (fn. 83)
Men with little or no land could support themselves through their rights over the extensive common pastures and fens, listed in 1340 as fodderfen, turffen, fodderlot, and sheeplot. (fn. 84) Grants of customary land from the early 14th century usually included 1 a. or more in the Hollow, described in the 16th century as meadow. At least 30 a. there were still reckoned c. 1617 as 'fodderfens', (fn. 85) indicating the right to mow hay for cattle. Fodderfens were mostly to be exercised on defined areas in Chittering, (fn. 86) perhaps following an agreement of 1332 that all tenants were to be allotted parts of the north fen to hold in severally, subject to a demesne right of pasture. (fn. 87) Those allotments were possibly the doles in Little Fen mentioned in 1362. (fn. 88) In 1579 the leet jury had to approve and oversee the laying out of doles before cutting fodder, thatch, straw, and lugs could begin. (fn. 89) In 1514 the sale of fodder and underwood from Chittering to outsiders was forbidden. (fn. 90) In the early 17th century c. 335 a. were claimed as fodderfen, the most common holding being 3-4 a., although some were of up to 9 a. (fn. 91) At inclosure c. 368 a. of Chittering's 763 a. were formally claimed as several fodderfen. (fn. 92)
Common of turbary for fuel was exercised by the 16th century primarily over Joist Fen, by 1600 particularly at its southern end. (fn. 93) From the early 14th century there was a stint of so many feet of turf per messuage, (fn. 94) still in use in 1617. (fn. 95) That stint might yield between 10,000 and 14,000 turves a year. (fn. 96) From the 14th century the turves were stacked for inspection by manorial officers, the lord being entitled c. 1425 to a fee for each day's digging. The sale of turf outside the parish was repeatedly forbidden from 1460 onwards, (fn. 97) and still in the 1790s. (fn. 98) In 1561 non-resident copyholders were also barred from digging more than 5,000 turves for each of their tenements. (fn. 99) In 1582 the court forbade all tenants to dig more than 10,000 turves or sell more than 1,000 a year. (fn. 100)
The villagers exploited the fen by fishing, sometimes with nets, (fn. 101) and fowling. In 1522 Denny abbey claimed rights of preemption over bitterns, bustards, herons, and other waterfowl caught by its men. (fn. 102) One of its demesne fisheries on the Cam extended 1 mile north from Horningsea weir to Beach weir near Clayhithe, the other 2 miles from Beach weir to 'Garentre' weir by the north end of Joist Fen. They were usually let in the mid 14th century to manorial tenants, and by the 1420s were being leased with the ferry. They remained with the manor until the 1850s. (fn. 103)
Probably c. 1150, (fn. 104) certainly by the early 14th century, (fn. 105) a triennial rotation was in force on the open fields. The Denny demesne, worked by ploughteams including 8-10 horses and 24-30 oxen, was c. 1315 primarily devoted to growing corn. Its staff comprised 2 carters, 8-10 ploughmen, one of whom also acted as sower, but only 3 stock keepers, for cows, pigs, and sheep. When temporarily in the king's hands c. 1310 it was managed largely for cash profits from sales of corn and wool. After it reverted to the king in 1324 the bailiff was given £35 to purchase seed, livestock, and equipment, including 8 tumbrels and 6 ploughs, to put the neglected farm in working order, ploughteams being borrowed for the first winter's ploughing. Whereas before 1310 about half of some 1,250 villeins' works available outside harvest, 761 in 1308 and 559 in 1309, had been commuted, in the 1320s labour services were systematically exploited, less than 100 being sold yearly and none during harvest. They were mostly used for hoeing, weeding, carting, ditching, and rough construction work.
The main Denny demesne crops were wheat, dredge, and oats. Winter wheat was sown on 90- 115 a., rye on 20-25 a., and the maslin which supplanted rye in the 1320s on 15 a. Unmixed barley, sown on 40-50 a. c. 1309, gave way to dredge on 55-65 a., but the land under oats increased from c. 30 a. before 1310 to 65-80 a. after 1320. Few peas were sown. More oats may have been sown on account of extremes of weather: in 1324-5 harvesting was interrupted 'propter gravissimam resumpcionem', which caused a shortage of corn and reeds, while earlier much land had to be water-furrowed owing to severe flooding.
The triennial rotation of wheat, barley, and a fallow was still in force in the late 18th century, some peas and beans being often sown with the spring corn. Oats were sown on Denny low grounds, with coleseed and flax, and also on the Adventurers' Fen, (fn. 106) where they produced good crops in the early 18th century. By the 1750s Peter Standley, perhaps because of flooding, neither ploughed nor mowed his part of those fens, instead grazing a few heifers and foals there. (fn. 107) Those grounds probably grew the 228 a. of fen oats reported in 1801 with 19 a. of fen wheat and barley. The open fields then produced 194 a. of wheat, 8 a. of rye, 200 a. of barley, and 117 a. of peas and beans. The 46 a. of turnips sown for the sheep were perhaps on the fallow. (fn. 108)
About 1310 the Denny dairy herd numbered 35-45 cows, usually let at farm to villagers. The Denny flock, 10-20 wethers and 120 ewes, yielded 130-140 fleeces of 2 1b. each. In the 1320s the manorial shepherd was keeping only 300-400 sheep sent by the tenants to the lord's fold, (fn. 109) suit to which was still exacted in 1428. (fn. 110) By then the abbey's demesne flock was evidently with a lessee, accused in 1429 of exceeding his stint by 100 sheep. (fn. 111) In 1443 the abbey had 600 sheep trespassing in Landbeach. (fn. 112) In 1558 and 1617 the demesne lessee was entitled to pasture the Denny flock on the 240 a. of manorial arable in the northern fields. (fn. 113)
Common rights for cattle and sheep were regulated through bylaws often enforced by the marsh or fen reeves, recorded from the 1320s (fn. 114) and regularly elected at the manor courts until 1814. (fn. 115) Their duties included viewing the beasts to be fed on the fen (fn. 116) and overseeing by 1427 the scouring of watercourses (fn. 117) and by 1525, as fen keepers, the digging of turves. (fn. 118) Overcharging the common was reckoned against custom by the 1340s, (fn. 119) the tenants being forbidden to keep more livestock than they could overwinter, (fn. 120) but no stint was recorded before 1509, when one was set at 120 sheep for each 8s. of rent. (fn. 121) In 1560 the stint was altered to 10 sheep for each cottage and one for each 6d. of rent, (fn. 122) a rate still in force c. 1630. (fn. 123)
Access to the commons varied c. 1500 with the time of year: Midload Fen was closed to sheep between September and November, (fn. 124) and to cattle from Candlemas to harvest, except for milk cows, allowed in from May Day; c. 1630 it was reserved for the milking herd from May to Christmas. (fn. 125) In 1468 Chittering mowing fen was closed from 1 November, and in 1583 to cattle in particular from Lady Day to Michaelmas. In 1583 Joist Fen was closed entirely in February and March, and to sheep from Candlemas to Michaelmas. (fn. 126) In 1814 the meadowland, Chittering and the Great Hollow, was commonable by great cattle from Michaelmas to Lady Day, Chittering only by sheep between 'Holymas' (1 November) and Lady Day. (fn. 127)
From the late 15th century the commons were under pressure, not merely by trespassing animals from neighbouring villages, (fn. 128) but by outsiders seeking to acquire tenements with common rights or to have their beasts agisted by Waterbeach men. In 1496 the court forbade outsiders to put their beasts on the common. (fn. 129) Perhaps provoked by a Cambridge alderman, who in right of an empty croft and two osier holts bought by 1509 had put 500 sheep on the common, the court in 1520 prohibited strangers acquiring copyhold houses, unless they came to live in them, or copyhold meadow in the Hollow without a house liable for parish dues. (fn. 130) It had already in 1508 barred butchers dealing in cattle from Joist Fen. (fn. 131) Outsiders not keeping house in the village and paying scot and lot were still forbidden to put cattle anywhere except on Joist Fen in 1579. (fn. 132)
The right to agist cattle had perhaps belonged in the early 14th century solely to the lord. (fn. 133) In 1496, however, both the tenants and the lord were forbidden to agist outsiders' sheep. (fn. 134) Agistment of cattle and pigs was repeatedly prohibited in the early 16th century, in 1525 particularly to those with only common rights. (fn. 135) By the 1570s, however, tenants might let their sheepgates and agist strangers' sheep 'to halves'. That practice, forbidden in 1582, was allowed after 1583 up to the official stint. (fn. 136) About 1584 the use of Joist Fen was in dispute between the manorial lessees who agisted cattle there in winter and the tenants who desired to put sheep on it in summer. The lessees were thenceforth barred from feeding cattle there before May Day and had to remove all but 100 by the 'joist day', while the tenants' cattle were likewise excluded between Candlemas and Lady Day, but might be put on Chittering after Michaelmas. (fn. 137) By the 1620s Thomas Hobson as lessee of Denny claimed the right to agist 1,000 horses and cows on Joist Fen, taking 3s. for a horse and 2s. for a cow. (fn. 138)
Common rights were further regulated by an agreement among 83 commoners in 1683, which was renewed and modified by statute in 1740- 1. (fn. 139) Joist Fen, which remained open to all cattle, was to be cleared of all except horses in April, and from 1740 Midload Fen too in February, as in 1583. Stints on the fens for each commonable house were set of 15 great cattle, for 5 of which horses might be substituted, and from 1740 of 8 sheep. In 1814 a stint of 2 sheep per acre on the fallow was also claimed. There were traditionally 120 commonable holdings in the parish, close to the number of copyholds, 130, reported in 1630. (fn. 140) In 1740 the lord finally consented to give up his right to agist cattle in return for 2s. a year from each commonable house. That agreement was enforced from 1683 by two or more men chosen annually at Christmas by a majority of owners of common rights. They enforced branding cattle, customary in 1569, (fn. 141) so as to exclude outsiders' beasts more easily. The penalties collected and rates were to be spent on ditching and fencing the commons. Byherds, as in 1580, were prohibited: from the Middle Ages a common beast keeper or herdsman had charge of the villagers' cattle. (fn. 142) There was also a common swineherd in 1525. (fn. 143)
In the late 18th century three flocks were kept: one each for the Denny and Waterbeach manor farms, which c. 1630, as in 1814, were entitled to feed 800 and 400 sheep respectively. The third, the Town flock, also included the 80 sheep which the rectory farm was allowed to keep from 1683, perhaps by the 1540s. Altogether those flocks numbered c. 2,000 sheep, (fn. 144) said in 1795 to be of the common Cambridgeshire breed. (fn. 145) At inclosure Denny manor flock had sole right of sheepwalk over the north end of Bannold field, and the Hall farm over Cambridge Way, Hall, and Mill fields, while they shared the rest of the fields with the Town flock. (fn. 146) About 1805 one farmer had 500 sheep, (fn. 147) another 380, including 100 Leicesters. (fn. 148) The smaller landholders probably concentrated on cattle keeping: a widow in 1783 sold 27 cattle, among them 7 milk cows. (fn. 149) In 1798 the commons supported 337 horses and 906 cattle, presumably including the 300 milkers kept by small farmers to supply the Cambridge market with milk and cheese. (fn. 150) The stint for great cattle was cut from 15 to 13 in 1782 and 12 in 1790. (fn. 151)
The Denny demesne, directly managed by the royal keepers in the mid 1320s, (fn. 152) was apparently at farm by 1328 (fn. 153) and probably also in 1413, when fractions of it were being let separately. (fn. 154) In 1519 the whole demesne was leased to one man for a third of the corn and chaff and half the straw. (fn. 155) In the 1540s Edward Elrington leased the Denny pastures to three Cambridge men and divided Denny's 250 a. of open field among nine local men and the Waterbeach manor's 120 a. among at least four more. (fn. 156) By 1575 the 250 a. were shared among twelve men, while others shared most of the Denny closes in blocks of up to 80 a. (fn. 157) In the early 17th century Thomas Hobson and probably John Yaxley occupied their demesne lands as single units. (fn. 158) From 1660 (fn. 159) to 1742 the Denny farm's closes and its 240 a. in the fields were usually cultivated together by the Brighams, fractions being occasionally sublet. (fn. 160) About 1760 the lease passed to the Hemingtons, copyholders since 1719, (fn. 161) who retained it until after 1814. In 1813 the farm supposedly comprised 1,020 a., including at least 620 a., perhaps 706 a., of pasture closes around the abbey. The Hall farm with 120 a. of arable in the southern fields passed c. 1760 from the Pecks, long its tenants, to the Masons, previously bailiffs at Denny since the 1730s, who also retained it into the 19th century. In 1813 it contained altogether 340 a., including 22 a. of closes in the village, 60-90 a. of Lammas meadow, probably in the Hollow, and 42 a. of Chittering.
The Masons were prominent among those few families who built up large copyholds in the late 18th century. Between 1770 and 1800 they acquired much of the properties, with 20-25 a. each of arable, once owned by old-established local families such as the Bankses and Applebys. (fn. 162) With the Halls and Wileses (fn. 163) the Masons held 105 a. of c. 167 a. of open-field arable outside the demesne claimed at inclosure, with c. 90 a. between them of fen in Chittering. There were still then many tenants with little or no arable: of the other local claimants only 18, who held 70 a. of arable and 55 a. of fen, possessed complete holdings including a house, pasture closes, several fen in Chittering, and rights of common and turbary, and of them only three had 7-12 a. of arable each, the others averaging 2-4 a. Another 12 had commonable houses with altogether 80 a. of fen, of which 48 a. was owned by three men, while 15 outsiders had 85 a. of several fenland and no dwellings, and 21 others had only messuages with common rights. A further seven had common rights unattached to houses, and ten more had dwellings with rights only of turbary, for which no distinct allotment was made at inclosure. (fn. 164)
Inclosure, first proposed in 1796, (fn. 165) was effected under an Act obtained despite some opposition in 1813, (fn. 166) along with a new drainage Act. (fn. 167) The allotments were set out in 1814, (fn. 168) although the award was not executed until 1818. (fn. 169) It covered 3,379 a. of open fields and commons and 1,090 a. of old inclosures, of which 167 a. lay around the village, and 6 a. at Clayhithe, besides 21 a. of osier holts, while the Denny and Causeway End farms comprised c. 790 a. and the southern Drainers' Grounds 112 a. The Adventurers' Fen was not included. The Great and Little Bouts, 67 a. of formerly untithed common by the river east of Joist Fen, were sold under the Act to help meet the costs of inclosure. (fn. 170) Most of the former open-field arable north of the village went to the manorial estate, which emerged with 925 a. of allotted land, besides 752 a. of closes. No allotment was made for Causeway End farm, which remained at 95 a.; Cambridge Way field and the Hollow were almost entirely allotted for the rectory (333 a.), while the vicar was assigned 297 a., mostly in Chittering. The smaller allotments were set out partly immediately north of the village, but mostly in the former fens. The Hall, Wiles, and Mason families emerged with 675 a. between them. John Youngman, occupying Hall farm, who owned no land before, received 214 a., of which three quarters were for ten recently purchased common rights; other allotments for such rights averaged 11-14 a. each. Three men had 89 a., 77 a., and 67 a., while 334 a. were allotted in seven holdings of 40-60 a., 342 a. in 14 of 24-32 a., 303 a. in 20 of 10-20 a., and 75 a. in 26 of under 10 a., mostly for common rights. Half the allotments made went to outsiders with no dwellings in the parish.
The pre-inclosure pattern of landholding persisted in the 19th century. (fn. 171) About 1820 one large farmer with 1,200 a., probably at Denny Abbey, and three others with 100-500 a. dominated the village. (fn. 172) Along the western border, after the division of the Denny farm in 1829 there stretched four large farms. Hall farm, c. 385 a., reduced to 247 a. by 1913, (fn. 173) at the south end was occupied with the Masons' 219a. At Winfold farm, c. 520 a., Matthew Wiles, tenant by 1841, was succeeded c. 1858 by the Tollers who occupied it until the 1910s, farming 750 a. in all in 1881. Denny Lodge farm, at first 325 a., and 516 a. in 1908, (fn. 174) was occupied from the 1830s to the 1880s by the Medlows, and Denny Abbey farm, c. 600 a., until the 1870s by a branch of the Wileses, and from the late 1880s to c. 1925 by the Dimocks, one of whom also leased Hall farm from 1910. (fn. 175)
In contrast the former fens to the east were divided by the 1840s among numerous smaller farms. Several were owner-occupied. Of the 32 farmers recorded in 1841 26 had been born in the parish. In the 1850s two or three farms of 60-80 a. and 20 smallholdings of 10-50 a. totalling up to 400 a. were worked from farmsteads in the village. The number of new farmsteads in the fen gradually increased, many occupied by newcomers: 8 out of 12 such farmers in 1851, and 7 of 16 in 1861 had been born elsewhere. There were at least 8 farms there by 1841, 12 or 13 in 1851, and 18 in 1871. The Adventurers' Fen was, probably by the 1850s, divided into four farms of 125-235 a. each. (fn. 176) The other fen farms ranged in size from the 200-250 a. of Vicarage farm to owner-occupied ones of 80-100 a. and smallholdings of 25-45 a. Their farmhouses mostly stood on the fen roads made at inclosure. (fn. 177) In 1910 nine farmers occupied c. 240 a. in Midload Fen, and 15 others, four with 160-240 a. each, had 685 a. in Joist Fen, while North and Chittering Fens were shared among ten men holding in all 665 a. Between 1900 and the 1930s there were usually 15 farmers living in the fen, while those based in the village fell in number from 23 to 10 by 1933. In 1915 there were 25 farms of 50 a. or more, by 1930 15 over 100 a., and in 1955 c. 3,400 a. were divided among 18 occupiers. (fn. 178)
In the 1820s the market gardener John Denson vehemently denounced the increasing social distance between the farmers and their labourers. Farmers brought in threshing machines and held down wages, making up the difference, a fifth of the weekly 10s., from the rates. They ceased to board their workers, doubled cottage rents, and even kept gleanable barley for their hogs. The overseers obliged labourers to enquire daily for work at Denny Abbey before paying their parish allowances. (fn. 179) Denson advocated letting allotments to the poor to grow wheat and potatoes by spade cultivation. (fn. 180) One farmer did so in the early 1820s, taking in return half the potato crop, and the vicar in 1822 let 20 a. in ½-a. allotments. (fn. 181) Some 40 a. of vicarial glebe were let in 102 allotments until the 1920s. (fn. 182) That example was little followed, although the Denny Abbey farmer let 10 a. to 20 men in 1843. (fn. 183) About 1830, however, there was little unemployment in the parish, which drew a third of its 120 adult and 55 younger labourers from elsewhere. (fn. 184)
Discontent nevertheless persisted until the 1850s: the fires which in the 1840s devastated outbuildings and cornstacks at the larger farmsteads, including Hall Farm in 1844, another in 1843 and 1845, and four more in 1849, were regularly ascribed to arson. (fn. 185) In the 1850s and 1860s, as emigration relieved population pressure, there was probably enough work for c. 125 adult labourers and c. 20 boys available in the village. The larger farmers had employment for c. 45 men and up to 30 boys. The fen farms, where labourers' cottages could accommodate 35-45 families by the 1860s, also required many men: 55 adults and 13 boys in 1861, 75 men and 30-40 boys in the 1870s and 1880s. (fn. 186)
In the 1870s some large farmers, including the Masons and Tollers, to conciliate their workers, revived harvest suppers disused since the 1810s (fn. 187) and distributed gifts at Christmas. (fn. 188) Some labourers attended meetings on the green of the new Agricultural Labourers' Union. (fn. 189) Many of the younger men, c. 35 in 1871, (fn. 190) worked in the coprolite diggings intermittently carried on into the 1880s, partly in Horningsea. (fn. 191) The diggers, thought lawless and irreligious, formed a majority of the Cottagers' Association set up by 1878. (fn. 192) In the 1920s and 1930s c. 175 men and boys and in 1955 c. 125 were still employed on the farms, (fn. 193) but by 1980 the number had fallen to 16. (fn. 194)
Much of the former fenland had been converted to arable by 1820, (fn. 195) and two thirds of the parish were arable in 1833. (fn. 196) In 1874 all Lord Hardwicke's four farms in North Fen, covering 677 a., were under the plough. (fn. 197) From the 1860s to the 1880s (fn. 198) c. 4,100 a., four fifths of the land reported, was included in the arable rotations: 2,300 a. being annually under corn crops, over half wheat, up to a third barley, and a fifth oats. Less than 960 a. were permanent grassland. The flocks, however, gradually declined from c. 1,000 grown sheep before the 1880s to below 200 by 1900. More than 300 cattle were kept, mainly for milk, which some farmers sent by the 1850s by rail to London. (fn. 199) On Denny Abbey farm two reaping machines were in use in 1885. (fn. 200)
In Waterbeach the agricultural depression halved the value of farmland, especially on the former fens, between 1885 and 1895; some smaller farmers could barely feed and clothe themselves. The condition of the heavy wet land deteriorated from c. 1880. (fn. 201) On the vicarial glebe farm the rent was reduced from £560 in 1885 to below £160 by 1890, after the tenant abandoned it. A hard-working tenant, keeping pigs, restored it to prosperity between 1910 and 1930. In the 1930s, though rents were again cut, the tenants decamped in 1937, leaving the rent unpaid and the land derelict. (fn. 202) In the whole parish the amount of arable declined to c. 3,000 a. between 1900 and the 1920s: c. 1910 there were only 52 a. of arable on four farms covering 390 a. in North Fen. (fn. 203) On Hall farm in the south, however, 226 a. out of 342 a, were still then arable. (fn. 204) The area of grassland had more than doubled by 1900 to c. 1,900 a. and reached 2,225 a. by 1925, while the number of cows was well over 500 from the 1890s to the 1930s. After 1920 less land was under grass, more being devoted to cash crops, which covered 400 a. by 1925 and c. 1,450 a. by 1935; they included 300 a. of mustard in 1915, 370 a. of potatoes and 736 a. of sugar beet in 1935. Of Denny Abbey farm's 437 a. only 70 a. were permanent grass in the 1950s, although another 163 a., perhaps ploughed up during the Second World War, were temporary grassland. (fn. 205) In 1955 only 200 cattle were kept on c. 750 a. of grass, but there were 570 a. of beet. (fn. 206) Of up to 2,500 a. usually cropped with corn since the 1910s about half was under wheat.
By the 1790s Waterbeach men were already growing cabbages, cauliflowers, and asparagus for sale at Cambridge. (fn. 207) Market gardening flourished in the late 19th century: there were 20 market gardeners in 1841, c. 14 thereafter until the 1880s. Among them were five members of the Denson family, working up to 5 a. each. (fn. 208) There were still 9 or 10 market gardeners from the 1880s to the 1930s. A Denson was selling fruit trees from a nursery by 1863, and Densons and Frohocks traded as florists into the 1920s. (fn. 209) Small fruit, mostly strawberries and gooseberries, was grown on 43 a. in 1895, c. 85 a. in 1905, and c. 125 a. in 1925. The area planted with fruit trees, principally apples, plums, and pears, increased from less than 60 a. c. 1900 to c. 125 a. in the 1930s and was at least 90 a. in 1955. In 1937 there were three poultry farmers (fn. 210) and c. 8,000 fowls were kept in 1935 and 1955.
Denny manor included by 1300 a windmill usually let from 1325 for 15-16 qr. of toll corn. (fn. 211) Suit of mill was still being exacted c. 1350, (fn. 212) although tenants were occasionally licensed to use hand mills, as in 1355. (fn. 213) From the 1410s the mill was leased for longer terms at a decreasing rent. (fn. 214) It presumably stood in Mill field west of the village, (fn. 215) although an old millhill was recorded in 1447. (fn. 216) The manorial estate no longer included a mill in 1617, but a freehold mill then stood in Cambridge Way field. (fn. 217)
By 1800 there were at least two windmills near the village. (fn. 218) One by the road to Clayhithe was a post mill when sold in 1843, (fn. 219) not being recorded later. Another, freehold by 1800, (fn. 220) and rebuilt in 1803 as a brick tower mill, (fn. 221) stood west of the village near the turnpike. The Youngmans, its owners by 1814, (fn. 222) who rebuilt it again c. 1833, (fn. 223) worked it, employing 7 men in 1871, until c. 1880, when it also included a steam mill. (fn. 224) The next miller worked it until 1920. It closed soon after. (fn. 225) The tower mill had probably gone by 1930. (fn. 226) The steam mill buildings, latterly used to store fire fighting equipment, were burnt down in 1970. (fn. 227)
In the 1750s Peter Standley allegedly took osiers from the fens as fuel for brick kilns. (fn. 228) In the 19th century the village was large enough to support numerous craftsmen: in the 1810s trades and crafts maintained c. 25 families, and in 1831 59, compared to c. 160 dependent on agriculture. (fn. 229) A smithy owned by the parish stood on the green until demolished in 1879, (fn. 230) and there were 4 or 5 blacksmiths in the 1840s, 2 or 3 until the 1880s, and one in 1937. (fn. 231) Besides carpenters, 8 in 1841, 3 or 4 until the 1870s, and still 2 in the 1930s, there were 2 wheelwrights from the 1840s to the 1880s, and one until c. 1912, a cooper until the 1860s, a sawyer until the 1880s, and thatchers until the 1860s. Waterbeach also had its own harness maker into the 1890s, a basket maker to c. 1930, (fn. 232) and a painter and plumber to 1900. The Leach family ran a builders' business from the 1840s to c. 1900, and there were three builders in the 1930s. The Mansfields had a boat builder's yard far down the river c. 1850-95. Besides a tailor until c. 1900, the village supported 6 or 7 shoemakers until the 1850s and at least 2 until c. 1900. One miller kept a bakery in 1798. (fn. 233) In the mid 19th century and until the 1930s there were usually 2 or 3 each of bakers and butchers, one butcher's business established by 1837 surviving into the 1970s. (fn. 234) A shop, probably a draper's, was mentioned in 1792, (fn. 235) and the village provided custom for 2 or 3 grocers and drapers from the 1840s, 4 by the 1870s. A branch of the Cambridge Cooperative Society opened in 1925 was still trading there in 1986, when there were at least 7 other shops and a bank sub-branch. (fn. 236) In the 1930s there were also a cycle agent, a hairdresser, a watchmaker, and 3 or 4 coal merchants near the station. The last thatcher retired in 1967. (fn. 237) From 1975 an industrial estate was laid out on 14 a. north-west of Denny End, providing over 30,000 sq. ft. of factories and warehouses. Firms present from the 1970s included Cadbury Schweppes, a packaging company, and a shopfitter, and after 1980 a cardboard factory, besides warehouses for steel, scaffolding, window frames, and academic robes. (fn. 238)