Pages 468-470

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 ancient parish of Landwade lies on the Suffolk boundary over 6 km. (4 miles) north of Newmarket (Suff.), and 3 km. (2 miles) southwest of Fordham village. (fn. 1) The parish is only 1 km. north-south, and at its widest point only 3/4 km. east-west. Landwade, whose placename may contain the Old English gewaed meaning ford, (fn. 2) has long been one of the smallest parishes in Cambridgeshire. It owed its establishment and survival as a separate parish to Walter Cotton's rebuilding of the church in the mid 15th century as a burial place for his family. In the late 13th century it included at least 290 a. (125 ha.) of farmland, beside 1,440 a. of common and marsh, (fn. 3) but there were alterations to the parish boundaries in 1881 and 1954, which reduced it in size to 127 a. (50 ha.). (fn. 4) Since the mid 19th century the parish has been approximately triangular. Its eastern boundary ran directly north-west from Fordham Road until it meets the northern boundary which runs south-eastwards. From the north-west corner the boundary runs south-westwards towards Fordham Road. In 1954 the civil parish was incorporated into Fordham parish. (fn. 5)

Landwade is largely flat, rising above 20 m. (c. 60 ft.) only at its southern end. The soil lies upon the Upper and Lower Chalk, with a deep rich white loamy topsoil producing high agricultural yields in the 19th and 20th centuries. (fn. 6) The New river, so named by 1677, (fn. 7) and renamed Monks' Lode in the 1750s, (fn. 8) but once again known as the New river in the 19th and 20th centuries, overlies alluvial gravels in the parish. Entering the parish from Exning, it flows northeastward before turning north-westward, crossing the northern boundary of the parish at its mid-point, and eventually joins the river Cam at Upware. In the 14th century it drove two watermills within the bounds of Landwade, and filled the moat that enclosed the medieval manor house at Landwade. (fn. 9) In the late 20th century, however, it was a sluggish stream. To the east of the river lay a fen, the common rights over which were the subject of a dispute in 1560 between the men of Landwade, Fordham, and Snailwell. (fn. 10)

In the Middle Ages the land was mostly arable, possibly being cultivated in open fields under a four-year rotation. Inclosure, which began in the early 15th century, was completed by the end of the 18th. Although there were other substantial changes to the landscape before the 19th century, including the clearing of the village in the 16th century to make way for the Cotton park, they cannot be precisely ascertained. (fn. 11) In the early 19th century the northern portion of the parish was a natural fenland landscape, with willows, sycamores, and ash trees scattered across the fields, which were divided by hedges. (fn. 12) Between 1848 and 1851 parkland around Landwade Hall was planted with oaks and chestnuts. Following the financial difficulties of the owner in the 1890s, the estate was farmed much more intensively c. 1901-12, and much of the parkland was ploughed up. The park was laid out once again c. 1912-16, and has been well maintained in the 20th century. The New river, the medieval moat, the church and churchyard, and features such as a gazebo create an area for walking and other recreation. The parish's footpaths were popular with inhabitants from neighbouring parishes in the late 20th century.

A Roman villa lay 300 m. south-west of the the modern parish boundary, but was formerly within the medieval parish of Landwade. (fn. 13) Timber huts of the late 1st century AD were replaced on the site, probably in the early 2nd century A.D., by a timber barn-house 31.7 m. long. The villa was rebuilt in stone during the 3rd century, when the baths were altered, and a dining room floored with a semicircular mosaic was then added at the south end, beyond which there was another heated room. Occupation probably ended in the early 4th century, and there is no evidence for habitation in the early Anglo-Saxon period.

By the late 10th century Landwade contained at least a farm or small settlement. (fn. 14) Although Landwade was not mentioned in Domesday Book, some of the large populations recorded in the neighbouring manors of Exning and Fordham may have resided there. (fn. 15) Landwade was mentioned c. 1175. (fn. 16) In 1279 it had 22 landholders, and 15 taxpayers in 1327. (fn. 17) By 1377 there were 44 people paying the poll tax. (fn. 18) In 1523 at least four families resided, and c. 1664-72 there were nine households in the village. (fn. 19) Between 1801 and 1831 the population fluctuated between 20 and 29. (fn. 20) At its peak c. 1851-61 it had 36 inhabitants, but then declined with 28-30 inhabitants c. 1871-91, falling still further to 22 in 1911. As a result of the establishment of the new hall at Landwade c. 1900, however, numbers revived to 33 in 1921, and 38 between 1931 and 1951.

Landwade c. 1930

In the Middle Ages the settlement ran along Blakeponde, which ran south-eastwards from where the 15th-century parish church stands towards New Farm house (in Exning) on Fordham Road. There were at least three houses on the 'highway' c. 1407-25. (fn. 21) In 1664 the Hall was the largest dwelling in the parish with 30 hearths, while the eight remaining houses only contained 12 hearths between them. (fn. 22) During the 19th and 20th centuries settlement was dispersed, with a few cottages and the steward's house in addition to Landwade Hall. Between 1801 and 1911 the number of households fluctuated between 4 and 6, rising to 7-8 between the First and Second World Wars, and there were 13 households in 1951. (fn. 23) In the late 20th century four bungalows were built along the northern side of Cotton Road, but otherwise there have been no new houses.

The principal communications have always been by road. In 1407 Blakeponde and its continuation Waterdene ran from the manor and church over a bridge to Fordham. (fn. 24) Deynesdych ran between meadow in Fordham field and the 'highway', which can perhaps be identified with the modern Exning Road which runs southwards from Landwade towards Newmarket. In the 19th and 20th centuries, access to Landwade Hall has been principally along Cotton Road, which runs just south of the parish's southern boundary in an eastwards direction from Exning Road. A small private road, running along the approximate route of the medieval way, Blakeponde, runs from opposite New Farm house in a north-westwards direction through Landwade Park. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was the principal route to the Fordham- Exning road, but it has been a footpath since c. 1954. In the late 20th century access to Landwade Hall and chapel was by a driveway which ran southwards to the Cotton Road.


  • 1. This article was written in 1999. Maps used include Geol. Surv. Map 1/50,000, solid and drift, sheet 188 (1974 edn.); O.S. Maps 6", Cambs. XXXVI. SW. (1889 and later edns.); ibid. 1/25,000, TL 66 (1951 edn.); 1/50,000, Landranger 154 (1994 revised edn.). Extensive use has also been made of paintings and drawings of the parish surviving from the mid 19th century: B.L. Add. MS. 36979, ff. 10-12; Add. MS. 36360, ff. 43-7; Add. MS. 36426, ff. 5-14, 17-23; Add. MS. 36533, f. 774.
  • 2. M. Gelling, Place Names in the Landscape (1984), 83, 294.
  • 3. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 506.
  • 4. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1864-1934); Census, 1831-51.
  • 5. Census, 1961.
  • 6. Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 26; Gooch, Agric. of Cambs. 152.
  • 7. P.R.O., C 229/6, no. 13.
  • 8. C.R.O., R 59/81/10/26.
  • 9. B.L. Add. MS. 37669, f. 26v.
  • 10. P.R.O., STAC 2/23, no. 172.
  • 11. B.L. Add. MS. 36360, f. 43; Add. MS. 37669, f. 11.
  • 12. Vancouver, Agric. in Cambs. 26.
  • 13. Newmarket Weekly News, 6 Dec. 1984; V.C.H. Cambs. vii. 44-5.
  • 14. Ramsey Cart. (Rolls Ser.), ii. 74.
  • 15. V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 378, 383.
  • 16. Rec. of the Templars in Eng. ed. B.A. Lees (1935), 226.
  • 17. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 506; Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 6.
  • 18. East Anglian, N.S. xii. 255.
  • 19. P.R.O., E 179/81/163, m. 1; E 179/81/1137, rot. 85; E 179/84/437, rot. 75.
  • 20. Rest of para. based on Census, 1861-1931.
  • 21. B.L. Add. MS. 37669, ff. 26-8; C.U.L., A/40, no. 128.
  • 22. P.R.O., E 179/81/1137, rot. 85.
  • 23. Census, 1801-1951.
  • 24. B.L. Add. MS. 37669, ff. 26-28.