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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Ramsey abbey's manor, which dominated the parish in the Middle Ages, comprised all but 3 yardlands out of 10 hides in 1086. (fn. 1) In 1279 only 60 a. of lay freehold and the rector's 70 a. were outside it. (fn. 2) In 1086 the abbey's demesne was mostly cultivated by the peasantry, who furnished 18 of the 21 ploughteams then working. The manor's value, which after 1066 had fallen by a third from £20 to c. £14, had by 1086 recovered to £16, (fn. 3) nearly equal to the £17 at which the farm of the manor was assessed in the early 12th century. (fn. 4) That farm, once comprising renders of provisions including corn, meat, cheese, butter, bacon, and honey, (fn. 5) was obtained until the late 12th century through a farmer who received livestock to work and manure the demesne. (fn. 6) By the 1220s the renders in kind had mostly been superseded by cash payments, (fn. 7) although until c. 1350 the cellarer received yearly some cheese, beans, poultry, and 2,300 eggs, partly by way of rent, partly purchased. (fn. 8)
Apart from the demesne, (fn. 9) nominally 2½ hides, the abbey's land in 1279 was divided among various classes of tenants, probably successors of those recorded in 1086. The 19 Domesday villaniwere represented by 1279 by the tenants of c. 30 yardlands, of which 6-8 had been granted by 12th-century abbots to be held freely for rent. By the late 13th century another 7 yardlands had their regular labour services permanently commuted for rents of £1 4s. to 2 marks. The remaining customary land, reckoned as 8 full and 28 half yardlands c. 1200, but reduced to 5- 6 full and 21-2 half yardlands by the late 13th century, continued to owe labour services until after 1349. The 17 bordars of 1086 were probably succeeded by the tenants of cotlands, regarded in 1279 as 1/5; yardland, and later, when they covered 3-6 a. each, called quarterlands. They numbered 24 c. 1150, but only 18 c. 1195, some being attached to larger holdings, and c. 22 in 1279 and later. The 5 cottars, with the 4 servi, of 1086 were matched c. 1150 by 9 other cotlanders whose personal services provided the farmer with 4 ploughmen, 2 haywards, and a swineherd, shepherd, and bedell. By 1200 the 12 cottagers, whose successors in 1279 held cottages with ½a. crofts, mostly owed regular labour services; the three who still had annually to plough for the lord as 'acremen' were then exempt from other works. By 1200, the village smith held 3 cotlands by making shares and coulters for the abbey's ploughs, a service still due in the late 14th century.
The customary full and half yardlanders and cotlanders were heavily burdened with labour services from the 12th century to the 14th. (fn. 10) All owed weekwork each Monday and Friday throughout the year, and had to plough if required every Wednesday outside harvest, when they reaped instead. Before 1200 they also found 2 or 3 men twice a week in summer to hoe, make hay, reap 1 a., and cart corn. Harvest boons numbered three in the 12th century, when yardlanders each sent 4 men to them, but only two by 1279, when 13 'loveboons' had been added. By the 1320s such tenants owed 8 extra works a year 'for their quarters', (fn. 11) perhaps reflecting an enlargement of their holdings. The men holding crofts owed weekwork one day a week, being called Mondaymen by the 1320s, (fn. 12) and two harvest boons. All customary tenants also paid rent, both in kind, mostly poultry and eggs, and by 1200 in cash. The latter, called in 1279 monksgeld, ranged from 4s. for a yardland downwards; crofters paid up to 3s. 9d. each for their cottages. Other cash renders included by the 1240s herring silver and wine silver (fn. 13) and wardpenny, 1d. each from all tenants with livestock worth over 2s. 6d. All also owed merchet and leyrwite. (fn. 14)
The courts occasionally until the 1340s presented absence from, or negligence at, harvest boons, stopping work after dinner, or ploughing for the lord with fewer beasts than for oneself. (fn. 15) In 1316 and 1322 c. 35 tenants, a majority, were charged with coming late or not at all to the lord's ploughing and harvesting. (fn. 16) Many villeins, however, quitted the manor: 15-30 were living elsewhere c. 1290-1300, mostly in Cambridgeshire. A few had left without the abbot's leave, (fn. 17) which was readily given for chevage and attendance at the annual leet. (fn. 18)
About 1200, when many villeins apparently only paid money rent, the others owed 1,590 works outside, and 642 during, harvest. (fn. 19) By the early 1320s the nominal total of weekworks due outside harvest on the Ramsey manor, excluding the ploughing duties of which few were released, was just over 3,600. Deductions for permanent commutations, office-holding, holidays, and sickness reduced the number actually available to c. 2,100, of which 300-500 were usually commuted. (fn. 20) In 1279 a yardlander's works were worth almost 15s. a year. On the lesser fees most tenants in 1279 held freely by rent, although the rector's men and a few others owed harvest boons or mowing works. The abbot's principal freeholders were supposed to ride to oversee the harvest boons. (fn. 21) In the 1290s his steward tried to compel the freeholders' undertenants also to come to one harvest boon or lose common of pasture. (fn. 22)
The increase in the number of Ramsey's tenants from c. 40 in 1086 to c. 65 by 1200 was probably linked with an extension of the area cultivated: the 7 half yardlands and 2 cotlands said in the 1310s to be 'de Grava' were perhaps created by ploughing land near the wood. (fn. 23) In the 15th century land equivalent to 3 yardlands and 10 quarterlands was still styled 'Graveland'. (fn. 24)
The abbey's demesne, still at farm in the 1190s, (fn. 25) was taken in hand in the early 13th century, and by the 1240s (fn. 26) was cultivated under a reeve's management. The permanently waged staff, whose numbers scarcely varied until the 1390s, included a warrener, 2 carters, 3 ploughmen (fugatores), 2 shepherds, a cowherd, a swineherd, a dairymaid, and sometimes a cook. (fn. 27) Their efforts, augmented during harvest by those of the staff from Knapwell, (fn. 28) were supplemented by the villeins' works, which were mostly used for threshing, c. 1,100 of c. 1,700 exacted in 1323-4, also for harrowing, hoeing, spreading manure, and building. (fn. 29)
About 1195 the livestock assigned to the farmer included only 5 horses and 12 oxen. (fn. 30) By the 1240s and in the early 14th century (fn. 31) the abbey usually kept 2-3 carthorses, 11-12 stots, and 20-24 plough oxen, probably sufficient for the three winter and three summer ploughs recorded c. 1250. Later, as in 1315, three ploughs were repaired annually. The area sown with grain perhaps comprised between 350 and 375 a. in the 1240s, and usually 330 a. in the early 14th century, though occasionally rising, as in 1314- 15, to almost 400 a. (fn. 32) The demesne arable, probably divided into two fields by 1200, (fn. 33) mostly grew provisions for the abbey rather than for sale. In the 1240s the main crops were wheat, perhaps occupying c. 180 a., and oats; c. 40 a. of barley were also grown, but few legumes. After 1300 the area under wheat fell from c. 195 a. before the great famine of the late 1310s to c. 165 a. afterwards. From part of the dredge sown instead of oats on 150-75 a. oats were sorted for fodder and for liveries to the abbey. Between 70 and 120 a., perhaps on the fallow, were by 1310 regularly sown with peas. Some wheat and much of the barley was sold in the 1240s, but in 1243 most of the wheat, c. 170 qr. out of 263 qr. (fn. 34) after deducting a fourth part for seed, was dispatched to Ramsey, along with the oats (then 125 qr. out of c. 180 qr.), mostly malted. In the 1310s the abbey received 150-200 qr. of wheat a year, and almost as much of malted barley, the remaining crops being mostly consumed at the manor. The peasants probably grew their crops in different proportions: in 1243-4 the toll of the abbey's mill yielded c. 25 qr. of barley, only 14½ qr. of wheat. In 1299, however, one villein tenement paid a rent half in wheat, half in barley and dredge. (fn. 35)
The abbey (fn. 36) kept a small herd of 20-24 milking cattle, sent in summer to feed on the marshlands further north, at Chatteris c. 1315, at Over c. 1319. Cheese was made from ewes' milk in the 1320s. The demesne flock, numbering c. 170 c. 1195, (fn. 37) included over 160 grown sheep in the 1240s, 330-360 in the early 14th century, when c. 125 lambs were born yearly. The fleeces, sold directly by the reeve before 1250, were after 1300 sent to Ramsey, although the fells of the 40-50 sheep a year perishing in murrains were still disposed of locally.
Until the mid 14th century Ramsey obtained a substantial profit from its manor. The yearly cash income from rents, court issues, and entry fines amounted to £15-20 in the 1240s and averaged £30 after 1300. Labour services enabled demesne farming to produce a cash profit of c. £29 out of £43 income from farming in 1249-50, and £15 out of c. £36 in 1311-12. Ramsey's return, however, besides the cellarer's farm and the sale value of its wool, £6 or £7 in the 1310s, arose mainly from the large annual liveries of food, probably then worth £50-70 a year. (fn. 38)
The traditional system of management was rapidly abandoned after the Black Death. (fn. 39) By 1360 the abbey was no longer exacting the regular weekwork, ploughing, or harvest works. Virtually all the customary holdings, save for 3 full and 4 half yardlands, still in the lord's hand, were held for money rents ranging from 5s. for a cotland up to 20s. for a yardland, a sum nearly equivalent to the accepted commutation value of works combined with the assize rents and other dues. By the 1380s the crofts, with some quarter lands, were mostly let for terms of years for 2s. 6d. each. The abbot had by then succeeded in letting the larger holdings not taken up by 1360 at a rate of 13s. 4d. a half yardland. A few labour services were retained: each yardlander owed 14 ploughings and one day a year at hoeing, sheepshearing, and haymaking and one day in each week during harvest. (fn. 40) Harvest boons were still imposed in the 1390s on newly built cottages. The single harvest boon still required was attended in the 1380s by c. 50 people.
The villeins' works were replaced by hired labour, partly paid out of the net increase in rent to £35 a year. In the 1380s 50-60 men, in 1396 86, were paid for a day's hoeing, while in harvest 20-25 reapers, with up to 55 other labourers, were hired for 6d. each to reap and bind most of the lord's crops in one day's intensive work. The threshing was done largely by piece-work. From the 1350s three ploughmen were added to the staff to replace the acremen, and all had their annual wage raised from the 3s. 6d. usual since the 1310s to 6s. After 1400 they also received 'rewards', 3s. or 4s. for the herdsmen, 6s. for the ploughmen and carter, 'because they were free', having presumably been formerly impressed from the unfree tenants. Their liveries in kind, c. 5 qr. each a year, besides free meals during harvest, totalled c. 52 qr. as before 1350, half being wheat, half tollcorn from the mill and peas, besides oats for pottage. (fn. 41)
Provision for them and for the harvesters absorbed much of the reduced demesne harvests, including 25-30 qr. of a smaller wheat crop of c. 90 qr. The amount of dredge reaped fell to c. 240 qr. by 1359 and 150-190 qr. in the 1380s and 1390s. Over a third of both crops was kept for seed. The area under grain was reduced between 1360 and the 1390s to between 180 and 210 a., which included 75-105 a. under wheat, c. 100 a. of dredge (barley after 1400), and c. 10 a. of oats. Peas were grown on c. 60 a., and by 1400 on 110 a. Corn liveries to the Ramsey bakery fell accordingly: it still received up to 40 qr. of wheat, but little other grain. The dredge was mostly malted, almost 70 qr. of the malt being sold a year, to provide the reeve with his principal cash income from corn-growing. The total amount of corn grown at Elsworth may also have declined: the tollcorn from the mill was 30 qr. just before 1320, 19 qr. by 1360, and 15 qr. or less in the 1380s and 1390s. (fn. 42)
Retrenchments on the demesne included farming out the dairy cattle from the 1360s, abandoning poultry keeping, although capons from rents and pigs were still fattened for the abbey's larder, and reducing the lord's flock from 440 or more in 1360 to c. 240 in the 1380s. In the 1390s, however, the abbey advanced money from its central funds to restore the flock to 540-600. In 1395 another 250 sheep collected from tenants were in the lord's fold. Although the manor's nominal yearly revenue under Richard II, at c. £60, was more than double the expenditure, the abbey was often indebted to its reeve on the annual account. Profits came from rents and seigneurial rights, and by 1400 the loss on demesne farming, ranging from £10 to £18, probably outweighed the value of the corn and wool liveries. (fn. 43)
Probably in the late 1410s (fn. 44) the abbey leased its demesne, having given up, possibly in 1412, (fn. 45) the remaining labour services, save for a few ploughings, a bedrip, and the sheepshearing. Those services were still in the 1450s nominally reserved for the farmers who were recorded from the 1420s, but in practice were commuted. The last 80 demesne sheep were returned to the abbot, but the farmer received a stock including 9 horses, 30 qr. of barley, and 40 qr. of peas. The first lessees were from the Hobson family, also tenants from 1409 of the abbey's windmill, (fn. 46) who had taken the surname of Fermour by the 1430s, (fn. 47) and also often served as reeves or bailiffs. Between 1445 and the 1460s the lease was held by the Boles, who owned c. 80 a. (fn. 48)
In the 1450s the abbey still received rents from its former customary tenants at the rates fixed after 1349. (fn. 49) Most tenants were by then reckoned personally free: of c. 28 tenant families in the 1440s only 7 or 8 were still neifs, liable to pay fines for leave to marry outside the homage or to depart from Elsworth. (fn. 50) Some neif families were prosperous: one of the Yutts held c. 56 a. in 1445. Others left without leave: in the early 15th century 20 or more neifs were absent, scattered from Norfolk to Bedfordshire, but many on other Ramsey manors. (fn. 51)
From the late 1390s tenants regularly took holdings for term of life or in survivorship: the gersums charged, though still set at 13s. 4d. for a half yardland c. 1400, shortly fell to 2s. or a capon even for larger holdings. (fn. 52) Some copyholds were still being granted for life about 1500. (fn. 53) Copyholders then claimed unrestricted rights of alienation and succession by a lifetenant's nearest descendant without any entry fine, although the abbot sometimes demanded higher annual rents. (fn. 54) By the mid 16th century most copyholds were fully heritable, (fn. 55) but subject to entry fines at the lord's will; by the 19th century fines had long been fixed at 1½ or 2 years' value. On the rectory manor fines remained certain at a multiple of the quitrent. (fn. 56)
By 1450 inequality was increasing among the copyholders. In 1445 the copyholders, numbering 37, occupied 23 cottages, 7 yardlands, 19 half yardlands, and 35 quarters: four had only cottages, fourteen with between 9 and 15 a. shared 95 a., ten with 18-26 a. shared 213 a., and another ten with 30-56 a. possessed altogether 290 a. (fn. 57) In the 1530s there were fifteen copyholders with under 20 a., who owned c. 200 a., and thirteen with 21-45 a. had altogether 325 a., including three with over 35 a. (fn. 58) There was a similar inequality in movable property: of £105 taxed in 1524 two men had £18 each, eleven had £3 to £6, £47 in all, while eight paid only on £2, and six others merely on their wages. (fn. 59)
In the late 14th century the arable was apparently cultivated in two large blocks, one northwest of the village, the other south and east. (fn. 60) One field was sown with wheat and dredge, the other partly with peas. On the demesne a fouryear rotation was probably followed in the 1380s, covering successively half of each block with wheat, a fallow, dredge, and peas. (fn. 61) A wheat field was mentioned in 1358, a peas field from 1362 to the 1520s, (fn. 62) and a barley field by 1473. (fn. 63) From the 13th century to the 17th the peasants probably concentrated on barley: in 1567 one yeoman left his wife 20 combs of wheat, 20 of barley, and 20 of malt. (fn. 64)
Harvest wardens were sometimes recorded from the 1290s. (fn. 65) Their duties included the restraint of wrongful gleaning, especially by poor women, (fn. 66) and of carrying crops by night. The tenants might not remove their hay until the lord's had been carried. The wardens were assisted by a messor, recorded from the 1290s. (fn. 67) In the 17th century, when field reeves performed the wardens' duties, the hayward was waged by the tenants at 16d. for each ploughland. (fn. 68)
Ownership of sheep was widespread: 19 people trespassed with their sheep in the lord's crops and meadow in 1312, (fn. 69) and 8 shepherds in their neighbours' corn in 1493. (fn. 70) A yeoman left 60 sheep in 1567, besides 6 milking cattle, 4 oxen, and 4 horses. (fn. 71) Besides making the usual bylaws to keep beasts out of the crops, (fn. 72) the villagers regularly concerned themselves with protecting their grassland from strangers with no common rights there, as in 1362. (fn. 73) In the 15th century they repeatedly tried to repel trespasses by men from Knapwell, Conington, and Papworth Everard. (fn. 74) In 1433 and 1493 the court forbade villagers to put on the commons sheep owned by strangers. (fn. 75) Freeholders perhaps had their own folds c. 1300. (fn. 76) About 1630 it was said that traditionally there were three flocks and folds beside the lord's. (fn. 77) In 1527 landowners were forbidden to keep their cattle in byherds in summer, when they must be in the common herdsman's charge. (fn. 78) A stint of sheep, 20 for each holding, was then first recorded. (fn. 79) By common practice such rights of common were by the 17th century attached to, and reckoned by, the 'quarters' of land owned. (fn. 80) Just before inclosure the traditional stints were 6 horses, 3 cattle, and 32 sheep for each 'plough', and 3 cows and 8 sheep for each of c. 62 commonable messuages. (fn. 81)
The arable was probably cultivated on a triennial rotation in the 17th century: bylaws of 1656 mentioned the fallow field, the wheat field, the peas field, and the tilth field, which included headlands and 'deans' of pasture, probably called lotgrass. (fn. 82) At inclosure in 1800 (fn. 83) there was said to be c. 1,940 a. of regularly cultivated arable, of which a third was sown annually with wheat. It was divided into three fields: Pittdean field north of the east-west road, Hollowbroad (after 1700 Middle) field to the south, and Sibdole (after 1700 Low) field south-east of the village. About 1800 Pittdean field covered c. 1,085 a., including c. 220 a. in the east, called Old Mill field, while Middle and Low fields respectively comprised c. 970 a. and c. 425 a. An outfield of 250 a. mentioned in 1767 (fn. 84) and c. 1800 was possibly the Grave, or Gray, field west of Elsworth wood. (fn. 85) Of the parish's commons, traditionally reckoned c. 1800 to comprise 1,035 a., (fn. 86) the largest, almost 600 a., was on the high ground south of the wood. (fn. 87) Another 100 a., called Offley Leys common, occupied the western angle of the parish. (fn. 88) Elsworth's meadows were in the well watered land north-east of the village. Various parts were probably called the Marsh in 1365, (fn. 89) the Horsepasture in 1433, (fn. 90) and the North meadow in 1316 (fn. 91) and at inclosure, when there were altogether c. 230 a. of meadow. (fn. 92) Around the village lay c. 150 a. of ancient inclosures, of which 52 a. belonged to the lord, and by the wood another 44 a. (fn. 93)
The manorial holding, regularly leased, (fn. 94) remained the largest in Elsworth in early modern times, comprising, after 18th-century purchases of copyhold, (fn. 95) 816 a. in the 1790s. (fn. 96) Its largest farm probably included 430 a. of arable and 85 a. of grass in 1697, and 360 a. and 60 a. in the 1770s. A smaller farm had 50-60 a. of arable and up to 9 a. of grass. (fn. 97) There were still numerous smallholders in the mid 17th century, when the manor had c. 70 tenants, many occupying yardlands, halves, and quarters; (fn. 98) several quarters survived in the late 18th century, (fn. 99) but some larger farms were established. The Newmans held c. 120 a. of copyhold from the 1540s to the 1640s. (fn. 100) William Harris, gentleman, who acquired c. 160 a. between 1593 and 1602, (fn. 101) or a namesake, was probably the largest landowner after the lord in 1639. (fn. 102) That estate remained in his family until the 1760s. (fn. 103) Coheirs of the Kimptons, prosperous yeomen in the mid 17th century, (fn. 104) sold 83 a. of arable and 32 a. of grass in the 1670s. (fn. 105) Under Charles II Elsworth contained 11-13 substantial dwellings with 3 or more hearths, but 70-85 smaller ones: of those recorded in 1674 over half had only one hearth. (fn. 106) In 1769, when there were c. 50 occupiers, most of the parish was occupied by 10 substantial farmers, (fn. 107) 51 a. of copyhold being owned by the tenant of Manor farm. (fn. 108) Several medium-sized farms were for sale in the mid 1790s; (fn. 109) between 1798 and 1803 four yeoman families sold estates of 70-100 a. to outsiders, two clergymen and two Huntingdon solicitors concerned with the inclosure then in prospect. (fn. 110)
An inclosure Act was obtained in 1800 with almost no opposition. (fn. 111) The land was probably divided by September 1801, (fn. 112) the award being executed early in 1803. (fn. 113) Of the 3,753 a. involved c. 907 a. were copyhold, 65 a. held of the rectory, and the rest of the main manor. Matthew Holworthy was allotted 984 a. for the manorial holding, besides his old inclosures, and as incumbent rector c. 655 a. for the glebe and tithes. Some 126 a. in the north-west corner went to Hilton (Hunts.) landowners, (fn. 114) c. 110 a. along the eastern border to apparent outsiders, and 175 a. near Papworth Everard to the Mordens of that parish. The two lawyers were allotted 272 a., (fn. 115) the two clergymen 260 a. (fn. 116) Only three resident farmers received over 75 a. each: Richard Papworth with 242 a., Robert Whitechurch, whose 147 a. descended in his family until c. 1860, (fn. 117) and Jeremiah Fardell, whose 133 a. were mostly sold by 1820. (fn. 118) Four or five others with over 25 a. each shared c. 240 a., while 30 smallholders had barely 260 a. between them. The inclosure did not produce a complete consolidation of landholding, for those with common rights received a share in the good grassland in the north-eastern meadows as well as their main allotments. (fn. 119)
The smaller allotments (fn. 120) mostly lay in the northern part of Low field, where ownership continued to be fragmented. The other land was mostly occupied by large farms. The rectorial estate to the south-east, difficult to let in the 1830s, (fn. 121) was divided from the 1850s into two farms of c. 335 a. to the south and 268 a. to the north. (fn. 122) The manorial land (fn. 123) was mostly divided between Lordship farm north-west of the village, 514 a. c. 1802 and c. 535 a. before 1850, and Common farm on the high clay land in the south-west. That land was in the owners' hands c. 1808, and a tenant abandoned his lease in 1816. (fn. 124) In 1861 there were five other farmers with 220-320 a. each and two with 140 a. each. The largest owner-occupier then was James Parsons, farming 560 a. from Broad End. (fn. 125) Following various purchases, (fn. 126) he occupied 400 a. in 1871 and his son Richard Papworth Parsons 486 a. (fn. 127) The latter by his death in 1910 had also bought North Meadow farm, 335 a., by the Conington border. (fn. 128)
The number of farmers gradually declined: Elsworth had 16 farmers in 1841, 13 in 1871, (fn. 129) 9 or 10 by 1900, and 6 or 7 in the 1930s. (fn. 130) In 1905 c. 2,420 a. were rented, only 1,050 a. owneroccupied. (fn. 131) Lordship farm, 685 a., and five others of 325-450 a. occupied c. 2,150 a. in 1910 and four more of 150-225 a. another 750 a. (fn. 132) The parish contained several dairymen in the early 20th century and one poultry dealer. (fn. 133) By 1946 the Davisons and their partners were farming half the 12 farms in the parish, including Lordship, Common, and Avenue farms. (fn. 134) In 1951 20 holdings of 50 a. or less covered c. 470 a., and four farms of over 100 a. amounted to c. 1,050 a. (fn. 135)
Four threshing machines were employed on Lordship farm c. 1815. (fn. 136) About 1830 there were c. 75 adult labourers, of whom only 7 were unemployed, and 45 more under 20. (fn. 137) In the mid 19th century there were usually 100-110 adult labourers, besides 20-25 more under 20, but the farmers regularly employed only c. 90 men and 35 boys, (fn. 138) and although the number of labourers fell to 74 by 1881 there were still 20 more than were needed on the farms. (fn. 139) Many of the younger men emigrated in the 1890s, (fn. 140) while from then to 1922 or later the rector let 19 a. as allotments. (fn. 141) Adults reported as working on the farms declined in numbers from c. 70 in 1925 to 42 by 1935, (fn. 142) and by 1980 only 16 men apart from the farmers were employed in agriculture. (fn. 143)
Many sheep were kept from the late 18th century: the main manorial farm carried a flock of 720, probably half lambs, in 1780, (fn. 144) another had 220 in 1799, (fn. 145) and 2,200 sheep altogether were feeding at Elsworth c. 1800. (fn. 146) In the early 19th century the flocks, 220 on Lordship farm in 1814, c. 165 on Common farm in 1816, included many Leicester sheep. (fn. 147) From the 1860s over 1,000 grown sheep were usually kept, but their numbers fell to c. 500 after 1900, and in 1980 only c. 200 were reported. Almost 200 grown cattle were kept in the late 19th century, but from the 1920s only 100-150, mostly for milk. Wheat and barley remained the main cereal crops, oats declining especially from the 1920s. The area under cereals was temporarily reduced from almost 900 a. of wheat and 600 a. of barley to 320 a. and 445 a. respectively c. 1895; wheat recovered to 800-950 a. from the 1910s and predominated later. Meanwhile the amount of permanent grassland had risen from 450-550 a. before 1880 to 1,150 a. c. 1900, then fell to c. 900 a. in the 1920s and 1930s; there were still at least 412 a. in 1955. (fn. 148)
Ramsey abbey had a windmill by the 1240s, probably then in hand. (fn. 149) By 1300 it was let to a miller, who paid his rent in kind until c. 1400. (fn. 150) Later it was let for terms of years at a rent cut from £2 in 1402 to 8s. in 1437. When it was burnt down c. 1450 the abbey did not have it rebuilt. (fn. 151) It had presumably stood on the Milnhill mentioned in 1458, (fn. 152) perhaps on the rising ground north of the village called Old Mill field in 1800. (fn. 153) The Millway recorded in Middle field in 1639 (fn. 154) perhaps led to a windmill on a site just south of the Huntingdon road near the modern New Farm, probably occupied in 1800 (fn. 155) as later by a smock mill. Another windmill, surviving in the 1920s, (fn. 156) stood by 1705 in Low field. (fn. 157) A mill on Reed Hill, for sale in 1797 and again in 1827, (fn. 158) was possibly the brick tower mill which survives, converted by 1980 to a dwelling, at the crossroads east of the village. (fn. 159) In the late 19th century and until 1920 two windmills were in regular use; both millers also traded as bakers. (fn. 160)
About 1300 Elsworth had several butchers. A skinner was recorded in 1299, (fn. 161) tailors in 1372 (fn. 162) and 1373, (fn. 163) a cordwainer in 1424, (fn. 164) a bodice maker in 1690, (fn. 165) and a weaver in 1781. (fn. 166) Trades and crafts supported 22-25 families in the 1810s and 37 by 1831, a substantial proportion compared to the 95-110 engaged in agriculture. (fn. 167) In the mid 19th century (fn. 168) there were 4 or 5 carpenters and 3 or 4 blacksmiths including James Wilderspin, who also farmed and made farming tools, employing several men, by 1869. (fn. 169) Of two families of wheelwrights one was in business until the 1930s. From the 1850s to the 1870s there were also 3-5 tailors and 5-7 shoemakers. Such craftsmen mostly disappeared after the 1890s, although one shoemaker was still working in the 1930s. The village usually had several butchers until then: one, established from the 1850s, was still trading in the 1960s. (fn. 170) A grocer's and draper's shop, attached to a bakery c. 1800, was then described as old-established. (fn. 171) In the mid 19th century there were normally two or three shops, one newly built c. 1857, (fn. 172) as also in 1961. (fn. 173) There were still two in 1982. The Hodsons, formerly bricklayers, and the Bleets, once carpenters, both had small builders' businesses from the 1860s. The Hodsons, who employed 6 or 7 people from the 1860s to the 1880s, moved to Knapwell after 1900. The Bleets, with 4-5 workmen c. 1871, survived until the 1930s. In 1937 Elsworth was the home of the Cambridgeshire Fruit Juice Co.
About 1955 an agricultural engineering workshop, called by 1970 the Elsworth Metalwork and Engineering Co., was started in former prisoner-of-war huts on Castleacre close east of the village. (fn. 174) From 1974 Legg Engineering Coating had a small factory nearby, for coating metals with plastic. (fn. 175) In 1982 there was another small electrical engineering workshop at Brockley End. From the 1950s a caravan site was open by the Drift east of the village. It also hired and sold caravans, and by 1968 boats. (fn. 176)