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, when half the 5 hides in Graveley were in demesne and the yield of the vill had fallen by a quarter since 1066 to £6, Ramsey abbey's demesne had 4 serviand two ploughteams, while the 8 villaniwho shared the rest with 8 bordars had five teams. (fn. 1) By c. 1160 the area occupied by Ramsey's tenants had increased to 32½ yardlands, the villein ones nominally of 20 a. (fn. 2) In 1770 the manorial farm comprised 70 a. of ancient closes and 223 a. of arable, of which 148 a. lay in blocks of 10 a. or more, one covering 40 a. (fn. 3) The 4 or 5 free yardlands purchased by the abbey from the 1270s (fn. 4) were not incorporated into the demesne farm and by 1300 were rented separately. (fn. 5) The remaining tenanted land (fn. 6) was from c. 1200 to the 1390s divided into 17 full and 18 or 19 half yardlands, besides a few cottagers' crofts. By 1300 the abbey let six yardlands; the other holdings remained until c. 1400 subject to labour services, besides ancient assize rents called monksgeld, and renders to the cellarer, mostly commuted for cash by 1250. 'Foddercorn' in oats, and 'benesede' in wheat were still exacted in kind until c. 1400. The latter probably replaced the 12th-century tenants' duty to plough and sow ½ a. a year.
After 1200 (fn. 7) the villeins' services involved working three days a week throughout the year or two for half yardlands, including ploughing on Fridays outside harvest time. They did a oneday harvest boon with their whole households before 1200, but with only two men by 1279, carrying the lord's corn next day. Other boonworks exacted until the 1380s were owed for hoeing, haymaking, shearing, and ploughing. Failure to attend the lord's works, especially boonworks, was often reported in the early 14th century (fn. 8) and the reeve and reapreeve were resisted during harvest in 1291. (fn. 9) Occasionally the whole vill refused the services demanded: the register of customs at Ramsey was consulted in 1291 on whether the villeins had to fetch millstones from St. Ives at their own expense (fn. 10) and in 1300 on threshing wheat by 'great quarters'. (fn. 11) About 1360 almost half the works exacted outside harvest were devoted to threshing. (fn. 12)
The demesne staff from the 1240s to the 1390s included a carter, two ploughmen, four after 1360, a shepherd, a swineherd, and until c. 1325 a dairymaid, receiving cash wages and corn liveries at the same rates as at Elsworth. The demesne ploughbeasts numbered usually 4 horses and 8 oxen. The abbey's flock, whose wool was usually sold from Ramsey, varied in size at shearing time between c. 170 and c. 265. In 1395, when c. 75 sheep died in a murrain, the abbey bought 120 to restore the number to 366 sheep. In 1381 tenants' sheep numbering 80 were folded with the demesne flock. (fn. 13)
The area of demesne under cereal crops, perhaps c. 155 a. before 1250, was increased by the 1320s to c. 175 a. but declined by 1348 to 150 a. and from the 1360s to c. 120 a. Before 1250 the main crops were wheat and oats. The wheat, grown on c. 70 a. before 1349, c. 50 a. from 1360, went mostly to the abbey's bakehouse. From 1250 dredge replaced oats, being sown on almost 100 a. until the 1340s. By the 1380s, however, almost 65 a. of barley were sown, besides c. 15 a. of oats for fodder. Dredge or barley, sent to Ramsey before 1350, was later mostly malted locally. Those cereals probably occupied about half the sown demesne arable in the 1380s. On the fallow peas were grown, c. 30 a. by the 1310s and 59 a. in 1395. The toll of the abbey mill, derived from the peasants' crops, yielded 61/2 qr. of wheat and 20 qr. of barley in 1243-4. One customary holding in the 1390s grew 12½ a. of barley and 6½ a. each of wheat and peas. (fn. 14)
Labour services were not fully commuted until late. (fn. 15) Although four or five half yardlands left on the lord's hands after the Black Death were then rented at ½ mark each, another 13-14 full and 10-11 half yardlands remained subject to works until the 1390s, those due in harvest being exacted in full. Recalcitrance to perform works, recorded until the 1370s, (fn. 16) perhaps accounted for the increasing number of ordinary weekworks commuted, rising from c. 275 of c. 1,665 available in 1360 to 1,343 out of c. 1,850 c. 1390.
The continued exaction of works perhaps enabled the demesne farm to produce, besides liveries of corn and wool, a cash profit, mostly from selling malt, of £5-10 a year until c. 1390; staff wages, however, rose from 4s. to 6s. each after 1349 and to 9s. in the 1390s. After 1380 the threshing was mainly done by hired men, not villein labour. By 1395 profits of lordship from rents and court issues yielded £13-14 yearly but demesne farming was becoming unprofitable. The regular weekworks and harvest works were finally commuted in 1399 for rents of 1 mark a yardland. The other boonworks, still retained, were assigned to the farmers to whom the demesne was leased from 1407; they formally abandoned them c. 1430. (fn. 17)
The abbey did not find it easy after the Black Death to keep tenants on its customary land. Whereas before 1350 those holdings were inherited by primogeniture, (fn. 18) after 1400 they were normally taken only for life, (fn. 19) even though entry fines shrank from the 1380s and were nominal after 1400. The lord sometimes tilled or manured a holding before letting it. (fn. 20) From c. 1400 to the 1450s few tenements remained with the same surnames. Although admissions to copyholds were still usually for life c. 1500, by then they descended in practice in the same family and became fully hereditary again between the 1520s (fn. 21) and the 1560s. Entry fines, then only a year's quitrent, (fn. 22) were later held to be arbitrary at the lord's will. (fn. 23)
As the number of tenants declined from c. 35 in 1400, (fn. 24) the average size of their holdings increased. From the 1420s several men occupied 1½ or 2 yardlands each. (fn. 25) One had 4½ in 1446. (fn. 26) Simon Wiseman, whose father Thomas (d. 1526) had in 1522 been the wealthiest villager, worth £40, owned c. 165 a. in 1540. Four other copyholders with 54-72 a. apiece occupied c. 245 a. and six with 30-40 a. each another 215 a. Only one had merely a yardland. (fn. 27) Even so most villagers were not apparently very prosperous. In 1524 Thomas Wiseman and the demesne lessee were taxed on £34 together. Another £34 was shared by four other landholders taxed on £7-10, and £38 by 7 others taxed on £2-5. Only two men paid merely on wages. (fn. 28)
No certain field divisions were recorded before 1400, (fn. 29) but the arable was probably divided into fields for a triennial rotation well before c. 1470 when a barley field was mentioned. A West field (fn. 30) was one of four recorded by 1600. (fn. 31) They were Knill field on the rising ground in the south-east, c. 450 a.; Dunghill, by 1625 Dingell and after 1750 Debden, (fn. 32) field, which stretched from the eastern boundary to the Offord road north-west of the village; the High field, comprising the high northern plateau; and West field, c. 140 a. south of the Offord road. High and West fields, probably the two smallest, were sown in the same season in 1662 and probably in 1618. (fn. 33) Wheat, barley, and peas fields were mentioned in 1595. (fn. 34) In 1801 the cereal crops reported included 162 a. of wheat, 142 a. of barley, and 124 a. of oats, only 428 a. in all, but 160 a. of beans and 45 a. of tares were also grown. (fn. 35) Around the village lay c. 175 a. of ancient closes. (fn. 36)
The highest ground beside the northern and southern borders may have been left as permanent common pasture. (fn. 37) Meadows, sometimes commoned, lay along the brooks in the south: one by Knill brook was recorded in 1291. (fn. 38) Baulks in the arable fields, where leys were mentioned in 1411, also lay common at certain seasons. (fn. 39) Increasing pressure on available pasture by the late 15th century was evident from the bylaws, previously mainly concerned with excluding cattle from the sown fields. (fn. 40) In the 1450s flocks from Papworth and Offord often trespassed on Graveley's pastures. (fn. 41) Restrictions on feeding cattle in the fields were imposed in 1490 (fn. 42) and in 1525 a stint was fixed of 2 oxen for each plough. (fn. 43) By 1558 there was a stint of 2 cows for each half yardland, and a stint was then set for sheep. (fn. 44) Byherds were often prohibited, but ineffectually: eleven men kept them in 1604. (fn. 45) In 1618 only two folds might be kept by custom besides the demesne fold, and old cottages were stinted at 3 cattle each, newly built ones being denied all common rights. (fn. 46) Later 1 cow and 10 sheep might be kept for each cottage, 2 or 3 cows and 20 sheep for each half yardland. (fn. 47) In 1622 a man owning c. 185 a. had common for 24 cattle and 140 sheep (fn. 48) and a 170a. farm had sheepwalk for 170 in 1789. (fn. 49) Taking in outsiders' beasts was strictly forbidden. (fn. 50) In 1736 those with no cattle were compensated for not letting their commons to outsiders. In 1731 the manor farm was allowed a flock of 780 sheep, all other stints being reduced by a third. (fn. 51)
By 1615 there were only 10 substantial landholders. (fn. 52) In the 1560s the typical holding had comprised 30-40 a. (fn. 53) Until 1650 larger accumulations such as the Youngs' 150 a. or the Wisemans' 200 a. (fn. 54) were mostly broken up by sale after partition among or failure of heirs. (fn. 55) Later they remained intact or were absorbed into even larger estates. Whereas Edward Crofts (d. 1649) had divided his 120 a. among his four sons, (fn. 56) c. 96 a. held by three of them were reunited by 1710 and passed together in 1713 to the Betts family, (fn. 57) the owners until 1832. (fn. 58) The White' copyhold, enlarged since the 1640s from 47 a. to 97 a., (fn. 59) was wholly incorporated from 1741 into Henry Trotter's large estate, (fn. 60) which with two others of over 150 a. occupied almost 500 a. out of 670 a. of copyhold recorded c. 1765. (fn. 61)
An inclosure Act was obtained in 1802. (fn. 62) The land was being divided that winter (fn. 63) and the award was executed in 1805. It covered 1,382 a. of open fields and commons, besides 41 a. of old inclosures involved in exchanges. The rector was allotted 475 a. and Jesus College 195 a., both in the north. In the south 452 a. were allotted in three allotments of 135-150 a., 236 a. in four of 50-60 a., and 35 a. in five of 15 a. or less. (fn. 64) All the larger ones belonged to non-residents, save for one of 67 a., owned and occupied by its former tenant in 1818. (fn. 65) From the 1820s (fn. 66) the south-east part of Graveley was mostly included in Nightingales farm, 175 a., and Baldock farm, 299 a., the latter occupied from 1842 to c. 1870 by George Ford, (fn. 67) also lessee of the manor and rectory farms in the 1860s. (fn. 68) West of the village lay the Betts family's farm, 153 a., split up in 1863. Jesus College's Lordship farm, 245 a. to the north-east, was occupied from the 1810s by the Fieldings, turned out in 1864, ostensibly for growing too much wheat. (fn. 69) From the 1860s the rector divided his land: c. 250 a. were still cultivated from his old farmhouse by the churchyard, c. 225 a. in the far north from Lodge farmstead built c. 1876. (fn. 70)
The adult farm labourers, usually numbering 35-40, were all in employment c. 1830 and from the 1840s to the 1870s: in 1851 the six principal farmers had work for 48 men and 11 boys, in 1861 for 41 and 18. (fn. 71) By 1900 the rector let 38 a. as allotments to the labourers, who comprised almost the whole population. (fn. 72) About 1910 the farmers imported 17 outsiders for harvesting and threshing, including five engine drivers, to supplement the 27 resident labourers. (fn. 73) Graveley still had 20-25 farmworkers in the 1920s and 1930s. (fn. 74) By then holdings were more concentrated. Edward Ashcroft, who succeeded his father as lessee of Baldock farm in the 1890s, by 1910 also occupied Nightingales farm, which he bought in 1913, and from 1917 to the 1930s was tenant of the already combined Lordship and Charity farms. (fn. 75) In 1955, when six smaller holdings included 'only 192 a., there were 3 large farms. (fn. 76)
Graveley remained predominantly arable until the 1890s. Lordship farm included 212 a. of corn in 1839, (fn. 77) Baldock farm 276 a. in 1866. (fn. 78) Fourcourse rotations were required on the rectory and Lordship farms in the 1810s. (fn. 79) Many sheep were still kept: one farmer had 300 in 1808 and three others in the 1810s had flocks of 120-190 grown sheep, mostly Leicesters but also some Southdowns. (fn. 80) In 1875 the crops reported on 1,359 a. included 377 a. of wheat, 272 a. of barley, and 139 a. of oats, besides 190 a. of beans and peas and 54 a. of turnips. (fn. 81) The heavy clay soils, however, were not favourable to such cultivation, especially on the northern heights. Lordship farm was drained c. 1830 without permanent success, (fn. 82) as in 1828 was Rectory farm, (fn. 83) which had five tenants between 1802 and 1817. (fn. 84) Another tenant quitted that farm in 1881 and the next was bankrupt by 1886, a time when most of the farms changed hands. (fn. 85) After 1893 the northern 270 a. of the rectory farm was abandoned, 60 a. becoming so thickly overgrown that they were lettable only for rabbit shooting and fox coverts. Another 210 a. remained rough grazing in the 1920s. (fn. 86) On Lordship farm 114 a. were uncultivated and under grass by 1893. (fn. 87) The area of permanent grassland reported doubled from 156 a. in 1875 to 306 a. by 1885 and again to 656 a. in 1905, when only 870 a. of arable remained, and after declining slowly stood again at 594 a. in 1935. The diminished arable mostly grew wheat after 1900, while sheepfarming declined. By 1955 more cattle were kept. (fn. 88) The derelict northern land, called Graveley Roughs by the 1930s, (fn. 89) was not cleared until the Second World War. (fn. 90)
Ramsey abbey had by 1200 a windmill, (fn. 91) leased by 1300 (fn. 92) and broken down between 1357 and 1360. (fn. 93) It possibly stood near Mill close, so named by 1650, south-east of the village. (fn. 94) Another windmill, owned by copyholders and newly built c. 1590, then stood in a close on Millhill in Knill field. (fn. 95) It was perhaps demolished in the 1620s. (fn. 96) Brickhill furlong in Knill field was perhaps named before 1662 (fn. 97) from digging brick earth there. A family of weavers had land in Graveley c. 1640. (fn. 98) In 1818 the village tradesmen included a smith, a shoemaker, a wheelwright, and two shopkeepers. (fn. 99) A smithy probably stood before 1800 in Blacksmith's close west of Church Lane. (fn. 100) Another was built c. 1825 on the western green. (fn. 101) In use until 1910, it was derelict in 1937. (fn. 102) The two or three smiths, shoemakers, and wheelwrights recorded in the mid 19th century with a butcher, a baker, and in 1861 three ratcatchers, had been reduced from the 1870s to one of each craft. The last wheelwright was still in business in the 1930s. In the 1920s the owner of a small motor repair shop also ran buses. A grocer's shop, kept by one family from the 1860s to the 1930s, (fn. 103) was closed by 1960. (fn. 104) By that time most inhabitants worked outside the parish. (fn. 105)