A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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PAPWORTH ST. AGNES
THE parish (fn. 1) was called from c. 1200 Papworth Agnes, after a 12th-century lady of the manor, (fn. 2) but since c. 1800 has been mistakenly styled Papworth St. Agnes. (fn. 3) It lies on the former western border of Cambridgeshire in an area projecting into Huntingdonshire and is approximately rectangular, stretching almost 4.5 km. (3 miles) from north to south. Of its 1,316 a., 485 a., including part of the site of the manor house, belonged to Huntingdonshire until 1895. (fn. 4) In 1904 an area of 18 a. south-east of a minor road from Eltisley to Hilton (Hunts.) was transferred to the adjacent parish of Papworth Everard, (fn. 5) leaving 1,298 a. (525 ha.) in 1981. (fn. 6) Thereafter that road formed the south-eastern boundary. The straight north-eastern boundary established by 1011 (fn. 7) is the Old North Road. On the west the boundary partly follows a brook flowing northward from a chalybeate spring, called Nill or Knill Well probably since the 13th century. (fn. 8)
Papworth lies upon Oxford clay, overlaid on the higher two thirds with boulder clay, with an island of gravel west of the village. North of the village Lattenbury Hill, so named by 1011, (fn. 9) rises to over 45 m. (150 ft.) and another down reaches almost 60 m. at the southern extremity of the parish. Between the village and Lattenbury Hill is a nearly level area, across which the brook flows north-westward besides a narrow road, latterly called Barnfield Lane. About 1540 one manor was said to include 60 a. of wood. (fn. 10) The 29 a. of timber recorded in 1840 consisted mostly of scattered plantations on former field land. (fn. 11) The former park on the south-eastern slope of Lattenbury Hill is also well timbered.
The village lies away from the Old North Road, continuously a turnpike between 1710 and 1876. (fn. 12) Its land has been devoted entirely to agriculture. It was in existence by A.D. 1000, (fn. 13) though not recorded as distinct from Papworth Everard until after 1150. (fn. 14) In 1086 the inhabitants included at least 6 villani (fn. 15) and in 1279 c. 35 tenants. (fn. 16) The parish contained 47 taxpayers in 1327 (fn. 17) and 85 adults in 1377, (fn. 18) and in the late Middle Ages was occasionally called Great Papworth. (fn. 19) Thereafter numbers fell: in 1524 only 12 people paid the subsidy (fn. 20) and there were 18 families in 1563. (fn. 21) In the late 16th century the population probably ranged between 60 and 100 (fn. 22) but under Charles II there were only c. 10 houses, of which only 3 or 4 had more than one hearth. (fn. 23) In 1676 the adults numbered 50 (fn. 24) and in 1728 the 15 families comprised 70 people. (fn. 25) After a renewed decline there were again only 10 families in 1745. (fn. 26) In the early 19th century between 9 and 15 households contained 75-80 people. Numbers rose between the 1840s and 1881 to nearly 165 people in over 30 families but after 1891 gradually fell to c. 120 after 1921, below 90 by 1951, (fn. 27) and below 30 by 1975. Newcomers had increased the population to 60 by 1981. (fn. 28)
The medieval village probably stood on the site of the present shrunken one, near the western edge of the parish along a street parallel to the brook from Knill Well. Ancient closes there may have been partly erased by imparking c. 1600. (fn. 29) There were 16-18 dwellings in the early 19th and c. 30 in the late 19th century. (fn. 30) Of 26 cottages in 1911 the village contained 19 and 5 stood near Lattenbury Hill. (fn. 31) The number occupied fell to c. 25 after 1920 and 15 in 1971. (fn. 32) The surviving houses are mostly 19th-century, timber-framed and thatched. Passhouse Farm near the church is a 17th-century farmhouse, much altered and restored in the 1970s. (fn. 33) Hill Farm of c. 1800 and the later Dumptilow Farm were both built in the former open fields. About 1850 a communal bakehouse with a tall chimney was built on the village green for use when fuel was scarce. (fn. 34) A small 19th-century reading room nearby was restored to use from 1977. In the early 1970s 7 or 8 cottages were empty and derelict; work on eight new houses begun c. 1970 stopped when only two had been finished. More were built after 1975 and the arrival of seven new families by 1980 began to revive village life. (fn. 35)