At one point, pretty much the whole of the south-facing land in Sutton-in-the-Isle (of Ely) was dedicated to orchards and fruit growing, with the basket-making businesses thriving along the bottom edge of that ridge. A large chunk of the land - well over 8000 acres - between Cambridge and Sutton was used for fruit, much of which was processed by the Chivers factories at Histon and Huntingdon. I have an article, "How The Railways Deal With Special Classes Of Traffic" by A. Chauncy, describing the Histon factory:
One would hardly think that a village of 1,500 inhabitants would require a railway station at all, but you are astonished at the work these fifteen hundred pairs of hands find for a large railway company. The total tonnage of goods traffic, inwards and outwards, dealt, with at Histon Station during the twelve months ended November, 1898, exclusive of coal, was 20,099 tons. To show that the traffic is on a healthy increase it may not be out of place to give the tonnage for a few of the preceding years. It is as follows:-1894, 10,546; 1895, 14,170; 1896, 16,130; 1897, 17,888; 1898,20,099. Of this tonnage 90 per cent. would be derivable from the staple industry of the district—namely, fruit preserving.
And from other articles it is clear that this 1898 view was not an abberation: the traffic actually grew up to about 1945 before a slow decline into the early 60s. From the East Anglian Film Archive, article:
Most of this film was made in 1931 but the sequence showing the harvesting process and canning of peas may have been made at another date. The film quality and titling are different. The Chivers family of Histon were originally fruit farmers in the middle of the nineteenth century. They sent some of their produce to jam producers and in 1873 they began making jam themselves in an old barn at Impington. They purchased more orchards, built a factory and by 1885 they were employing 150 people. In 1888 Chivers introduced table jellies. In the years that followed they introduced Marmalade, custard powder, lemonade, Christmas puddings and other products. In 1908, the company had an advertising film made by the London Bioscope Company. This film does not appear to have survived. The canned vegetable factory was built at Huntingdon. During World War II they supplied 40,000 tins of food to the allied armies. During the 1930s, 3500 people were employed by Chivers. In 1891, the company began an early profit sharing scheme. A pension scheme was introduced in 1895 and educational facilities were provided at Impington Hall
and from the Histon and Impington website:
The factory, supplied by their farms and the surrounding area, was self sufficient . It had its own water supply and electrical generation by 1890. Not only did they make their own cans, but also they came to have their own engineers, paint shop, sawmill, blacksmiths, carriage works, coopers, carpenters, building department and even basket makers. ... Although the factory was an important enterprise, the Chivers family is said to have regarded themselves primarily as farmers. In 1896 they owned 500 acres, though they rented far more. This rose to nearly 8000 acres in 1939. All farms were run as independent units concentrating on the rearing of livestock and cereals as well as fruit. They led the world in mixed farming techniques and would only breed pedigree livestock whether they be pigs, cattle, poultry, sheep or their magnificent Percheron horses. In 1959 the factories and farms were sold to Schweppes. The family bought most of the farms back in 1961.
From Wikipedia and Disused Stations http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/h/histon/index.shtml, summarised by me:
By the early 60s the Jam industry near Histon was in decline. While in 1960, eighty trains a day were scheduled to pass Histon, the line declined rapidly. The line from St. Ives to March closed to goods traffic in 1966. Passenger traffic and general freight on the St Ives to Cambridge section ceased in October 1970. Freight continued to Chivers Fruit and a new flow of aggregates from the pits at Fen Drayton near St Ives started. Some freight was still delivered to the factory until 1983, when the original jam factory was closed and redeveloped. Even that ceased and by 1992 the aggregates traffic ceased as well, and the line was esssentially dead, though only formally closed in 2003.