A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 8. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1982.
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LITLINGTON (fn. 1) lies some 20 km. south-west of Cambridge, and covers 879 ha. (2,171 a.). (fn. 2) The parish is roughly rectangular, stretching from the Icknield Way in the south to a stream called the Mill river in the north. (fn. 3) It lies upon the Lower and Middle Chalk. From under 30 metres by the stream the ground rises southwards, very gradually, to c. 40 metres near the village, from which a stream, the Chardle, formerly Chaldwell, (fn. 4) ditch, runs north-eastwards, and to over 55 metres at Limlow Hill, nearly 1 km. further south. It then dips again before rising to over 70 metres by the Baldock-Royston road, which marks the southern boundary of the parish and county. Although there was wood for 30 pigs in 1086, (fn. 5) the parish had later little timber, except for small groves in the village closes, (fn. 6) until some long, narrow plantations were laid out south of the village in the 19th century. (fn. 7) Until inclosure in 1828 Litlington was farmed in open fields, and has remained mainly agricultural.
Some 230 metres south of the village the parish is crossed by the ancient way called Ashwell Street, straightened at inclosure. (fn. 8) A Roman villa with 30 rooms, first uncovered in 1829 and excavated in 1881 and 1913, stood close to a later manor house, just west of the village. (fn. 9) A high barrow at Limlow Hill, probably dating from the late 2nd century A.D., (fn. 10) was perhaps the burial place of the villa's owners. Never absorbed into the surrounding fields, (fn. 11) it was destroyed by a farmer in 1888. (fn. 12) It was probably the villa's dependants who were buried in an enclosed cemetery by Ashwell Street, in use from A.D. 120 to 360, uncovered in 1821. (fn. 13) The village was possibly occupied continuously into the Saxon period, and many Saxon coins have been found around it. (fn. 14)
By 1086 Litlington was inhabited by 37 peasants and 6 servi. (fn. 15) There were 24 taxpayers in 1327, (fn. 16) and over 45 people owned wool in 1347. (fn. 17) In 1377 235 adults paid the poll tax, (fn. 18) and in 1524 over 50 people the subsidy. (fn. 19) There were 36 households in 1563. (fn. 20) The population may have risen to over 300 in the early 17th century. (fn. 21) In 1676 there were 159 adults, (fn. 22) and in 1728 c. 150 in 50 households. (fn. 23) Numbers began to rise steadily from 1750, except for a brief pause in the 1760s, (fn. 24) to reach 350 by 1801. They then increased rapidly by an average of 85 in each decade, to 622 in 1831 and a peak of 790 in 1851. By 1861 emigration had reduced the population to 693, and although the coprolite diggings briefly restored it to 768 in 1871, it fell by c. 100 every 10 years to 448 in 1901, and more slowly to 396 in 1931. Squatters occupying hutments on a disused airfield doubled numbers to 778 in 1951, and even after their removal extensive new council estates maintained the population at 608 in 1961 and 635 in 1971. (fn. 25)
The village stands by as pring just above the 30 metre contour, and has a roughly triangular street-plan. The main manor house, church, and rectory are just outside that triangle to the west and north-west. At inclosure (fn. 26) the village dwellings, other than some large farmhouses, lay mainly along its south-eastern side and at its north-western corner, perhaps corresponding to the south end and church end mentioned in 1378. (fn. 27) The triangle is divided internally by narrow lanes: Cage Lane joined two small greens near the western side, while Malting Lane crossed it south-eastwards. By 1860 (fn. 28) the south-eastern street was called South Street, the south-western one Church Street, as in 1560, (fn. 29) and the northern one High Street. There were 57 dwellings in 1674, (fn. 30) and c. 1830 22 houses and 41 cottages, subdivided into almost 110 dwellings. (fn. 31) Numerous timber framed cottages of the 17th and 18th centuries, some still thatched and several with dormers, survive. One or two, with halls and cross wings, possibly date from the 16th century. The larger farmhouses, in plain brick, are mostly mid 19th-century. They include Low Farm to the east and Highfield Farm 2 km. to the south, both built in the fields after inclosure, when also there was ribbon building upon small allotments west of the road south from the village. From some 150 c. 1850 the number of dwellings fell to c. 125 by 1901, when almost 15 were empty. (fn. 32) Council building, c. 55 houses being put up between 1945 and 1960 and more later by the Bassingbourn road, with infilling from the 1960s along the old streets, raised the number of houses to 194 by 1961 and 220 by 1971. (fn. 33) In the 1970s large private estates were laid out north and south of the village. (fn. 34)
Litlington is connected with its neighbours by roads, mostly straightened at inclosure, (fn. 35) running towards each point of the compass. The long southern one joining the BaldockRoyston road extended south of Ashwell Street only after inclosure. Previously the way to Royston had run south-eastward past Limlow Hill to follow the Bassingbourn boundary, (fn. 36) and was called Royston or Therfield way. (fn. 37) In the 1960s through traffic bypassing Royston so overloaded the village streets that a one-way system, the first for any Cambridgeshire village, was imposed in 1971. (fn. 38)
In 1526 the village alesellers were apparently ordered to keep lodgings for strangers. (fn. 39) By 1800 there stood at the Thrift, the extreme south-west corner of the parish, an inn called the Horse and Groom, built after 1770 for travellers on the turnpike. (fn. 40) It was still open in 1978. The village inns included the Robin Hood and Little John, recorded by 1811. (fn. 41) Named from a local fable that an arrow shot by Robin grew into a thorn tree at the village chalkpit, (fn. 42) it closed c. 1910. (fn. 43) There were also by c. 1850 besides 4 or 5 beerhouses the Seven Stars, recorded from 1878, and the Crown, which alone was still open in 1978. (fn. 44) About 1815 a friendly society had 130 members. (fn. 45) In 1865 the vicar helped found a Working Men's Improvement Association. (fn. 46) In 1939 much land west of the village was taken for an airfield. (fn. 47) Hutments built for it north of the road to Abington were mostly cleared in the late 1950s; (fn. 48) a NAAFI hut was converted into a village hall, in use until 1974 when a new one was opened. (fn. 49) The village fair, traditionally held on the southern green on the second Thursday in July, expired c. 1958. (fn. 50)
Of the 5 hides at Litlington in 1066 Earl Alfgar had held 4, which in 1086 were held at farm of King William by William the chamberlain and Odo the goldsmith. (fn. 51) Henry I probably gave that manor to his natural son Robert, earl of Gloucester (d. 1147), with whose honor of Gloucester the lordship afterwards descended, passing through Amice, one of his son William's daughters and heirs, to the Clares. (fn. 52) In the partition of their lands among coheirs in 1317 their rights over Litlington were divided. Lordship over the knights' fees there passed through Margaret (d. 1342), wife of Hugh Audley, earl of Gloucester, to the Staffords, earls of Stafford and later dukes of Buckingham. (fn. 53) The Clares' leet jurisdiction was assigned to Elizabeth (d. 1360), through whose granddaughter Elizabeth de Burgh it descended to the Mortimer earls of March, merging in the Crown after 1461. (fn. 54)
By 1176, perhaps by 1166, William, earl of Gloucester (d. 1183), had granted his Litlington manor to his constable, Hamon son of Geoffrey, recorded from the 1140s. (fn. 55) Hamon was also called de Valognes, perhaps after Rualon de Valognes, his mother's second husband. (fn. 56) Hamon granted half his manor there to William and Rualon de Valognes, his nephews, perhaps grandsons of his stepfather. (fn. 57) He served as justice of Ireland 11969 (fn. 58) and sheriff of Cambridgeshire 12001, and died very old in 1203. (fn. 59) King John sold the wardship of his heir to Hugh de Neville, (fn. 60) who tried unsuccessfully to expel Hamon's nephews from their moiety, which, on Rualon's death without issue, passed entirely to William. (fn. 61)
Hamon's son and heir Thomas de Valognes came of age c. 1213, (fn. 62) and held half the Litlington manor for five years. (fn. 63) He was dead without issue by 1219, when his brother Hamon succeeded to their father's English lands. (fn. 64) In 1229 Hamon sought to recover the carucate of William de Valognes (d. after 1218) from Richard de Rockesle, to whom William's heirs John and Robert de Valognes had subinfeudated it. Under the compromise then reached Hamon granted the northern half of that carucate to John to hold of him as knight's fee, Richard retaining the southern half of John's half as fee held of John. (fn. 65)
Hamon's share, later DOVEDALES manor, of his father's Litlington estate, thenceforth permanently divided, was thereafter held of the honor of Gloucester as knight's fee. (fn. 66) Hamon died in 1242, leaving an heir under age, (fn. 67) perhaps the Hamon son of Hamon mentioned in 1259. (fn. 68) By 1261 Litlington had passed to Hamon's daughter Gunnore, and her husband Sir Walter of Leighton, from whom Anglesey priory claimed an interest in half their manor, (fn. 69) and who still held it in 1279. (fn. 70) Walter died after 1288, (fn. 71) and their son John de Valognes between 1290 and 1295. (fn. 72) In 1305 the aged Gunnore sold the manor to John de Uvedale. (fn. 73)
From Uvedale (d. 1322) the manor passed to his son Peter (fn. 74) (d. 1334 X 36). Peter's widow Margaret, (fn. 75) in possession in 1337, (fn. 76) procured a release of the Litlington land from Peter's brother John in 1344. (fn. 77) She still occupied it in 1347, (fn. 78) although the fee simple was probably by 1346 vested in William Notton, (fn. 79) a king's serjeant. Notton, justice of the king's bench 135561, died as chief justice of the Irish bench c. 1365. (fn. 80) Dovedales manor descended to his son William, then in possession, (fn. 81) who died between 1392 (fn. 82) and 1405 when his son William released it to the London mercer John Shadworth. (fn. 83) By 1428 it had passed to John Pigott with Shadworth's Abington manor, (fn. 84) with which Dovedales manor thereafter descended. (fn. 85)
Dovedales manor house, recorded from 1322, (fn. 86) stood 400 metres north-east of the church, within a shallow, rectangular moat, 55 by 70 metres. (fn. 87) By 1675 it was called the Bury. (fn. 88) The present farmhouse, gabled with dormers, standing south-west of the moat, dates probably from c. 1700. In 1912 it was sold with a farm of 127 a. from the former Pigott estate to the Cambridgeshire county council, which still owned 123 a. in 1977. (fn. 89)
DOWNHALL manor, held as fee, probably under the lords of Dovedales, (fn. 90) was perhaps derived from what John de Valognes held after 1230. In 1260 a carucate at Litlington was settled on Peter de Anesy, a king's knight (fl. 124267), and his wife Margery. (fn. 91) She still occupied it in 1279, (fn. 92) although Peter's heir by 1275 was his nephew Robert de Anesy. (fn. 93) By 1302 Downhall belonged to Eustace de Anesy, (fn. 94) who in 1334 sold its reversion upon his death to John de Radeswell, a royal clerk, for life, and then in tail to John's kinsman Robert. (fn. 95) John occupied it from 1339 to 1347. (fn. 96) In 1348 Sir Robert of Radeswell, named as tenant in 1346, granted Downhall, for a rent charge, to two clerics, William and John Loughton, for their lives, with remainder to his own family. (fn. 97) The Radeswells probably all perished in 1349, for when William Loughton died in 1352 his namesake and heir could at once sell it to Sir Walter Manny. Serjeant Notton, however, persuaded the king that Downhall had escheated because a Peter de Anesy had died without an heir in 1326. Notton obtained in 1352 a grant of it to himself in tail to hold of the king by the service of holding the king's stirrup when he mounted his horse at Cambridge castle. Having bought out Manny's claims later that year, Notton kept the manor, (fn. 98) which descended thereafter with Dovedales to the Pigotts and their successors. (fn. 99)
Downhall manor house possibly stood within the rectangular moat of 70 by 135 metres, c. 10 metres wide and still partly wet, that lies between two streams just north of the Abington boundary. (fn. 100) The site was later occupied by Downhall farmhouse, which is possibly built round a 17th- or 18thcentury house. At the north-east angle of the site stands a timber framed 15th-century gatehouse, surmounted by a lantern once used to guide travellers. (fn. 101)
The other main manor, later called HUNTINGFIELDS, held directly under the honor of Gloucester as , formerly , knight's fee, (fn. 102) was perhaps derived from land retained by Robert de Valognes c. 1230. By 1235 that manor was held by William of Heybridge, lord of Boxworth, (fn. 103) probably dead by 1238 when his daughter and coheir Joan was wife of Roger of Huntingfield (fn. 104) (d. 1257). (fn. 105) Joan lived on till 1297, surviving their son William. (fn. 106) In 1291 she had settled the Litlington manor upon Walter Huntingfield, probably William's younger son. (fn. 107) Walter held it in 1302 but was dead by 1316, when it was occupied by Henry Garston, (fn. 108) during the minority of Walter's heir Roger Huntingfield, great-grandson of William. (fn. 109) Roger came of age in 1327 and died in 1337, whereupon the manor passed to his son William, then aged 7, (fn. 110) who had livery in 1351. (fn. 111) William died in 1376, having probably already, perhaps in 1368, alienated his Litlington land. (fn. 112)
By 1386 Huntingfields had been acquired by Thomas Haselden (fn. 113) (d. c. 1387), and the fee simple descended in his family with his Guilden Morden estate until the 1520s. (fn. 114) From the 1410s to the 1470s, however, it was successively occupied by Margaret, widow of Thomas's son Richard, then Isabel, widow of Richard's son Thomas, and from her death in 1469, (fn. 115) Elizabeth, widow of a John Haselden. (fn. 116) Francis Haselden, lord by 1509, (fn. 117) devised it at his death in 1522 to his brother Anthony (d. 1527), whose only son William (fn. 118) died under age in 1537. William's heirs were his sisters Elizabeth and Beatrice. (fn. 119) Although Francis's daughter Frances and her husband Sir Robert Peyton had in 1531 entailed the manor on their own descendants, (fn. 120) in 1547 they resettled it on Elizabeth and Beatrice and their husbands, James Hutton and Robert Freville, who took a moiety each. (fn. 121) In 1565 both couples sold their shares, except for 93 a. of demesne bought by two yeomen, to John Sherman, (fn. 122) whose father William, a prosperous Litlington yeoman, had acquired over 50 a. there in 1546 and 1554. (fn. 123)
John Sherman (fn. 124) died in 1599, having transferred his manor and other purchased lands in 1597 to his eldest son William, (fn. 125) who likewise just before his death in 1618 granted them to his son Charles. (fn. 126) In 1622 Charles sold all his Litlington lands to Edward Radcliffe of Hitchin (Herts.), retaining possession as lessee until his death in 1637. (fn. 127) Radcliffe died without issue in 1660, and was succeeded by his eldest nephew Ralph Radcliffe, (fn. 128) knighted in 1668, (fn. 129) who died in 1720. His only son Edward died in 1727, leaving five sons. Huntingfields was held by the three youngest, George (d. s.p. 1741), John, a London merchant (d. 1742), and Arthur (d. s.p. 1767), as tenants in common, until by their successive deaths their undivided third shares accrued in turn to John's sons Ralph (fn. 130) (d. s.p. 1760) and John (d. s.p. 1783). In 1783 it passed to John's elder sister Penelope, who married Sir Charles Farnaby, Bt. (d. 1798), and died in 1802, when her heirs were the children of her sister Anne Clark (d. 1790). (fn. 131) In 1799 Penelope had agreed to sell Huntingfields manor farm to Joseph Dickason, who had in 1793 succeeded his father and namesake, tenant since 1749, as its lessee. (fn. 132) By 1808 Dickason had also acquired the manorial rights from Anne's daughter, Anne Millicent, and her husband E. H. Delm-Radcliffe. (fn. 133) Dickason was succeeded in 1825 by his son James, (fn. 134) who in 1853 sold the farm of 461 a. with the lordship (fn. 135) to George Ebenezer Foster, a Cambridge banker (d. 1870). Thereafter the land passed to Foster's sons, G. E. Foster (d. 1906) and E. B. Foster (d. 1908) and the latter's nephew G. R. C. Foster. (fn. 136) From the 1870s the lordship was assumed by members of the Mossop family, solicitors who had been stewards. (fn. 137) In 1978 Manor farm of 523 a. belonged to Mr. R. Parker of Royston. (fn. 138) Huntingfields manor house, recorded from 1337, (fn. 139) probably stood on the empty moated site, of which two sides only survive, just south-east of the church (fn. 140) and close to the Dickasons' farmhouse.
The 2 yardlands owned by Hardwin de Scalers in 1086 perhaps passed later with his Steeple Morden estate. (fn. 141) An estate held c. 1235 by Alexander le Moyne as knight's fee of the earl of Gloucester (fn. 142) was possibly the 72 a. held in free socage in 1279 by Alexander's widow Rose and son William. It was mostly subinfeudated, many fractions being held by religious houses, including Anglesey priory, and from 1240 St. Radegund's nunnery. (fn. 143) The nunnery's estate, on lease in the mid 15th century when it was held of Dovedales manor, (fn. 144) passed to Jesus College, Cambridge, whose 38 a. were sold to John Sherman in 1566. (fn. 145) By 1236 Mr. Lawrence of St. Nicholas had granted Anglesey priory 65 a. at Litlington. (fn. 146) At the Dissolution the priory owned 50 a., (fn. 147) sold by the Crown in 1553 and resold by John Bolnest in 1554 to William Sherman, the lessee. (fn. 148) In 1240 a peasant gave 1 yardland in free alms to Wymondley priory (Herts.). The land, 27 a. c. 1350, (fn. 149) and 17 a. in 1535, was sold in 1538. (fn. 150) In 1566 John Sherman bought from John Wood the priory's 47 a. in Litlington and Steeple Morden. (fn. 151) Those estates passed thereafter with Huntingfields manor. (fn. 152) Some 66 a., owned c. 1500 by the Bennet family and sold in 1522 by Anthony Haselden, (fn. 153) was acquired in 1547 for Christ's College, Cambridge, (fn. 154) whose 60 a., reduced at inclosure to 36 a., (fn. 155) were sold in 1912 to the county council. (fn. 156)
The largest non-manorial estate of modern times was derived from land of the Bolnest yeoman family. John Bolnest, lessee of Dovedales demesne by 1566, (fn. 157) bought 55 a. of Huntingfields demesne in 1565 from Robert and Beatrice Freville. (fn. 158) At his death in 1605 John left c. 90 a. of freehold to his son George, (fn. 159) who had c. 1595 acquired from an impecunious cousin an estate including 100 a. copyhold of Huntingfields. (fn. 160) In 1616 George sold that property to Thomas Bolnest, whose son and namesake sold it in 1648 to John Siday. Siday sold it in 1666 to John Maryon, (fn. 161) a clothier of Braintree (Essex), who also acquired the lease of the impropriate rectory, and much land of the Curtis family. Dying in 1693 Maryon left his Litlington property to his daughter Mary (fn. 162) (d. c. 1722), who devised it to her brother Joseph's son John, (fn. 163) a clergyman. After 1750 John ceased to renew the rectory lease, because too high a renewal fine was demanded. (fn. 164) He died in 1760, leaving his other land, 382 a. by 1782, to his niece Margaretta Maria Peers (d. 1777), whose daughter by John Badger Willis, Jane, married Sir Thomas Spenser Wilson, Bt. (d. 1798). She died in 1818 and their son Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson in 1821. (fn. 165) He left the Litlington land to his younger son John Maryon Wilson, who in 1832 sold the 464 a. that he owned after inclosure to Mary Graham-Foster-Pigott. (fn. 166) At her death in 1858 she left that land in survivorship to her two unmarried daughters, after whose deaths in 1859 and 1860 it was sold to G. E. Foster. (fn. 167)
Some 115 a. in Litlington, acquired by the first earl of Hardwicke with Brewis manor in Steeple Morden, (fn. 168) were reduced at inclosure to 89 a., (fn. 169) of which Lord Robartes had by 1896 sold 50 a. to the Fosters. They also bought in 1870 the Grays' 55 a. (fn. 170) and in 1917 92 a. owned since 1828 by the Dickasons. (fn. 171) Thomas Russell (fl. 181164) owned after inclosure 106 a., and bought 92 a. in 1849 (fn. 172) and 85 a. in 1854. (fn. 173) In 1876 the 170 a. owned until 1854 by the Wescombs were added to the Russell property. (fn. 174) Thomas's son, T. W. Russell, died owning c. 400 a. c. 1902; his son J. G. Russell sold c. 1914 300 a., resold in 1918. (fn. 175) The county council bought Hill farm of 186 a. in 1919, while another 135 a. further south were bought in 1922 by G. R. C. Foster. So, in the 1920s, the Cambridgeshire county council owned c. 363 a. retaining c. 355 a. in 1977, (fn. 176) while 1,267 a. belonged to the Foster estate until the 1930s.
In 1086 the royal farmers had 3 ploughteams and 6 servi to work their 2 hides of demesne, and the Scalers farmer team on his 1 ploughteams. The other 2 hides in the vill were occupied by 26 villani with 7 teams, and 11 bordars. The value of the manors, at 22 and 15s., had not fallen since 1066. (fn. 177) Before its division the Valognes manor probably had c. 320 a. of demesne arable compared with 32 half-yardlands of 14 a. each (448 a.) held in villeinage. (fn. 178) Half that manor included in 1235 160 a. of demesne arable and 15 half-yardlands. (fn. 179) In 1279 Dovedales and Downhall manors probably each had c. 70 a. (fn. 180) of demesne arable and 7 villein tenants, probably halfyardlanders. In 1352 Downhall had 80 a. of arable and 13 a. of grass in demesne, and 9 yardlands. (fn. 181) The 247 a. supposedly owned by the lord in 1334 in Abington and Litlington perhaps included some customary land. (fn. 182) Huntingfields demesne covered 140 a. in 1279, and 153 a. in 1337, (fn. 183) and its lady had some 19 villeins holding over 14 half-yardlands in 1279. Free tenants of Dovedales and Huntingfields probably then held 8090 a. of each, while c. 210 a. were held freely of other fees. Villeins' labour services were probably still due on all the manors in 1279, those on Dovedales and Downhall being apparently similar. (fn. 184) By 1322 the villeins of Dovedales were paying 6 a year, (fn. 185) and on Huntingfields customary works had probably been commuted for cash by 1337. (fn. 186) Apparent sales of half-yardlands, fifteen in all, by lords in the 1320s (fn. 187) and between 1378 and 1392 (fn. 188) may represent enfranchisement of customary land. Nevertheless much copyhold remained after inclosure, when, including 35 a. of ancient closes, there were 237 a. copyhold of Dovedales and 204 a. of Huntingfields. (fn. 189)
By the 14th century the arable was parcelled out among a number of furlongs and shots, sometimes called fields, which persisted substantially unaltered until inclosure. (fn. 190) Of some 25 furlong names then recorded at least 18 can be traced to the 14th century, and almost all the rest were recorded by 1650, in the same relative position as they occupied in 1800. Larger divisions of the arable were less persistent. In the Middle Ages Litlington was usually said to have two fields. A division, traceable until after 1400, along Ashwell Street into north and south fields (fn. 191) apparently coexisted with another recorded by c. 1300, that eventually prevailed, into an eastern and a western field. (fn. 192) The west field occupied the land west and south of the way past Limlow Hill, the east field containing the eastern third of the parish. That layout survived until after 1630. (fn. 193) By 1701 the arable had been rearranged in three fields. The eastern part of West field south of the village was joined with furlongs around the village closes to form a Middle field, lying between fields adjoining Bassingbourn and Steeple Morden. The land furthest south, by the Icknield Way, was called by 1575 the Heath shot, and was still in 1804 separated from the other arable by the 'heath joint'. Its strips ran at right angles to those of the furlongs just north of it, suggesting that it was the last area to come under the plough, possibly only after 1445 when heathland was still distinguished from adjoining arable. (fn. 194) About 1740 it was so inconveniently distant from the village that the farmers let men from Royston take two crops in three there, simply in return for their manuring the land. (fn. 195) A little heath survived by the main road c. 1660.
Richer grassland lay in the north. Lammas land east of the village and by the north-western boundary included Holwell pasture, mentioned in 1324, and Newditch, so named in 1407, partly once attached to Dovedales. (fn. 196) In 1279 the villagers enjoyed common of pasture in the marsh, (fn. 197) probably the triangle between two streams in the northeastern angle of the parish, beyond the arable called c. 1350 Fen furlong, (fn. 198) and itself still called the Fen in 1660. About 1800 that area was divided into the Rough meads and Cow common. Other permanent pasture lay further south, amid the arable, beside water courses running through the eastern fields, and included Cristenmal, (fn. 199) later Cusmole, common. In 1810 there were said to be 70 a. of Lammas ground and 80 a. of permanent common pasture, besides 25 a. of meadow, mostly enclosed. (fn. 200) Perhaps by 1577, (fn. 201) certainly by 1653, (fn. 202) some 33 a. southeast of the village, lying in strip-shaped closes, had been taken in from the common fields, with which they were allotted at inclosure. One was called Saffron close. (fn. 203)
In 1337 the fields were normally fallowed every other year, although some tried to sow their land every year, ignoring their neighbours' rights of common. (fn. 204) By the 1580s a triennial rotation had been introduced. The arable was divided into the tilth field, for 'white corn' such as wheat, rye, and barley; the 'pease field' sown with peas, lentils, oats, and tares; and the breach field, for breaking up after a fallow. (fn. 205) A similar rotation was in use in the 1780s when the land not under the triennial fallow was to be sown alternately with tilth crops, such as wheat, and 'edge' crops, such as peas and oats. (fn. 206) Barley was probably the most usual crop. In 1512 one farmer bequeathed 40 qr. of it as against only 10 of wheat. (fn. 207) In 1712 the tenant of Huntingfields demesne had in his barns 5 bays of barley but only 1 each of wheat and rye, and 1 of oats. (fn. 208) About 1810 the average corn crop included 460 a. of barley, 250 a. of wheat, and 50 a. of rye. Edge crops for fodder included 150 a. of oats and 220 a. of peas and tares. (fn. 209) Saffron was grown by the 1560s. (fn. 210) Fruit growing was introduced in the 17th century. In 1616 two closes were leased for conversion into orchards, (fn. 211) and in 1665 tithe was demanded on apples, pears, cherries, and grapes. (fn. 212)
Sheep were widely owned. In 1086 c. 320 sheep were kept for the demesne. (fn. 213) Of c. 50 stone rendered to the wool levy of 1347, only 6 came from two demesnes, while 6 peasants produced 2 or more stone each, and c. 11 stone came from 25 others yielding under 14 lb. each. (fn. 214) In 1522 one yeoman owning over 68 a. left 37 sheep. (fn. 215) Another had 50 sheep in 1665, besides 10 milk cattle. (fn. 216) Later, the largest flocks were on the manorial estates. In 1712 Huntingfields alone carried 280 sheep, (fn. 217) almost half the total flock of 600 fed in 1794. (fn. 218) Sheep had been stinted from the 16th century. From 1578 only those having their own arable to plough might keep more than four, and the shepherds and 'single men' were forbidden to own any. (fn. 219) Cattle and horses remained unstinted in the 1790s. (fn. 220) Additional grazing was sometimes found in the arable. In the 1550s sheep were allowed in the tilth field until 1 March, (fn. 221) and cattle, if tethered on a man's own strips, even later. (fn. 222) In 1529 one furlong was deliberately left unsown for the benefit of the flock. (fn. 223)
Under a system of pasturage maintained from the early 16th century to the early 19th, last prescribed in 1743, the sheep alone fed on the stubble field beyond Ashwell Street, coming north of it only after the cattle and horses had grazed there for the month after harvest. The sheep were gathered into the common flock only when at Candlemas they left the permanent pastures, which were left to grow until May when the cows entered the Cow common. The cows went on the meadows after the hay harvest, and fed there with the horses until the sheep entered at Christmas. (fn. 224)
Substantial inequalities developed among the peasantry from the late 14th century. One estate, built up from the 1370s by the Martins, including one enfranchised yardland and some former demesne grassland, (fn. 225) passed in 1440 through an heiress to the Caumpes (fn. 226) who later owned c. 400 a. in Litlington, Bassingbourn, and Steeple Morden, (fn. 227) and whose heirs after 1457 and until 1526 owned 120 a. of freehold in Litlington. (fn. 228) In 1524 six men taxed on 10 or more had goods worth 87 13s. 4d., while c. 43 others paid only on goods worth 1, or on their wages. There were only six people in between. (fn. 229) Some five copyhold yardlands of 2632 a. on Huntingfields, nominally still separate units under Elizabeth I, (fn. 230) were usually part of larger holdings, one including in 1574 also 12 a. held of Dovedales (fn. 231) and being enlarged in 1594 by the purchase of c. 100 a. (fn. 232)
The most successful of all the yeomen was John Sherman, the purchaser of Huntingfields, a grasping man much feared by his neighbours for his obstinate litigiousness. (fn. 233) As lessee of the impropriate rectory he took their tithes and enjoyed his own land practically tithe free from the 1560s (fn. 234) to 1592. On giving up that lease, he procured a very favourable composition, and resisted fiercely when his successor, tempted by the high corn prices of the mid 1590s, sought to collect his tithes in kind. (fn. 235) Sherman was alleged to have seized many of his neighbours' strips, easing his task by ploughing up balks customarily left unploughed between furlongs. (fn. 236) As lord of Huntingfields he attempted c. 1586 to keep as forfeited a 100-a. copyhold because its heir had leased it without licence. (fn. 237) In 1597 Sherman blocked the sale of 64 a. by his bankrupt son-in-law; he claimed that much of it was not copyhold, but demesne granted out in the 1560s, presumably by the Haselden coheirs, too recently to be a customary holding. (fn. 238) Sherman retained the land for his younger sons. (fn. 239)
The Shermans had probably kept their land, c. 300 a. in the 1590s, (fn. 240) in hand, since much livestock with ploughs and other instruments of husbandry was transferred with it in 1616. (fn. 241) From the 1620s that land was leased, as Dovedales demesne, of 300 a. in 1532 and later called the Bury farm, had been from the 1560s. (fn. 242) Huntingfields in 1656 covered 13 a. of closes and 339 a. of arable. (fn. 243) The lessees were usually substantial Litlington yeomen. (fn. 244) In the early 18th century they sometimes fell into difficulties, accumulating long arrears of rent. (fn. 245) On the Maryon estate, too, the farmers sometimes threw up their leases after a few years, allegedly because the impropriators obliged their landlord to demand too high a rent. (fn. 246)
The late 18th century saw some innovations in farming. Few turnips had been grown before 1750. (fn. 247) By 1794 oilcake was sometimes used as fertilizer, (fn. 248) and c. 1800, when there were c. 1,860 a., by customary measure 1,735 a., of open-field arable, besides 30 a. of closes, half under the plough, some 320 a. of the open fields were under grass seeds. About 1810 the crops included 70 a. of clover and 20 a. of trefoil. (fn. 249) Inclosure was first proposed by the Revd. William Foster-Pigott in 1813, but owing to opposition from the tithe owners and small farmers it was postponed to see how it fared in neighbouring parishes, and the idea was dropped after 1816. (fn. 250) Col. Graham-Foster-Pigott revived it in 1827. He suspected that the farmers had profited by the absence of his predecessors since the 1770s to double their flocks to the detriment of his estate, and had ploughed up many balks. The 'prejudiced and obstinate' opposition of several farmers was ascribed to agitation by James Dickason. (fn. 251)
An inclosure Act was obtained early in 1828, (fn. 252) and the allotments were probably set out later that year, (fn. 253) the award being executed in 1830. The area allotted included 1,982 a. of open fields and wastes, and 27 a. of the 116 a. of old inclosures were exchanged. Thereafter, including old inclosures, the Foster-Pigott estate had 306 a., Dickason 463 a., and John Maryon Wilson 464 a.; J. E. Wescomb owned 168 a., and five others, with 55105 a. each, including Lord Hardwicke and four owneroccupiers, c. 507 a. Two colleges with the vicar and parish had together c. 100 a., and 7 smallholders with 20 a. or less only 52 a., while 28 a. were allotted for common rights only to 18 men. Few of the lesser allottees had sold their land before the tithe commutation 10 years later. (fn. 254) Until then the farmers had been reluctant to improve their land by using artificial fertilizer. They complained that the tithes rose with their yield, even though the master of Clare had made James Dickason, the rectory lessee, let the other farmers have their tithes at a fair valuation. In 1833 there was said to be a striking contrast between Dickason's own well farmed land, yielding valuable turnip crops, and those of his tithe-burdened neighbours. (fn. 255)
In the early 1840s (fn. 256) the largest of the 12 substantial farms were Dickason's owner-occupied Manor farm, Highfields farm, c. 390 a. from 1845, Thomas Russell's of c. 366 a., and Bury farm, 220 a. in 1851. Four owner-occupiers with over 80 a. each were then farming in all 330 a., and three others with over 30 a. farmed 120 a. From the 1850s, when the five largest farms covered 1,630 a., the occupation of farms, like their ownership, came to be more concentrated. The Bury farm and Highfields were farmed together from c. 1860 to the 1890s, their lessee occupying over 700 a. Manor farm still covered 460 a., while the smaller owner-occupied farms were gradually added to the Fosters' Highfields farm or incorporated in the Russells' Hill farm, 328 a. in 1871. After 1918, however, the county council let much of its land to smallholders. In the early 20th century three farmers usually occupied over 300 a. each. In 1955, besides nine smallholders with 50 a., five farmers with over 100 a. each shared 1,500 a. of c. 1,800 a. recorded.
Arable farming on a four-course rotation was normal by the 1830s. (fn. 257) From 1858 to c. 1907 William Howard owned and probably leased steam engines for farm work. In 1871 there were five agriculturalengine drivers. (fn. 258) In 1841 there were 1,941 a. of arable compared with 106 a. of pasture. (fn. 259) Of the two main corn crops rather more barley than wheat was still sown. In the late 19th century c. 40 a. of cabbages were grown, by 1925 80 a.; and by 1955 81 a. were under sugar beet and 130 a. under other vegetables. The area of grassland rose from 86 a. in 1866 to 140 a. by 1905, then fell below 100 a. until the 1950s. Sheep, of which there were over 1,800 in 1866 but only 200 by 1905, (fn. 260) had been kept mainly on the higher southern farms: Manor farm had 80, mostly Hampshires, in 1900. (fn. 261) Further north, cattle were kept: from the 1920s to the 1950s c. 100. (fn. 262) One farmer specialized in poultry by 1896, three by 1960, and in 1955 there were 3,500 fowls. (fn. 263) The Playles, who by the 1960s occupied 667 a., breeding pedigree pigs and cattle, then moved to Litlington a butcher's business established at Bassingbourn by 1901. In 1961 they built north-east of the village an abattoir which in the 1970s could handle 100,000 cattle units a year. (fn. 264) In 1977 they probably had over 1,300 pigs. (fn. 265)
About 1831 two thirds of the families in Litlington depended on employment in farming. (fn. 266) Few of the 80 adult farm labourers were out of work; part of the parish gravel pit was set aside for them to grow potatoes. (fn. 267) During the troubles of 1830 their discontent produced an assembly on 13 December, which apparently dispersed peacefully. (fn. 268) In 1851 the farmers employed 88 men and 21 boys out of the 97 and 29 available, in 1871 only 68 men, for 49 men, 32 of them natives of the district, were engaged in the coprolite diggings. (fn. 269) About 45 men were working on the farms in the 1920s and 1950s, but barely 10 by 1977. (fn. 270)
The village had until after 1900 a normal complement of rural craftsmen. Butchers were recorded from the 14th century, (fn. 271) and a tanner in 1557. (fn. 272) In the 19th century, besides blacksmiths, carpenters (7 in 1851), coopers, and wheelwrights, there were several tailors, 4 in 1861, and shoemakers, including a master and 8 journeymen in 1851, and also from the 1870s a whitesmith and gunsmith and a plumber and glazier. One builder employed 17 bricklayers in 1871. By 1851 straw-plaiting flourished: a resident dealer gave work to 44 females, reduced to 10 by 1871. The craftsmen mostly disappeared after 1914, (fn. 273) the last blacksmith dying c. 1953. (fn. 274) Between 1960 and 1974 the former village bakery was occupied by a light engineering workshop, (fn. 275) and a firm making instruments for applying surface coatings started business in a former public house in 1966. (fn. 276)
The water mill on the stream forming the northwest boundary and belonging by 1339 to Downhall manor is treated elsewhere. (fn. 277) Huntingfields manor had 2 windmills by 1291; (fn. 278) one was destroyed by lightning in 1315 and rebuilt by 1318. (fn. 279) Until the 1820s a windmill, which by c. 1350 had given its name to Mill field, stood by the eastern boundary south of the Bassingbourn road. (fn. 280) At inclosure it was removed; a new one had been built where Ashwell Street crosses the new road southwards (fn. 281) by 1840. It was run from 1846 to c. 1901 by the Andrews family, its owners from 1851 and lessees of the adjoining Christ's college farm. By 1889 it also had steam-driven machinery. It closed c. 1912. (fn. 282)
View of frankpledge at Litlington belonged by c. 1260 to the earls of Gloucester, (fn. 283) through whose coheirs it eventually passed in 1485 to the Crown. (fn. 284) From the 14th century to the late 16th courts were held usually once a year, for five neighbouring fees belonging to the earls' honor of Clare, at Litlington itself, Abington Pigotts, Meldreth, Tadlow, and Guilden Morden. Each fee had its own jury, and its business was handled separately. Court rolls survive for 14 years between 1321 and 1362 (fn. 285) and for 1429, (fn. 286) 152530, (fn. 287) 15434, 1553, (fn. 288) 15578, (fn. 289) 15728, and 1585. (fn. 290) The honorial court leet at Litlington, for which the assize of bread and of ale was also claimed in 1299, (fn. 291) hindered the development of any substantial jurisdiction for the manors. In the 14th century, besides registering transfers of freehold, even by lords of those manors, (fn. 292) and enforcing common rules for husbandry, (fn. 293) it regularly judged minor affrays and assaults, and tried to make the constables of the peace do their duty and to restrain the harbouring of doubtful strangers. Brewers and regraters of ale were regularly amerced, as also were the aletasters who were occasionally appointed. Butchers were fined for selling bad meat, (fn. 294) or trading outside a borough, (fn. 295) and millers for taking excessive tolls and not using properly sealed measures. (fn. 296) Similar activities, apart from the police jurisdiction, continued to the 1580s. The court was then held annually on the Tuesday after Easter. It regularly enacted bylaws for farming, and also concerned itself with directing work on drainage (fn. 297) and the upkeep of roads. (fn. 298) In 1557 the leet elected surveyors of highways, (fn. 299) as it had named constables in 1530. (fn. 300)
Huntingfields court baron occasionally, as in 1586 or 1594, intervened in agricultural regulation but was mostly, and after 1600 entirely, concerned with controlling copyhold transfers, the free tenants not usually attending. Court rolls survive with gaps for 15611616 and 16481712, followed by a court book for 17111919. (fn. 301) A case of 1587 showed how John Sherman as lord manipulated its proceedings, inducing the jurors through their foreman to make presentments on matters of which they knew nothing. (fn. 302)
Expenditure on the poor almost doubled from 73 in 1776 to 141 by 1803, when 15 adults were regularly, and 10 more occasionally, relieved, and again to 269 by 1814 when 24 were on permanent relief. (fn. 303) Strict management, apparently encouraged by the vicar, gradually reduced the yearly expense to under 200 in the early, and c. 120 in the late, 1820s, but after 1830 it rose again to over 200. (fn. 304) A poorhouse, occupied by paupers rent free, then stood on the town estate. (fn. 305) In 1830 a few unemployed old men were put to roadwork for the parish, and by 1832 9 able-bodied men needed such work. (fn. 306) From 1835 Litlington was included in the Royston poor law union. (fn. 307) From 1894 it was part of the Melbourn R.D., with which it was transferred in 1934 to the South Cambridgeshire R.D., (fn. 308) becoming part of the South Cambridgeshire district from 1974. The round-topped village lock-up, called St. Peter's hole, last used in 1840, (fn. 309) still stands on the northern village green.
The parish church belonged in the early 12th century to the earls of Gloucester. About 1168 Earl William granted it to his newly founded abbey of Keynsham (Som.), (fn. 310) which retained it, being paid a 45s. pension out of the rectory in 1254, (fn. 311) until in 1259 the abbey returned the advowson to William's heir, Earl Richard de Clare. The patronage then descended in the Clare family, (fn. 312) and at the partition of 1317 its reversion was apparently assigned to Richard's granddaughter, Elizabeth de Burgh. In 1336 she was licensed to include Litlington church in the endowment of University, later Clare, Hall, Cambridge. (fn. 313) The bishop shortly approved its appropriation to the college, (fn. 314) which retained the advowson of the vicarage, ordained in 1336, until 1925, when it was united to Abington Pigotts rectory. The two patrons thereafter presented alternately until 1963, when the college's rights passed to the bishop of Ely by an exchange of patronage. (fn. 315)
The rectory was taxed at 15 c. 1217 and 20 in 1254 (fn. 316) and 1291. (fn. 317) Besides the great tithes the rector had c. 60 a. of glebe, almost all of which passed to the college. (fn. 318) The impropriate rectory was let on beneficial leases until 1763, when Clare annexed the profits to Blythe's benefaction, (fn. 319) out of which it augmented the vicarage in 1893 and 1915 with over 2,000. (fn. 320) At inclosure 33 a. were allotted for 52 a. of rectorial glebe, (fn. 321) and in 1842 the great tithes were commuted for a rent charge of 550. (fn. 322) The rectory house may have stood in a 2a. close south-east of the church, still owned by Clare at inclosure (fn. 323) and almost all leased from the 1870s to the 1920s to the vicar with 5 a. and a decayed cottage called the old rectory. (fn. 324)
In 1336 the vicarage was assigned offerings and mortuaries and the small tithes, including those of wool and milk, on livestock, on crops like flax, and on spade-dug land and the mills. The impropriator was to pay the vicar 5 marks a year to meet the cost of providing books and ornaments. (fn. 325) The vicar's only glebe within the parish until inclosure was 2 a. of arable. (fn. 326) His income was therefore low, being only 5 14s. in 1535, (fn. 327) and 13 6s. 8d., besides the 5 marks from the rectory, in 1650. (fn. 328) In 1657 35 a year was briefly granted as an augmentation, (fn. 329) and probably by 1700 Clare College required the rectory lessees to pay the vicar 10 a year extra, (fn. 330) as in the 1870s. (fn. 331) In 16956 trustees for the parish bought 10 a. at Steeple Morden, for which 4 a. was allotted in 1816, whose rent was to go to the vicar or curate of Litlington while in office, and to his widow, if any, for life. (fn. 332) In 1728 the vicar's income was 23. (fn. 333) Queen Anne's Bounty gave in 1737 200, matching 200 from Clare College, for an augmentation, used the same year to buy 8 a. at Ashwell. Another augmentation, by lot, of 200 in 1804 purchased 7 a. at Haddenham. (fn. 334) About 1807 the vicar let his glebe and tithes in Litlington to the rectory lessee for 80 a year. (fn. 335) Altogether the vicar's income was raised from 75 in 1805, when a third came from tithe composition, to 141 by 1830. (fn. 336) In 1830 he was allotted 8 a. for his glebe and common rights in the parish. (fn. 337) In 1842 his tithes were commuted for c. 230 of rent charge. (fn. 338) In 1873 he received 330 gross (225 net) a year. (fn. 339) Of the 31 a. of glebe in 1887 the Ashwell and Haddenham land was sold between 1919 and 1922, along with a cottage in Litlington bought in 1738 as a possible site for a new vicarage. (fn. 340) Thereafter 15 a. of glebe remained.
In 1336 the bishop had directed that, if the vicar could not obtain for his residence the house belonging to a chantry in the parish church, not otherwise recorded, Clare College was to build him one on the rectory garden, including a hall, chamber, and kitchen. (fn. 341) The glebe house south-west of the church had in 1632 a hall and kitchen and two upstairs rooms. (fn. 342) By the late 18th century, being a mere thatched cottage, it was not usually lived in by the minister. (fn. 343) In 1816 Dr. William Webb, vicar 181656, began to build a new vicarage, (fn. 344) which was presumably the plain greybrick house on the same site, still belonging to the living in 1977.
Before its appropriation the rectory was often held by absentee pluralists, sometimes in its patrons' service, such as the scholar John de Seccheville, rector in 1267, (fn. 345) or the earl of Gloucester's physician, rector in 1313. (fn. 346) The last rector died after 1345, and a vicar was presented in 1350. (fn. 347) In 1378 and 1406 there were two chaplains, besides the vicar. (fn. 348) In 1410 John Kynne, of a local family, left to the church his jewels and all his books on law, medicine, logic, and astronomy. (fn. 349) A fellow of Clare was first certainly presented as vicar in 1489, but left after only two years, (fn. 350) and no more fellows held the living until the 1630s. A chantry was being planned in 1512: it was perhaps connected with the brotherhood, which in 1513 employed a priest, and perhaps survived as St. Catherine's guild in 1529. (fn. 351) In 1553 the Crown sold to Sir Robert Chester 10 a. given for lights and obits. (fn. 352)
Walter Atkins, vicar from 1548, (fn. 353) was said in 1550 not to preach even once a quarter. (fn. 354) The next vicar was alleged in 1564 to spend his time gambling in alehouses. (fn. 355) His successor from 1569 was, perhaps through age, not preaching monthly sermons in 1593, (fn. 356) while church attendance was not effectively enforced. (fn. 357) The three fellows presented by Clare College between 1631 and 1635 rapidly quitted the poor living for better ones, (fn. 358) and the next vicar was non-resident, leaving the parish to curates. (fn. 359) In 1650 the minister was described as insufficient. (fn. 360) Henry Townley, appointed by Clare College in 1656, joined the Cambridgeshire Presbyterian association in 1658. (fn. 361) Since no one else claimed the cure in 1660, he went on serving it without conforming, also marrying people without licence, for some time. The farmers made him an allowance, but refused to pay him the small tithes after 1662, and he had withdrawn, without being formally ejected, by 1665, though still suing for those tithes. (fn. 362)
No one else was thereafter instituted to Litlington until 1718, when the Crown presented by lapse. (fn. 363) Instead the parish was served by neighbouring vicars, those of Guilden Morden between 1666 and 1678, and later those of Steeple Morden, as curates. (fn. 364) Even after presentation was resumed Litlington was still held until 1755 with Steeple Morden, where the vicars, such as Gilbert Negus (172555), like most of his successors a fellow of Clare, usually lived. (fn. 365) Incumbents often after 1755 held Litlington with a fellowship and lived in college, serving the parish, as in 1775 or 1807, through a curate. The latter commonly read one Sunday service, alternately morning and evening, and celebrated communion three times a year. (fn. 366)
Dr. Webb, although master of Clare since 1815, (fn. 367) lived at the vicarage house after rebuilding it for at least half of each year. By the 1830s he was holding, as his successors did, two services every Sunday, preaching at both, and quarterly communions, attended by 18 to 20 people. (fn. 368) In 1851 he claimed that 85 adults, besides 60 Sunday-school children, attended afternoon services. (fn. 369) After Webb's death Litlington was held until 1866 by the elderly Joseph Power, mathematician and University Librarian, who, like Webb during his last years, employed a curate. (fn. 370) In 1873, when all the 264 sittings were free, there were c. 200 churchgoers, and by 1885 250, while up to 23 attended the monthly communions. (fn. 371) The vicars appointed from the 1870s, mostly still Clare men, were normally resident, but usually quitted the living after short periods. They were later criticized as having been mostly too elderly or too donnish. (fn. 372) In 1897 3/7, however, of the inhabitants were churchgoers, only 1/7 neglecting all worship. A choir had then been started, and services were also held on weekdays. (fn. 373) When in 1922 it was proposed to unite the benefice with Abington Pigotts, over 100 of the 110 regular churchgoers at Litlington, forming of the population, opposed the union. (fn. 374) It was nevertheless approved that year, coming into effect when Litlington vicarage fell vacant in 1925. From 1955 H. O. Punchard, vicar 194868, also held Wendy cum Shingay, and from 1966 Croydon cum Clopton too. In 1969 presentation was suspended. The church was served instead by one of the Shingay group team of clergy. He lived at Litlington vicarage, designated in 1922 as the glebe house of the united living. (fn. 375)
The church of ST. CATHERINE, so named in 1513, (fn. 376) consists of a chancel with vestry, aisled and clerestoried nave with south porch, and west tower. (fn. 377) It is built of field stones with ashlar dressings which were formerly mostly in clunch. The oldest surviving parts include a narrow lancet over a blocked 13th-century doorway in the western part of the south wall of the chancel, which was probably only later extended eastwards to its present length. The two lower stages, also with lancets, of the west tower, are also 13th-century, and the battlemented top, which once had a short spire, probably mid 14th-century. Of the same period are the elaborately moulded chancel arch and most of the five-bay nave including the clerestory, the south arcade, and the west three bays of the north one, which have quatrefoil piers. The two east bays of the north arcade may be a little earlier. Their mouldings and octagonal piers resemble those of two arches once leading from the north aisle and chancel north side into a north chapel, later demolished, upon whose site a vestry was built in the 19th century. The north aisle windows are Decorated. Those of the south aisle, like one in the chancel south wall, were probably renewed c. 1500, when also the plain south porch was added. The chancel also then received a tall five-light Perpendicular east window, to accommodate which its walls were heightened, incorporating plain single-light windows on each side.
The octagonal font is 15th-century, as are the pulpit and the rood screen. (fn. 378) The roofs over the chancel, the nave, which has on one beam a carving of the Crucifixion, and the north aisle are probably, in their main timbers, of the early 16th century. The chancel once contained the matrices of several brasses, and one slab, perhaps to a priest, with an Old French inscription. (fn. 379)
The church, and the chancel windows, were in decay in 1561. (fn. 380) In 1685 the chancel and belfry were showing cracks, the porch was ruinous, and two chancel windows were boarded up. The seating was mostly rotten, and the communion rails still not replaced. (fn. 381) The church was under repair c. 1807. A gallery installed by 1816 enabled it to hold 500 people. (fn. 382) In 18701 the whole fabric was thoroughly restored by Vialls of London, the roof, floor, and tower being almost entirely renewed, and the gallery apparently removed. (fn. 383) The tower and walls were again repaired c. 1950. (fn. 384)
By 1775 the churchwardens held for church repairs c. 17 a., yielding 3 a year. The 12 a. allotted at inclosure, let in 1871 for 36, were sold in 1919, and the proceeds invested in stock yielding 10 yearly. (fn. 385) In 1918 G. R. C. Foster gave a. by the Abington road for an additional burial ground, opened in 1921. (fn. 386)
By 1300 the church had three chalices, (fn. 387) and in 1552 two, one of silver gilt. (fn. 388) The modern plate includes a cup and paten of 1677. (fn. 389) There were four bells in 1552, (fn. 390) five by 1748 and later. (fn. 391) By 1902 three were broken and two of poor quality. (fn. 392) When they were recast between 1918 and 1921 a sixth was added. (fn. 393) The registers begin in 1652 and are complete from c. 1665. (fn. 394)
The puritan evangelist Francis Holcroft first came to preach in south-west Cambridgeshire, when he found the other fellows of Clare neglecting to preach at Litlington in the early 1650s. (fn. 395) Dissent remained vigorous in the parish for many years. Two men and five women would not come to church in 1662. Four were from the family of John Thorowgood, (fn. 396) who was holding an Independent meeting at his house in 1672. (fn. 397) In 1676 there were 24 dissenters, (fn. 398) and in 1728 27 Independents who still had their own meeting house, (fn. 399) probably that registered in 1699. (fn. 400) Organized nonconformity later declined, although many did not adhere to the church, and the minister had sometimes to baptize a whole family at a single time. (fn. 401) Although there were many dissenters in 1825, they had no regular teacher, following sometimes one preacher, sometimes another. (fn. 402) They presumably used the various buildings registered for dissenting worship, including a cottage and barn in 1808 (fn. 403) and two houses in 1822 and 1826. A building registered in 1828 for the Independents (fn. 404) on a site purchased in 1833 (fn. 405) was probably the Independent chapel later said to have been established c. 1821. In 1851 it had 250 sittings, and the minister from Bassingbourn who served it claimed an attendance of 310 at the one afternoon service. (fn. 406)
The chapel was rebuilt in 1863 to seat 300, (fn. 407) and in 1867 a separate congregation was formed. (fn. 408) Dissent predominated in Litlington almost until 1900. In 1873, when the chapel Sunday school with 100 pupils was more than twice as large as the church one, there were 300 chapelgoers as against 200 churchgoers, and in 1885 380 compared with 250, but by 1897 numbers were nearly equal. (fn. 409) In the early 20th century there were on average c. 30 chapel members, (fn. 410) but from the 1940s only 20, and 2 lay preachers, (fn. 411) including men like the village shoemaker (18361926), who long kept a night school to teach the Bible. (fn. 412) A timber framed house, bought as a manse in 1918, was still occupied by the minister in 1937, but no longer by 1957, when the chapel was again served from Bassingbourn; the house was sold in 1960. (fn. 413) Chapel life was still vigorous in the 1970s, when the chapel was extended and its gallery remodelled for a Sunday school, the only one in the village. (fn. 414) The chapel, on the northern village street named Meeting Lane after it, is a plain classical building with a pedimented front.
In 1850 a Primitive Methodist chapel was built with 100 sittings, half filled on Census Sunday in 1851, when its preacher was said to be unable to write. (fn. 415) Registered in 1860, (fn. 416) it remained open until c. 1900 (fn. 417) and was closed by 1908, when the Congregational pastor, J. J. Dodds, bought it. He turned it by 1919 into a reading and men's club room, open to all villagers, but to be managed by himself and succeeding ministers 'under the direction of Congregationalism.' It had closed before 1962 when it was sold. (fn. 418) The building, by the road south from the village, had been demolished by 1977.
About 1550 the son of a substantial yeoman, kept at school, wrote accounts for his illiterate father, then bailiff of Huntingfields manor. (fn. 419) No organized school was recorded at Litlington until after 1800. (fn. 420) In 1807 a man kept a day school. (fn. 421) Dr. Webb, vicar 181656, had by 1818 started a Sunday school, which had c. 100 pupils. In 1825 it had 75 pupils, a majority of the village children, learning reading and the catechism. Although a few farmers gave 1 or so, the school was until the 1840s supported almost entirely by Webb, who in 1833 paid the master. It had usually 100120 pupils, often taught in the church. In 1833 there were also six day schools, at which were taught 72 boys and 55 girls paid for by their parents. (fn. 422)
In 1857 Clare College gave a part of the rectory close next to the street as a site for a National school. The committee of management included three leading farmers, occupying 1,210 a., over half the parish. (fn. 423) The schoolroom with a teacher's house was completed by 1859, with the help of a state grant. The average attendance was then 60, schoolpence, subscriptions, and 'private benevolence' meeting the expenses. (fn. 424) From the 1870s until 1920 attendance fluctuated between 70 and 85. (fn. 425) From the 1870s it was usually taught as a mixed school. (fn. 426) An evening school for boys had 12 pupils in 1885 and 22 by 1898. (fn. 427) By the 1890s, as fewer people were willing to pay voluntary rates, the vicar found it difficult to maintain the school. (fn. 428) After 1922, when the older pupils were sent to Bassingbourn school, (fn. 429) numbers fell to just over 30, but recovered to 50 by 1937. (fn. 430) It became a controlled school in 1950. In 1953 the school was moved to a disused R.A.F. hut by the Abington road, the Victorian schoolroom being sold in 1965. (fn. 431) The school, with 8090 pupils, still used the hut in the 1970s. (fn. 432)
Charities for the Poor.
An almshouse, recorded from 1575, had five hearths in 1666. (fn. 433) Until 1817 the income from the town lands, reduced at inclosure from 9 a. to 7 a., had been applied to reduce the poor rates. Thereafter it was distributed at Christmas in coal among widows and widowers on parish relief. The sum so distributed rose from 12 in 1837 (fn. 434) to 14 12s. 6d. by 1863. (fn. 435) In the 1890s the parish council stored the coal in the village lock-up and let beneficiaries collect it themselves. Later it was distributed house by house to widows only. A scheme of 1908 empowered trustees to bestow the income in fuel, clothing, or medical aid to deserving villagers of both sexes. It long continued to be given, however, mainly in coal. By the 1950s the land was let as allotments for 11 10s., mostly given in cash to 18 people. (fn. 436)
Roger Stoughton (d. 1690), briefly a London alderman, of a local yeoman family, (fn. 437) by his will gave 2s. a week from a rent charge for poor men of Litlington over 40. In 1837 5 4s. was accordingly given every Sunday to 12 poor men in 2d. loaves. (fn. 438) Loaves were still given from the 1860s to c. 1940. In 1951, when no one wanted them any more, the charity instead paid bakers' bills for poor villagers. In 1961 the rent charge was redeemed for 230, of which 140 was assigned to Litlington. In the 1960s 7 a year was still given in bread, sometimes in alternate years, to one or two people. (fn. 439)
A 10s. rent charge, given by William Bays for 10 poor men before 1718, was lost by 1728. Also before 1718 one Sewersby gave 1 to yield 14d. yearly for the poor. In the 1830s the churchwardens gave 1s. a year to the oldest widow in the parish; (fn. 440) it was given every third year by 1908 from 1 stock, added in 1962 to Gray's charity. (fn. 441)
Sir Walter Gray (18461918), son of a Litlington tradesman and mayor of Oxford, (fn. 442) by will proved 1918 left the yield of 250 for the deserving poor of his native village. In the late 1920s the vicar's management was challenged by the parish council, suspecting discrimination against chapel people in his choice of the 2025 recipients. In 1930 c. 13 was given in coal and groceries, and after 1950 89 a year in Christmas parcels for old-age pensioners. (fn. 443)