During the 18th and 19th centuries, enclosures were by means of local acts of Parliament, called the Inclosure Acts. These parliamentary enclosures consolidated strips in the open fields into more cohesive units, and enclosed much of the remaining pasture commons or wastes. Parliamentary enclosures usually provided commoners with some other land in compensation for the loss of common rights, although often of poor quality and limited extent. Enclosure consisted of exchange in land, and an extinguishing of common rights. This allowed farmers consolidated and fenced off plots of land, in contrast to multiple small strips spread out and separated.
Parliamentary enclosure was also used for the division and privatisation of common “wastes” (in the original sense of uninhabited places), such as fens, marshes, heathland, downland, moors. Voluntary enclosure was also frequent at that time.
At the time of the parliamentary enclosures, each manor had seen de facto consolidation of farms into multiple large landholdings. Multiple larger landholders already held the bulk of the land. They ‘held’ but did not legally own in today’s sense. They also had to respect the open field system rights, when demanded, even when in practice the rights were not widely in use. Similarly each large landholding would consist of scattered patches, not consolidated farms. In many cases enclosures were largely an exchange and consolidation of land, and exchange not otherwise possible under the legal system. It did also involve the extinguishing of common rights. Without extinguishment, one man in an entire village could unilaterally impose the common field system, even if everyone else did not desire to continue the practice. De jure rights were not in accord with de facto practice. With land one held, one could not formally exchange the land, consolidate fields, or entirely exclude others. Parliamentary enclosure was seen as the most cost-effective method of creating a legally binding settlement.
A survey of Wootton and Boreshill (Boarshill) in the Parish of Cumnor in the County of Berks. Allotted by Act of Parliament in the Year 1795.
Wootton and Boarshill used to be in Berkshire and enclosure occurred for our Parish in 1795. The map below is over 200 years old and gives a fantastic insight in to many of the field boundaries still seen today.
A Note on how to read the map. Each parcel of land relates to a number (G2, C3, etc). Each parcel of land also shows the relative size of the parcel of land in in acres (a.), rods (r.) and perches (p.). The parcel numbers then refer to the table at the bottom, where details of the awardee and acreage is provided.
Please click on the image below to access the full size map of the Enclosure Award.
Wootton Parish Council would like to offer its sincere thanks for Reading Borough Council and Designation.com, and Wikipedia for permission to reproduce this information here for educational use.