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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THE parish, 11 km. (7 miles) west of Cambridge, (fn. 1) and covering 1,053 ha. (2,602 a.), (fn. 2) stretches for almost 6 km. (3½ miles) between two main roads. The Cambridge-Huntingdon road on the north-west was a turnpike between 1745 (fn. 3) and 1874 (fn. 4) and on the south that from Cambridge to St. Neots was also a turnpike from 1772 to 1876. (fn. 5) The northern part of Boxworth is almost 2.5 km. (1½ miles) each way. (fn. 6) A gradually narrowing strip runs southward from it, bounded on the west by a brook rising near the St. Neots road. Except for sloping ground in the far north-west, where Ampthill clays are exposed, Boxworth lies mainly upon clays and shales, overlaid above the 30 m. (100 ft.) contour with glacial boulder clays. From c. 15 m. at the northern extremity the ground rises to a plateau of almost 50 m., where the village stands near a stream flowing north-east. Further south the land rises slowly but steadily to almost 80 m. by the St. Neots road. The heavy clays on the higher ground were probably once well wooded. The surviving Overhall grove on land sloping down to the western brook, though reduced by medieval assarting to c. 20 a. by 1496, (fn. 7) increased later, covering the site of a medieval manor house, to c. 35 a. by the 1650s. Small groves owned by the lord around the village, including Grange wood, then covered another 26 a. (fn. 8) In the 1790s, when 2½ a. were felled yearly, the wood was mostly elms. (fn. 9) By the 1840s Overhall grove covered 38½ a., the other groves 33 a. (fn. 10) Further south lay Honeyhill wood, 11 a. in 1869, (fn. 11) and New wood, c. 21 a., which grew up between 1885 and 1900. (fn. 12) About 1900 Boxworth contained altogether c. 135 a. of woodland, including 35 a. of recent growth. (fn. 13) Some woods were partly cleared in the late 20th century. (fn. 14) The parish, whose open fields were cultivated on a triennial rotation until their formal inclosure in 1839, also contained much grassland from the 17th century.
Boxworth's population, once considerable, shrank severely after the Middle Ages. There had been 31 peasants and 2 serviin 1086, (fn. 15) and in 1279 probably c. 100 landholders and 80 dwellings. (fn. 16) In 1327 the fifteenth was paid by 49 people, (fn. 17) and in 1377 there were still 299 adults paying the poll tax, (fn. 18) but in 1524 only 18 people paid the subsidy. (fn. 19) There were only 17 households in 1563, (fn. 20) and under Charles II still only 17-21 dwellings, only 7 of which had more than two hearths; (fn. 21) in 1676 they housed 74 adults. (fn. 22) In 1728 the 20 families comprised c. 120 people. (fn. 23) By 1801 c. 41 families contained 220 people. (fn. 24) From 1811 the population rose rapidly, to c. 320 between the 1820s and the 1840s, (fn. 25) and reached a peak of c. 350 in the mid 19th century. It then fell to 331 by 1871 and 251 by 1881, many young people emigrating. (fn. 26) From 1900 to the 1930s it ranged between 225 and 245, declining further to c. 195 in the 1950s and 171 by 1981.
The village stands in the south-east of the wider northern part of the parish, along a street running north-eastwards parallel to the nearby brook, (fn. 27) between two small greens. The larger north-eastern green south of the church was mostly inclosed after 1650. Field ways led northeast to the Huntingdon road and west towards Elsworth. Broadway led south from the village, and at 2 km. Thorowfare lane turned west from it towards Knapwell village. At inclosure in 1839 a new road, bisecting the reduced northern green, was made to connect the village to the Huntingdon turnpike. The other roads then set out largely followed their old tracks. (fn. 28)
In the late 17th century, when the village contained c. 5 farmhouses and 12 cottages, (fn. 29) the latter lay mostly along a lane running north-west past the manor farm. The ancient closes to the south-west were empty except for three or four farmsteads. The few cottages then near the south-western green probably included the onestoreyed timber-framed house, a public house from the 1760s or earlier, called the Golden Ball from 1820, (fn. 30) and still open and still thatched in 1983. The larger farmhouses, (fn. 31) including Page's Farm on the north side of the street, were mostly rebuilt in brick in the late 18th century, although Upper End Farm, on the south, incorporates a 17th-century structure. The tumbled brickwork in its north-eastern gable resembles that in the end-gables of Long Row, six cottages a little south-west, probably among the 18 cottages lately rebuilt by the landowner in 1784. (fn. 32)
The number of dwellings in Boxworth rose from c. 40 in the early 1800s (fn. 33) to c. 65 by the 1850s. (fn. 34) By the 1840s the Calverts of Childerley had built 13 cottages on their small plot in Boxworth 1.5 km. south of the village, to accommodate their farmers' labourers. (fn. 35) They were mostly rebuilt after a fire in 1849. (fn. 36) Eight were empty by 1881, (fn. 37) five in 1910, (fn. 38) and all had gone by 1980. (fn. 39) By 1841 a cottage had been built at the brickyard north of the village. (fn. 40) Otherwise there was little habitation outside the village, which in the mid 19th century had 25-30 dwellings along the street and up to 20 cottages on lanes and rows off it. (fn. 41) In the south Bird's Pastures farm and Two Pot House farm had 19th-century farmhouses and one or two cottages. Two Pot House, next to the turnpike, was rebuilt after a fire in 1860, (fn. 42) and also served as an inn from the 1760s to c. 1900. (fn. 43) In 1910 the village contained 8-9 houses and c. 35 cottages, and 16 inhabited dwellings stood outside it. (fn. 44) Later, the total number of dwellings occupied was virtually stable at 55-60 (fn. 45) until the 1970s, when the total included c. 12 council houses. Later there was some infilling.
A village Feast was still being held in the 1850s in the first week of July, just after St. Peter's day. (fn. 46) A village reading room, started by 1887, had 20 members in 1897. (fn. 47) In 1914 the squire, A. J. Thornhill, built a small village hall, (fn. 48) bought for the parish in 1982. (fn. 49) There was a cricket club in the 1880s, (fn. 50) but the village sports clubs were defunct by 1960. (fn. 51)