Little Cornard

This Website has been published to present the wealth of information that has been complied by several residents over many years.

The village comprises of 141 dwellings spread across 11 roads and lanes, a Parish Hall and church - All Saints.



Recent archaeological finds in East Anglia tell us that hominids have lived intermittently in this area for 780,000 years though homo sapiens did not arrive until after the last Ice Age. For most of that time work consisted of hunter-gathering and only much later in Neolithic times of agriculture activities. This article consists mainly of a discussion of the occupations that existed in 1086, 1841, 1881 and 2002.

The first written records of Little Cornard can be found in The Domesday Book which gives details of all the areas of Britain controlled by William the Conqueror in 1086. At this time Great and Little Cornard were considered as one place, previously owned by the mother of Earl Morcar, but now owned by King William who gave the management to one of his followers, Peter de Valognes. By our standards Cornard was under-populated with only 79 people living here. There were: freemen (a minority), villeins (serfs tied to the land), bordars (minor villeins) and slaves. The inhabitants would all have worked as farmers and farm-labourers but there was a mill listed so there must have been a miller and it was likely that labourers would also have done activities such as: hedging and blacksmithing; some were likely to have also made boots or cut hair, perhaps as sidelines. Pigs, horses and cattle are mentioned as well as ploughs, meadows and woods so work would have been varied, though all associated with agriculture.

It is likely that such working conditions would have continued through the Middle Ages; certainly the population of Little Cornard never reached 100 until the seventeenth century. One reason for the dip in the population in the fourteenth century was the Black Death which hit our village particularly hard. It was not till the beginning of the nineteenth century that the population was more than 200. Increases in population are likely to have been influenced by the industrial revolution, as well as improvements in agriculture and sanitation.

In 1841 there were 396 people living here, the highest number ever, for even today there are only 3... The Tithe Map of 1841 shows that, even after 750 years, farming was still the primary source of work with 38 farms being listed, most of them fairly small. Some people only owned a small strip of land which they used for grazing. There were, however, signs of other economic activities, the main one being the brickworks in Chapel Lane where they made the high quality Suffolk whites, examples of which can be found in older houses. They are no longer made and quite hard to get hold of. In the census of 1841 the following jobs were listed: agricultural labourers (38 but there would have been more as only the work done by the head of the household was listed) , farmer, bailiff, baker, shoemaker, broom-maker, clergyman, governess, mason, female servants, blacksmith, hay trusser and brick-maker. It is quite likely that there may have been other work done which for various reasons people did not wish to reveal. For example, it is very likely that there was someone who acted as a mid-wife and there may well have been a carrier. Pump Cottage (then called Black Boy Inn) was an alehouse, owned by R. Jones and lived in by William Rayner whose occupation in the census is down as blacksmith. Was he working ‘black’ as well?

By 1860, after spinning and weaving work had moved into factories women could no longer make extra money from spinning at home so for a short time they worked as straw plaiters. The plaited straw was collected from the cottages and taken to Luton where straw hats were made. But by 1881 imports from other places and mechanisation of the process put paid to this helpful addition to the incomes of the labourers.

In 1881 (population 385) there was still a lot of farming taking place with 98 agricultural labourers listed (this figure indicates that there were far more than 38 in 1841). The brick-making business had expanded and there were about 15 people working there, including one woman. Another noticeable difference is that whereas there were no scholars in 1841, in 1881 there were 58. Considering that schooling had only just been made compulsory this was impressive; it was presumably the result of opening a school in 1854 and having a teacher living in the village. New occupations represented were: grocer, bargeman, engine driver, shepherd, laundress, weaver, railway labourer, a baker who is also likely to have also sold ale, coachman, 7 servants and a railway man.

Even in the 1901 census farming and brick-making remain the predominating economic activities. However, throughout the nineteenth century the profitability of farming and the wages of the farm workers dropped alarmingly. In Our Mother Earth Ashley Cooper writes that the average price per ton of wheat fell from £14.11.7 in 1840 to £7.8.4 in 1890. It is not surprising that farm labourers fled from farms to factories. New jobs were concerned with maintaining the roads and the railway. There were now two alehouses and a shop opposite Cornard Mere. Nearby there was also a small catgut factory and a glue tester who lodged in a cottage on the Bures Road, then called Lower Road. Whose glue did he test?

Between 1901 and 2002 the real changes took place. Though the population varies only slightly (322 in 1981), farms which employed at least two and often more than fifteen men now only employed one or two. The 700 acres of land that is still farmed is now owned by the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Society. The last tenant farmer to live in the village, Peter Schwind is semi-retired and he contracts much of the work out to the Bradshaws who live in Fordham. Ever since the arrival of steam-powered farm machinery in the middle of the nineteenth century, machines have been replacing human labour. A list of occupations in Little Cornard in 2002 was compiled by the local history group. They found the following: accountant, agri-food consultant, antiques dealer, business mentor, design engineer and iron worker, farmers, fruit grower, florist, graphics designer, guitar manufacturer and repairer, health service consultant, joiner and furniture maker, livery stables, mechanical engineer, medical publisher, poodle parlour, safari consultants, technical designer, tree surgeon and upholsterer. There were no agricultural labourers! What is interesting is that many of these people were self-employed and worked from home. Today some of these trades are no longer practiced here but some do still exist. Demographic changes have resulted in fewer school children and more retired people.

In 1841, 22 % of workers in Britain were in agriculture but nowadays the figure is less than 1 %. The range of occupations in Little Cornard is in line with the changes in the country as a whole. At first the swing was from agriculture to manufacture then, since the eighties, financial businesses increased in importance. It is likely that the arrival of the digital age will continue and maybe speed up changes to work in Little Cornard as well as in the rest of the country.

The information for this article was taken mainly from census returns. Unfortunately they are only available to the public up to 1911.The lists consist of people who lived in Little Cornard but some of the people may have worked in adjoining places. Nowadays there are people who live here but commute to London. Other information comes from a project done by Stephen King for his GCSE exams and from hours of research carried out by Eileen King, Rosemarie Balls & Jonathan Belsey.

Elizabeth Druce March 2014