HistoryAfter invaded and conquered England in 1066, he distributed the land amongst 180 barons, who held the land as . However he promised the English people that he would keep the laws of . Thus commoners were still able to exercise their ancient customary rights. Land ownership, in the UK, is still based on the introduced by the where all land was owned by the Crown. The original contract bound the people who occupied the land to provide some form of service. This evolved into a financial agreement that avoided or replaced the service. Following the introduction of the feudal system, there was an increase in the economic growth and urban expansion of the country. In the 13th century successful Lords did very well financially, however the peasants faced with ever increasing costs did not, and their landholding dwindled. But after outbreaks of the in the middle of the 14th century there was a major decline in population and crop yields.The decline in population left surviving farm workers in great demand. Landowners had to face the choice of raising wages to compete for workers or letting their lands go unused. Wages for labourers rose and translated into across the economy. The ensuing difficulties in hiring labour has been seen as causing the abandonment of land and the demise of the feudal system, although some historians have suggested that the effects of the Black Death may have only sped up the process. From as early as the 12th century agricultural land had been enclosed. However, the history of enclosure in England is different from region to region. Parts of south-east England (notably sections of and ) retained the pre-Roman system of farming in small enclosed fields. Similarly in much of west and north-west England, fields were either never open, or were enclosed early. The primary area of field management, known as the "open field system", was in the lowland areas of England in a broad band from and diagonally across England to the south, taking in parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, large areas of the Midlands, and most of south central England.
DefinitionsEnclosure *Was the removal of common rights that people held over farm lands and parish commons. *It was the reallocation of scattered strips of land into large new fields that were enclosed either by hedges, walls or fences. *The newly created enclosed fields were reserved for the sole use of individual owners or their tenants. Villagers * * Freeholders or ry. Proprietors of large and small properties * ers. * * Cottagers/ Cottar * * Farm servants living in their employers' house
Methods of enclosureThere were essentially two broad categories of enclosure, these were 'formal’ or ‘informal’ agreements. Formal enclosure was achieved either through act of parliament from 1836 onwards, or by a written agreement signed by all parties involved. The written record would probably also include a map. With informal agreements there was either minimal or no written record other than occasionally a map of the agreement. The most straightforward informal enclosure was though 'unity of possession'. Under this, if an individual managed to acquire all the disparate strips of land in an area and consolidate them in one whole piece, for example a manor, then any communal rights would cease to exist as there was no one to exercise them.
Open field systemBefore the enclosures in England, " " land was under the control of the manorial lord. The usual manor consisted of two elements, the peasant tenantry and the lord's holding, known as the '' '' farm. The land the lord held was for his benefit and was farmed by his own direct employees or by hired labour. The tenant farmers had to pay rent. This could either be cash, labour or produce. Tenants had certain rights such as , , or that could be held by neighbouring properties, or (occasionally) ''in gross'' by all manorial tenants. "Waste" land was often very narrow areas, typically less than wide) in awkward locations (such as cliff edges, or inconveniently shaped manorial borders), but also could be bare rock, it was not officially used by anyone, and so was often "farmed" by landless peasants. The remaining land was organised into a large number of narrow strips, each tenant possessing several disparate strips throughout the manor, as would the manorial lord. The was administered by manorial courts, which exercised some collective control. The land in a under this system would consist of: * Two or three very large common fields * Several very large common hay meadows * Closes * In some cases, a * Common ''waste''. What might now be termed a single field would have been divided under this system among the lord and his tenants; poorer peasants ( or ers, depending on the era) were allowed to live on the strips owned by the lord in return for cultivating his land. The open-field system was probably a development of the earlier Celtic field system, which it replaced. The open field system used a three-field crop rotation system. , , or s would be planted in one field in spring, wheat or in the second field in the autumn. There was no such thing as artificial fertilizer in mediaeval England, so the continual use of arable land for crops would exhaust the fertility of the soil. The open-field system solved that problem. It did this by allowing the third field, of the arable land, to be uncultivated each year and use that "fallow" field for grazing animals, on the stubble of the old crop. The manure the animals produced in the fallow field would help restore its fertility. The following year, the fields for planting and fallow would be rotated. The very nature of the three field rotation system imposed a discipline on lord and tenants in their management of the arable land. Every one had the freedom to do what they liked with their own land but had to follow the rhythms of the rotation system. The land-holding tenants had , including sheep, pigs, , horses, en, and , and after harvest, the fields became 'common' so they could graze animals on that land. There are still examples of villages that use the open field system, one example being .
The end of the Open Field systemSeeking better financial returns, landowners looked for more efficient farming techniques. They saw enclosure as a way to improve efficiency, however it was not simply the fencing of existing holdings; there was also a fundamental change in agricultural practice. One of the most important innovations was the development of the Norfolk four-course system, which greatly increased crop and livestock yields by improving soil fertility and reducing periods. Wheat was grown in the first year, turnips in the second, followed by barley, with clover and ryegrass in the third. The clover and ryegrass were grazed or cut for feed in the fourth year. The turnips were used for feeding cattle and sheep in the winter. The practice of growing a series of dissimilar types of crops in the same area in sequential seasons helped to restore plant nutrients and reduce the build-up of pathogens and pests. The system also improves soil structure and fertility by alternating deep-rooted and shallow-rooted plants. For example, turnips can recover nutrients from deep under the soil. Planting crops such as turnips and clover was not realistic under the open field system , because the unrestricted access to the field meant that other villagers' livestock would graze on the turnips. Another important feature of the Norfolk system was that it used labour at times when demand was not at peak levels. From as early as the 12th century, some open fields in Britain were being enclosed into individually owned fields. After the in 1235 manorial lords were able to reorganize strips of land such that they were brought together in one contiguous block. Copyholders had a "customary tenancy" on their piece of land that was legally enforceable. The problem was that a "copyhold tenancy" was only valid for the holders life. The heir would not have the right to inheritance although usually by custom, in exchange for a fee (known as a fine), the heir could have the copyhold transferred. To remove their customary rights, the landlords converted the copyhold into a leasehold tenancy. Leasehold removed the customary rights but the advantage to the tenant was that the land could be inherited. There was a significant rise in enclosure during the . Enclosure was quite often undertaken unilaterally by the landowner, sometimes illegally. The widespread eviction of people from their lands resulted in the collapse of the open field system in those areas. The deprivations of the displaced workers has been seen by historians as a cause of subsequent social unrest.
LegislationIn Tudor England the ever increasing demand for wool had a dramatic effect on the landscape. The attraction of large profits to be made from wool encouraged manorial lords to enclose common land and convert it from arable to (mainly) sheep pasture. The consequent eviction of commoners or villagers from their homes and loss of their livelihoods became an important political issue for the Tudors. The resulting depopulation was financially disadvantageous to the Crown. The authorities were concerned that many of the people subsequently dispossessed would become vagabonds and thieves. Also the of villages would produce a weakened workforce and enfeeble the military strength of the state. From the time of Henry VII, Parliament began passing Acts either to stop enclosure, to limit its effects, or at least to fine those responsible. The so-called 'tillage acts', were passed between 1489 and 1597. The people who were responsible for the enforcement of the Acts were the same people who were actually opposed to them. Consequently, the Acts were not strictly enforced. Ultimately with rising popular opposition to sheep farming, a statute in 1533 restricted the size of flocks of sheep to no more than 2400. Then in 1549 an Act was introduced that imposed a on sheep that was coupled with a levy on home produced cloth. The result made sheep farming less profitable. However, in the end it was market forces that were responsible for stopping the conversion of arable into pasture. An increase in corn prices during the second half of the 16th century made arable farming more attractive, so although enclosures continued the emphasis was more on efficient use of the arable land.
Parliamentary Inclosure ActsHistorically, the initiative to enclose land came either from a landowner hoping to maximise rental from their estate, or a tenant farmer wanting to improve their farm. Before the 17th century enclosures were generally by informal agreement. When they first introduced enclosure by Act of Parliament the informal method continued too. The first enclosure by Act of Parliament was in 1604 and was for , . This was followed by many more Parliamentary Acts and by the 1750s the Parliamentary System became the more usual method. The created a law that enabled "enclosure" of land, at the same time removing the right of ' access. Although there was usually compensation, it was often in the form of a smaller and poorer quality plot of land. Between 1604 and 1914 there were more than 5,200 enclosure bills which amounted to of land that equated to approximately one fifth of the total area of England. Parliamentary enclosure was also used for the division and privatisation of common "wastes" such as s, , , and .
Commissioners of EnclosureThe statutory process included the appointment of commissioners.The Commissioners of Enclosure had absolute authority to enclose and redistribute common and open fields from around 1745 until the General Enclosure Act of 1845. After the 1845 Act permanent commissioners were appointed who could approve Enclosures without having to submit to Parliament. The Rev. William Homer was a Commissioner and he provided a job description in 1766: After 1899, the Board of Agriculture, which later became the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, inherited the powers of the Enclosure Commissioners. One of the objectives of enclosure was to improve local roads. Commissioners were given authorisation to replace old roads and country lanes with new roads that were wider and straighter than those they replaced.
Enclosure roadsThe road system of England had been problematic for some time. An 1852 government report described the condition of a road between Surrey and Sussex as ''"very ruinous and almost impassable."'' In 1749 wrote to a friend complaining that if he desired good roads ''"never to go into Sussex"'' and another writer said that the ''"Sussex road is an almost insuperable evil"''. The problem was that country lanes were worn out and this had been compounded by the movement of cattle. Thus the commissioners were given powers to build wide straight roads that would allow for the passage of cattle. The completed new roads would be subject to inspection by the local Justices, to make sure they were of a suitable standard. In the late eighteenth century the width of the enclosure roads was at least , but from the 1790s this was decreased to , and later 30 feet as the normal maximum width. Straight roads of early origin, if not Roman were probably enclosure roads. They were established in the period between 1750 and 1850. The building of the new roads, especially when linked up with new roads in neighbouring parishs and ultimately the s, was a permanent improvement to the road system of the country.
Social and economic factorsThe social and economic consequences of Enclosure has been much discussed by historians. In the Tudor period Sir in his '' '' said: An anonymous poem, known as "Stealing the Common from the Goose", has come to represent the opposition to the enclosure movement in the 18th century: According to one academic: In 1770 wrote the poem '' '', in it condemns rural depopulation, the enclosure of common land, the creation of and the pursuit of excessive wealth. During the 19th and early 20th century historians generally had sympathy for the cottagers who rented their dwellings from the manorial lord and also the landless labourers. and said that "enclosure was fatal to three classes: the small farmer, the cottager and the squatter." "Before enclosure the cottager was a labourer with land; after enclosure he was a labourer without land." Marxist historians, such as Barrington Moore Jr., focused on enclosure as a part of the class conflict that eventually eliminated the English peasantry and saw the emergence of the . From this viewpoint, the provided the basis for a major acceleration of enclosures. The parliamentary leaders supported the rights of landlords ''vis-a-vis'' the King, whose court, abolished in 1641, had provided the primary legal brake on the enclosure process. By dealing an ultimately crippling blow to the monarchy (which, even after the , no longer posed a significant challenge to enclosures) the Civil War paved the way for the eventual rise to power in the 18th century of what has been called a "committee of Landlords", a prelude to the UK's parliamentary system. After 1650 with the increase in corn prices and the drop in wool prices the focus shifted to implementation of new agricultural techniques, including fertilizer, new crops, and crop rotation, all of which greatly increased the profitability of large-scale farms. The enclosure movement probably peaked from 1760 to 1832; by the latter date it had essentially completed the destruction of the medieval peasant community.Surplus peasant labour moved into the towns to become industrial workers. In contrast to the Hammonds' 1911 analysis of the events, critically J. D. Chambers and G. E. Mingay, suggested that the Hammonds exaggerated the costs of change when in reality enclosure meant more food for the growing population, more land under cultivation and on balance, more employment in the countryside. The ability to enclose land and raise rents certainly made the enterprise more profitable. considered that the main feature distinguishing English agriculture was the massive reduction in common land between the middle of the 18th to the middle of the 19th century. The major advantages of the enclosures were: *Effective crop rotation; *Saving of time in travelling between dispersed fields; and *The ending of constant quarrels over boundaries and rights of pasture in the meadows and stubbles. He writes: "The result was a great increase in agricultural produce. The landowners having separated their plots from those of their neighbours and having consolidated them could pursue any method of tillage they preferred. Alternate and convertible husbandry … came in. The manure of the cattle enriched the arable land and grass crops on the ploughed-up and manured land were much better than were those on the constant pasture." Since the late 20th century, those contentions have been challenged by a new class of historians. The Enclosure movement has been seen by some as causing the destruction of the traditional peasant way of life, however miserable. Landless peasants could no longer maintain an economic independence so had to become labourers. Historians and economists such as M.E.Turner and D. McCloskey have examined the available contemporary data and concluded that the difference in efficiency between the open field system and enclosure is not so plain and obvious.
Enclosure riotsAfter the Black Death, during the 14th to 17th centuries, landowners started to convert arable land over to sheep, with legal support from the of 1235. Villages were depopulated. The peasantry responded with a series of revolts. In the 1381 , enclosure was one of the side issues. However, in of 1450 land rights were a prominent demand and by the time of of 1549 enclosure was a main issue, as it was in the Captain Pouch revolts of 1604-1607 when the terms "leveller" and "digger" appeared, referring to those who levelled the ditches and fences erected by enclosers. D. C. Coleman writes that "many troubles arose over the loss of common rights" with resentment and hardship coming from various channels including the "loss of ancient rights in the woodlands to cut underwood, to run pigs". The protests against enclosure was not just confined to the countryside. Enclosure riots also occurred in towns and cities across England in the late 15th and early 16th century. The urban unrest was distributed across the whole of the country from York in the north, to Southampton in the south and Gloucester in the west, to Colchester in the east. The urban rioters were not necessarily agricultural workers but consisted of artisanal workers such as butchers, shoemakers, plumbers, clothmakers, millers, weavers, glovers, shearmen, barbers, cappers, tanners and glaziers.
Midland RevoltIn May and June 1607 the villages of Cotesbach (Leicestershire); Ladbroke, Hillmorton and Chilvers Coton (Warwickshire); and Haselbech, Rushton and Pytchley (Northamptonshire) saw protests against enclosures and depopulation. The rioting that took place became known as the Midland Revolt and drew considerable popular support from the local people. It was led by John Reynolds, otherwise known as 'Captain Pouch' who was thought to be an itinerant pedlar or tinker, by trade, and said to have originated from , Northamptonshire. He told the protesters he had authority from the King and the Lord of Heaven to destroy enclosures and promised to protect protesters by the contents of his pouch, carried by his side, which he said would keep them from all harm (after he was captured, his pouch was opened; all that was in it was a piece of mouldy cheese). A curfew was imposed in the city of Leicester, as it was feared citizens would stream out of the city to join the riots. A was erected in as a warning, and was pulled down by the citizens.
Newton Rebellion: 8 June 1607The Newton Rebellion was one of the last times that the non-mining commoners of England and the gentry were in open, armed conflict. Things had come to a head in early June. issued a Proclamation and ordered his Deputy Lieutenants in Northamptonshire to put down the riots. It is recorded that women and children were part of the protest. Over a thousand had gathered at , near Kettering, pulling down hedges and filling ditches, to protest against the enclosures of Thomas Tresham. The Treshams were unpopular for their voracious enclosing of land – the family at Newton and their better-known Roman Catholic cousins at nearby Rushton, the family of , who had been involved two years earlier in the Gunpowder Plot and had by announcement died in London's . Sir Thomas Tresham of Rushton was vilified as 'the most odious man' in . The old Roman Catholic gentry family of the Treshams had long argued with the emerging Puritan gentry family, the Montagus of , about territory. Now Tresham of Newton was enclosing common land – The Brand Common – that had been part of Rockingham Forest. Edward Montagu, one of the Deputy Lieutenants, had stood up against enclosure in Parliament some years earlier, but was now placed by the King in the position effectively of defending the Treshams. The local armed bands and militia refused the call-up, so the landowners were forced to use their own servants to suppress the rioters on 8 June 1607. The Royal Proclamation of King James was read twice. The rioters continued in their actions, although at the second reading some ran away. The gentry and their forces charged. A pitched battle ensued in which 40–50 people were killed; the ringleaders were hanged and quartered. A much-later memorial stone to those killed stands at the former church of St Faith, Newton, Northamptonshire. The Tresham family declined soon after 1607. The Montagu family went on through marriage to become the Dukes of Buccleuch, enlarging the wealth of the senior branch substantially.
Western Rising 1630–32 and forest enclosureAlthough Royal forests were not technically commons, they were used as such from at least the 1500s onwards. By the 1600s, when Stuart Kings examined their estates to find new revenues, it had become necessary to offer compensation to at least some of those using the lands as commons when the forests were divided and enclosed. The majority of the disafforestation took place between 1629 and 1640, during 's . Most of the beneficiaries were Royal courtiers, who paid large sums to enclose and sublet the forests. Those dispossessed of the commons, especially recent cottagers and those who were outside of tenanted lands belonging to manors, were granted little or no compensation, and rioted in response.
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