The text below is taken from the sign by the entrance to Worts Meadow next to Cockfen Lane. The sign was produced by Cambridgeshire County Council in August 1992, and bears acknowledgements to the Countryside Commission, English Heritage and Cambridgeshire Archaeology.
Worts meadow is the site of the former manor of Brays. The manor was given to two King's Carpenters after the Norman Conquest, and was held by the de Bray family from at least 1135. Nearly half the people of Landbeach died from the Black Death in 1349, a blow from which the village did not recover until the 19th century. There were complaints throughout the 15th century that many houses on Brays were empty and ruinous. The Kirkby family bought the estate in the 16th century, arousing great fury by clearing away all the remaining crofts for sheep farming. In 1549 the villagers complained that Richard Kirkby had let fourteen tenements decay, leaving only the manor house and two others. He seems to have been the most hated man in the history of Landbeach. Kirkby deprived the villagers of common grazing lands (a major part of their livelihood) by abusing their rights, and bringing in sheep and cattle from outside the village; he impounded cattle without cause, encroached on common land, assaulted women, committed various other offences and accused the villagers of riot.
Matthew Parker, who was archbishop of Canterbury and lord of Chamberlains, the other manor in Landbeach, eventually stopped him, and after many family quarrels the estate was divided amongst Kirkby's daughters. The manor and crofts have been empty ever since.
William Worts bought the site around 1691, and built a house. His son left the land to various charities, and Worts' trustees ran the estate until it was sold to Cambridgeshire County Council.
Bourne Wood was planted in 1992 as a tribute to Cecil John Bourne (1920-1990), a distinguished architect associated with Landbeach Parish Church. The oak, ash, field maple and other native trees and shrubs were purchased with money given in Mr Bourne's memory. The wood was planted by his family, local people and the Cambridgeshire branch of the Commission for the Protection of Rural England, of which Mr Bourne was branch chairman for 21 years. The Forestry Commission also gave a grant toward the new woodland.
Public access to the meadow (Permissive Access 31/PF4) has been granted by Cambridgeshire County Farms Estate.
The Manor of Brays
"All that remains of the once great manor is the moated enclosure in the middle of the pocket park, although there is some doubt that such a small space could have accommodated the manor. The likelihood is that it formed a defensive outpost. The manor was held by two of the King's carpenters in 1086 and passed to the Bray family variously between 1135 and fully by the 1230s until about 1415 when it was acquired by William Ketteridge and by convoluted family dealings to Richard Kirkby. The violent and grasping Richard Kirkby then embarked, with the assistance of his three sons-in-law and specially recruited thugs, on a terrorist campaign against his neighbours. He managed to steal land, crops and animals from all the villagers by violent means.
When he met with resistance he used his knowledge of the law to reduce them to paupers. He was particularly vicious to the poor. He allowed houses close by to fall into disrepair so that he could demolish them and take in the land for his own sheep. Eventually the villagers rebelled in 1549 and he tried again to use the law, this time to accuse them of rioting. Fortunately Matthew Parker the rector made a great case for the defence of his parishioners and although the outcome of the trial has been lost in the archives, it seems that things quietened down."
Reproduced, with permission, from Historical Landbeach.
A group called Friends of Worts Meadow was set up in 2010 to organise the management of the meadow.
"Worts Meadow Local Nature Reserve (LNR)", Cambridgeshire County Council