Changing patterns of farming

 In the early part of the 17th-century prices of wool began to fall and the Spencer family began to withdraw somewhat from direct farming activities and took the opportunity of leasing more of their land holdings to up-and-coming farmers who were anxious to set up on their own as general producers of grain and livestock on compact holdings of a few hundred acres. Once again, this changeover from stock ranching on great enclosed pastures to mixed farming on small lease-holdings left its mark on the landscape. By 1634 William Lord Spencer - now a Knight of the Bath - appears to have made firm decisions and subdivided his land at Wormleighton into compact blocks for leasing to tenants. It was even rumoured in February of that year that some of the Wormleighton pastures might be leased for ploughing though in practice this probably did not come about for several years. Trees now adorned the land around the fishponds close by the former mediaeval village which had relinquished their old function as a source of food and had become ornamental ponds. So Wormleighton started to conform in a modest way to the custom of the time by having a park to match the house of a great lord. The village, aligned along the street axis and three major components: the core of the settlement comprising the impressive manor house with its fine gateway, walls and great barns; south of this was a cluster of homesteads grouped along the street and bordering a small green with a "stockbank" or pinfold for stray cattle; finally to the north a smaller group of homesteads nestled near the church the outlying windmill quarter of a mile to the east. Apart from a single homestead near the sandpits, everyone lived in the village. This particular homestead was probably the first farmstead to spring up outside the village having perhaps developed from the former cottages of a master shepherd now occupying a convenient central position for an area to be leased. During the next few years leases on quite sizeable parcels of land were granted although some of the leaseholders found that stock raising as had been foreseen by the Spencers had lost its profitability and had problems in paying their rent. The answer to this problem lay in the end firstly in a change-over to more mixed farming on the large holdings of the Spencers with production of grain and meat for urban markets and secondly in a gradual allocation of land on leases to a new class of tenant farmer that arrived later on the estates. The still extensive Spencer agricultural land holdings are to this day basically let to tenant farmers