Swavesey: Local government

Pages 392-393

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

Swavesey owed suit at the tourns of Richmond honor in 1279 and 1334. Nevertheless in 1279 Ellen la Zouche had view of frankpledge, return of writs, gallows, tumbrel, pillory, and the assize of bread and of ale in Swavesey. (fn. 148) Rolls belonging to Alan la Zouche stolen from the church in the 1260s may have included court rolls. (fn. 149) Court books for the manor of Swavesey survive from 1753. Courts leet were usually held yearly until 1840; after inclosure only one was held, in 1846. Courts baron were held yearly, with occasional gaps, until the late 1890s; thereafter there were more frequent special courts until 1925, the last general court being held in 1922. The court baron was concerned solely with conveyancing, (fn. 150) but in 1765 the leet issued bylaws regulating the commons. (fn. 151)

By 1279 the prior of Swavesey on payment of 8s. a year to the lady of Swavesey enjoyed a court with view of frankpledge and apparently the assize of bread and of ale, although his tenants owed twice-yearly suit to her court. (fn. 152) By the 16th century the rector had long received the amercements paid by his tenants in Swavesey manor court. (fn. 153) Court books for the rectory manor survive for 1652-65 and 1780-1935. No court leet was recorded in those periods. Courts baron were held at six-monthly or yearly intervals in the mid 17th century, about every three to seven years in the late 18th, and from 1803 on the same day as general courts for Swavesey manor. The last court was held in 1922. Conveyancing was the sole business. (fn. 154)

John Bennett had a court baron of three weeks for his manor in 1279; its jurisdiction extended to Fen Drayton. (fn. 155) Court books for Hobbledods with Bennetts manor survive from 1711. Courts, concerned only with conveyancing, were held about every two or three years in the earlier 18th century, and from the 1760s sometimes yearly, sometimes biennially or triennially, but on the same day as Swavesey manor court. The last court was held in 1913. (fn. 156)

Most village officers appear to have been responsible to both the vestry and the court leet of Swavesey manor until the latter fell into desuetude in the 1840s. (fn. 157) There were two constables in 1316 (fn. 158) and later; (fn. 159) in the 18th century they were appointed by Swavesey court leet but accounted to the parish. By 1838 separate constables were apparently appointed for Church and Boxworth Ends, (fn. 160) which were presumably separate tithings. Six parish constables were elected in 1855. (fn. 161) Two churchwardens were mentioned in 1561; (fn. 162) the number is not known to have changed later. From 1714 or earlier there were two overseers; (fn. 163) by the early 19th century there was one for each End, which maintained its own poor. The vestry appointed two surveyors from 1779, and from 1736 two fen reeves accounted to it. By 1802 there was apparently one fen reeve for each End; the Boxworth End reeve paid a herdman and a hogkeeper. (fn. 164) Field reeves' accounts survive from 1745, when there were two reeves. In the 1830s the leet appointed four fen reeves and two field reeves. Their functions evidently ceased with inclosure in 1840. The leet appointed a pinder in 1781 and the 1830s and two bread weighers in the 1830s. The overseer paid for the repair of the town house, perhaps a workhouse or market house, in 1737. (fn. 165) The inhabitants agreed in 1745 to augment an existing town stock to £10 10s. Town or parish feoffees mentioned in 1782, who were probably the feoffees of Galon's and other charities, (fn. 166) in 1785 paid for turves for the poor. The parish council appointed a village handyman from 1987. (fn. 167)

Expenditure on the poor rose from £120 in 1776 to £176 in the mid 1780s, £654 15s. in 1803, and £1,110 in 1813. Reduced sharply to £750 in 1815, it fluctuated between £902 and £1,067 from 1816 to 1827, except for a peak of £1,213 in 1819. From 1827 it rose, reaching £1,273 in 1829 and £1,335 in 1833. There were 38 people receiving regular outdoor relief in 1803 and 44 in 1815; numbers occasionally relieved fell from 95 in 1803 to 50-70 between 1813 and 1815. (fn. 168) Besides the weekly pay the overseers made large payments for rent and fuel in 1737 (fn. 169) and in the late 18th and early 19th century. (fn. 170)

The parish had joined St. Ives union by 1836 and was in Swavesey rural district from 1894, Chesterton rural district from 1934, and South Cambridgeshire district from 1974. (fn. 171)


  • 148. Rot. Hund. (Rec. Com.), i. 53; ii. 469; P.R.O., SC 2/155/71.
  • 149. P.R.O., JUST 1/83, rot. 6.
  • 150. C.R.O., 305, Swavesey with members ct. bks. 1753- 1884 (uncat.); ibid. R 72/89, Swavesey ct. bks. G-H.
  • 151. Ibid. 305, Swavesey with members ct. bk. 1753-1804, pp. 103-13 (uncat.).
  • 152. Rot. Hund. ii. 470.
  • 153. P.R.O., E 321/22/18.
  • 154. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 7/27; C.R.O., 305, Swavesey rectory ct. bks. 1780-1935 (uncat.).
  • 155. Rot. Hund. ii. 471, 476.
  • 156. C.R.O., 305, Swavesey Hobbledods with Bennetts ct. bks. 1711-1939 (uncat.).
  • 157. Para. based on ibid. Swavesey with members ct. bk. 1753-84, pp. 31, 41, 181, 198-9; 1831-47, pp. 77, 131-2; Swavesey ch., par. rec., overseers' accts.; ibid., town bk., officers' accts. 1736-1841.
  • 158. Cambs. Village Doc. 10.
  • 159. East Anglian, n.s. vi. 39; xii. 257.
  • 160. C.U.L., Add. MS. 6076, f. 89.
  • 161. Swavesey Chron. 33.
  • 162. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 2/3, p. 106.
  • 163. Swavesey ch., par. rec., apprenticeship indenture 1714.
  • 164. Ibid. loose accts., Chas. Cole's acct. as fen reeve for Boxworth End 1802.
  • 165. Hampson, Poverty in Cambs. 183.
  • 166. Below, charities.
  • 167. Camb. Weekly News, 2 Apr. 1987.
  • 168. Poor Law Abstract, 1804, 34-5; 1818, 28-9; Poor Rate Returns, 1816-21, 10; 1822-4, 37; 1825-9, 16; 1830-4, 16.
  • 169. Hampson, Poverty in Cambs. 183.
  • 170. Swavesey ch., par. rec., overseers' accts.
  • 171. Poor Law Com. 2nd. Rep. 527; F. Youngs, Guide to Local Admin. Units of Eng. i. 45, 575.