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 manor was unusual in the late 11th century in having as many servi as bordars and villani. Half of the ploughteams were on the demesne, and the estate's value remained at £9, but the hidage was reduced from 3 1/12 to 2½ hides between 1066 and 1086. (fn. 1)
In 1279 sixteen villeins each held half yardlands, and owed 50 days of labour service, ploughing 4 a., reaping 4 a., and 15 boonworks. (fn. 2) Nine cottars, who held 2 a. each, owed 3 boonworks. There were seven freeholders: 2 held 1 or 2 yardlands each, 2 held half yardlands, and 3 held c. 2-4 a. No free tenant owed any labour services, but they paid the lord £3 13s. 6 d. in rent, of the £5 5s. paid in total by the tenantry. The demesne comprised c. 400 a.
In the Middle Ages four open fields surrounded the village: in 1563 South field had 551 a., East field 139 a., North field 186 a., and Carrups field, in the north-east corner of the parish, 128 a. (fn. 3) In North, South, and East fields between half and two thirds of the strips were less than 0.5 a. each, and less than a tenth were over 2 a. In Carrups field six per cent of the strips were between 2 a. and 7 a., and under half were less than ½ a. John, son of John Chenery (d. 1575), held 75 a. as freehold, two thirds of which lay in South field. (fn. 4) Between 1563 and 1674 the area of open-field arable remained stable, but strips and fields were amalgamated. (fn. 5) In 1674 Carrups field was divided between North and East fields. The lord owned 914 a. of arable, pasture, meadow, and heathland. Richard Chenery, William Chenery, and John Chenery owned farms of c. 104-42 a. each. John Chenery may have lived at Dane Hill farmhouse, and was succeeded by his son, William Chenery (d. 1697), but there is no further record of the family's presence. (fn. 6) In 1775 Thomas Evans owned two of their farms, while the third eventually passed to the trustees of the Revd. Samuel Hunt (d. 1818). (fn. 7)
An inclosure Act was passed in 1813, and inclosure was in progress later that year, and had been completed by 1820, although the award was not made until 1823. (fn. 8) William Godfrey was the principal landowner, controlling 1,196 a., divided between Hall and Houndswell farms. Between 1823 and 1841 the farmland was rearranged with Dane Hill farm, based in the north-west corner of the parish, replacing Houndswell farm as the other main manorial farm. (fn. 9) Rosemary farm was built at the southwest side of Station Road c. 1823-41. In the late 19th and 20th centuries Dane Hill and Rosemary farms accounted for nearly all of the farmland, but additional holdings in neighbouring parishes meant that each farm at its peak had c. 650 a. (fn. 10) During the 19th century several lesser farms of c. 5-20 a. were worked from the village, and from Kennet End. (fn. 11) By the 1950s the three main farms each had c. 350 a. (fn. 12) In addition there were one farm of 30 a. and three of c. 10 a.
The arable was under a triennial rotation in the late 13th century. On the demesne, the winter sowing comprised on average 45 a. of rye, and 20 a. of wheat; the spring one, 111 a. of barley, 129 a. of oats, and 23 a. of peas; and at harvest the barley crop was on average three times as great as that of wheat and rye, and there were substantial sales of cereals. (fn. 13) Barley and wheat covered nearly equal acreages during the late 19th and early 20th century, but c. 1950-70 the acreage of barley (c. 300 a.) was twice that of wheat, while there was c. 180 a. of sugar beet. (fn. 14)
The heathland, in the north-western quadrant of the parish, comprised c. 330 a. in 1563. (fn. 15) The Little heath, 30 a., was owned by the lord of the manor, but the Great heath of 300 a. was pastured in common. In the late 13th century two shepherds had kept the lord's flock of between 400 and 600 sheep, yielding c. 200-50 lb. of wool each year. (fn. 16) By 1674 the great heath had been inclosed. (fn. 17) In the early 1790s c. 600 sheep suffered from garget. (fn. 18) In the late 1820s c. 200 a. of heath, owned by the Chippenham Park estate, was used for grazing sheep from Chippenham parish during the lambing season, but by 1837 half of that land had been sold off. (fn. 19) In 1837 there was 9 a. of sheepwalk at the north-west corner of the parish. There were 770 sheep in 1870, 1,100 in 1890, with between two and three shepherds being employed at Dane Hill farm c. 1871-91. (fn. 20) There were c. 600 sheep in 1930, but after 1950 sheep were no longer kept commercially. (fn. 21)
The lord of the manor maintained a dairy farm in the late 13th century, with c. 15-20 milking cows. (fn. 22) In the 1790s there were neither 'graffes' nor proper herbage for the Welsh and Suffolk breeds of cattle then kept. (fn. 23) The dairy herd between 1870 and 1910 ranged from 40 to 70 cows, but numbers fell to around 10 c. 1930-70. (fn. 24) Between 1950 and 1970 the numbers of beef cattle increased from 105 to 184, and in 1976 the owner of Anchor farm on the Herringswell Road began to raise such cattle. (fn. 25) Pigs were also kept on the demesne in the late 1290s, 400 being the largest number sold. (fn. 26) Only a few dozen pigs were raised in the village c. 1870-1910, but a pig-dealer was based in the village in 1871. (fn. 27) In 1950 there were 251 pigs. (fn. 28)
In the late 13th century, fern was grown at the rabbit warren in the north-west section of the parish. The warren's reeve used hunting dogs to catch between 64 and 248 rabbits each year. (fn. 29) By 1563 the 18-a. rabbit warren had become heathland. (fn. 30) In the late 13th century the lord had a fishery, and a dovecot: between 144 and 150 doves were regularly either sold or given to the lord, except in 1297 when polecats raided the dovecot. The lord received on average 160 hens and 60 ducks each year. (fn. 31) There was a poultry farm in 1927, and by 1937 there was also a poultry farm at Anchor farm along the Herringswell Road. (fn. 32) In 1950 there were 4,000 fowl in the parish, but there were sanitation problems, and by 1970 numbers had fallen to 314. (fn. 33)
There was c. 100 a. of grassland in the 19th century, mainly bordering the river Kennett, with 3 a. at the southern end of the river's central loop known as horse pasture bottom. (fn. 34) Longstones stud, based at Station Road, started in 1960, originally covered 155 a., and then around 125 a. c. 1984-97, with 25-30 mares. (fn. 35) White House Stud opened in 1974 on 54 a. and increased its number of mares from 15 to 21 between 1980 and 1987. (fn. 36) It was managed by Greville Starkey, but in the early 1990s it was sold. In 1984 St. Simon Stud was established on the former Rosemary farm, whose 300 a. of arable were laid down to pasture. (fn. 37) In 1997 the stud had 54 mares.
Agriculture provided the main source of employment in the parish from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Of the parish's inhabitants 36 were farm labourers c. 1841-61, while c. 28-30 were so employed c. 1871-81. (fn. 38) About 56 labourers were employed on the farms in the 1860s and 1870s, suggesting that some of the labour force came from neighbouring parishes. By 1930, however, only 17 people were employed as labourers, and by 1950 that figure had halved, falling further thereafter. (fn. 39) In 1997 c. 10 people were employed in the parish in breeding and training horses. (fn. 40)
There was a watermill at Kennett during the late 13th century. (fn. 41) A saw mill, directly behind the Bell Inn on the south-west side of Station Road, was managed by successive owners of the inn from 1890 to 1929. (fn. 42) It was then acquired by a building firm which specialized in the construction of stud farms, but in 1947 the site was taken over by the highway engineering business, McClaren Brothers. (fn. 43) The parish's gravel pits in its north-west corner were used in maintaining 80 km. of road for the county council, with 50 persons employed by the firm in 1961. (fn. 44) It was still in business in 1998, but in new ownership. Associated Timber Services, established in Kennett in 1987, initially traded in trees blown down in the great storm. (fn. 45) Timber purchased from Sandringham (Norf.) and large private estates was exported to Europe, but in 2000 the firm no longer operated out of Kennett.
During the Second World War 4 a. on the north-east side of Station Road was used by the Ministry of Food to store grain. (fn. 46) Between 1946 and 1984 Mitchell and Butler's, brewers of Birmingham, used it to dry out and store barley. Banks Agriculture, which prepares cereals for use in breakfast cereals and sweets, employed around 8 persons from c. 1984.
Between 1841 and 1891 the parish had a cobbler, dressmaker, blacksmith and grocer. (fn. 47) Until 1922 there was a blacksmith, and until 1937 one shop. (fn. 48) There was a post office c. 1883, but villagers had later to rely upon the post office at Kentford. There has been an asphalt plant at Station Road since 1979. In the late 20th century there were no shops or services in the parish, apart from the Bell Inn, but there was additional local employment during the 1980s and 1990s at Kennett Business Park, in the neighbouring parish of Moulton (Suff.), located on the southern side of the Newmarket-Bury road. (fn. 49)