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The Elsworth & Knapwell Chronicle 1773-1900

The Cambridge Chronicle and University Journal was a weekly newspaper published in Cambridge from 1762 to 1934; it favoured the Tory Cause and the established church, but for its village news relied upon the local correspondent, be he schoolmaster or clerk, who would record the significant local events and send his notes to Cambridge either by stagecoach or by the new-fangled railway when this finally came along. In some ways therefore, this news represents eye witness accounts of village happenings.Some years ago the staff and volunteers in the Cambridgeshire Collection, at Cambridge Central Library, indexed the old files of this newspaper, and completed the task of listing the headlines for every village in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely between 1770 and 1899. In addition the first 50 years, up to 1819, were indexed in even more detail, noting items from the advertisements and sales columns, from the reports of court cases, etc., and a great deal of the interest in the nineteenth century is reflected in these sections. In 1980 the first of a series of Chronicles was published based on these index cards, which covered the village of Stretham.In 1982, the task of copying the entries for Swavesey had been completed by Mr. Harry Hepher, and these were published by the Swavesey and District History Society as “The Swavesey Chronicle”. This gave a fascinating glimpse of everyday life in Swavesey as reflected by the local newspaper.Encouraged by the success of this, their first publication, the Society’s members agreed that their next aim should be to publish Chronicles for all the villages within the catchment area of the Swavesey Village College. In 1984 a second book, “The Over Chronicle”, was published, and this again proved to be a very interesting account of life in that village. By 1991 the entries for three more villages had been extracted and so “The Boxworth, Conington and Fen Drayton Chronicle” was produced, making the third in the series.Elsworth and Knapwell were agricultural villages typical of this part of Cambridgeshire in the 19th century. In the 1850s the population of both villages was more than it is today. Elsworth had a good mix of trades and professions associated with a farming community, and was described in one directory as “a respectable and populous village, and an extensive agricultural parish”; this description still applies to the village today.In that same book, Knapwell was described as “a miserable village, chiefly consisting of ugly old thatched cottages” – certainly not a fitting description now.

In this publication, ‘The Elsworth and Knapwell Chronicle”, one has an insight into conditions in these two villages during that period, where the prosperity or otherwise of farming greatly affected the well-being of the inhabitants.

John Shepperson, Swavesey, 1994

© 1994 Swavesey District History SocietyDesigned by Mary Barker, Naomi Laredo and Jon Reed
Drawings by John Lee
Maps by Mary Barker and Lewis Backhouse
Extracts from the Cambridge Chronicle were transcribed by Mary Barker, Chris Richardson and Jon Reed, who would like to thank the curator of the Cambridgeshire Collection, Mike Petty, and his staff for their considerable help.

Mr Petty would like to help anyone who requires more information or has material for publication. They should contact Mr M. J. Petty A.L.A., Local Studies Librarian, “Cambridgeshire Collection”, Central Library, 7 Lion Yard, Cambridge.