A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.
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In 1299 Robert, earl of Oxford, complained that Roger of Walsham, to whom his grandfather Earl Hugh had demised Michell Hall manor in 1258, did not continue to hold the customarily attached view of frankpledge after 1260. The sheriff took over that jurisdiction and its profits, and the earl risked losing it. The Veres' title to a court leet at Swaffham was eventually recognized by the Crown in 1307. (fn. 1) That leet was probably the only one in the parish; the other manors had merely courts baron in the Middle Ages. Court rolls survive only for Burgh Hall manor, for 1333-99, 1423-55, and 1565-95. (fn. 2) Until the 1450s its courts were held twice a year. Although concerned largely with admitting tenants, including in the 14th century many freeholders, and with enforcing agrarian regulations, they also handled at least until the mid 15th century numerous pleas, mostly of debt and trespass. Before 1400 disputes were sometimes settled by wager of law. (fn. 3) Bylaws on farming for the whole vill were apparently made in the 1380s in the Michell Hall court, (fn. 4) although c. 1430 one affecting the whole of Swaffham fen was made jointly by the lords and all the tenants of both Swaffhams. (fn. 5) The Burgh Hall court was more widely active under Elizabeth I, when it still dealt with membership of tithings and named constables (fn. 6) and aletasters, and enforced the assize of bread and ale. (fn. 7) In the 1570s it also still issued its own bylaws. In 1578, to protect the parish against immigrants, it forbade more than one married couple to dwell together in a single house for over a month. (fn. 8) It even began in 1576 to try an assize of mort d'ancestor. (fn. 9) The court books that survive for Michell Hall manor between 1666 and 1937, (fn. 10) and for Burgh Hall manor between 1768 and 1932 (fn. 11) deal almost entirely with transfers of copyholdings.
The parish officers and 'chief inhabitants' who managed the poor from the late 16th century, (fn. 12) were spending over £130 on them by 1776, over £200 in the mid 1780s, and almost £500 by 1803, when 37 people were regularly relieved, all at home, and 20 others occasionally. (fn. 13) In the early 1810s 30-35 poor were continuously dependent on the parish, and an equal number intermittently. The cost, which then fell by a third over three years to £600 in 1815, (fn. 14) was again usually £850-925 until the mid 1820s, when it was reduced to £475-575, and again until the early 1830s. (fn. 15) About 1830 fuel and clothing were provided for widows and the aged, and turf sold to the poor at low prices. (fn. 16) From 1835 the parish belonged to the Newmarket poor-law union, (fn. 17) and with the Newmarket R.D., of which it formed part between 1894 and 1974, subsequently passed into the East Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 18)
In the mid 19th century the vestry and parish offices were still dominated by a small circle of leading farmers. (fn. 19) Parish constables were still making arrests in 1850. (fn. 20) At inclosure the parish officers were allotted three gravel and stone pits, in all 5 a., mostly let as pasture by the 1890s; they also received a public landing place near the south end of Swaffham Lode and c. 50 a., mostly beside that lode, whose rents, by 1835 £28 net, were to maintain certain drainage ditches. (fn. 21) So used in the late 19th century, when they yielded £88 to £120 gross, (fn. 22) those rents produced a substantial unspent balance. The parish council established in 1894 (fn. 23) was allowed in 1910 to spend £800 of the accumulation on buying land from Col. R. T. Hamond for a recreation ground; it included the 5-a. Denny close and ancient 3-a. elm plantation at the north-east end of the main village street. (fn. 24) A Scheme of 1911 allotted the surplus income of the Ditches charity to maintaining that ground. (fn. 25) A sports pavilion erected there in 1974 was rebuilt in 1990. (fn. 26) The council then also obtained from the Ditches' rents about half the annual £4,600 spent on street lighting and other public facilities, besides the playground and cemetery. (fn. 27) The village had had its own fire station from 1935, a volunteer team working the engine from a barn near the Crown public house, still operating c. 1990. (fn. 28)