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.
In 1086, when the manor included 7 ploughlands, the demesne had 2 ploughteams and four servi, while the ten villaniand five bordars had 5 teams between them. (fn. 1) In 1279 the manor, then divided, comprised almost the whole vill, save for 40 a. of church land. The demesne covered notionally 1&frac1/2; hides. There were probably only c. 55 a. of lay freehold and no substantial freeholders. Most of the non-demesne arable, c. 435 a., was occupied by customary tenants, including 25 half yardlanders, 6 others with 5-10 a. each, sharing c. 50 a., and 13 cottagers. The larger customary holdings rendered no labour services but only rents of 10s. for each half yardland. The cottagers still owed harvest boonworks. (fn. 2) In 1400 two villagers, whom the lords of the manor had supposedly seized by force as villeins by birth, successfully vindicated their liberty. (fn. 3) No copyhold land has been traced in modern times. (fn. 4)
In 1340 40 a. were said to lie waste through the 'impotence' of the tenants. (fn. 5) The number of lesser landholders probably fell sharply between 1327, when 12 people were taxed on between 1s. 6d. and 2s. each and 36 others on 1s. 3d. or less, (fn. 6) and 1524, when four farmers paid the subsidy on £7-10 each but only five on £2 each, besides three men taxed on their wages. (fn. 7) The smaller holdings were presumably absorbed into the demesnes, which were usually leased by the early 16th century. (fn. 8) In 1571 the two half manors probably comprised four fifths of the arable, the rest being mostly owned by four other men. (fn. 9) In 1585 William Malory had lately acquired 27 a. once possessed by the Bonfey family, (fn. 10) the wealthiest villagers in the 1520s. (fn. 11) Their prosperity probably derived from renting demesne, as did that of the Daintrys, the most prominent villagers in the late 16th and 17th century. (fn. 12) John Daintry probably occupied the manor house at his death in 1587, with the 28 a. of former Bonfey land. (fn. 13) His son John bought a 100-a. holding in 1595 (fn. 14) and bequeathed £350 among his younger children in 1602. (fn. 15) Later generations of the family made equally large bequests. (fn. 16) In 1674 apparently two Edward Daintrys, each occupying a house of 5 hearths, were among the six most prosperous villagers. (fn. 17) Between 1706 and 1793 the manorial estate was possibly enlarged from 556 a. of arable with 73 a. of grass to over 764 a. altogether. (fn. 18)
By the late 16th century the arable was divided into three fields. Southbrook field lay south-west of the village and was separated by Ermine Street from Crabbush (later Woodbrook) field to the south-east, while Hamden (later Londonbrook) field lay north of Papworth wood. The southeastern corner of the parish was occupied by the 'beasts' pasture', called the cow common by 1800, when it comprised c. 60 a. (fn. 19) By the 'custom of the country' barley, probably the largest crop, and wheat were in the 17th century sown on the tilth, peas and oats on the stubble. (fn. 20) A widow in 1681 left 8 a. of growing corn, 4 a. of stubble, and 5 a. of ploughed land. (fn. 21) In 1801 the 600 a. normally cropped were equally divided between wheat, barley, oats, and peas and beans. (fn. 22) The usual animals were kept: (fn. 23) the Daintrys' farm was supposed in the 17th century to carry a permanent stock of 7 horses, 12 cattle including 4 milking cows, and 40 sheep. (fn. 24) About 1780 sheep were apparently stinted at one for each acre occupied. (fn. 25) In 1796 the lessee of a 240-a. farm had 20 horses, 10 cows, 280 sheep, and 170 pigs. (fn. 26)
About 1814 there were 948 a. of open fields and commons and 144 a. of old inclosures. (fn. 27) Charles Madryll Cheere obtained an inclosure Act in 1815. (fn. 28) The land was probably divided later that year, (fn. 29) but the award, prepared by 1819, (fn. 30) was not executed until 1826, probably owing to Cheere's plans for re-aligning the main road. Cheere's family was allotted c. 820 a., besides their 133 a. of old inclosures. The Mordens had 104 a., mostly at the northern end of the parish, and others 32 a. in all. (fn. 31) By 1840, when Papworth included 692 a. of arable, 123 a. of grassland, and 233 a. of sheepwalk, the Cheere estate was divided along the main road. To the east lay Hall farm, managed until the 1870s by a bailiff or land steward, to the west a 130-a. farm based on the former Chequers inn, and Firtree farm of c. 193 a. (fn. 32)
By 1860 the two western farms were combined in the hands of the Martins, who in 1861 worked 588 a. From the late 1870s they occupied all the south part of the parish as three farms, including much of Home farm, with a mid 19th-century farmstead at Crow's Nest Farm by the Old North Road. To the north 372 a. were cultivated from Chequers Farm. (fn. 33) There was enough work for all the resident labourers, 9 adults and 5 youths in 1820 (fn. 34) and 12-17 adults and 4 or 5 youths from the 1850s. The Martins usually employed 17 or 18 men and 8 or 9 boys. (fn. 35) E. T. Hooley later alleged that they had neglected the land. He bought out all the tenants and from the late 1890s to 1911 managed all the land as a single farm, which by 1907 he called Model farm. He claimed to have purchased numerous cattle, put many tons of fertilizer into the soil, and raised his labourers' wages from 12s. to £1 a week. (fn. 36) His main alteration was to lay much land down to grass. In 1892 the Cheere estate had included 721 a. of arable, but only 107 a. of grass. By 1911 Hooley had 472 a. of arable and 463 a. of pasture in Papworth. (fn. 37) In 1875 over 650 grown sheep were reported there and in 1895 c. 800. (fn. 38) The Model farm livestock sold in 1913 included 1,000 sheep and 200 cattle. (fn. 39) Hooley eventually admitted losing £10,000 through his farming, twice the yield of the Papworth estate. (fn. 40)
From 1913 the farms were again let separately. (fn. 41) After 1920 the western half of the parish, 360-400 a., was farmed from Firtree Farm, with which Chequers farm, 70 a. was combined after 1935, and the south from Crow's Nest Farm, while over 300 a. in the east were attached to the Davisons' Elsworth farms. (fn. 42) The area of wheat and barley sown, which fell from 300 or 360 a. before the 1880s to c. 160 a. about 1900, gradually recovered after 1911 to over 450 a. by 1955. Sheep farming virtually ended after the 1920s. (fn. 43) In 1980, when over 11,000 pigs were kept, there were two large cereal farms, one of over 750 a.; only 13 people then worked in agriculture. (fn. 44)
Before 1900 the village had few craftsmen. There was a tailor in the 1650s (fn. 45) and a carpenter in 1682. (fn. 46) In 1279 the manor included a windmill, perhaps occupied in 1285 by Robert 'of the west mill', (fn. 47) but it was no longer recorded in the 16th century. It had possibly stood on a mound slightly south of the village and west of Ermine Street near the Millhaden furlong in Southbrook field mentioned in 1571. (fn. 48) The single family maintained by crafts in 1831 (fn. 49) was perhaps the village blacksmith's. The smithy, working until the 1920s, stood by 1819 on the main road just south of Church Lane. (fn. 50) Its site was later occupied by a village store, started by the Papworth Settlement c. 1920 but replaced from 1937 by a larger purpose-built shop further north, which was taken over in 1978 by the Cambridge Co-operative Society. (fn. 51)
From the 1920s the Settlement transformed the village economy. (fn. 52) In 1918 it established greenhouses, and a piggery which lasted until 1962. A poultry farm, also started in 1918 at the former cricket pavilion, covered 40 a. from 1919 and had probably over 5,000 fowls in 1955. (fn. 53) It was closed by 1959. More important, the Settlement, building on the skills of its early members, opened carpentry and cabinet-making workshops in 1918 and in 1919 added one for printing and another for making leather trunks and other luggage, which had 50 workmen by 1924. Handmade jewellery and surgical boots were also produced in the early 1920s and upholstery between 1923 and 1978. (fn. 54) By 1935 signwriting and bookbinding were also undertaken in the printing department, which then occupied 60 people. From 1919 the Settlement also had its own building department. The early workshops in converted sheds were gradually replaced between 1929 and 1939 with purposebuilt factories, mostly standing along the main road north of the Hall. A factory building bodies for coaches and other vehicles was added in 1949. The more heavily disabled settlers admitted from c. 1960 could tackle only less strenuous work; the sheltered engineering workshops set up for them in 1961 and 1969-75, which occupied 50- 60 people by the mid 1970s, were devoted mainly to assembling electronic components and from 1977 computers.
The Settlement's Papworth Industries were long aided by large contracts received until the late 1970s from the government and other public bodies. The total number working there, 294 by 1930, had reached 491 by 1935, over half of them ex-patients, and almost 600 by 1940. In 1950 c. 450 people, 323 of them permanent settlers, were employed. As fewer former tuberculosis sufferers needed such work, numbers declined from 466 in 1955 to c. 350, mostly permanent residents, in the mid 1960s, but had recovered by 1970 to c. 575, of whom three fifths were disabled, the rest mostly their relatives. (fn. 55) In 1982 the main departments were those engaged in making furniture, printing, coachbuilding, and making trunks and other leather and plastic travel goods, which was claimed c. 1965 to be one of the five largest British factories in that industry.