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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The 13¼ ploughlands reported in 1086 were worked by 3 or more demesne ploughteams, handled on the Ely and Richmond demesnes by four servi, and up to 10 peasant ones owned by ten villani with four bordars, the sole cultivators on the Giffard fee. The overall £2 increase in the yield of the vill since 1066 was due solely to higher returns on the Richmond manor, which carried a sheepflock numbering 354 out of the 528 on the manors; no other demesne flock exceeded c. 70. (fn. 1)
In 1279 (fn. 2) over half the arable reported, totalling c. 1,500 a., was included in the demesnes. Ely priory's, then of 220 a., came to c. 260 a. by 1310, while the four other main demesnes in 1279 ranged between 100 a. and 180 a. Of the 53 freeholders, together owning barely 260 a., almost half on the Criketot fee, two had 32-4 a. and eight others with 10-15 a. each 101 a. in all. The remainder were smallholders, few with over 5 a.; 21 had just their houses and 1-a. plots. Customary land was mostly on the Ely manor. The other manors included only c. 100 a. occupied by villeins and bondmen, and 9 a. possessed by cottagers. Of Ely's portion in 1279 six villeins had 5 a. each, the rest being then ascribed to 16 'free sokemen'. In 1319 the priory's sokemen and villeins were represented by 19 customary tenants, besides smallholders, sharing 22 half yardlands, One tenant had 9 half yardlands, but other similar holdings were shared or combined in lots including 1½ or 2½ half yardlands, worked by two or three people. One or two had been granted freely for life to favoured tenants; one had three at his death c. 1330. (fn. 3) Those tenants' labour services were not onerous, including no weekwork. Two or three combined their teams for a day's ploughing before the winter and Lenten sowings. They also owed two days' hoeing, carried hurdles, as was still required c. 1420, (fn. 4) when the prior's fold was moved, and mowed his meadow. In harvest they owed five whole days' boonworks. Set values for commutation were recorded in 1279, when two days' extra work reaping barley was added. The other manors then only had ten villeins each at most, few of them occupying over 5 a. They owed only 2-6 harvest boons each and similar carrying and stacking services.
Shortly before 1279 the prior had made arbitrary the fines owed by his tenants on inheritance, formerly double the cash rent, and on their daughters' marriages. (fn. 5) Under customs observed into the late 14th century, their holdings remained heritable, (fn. 6) even collaterally, (fn. 7) and might be freely alienated though only within the resident villeinage. (fn. 8) A widow could retain her husband's whole tenement for life, not paying any fine (fn. 9) unless she married a freeman. If she remarried she must surrender half to the first husband's heir. Husbands of heiresses were entitled to tenure by curtesy, while not only eldest sons but firstborn daughters were sole heirs. (fn. 10) Villeins' daughters were subject to leyrwite. (fn. 11) In 1425 26 of the prior's customary tenants admitted their continuing liability to be tallaged at his will. (fn. 12)
The priory kept its demesne in hand until after 1420, devoting it primarily to growing corn. Most of the surplus wheat, in 1340 143 qr. out of 177 qr. received, in 1419 93 qr. of 144 qr., was dispatched to Ely, along with much barley, two thirds of that crop in 1420. Most crops were absorbed in the system of demesne production. (fn. 13) In the 14th century Ely required its tenants' suit to its mill (fn. 14) and fold. (fn. 15) Although Ely holdings were then still often granted to villeins and their sequela, (fn. 16) from the 1350s villein half yardlands, or fractions of them, were sometimes granted for terms of years at rent. (fn. 17) In 1426 six tenants had for many years been denying the services due. (fn. 18) A few tenements were still being granted for labour services, principally at haymaking and harvest, in the mid 1430s. (fn. 19) In 1419, when 132 customary tenants performed three harvest boons, no other works had been recorded as performed. (fn. 20)
Some demesne had already in the early 14th century been rented out in lots of up to 20 a. for short terms. (fn. 21) Excessive taxation was blamed for much land being uncultivated c. 1340. (fn. 22) In the 1410s, when the directly cultivated demesne still comprised 230 a., most work on it outside harvest, when 43 men were hired for one day, was left to the permanent staff. Their numbers had been cut since 1340 from two carters and four ploughmen, with a dairy woman, to three ploughmen. The shepherd also still employed had charge of c. 150 sheep. (fn. 23) That demesne was leased out to one or more local men from c. 1435. (fn. 24) It continued thereafter to be occupied by lessees rendering in the 1530s, besides £20 in cash, 50 qr. each of wheat and barley. (fn. 25) From c. 1600 they held that land on beneficial leases. (fn. 26) Shadworths demesne, let for six years by the Corbys in 1366, (fn. 27) was likewise leased later, c. 1600 to local yeomen, (fn. 28) although in the late 1450s its owner apparently had its sheepwalk in hand. (fn. 29)
By the 1330s and into the 15th century the Ely customary land was sometimes styled 'molland'. (fn. 30) About 1530 the 43 tenants of one manor, free and copyhold, including several local gentry, occupied, besides 35 messuages and 11 cottages, 14 half yardlands, some comprising 24 a., along with another 65 a. (fn. 31) By 1659, before the allotment of fenland, only c. 220 a. of Ely copyhold remained, divided among 34 tenants, seven of whom had half-yardland sized holdings of 15-25 a. (fn. 32) Fines on transfers of copyhold on the Ely manor were then still at the lord's will. (fn. 33) At inclosure, when the smaller owners claimed c. 400 a. as copyhold of the Ely manor and 125 a. as copyhold of the other four, (fn. 34) the land allotted for Ely copyhold came to 566 a., while 185 a. was assigned for that of the others. That held of Knights and Baldwins, then altogether 142 a., (fn. 35) was gradually enfranchised from the 1860s. (fn. 36)
From the early 13th century (fn. 37) until 1800 Swaffham's arable was divided into three parallel fields stretching south-east from the village to the heath: (fn. 38) by the Great Ditch lay Ditch field, whose northern part was known c. 1370 as Churchhill field; then Middle field; and to its south-west, beyond Wood way, along the Swaffham Bulbeck border, a field then and sometimes until after 1350 (fn. 39) called West field, but c. 1320-1450 Bekedale field; (fn. 40) its name was usually abbreviated from 1460 to Dale field. (fn. 41) In 1667 they were each supposed to cover c. 500 a., (fn. 42) but in 1787 c. 800 a. (fn. 43) By statute measure (fn. 44) Ditch field contained at inclosure c. 700 a., Middle field 520 a., and Dale field 400 a. Most strips, even on the manorial demesnes, did not exceed 1-2 a., but Ely priory had from the 1310s several blocks of 5-15 a., whose 85-110 a. comprised over a third of its demesne arable. In the 16th century the arable was distinguished into the Red and White land; (fn. 45) the latter presumably lay southward upon the chalk. The heath probably covered c. 775 a. in 1800. In 1279, when it had stretched one league south-west from the Great Ditch to Tweynhowes, former common there had already been appropriated by the four manorial lords, including Ely priory, (fn. 46) which by 1300 had several pasture there for its sheep. (fn. 47) By the 1510s, as until 1800, the heathland just beside the Ditch constituted Knights manor's several sheepwalk, (fn. 48) while Ely's, covering in 1650 100 a., lay further south-west between those of Anglesey, 50 a. in 1787, and Edmund Drury. (fn. 49)
From the Middle Ages Swaffham's fens began on the west beyond an irregularly curving watercourse which bounded the village's closes, (fn. 50) though on the east Ditch field extended past them towards Reach. The area just southwest of that fieldland, probably called by the 1540s the Driest fen, (fn. 51) 150 a., and thought in the 1660s potentially arable, (fn. 52) lay north-east of the small Croyle fen, 36 a. (fn. 53) From the mid 16th century (fn. 54) the once undifferentiated fenland further north was gradually distinguished into Low (120 a.) and Little fens (120 a.) and Huggins ground (110 a.), with High fen (615 a.), mentioned in 1608, (fn. 55) stretching beyond them towards the river Cam. The villagers' Turf fen (175 a.), mentioned c. 1565, (fn. 56) and Sedge fen (315 a.), recorded by 1440, (fn. 57) lay south-east of High fen, while Rand fen (200 a.) and Ducketts (325 a.), (fn. 58) lay east of it towards Reach Lode.
The common pasture in the fens, sometimes subject to trespass by mowers and cattle from adjoining settlements such as Burwell (fn. 59) and Upware, (fn. 60) was intercommonable from the 13th century with Swaffham Bulbeck. (fn. 61) Perhaps c. 1580 Swaffham Prior complained that over 20 strangers, probably from that village, had entered into Little fen to cut and carry sedge there late one May, when it was still under water. (fn. 62) About 1650 Swaffham Prior only admitted to sharing Great Sedge fen with Swaffham Bulbeck's villagers, who were entitled to the 'swaff' there; (fn. 63) as in 1455 they considered their neighbour's other claims to common to be usurpations. (fn. 64) In the 14th and 15th centuries the Ely court occasionally punished villagers and outsiders for fishing in the lord's several fishery there, (fn. 65) and in 1574 forbade the blocking of watercourses there with 'griggs' to take fish. (fn. 66)
From the early 14th century the open fields were under a triennial rotation: Ely regularly sowed two thirds of its arable. (fn. 67) In 1366 Middle field was partly under winter wheat while the West field was fallow before barley. (fn. 68) The wheat, (fn. 69) barley, (fn. 70) and pease fields (fn. 71) were occasionally mentioned in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the late 1310s Ely priory's demesne harvests included 60-90 qr. of wheat with up to 50 qr. of rye, and 40-60 qr. of barley with 25-35 qr. of dredge, but in 1420 it harvested 108 qr. of wheat and 130 qr. of barley, the yield of rye and dredge being reduced to c. 10 qr. each. The peasantry had probably gone over even more to growing barley: in the 1310s St. Cyriac's great tithes yielded 43-8 qr. of wheat with 10-18 qr. of rye, and 30-45 qr. of barley with 11-12 qr. of dredge, but in 1420 they produced only 35 qr. of wheat and 67 qr. of barley. (fn. 72) Some rye was still grown in the 17th century. (fn. 73) In 1325 peasant diets were expected to be half wheat, half barley. (fn. 74) In the 16th century barley probably predominated: in 1535 one large farmer left his widow 20 a. of wheat, but 40 a. of barley. (fn. 75) Some saffron was grown in the fields by the 1530s. (fn. 76) In the 1690s a few villagers grew coleseed, titheable with hemp and mustard in the 1780s. (fn. 77) The triennial rotation was then still regularly in use, wheat and barley being the main crops, while c. 30 a. by the fen edge were sometimes also sown with corn. (fn. 78) In 1801 the arable included 704 a. of wheat, 663 a. of barley, and 116 a. of oats, with 112 a. of peas and turnips. (fn. 79)
In the Middle Ages ownership of sheep and the right to pasture them was widespread. In the 13th and 14th centuries even small freeholds of 1-12 a. were conveyed with liberty of fold, (fn. 80) and some men set up unauthorized folds. (fn. 81) Certain villagers had flocks of 30-60 sheep. (fn. 82) One widow left 200 sheep in 1542. (fn. 83) In 1579 a 30-a. copyhold still carried foldage for 200 sheep (fn. 84) while in 1582 60 a. of heath with foldage for 120 sheep was attached to the Drurys' 120-a. holding. (fn. 85) Although the commons were occasionally reported to be overstocked with cattle 'against the agistment' and the fields after harvest with sheep, (fn. 86) no numerical stinting of livestock was recorded. In the 1430s villagers might take in outsiders' beasts upon paying agistment shared between the lords of the vill. (fn. 87) In the mid 16th century most villagers' sheep and cattle were probably still fed in the village's 'township' flock, one of four then kept, and herd: those keeping byherds outside their several pastures were required in 1574 to contribute to the common herdsman's wages. (fn. 88) A demand of 1580 that no Ely tenant exercise more common rights than his entitlement suggests increasing pressure on pasture. (fn. 89)
From the 16th century the right of sheepwalk and the ownership of flocks became confined to the manorial estates. The Ely demesne, whose lessee in 1535 kept over 190 sheep, (fn. 90) included sheepwalk over the fields and heath for 400 sheep, (fn. 91) while in 1600 the Anglesey estate's totalled 180 sheep. (fn. 92) Knights had its own sheepwalk by the 1510s. (fn. 93) About 1455 John Tothill had overstocked the field with his sheep; his shepherd drove off those of the Ely demesne and tenantry. (fn. 94) In the 1690s six farms maintained substantial flocks: the Rants had one yielding yearly for tithing 70-80 lambs and 15-25 tods of wool; the others usually rendered 30-50 lambs each. Only three other men had any sheep at all. Far more villagers owned cattle: the six largest farms carried 10-17 dairy cattle; c. 50 others had up to 170 cows altogether, mostly 1-3 each, a few up to 6-8. (fn. 95) In the 1780s the four largest farms carried milking cattle in herds of 20-30, and one had a flock yielding 35 tods of wool in 1787. (fn. 96)
The southernmost part of the fen, near Horsewell street or end, (fn. 97) called the Horse Drift by 1564, was reserved from April to July for working horses and cattle (two per holding). (fn. 98) Over 300 a. there were called in 1650 the Horse and Mare fens. (fn. 99) Further north the fens were used, under the supervision of fenreeves recorded from 1440, (fn. 100) for feeding cattle, in 1442 until Lammas. (fn. 101) Common rights there, confined by 1325 to resident landholders, (fn. 102) also included the digging in certain parts of turf (fn. 103) for fuel and of sedge, which must be cut between certain dates, in 1435 in the 'Sedge fen' between Ascension Day and Lammas. (fn. 104) From 1598 only one man per commonable tenement, and no 'undersettles', might mow there. (fn. 105) In 1614 Little fen was divided into lots for mowing. (fn. 106) In the 16th century turf might not be dug before March, and only in places agreed by the demesne farmer and tenants. (fn. 107) In 1602 a limit of 10,000 turves for each house was set. (fn. 108) From the 1330s (fn. 109) the sale of turves and of sedge to outsiders was repeatedly forbidden, (fn. 110) or at least it had to be sold above set prices. (fn. 111)
When the Bedford Level Adventurers were draining the fens in the 1630s it was proposed to assign to them c. 1,000 a. out of the Croyle, Great Sedge, and High fens, including c. 600 a. later lying in Swaffham Prior. (fn. 112) In 1653 an armed crowd of eighty threw in the drainage ditches there, overpowering a guard of soldiers sent to protect the works at night. The rioters had the sympathy of the 'better sort': the parish had paid fines imposed after previous attacks and Roger Rant, the resident J.P., delayed acting against them. (fn. 113) By 1656, however, 262 a. which later lay within Swaffham Prior had been inclosed and assigned in four lots. One of 200 a. went to Samuel Fortrey, who began to sow corn there. (fn. 114)
Between 1675 and 1697 a further 184 a. of High and 45 a. of Sedge fens with 70 a. of the Spong was allotted to the dean and chapter. (fn. 115) Much of the 2,532 a. of fen was allotted in severalty in 1682, when Roger Rant received 108 a., half in High fen, for his manorial rights there. (fn. 116) Another 1,214 a. was then divided among 69 owners of common rights. Each obtained for each right 1 or 1½ a. in each of Turf and Sedge fens and 4½ or 5 a. in High fen and in one of the others. Altogether 517 a. of High fen, 192 a. and 106 a. of Low and Little fens, and 142 a. and 124 a. of Sedge and Turf fens were thus allotted; five owners, besides Rant, each received 35-90 a., the rest 12-24 a. (fn. 117)
The lots so created, called locally dolvers, were held in severalty into the late 18th century. (fn. 118) Some were still apparently cultivated c. 1800. (fn. 119) By 1700 some owners had dug ditches to surround their lands. (fn. 120) By the 1710s Ely copy holders were digging turf on their lots for profitable sale by the thousand outside the parish; digging took place not only in Turf fen, where custom authorized it, but elsewhere. One substantial farmer continued to dig in Low fen into the 1730s, despite warnings from the lords, who complained that the loss of soil was reducing the fineable value of copyholds, the number of cattle that the parish could support, and lowering the ground level, causing flooding. (fn. 121) The encroachment of water on those allotments, partly through poorly maintained or blocked drainage ditches, (fn. 122) which required in 1767 legislation, partly promoted by Charles Allix, to establish a new drainage commission for the area. (fn. 123) Probably owing to that flooding many lots were effectively abandoned so that at inclosure in 1806, although at least 1,270 a. of fenland were claimed as several, all Swaffham Prior's fens were treated as reallottable. (fn. 124)
In the early 15th century few customary tenants owned more than one or two half yardlands. (fn. 125) Under a bylaw of the 1340s poorer villagers were sometimes reported for wrongful gleaning in both the 14th and 15th centuries: (fn. 126) in 1424 nineteen of them refused to work for the wages offered during harvest by the Ely bailiff and tenants. (fn. 127) About 1490 the manorial demesnes may still have comprised almost half the open fields, and other gentry estates a further tenth; the rest was shared by c. 30 smaller owners. (fn. 128) By the early 16th century land was being ingrossed, partly by demesne lessees: in 1530 six out of fourteen Ely copyhold half yardlands belonged to Rowland Bacchus, also bailiff and farmer of Ely's Lordship farm. He had also bought a freehold (fn. 129) of 80 a., previously the Gayseleys'. (fn. 130) With 100 marks, Bacchus was the wealthiest of ten villagers worth £20 or more in 1522. (fn. 131) At his death in 1536 Rowland devised that lease, which his son John still had in the 1560s. Rowland also saw fit to leave 6d. to each poor Swaffham and Reach household which had no plough. (fn. 132)
In the mid 16th century the parish was dominated by sometimes antagonistic families (fn. 133) who were rising into the lesser gentry. Among them, besides the Bacchuses, (fn. 134) were the Ruses, who acquired 100 a. c. 1534 and 200 a. in 1555. (fn. 135) Cyriac Ruse, sent in the 1560s to Gray's Inn, (fn. 136) bought another 140 a. c. 1572. (fn. 137) The Drurys, who owned c. 120 a. in severalty c. 1580, (fn. 138) survived at Reach into the late 17th century. (fn. 139) By the 1610s the Chambers family, who then had the Queens' College lease, had built up an estate also including 140 a. of freehold. (fn. 140) The Rants, having become resident squires, mostly worked their demesne farm themselves after 1650. (fn. 141) Their holdings, including those on beneficial leases, probably comprised c. 1610-40 half of that half of the total arable that was possessed by gentry families, including the Drurys. Over twenty smaller owners occupied the remainder. (fn. 142)
In 1609 Edmund Bacchus believed that Swaffham contained at least 30 poor households. (fn. 143) Out of c. 140 residents recorded c. 1670, c. 115 had fewer than three hearths, two thirds of them only one. In 1664 15 householders were too poor to pay the hearth tax, as were 28 in 1674. (fn. 144) In the 1690s 35 out of c. 160 parishioners owned no titheable beasts at all. (fn. 145) About 1760 the sixty occupiers in the village included ten on holdings rented at £40-95, besides Richard Eaton, who leased a £120 farm under Charles Allix: his family had already included tenants of two large farms in the 1690s. Another 20 people, mostly smallholders, occupied property 'out of town' or in the fen. (fn. 146) Of the non-manorial land claimed in 1806 almost 1,400 a., including 485 a. of fenland, was included in eleven holdings of 50-200 a., several owned by outsiders, while over forty smallholders possessed c. 510 a. of fieldland. Men with no land except in the fen held another 285 a. there. (fn. 147)
Inclosure, initially proposed in 1800-1, was delayed owing to disputes over manorial rights. (fn. 148) J. P. Allix moreover doubted the benefit of exchanging his well tilled open-field arable for other land. (fn. 149) An Act was eventually obtained in 1805, with little overt opposition. (fn. 150) It covered 2,499 a. of open fields and heath, 2,498 a. of fenland, and 380 a. of ancient closes and roads. (fn. 151) Owing to the size of the parish the 'high land' allotments were set out in April 1807, when common rights there ended, (fn. 152) those in the fen only the following autumn. (fn. 153) The award was not executed until 1815. (fn. 154) Despite the proclaimed intention to consolidate property, (fn. 155) allotments in the fen followed the previous pattern of intermingled blocks, averaging 4½ to 5 a.: those of larger owners were still scattered. (fn. 156) Of c. 110 allottees (fn. 157) the Allixes emerged with 1,272 a., including 615 a. for their Ely beneficial lease, besides 110 a. of old inclosures. Other manorial and rectorial estates took 880 a., and five others of over 100 a. each, one of 260 a. being owned by Salisbury Dunn of Burwell, (fn. 158) 900 a. Of the lesser owners with 25-75 a., several having sold out, those left received a reduced acreage, 680 a. in all, while c. 70 smallholders, only eight with over 10 a., received in all 280 a. Some forty of them who had merely common rights were assigned just ½ rood for each common.
Thereafter the south-east of the parish was mostly contained within 6-8 large farms of 200- 400 a., (fn. 159) usually even in the mid 19th century worked from the village; the new farmsteads further south were mostly occupied by labourers. (fn. 160) They were sometimes combined into even larger holdings. The Witts, three generations of whom held the Queens' College lease c. 1805-75, (fn. 161) were working 800-1,000 a. c. 1850-60, while two of the Ambroses, who succeeded to that lease by 1880, already farmed in 1871 700 a. and 500 a., and in 1910 1,100 a. between them. (fn. 162) Most of the 8-10 holdings in the fen, however, were of only 75-150 a. in the mid 19th century; some were worked by their tenants, often without permanent hired labour and few requiring more than 3-4 men. They were usually created by combining adjoining blocks, a few owner-occupied, some rented from several different owners. (fn. 163) In 1830 few of the 122 adult labourers and 29 boys reported had to be put to work for the parish except in winter. (fn. 164) Between 1850 and 1870, when there were normally c. 105 labourers, reduced by 1881 to 68, living in the village, with 20-25 more dwelling in the fen and 6-8 in the 'field', those small farms required barely 20 men. The other farms to the south employed in 1851 134 men and 34 boys, with 25-30 men each on the largest ones, and still hired 60-80 men into the 1870s.
There were undercurrents of discontent, sometimes handled by conciliation. Of the six or more fires which in the 1840s destroyed farm buildings and stacks of corn and hay, several were ascribed to arson. (fn. 165) About 1850 the Allixes maintained customary festivities, harvest suppers and Christmas dinners, for those working on their home farm, (fn. 166) while the Witts kept up horkeys with decorated harvest waggons in the 1850s. (fn. 167) A village Agricultural Society started in 1855 thereafter promoted annual ploughing matches for labourers, and by 1863 others for 'young farmers'. (fn. 168) The matches were stopped, however, in 1873 to show the farmers' displeasure after some labourers joined, following agitation that spring by the Agricultural Labourers' Union, in a strike during which threats were issued both against their 'masters' and their fellow workers. (fn. 169) Coprolites were being dug in the parish between the late 1850s and the 1870s. (fn. 170)
In the depression years of the 1880s and 1890s several substantial and long-established farming families quitted the parish; (fn. 171) one 247-a. fen farm on poor and neglected soil was twice abandoned by its tenants and left between 1885 and 1897 to direct cultivation by its owners. (fn. 172) C. P. Allix had to work 500 a. c. 1885-1905 and 180 a. in 1910 through his bailiff. (fn. 173) Despite the depression the parish long remained devoted primarily to corn growing: even farms on the former fen were largely arable in the early 20th century. (fn. 174) Even so, between 1870 and 1890 the acreage of permanent grassland rose sharply from 380 a. to 900-50 a., reaching 1,100 a. in 1930, largely at the expense of that grass included in the regular rotations, halved since 1890 to 400 a. Of the cropped area, totalling 2,000-2,300 a., three quarters were usually under wheat and barley; the former predominated until after 1950. The area under sugar beet, introduced by 1930, doubled to over 760 a. by 1970, when almost 600 a. was used for growing potatoes. The number of grown sheep kept, often 1,500-1,700 until after 1910, had fallen by a third by 1930. None were kept in 1970. Most of c. 200-50 cows recorded 1890-1930 were dairy cattle, but apparently fewer than half of c. 415 cows reported 1950-70 were for milk. Some of the land, over 800 a., used for market gardening in 1970, of which 470 a. was under carrots, (fn. 175) was probably included in the farmland south-east of the village let by the county council from 1920 into the 1970s as smallholdings. (fn. 176)
In 1910 eight farms of 200 a. or more occupied c. 3,030 a. of the parish and twelve of 35-75 a. another 900 a. Forty smaller holdings then accounted for 380 a. of the farmland worked in the fen, but barely 110 a. of that further south. (fn. 177) There were still c. 50 smallholders with under 50 a. in 1930 and 40 in 1950, but only 20 by 1970. Of the 5,810 a. then reported, 3,625 a. were still let to tenants, even though the area under owner-occupation had trebled since 1890. The number of full-time adult farmworkers declined from the 100-110 reported c. 1930-50 to 90 by 1970, besides 28 working farmers, three with over 500 a. (fn. 178) In 1981 only a fifth of the 213 men in the parish working full-time were engaged in agriculture. (fn. 179)
No mills were recorded in 1086, but Baldwins manor had a windmill by 1279 (fn. 180) and in 1424, (fn. 181) as did Ely Priory by 1343; then as later in the 14th century it was being let. (fn. 182) One of the windmills probably stood on rising ground south-east of the village in Middle field. (fn. 183) A new mill had cast-iron machinery in 1844. (fn. 184) The village's two surviving windmills, both the work of Soham millwrights, stand on the brow of the hill east of the village, called by 1860 Millhill. One, a smock mill of three storeys over a brick base, reconstructed in the 1870s, succeeding one of 1810, was worked by the Galleys c. 1860-95 and dismantled c. 1928. The other, 200 yds. to the east, still then working is a tower mill of brickfaced clunch, also three-storeyed, built c. 1865-75 to replace a post mill. Run from the 1880s to the 1930s by the Fosters, who took over the smock mill after 1896, it finally ceased work in 1946. Both mills were derelict and sailless by the 1960s, (fn. 185) but were soon restored and their sails renewed. The tower mill, which retains working machinery, was restored from 1970, and the smock mill, its cap and posts mostly renewed, for residential use in 1989-90. (fn. 186)
Blacksmiths, carpenters, and tailors were occasionally recorded from the Middle Ages, (fn. 187) when bakers were frequently regulated. (fn. 188) In 1831, when 155 households were engaged in agriculture, 54 others depended in trades and crafts, an increase of a half since the 1810s. (fn. 189) A clock- and gunmaker was in business until 1794, (fn. 190) and shopkeepers were recorded in the 1810s. (fn. 191) From the mid 19th century to the early 20th the village was adequately supplied with craftsmen, (fn. 192) having usually two or three blacksmiths until the 1890s, one later, one or more wheelwrights, one or two shoemakers and until the 1880s a tailor, another watchmaker c. 1850-90, and three generations of 'veterinary' farriers until the 1930s. Besides four to five shops, mostly grocers, there were one or two butchers and from the 1890s two bakers. Of two small builder's firms established by the 1830s, (fn. 193) that of the Adams family, employing two men c. 1850-80, continued in business into the 1920s. The last village bakery closed in 1955 (fn. 194) and the last forge in 1979. (fn. 195) Four shops, including a butcher, besides a furniture store, were open c. 1960, but only one in 1992. Workshops were occasionally used for light engineering. A former inn housed a sheepdog breeding kennels until 1977. (fn. 196) By 1981 four fifths of the working population travelled to work outside the parish, over two thirds by car. (fn. 197)