Noons Folly

This is the N.E. corner of the county as seen from a map of Hertfordshire, drawn c.1808 by Charles Smith.

Map 1808

The name is here spelt Known's Folly, and the map notes it divides three counties, Hertfordshire, Essex and Cambridgshire. It was said to be a good area for fights, as if the authorities of one jurisdiction turned up, you could simply hop across to an adjacent county where they had no authority.

This is an aerial view of the place in the early 21st century. The oldest house, called Raggles, has a large garden with a tennis court visible lower right.

The new farm house, built some 40 years ago is to the right in the picture (east) and two other houses can be seen further west. These were probably built c.1873: they certainly existed in 1881 as they are recorded in the census of that year, and cannot be found in the census of 1871. This census (RG10/1362/72.p19) does record two families living at Noons Folly, the Webbs and the Carters, together with James Wragg, a farmer of 325 acres, who has no family listed living with him: I believe they were occupying various parts of the house now called Raggles. See my transcript of the various census entries.

An interesting adjunct to the 1841 census is the tithe map of Melbourn. The web site for Cambridgeshire Archives, where the map is held, says "A tithe was a payment by a farmer of one tenth of the annual production of his farm to maintain the established church. Originally the payment was in kind, but by the 1830s this was out of date, and the Tithe Commutation Act 1836 replaced payments in kind by a money payment (the 'tithe rentcharge')". The Tithe Commission visited parishes across the country and settled the terms of the commutation of tithes, by drawing up a document setting out landowners' individual liabilities - the tithe apportionment. Each apportionment was supported by a map showing affected property.The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 set out to rationalise the position by commuting all tithes to cash payments. (These cash payments were in turn abolished in 1936 by an act that required the payment of an annuity of 60 years, so the last vestiges of the system only ended in 1996.)

Tha map covers the whole of the parish of Melbourn, from Dolphin Lane, where Melbourn gives way to Meldreth, to the section on the south of the A505 called Noon Folly: the houses reach to the line of today's Orchard Road, so the houses of the modern village S.E. of that road are post 1842. Each plot is marked and numbered, and for each plot the apportionment lists the area in those wonderfully arcane measures of acres, roods and perches (a perch is a square rod, and as a rod is 5½ yards, so a perch is 30¼ square yards: there are 40 perches to the rood and 4 roods to the acre: dead simple, who needs metrication!). The apportionments are listed in alphabetical order of owner, so working from the plot numbers on the map to the owner requires a scan of the list. The record office holds two documents: the map itself under ref P117/17/19, and the apportionment, ref P117/17/20: they are dated 6 October 1842. For Noons Folly the apportionment shows the Phypers family as the occupiers, but the land is owned by the Wortham family who had a considerable presence in the area. These are the details:

The track that is now part of the Icknield way is marked ‘The way to Walden’: it is shown branching off from what is now the A505, I think where there is now a lay-by used by lorries. The owners of most of this land (except for plot 299) are the Wortham family.
Plot 299: the field on the north side of the A505, marked plot 299 area 76a-1r-30p owned by John Hitch but in the occupation of William Hitch.
Plot 298 is enclosed within 297, described as Noons Folly House and Homestead area 2a-2r-30p.
Plot 297: The area between the two roads is plot 297, arable of 47a-0r-36p in the occupation of William Phypers, and owned by Ann Wortham (with 298).
Plots 295 and 296 are large plots further to the east, respectively north and south of the Duxford road (today’s A505). Thomas Wortham owns 295, Ann and Sarah Wortham own 296, but both are occupied by William Phypers.