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remember when all between Cromhall's (Eston) and Castle Combe was so, when Eston, Yatton, and Combe did intercommon together. In my remembrance much hath been enclosed, and every year more and more is taken in. Anciently the Leghs (now corruptly called Sleights), i.e. pastures, were noble large grounds as yet the Demesne lands at Castle Combe are. So likewise in his remembrance was all between Kington St. Michael and Dracot Cerne common field. Then were a world of labouring people maintayned by the plough as yet in Northamptonshire, &c. There were no rates for the poore even in my gr. father's daies; but for Kington St. Michael (no small parish) the Church Ale at Whitsuntide did their businesse. In every parish is, or was, a church house, to which belonged spitts, crocks, &c., utensils for dressing provision. Here the howsekeepers met, and were merry and gave their charitie ; the young people came there too, and had dancing, bowling, shooting at buttes, &c., the ancient sitting gravely by, looking on. All things were civill and without scandall. This Church Ale is doubtless derived from the Agapæ or Love Feasts mentioned in the N.T. Mr. A. Wood assures me that scarcely any almeshowses before the Reformation. That over against Christchurch, Oxon, one of the ancientest. In every Church was a poore man's boxe; but I never remembred the use of it. Nay, there was one at Great Innes. I remember it before the warres. Before the Reformation, at their Vigills or Revells they sate up all night fasting and praying the night before the Dedication of the Church : certain officers were chosen for gathering the money for charitable uses. Old John Wastfield of Langley near Chippenham was Peterman at St. Peter's Chappell there; at which time is yet one of the greatest Revells in these parts, but the chappell converted into a dwelling house. Such joy and merriment was every holiday, which dayes were kept with great solemnity and reverence. These were the dayes when England was famous for the gray goose quill. The Clarke's Ale was in the Easter Holidays, for his benefitt, and the solace of the neighbourhood.

Since the Reformation and Inclosures aforesaid these parts have swarmed with poore people. The Parish of Calne pays to the poore (1663) 5001.

per annum,

and the Parish of Chippenham little lesse, as appears by the Poor's bookes there. Inclosures are for the private, not for the public good. For a shepherd and his dogge, or a milk mayd, can manage that land, that upon arable employed the hands of severall scores of labourers."

If the disappearance of old manors and the enclosure of common fields was even in the seventeenth century going a great deal too fast for the taste of the historian of the county, “wherein were so many observable antiquities,' what would bis feelings have been bad he lived on into the era of general Enclosure Acts and agricultural improvements? The changes which Aubrey lamented were after all only a part, and a very small part, of that process which has gradually given to the soil of England its present character and appearance; for, besides the incompatibility of the relative positions of the lord of the manor and the customary tenants, there were other and equally important circumstances which after the civil war did not fail to revive the movement for enclosure at the close of the seventeenth century. It was still the fact, notwithstanding the alterations which Aubrey denounced, that a great part of the cultivated soil of England was still held in common field tenure under manors.

There was the village, with its cottages, shops, s The Topographical Collections of John Aubrey, F.R.S., 1659-70, edited by Canon Jackson, Preface, pp. 9–11.

farmhouses, and farm buildings, all huddled together; there was the open arable field with its multitude of driftways leading to the various allotments, and there was hard by the poor, ill-drained, scanty waste, the common property of the community. No person who has lived at a distance and has never had any experience of common field farming, can have an idea of the inconvenience, wretchedness, and miseries of the system, which are almost beyond description. It was not uncommon for areas of upwards of two thousand acres to be cut up into strips of from two to three roods in extent, and as a consequence a large part of the land was taken up by roads, leading through the fields, by which these strips of land might be reached. The latter were scattered about quite irrespective of ownership, so that the proprietor of a small farm had all his land in small detached pieces, often very far apart, and the trouble occasioned to the farmer in overlooking his land and the loss of time sustained by trotting from one piece to another was very considerable. The parish had to be cropped in one course, and meadow land which belonged to one individual from the 1st of May to the 1st of August had to be thrown open and become commonable to the whole parish. Then there was the certainty of distemper and disease amongst cattle and sheep being disseminated all over the parish if once introduced; the impossibility of draining the small detached pieces; and the constant quarrels and bickerings arising from trespass and other evils of the same character.

It is no wonder that, under these circumstances, endeavours were made on economic grounds alone, and even apart from other considerations, to get the open fields enclosed. And a further incentive was added when it was found that the value of land became much increased by enclosure, and that those who got their land consolidated into one allotment were possessed of a much more valuable estate than they had had in the scattered and ill-managed parcels of their former holdings. The various methods by which the now ancient rights of common might be extinguished and the lands enclosed began accordingly to be considered and examined. There were originally the following legal methods of enclosure:

1. By unity of possession, where the wastes and the privileges of common belonged to the same owner.

2. By severance of the right from the land or tenement to which it was attached.

3. By release by the commoner.
4. By non-user through a long period.
5. By destruction of the commoner's estate.
6. By alteration of the commoner's tenement.
7. By destruction of the product subject to common.
8. By enclosure under special custom.
9. By enclosure through agreement.

The majority, however, of these means of extinguishing rights of common did not much facilitate enclosure. They naturally occurred in only a few cases, and were attended with many difficulties and exceptions; so much so that as the demand for enclosure became greater, the necessity of applying to Parliament was recognised. Recourse was consequently had to private Acts, and it is by their instrumentality that the majority of enclosures have been effected. There have been almost four thousand Acts, passed at various periods from the time of Queen Elizabeth to the present day; almost onehalf of which have been passed in this century. The earlier Acts were generally for the reclamation of marshes over which the surrounding inhabitants had rights of common. Some of these had more especial reference to the regulation of commons or the supervision of common rights, so as to allow for the growth of wood, &c. The first Act, however, of real enclosure ever passed was the 8 Anne, cap. 20. Like many other Acts relating to the social condition of the people, it passed through Parliament comparatively unobserved ; but considering the precedent it set, and the enormous changes it inaugurated, this little bill would not have been unworthy of the attention of even the statesmen of a reign which saw the union with Scotland and the trial of Dr. Sacheverel).

But even private Acts were found too cumbrous to suit the necessities of the time ; and a demand in consequence arose at the commencement of the present century for a General Enclosure Act, and the introduction of the machinery of Commissioners and Provisional Orders in order to facilitate the settlement of the different questions which arose on each enclosure. Several general Acts were accordingly passed, one of the best known being the General Enclosure Act of 1836, known as Lord Worsley's Act (6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 115), under which some enclosures have been carried out even in quite recent times. But a more decisive step was taken nine years after. In the session of 1845, Sir Robert Peel's Government passed the present General Enclosure Act, and established an Enclosure Commission for England and Wales, now called, under more recent legislation, the Land Commission for England.' This Act subjected every variety of common to be enclosed by the Commissioners. Exceptions were made of all lands in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean, and village or town greens; and it was also decided that no lands within fifteen miles of London, and certain specified distances of other large towns, could be enclosed.

One of the great features of the Act of 1845 was the permission given to the Commissioners to set out portions of the lands for recreation and allotment grounds, or field gardens, for the poor. It was also enacted that the majority in number and value of the parties interested should have power to appropriate parts of the land proposed

& Seagry Common, Wilts, 1883.

to be enclosed for public purposes, such as the formation of roads and footways and for the supply of stone and gravel; also for the formation of public drains, embankments, watercourses, public ponds, wells, or watering-places, or land for enlarging or making a burying-ground or any other purpose of public convenience or utility, or for the general accommodation or convenience of the persons interested.

In the evidence taken before the Select Committee of 1814, the amount of land stated to be unenclosed and subject to common rights in England and Wales was estimated at about eight millions of acres;' and by the Commissioners' return of 1874, the total amount of land subject to common rights was stated to be 2,632,772 acres, out of a total of 37,157,173 acres; so that, according to these figures, there would have been something considerably over five millions of acres enclosed since the passing of these Acts.

The estimate of unenclosed lands given to the Select Committee was, however, very vague, and subsequent returns go to show that it was very much over the mark. According to a return made by the Land Commissioners up to 1876, the total amount of land dealt with by them was 600,000 acres, which was divided amongst 26,000 separate owners, the estimated value of the wastes being 6,140,0001. The total extent of land set out for public purposes amounted to 14,107 acres, as follows:

For exercise and recreation


2,195 public quarries and gravel-piis

823 fuel

1,168 schools and churches

622 burial-grounds

106 other miscellaneous purposes

85 public roads (2,000 miles in extent, independent of occupation roads) covering .

7,370 14,107


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The value of this at 201. per acre, being out of the best of

the land
Cash expended on the construction of public roads and

other public works connected with enclosures


The average portion of land allotted to the lords of manors was 441 acres, to common-right owners 24 acres, and to purchasers of lands sold to defray expenses 10 acres, there being 35,450 acres sold to 3,500 purchasers.

The smallness of the lots may be accounted for by the fact that, even when the expenses were defrayed by rate, it has always been

? Evidence of the Rev. Richard Jones and William Blamire, Esq.

optional for each person to have the alternative of selling a small portion of his allotment.

The 26,000 persons amongst whom these lands have been divided consist of the following classes:

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The operation of the Act of 1845 led to much discussion, which increased as its ultimate effects began to be understood.

A great deal was said in the first place, and much written, as to the rights of the public, as such, which had not been recognised by the Act. It was put forward on one side that the soil of the waste was absolutely the property of the lord of the manor, and that, so far from the public having any right over manorial wastes, the commoners even had, strictly speaking, no right to go upon them unless for the purpose of taking their common or doing some necessary act in connection with its use; that subject to these rights the common belonged to the lord of the manor as much as his private garden ; and that, if the lord and the commoners agreed to do so, they could keep everyone else off, even if there were no enclosure at all. It was replied that, as a mere matter of dry law, this might be sound; but that the public had had from time immemorial the enjoyment of common lands for exercise and recreation, and that such enjoyment had been entirely free from interruption by the lords of the manor. It can easily be imagined that anybody who has been accustomed for years to walk or ride over a common, and who finds suddenly that by an enclosure he has been deprived of a privilege which from long use he had learnt to regard as a right, would feel aggrieved. There would, however, be no legal remedy, as rights of recreation and exercise must be claimed by custom or grant, but cannot be claimed by prescription. It is like the view that is enjoyed from a house, and which one day is blocked out. The individual affected may feel much aggrieved, and may even have his property seriously deteriorated in value ; but in the absence of an express grant or covenant there is no legal remedy. Apart, however, from the question of injury to the public, as such, in respect of rights of recreation and enjoyment over

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