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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
In 1086 the manor had 2 ploughlands in demesne with one servus. One Frenchman occupied 1½ hides and 4 villani shared another 3 ploughlands with 12 bordars and cottars. The lord had 2 ploughteams, the villani three. (fn. 1)
By 1279, when the manor still comprised the whole parish, freeholders mostly paying only small rents held c. 95 a., two having 15 a. and 10 a., while 7 others possessed 5 a. each and 17 only between ½ a. and 2½ a. each. The Colvilles' 22 villeins also had 5 a. each. They owed ploughing, reaping, and carrying services, and had together to mow and stack the lord's hay. (fn. 2) Emma de Colville probably had the demesne in hand in 1344, when she lost 8 oxen and 8 horses in a fire. (fn. 3) About 1300 the lords were buying up small amounts of peasant land, (fn. 4) but substantial freeholds possessed by such families as the Royses and Asplands (fn. 5) survived into the 15th century. Thomas Aspland (d. 1468) left 6 messuages and 240 a. in and around Lolworth. (fn. 6) One freehold of over 150 a. was recorded in 1562. (fn. 7)
From the early 16th century the lords gradually bought up the parish: in the 1510s Sir John Cutts acquired 130 a., once owned by a Fulbourn man, and 40 a. from others. (fn. 8) Robert Stewkyn, the wealthiest villager in 1524, worth at least £40, was perhaps the lord's lessee. Three others then had goods worth £6-12, while 5 lesser husbandmen were taxed on £2-4, and only 4 men on wages alone. (fn. 9) In the late 16th and early 17th century the parish still had several prosperous working farmers, who styled themselves gentlemen: they had wainscotted rooms and silver and gilt plate, (fn. 10) and could leave hundreds of pounds among their children, but owned no land in Lolworth. (fn. 11) They were probably lessees under the lord, as was Richard Wells (d. 1598), who held Lordship or Manor farm from Sir John Cutts. (fn. 12) Another farmer c. 1610 acted as rent collector to Cutts. (fn. 13) Their rents were relatively low: Richard Croft (d. 1612) paid c. £19 for a farm that yielded him £50 a year. (fn. 14) The number of such farmers declined in the 17th century: c. 1615 there were 7 or 8 with land in the fields, by 1639 and 1663 only 3 or 4, (fn. 15) and under Charles II only 3 or 4 houses, besides the rectory, had 3 hearths or more. (fn. 16) The manorial holding, reckoned c. 1680 to include 800 a. of arable and 200 a. of grass, (fn. 17) probably then comprised almost the whole parish apart from the glebe and college farms. By the 1730s, and probably by the 1690s, it was divided among only five farmers. (fn. 18)
By the early 17th century (fn. 19) the arable was divided into three fields: Northstowe or Beacon field, in 1785 c. 284 a., occupied the southern corner and was separated by Broadway from Sandwell or Mill field (304 a.) in the south-west. To the north was Redlittlehoe, by 1639 Strade, field, called after 1750 Little or Meadow field (242 a.). The two southern fields were each divided into four or five long furlongs by field ways parallel with the brooks, while Little field had smaller, square furlongs. Out of 830 a. in the three fields only c. 720 a. were actually under the plough: the remaining 112 a. consisted of baulks and headlands, besides the 60 a. of field ways and the mereways along the parish boundary. The common pastures beside the brooks were especially wide. On the dividing ways the adjacent landowners were entitled to 'lot grass' of 6 cart ropes' length. (fn. 20) In 1785 the fields were formally divided into 'runs', presumably for the parish flocks. The lords owned by 1785 the small enclosed High pasture in the south-east angle of the parish, and there were 12 a. of common meadow near the northern corner of the village closes. In 1785 there were 132 a. described as pasture, wood, and waste. About 1691 (fn. 21) a permanent cow pasture, 45 a. east of the old closes, had been taken out of the fields and fenced off; it was usually reserved for milk cattle.
One man lost two cartloads of wheat to Montfortian plunderers in 1266. (fn. 22) The main peasant crop by the 16th century was probably barley. (fn. 23) A triennial rotation was already in force in 1340, when half of the two thirds of the arable cultivated was sown with peas which failed. (fn. 24) Sheep were widely kept: in the late 14th and the 15th century Lolworth men often trespassed into Dry Drayton with flocks of 40 or more. (fn. 25) In 1610 one farmer sent 50 lambs for sale at Royston market, (fn. 26) while Richard Croft repeatedly brought cattle from his native Yorkshire, spending up to £200 a year, to stock his extensive Cambridgeshire pastures. (fn. 27) In 1691 the stint of sheep was set at 240 for the Lordship farm, as a 'double' one, and 60 for each of the others except two small ones allowed only 30 together. Each cottager might keep 2 cows and 6 sheep, and the hired shepherd additional animals as part of his wage. (fn. 28) At inclosure in 1844 common in the fields for 160 sheep and 9 cows was claimed for each of the three manorial farms and for 60 sheep and 6 cows for Clare College. (fn. 29) By 1785 each manorial farm, besides feeding 10-12 cows on the Cow Pasture, could winter 40 ewes with lambs there, the Clare College tenant half as many. (fn. 30) Rules of 1691 for managing the commons provided that the cattle precede the sheep on the common fields in the 'stray time' after harvest. They were enforced by two field reeves elected yearly with a hayward at Easter. (fn. 31) In the 1790s, when 600 sheep were kept, the fields were still cultivated on the old rotation of two crops and a fallow, but they were well manured and drained. Recent hollow draining had helped preserve the sheep from rot. (fn. 32)
Possibly in the 1770s (fn. 33) the manorial estate was reorganized (fn. 34) by dividing it into three farms, each with 290 a. of arable and grass in the fields, though with differing amounts of old inclosures. The Manns of Fen Stanton (Hunts.), tenants of one farm for three generations, (fn. 35) also occupied the Clare College and glebe farms by 1840, so holding 432 a. altogether. They also acquired after 1800 the small Duke's farm attached from the 1690s to the 1790s to the duke of Bedford's Dry Drayton estate. (fn. 36) After that arrangement had lasted, with the same farms in the same families, until the 1840s, John Dodson, within two months of buying the manor in 1844, (fn. 37) promoted an inclosure, accomplished by next harvest under the General Inclosure Act. (fn. 38) Of the 938 a. affected by it, including some old inclosures exchanged, 117 a. were allotted to others, 821 a. to Dodson himself, (fn. 39) and the farms were again rearranged. By 1856 three of the Daintrees were working the three new farms of 280 a., 300 a., and 356 a. The Clare College and rectorial allotments in the north, 125 a. together, formed a single farm from 1853. (fn. 40) After the 1870s the rest of Lolworth was divided into two farms, east and west of the Broadway, covering in 1910 respectively 460 a. and 503 a. (fn. 41) Jacob Frohock, tenant of the eastern farm, Lolworth Grange, from 1876, made many improvements. (fn. 42) The last of four owner-occupiers who succeeded him after 1917 also occupied 270 a. of the western farm, (fn. 43) while T. B. Robinson worked 650 a. from the 1940s to 1970. (fn. 44)
In the 19th century there was enough work for all the resident labourers: none of the 20 men and 10 boys available in 1830 had been unemployed. (fn. 45) Later, when there were 25-30 adult workers at Lolworth, the farmers found labour scarce and used steam ploughs. In 1861 they had work for 52 men and 16 boys. (fn. 46) One farmer in 1877 was hiring a steam threshing machine. (fn. 47) The rector induced the labourers 'voluntarily' to give up their traditional harvest drinking c. 1897. (fn. 48) The parish remained mostly arable: c. 1920 Lolworth Grange farm included 348 a. of arable and 89 a. of grass mostly in old closes near the village, (fn. 49) and the other farm had only 35 a. of pasture and 460 a. of arable. (fn. 50) Up to 600 a. were regularly sown with corn, mostly wheat and barley, in the 1870s and 1880s. The area under corn declined to 300 a. c. 1900, but had recovered to its old extent by 1915, while that of grassland varied only between 125 and 200 a. From the 1880s there were c. 30 a. of orchards, mostly apples and plums, west of the village. The number of sheep kept, c. 400 until the 1880s, dropped to 250 by 1895 and 160 by 1915, sheep farming ceasing thereafter. From the 1930s many pigs were kept, (fn. 51) for which extensive piggeries were built on Grange farm near the Broadway. (fn. 52)
A mill in 1086 was yielding no revenue. (fn. 53) A windmill, which belonged to the manor from c. 1680 to after 1735, (fn. 54) probably stood on the Mill hill recorded from 1639 in Mill field. (fn. 55) None was recorded later. Trade or craft supported only one family in 1831, (fn. 56) perhaps that of the carpenter mentioned in 1841. (fn. 57) There were a wheelwright and a blacksmith c. 1870: (fn. 58) a smithy had stood on the green by 1785. (fn. 59) The village's sole shop closed after 60 years c. 1970. (fn. 60)