The earliest area worked as arable was probably in the north of the parish near the Iron-Age settlement and Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Thremhowe and Flothowe fields, to the south-west of the village, have Scandinavian names, suggesting more intensive cultivation there following the 9th century Danish occupation. In the late 10th century there was an active land market: Abbot Beorhtnoth was engaged c. 980 in the purchase of estates ranging from 10-20 a. up to 80 a. and 124 a., including potentially 12½ farmsteads on the holdings involved.
By the mid 16th century the north-eastern third of the parish was probably occupied by old inclosures belonging to Badlingham manor. In the rest of the parish there were seven medieval open fields: Sound and Stonehill fields were first recorded c. 1144-6, and the others were named by the late 12th century and the early 13th. Pudmanhill and Stonehill fields lay alongside farmland of Badlingham manor. At Chippenham in 1544 there were 424 a. in North field to the north of the village, beyond the Badlingham road. West field, to the west of the village between Newyards Lane and Port Way, covered 218 a., and there were 133 a. in Pudmanhill field to the east. South-west of the village Thremhowe field included 279 a., and there were 392 a. to its south in Sound field. Immediately south of the village Little Beck field had 190 a., and to the south-east of the village there were 94 a. in Stonehill field. The eighth field, Blackland field, between Little Beck and Stonehill fields, created partly out of land previously in cultivation and partly from newly cleared heathland, occupied 182 a. in 1544. By 1712 it had been renamed Lodge field, and by 1780 North field had been renamed Mill field.
Between the mid 16th century and the early 18th the number of open fields was reduced from eight to five. In 1712 parts of Pudmanhill field were incorporated into North field Thremhowe field was divided between West and Sound fields, while the remnants of Stonehill field were divided between Mill field and Shannels land. Little Beck and Lodge fields remained largely unchanged. By 1780 there were three open fields: Mill field had c. 500 a. West field had c. 400 a. and Sound field c. 630 a while closes in Lodge field, and Shannels land attached to New farm comprised c. 200 a.
Customary tenants’ rents declined from 10s. an acre in the late 14th century to 8s. an acre in the 15th century and the early 16th. In 1780 an acre was valued at 10s. in three open fields, but in Lodge field an acre was valued at 8s. because of the poorer quality of the soil. An inclosure Act was passed in 1791, covering 2,240 a. of arable in Chippenham and Badlingham. There were c. 2,200 a. of arable c. 1870-1970, but c. 230 a. was turned into grassland in the early 1980s for two stud farms.
Tenure, strips, and farms were consolidated between the mid 16th century and the early 18th century. There was 1,276 a. of freehold and copyhold in 1544, but by 1560 land held by those tenures had been reduced to 1,099 a. In 1563 Thomas Revett purchased 100 a. of freehold. In the late 16th century there was a tendency for medium-sized copyholds to be bought up by the lords to make larger leasehold farms, and by 1636 only 523 a. of copyhold and freehold was left. In 1696 Lord Orford purchased c. 500 a. of copyhold, making leasehold the predominant tenure. In 1791 John Tharp bought the last remaining 67 a. of copyhold.
Between 1544 and 1712 the total number of open-field strips had declined from 2,601 to 812, with 1-a. strips increasing from a tenth to half of the total. The process, however, was an uneven one: 79 of the 245 strips in Mill field were less than 1 a. in 1712, but in Lodge field 14 out of 24 blocks were c. 5-23 a.
The medieval division of holdings into numerous half yardlands gradually gave way in the 17th and 18th centuries to six large farms, little altered thereafter. In 1544 there were 41 holdings of between half a yardland and a few acres, three yardlands, and one farm of 100 a. In 1636 Sir William Russell’s leasehold farms comprised four under 40 a., three yardlands, and three of c. 90-200 a. each. There were still traces of the medieval pattern in 1712, with eleven farms of between 60 a. and a few acres, but they were overshadowed by three farms of c. 100-150 a., worked from the northern end of the village, two farms of c. 250-400 a. worked from the southern end, and New farm on the former site of the Chicksands grange with 280 a. All the small farms had undergone amalgamation by 1780, when there were four farms of c. 500-620 a., one of c. 320 a., and two of c. 132-182 a. After inclosure in 1791 there were eight farms in the parish, five worked from near the village: Manor farm at its northern end, and Park farm at its western side respectively had c. 450 and 500 a. each and Church farm at the southern end had c. 150 a. New farm, renamed La Hogue Hall farm c. 1712-80, comprised c. 650 a., and was rented in succession by two families, the Reynolds family c. 1780-1835, and the Kents c. 1836-1922. One of the other farms bordering upon the heathland was also held by members of the Reynolds and Kent families c. 1818-71. After the 1870s Manor and Park farms each comprised c. 600 a., and Church farm had c. 250 a., incorporating the land of the other three village farms. There was further consolidation of the Chippenham farms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1947 La Hogue, Church, and Water Hall farms were sold off, followed by Manor farm in 1981. In the 1980s and 1990s the estate’s remaining agricultural land was divided between two tenancies.
Badlingham Hall farm covering c. 350 a. in 1818, had separate wheat and barley barns in 1826. In the late 19th century and early 20th its acreage totalled c. 650 a., and it was occupied by successive members of the Kent family from 1847 until 1949, when it was sold off by the Chippenham Park estate. Grange farm of c. 150 a. at the south-eastern edge of the parish may have occupied the former site of Sibton grange.
In 1671 Chippenham was overrun with grooms and racehorses. There was a stud farm at Chippenham Park c. 1802-4, breeding racing horses for Lord Clermont, and another stud farm at Manor farm in 1831. In 1883 the Newmarket Jockey Club purchased 300 a. of heathland. The land subsequently formed part of the Limekilns gallops, and of the Water Hall training ground between the Bury road and the line of the present Newmarket bypass. In the 1990s Water Hall ground included two canters of c. 6-9 furlongs each, used in winter and spring, and the western section of a 4-km. dryweather gallop which extends into Snailwell parish. After the Second World War Chippenham Lodge Stud was established in the grounds of Chippenham Lodge, which in 1984 had 100 a., housing 15 mares, and one stallion. In 1981 two stud farms were started on the former arable of Manor farm. Mill Stud west of the Isleham Road at the site of the old windmill had c. 100 a., and stabled 25 mares in 1997.
The fen at the north-west corner of the parish was used primarily for fuel and grazing from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. In 1086 a fishery, presumably at the fen, rendered 1,500 eels. In the late 18th century the fenland was predominantly used for the grazing of cows. After the inclosure of the fen in 1796, every cottager was restricted to cutting three loads of turf a year, their common rights being exchanged for 3 a. in all. The poor, however, were granted 36 a. from which to cut sedge, which was only to be sold in the parish. In 1858 the poor had to give the fen reeves one day’s notice before proceeding to cut turf, and in the 19th and 20th centuries the fenland was mainly used as shelter for game birds, and also for supporting wildlife.
The preceptor of Chippenham bought out common rights and exchanged lands with freeholders in the 1280s to create the rabbit warren to the south-east of Ditch Way along the boundary with Kennett. In the mid 16th century it was let for a rent of 505 rabbits, but by 1712 the warren had been converted into arable attached to New farm. Coursing controlled the rabbit population in the 19th century. Since 1988 there has been a 100-a. deer farm at Isleham plantation between the Isleham and Fordham roads.
From the early 18th century until the early 20th agriculture was the main source of employment. The number of agricultural workers declined from 104 to 84 persons c. 1801-11, but c. 1821-31 rose from 100 to 115. In 1861 thirty of the male labourers were children aged 14 and under, but 65 boys were employed at the five Chippenham farms. In 1871 only sixteen of Chippenham’s boys aged 14 and under worked as farm hands, but the farmers employed 60 boys most of whom presumably lived in neighbouring parishes. In 1852 unemployment was severe, but tenants of La Hogue and Badlingham farms provided their employees with generous Christmas gifts c. 1865-73. A strike in 1874 resulted in a lockout, and the South Cambridgeshire Agricultural Labourers Society paid the rents and shoe bills of 26 men from Chippenham. Fine weather permitted the collection of the harvest without the strikers’ help, but the Chippenham farmers finally agreed to raise wages by 3s. a week. A horse-chestnut called Union tree, planted at the Scotland End fork to commemorate the strike, lived until 1995.
In 1717-18 at Chippenham Hall 18 men, 8 women, and 2 boys were employed as servants, but in 1780 there was no employment at the empty Hall. There were 25-30 domestic servants c. 1841-81, but only seventeen servants c. 1861. In the late 19th century there were between two and four times as many female as male servants at the Hall and the Cottage. In 1891 half of the 21 servants employed were at the Hall, and the rest at the Cottage and main farmhouses. Between the First and Second World Wars domestic service ceased to provide much employment.
In 1851 thirty-one people were employed as blacksmiths, cordwainers, carpenters, bricklayers, grocers, and in other village trades, but by 1881 numbers had fallen to 22, and decreased further between 1891 and 1901. By 1949 there were only a butcher’s shop, a bakery, and a post office, and since the closure in 1982 of the bakery, which had been in the same family’s possession for a century, there have been no shops in the village. In 1950 76 persons worked full-time on farms in the parish, but by 1970 the figure had halved, and in the 1980s and 1990s virtually all of the inhabitants worked outside the parish, mostly in the surrounding region.
In 1086 at Badlingham there were two mills, one serving the demesne, the other the tenants. In 1338 the Hospitallers had two windmills at Chippenham. A windmill stood at the northern boundary in 1712. In 1734 a windmill was built in the centre of North field on the left hand side of the Isleham Road. It remained in use until the 1950s, but was a ruin in 1997.
From: ‘Chippenham: Economic history’, A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10: Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (north-eastern Cambridgeshire) (2002), pp. 379-384. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18913