Waterbeach: Local government

Pages 256-257

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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Local government

In the 1290s both Waterbeach and Denny manors had view of frankpledge. Under Henry III's charter to the Templars Denny manor also had waifs and strays and felons' goods. (fn. 1) Waterbeach manor's right to the view, held by Denise de Munchensy by prescription in 1279 and confirmed to her in 1281, (fn. 2) passed to Waterbeach abbey. In 1302 Denny, occupying two thirds of the land, was treated as the senior manor: each manor's hayward could seize stray beasts, but if both haywards caught them simultaneously, Denny took two thirds. (fn. 3) Following the union of the manors in the 1340s, the two courts, which had already sometimes jointly issued regulations, (fn. 4) were combined, although the distinct tenurial customs were recognized both in the 1360s and in 1473. (fn. 5) Transcripts of court records survive between 1328 and 1630 with gaps, (fn. 6) court rolls for 1718- 21, and original court books, concerned almost entirely with tenurial business, from 1748 to 1925. (fn. 7)

The court regularly until the 1520s prohibited tenants from suing their fellows elsewhere, in courts Christian or royal courts, and penalized those who did so before it had itself heard the case. (fn. 8) Besides making and enforcing agrarian bylaws and registering transfers of copyholds, it regularly enforced the assize of ale, naming aletasters from the early 15th century (fn. 9) until the 1710s. (fn. 10) It sometimes punished regraters and bakers, some from outside the parish, and those who sold ale or bread without using lawful measures. (fn. 11) In 1466 it forbade ale made in Cambridge to be sold in Waterbeach, and in 1522 limited the number of alesellers to two. Besides occasionally repressing affrays and assaults into the 1520s, it banished an eavesdropper in 1516 and a woman from Cambridge in 1520. In 1513-14 it presented hired men for gaming in alehouses at night and sleeping by day. (fn. 12) It repeatedly demanded maintenance of drainage, and sometimes in the 16th century exacted highway duty. (fn. 13)

The court ordered the upkeep of a ducking stool missing in 1427, (fn. 14) and of the pound and stocks c. 1570. (fn. 15) By the late 16th century it tried to restrict immigration, in 1577 requiring the questmen's consent before copyholders might let dwellings to any potentially chargeable outsider, and ordering the removal of such persons who had been in Waterbeach less than three years. (fn. 16) Court sessions, once held several times each year, but reduced to two a year by the 1560s, were only annual in the early 17th century. The court still nominated parish constables at occasional leets from the 1750s, as well as 2 or more haywards each year until inclosure. (fn. 17) Ordinary sessions were needed more than once a year in the 18th and 19th centuries to handle transfers of the numerous small copyholds.

In 1509 fines imposed by the court were divided equally between the lord and the church, (fn. 18) but by 1575 the church's half was assigned to the poor. (fn. 19) Expenditure on poor relief, c. £104 yearly in 1776, had increased to c. £250 in 1803. Although there was a small workhouse in the 1790s, by 1803 all those assisted, c. 25 regularly and 70 occasionally, were relieved outside. (fn. 20) From c. £650 in 1813-14 the cost of helping 27-30 people permanently and up to 50 others occasionally fell by a third in 1815, (fn. 21) and mostly ranged between £400 and £450 until 1823. Further reduced in the late 1820s to c. £380, it rose again to over £500 by the mid 1830s. (fn. 22) In 1833 £250 was spent on regular payments to the sick, widows, and children, slightly over £40 on occasional relief; only £30 went to paupers employed by the parish. (fn. 23) About 1820 the overseers supplemented low wages out of the rates, besides providing work, for labourers who had suffered from the introduction of threshing machines, in the 2-a. parish gravel pit. The overseers denied relief to old people living with their working children. (fn. 24) About 1830 large families sometimes received special allowances. (fn. 25) The vestry, nominally open, was dominated by the larger farmers, who in defiance of the majority claimed the right to vote for every £50 of rental, and that the overseers might appoint their own successors. (fn. 26) Waterbeach was included from 1836 in Chesterton poor-law union, (fn. 27) and was part of Chesterton rural district between 1894 and 1974, when it was incorporated into South Cambridgeshire district. (fn. 28)

In the 1820s the parish roads were so poorly maintained that the vicar, Henry Fardell, insisted on serving as surveyor himself in 1824. (fn. 29) By 1832 the parish had its own fire engine, although lack of water often made it ineffective. (fn. 30) A volunteer fire brigade, proposed in 1875, (fn. 31) was put under the parish council in 1895. (fn. 32) The fire engine shed on the green, in which fire fighting equipment was stored until the 1940s, (fn. 33) became a shelter in 1976. (fn. 34) By 1851 the parish hired a permanent roadman and had engaged a retired soldier as constable; (fn. 35) by 1861 it had a resident policeman. (fn. 36) The parish council, established in 1894, soon started a night soil collection. (fn. 37) In the late 1970s it was spending c. £5,000 a year, mostly on the recreation ground acquired by 1961, when a pavilion was built there. (fn. 38) In the 1970s it also repaired the old parish pump, though from 1964 the village water supply came from the Cambridge Water Co. (fn. 39)


  • 1. Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec. Com.), 107.
  • 2. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 456; Cal. Pat. 1272-81, 453.
  • 3. P.R.O., C 143/39, no. 2.
  • 4. e.g. B.L. Add. MS. 5837, f. 131v.
  • 5. Ibid. ff. 139v., 150v.
  • 6. Extracts from early 17th-cent. copy, no longer extant, of ct. rolls 1328-1630 with gaps 1377-1413 and 1485-1513 in B.L. Add. MS. 5837, ff. 131v.-163v.; also, pt. translated, in par. rec., ct. bks. i (46 pp., mostly bylaws, 1422-1584), and ii (385 pp., tenurial and misc., 1328-1630 with gaps), bound together; cf. C.L.R.O., R.C.E., Paper, no. 127, f. 24; Clay, Hist. Horningsey(C.A.S. 8vo ser. vii), p. ix. Extracts printed, Clay, Waterbeach, 11-39.
  • 7. Lincs. R.O., H.D. Manorial, ct. rolls 1718-22; ct. bks. i-xi, 1748-1925.
  • 8. Par. rec., ct. bks. ii, p. 60; i, pp. 19, 32, 38; B.L. Add. MS. 5837, f. 146v.
  • 9. Par. rec., ct. bks. passim.
  • 10. Lincs. R.O., ct. rolls 1718, 1722.
  • 11. Par. rec., ct. bk. i, pp. 15, 23, 25-6, 28, 33, 35, 43.
  • 12. Ibid. pp. 17, 33-6, 38-9.
  • 13. Ibid. pp. 30, 41.
  • 14. Ibid. p. 9.
  • 15. B.L. Add. MS. 5837, f. 158v.
  • 16. Par. rec., ct. bk. i, p. 1.
  • 17. Lincs. R.O., ct. bks. i-iv, passim.
  • 18. Par. rec., ct. bk. i, p. 32.
  • 19. Ibid. p. 43.
  • 20. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 36-7; cf. Proc. C.A.S. xx. 47; overseers' accts. 1759-1800 survive in par. rec.
  • 21. Poor Law Abstract, 1818, 30-1.
  • 22. Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 11; 1822-4, 38; 1825-9, 16; 1830-4, 16.
  • 23. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, i. 257.
  • 24. Denson, Peasant's Voice, 20, 31, 49-50; cf. C.R.O., Q/RDz 8, p. 399; Camb. Evening News, 4 Apr. 1973.
  • 25. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, iv. 68B.
  • 26. Ibid. v. 68c.
  • 27. Poor Law Com. 2nd Rep. 512.
  • 28. Census, 1891, 1931, 1971.
  • 29. Camb. Chron. 26 Nov. 1824.
  • 30. Ibid. 12 Nov. 1830; 21 Sept. 1832; 7 Dec. 1843; 22 June 1844; 1 Dec. 1849; 2 Jan. 1865.
  • 31. Ibid. 21 Aug. 1875.
  • 32. Waterbeach Chron. ed. Cheason, s.v. 2 July 1895.
  • 33. Inf. from Mr. Cheason.
  • 34. Camb. Evening News, 3 Nov. 1976.
  • 35. P.R.O., HO 107/1759; Camb. Chron. 29 July 1892.
  • 36. P.R.O., RG 9/1018.
  • 37. Camb. Chron. 7 Dec. 1894.
  • 38. Camb. Ind. Press, 9 July 1965; 3 May 1979; Camb. Evening News, 10 Jan. 1976.
  • 39. Camb. News, 5 Oct. 1962; Camb. Ind. Press, 29 Aug. 1974; for the pump, above, plate facing p. 237.