CALH LECTURES 2017-18
A Brief History of Enclosure, using Cambridgeshire examples: Bill Franklin Saturday 3 March 2017
The starting point for Mr Franklin’s talk was the medieval farming landscape, which in every Cambridgeshire parish was based on the open field system, although in many Cambridgeshire villages this was more complex than the traditional ‘three field’ system of the Midlands: Ely, for example, had nine (and once possibly ten) fields. Villages also had areas of permanent meadowland (subject to strict regulation regarding stock) and areas such as commons, regarded as ‘waste’. In theory, every farmer had an equal share of different soil types; this led to widely dispersed pattern of individual holdings across the parish: Soham was given as an example of this.
From the later medieval period, enclosure of land became more common, particularly in the Tudor period. It was usually implemented by landowners looking for a more profitable form of farming, and often produced social unrest (e.g Kett’s Rebellion in Norfolk, 1549). Several Government commissions of inquiry revealed the extent of the problem, but failed to come up with concrete solutions.
By the 18th century, enclosure by agreement (between landowners) was becoming more common, and from the middle of the century enclosure by Private Act of Parliament became the norm. Mr Franklin described how the process worked, using several Cambridgeshire examples such as Burwell, Cottenham and Stow-cum-Quy. He concluded by looking at the ‘balance sheet’ of enclosure: the traditional ‘gloomy’ view that it was fatal to very small farmers and those who were able to scrape a living by combining farming on their own account with working for someone else, did not, on the Cambridgeshire evidence, seem to be justified. Admittedly there was much unrest in the early 19th century countryside, but this stemmed from a variety of causes, of which Enclosure was only one. The disbenefits were outweighed by more regular employment for labourers, with more land under cultivation, increased food production, the new availability of building land and the new freedom that farmers had to choose their own agrarian regimes without interference from manorial courts.
Bill can be contacted at email@example.com (note the underscore)
Saturday 4 November
Mike Cowham: The World of Sundials
This was a fascinating talk by one of the country’s leading experts on the topic. Mr Cowham started with some very local examples from Cambridge colleges, not all of which were familiar to members, including the remarkable example at Queens' College, before showing others from around the county, notably at Anglesey Abbey, Hauxton church and in Ely. He explained how dials actually worked and the complex mathematics that lay behind their design.
Besides the dials we are all familiar with, he showed examples of stained glass dials, the scratch dials for calculating the correct time for Mass and perhaps most interesting of all the portable dials produced from at least the 16th century as an early equivalent to the pocket watch. The artistry and workmanship that had gone into many of these was amazing.
Mr Cowham can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cambridge Museum of Technology: past, present and future
A Talk given by Pam Halls at the Cambridgeshire Association for Local History Meeting on 25th November 2017.
Most people who know Cambridge will be familiar with the tower by the river behind Newmarket Road. This marks the site of what is now the Cambridge Museum of Technology. As Pam Halls explained formerly this was a sewage pumping station, powered by one of the first attempts in the nineteenth century at an environmental source of heat – Cambridge’s rubbish. This was collected by dust carts, taken to the pumping station and placed in huge boilers and burnt to provide the energy to work the pumps, thus helping to clean up Cambridge and the river Cam. The pumping station was closed in 1968 and the site re-opened as a museum in 1971. It aims to be a working museum preserving Cambridge’s industrial history. The gas pump still is still in action, and one of the four boilers powering it is still complete. The museum includes other working exhibits and a collection of Pye instruments.
The future for the museum is rosy. Thanks to a large grant the whole site will be landscaped, scheduled buildings repaired, a new exhibition hall built, and amenities including a cafeteria added. When it is compete it will be a tribute to a little known feature of Cambridge’s past, its industry as well as the technology for which it is renowned today.