A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1978.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Radfield hundred lies south and east of Cambridge along the Icknield Way, which is the north-western limit of the hundred. It stretches 8 miles from its north-eastern boundary, which follows the Devil's Dyke, a post-Roman earthwork, to its south-western boundary, which follows the ancient Wool Street. Part of the south-eastern boundary of the hundred is the county boundary with Suffolk. In 1086 the hundred was composed of seven vills: Balsham, Carlton, Dullingham, Stetchworth, Weston, and Wratting were each assessed at 10 hides, and Burrough and Westley together made up a vill of 10 hides. (fn. 1) The last two were often taxed together in the Middle Ages, but developed as separate parishes. Neither Brinkley nor Willingham was mentioned in 1086, but both were presumably included in the account of Carlton. The nine parishes making up the hundred remained nearly constant, although Willingham, while failing to become a separate vill, was for a time a separate parish. By the 14th century Carlton had been divided longitudinally, Brinkley being named as a vill, to make eight vills in all. Burrough and Westley were still counted as one vill. (fn. 2)
The hundred, which remained in the king's hands, was worth 2 marks in 1260. (fn. 3) In the 13th century it was administered with Cheveley hundred by a single bailiff. (fn. 4) In the 16th century it was grouped with Cheveley, Chilford, and Whittlesford hundreds, and in the 17th century with Chilford and Whittlesford. (fn. 5) The hundred takes its name from the 'red field' in Burrough Green and Dullingham where the hundred court may have met. It has also been suggested that the court met at Mutlow hill, on the western edge of the hundred, at the junction with Staine and Flendish hundreds. (fn. 6)
Within the hundred the lord of Westley had a gallows. Five lay lords claimed view of frankpledge, the prior of Lewes had the view in Carlton, and the abbot of Warden over his tenants in Burrough and Dullingham. The bishop of Ely in Balsham and the prior of Ely in Stetchworth and West Wratting enjoyed their wider franchises. In the 14th century a tourn was held at Burrough or Newmarket for the honor of Richmond's lands in Radfield hundred. (fn. 7)
The land rises from a little over 100 ft. along the north-western edge of the hundred to over 300 ft. near the Suffolk border. It lies on the chalk, which is covered with boulder clay above c. 300 ft. (fn. 8) The clay was once well wooded, and extensive woodland remains in the south-east end of many parishes. All the parishes within the hundred are long and narrow, running south-eastwards from the Icknield Way. With the exception of Westley Waterless they all stretch the full width of the hundred. Balsham is the least elongated, but is still more than twice as long as it is wide. As a result each parish falls into similar sections. Following the line of the Icknield Way and passing through the north-western edge of each is the main London-Newmarket road, turnpiked in 1724. (fn. 9) The land immediately south-east of the road has little natural drainage, and until inclosure was chalk heathland. The higher open-field land lay south-east of the heath, and was inclosed between 1778 and 1822 by private agreement or act of parliament. Most of the villages lie along the spring line, near the centre of the hundred, and are connected by a road running the length of the hundred from Linton to Newmarket. Another road between those towns can be traced further west, surviving partly as a trackway. There was considerable assarting of woodland in the Middle Ages and the land south-east of the villages tended to be inclosed early, often as demesne land.
Before inclosure large flocks of sheep were folded on the heath and open fields. Barley was the chief grain crop. Since inclosure the area has been devoted to mixed farming. It is entirely agricultural; in the north-east of the hundred some farms are given over to breeding and training race-horses. In all the parishes population increased in the early 19th century, but fell after 1851 and in most places was little higher in 1971 than 150 years before. Exceptions were Balsham, which provided accommodation for Cambridge workers, and the villages near Newmarket.