Swavesey: Economic history

Pages 386-392

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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On the three manors in 1086 there were altogether 24 bordars, 19 cottars, 12 villani, and 2 servi; the proportion of bordars and cottars was well above average for the county and probably indicates that urban development had begun. There were also 8 sokemen on Count Alan's manor. Of the 13 hides on his manor 6 were in demesne and the sokemen apparently held 3, leaving 4 for the villaniand bordars. Nevertheless the sokemen and peasants had 10 ploughteams to the demesne's three. The two smaller manors, of 1 hide each, may have had no demesne since no serviwere recorded; they had between them 2 villaniand 7 cottars and bordars, with only one team. (fn. 1) A grant c. 1200 of a yardland in Eitemanelot and a half yardland in Oxendale suggests that holdings may have been concentrated in individual furlongs, while the name Eitemanelot may reflect a reorganization at some time after the Danish occupation in the 9th century. (fn. 2) The larger fields mentioned later may have existed by the later 13th century, when the Hale was mentioned; Brokehaveden, also mentioned then, (fn. 3) lay in Long Stanton field in 1476, when other fields included those toward Lolworth and Fen Drayton and Hale field. (fn. 4) Gosholme meadow was mentioned in 1232. (fn. 5) The Eye, mentioned in 1314, was several demesne meadow. (fn. 6) Common meadows in 1476 included Great Gore, the Ham, Blyttelohill, and Braddole; those, unlike Whitton meadow, were not recorded later. Goldelow, later meadow, was then apparently arable. (fn. 7)

By 1279 the number of holdings had grown from 63 in 1086 to over 200. The area cultivated had apparently also increased by a third; the holdings reckoned in yardlands totalled 56¼ yardlands, besides the equivalent of at least another 22 yardlands measured in acres. The Domesday sokeland had been reduced to 4½ yardlands held of Swavesey manor by 8 tenants. The 7½-yardland demesne of Bennetts manor may have represented the rest. The rectory manor had built up a demesne of 2 yardlands, while that of Swavesey manor had dwindled to 7 yardlands. Most of the arable had been parcelled out in peasant holdings. Sixty-three villeins of Swavesey manor each held half a yardland (c. 15 a.), working for the lord in alternate years. Other holdings of that and the other manors, mainly held freely or for cash rents and sometimes light boonworks, included one of '25 a.' by local reckoning (c. 37½ a.), eight of '20 a.' or one yardland (c. 30 a.), three of '15 a.' (c. 22½ a.), fifteen of '10 a.' (c. 15 a.), twenty-one of '5 a.' or a quarter (c. 7½ a.), and four between '5 a.' and '10 a.' Eleven people held only small plots of '3 a.' or less, sixteen held a house and '3 a.' or less, thirteen a house and a croft, and 26 a house or cotstead only. Most of those smallholdings were on Bennetts or the rectory manor or held of lesser landowners, and thus probably within the town walls, where 24 tenants also held 28 burgages of Swavesey manor in Market Street. (fn. 8) The size and quality of Ryder's Farm, a surviving farmhouse of the later 13th century, (fn. 9) suggest peasant prosperity, as does the high and rising value of the rectory, £13 6s. 8d. in 1254, £33 6s. 8d. in 1291, mainly from tithes. (fn. 10)

The priory had in store, in order of quantity, beans and peas, wheat, and rye in the later 13th century, (fn. 11) and beans and peas, dredge, wheat, and oats in 1325, when apart from horses for draught there were few farm animals. (fn. 12) At Christmas 1340 crops stored during the last three years included 260 qr. of barley and 220 qr. each of wheat and peas. Stock included 5 working horses, 4 oxen, 8 steers and bullocks, 8 heifers, and 19 pigs. The priory then had 40 a. of arable and 3 a. of meadow. The tithes were valued at £13 6s. 8d., a figure perhaps indicating a marked fall in peasant output since the late 13th century but possibly an underestimate, since the stored corn was worth £101. (fn. 13) In 1341, however, the ninth of sheaves and lambs was said to be worth £20 3s. 4d. less than the assessment of 1291, partly because the crops of spring corn and peas had failed. (fn. 14) In the earlier 16th century peasant farming was apparently mixed, with barley and peas still the predominant crops. John Chatteris by will proved 1540 left at least 5½ qr. of wheat, 17¾ qr. of barley, 12½ qr. of peas, and 3 qr. of unspecified grain, and at least 18 bullocks, 3 calves, 100 sheep and lambs, 15 pigs, and 4 mares. Other farmers also had much livestock: in 1547 or 1548 one specifically bequeathed 10 cattle and 10 horses. (fn. 15)

The demesne of Swavesey manor in 1314 included 90 a. of arable, 60 a. of meadow, 7½ a. of pasture, and 8 a. of fen, besides the Eye meadow, which was let to the villeins for £8. Rents of free tenants were worth £10 and of customary tenants £20. (fn. 16) By 1368 the rents had risen to £43 os. 8d., probably because all services except 200 autumn boonworks had been commuted. Nevertheless the arable had increased to 160 a., with 25 a. of meadow and 25 a. of pasture. (fn. 17) In 1457 rents of free tenants were worth £28 os. 8½d. and those of customary tenants at will £25 7s. 3½d. Some holdings then counted as free were probably later copyhold. Decayed rents were few. The demesne was let for £5 6s. 8d. but the Eye meadow for £6 13s. 4d., perhaps indicating that grazing was by then far more important than arable farming. (fn. 18)

In 1086 Count Alan had a render of 3,750 eels from the fen, and Gilbert of Ghent had 225 eels. (fn. 19) In 1107 the Breton count Stephen gave the priory the tithes of the fishery at Swavesey. (fn. 20) By 1279 the prior also had his own fishery on the Ouse with a weir and a fisherman's house. (fn. 21) In 1368 the fisheries of Swavesey manor were at farm to a tenant for 40s. There was also a fowling station for the lord's table. (fn. 22) Two separate fisheries were at lease in 1457 for a total of 70s. (fn. 23)

Littlehave fen, mentioned in 1342, (fn. 24) was not recorded later, but the 'frecchefenne' mentioned in 1476 (fn. 25) was presumably Frith or Mow fen, which by the early 17th century was divided into doles and treated as seasonal meadow. Other common fens then were Mare or Mere fen north of the manor house, Cow fen east and northeast of the village, and Middle fen north-west of the village. The fens were estimated as c. 500 a., serving between 1,600 and 1,700 a. of arable. Common greens included Little Hale and Thisleden greens, the latter presumably the later Thistle green south of the town ditch. By 1604 drainage schemes further north were already drowning the fens at Swavesey more severely than those beyond Over. There were also complaints of overstocking in the early 17th century, Sir John Cutts (d. 1646) accusing the tenants of the manors who in turn blamed his demesne lessees. Apparently in 1620 Cutts obtained a Chancery award for the inclosure of Mare fen and 20 a. of Cow fen, subject to the barring of his stock from the remaining common fens and a stint of 240 sheep for his lessees on the arable and greens. The terms of the bar and the inclosure continued to be disputed. (fn. 26)

Drainage works by the Bedford Level Corporation, particularly work on Over bank, caused damage to Swavesey commons in 1663 and 1664, and in 1666 the Bedford Level commissioners awarded £2,941 10s. compensation to 105 commoners for damage to 1,000 a. Sir John Cutts was awarded £920, suggesting that the bar of 1620 on his common rights had been rescinded or evaded, and Thomas East £168. Twelve tenants were each awarded £40 or more (22 per cent of the total compensation), eighteen had between £20 and £40 each (17 per cent), and seventy-three less than £20 each (24 per cent). If, as later, common rights were stinted in accordance with farm sizes, the manorial demesnes had probably expanded since the 13th century, but 90 per cent of the tenants were smallholders. (fn. 27) Of 127 houses assessed in 1674 for hearth tax, 15 were exempt and 104 had only one or two hearths, about the average proportion in Papworth hundred. (fn. 28)

Swavesey manor court in 1765 regulated the stinting of commons. On Middle fen each householder or occupier of ¾ yardland was allowed one mare and one cow or foal. No-one was to stock horses on cow commons or cows on horse commons there. In Cow fen each commonable house was allowed two cows, each half yardland one. Anyone occupying 18 half yardlands was to provide a common bull. No stock was allowed on the fens until 3 May, no horse in Cow fen until 26 August, and no great cattle on Mow fen until after the wheat and barley harvest; the close season began on 5 December. The total sheep stint was 7 for each commonable house, 10 for each half yardland. Swine were permitted only on Hog pasture. Grazing of peas in the stubble field was restricted. (fn. 29) The stints established or confirmed then were still in force in 1838 on the eve of inclosure, although in addition each quarter yardland was allowed 1 cow in Middle fen, 1 weaning calf in Cow fen, and 5 sheep in the fields and fens; a half yardland could have 2 cows in Middle fen. There were then 111 commonable houses and 149½commonable half yardlands; a further 14 had common rights for 20 sheep and for great cattle in the fields only, and 2 had no common. Another 23 undersitting houses had the right to turn one cow into Cow fen until the common stock took the mowing ground; for that they paid rent to the fen reeve. (fn. 30)

Pulses remained an important crop in the late 18th century. A farm advertised for sale in 1791 included 58 lands of peas and beans to 53 of wheat. (fn. 31) The common stints encouraged a high proportion of sheep to cattle: thus in 1802 a farmer who the previous year had owned 175 a. of arable and 16 a. of inclosed pasture had 4 horses, 11 cows and heifers, and 108 sheep. (fn. 32)

In the 18th century the largest farm was probably the demesne of the estate of the Cutts family and their successors. Most of it was at lease in 1739 to Berry Dodson, (fn. 33) later described as the principal inhabitant. His son gave up the lease in 1775 when the rent was increased. (fn. 34) In 1738 the Cockaynes' estate was let to several tenants, none with more than four half yardlands (60 a.). (fn. 35) Many freeholds survived: 34 freeholders were listed in 1753. (fn. 36) Most estates, however, were copyhold; there were 32 copyholds on the small rectory manor in 1782. (fn. 37)

The steward of Swavesey manor unsuccessfully sought an inclosure Act for the parish in 1799. (fn. 38) In 1830 the 40 proprietors of 63 doles in Goldelow meadow agreed to inclose it, (fn. 39) but nothing seems to have been done. An Act for a general inclosure was obtained in 1838. (fn. 40) On the eve of inclosure the area of the parish was underestimated as 3,456 a., including 1,974 a. of open-field arable, 20 a. of inclosed arable, 280 a. of inclosed pasture, 20 a. of wood, 480 a. of commonable meadow, and 609 a. of common pasture. (fn. 41) There were four open fields, Hale field west of the town and the fields next Lolworth, Long Stanton, and Fen Drayton. Common meadows included Goldelow meadow in the east part, Smith meadow in Lolworth field, and Whitton meadow and Mow fen in the west part, with smaller areas at Ham Corner (unlocated) and Hale Leys and Gospel Hill west of the town. Common pastures included Great, Cow Fen, Gibraltar, Thistle, and Church greens, Hog Pasture west of Swavesey bridge, and the remaining parts of Middle and Cow fens. The principal old inclosures, besides crofts behind the houses, were the Eye meadow and Mare fen. (fn. 42)

Inclosure was not completed until December 1840, (fn. 43) and was effected simultaneously with tithe commutation. (fn. 44) A participant complained that he had 'never met with an inclosure as expensive as this at Swavesey. It is almost like buying the land.' (fn. 45) The accounts had still not been cleared by 1854. (fn. 46) The award covered 3,822 a. out of the estimated 3,891 a. of the parish. Thomas Cockayne was allotted altogether 1,027 a., including 5 a. for rights of soil as lord of Swavesey and Hobbledods with Bennetts manors and 169 a. as impropriator of the rectory, nominally for glebe and old inclosures but probably also for the merged tithe of his other land. (fn. 47) In all 140 landowners received allotments. Five of them had over 54 per cent of the awarded area; besides Cockayne, they were John Dodson (494 a.), Trinity College (326 a.), William Cole of Oakington (115 a.), and William Carter the elder (105 a.). Of the rest, 13 received 868 a. (23 per cent of the area) in allotments of 50 to 99 a., 11 received 343 a. (9 per cent) in allotments of 20 to 49 a., 15 received 216 a. (5.7 per cent) in allotments of 10 to 19 a., and 96 (68 per cent of the total number) received less than 9 per cent of the area in allotments of less than 10 a. Freehold allotments, excluding Cockayne's, covered 1,088 a., while some 1,700 a. were copyhold; 49 allottees held both freehold and copyhold, 46 freehold only, and 45 copyhold only. There were still c. 1,620 a. copyhold in 1878, held for arbitrary entry fines and fixed rents, (fn. 48) but by 1906, following enfranchisements, only c. 465 a. remained. (fn. 49)

The break-up of the Ryder estate in 1878 (fn. 50) increased the proportion of owner-occupied land in the parish. In 1895 it was 32 per cent of the total returned. By 1905, however, the proportion had fallen below 7 per cent; it was 13.4 per cent in 1915. (fn. 51)

Agricultural employment remained important in the 19th century. There were allegedly 109 farm labourers over 20 and 61 under 20 in 1830; generally 10 were unemployed. (fn. 52) Altogether 45 farmers and 140 farm labourers aged over 20 were returned in 1831, (fn. 53) and 31 farmers and 176 labourers, including boys, in 1881. (fn. 54) By 1925 farming employed only 93, of whom 57 worked full time, and by 1955 only 61, of whom 36 worked full time. (fn. 55)

Farm sizes fluctuated markedly following inclosure. Between 1851 and 1881 Manor farm was the only farm over 500 a., but its returned acreage was 1,060 in 1851, 505 in 1861, 900 in 1871, and 506 in 1881. Eleven farms had between 100 and 499 a. in 1851, but only 8 in 1881. The most marked variation was in farms of 20 to 49 a., of which 12 were returned in 1851 and 1871, 7 in 1861, and 8 in 1881. During that period the Carters were the chief farming family, having between them four farms with 1,070 a. in 1851, five with 1,160 a. in 1871, and three with 1,008 a. in 1881. (fn. 56) In the earlier 20th century the proportions of holdings of under 5 a. and of middle-sized farms of between 50 and 299 a. increased, while that of small farms of 5 to 49 a. declined correspondingly. (fn. 57) The county council bought 159 a., including Thorp's farm, for smallholdings in 1914 and a further 20 a. in 1920 and 1921. After the sale of 53 a. in the 1970s and early 1980s, the rest was managed in 1985 as two holdings, only one of which was equipped. (fn. 58)

The arable land of the parish was estimated in 1838 as 664 a. fallow, 100 a. barley, 564 a. wheat, and 664 a. beans and peas. (fn. 59) More than two thirds of the cultivated area returned was arable in 1875. (fn. 60) The land of the Swavesey General Farming & Dairy Co. Ltd., apparently a co-operative including several of the leading farmers, included 640 a. arable and 360 a. pasture in 1886. (fn. 61) By 1895 the proportions of arable and grass in the parish had been reversed. Thereafter the arable acreage increased slightly, 1,238 a. including fallow being returned in 1915, when 2,212 a. were grassland, but declined again to 747 a., less than 20 per cent of the cultivated area, in 1935. By 1955 it had recovered to 1,079 a., or 44 per cent of the cultivated area returned. The switch to grassland in the late 19th century began with an increase in rotation grass, but from 1895 more than 90 per cent of the grassland was permanent. Until the Second World War meadow occupied almost as much land as pasture, but by 1955 pasture greatly exceeded it. From 1875 to 1955 wheat was normally the chief arable crop; other important crops included barley, oats, beans and peas, roots, and vetches. Their relative acreages fluctuated, but the proportion of barley rose from nearly 9 per cent of the arable in 1915 to nearly 29 per cent in 1955, and that of vetches decreased from 10 per cent in 1885 to 3 per cent in 1935.

Sheep farming declined after 1875, though there were brief periods of recovery. Numbers returned fell from 2,299 in 1875 to 550 in 1895, from 906 in 1905 to 112 in 1925, and from 596 in 1935 to none in 1955. The numbers of cattle returned fell from 445 in 1875 to 405 in 1885, then rose to 664 in 1905. They fell again to 491 in 1925 before recovering to 698 in 1955. Dairying expanded between 1875 and 1895 and between the World Wars, with an intervening decline. The reduction in arable was reflected in a fall in numbers of working horses from 198 in 1875 to 79 in 1935. Pig keeping was important in the 1930s, there being 882 animals returned in 1935. By 1921 the Barwells were farming poultry at their farm off Black Horse Lane and in 1925 won prizes at an Edinburgh poultry show. (fn. 62) In 1935 6,374 fowls and 34 turkeys in the parish were returned; by 1955 the number of fowls had fallen to 4,470.

The survival of many smallholdings in the later 19th and the 20th century was matched by the development of market gardening and fruit growing. In 1856 cucumber growing was said to be a new trade; cucumbers were sent by rail to London daily. One firm in the parish cultivated 34 a. of them. (fn. 63) The trade had apparently lapsed by 1895, when only 1¾ a. of market garden vegetables were grown. (fn. 64) Between 1888 and 1925 James Smith and between 1929 and 1937 Hugh Smith were the only recorded market gardeners. (fn. 65) Vegetables were nevertheless an important crop in the 1930s: in 1935, for example, 21 a. of asparagus and 105 a. of celery were grown. (fn. 66) Others turned to fruit growing. In 1895 12 a. and in 1905 23 a. were covered by orchards. (fn. 67) By 1908 William Burton was in business as a specialist fruit grower; there were 3 in 1912, 6 in 1922, and 8 in 1929. (fn. 68) Apples and plums were grown in 1915, and in 1925 there were 110½a. of orchards and 45 a. of small fruit, including 34½ a. intercultivated with both; crops included plums, apples, cherries, pears, strawberries, raspberries, currants, and gooseberries. (fn. 69) Although the number of growers fell to 5 in 1933 and 4 in 1937, (fn. 70) orchards in 1935 covered 127 a. and small fruit 116 a. By 1955 orchards had increased to 136 a. but small fruit covered only 18 a. (fn. 71)


In 1086 Count Alan's manor had a water mill worth 40s., a valuation above average. (fn. 72) Its site is unknown. By 1279 Swavesey manor had two windmills. (fn. 73) Only one remained in 1368, but there was once again a water mill. (fn. 74) Its rent had fallen by two thirds by 1457, when the windmill was out of repair. (fn. 75) No more is known of any water mill. There may have been a mill on the rectory manor in the Middle Ages, since in 1476 a mill house was in the lord's hands. (fn. 76)

In 1776 there was only one mill, a corn windmill half a mile from the Ouse, (fn. 77) perhaps that sold in 1804 (fn. 78) and probably that which stood in Hale field in 1811. By then there was a second mill, in Fen Drayton field south-west of the road at Boxworth End. (fn. 79) Both mills were run during the 19th century by members of the Radford family, one being mentioned as a miller in 1807. (fn. 80) They owned both mills in 1838. (fn. 81) When the post mill in Hale field was blown down in 1866 James Radford rebuilt it as a brick tower mill. (fn. 82) The Radfords worked both mills until the mid 1870s, when the Hale windmill was taken over by Fisher Webster & Son. (fn. 83) That firm went bankrupt in 1888, (fn. 84) after which Daniel Radford apparently took the mill over, (fn. 85) having presumably abandoned that at Boxworth End. Hale mill was repaired repeatedly between 1902 and 1907, when it was occupied by William Mustill, who also ran a steam mill (fn. 86) and still worked the windmill c. 1931. (fn. 87) By 1976 it had been converted into a house. (fn. 88)


Alan la Zouche obtained a grant of a weekly market and a yearly fair on the eve, feast, and morrow of Trinity in 1244. (fn. 89) The fair date was moved in 1261 to the eve, feast, and morrow of Michaelmas and the five days following. (fn. 90) The market still took place in 1350 (fn. 91) and in 1375 Hugh la Zouche gained confirmation of the 1261 charter. (fn. 92) In 1505 the market was confirmed and the fair date was changed back to 3 days at Trinity, with a court of pie powder. (fn. 93) That change may reflect an attempted revival of a disused fair. The market had lapsed probably by 1738 (fn. 94) and certainly by 1840, (fn. 95) and the fair by 1806. (fn. 96)


Swavesey's nearness to the Ouse suited it to the role of a river port. A navigation channel ran north-west from Swavesey bridge past the west side of the Eye meadow and then turned westwards to join the river at a bend north-west of the village. (fn. 97) Swan Pond in Station Road and the dried-up pond in Market Street appear to be the remains of dock basins; there may have been two smaller basins between them. (fn. 98) In 1177 two Swavesey men were fined for transporting corn by water contrary to the prohibition of the justices in eyre (fn. 99) presumably against breaches of Cambridge's monopoly. (fn. 100) Geoffrey, viscount of Susan Reynolds is thanked for this point. Rohan, about 1200 granted to the prior all rents and rights of the port (portus) of Swavesey belonging to him. (fn. 101) The gift probably concerned Swan Pond, the nearer of the two main basins to the river, since several of the adjoining houses then or later were held of the rectory manor. (fn. 102)

Hardly had Roger la Zouche acquired Swavesey manor than he agreed in 1232 to give the prior half the tolls of Swavesey bridge, (fn. 103) through which all traffic between the pond and the Ouse had to pass. The tolls were presumably levied on boats under, rather than passengers over, the bridge: until 1838 there was only a footpath beyond it to the north. (fn. 104) It was presumably to compensate for the loss of profits from port and bridge that Alan la Zouche obtained a market charter in 1244; (fn. 105) the dock in Market Street was perhaps built about then. A Swavesey ship was seagoing in 1251, when it was robbed by North Sea pirates. (fn. 106) By 1279 Swavesey was a recognized alternative to Cambridge as a mart for Long Stanton corn. (fn. 107) Three unknown merchants, presumably not of local origin, were murdered at Swavesey in or before 1287. (fn. 108) A continued connexion with North Sea trade is suggested by the residence of a German in Swavesey between 1436 and 1440 (fn. 109) and by the extensive use of imported softwood panels in the manor house in the early 17th century. (fn. 110) No modern record of the Swan Pond dock has been found but that in Market Street continued in use, a house at its eastern end being known as the coal house from the coal landed there, until inclosure in 1840 when a new dock for vessels of up to 30 tons was built west of the church and a new road to it was laid out. (fn. 111) The construction of the Cambridge–Huntingdon railway passing the southern edge of the dock, with a station at Swavesey, was presumably responsible for the end of waterborne trade. In the late 19th century Swavesey goods yard replaced the dock as an entrep○t for local villages, sending farm and market garden produce to London and importing sand, road metal, coal, and fertilizer. (fn. 112)


Coal was transported by water to Swavesey apparently in the early 17th century, (fn. 113) and a coal yard on the corner of Black Horse Lane and High Street was allegedly used from the earlier 18th century to 1916. (fn. 114) Coal merchants were intermittently recorded from the earlier 19th to the earlier 20th century. (fn. 115) A coal depot survived in Station Road in 1988.

Until the later 20th century the chief occupations other than agriculture were the service trades. Surnames perhaps denoted cooks, a baker, a carpenter, a thatcher, a painter, a cooper, leeches, and several smiths in 1279, (fn. 116) a draper in 1312, (fn. 117) smiths, a weaver, a barber, and bankers in 1327, (fn. 118) a tailor in 1339, (fn. 119) and a butcher in 1362 or 1363. (fn. 120) A tailor was mentioned in 1384 (fn. 121) and another was in dispute with two London drapers in the 1590s about linen sold to him. (fn. 122) A weaver was mentioned in 1450 (fn. 123) and a Swavesey glover died in 1538. (fn. 124) Another tailor sold land in 1765 (fn. 125) and a draper's shop was advertised to let in 1778. (fn. 126)

In 1831 retail trade employed 58 men, 22 per cent of the total, a proportion exceeded in Papworth hundred only at Willingham. (fn. 127) From 1841 to 1881 between 30 and 47 people were engaged in food processing, between 17 and 43 in clothing and related trades, and 16 to 27 in building. (fn. 128) Some combined those occupations and some were also farmers. The chief trade in the mid 19th century was butchering, often combined with farming. In 1851 it employed at least 31 people. The number of butchers fell to 12 by 1881, 6 by 1912, and 5 by 1937. There was still a butcher's shop in 1988. From 1841 to 1937 there were usually 2 to 4 bakers and 4 to 6 grocers, some of whom were also drapers or tailors. At least four poulterers were recorded in 1841. Cheese dealers or cheesemakers were recorded from 1851 to 1881, including a maker and a seller of cream cheese in 1851. In the clothing trades the 15 dressmakers, 10 tailors, 7 shoemakers, and 2 cordwainers of 1851 had been reduced to 9 dressmakers, 4 tailors, and 4 shoemakers by 1881 and to one shoemaker and one tailor by 1937. Straw-bonnet making was a new trade in 1851; there were 6 bonnet and straw-bonnet makers in 1861, only one in 1896. The fires of the mid 19th century (fn. 129) were presumably in part responsible for reducing the number of carpenters and increasing that of bricklayers from 9 and 4 respectively in 1841 to 7 and 8 in 1881. There were generally 3 to 5 thatchers in the mid and later 19th century; none is known after 1922. One or two plumbers were recorded from 1851 to 1912, and 4 blacksmiths from 1841 to 1861, 5 in 1871, and 6 in 1881; two blacksmiths were still in business in 1937. There were two or three wheelwrights and harness makers from 1841 to 1881, one of each from 1896 to 1922. The railway opened in 1847 (fn. 130) provided employment in 1881 for at least 9 platelayers and 4 other railway employees. Other tradesmen in the 19th and earlier 20th century included corn and hay dealers, a bookseller (1841), a cabinet maker (1841–61), a cooper (1841), a sieve maker (1881), a collar maker (1851), doctors, a rod merchant (1861–81), a tinman (1881), and cycle agents (1912–1937). Between 1912 and 1922 one firm claimed to make bicycles.

The Swavesey brewery reported in 1852, (fn. 131) perhaps that whose malting house was burnt in 1866, (fn. 132) stood in Middle Watch in 1887; (fn. 133) there was still a brewer in 1896. (fn. 134) Bricks were made in 1877 at a yard in Lairstall Drove which closed in 1890. (fn. 135)

Light industry and engineering developed in the 20th century. The chief firm was that founded by Reginald Barwell, a Swavesey poultry farmer, (fn. 136) who in 1927 began advertising car tyre retreads. (fn. 137) Later the firm made machinery for tyre remoulds in its premises off Black Horse Lane. By 1960 it had two divisions, Barwell Rubber Co. Ltd., producing 1,000 remould tyres a week, and Barwell Engineering Ltd., making machinery; between them they employed c. 130 people. (fn. 138) In the later 1960s 70 per cent of the machinery was exported. (fn. 139) Barwell Machine and Rubber Group Ltd. was still the largest employer in 1986. (fn. 140)

An agricultural machinist was in business in Swavesey in 1912 and 1916, and Parish Bros., agricultural engineers, flourished between 1929 and 1937. (fn. 141) An agricultural engineering works stood south of Rose and Crown Road in 1973; (fn. 142) Mayneweld, installers of specialist equipment for industry and agriculture, were in business there in 1986. (fn. 143) Warmex Ltd., a Cambridge handdrier maker, followed its managing director to Swavesey c. 1965 and was still in business in 1973. (fn. 144) Prime Godfrey had set up by 1908 as a carrier, furniture remover, and haulage contractor. (fn. 145) In 1960 the firm, then Prime Godfrey & Sons Ltd., employed 40 people. (fn. 146) Local firms in the 1980s included cabinet makers, a sportscar restorer, a painting and decorating contractor, a firm of office cleaners, a paving-stone maker, a lawnmower seller, plant hirers, builders, a transformer and power-supply dealer, heating and ventilating engineers, hairdressers, and stone cleaners. (fn. 147) Several firms were on an industrial estate developed by Barwells on part of their premises.


  • 1. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 377, 382–3.
  • 2. C.U.L., Doc. 20.
  • 3. B.L. Add. MS. 5849, p. 41.
  • 4. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 6/1/5.
  • 5. B.L. Add. MS. 5846, p. 145.
  • 6. Below.
  • 7. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 6/1/5.
  • 8. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 466–71; cf. C.R.O., 515/SP 150, pp. 15–20, for sites of copyhold closes.
  • 9. Above, manors (Topleys); for farm size in 18th cent., C.R.O., 302/T 5.
  • 10. Val. of Norwich, ed. Lunt, 537, 556; Tax. Eccl. (Rec. Com.), 266. For sources of revenue cf. above, manors (rectory).
  • 11. B.L. Add. MS. 5849, p. 44. Some of the crops may have been tithe corn.
  • 12. P.R.O., E 106/6/7, no. 19B.
  • 13. Ibid. C 131/6, no. 8, m. 2.
  • 14. Inq. Non. (Rec. Com.), 207.
  • 15. C.U.L., E.D.R., consist. ct. wills, 1540, will of John Chatteris; B.L. Add. MS. 5861, p. 90.
  • 16. B.L. Add. MS. 5837, f. 84. For date, Cal. Inq. p.m. v, p. 256.
  • 17. P.R.O., C 135/203, no. 10.
  • 18. Ibid. SC 6/770/4. For rents, cf. C.R.O., 515/SP 150, p. 20.
  • 19. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 377, 383.
  • 20. Ibid. ii. 315; Early Yorks. Chart. iv (Yorks. Arch. Soc. record ser. extra ser. i), pp. 6–7.
  • 21. Rot. Hund. ii. 470.
  • 22. P.R.O., C 135/203, no. 10.
  • 23. Ibid. SC 6/770/4.
  • 24. Ibid. JUST 2/18, m. 3.
  • 25. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 6/1/5.
  • 26. B.L. Harl. MS. 5011, pt. 1, f. 42; P.R.O., C 2/Jas. I/C 10/61; C 3/324/78; ibid. REQ 2/408/5.
  • 27. C.U.L., Doc. 90–1. Figures taken from, Doc. 90; those in Doc. 91 differ, although the awards bear the same date.
  • 28. Below, Analysis of Hearth Tax Assessments.
  • 29. C.R.O., 305, Swavesey with members ct. bk. 1753– 1804, pp. 103–8 (uncat.).
  • 30. C.U.L., Add. MS. 6076, f. 5 and v. The undersitting houses appear to have been held directly of the manors in the 19th century, but may have been sites occupied by undertenants in the Middle Ages: Miller, Ely, 145.
  • 31. Swavesey Chron. 2.
  • 32. Ibid. 4.
  • 33. C.U.L., Doc. 687, p. 3.
  • 34. B.L. Add. MS. 5802, f. 61 and v.
  • 35. C.R.O., 302/T 14.
  • 36. Carter, Hist. Cambs. (1819), 281–2.
  • 37. C.R.O., R 51/9/25A.
  • 38. Swavesey Chron. 3.
  • 39. C.U.L., Doc. 657 (1).
  • 40. Swavesey Incl. Act, 1 & 2 Vic. c. 6 (Private).
  • 41. P.R.O., IR 29/4/69, schedule to agreement 20 Mar. 1838.
  • 42. C.R.O., R 55/23/14A; ibid. 152/P 18.
  • 43. Para. based on ibid. Q/RDc 56.
  • 44. Below, church.
  • 45. C.U.L., Doc. 657, no. 291, Thos. Fryer to Randall & Son, 10 Dec. 1840.
  • 46. Ibid. no. 360.
  • 47. Cf. above, manors; below, church.
  • 48. C.R.O., 515/SP 150, p. 15, lot 26.
  • 49. Ibid. R 51/9/34.
  • 50. Above, manors.
  • 51. P.R.O., MAF 68/1543, 2683.
  • 52. Rep. H. L. Cttee. on Poor Laws, 322–3.
  • 53. Census, 1831.
  • 54. P.R.O., RG 11/1607, ff. 33–61.
  • 55. Ibid. MAF 68/3232, 4489.
  • 56. Ibid. HO 107/1749, no. 3; ibid. RG 9/978, ff. 31–65; RG 10/1530, ff. 32–6; RG 11/1607, ff. 33–61. The 1851 acreages apparently include farmland outside the parish and the later ones appear incomplete.
  • 57. Ibid. MAF 68/2113, 3232, 3752, 4489.
  • 58. Inf. from Chief Land Agent, Shire Hall, Camb.
  • 59. P.R.O., IR 18/13644. Fig. of 664 a. straw shown ibid. must be same as fallow.
  • 60. Rest of this and next para. based on ibid. MAF 68/403, 973, 1543, 2113, 2683, 3232, 3752, 4489.
  • 61. Swavesey Chron. 60, 65–6.
  • 62. Camb. Ind. Press, 3 June 1921; 2, 9 Jan. 1925; cf. above, manors.
  • 63. Swavesey Chron. 36.
  • 64. P.R.O., MAF 68/1543.
  • 65. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1888–1937).
  • 66. P.R.O., MAF 68/3752.
  • 67. Ibid. MAF 68/1543, 2113.
  • 68. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1908–29).
  • 69. P.R.O., MAF 68/2683, 3232.
  • 70. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1933–7).
  • 71. P.R.O., MAF 68/3752, 4489.
  • 72. V.C.H. Cambs. i. 345, 377.
  • 73. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), ii. 469.
  • 74. P.R.O., C 135/203, no. 10.
  • 75. Ibid. SC 6/770/4.
  • 76. C.U.L., E.D.R., D 6/1/5.
  • 77. Swavesey Chron. 1.
  • 78. Ibid. 6.
  • 79. Ravensdale, Hist. on Your Doorstep, 52.
  • 80. C.R.O., 303/T 5 (TS. cat.).
  • 81. C.U.L., Add. MS. 6076, ff. 60v.–61.
  • 82. Swavesey Chron. 47; plaque on mill.
  • 83. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1875, 1879).
  • 84. Swavesey Chron. 69.
  • 85. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1892, 1900).
  • 86. Ibid. (1908); C.R.O., 773/B 5.
  • 87. Proc. C.A.S. xxxi. 28.
  • 88. Cambs. Colln., sale cat. 2 Feb. 1976.
  • 89. Cal. Chart. R. 1226–57, 279.
  • 90. Ibid. 1257–1300, 36.
  • 91. P.R.O., JUST 2/18, m. 15.
  • 92. Cal. Pat. 1374–7, 107.
  • 93. Ibid. 1494–1509, 402, 419.
  • 94. Not mentioned in Cox, Magna Britannia, i.
  • 95. Camb. Region, 1965, 155.
  • 96. B.L. Add. MS. 9412, f. 76v.
  • 97. C.R.O., 152/P 18.
  • 98. Proc. C.A.S. lxxii. 57.
  • 99. Pipe R. 1177 (P.R.S. xxvi), 185.
  • 100. A. Ballard, Brit. Boro. Charters, 1042–1216, 168. Miss
  • 101. C.U.L., MS. Mm. 1.39, p. 235.
  • 102. e.g. C.R.O., 515/SP 150, p. 20; below, church (vicarage).
  • 103. B.L. Add. MS. 5846, p. 145.
  • 104. C.R.O., Q/RDc 56; above, intro.
  • 105. Above.
  • 106. Close R. 1247–51, 523.
  • 107. Rot. Hund. ii. 463.
  • 108. Cal. Pat. 1281–92, 264.
  • 109. Ibid. 1429–36, 563; East Anglian, n.s. vi. 73.
  • 110. Above, manors (Swavesey).
  • 111. Gardner's Dir. Cambs. (1851), 356–7; O.S. Map 6", Cambs. XXXIII. NW. (1887 edn.).
  • 112. Cambs. Local Hist. Soc. Bull. xxxviii. 9.
  • 113. C.U.L., Add. MS. 728, f. 64.
  • 114. Camb. Ind. Press, 4 Feb. 1916.
  • 115. Swavesey Chron. 9, 54, 77; Cassey's Dir. Cambs.; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1869, 1883, and later edns.).
  • 116. Rot. Hund. ii. 469–71.
  • 117. Cal. Pat. 1307–13, 477, 532.
  • 118. Cambs. Lay Subsidy, 1327, 59–61.
  • 119. Cal. Pat. 1338–40, 225, 342.
  • 120. Cambs. Fines, 1196–1485 (C.A.S. 8vo ser. xxvi), 120.
  • 121. Cal. Pat. 1381–5, 478.
  • 122. P.R.O., REQ 2/192/9.
  • 123. Cal. Pat. 1446–52, 379.
  • 124. B.L. Add. MS. 5861, p. 7.
  • 125. C.R.O., 301/T 1–8 (TS. cat.).
  • 126. Swavesey Chron. 1.
  • 127. Census, 1831.
  • 128. Rest of para. based on P.R.O., HO 107/70, no. 13; HO 107/1749, ff. 333–76; ibid. RG 9/978, ff. 34–65; RG 10/1530, ff. 32–67; RG 11/1607, ff. 33–61; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1896, 1912, 1922, 1937).
  • 129. Above, intro.
  • 130. V.C.H. Cambs. ii. 132–3.
  • 131. Swavesey Chron. 27.
  • 132. Ibid. 49.
  • 133. O.S. Map 6", Cambs. XXXIII. NW. (1887 edn.).
  • 134. Swavesey Chron. 75.
  • 135. Ibid. 56–7; Cambs. Local Hist. Soc. Bull. xli. 26; D. Williams, 'Swavesey in 19th cent.' (TS. in Cambs. Colln.).
  • 136. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1922).
  • 137. Camb. Ind. Press, 1 July 1927.
  • 138. Ibid. 29 Apr. 1960.
  • 139. Ibid. weekend section [c. 1967]: cutting in Cambs. Colln.
  • 140. Town Crier, 1 Feb. 1986.
  • 141. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1912 and later edns. to 1937).
  • 142. Swavesey Draft Village Plan(1973), map (copy in Cambs. Colln.).
  • 143. Town Crier, 1 Feb. 1986.
  • 144. Swavesey Draft Village Plan(1973), map; Camb. News, 18 Mar. 1965; Camb. Ind. Press, weekend section [c. 1967].
  • 145. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1908).
  • 146. Camb. Ind. Press, 29 Apr. 1960.
  • 147. Cambs., Hunts. and Peterb. Life, xv (176), 27; Camb. Evening News, 12 Dec. 1984; 26 June 1987; Town Crier, 1 Feb. 1986; Swavesey & Fen Drayton Inf. Booklet(1986).