Rampton: Economic history

Pages 214-216

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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There is little record of demesne farming by the lords of Rampton in the Middle Ages. In 1086 the lord had only one ploughteam on land for three, and in 1279 only 24 a. were in hand. In contrast, 12 villaniand 7 cottars had three teams between them in 1086, and in 1279 there were 21 villeins with 1/2 yardland or a little more each and 13 crofters and cottars with 1 a. or less. The 185 annual works owed by each villein had evidently been commuted for 11s.and the crofters and cottars owed money rents and a few pence in lieu of harvest work, but ploughing at the lord's will by the villeins and haymaking by the others were recorded and may still have been exacted. (fn. 1)

In the late Middle Ages and early 16th century the lord of Rampton was usually an absentee nobleman. No-one in the village was wealthy enough to be assessed in 1522. (fn. 2) Lord Scrope was leasing the manor c. 1520 for £13, while the holdings of tenants-at-will brought in c. £18. (fn. 3) The Alcockes probably farmed the land themselves from 1575 until c. 1618. (fn. 4) Although their successors lived and owned larger estates elsewhere, Manor farm in the 17th and early 18th century became the only large farm in the parish. It contained perhaps half the arable and inclosed pasture in Rampton by 1754, when there were 17 freeholders and copyholders with 916 openfield strips between them, probably none holding more than c. 100 a. (fn. 5) The largest allotment in the open fields at inclosure in 1852 was of 267 a. to Robert Ivatt's devisees; the next was 190 a. and there were 3 of 60-100 a., 13 of 10-30 a., and 35 under 10 a. (fn. 6)

Two freeholders owned 44 a. between them in 1279. (fn. 7) Such freehold land as existed later may largely have been owned by non-residents by 1600. (fn. 8) In the early 19th century it was virtually all accumulated by the Ivatts of Manor Farm. (fn. 9) By the mid 19th century most copyhold land was owned by outsiders: in 1855 little of 750 a. copyhold was in the hands of Rampton families apart from Thomas Ivatt's 225 a. Much of the rest belonged to Cottenham or Willingham men who in some cases farmed it themselves. (fn. 10) In 1842 for every 3 a. of tenanted land there were thus more than 4 a. owner-occupied. (fn. 11) The same pattern was evident later in the century: 10 owner-occupied holdings averaging 70 a. and 20 tenanted ones averaging 25 a. were recorded in 1895. (fn. 12)

In 1831 six resident farmers employed labourers, but the growth of Manor farm and ownership by Willingham and Cottenham farmers turned Rampton into a village almost entirely of labourers. By 1861 the only farmer living in the parish was Thomas Ivatt, (fn. 13) whose family was afterwards looked back on as its squires. (fn. 14) In the 1860s and 1870s a few small farms were run from Rampton but after 1880, as C. E. Ivatt reported, the agricultural depression squeezed the smaller farmers particularly hard. (fn. 14) In 1897 the entire population was from the labouring class apart from one or two families. (fn. 15) For a brief period Rampton was a typical closed village overshadowed by squire and parson, but at the beginning of the First World War, when the Ivatt estate was bought by the county council and divided into smallholdings, there was an influx of independent-minded outsiders who were thought to have transformed the village's social character. (fn. 16) The number of smallholdings under 5 a. increased from 8 in 1905 to 40 in 1915 and, although there was consolidation later, numerous small farmers remained as late as the 1950s, when there were 25 holdings under 20 a. and 11 larger ones. By 1980 the number of farms had been reduced to eleven. (fn. 17) In 1985 the county council's land was divided into two farms and six other holdings. (fn. 18)

The existence of a Middle field in 1247 (fn. 19) suggests that there were then three open fields. If so they were later reorganized into four, arranged in an arc round the west side of the parish and by 1754 called, from north to south, Belsars, Little, Mill, and Brook fields. By then there had been much consolidation of the arable strips belonging to Manor farm. (fn. 20) Land at the southern end of the parish was described as newly inclosed in 1651; part of it had been openfield arable in 1630. (fn. 21) In 1754 closes protected by hedges and used for pasture were distinguished from 30-40 'pieces', blocks of land scattered among the open-field strips and evidently remaining subject to the rotation of arable crops. The pieces ranged in size up to nearly 20 a. All the pasture was at the edge of the arable fields, Pierce's, Brook, Moor, Page's, Bush, and Miller's closes lying on the south and west parish boundaries, and Homehill and Hardwell between the meadows and the fens. Immediately north of the village and park were the meadows on the east, next to the brook, and on the west an irregularly shaped common called the Snout. New Meadow, covering about half the area of the meadows, evidently belonged entirely to Manor farm in 1754. Irams and Hempsals fens lay in the northern arm of the parish. Just south of the village closes and alongside the brook was a strip of common land called New Ground, connecting at its west end with Cow common. (fn. 22) The topography of the parish was little changed on the eve of inclosure in 1844, though the Snout was then known as Sheep common, and Cow common as Snout common. Several of the closes, however, appear to have been thrown back into the open fields, (fn. 23) which covered 682 a., compared with 32 a. of arable closes, 169 a. of inclosed meadow and pasture, and 422 a. of commons. (fn. 24)

Common rights numbered 36 in the early 19th century. In the late 17th century the main pasturage for cattle, limited to 7 for each common right, seems to have been in Farther and Nether Irams, which they grazed for the greater part of the year. In 1754 the herd was allowed in Hempsals from haymaking to 21 December and in the meadows until Lady Day. The stint of milk cows, reduced by 1754 to 6, was further cut to 4 between 1808 and 1815. Apart from minor variations, the times when cattle were allowed on the commons were unaltered until inclosure. (fn. 25) In the 16th century and until 1754 or later the commoners also had grazing and mowing rights in Little North fen in Cottenham. (fn. 26)

In the 16th century villagers grew wheat, barley, and peas and kept sheep for wool. (fn. 27) Sheep were usually kept on Manor farm in the early 17th century, (fn. 28) and in 1674 a yeoman farmer had 30 cows and 400 sheep, with pigs, poultry, and doves. (fn. 29) In the late 17th and the mid 18th century sheep were grazed on the fallow field and New Ground common and on Farther and Nether Irams in winter. Indications that they were becoming more numerous and needed more grazing in the late 18th and particularly the early 19th century include the renaming of the Snout as Sheep common after 1754. Between 1823 and c. 1840 the commoning bylaws were amended to allow sheep on Hempsals fen in winter and on the meadows from late September to early March. About 1840 it was also recorded for the first time that Hurdle or Hardwell meadow, Sheep common, and Snout common were to be grazed by sheep once in every four years. (fn. 30) The town and manor flocks were said to average 800 sheep together c. 1840. (fn. 31) The arable fields were cropped on a four-course rotation until inclosure. (fn. 32) A 150-a. farm sold in 1808 had c. 30 a. each sown with beans, barley, and wheat; (fn. 33) allowing for 30 a. fallow, its owner evidently had another 30 a. of permanent grass, probably a typical proportion for the larger farms at that time. (fn. 34)

Grassland increased at the expense of corn in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1866 grass, clover, and fallow covered less than 200 a., but by the 1890s, when the poorer arable had been allowed to turn into rough grazing, (fn. 35) they accounted for over 400 a., retaining that extent until the First World War and returning to it in the 1930s. The acreage of grain crops recorded fell from over 850 a. in 1866 to under 500 a. in 1905. Wheat was usually the most important, though in 1980 it was exceeded by barley. There were over 1,000 sheep in 1875 but few if any were kept after 1918, when dairying became more important. (fn. 36)

Fruit growing was stimulated by the establishment of the Chivers factory at Histon and by 1894 apples, pears, plums, greengages, currants, strawberries, and gooseberries were grown. (fn. 37) The recorded extent of orchards and soft fruit increased from 20 a. in 1895 to 121 a. in 1935 but declined after 1945 to only 7 ha. (17 a.) of orchards and 16 ha. (40 a.) of other fruit and market garden produce in 1980. (fn. 38)

A fishery was worth 10s. a year in 1279. (fn. 39) A windmill near the boundary of Mill and Brook fields had been taken down by 1754. (fn. 40)

A three-day fair and a market on Thursdays were granted in 1270 to Robert de Lisle, and although John, Lord Scrope, had them confirmed in 1534, there is no evidence for how long they were held. (fn. 41)

There are few references to rural trades in the village before the 19th century apart from a weaver before 1638 (fn. 42) and a blacksmith in 1658. (fn. 43) A thatcher was recorded from 1879 to 1912, a shoemaker from 1851 to 1888, one or two butchers from 1841 to 1922, and a general shop from 1851. In 1871 there were also a blacksmith, a tailor, and four journeymen sawyers. (fn. 44) A coach hire firm opened c. 1959 and a garage in 1970, (fn. 45) but the village shop was in difficulties in the 1970s and stood empty in 1985. (fn. 46)


  • 1. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 394-5; Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 451.
  • 2. L. & P. Hen. VIII, iii (2), p. 1117.
  • 3. C.U.L., Doc. 479, rot. 4; Doc. 481, rot. 7v.; Doc. 485, rot. 10.
  • 4. P.R.O., REQ 2/391/10, bill.
  • 5. C.U.L., MS. Plan 177; ibid. S 696B/91/4 (TS. summary of map by C. H. Evelyn-White).
  • 6. C.R.O., Q/RDc 71.
  • 7. Rot. Hund. ii. 451.
  • 8. e.g. C.R.O., R 52/3/2; ibid. 306/T 1; P.R.O., PROB 11/220, ff. 371-2.
  • 9. C.R.O., 132/T 935.
  • 10. Ibid. 606/M 4; cf. ibid. L 2/9.
  • 11. C.U.L., Add. MS. 6064.
  • 12. P.R.O., MAF 68/1543.
  • 13. Ibid. ED 7/5; ibid. HO 107/69/13; HO 107/1759, ff. 195v.-201v.; ibid. RG 9/1019, ff. 67-72; RG 10/1580, ff. 31- 6; RG 11/1659, ff. 28-32v.; Census, 1831-61.
  • 14. Local inf.
  • 15. Rep. Com. Agric. Depression, Cambs. p. 192.
  • 16. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/38.
  • 17. Char. Com. files, Rampton corr.
  • 18. P.R.O., MAF 68/2113, 2683, 3232, 3752, 4489; Cambs. Agric. Returns, 1980.
  • 19. Inf. from Chief Land Agent.
  • 20. P.R.O., CP 25(1)/24/24, no. 35.
  • 21. C.U.L., MS. Plan 177.
  • 22. C.R.O., 306/T 1-3.
  • 23. C.U.L., MS. Plan 177.
  • 24. C.R.O., Q/RDc 71; ibid. P 134/27/1.
  • 25. Ibid. P 134/27/1, pp. [2-4].
  • 26. C.R.O., 606/M 3, nos. 33-4; ibid. L 2/1, pp. 37-42; L 2/3, pp. 144-8; C.U.L., Add. MS. 6971, ff. 24v.-31; Camb. Chron. 20 Aug. 1808, p. 3; 10 Nov. 1815, p. 2.
  • 27. P.R.O., C 78/123, no. 1, mm. 43-5; C.U.L., MS. Plan 177; B.L. Harl. MS. 5011, pt. 1, f. 41; ibid. Add. MS. 33466, f. 189.
  • 28. B.L. Add. MS. 5861, ff. 64v., 68, 74, 88v., 108v.
  • 29. P.R.O., REQ 2/391/10, answer.
  • 30. East Anglian, N.S. vi. 257-8.
  • 31. C.R.O., 606/M 3, nos. 33-4; ibid. L 2/1, pp. 37-42; L 2/3, pp. 144-8; C.U.L., Add. MS. 6971, ff. 24v.-31.
  • 32. C.U.L., Add. MS. 6971, ff. 24v.-25.
  • 33. Ibid. Add. MS. 6955, ff. 11v.-17; Trans. C.H.A.S. i. 142-210.
  • 34. Camb. Chron. 20 Aug. 1808, p. 3; 29 July 1809, p. 3.
  • 35. Cf. ibid. 22 Sept. 1815, p. 3.
  • 36. Rep. Com. Agric. Depression, Cambs. p. 156.
  • 37. P.R.O., MAF 68/7-8, 403, 973, 1543, 2113, 2683, 3232, 3752, 4489; Cambs. Agric. Returns, 1980.
  • 38. Rep. Com. Agric. Depression, Cambs. p. 156.
  • 39. P.R.O., MAF 68/1543, 2113, 2683, 3232, 3752, 4489; Cambs. Agric. Returns, 1980.
  • 40. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 451.
  • 41. C.U.L., MS. Plan 177.
  • 42. Rot. Hund. ii. 451; L. & P. Hen. VIII, vii, p. 559.
  • 43. P.R.O., PROB 11/177, f. 79 and v.
  • 44. Ibid. PROB 11/281, f. 398v.
  • 45. Ibid. HO 107/69/13; HO 107/1759, ff. 195v.-201v.; ibid. RG 9/1019, ff. 67-72; RG 10/1580, ff. 31-6; RG 11/1659, ff. 28-32v.; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1847-1937); Gardner's Dir. Cambs. (1851), 373; Village Memories(1976), ed. Garrett, 11.
  • 46. Camb. Ind. Press, 6 Nov. 1969; Camb. Evening News, 1 Dec. 1978.
  • 47. Camb. Evening News, 5 Oct. 1978; 8 Mar. 1979.