Halting and reversing enclosure in the 1630s: was Charles I the ‘Commoners King’?

Charles I’s anti-enclosure (land privatisation) policies and retrospective fines may have been the spark that ignited the English Civil War

1) ‘From about 1607 to 1636, the Government pursued an active anti- enclosure policy’ – W. E. Tate

2) ‘If the reign in its social and agrarian policy may be judged solely from the number of anti-enclosure commissions set up, then undoubtedly King Charles I is the one English monarch of outstanding importance as an agrarian reformer.’ – W. E. Tate

3) ‘From 1635 to 1638 compositions [fines] were levied in respect of depopulations [enclosures] in several counties of which an account is fortunately preserved. Some 600 persons were fined during this period, the amounts in some cases being considerable.’  – E. C. K. Gonner

Historians are inconclusive about the origin and cause of the war. Whatever brought the merchant classes, or bourgeoisie, to armed conflict with the landed feudal gentry, personified by the king, must have had a mighty incentive. Driven by the new capitalist class the move from collective to private ownership of land was extremely lucrative. To halt it, then impose retrospective ‘fines’, unforgivable? [this research compiled by Tony Gosling]

‘I go from a corruptible crown, to an incorruptible crown…’ Last words of Charles I as he was led to the scaffold.

Extract 1

Extent of Charles’ penalties on enclosers

Extract from:  ‘The English Village Community and the Enclosure Movements’
W. E. Tate, Victor Gollancz, London, 1967. (longer extract below)

Chapter 11
Enclosure and the State in Tudor and Early Stuart times.

The Policy of the Early Stuart Governments

Probably in Stuart times baser motives weighed more heavily with the governmental authorities. The Stuart policies, especially that of Charles I, were as Tawney says, ‘smeared with the trail of finance’.,’ Enclosure, at any rate enclosure leading to depopulation, was an offence against the common law.”* Commissions inquired into it, and in many cases the statesmen and divines who composed these were inspired by the loftiest motives. The general action of the government, however, was to use the Privy Council and the courts, especially the prerogative courts, the Court of Requests and the Star Chamber, the Councils of Wales and the North, as means of extortion. The offenders were ‘compounded with’, i.e. huge fines were levied so that the culprits might continue their malpractices.¹

In 1601 a proposal to repeal the depopulation acts was crushed upon the ground that the majority of the militia levies were ploughmen.² In 1603 the Council of the North were ordered to check the ‘wrongful taking in of commons’ and the consequent ‘decay of houses of husbandry . . .’. From about 1607 to 1636, the Government pursued an active anti- enclosure policy.³ In 1607 the agrarian changes in the Midlands had produced an armed revolt of the peasantry, beginning in Northamptonshire, where there had been stirrings of unrest at any rate since 1604. The counties mainly affected were Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, the three divisions of Lincolnshire, and Warwickshire.

The leader was a certain John Reynolds, nick- named Captain Pouch, ‘because of a great leather pouch which he wore by his side, in which purse he affirmed to his company there was sufficient matter to defend them against all commers, but afterwards when he was apprehended, his Pouch was searched, and therein was only a peece of greene cheese’. John was soon dealt with after a skirmish at Newton, where a body of mounted gentlemen with their servants dispersed a body of a thousand rebels, killing some forty or fifty of the poorly-armed rustics. Some of his followers were hanged and quartered.

Promises of redress made by various proclamations were fulfilled only to the extent of the appointment of still another royal commission to inquire into agrarian grievances in the counties named. After it had made its return, however, it was discovered that on legal technicalities the commission was invalid, and little action seems to have been taken upon its laboriously compiled returns. The local gentry were soon busily at work again in enclosing their own land and that of others, though in 1620 Sir Edward Coke, the greatest of English judges, who had already shown himself a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation to be against the laws of the realm, asserting that the encloser who kept a shepherd and his dog in the place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.

A reaction set in when in 1619 there were good harvests, and the Privy Council was concerned to relieve farmers and landlords who were suffering through the low price of corn. This is why commissions were appointed to grant pardons for breaches of the depopulation acts, and why in 1624 all save the two acts of 1597 were repealed. The county justices still, however, attempted to check the change, and in this received more or less spasmodic pressure from the Council. In the 1630’s corn prices rose again, and in 1630 the justices of five Midland counties were ordered to remove all enclosures made in the last two years. In 1632, 1635, and 1636 more commissions were appointed, and the justices of assize were instructed to enforce the tillage acts. In 1633 they were cited before the Board to give an account of their proceedings. From 1635-8 enclosure compositions were levied in thirteen counties, some six hundred persons in all being fined, and the total fines levied amounting to almost £50,000. Enclosers were being prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639. However, the Star Chamber was to vanish in 1641, and the Stuart administrative policy disappeared with the engines by which it had been – somewhat ineffectively and spasmodically – put in force.

If the reign in its social and agrarian policy may be judged solely from the number of anti-enclosure commissions set up, then undoubtedly King Charles I is the one English monarch of outstanding importance as an agrarian reformer. How far his policy was due to genuine disinterested love of the poor, and how far it followed from the more sordid motive of a desire to extort fines from offenders, it is difficult to say. But even the most unsympathetic critic must allow a good deal of honest benevolence to his minister Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and some measure of it to his master. On the whole it is perhaps not too much to say that for a short time after the commissions issued in 1632, 1635, and 1636, Star Chamber dealt fairly effectively with offenders. The lack of ultimate success of this last governmental attempt to stem the tide of enclosure was due, no doubt, partly to the mixture of motives on the part of its proponents. Still more its failure is to be attributed to the fact that again the local administrators, upon whom the Crown depended to implement its policy, were of the very [landed] class which included the worst offenders. A (practising) poacher does not make a very good gamekeeper!

The Commonwealth

During the Commonwealth there was little legal or administrative attempt to check enclosure of open fields. It is not clear how far this was taking place, though there was great activity in the enclosure and drainage of commonable waste. Some of the Major-Generals, especially Edward Whalley, held strong views upon agrarian matters, and attempted to use their very extensive powers to carry their ideals into operation. Petitions were prepared and presented, a committee of the Council of State was appointed and numerous pamphlets were written.

In 1653 the mayor and aldermen of Leicester complained of local enclosures and sent a petition to London, very sensibly choosing their neighbour, John Moore, as its bearer. Appar- ently it was because of this that the same year the Committee for the Poor were ordered ‘to consider of the business where Enclosures have been made’. The question arose again in 1656 when Whalley, the Major-General in charge of the Midlands, set on foot local inquiries, and took fairly drastic action in response to petitions adopted by the grand juries in his area. He hoped that as a result of his action ‘God will not be provoked, the poor not wronged, depopulation prevented, and the State not dampnified’. The same year he brought in a Bill ‘touching the dividing of commons’, but it failed through the opposition of William Lenthall, the Master of the Rolls, and indeed was not even given a second reading. This was the last bill to regulate enclosure. Ten years later, in 1666, another bill was read in the Lords, to confirm all enclosures made by court decree in the preceding sixty years. It also was unsuccessful, but the fact that it was introduced is indicative of a great change in the general attitude towards enclosure displayed by those in authority.

Footnotes:

* Coke (Chief justice of the King’s Bench, 1613-16), was very emphatic on this, Institutes III, 1644 edn., p. 205. Ellesmere, his great rival (Lord Chancellor 1603-16), was more favourably disposed to enclosure, and himself authorised some enclosures by Chancery Decree. The point is of interest, since it may well have been Ellesmere’s attitude which emboldened his kinsmen, Arthur Mainwaring, to embark on the enclosure of Welcombe, near Stratford, in 1614. In the story of this, Shakespeare plays a (very minor) part. Tothill, W., Transactions of the Court of Chancery etc., 1649, edn. 1827, P. 109, and Ingleby, G. M., Shakespeare and the Welcombe Inclosure, 1885.

¹ There is a tabular statement of the proceeds in Gonner, p. 167 [and presented below!].

² See D’Ewes, op. cit., p. 674, for Cecil’s speech on this.

³ The activity was mainly 1607-18 and 1636, the first spasm being due presumably to the Midland riots, the second to a period of high corn prices.

Extract 2

‘If the reign in its social and agrarian policy may be judged solely from the number of anti-enclosure commissions set up, then undoubtedly King Charles I is the one English monarch of outstanding importance as an agrarian reformer.’

Extracted from
The English Village Community and the Enclosure Movements by W. E. Tate, Victor Gollancz, London, 1967
Chapter 11, Enclosure and the State: (A) In Tudor and Early Stuart Times

The Tudor Governments

From the social and political points of view too the Tudor governments disliked such enclosures as led or threatened to lead to depopulation. Several of the Tudor rulers, certainly Henry VIII and the Lord Protector Somerset, had a quite genuine desire to be fair to the small proprietor, who was usually, with good reason, bitterly opposed to enclosure. All had a lively apprehension of the danger of dynastic or religious rebellion, and all were unwilling that malcontents should be presented with the opportunities afforded by the existence of a dispossessed and starving peasantry. Even before Henry VIII’s time anti-enclosure measures had been placed on the statute book, and throughout Tudor times there was a long stream of statutes, proclamations and commissions, all designed to check a process felt to be utterly destructive of the common weal. Thus in 1517 there was the commission already referred to. Thirty-two years later a main count in the indictment against Somerset, under which at last he lost his head, was that he had been so slack in suppressing Kett’s Rebellion in 1549 as to give the rebellious peasantry an idea that he was in sympathy with their feelings on the agrarian grievances which had led to the disturbance.

The first landmarks in the story of enclosure in Tudor times are the Depopulation Act of 1489 ‘agaynst pullying doun of Tounes’, a proclamation of 1515 against engrossing of farms, and certain inquiries by the justices, etc., made the same year. A temporary act of early 1516 was virtually made permanent later in the year, and the next year was the commission of 1517, addressed to the nobles and gentry of all save the four most northerly counties of England, with other anti-enclosure commissions in 1518 and 1519. In 1519 Wolsey, as Chancellor, ordered that those claiming the royal pardon for enclosure should destroy the hedges and ditches made since 1488. A proclamation of 1526 made a similar order. There was an act for restraining sheep farming in 1534, and two further depopu-lation acts in 1536. At the same time proceedings were taken in the Chancery and the Court of Exchequer against enclosers, sometimes those of lofty station. Evidently the acts and pro-clamations were little observed, and in 1548 the Protector Somerset issued yet another proclamation. A movement in the reverse direction was made in 1550, when as part of the policy of the nobility and gentry who had triumphed over him, the Statutes of Merton and Westminster 112 were confirmed and re-enacted, and measures were taken to check hedge and fence-breaking. However, only two years later another depopulation act was passed, in 1552.

There was still another in Philip and Mary’s time, 1555, and one five years after Elizabeth I’s accession, in 1563. This repealed as ineffectual the three latest depopulation acts, of 1536, 1552, 1555 but re-enacted the earlier one of 1489. It was repealed in part in 1593. Most of these acts endeavoured to re-establish the status quo, to forbid under penalty of forfeiture the conversion of arable to pasture, and to compel the rebuilding of decayed houses, with the reconversion to arable of pasture which had lately been put down to grass. Probably the multiplicity of acts is an indication of their ineffectiveness. The reason was that the administration alike of acts and commissions was largely in the hands of the landed classes profiting by agrarian change. In 1589 was passed Elizabeth’s famous act prohibiting the erection of any cottage without four acres of arable land [? and of course, proportionate pasture rights]. This remained in force, theoretically at any rate, until 1775. The difficulty with which the government was faced is well illustrated by two acts of 1593, which passed through Parliament together, and which in fact stand next to one another on the statute book, but which adopt markedly contrasting points of view towards enclosures of different kinds. The first of them, as noted above, repeals much. of the 1563 act, that part forbidding the conversion of arable to pasture. The second of them anticipates legislation of the nineteenth century. It orders that no persons shall enclose commons within three miles of the City of London, ‘to the hindrance of the training or mustering of soldiers, or of walking for recreation, comfort and health of Her Majesty’s people, or of the laudable exercise of shooting. . .’ etc.

The last Depopulation and Tillage Acts

The more complacent attitude towards enclosure evidenced by the first of the 1593 acts did not last very long. In 1597 were passed two acts, again neighbours on the statute book, the first for the re-erection (though with some qualifications) of houses of husbandry which had been decayed. At the same time the government clearly recognized that if it merely tried by legislation to maintain or to restore the status quo, its efforts would be in vain. So the same act specifically authorizes lords of manors, or tenants with their lord’s consent, to exchange intermixed open-field holdings in order to facilitate improved husbandry. The preamble of the second act sets out that since 1593 [and the partial repeal of the tillage acts then] ‘there have growen many more Depopulacions by turning Tillage into Pasture’, and the first act orders that decayed houses were to be re-erected, and lands reconverted to tillage under a penalty of 20s. per acre per annum. The second act relates to twenty- three counties only, generally those of the Midlands, with one or two southern counties, and Pembrokeshire in South Wales. These were the last of the depopulation and tillage acts, and they escaped the general repeal of such acts in 1624, and remained in force (in theory) until 1863.

The Policy of the Early Stuart Governments

Probably in Stuart times baser motives weighed more heavily with the governmental authorities. The Stuart policies, especially that of Charles I, were as Tawney says, ‘smeared with the trail of finance’. Enclosure, at any rate enclosure leading to depopulation, was an offence against the common law. Commissions inquired into it, and in many cases the statesmen and divines who composed these were inspired by the loftiest motives. The general action of the government, however, was to use the Privy Council and the courts, especially the prerogative courts, the Court of Requests and the Star Chamber, the Councils of Wales and the North, as means of extortion. The offenders were ‘compounded with’, i.e. huge fines were levied so that the culprits might continue their malpractices.

In 1601 a proposal to repeal the depopulation acts was crushed upon the ground that the majority of the militia levies were ploughmen. In 1603 the Council of the Nortt were ordered to check the ‘wrongful taking in of commons and the consequent ‘decay of houses of husbandry. . .’. From about 1607 to 1636, the Government pursued an active anti-enclosure policy. In 1607 the agrarian changes in the Midland had produced an armed revolt of the peasantry, beginning ii Northamptonshire, where there had been stirrings of unrest at any rate since 1604. The counties mainly affected were Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, the three divisions of Lincolnshire, and Warwickshire. The leader was a certain John Reynolds, nick named Captain Pouch, ‘because of a great leather pouch which he wore by his side, in which purse he affirmed to his company there was sufficient matter to defend them against all comers, but afterwards when he was apprehended, his Pouch was searched, and therein was only a peece of greene cheese’. John was soon dealt with after a skirmish at Newton, where a body of mounted gentlemen with their servants dispersed a body of a thousand rebels, killing some forty or fifty of the poorly-armed rustics. Some of his followers were hanged and quartered. Promises of redress made by various proclamations were fulfilled only to the extent of the appointment of still another royal commission to inquire into agrarian grievances in the counties named. After it had made its return, however, it was discovered that on legal technicalities the commission was invalid, and little action seems to have been taken upon its laboriously compiled returns. The local gentry were soon busily at work again in enclosing their own land and that of others, though in 1620 Sir Edward Coke, the greatest of English judges, who had already shown himself a keen opponent of enclosure, declared depopulation to be against the laws of the realm, asserting that the encloser who kept a shepherd and his dog in the place of a flourishing village community was hateful to God and man.

A reaction set in when in 1619 there were good harvests, and the Privy Council was concerned to relieve farmers and landlords who were suffering through the low price of corn. This is why commissions were appointed to grant pardons for breaches of the depopulation acts, and why in 1624 all save the two acts of 1597 were repealed. The county justices still, however, attempted to check the change, and in this received more or less spasmodic pressure from the Council. In the 1630’s corn prices rose again, and in 1630 the justices of five Midland counties were ordered to remove all enclosures made in the last two years. In 1632, 1635, and 1636 more commissions were appointed, and the justices of assize were instructed to enforce the tillage acts. In 1633 they were cited before the Board to give an account of their proceedings. From 1635-8 enclosure com-positions were levied in thirteen counties, some six hundred persons in all being fined, and the total fines levied amounting to almost £50,000. Enclosers were being prosecuted in the Star Chamber as late as 1639. However, the Star Chamber was to vanish in 1641, and the Stuart administrative policy disappeared with the engines by which it had been-somewhat ineffectively and spasmodically – put in force.

If the reign in its social and agrarian policy may be judged solely from the number of anti-enclosure commissions set up, then undoubtedly King Charles I is the one English monarch of outstanding importance as an agrarian reformer. How far his policy was due to genuine disinterested love of the poor, and how far it followed from the more sordid motive of a desire to extort fines from offenders, it is difficult to say. But even the most unsympathetic critic must allow a good deal of honest benevolence to his minister Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and some measure of it to his master. On the whole it is perhaps not too much to say that for a short time after the commissions issued in 1632, 1635, and 1636, Star Chamber dealt fairly effectively with offenders. The lack of ultimate success of this last governmental attempt to stem the tide of enclosure was due, no doubt, partly to the mixture of motives on the part of its proponents. Still more its failure is to be attributed to the fact that again the local administrators, upon whom the Crown depended to implement its policy, were of the very [landed] class which included the worst offenders. A (practising) poacher does not make a very good gamekeeper!

The Commonwealth

During the Commonwealth there was little legal or admin-istrative attempt to check enclosure of open fields. It is not clear how far this was taking place, though there was great activity in the enclosure and drainage of commonable waste. Some of the Major-Generals, especially Edward Whalley, held strong views upon agrarian matters, and attempted to use their very extensive powers to carry their ideals into operation. Petitions were prepared and presented, a committee of the Council of State was appointed and numerous pamphlets were written.

In 1653 the mayor and aldermen of Leicester complained of local enclosures and sent a petition to London, very sensibly choosing their neighbour, John Moore, as its bearer. Appar-ently it was because of this that the same year the Committee for the Poor were ordered ‘to consider of the business where Enclosures have been made’. The question arose again in 1656 when Whalley, the Major-General in charge of the Midlands, set on foot local inquiries, and took fairly drastic action in response to petitions adopted by the grand juries in his area. He hoped that as a result of his action ‘God will not be pro-voked, the poor not wronged, depopulation prevented, and the State not dampnified’. The same year he brought in a Bill ‘touching the dividing of commons’, but it failed through the opposition of William Lenthall, the Master of the Rolls, and indeed was not even given a second reading. This was the last bill to regulate enclosure. Ten years later, in 1666, another bill was read in the Lords, to confirm all enclosures made by court decree in the preceding sixty years. It also was -unsuccessful, but the fact that it was introduced is indicative of a great change in the general attitude towards enclosure displayed by those in authority.

Extent of Charles’ penalties on inclosers

1) Introduction of tillage acts

2) Introduction of depopulation acts

3) A total of 600 individual fines on enclosing landowners as follows
[from p. 167, Gonner, E.C.K., ‘Common Land and Inclosure’, 1912]:

King Charles I – fines on enclosing landowners – (££)
  Year -> 1635 1636 1637 1638 Total 1635-8
Lincolnshire 3,130 8,023 4,990 2,703 18,846
Leicestershire 1,700 3,560 4,080 85 9,425
Northamptonshire 3,200 2,340 2,875 263 8,678
Huntingdonshire 680 1,837 230 2,747
Rutland 150 1,000 1,150
Nottinghamshire 2,010 78 2,088
Hertfordshire 2,000 2,000
Gloucestershire 50 50
Cambridgeshire 170 340 510
Oxfordshire 580 153 733
Bedfordshire 412 412
Buckinghamshire 71 71
Kent 100 100
Grand Total £46,810

Does anyone knows the equivalent amount in today’s money?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extract 3 –

3) ‘From 1635 to 1638 compositions [fines] were levied in respect of depopulations [enclosures] in several counties of which an account is fortunately preserved. Some 600 persons were fined during this period, the amounts in some cases being considerable.’  – E. C. K. Gonner

Common Land and Inclosure

By E. C. K. Gonner

Brunner Professor of Economic Science in the University of Liverpool

Macmillan and Co., Limited. St. Martin’s Street, London. 1912

Download this extract as a Word document with footnotes

Extracted using a scanner so there will be minor errors. Please note the use of the spelling “inclosure” as compared to the more common “enclosure”.

‘Cope writes of “the poor who, being driven out of their habitations, are forced into the great towns, where, being very burdensome, they shut their doors against them, suffering them to die in the streets and highways,”‘

II – INCLOSURE DURING THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

THOUGH the view which regards inclosure of common and common right land as taking place mainly at two epochs, in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries respectively, and as due to causes peculiar to these particular times, is certainly less firmly held than was formerly the case, it is nevertheless not yet realised that thus stated it gives an almost entirely false presentation of what occurred. No doubt it is true that particular circumstances or combinations of circumstances at certain times accelerated the movement or invested it with some special character, but inclosure was continuous, and a very considerable mass of evidence as to its reality and extent exists, spread over the long intervening period of a century and a half. Some part of this evidence has been indicated by different writers, and particularly by Professor Gay and Miss Leonard, but as yet its mass and continuity, and so the extent of the progress to which it testifies, have not been fully stated. When that is done it will be seen not so much that the earlier view was inadequate as that it was actually the very reverse of the true state of the case, that inclosure continued steadily throughout the seventeenth century, and that the inclosures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were no new phenomena but the natural completion of a great continuous movement. In dealing with this movement throughout the seventeenth century attention must be directed to certain matters besides continuity and extent. The districts, the character, and the mode of inclosure require to be dealt with.

If we turn to the later years of the sixteenth century the frequent statutes dealing with tillage and houses of husbandry afford considerable evidence of the efforts of the government to secure adequate attention to arable cultivation, and to prevent land suited to corn being used for pasturage. To some extent these acts were directed to remedy conversions to pasture which had taken place in earlier years, and, taken by themselves, they do not, despite their stringency and frequent re-enactment, prove much more than the difficulty of reversing by state action a movement which, whatever its consequences, had at its base great economic causes. But this would be a very imperfect view of the condition which prevailed at the time. Economic causes were still at work, and inclosure was the natural response. No doubt they were somewhat changed in character. Even if the demand for pasture was still effective, the increased population, with its growing need of corn, and the new possibilities of improved methods of cultivation added new reasons for inclosure, though obviously for inclosure with different results, against which the old reproaches of depopulation and the diminution of the food supply could not be alleged. In respect of this tendency the evidence of writers like Tusser and FitzHerbert seems conclusive, and it is probable that it was due to a like perception that, despite the very obvious anxiety about inclosure, the statute was enacted which so specifically repeated the power of approvement enacted in the Statute of Merton.

That inclosure from which such detrimental results as those mentioned above might be and were apprehended was, however, steadily progressing is obvious from circumstances attending the later statutes of tillage, as from other evidence. The words of the statutes are very significant. Thus the preamble to 39 Eliz. c. 2 runs:-

“Whereas from the XXVII year of King Henry the Eighth of famous memory until the five-and-thirtieth year of her majesty’s most happy reign there was always in force some law which did ordain a conversion and continuance of a certain quantity and proportion of land in tillage not to be altered; and that in the last parliament held in the said five-and-thirtieth year of her majesty’s reign, partly by reason of the great plenty and cheapness of grain at that time within this realm, and partly by reason of the imperfection and obscurity of the law made in that case, the same was discontinued, since which time there have grown many more depopulations by turning tillage into pasture than at any time for the like number of years heretofore.”

Like language is to be found in 39 Eliz. c. I, which states, “where of late years more than in time past there have sundry towns, parishes, and houses of husbandry been destroyed and become desolate.” A like condition of things is stated in the tract Certain Causes gathered together, wherein is shown the Decay of England, if it may be assumed that this was written in the later part of the century. It relates to inclosures in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Northamptonshire, and complains that there has been a change for the worse since the days of Henry VII.

Additional light on the time and on the aims of Elizabeth’s ministers is thrown by a letter from Sir Anthony Cope to Lord Burleigh concerning the framing of the new bill against the ill effects of depopulation, written with the draft of the bill before him. In this criticism the writer says, “Where every house is to be allotted twenty acres within two miles of the town I dislike the limitation of the place, fearing the poor man shall be cast into the most barren and fruitless coyle, and that so remote as altogether unnecessary for the present necessities of the husband mane’s trade.” He then proceeds with other grounds of objection, very pertinent to the working of the act, and important as showing the difficulties obviously experienced in certain places. The ‘very definiteness of statement is sufficient to show that inclosures were taking place, and that they were attended in some places at least with bad results. He specifically urges that recent titles ought not to hinder the immediate application of the statute.

The foregoing evidence, which bears directly on the conversion to pasture and the existence of inclosure at the time, and also on the remedy of the former by law, can be supplemented by that of the writer of 1607, whose careful comparison of inclosed and open lands, especially as illustrated by the counties of Somerset and Northampton, has often been quoted. He deals not only with the two systems but with the remedy for inclosing when that results in depopulation. Here he considers the expediency of offering a remedy at a time when, as he says, the mere offer or attempt may serve as an encouragement to violent attempts at redress. Inclosure, he writes, was made the pretended cause for the late tumults. However he over rules this scruple and suggests that, so far as in closure is harmful, which in general he may be taken as denying or doubting, action must be taken not only with regard to that which has been but also in prevention of that to come. To prevent or to stay harmful inclosure he recommends that existing laws should be maintained and that new measures should be taken against ingrossing of lands. Briefly stated, no one is to hold more than one-fourth of the land -of any manor, the remaining three-fourths to remain in tenantries none of which is to exceed one hundred acres. Side by side with this as testimony to the real existence of the movement is the inquisition of 1607.

Though it is not intended to deal at this point with the nature of the inclosures, it should be added that further testimony as to inclosure of wastes is afforded by a memorial addressed in 1576 to Lord Burleigh by Alderman Box. This memorial is interesting by reason of the information it gives as to the condition of the land, and its general breadth of treatment. The writer urges the necessity of increasing the tillage lands, a necessity arising from, firstly, the large amount of good and fruitful land “lying waste and overgrown with bushes, brambles, ling, heath, furze, and such other weeds”; secondly, the amount converted from arable to pasture, which he states has been estimated at one-fourth of that at one time agreeable to maintain the plough. That there has been decay of arable is assumed, and equally he has no doubt in stating that laws made in redress have been inefficacious. The decay and putting down of ploughs have not been stayed, “but are rather increased, and nothing amended.” His own remedy is to leave the land in pasture alone and devote all efforts to the cultivation of the wastes. But here he points out a difficulty, which evidently was a real one. While the wastes existed the herbage and other profits belonged to the tenants; when divided and. separated their division was at the lord’s pleasure. Hence he advocates the introduction, of a regular system of inclosure of wastes, the lord of the manor, together with four or five of the gravest tenants, appointed and chosen by their fellows, to be empowered to proceed to a division and allotment, each allotment to be according to the rent paid and to be granted on condition of clearing and cultivating in two years. His object was not only to supply the lack of tillage land but to prevent division taking place under conditions which placed the land at the pleasure of the lord; it became his and the tenant lost the free profit which he formerly possessed in herbage, etc. Here, however, the memorial is instanced as evidence that inclosure of waste to the lord’s advantage was taking place, at any rate to some extent. Of course the writer’s recommendation; had it been enforced by law, would have increased the amount inclosed, though it would have removed or modified the objection felt by the tenants and people in general and evinced in the discords referred to, as also later at the time of the Diggers.

On turning to what occurred during the seventeenth century it will be convenient to examine the evidence as it presents itself under three headings-general references in tracts, pamphlets, and the like, official records, and lastly the evidence afforded by comparisons between the state of the country in the sixteenth and towards the end of the seventeenth century. So far as the first two bodies of evidence are concerned the century may be divided into periods of twenty-five years. One thing, however, must be remembered. Literary references frequently are to movements which have been in progress for some little time and have grown to sufficient dimensions to impress themselves as a general grievance in a district and within the knowledge of the writer, and yet not so long-standing as to have lost their aggressive character. A tract on inclosure does not merely deal with the events of the last year or so, but covers a much wider range.

So far as the first quarter of the century is concerned reference has already been made to the analysis of the relative advantages of inclosure and open which distinctly favours inclosure as conducing to (1) security from foreign invasion and domestic commotion, (2) increase of wealth and population, (3) better cultivation through land being put to its best use. In the Geographical Description of England and Wales (1615) complaint is made in respect of Northamptonshire that “the simple and gentle sheep, of all creatures the most harmless, are now become so ravenous that they begin to devour men, waste fields, and depopulate houses, if not whole townships, as one hath written.” The passage is of course copied from the Utopia. The Commons’ Complaint (1612) and New Directions of Experience to the Commons’ Complaint (1613), both by Arthur Standish, advocate inclosure in every county of the kingdom. In the preface to the earlier tract he refers to “a grievance of late taken only for the dearth of corn in Warwickshire, Northamptonshire, and other places.” Since this as well as the other tract is largely a defence, or rather advocacy, of inclosing there can be no doubt that the suggested cause was the in closing. Of Cornwall Carew writes in 1602,” They fall everywhere from commons to inclosure.” Again, Trigge in The Humble Petition of Two Sisters (1604) condemns inclosure.

In the second quarter the literary treatment of the subject is not very full. Depopulation Arraigned (1636), by R. P. (Powell), of Wells, was occasioned by the issue of the royal commission to inquire into inclosures, and deals in a hostile spirit with the subject. The author specially condemns what he describes as “a growing evil of late years “-namely, grazing butchers taking up land,-and gives some details of inclosure accompanied by depopulation.

In the third quarter and at the very beginning there is much more to be referred to under this heading. Inclosure Thrown Open; or, Depopulation Depopulated, by H. Halhead (1650), is a vigorous attack on those desirous of inclosing, who are accused of resorting to any means to secure their object. As to the district referred to, the authorship of the preface by Joshua Sprigge, of Banbury, affords some slender ground for the conjecture that it refers to the South Midlands. That the Midlands formed a conspicuous area is clearly shown by other writings. In these a definite controversy centres round the in closures of Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and the adjacent Midlands, while it comprises also references to other parts of the country. The first publication in this series was The Crying Sin of England of not Caring for the Poor, wherein Inclosure, viz. such as doth Unpeople Towns and Uncorn Fields, is Arraigned, Convicted, and Condemned by the Word of God, by John Moore, minister of Knaptoft, in Leicestershire (1653). To this there appeared an answer, Considerations Concerning Common Fields and Inclosures (1653). Moore replied in a printed sheet which apparently is lost. To this the author of theConsiderations published a Rejoinder, written in 1653, but not printed till 1656. In this latter year Joseph Lee, the minister of Cotesbatch, published A Vindication of Regulated Inclosure. A final retort to both the foregoing by Moore in A Scripture Word against Inclosure (1656) concludes the controversy. By its side must be placed The Society of the Saints and The Christian Conflict, both by Joseph Bentham, of Kettering. With regard to all these some few points require notice. The controversy begins with the inclosures in Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, and the counties adjacent, and then extends somewhat to other inland counties in general, one writer alluding to the inland counties” where inclosure is now so much inveighed against.” References in particular are made to inclosure in Warwickshire, and to the existence of in closed districts in Essex, Kent, Herefordshire, Devon, Shropshire, Worcestershire, and even Cornwall, though it cannot be concluded that the allusion is to recent inclosures in these latter counties. In the second place even Moore is careful to distinguish between inclosure which depopulates and that which has no such effect. When hard pushed he goes further, writing, ” I complain not of inclosure in Kent or Essex, where they have other callings and trades to maintain their country by, or of places near the sea or city.” Thirdly, a very important consideration as to the ultimate effect of the movement is raised by those in its favour in the assertion that very often in closure is laid to pasture and then after a rest returned to arable use greatly enriched. This assertion is accompanied by a consider able number of instances. Probably the references to the large inclosures in North Wiltshire by John Aubrey in the Natural History of Wiltshire were written during this period, for his studies began in 1656, though his preface was not written until 1685. The same period saw the publication of what was one of the most important seventeenth century works dealing with the subject, Blith’s English Improver(1652). In 1664 Forster in England’s Happiness Increased prognosticates a rise in the price of corn from inclosure which he deplores, stating, ” more and more land inclosed every year.”

During the last quarter of the century we have the many definite assertions by Houghton in his valuable Collections. In 1681 he writes of the many inclosures which” have of late been made, and that people daily are on gog on making, and the more, I dare say, would follow would they that are concerned and understand it daily persuade their neighbours.” He instances the sands of Norfolk as an example of what they may effect and urges the need of a bill of in closure. In 1692, in arguing against the common notion that inclosure always leads to grass, he adduces instances to the contrary from Surrey, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire. In 1693 he gives some account of inclosed land in Staffordshire, and adds, ” I cannot but admire that people should be so backward to in close, which would be more worth to us than the mines of Potosi to the king of Spain.” In 1700 he argues again in favour of a general act which should be permissive. Equally significant testimony is borne in 1698 by The Law of Commons and Commoners, which devotes a special section to the matter of legal inclosure. Campania Felix, by Timothy Nourse (1700), deals with the advantages of inclosure, as also does Worledge in the Systema Agriculturae (third edition, 1681). General references of this kind during the latter part of this century multiply as literature dealing with agricultural systems increases.

But to illustrate the condition of things during the last quarter of the seventeenth century, or even during the latter half, we must turn also to books and tracts published shortly after its termination. In The Whole Art of Husbandry; or, the Way of Managing and Improving of Land, by J. M., F.R.S. (John Mortimer), published in 1707, inclosure is treated as obviously beneficial, as with reference to it the writer adds, ” I shall only propose two things that are matters of fact, that, I think, are sufficient to prove the advantages of inclosure, which is, first, the great quantities of ground daily in closed, and, secondly, the increase of rent that is everywhere made by those who do inclose their lands.” Again, the editor of Tusser in Tusser Redivivus (1710), commenting on a reference by Tusser, says, “In our author’s time inclosures were not as frequent as now.” John Lawrence in A New System of Agriculture (1726) contrasts the inclosed and open fields in Staffordshire and Northamptonshire to the advantage of the former, and says as to the north that the example of Durham, the richest agricultural county, where nine parts in ten are already inclosed, is being followed by the more northern parts. He expresses surprise that so much of the kingdom is still open. Edward Lawrence in The Duty of a Steward to his Lord (1727) gives a form of agreement which he recommends to proprietors anxious to inclose. Equal testimony to the reality of the movement is offered by J. Cowper in An Essay Proving that Inclosing Commons and Common Fields is Contrary to the Interests of the Nation, in which he seeks to controvert the opinions of the Lawrences. Writing in 1732 he says: ” I have been informed by an ancient surveyor that one third of all the land of England has been inclosed within these eighty years.” Within his own experience of thirty years he has seen about twenty lordships or parishes in closed. An Old Almanac, which was written and printed in 1710, though it has a postscript bearing date 1734, urges the need of a general act and expresses the opinion that the consent of the lord with two-thirds of the tenants should bind the minority in any inclosure. Again, in the Dictionarium Urbanicum (1704) we read of “the great quantities of lands which in our own time have laid open, in common and of little value, yet when in closed . . . have proved excellent good,” etc.

Turning from this kind of evidence to that of an official and legal character, it is fortunate that the comparative weakness of the testimony of tracts and pamphlets during the first half-century can be otherwise strengthened. The inquisition into inclosures in 1607 refers obviously to what had taken place in the latter period of the preceding century, but during the reigns of the first two Stuarts the anxiety as to depopulation and scarcity which are apprehended as a probable if not a necessary result displays itself in almost undiminished force, as it may be seen from the Register of the Privy Council. In the reign of James I. there are some few references to cases of inclosure, the most interesting of which deals with the case of Wickham and Colthorpe, in Oxfordshire, in respect of which a bill in chancery for inclosure had been exhibited by Sir Thomas Chamberlain. Lord Say, however, had pulled the hedges down with considerable disturbance, and thus the matter came to the attention of the council. In a letter to the lord-lieutenant from the council it was pointed out that, owing to Lord Say’s action being known, “there is very great doubt, as we are informed, of further mischief in that kind, the general speech being in the country that now Lord Say had begun to dig and level down hedges and ditches on behalf of commons there would be more down shortly, forasmuch as it is very expedient that all due care be taken for the preventing of any further disorder of this kind, which, as your lordship knoweth by that which happened heretofore in the county of Northampton and is yet fresh in memory, may easily spread itself into mischief and inconvenience.” There are, however, but isolated instances of intervention.

More systematic attention to inclosure is shown during the second quarter of the century. The great administrative activity of the council in the fourth decade found a sphere here. On 26th November, 1630, a letter was directed to be sent to the sheriffs and justices of the peace for the counties of Derby, Huntingdon, Nottingham, Leicester, and Northampton, calling for an account of inclosure or conversion during the past two years or at that time in progress. In the replies from Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire many great inclosures were reported, and directions were accordingly despatched as to the course to be taken; some, as tending to depopulation or the undue diminution of arable, were to be thrown open. That this was deemed unnecessary in other cases is evident from a subsequent letter of 25th May, 1631, whereby inclosures begun might proceed on due undertakings that the houses of husbandry be not restricted injuriously or the highways interfered with. That considerable care was exercised in the matter is evident from further references in the proceedings of the council. On 9th October, 1633, the judges of assize were ordered to attend the board on the 18th to give an account of their doings and proceedings in the matter of inclosures. Unfortunately in the account of the meeting on this date and of the interview with the judges no definite reference is made in the Register to what transpired in the case of inclosures. In general it is said that the justices of the peace do not meet often enough to carry out the Book of Orders and that the returns of the sheriffs are defective. Among the State Papers is a copy of a warrant to the attorney-general to prepare commissions touching depopulation and conversion of arable in the counties of Lincoln, Leicester, Northampton, Somerset, Wilts, and Gloucester.

While it is doubtful if much was done directly to stay inclosure, and while with the approach of the Civil War the time of the council was necessarily devoted to other matters, the existence of an inclosure movement is certain. It is equally clear that information was obtained of which some use was made, though possibly for other ends than the benefit of the agricultural interest and the people. In 1633-4 we find a proposal that all inclosures made since 16 James I. should be thrown back into arable on pain of forfeiture, save such as be compounded for. The suggestion was not lost sight of, and from 1635 to 1638 compositions were levied in respect of depopulations in several counties of which an account is fortunately preserved. Some 600 persons were fined during this period, the amounts in some cases being considerable. The following is a summary of the sums obtained from compositions in the several counties affected during these years:

County 1635

£

1636

£

1637

£

1638

£

Total

£

Lincolnshire 3,130 8,023 4,990 2,703 18,846
Leicestershire 1,700 3,560 4,080 85 9,425
Northamptonshire 3,200 2,340 2,875 263 8,678
Huntingdonshire 680 1,837 230 2,747
Rutland 150 1,000 1,150
Nottinghamshire 2,010 78 2,088
Hertfordshire 2,000 2,000
Gloucestershire 50 50
Cambridgeshire 170 340 510
Oxfordshire 580 153 733
Bedfordshire 412 412
Buckinghamshire 71 71
Kent 100 100

(apologies but this table doesn’t seem to have come out 100% – please see the section immediately above this article – it will print correctly if you download the Word document – ed.)

Having regard to the size of the counties and the number of instances in each, this may be taken as indicating a considerable amount of inclosure in the case of the first six counties-Lincoln, Leicester, Northampton, Huntingdon, Rutland, and Nottingham. Only inclosures leading to depopulation were supposed to be included.

To the evidence thus given in official records as to inclosure during the first half of the century must be added that of the drainage inclosures.

A large body of evidence as to in closures and their distribution, mainly affecting the latter part of the century, lies in the Chancery Enrolled Decrees, where cases of inclosure suits and agreements occur in large numbers. These are of different kinds. In some instances agreements were enrolled to secure record and to bind the parties concerned; in other instances the object was to bind a minority who were not consenting parties to the case. For this purpose what seems to have been a collusive suit was brought against certain persons proceeding to in close and a decree obtained giving allotments to the petitioners. This was used, though obviously illegally, to prevent third persons not parties to and probably often in ignorance of the action from disturbing the division of the ground in question. That this was illegal is clearly stated by the author of the legal text-book on the Law of Commons and Commoners (1698), but his language leaves no doubt as to its occurrence. Probably in the then state of the rural districts the method was efficacious. Not only so, but the threat of a suit at law was used frequently, we are told by others, to secure assent to a proposed agreement to inclose. The mere menace would inevitably cause many to assent and others to withdraw from their rights. But the defect as against those who stubbornly adhered to their opposition, and who had sufficient means to give expression to their opposition, doubtless strengthened the growing desire for some parliamentary action, a full account of which has been given already. By this it will be seen that no fewer than eight general bills dealing with commons or common land were introduced into Parliament during the last half of the century.

The allusions to tumults in Northamptonshire at the beginning of the century, a repetition of which was feared at the time of Lord Say’s destruction of an inclosure, together with the movement of the Diggers, add the testimony of public disorder to the very considerable array of evidence adduced. A further supplement is to be found in the references made both by contemporary writers and by those of the earlier part of the next century to specific inclosures. Thoroton mentions some in Nottinghamshire. A list of the inclosures in Leicestershire, drawn up in the eighteenth century, notes some as effected in the previous century. A few instances in Northamptonshire beginning with 1600 are given by Bridges. The list might be further multiplied. Isolated instances are chiefly useful as filling up and strengthening the more general assertions made elsewhere. By themselves, however, they are too few to be of great value.

On turning to another kind of evidence and attempting some comparison between the state of the country, or rather of different districts, as described at approximately the beginning and approximately the end of the century, very obvious difficulties present themselves, except in one instance. The terms used are general and not precise, while further the obvious aim of the writer at any date is to compare the state of any particular district with that of adjacent districts or of the country at large at the same date. Hence the meaning of the terms “champion” or “inclosed” varies a good deal. But this feature, which renders the various descriptions so good for a comparison of the different parts at the same time, takes away from their value as a means of comparing the condition of one district at one time with its condition at another time, save when the change has been so great that the main character of the district is transformed, or when the change has been very irregular in its distribution.

In one instance, however, this difficulty does not present itself, and a good deal as to the progress of inclosure may be learnt from a comparison of the Itinerary of Leland with the road maps of Ogilby. Out of the references by Leland to the condition of the land along the road traversed, counting as one each case where there is a practically continuous account of a uniform character, about one-half can fairly be identified with a route described by Ogilby. Of these in twenty-seven cases the land is apparently in much the same condition. In the case of fourteen the amount of inclosure however has obviously increased, sometimes very greatly increased. Some two or three other cases, though indications point in the same direction, have been put aside on the ground that the evidence is inadequate. I t ought to be added that in no case does land stated to be inclosed on the earlier tour appear to have fallen back into an open condition. Taking these fourteen cases, two occur in Devon and Cornwall, and so the inclosure is of waste or open common, three in Yorkshire (E. and N. Ridings), one in Hampshire, one in Worcestershire, while the remaining seven are in the Midlands. Three of these last seven are in Northamptonshire. The route taken by Leland in South Leicestershire runs from Stanton (Stoughton) to Leicester, and the traveller adds “all by champain land.” The neighbouring route described by Ogilby from Glen to Leicester runs through in closed ground, a fact which suggests that there had been some increase of inclosure in this district. Turning from the particular instances analysed above, a careful comparison of the two itineraries, to give a common name to both, certainly leaves an impression of a general and marked increase in inclosed land, though, except in the Midlands, it seems that inclosure rather tends to increase in areas and to extend along lines already affected by the movement than to break out in wholly new districts.

Turning to the general comparison of descriptions and records at different times, for reasons already given great care must be exercised. Certain instances occur, however, where a definite conclusion seems possible. Leicestershire is described as ” champion” in the Geographical Description of England and Wales (1615), while Burton (1622) specially says that the south-east is ” almost all champion.” On the other hand according to Ogilby’s road maps there was a large amount of inclosed ground in the south-east. Again, we have in Aubrey a definite comparison of North Wilts at an early date and towards the end of the century, the latter state being confirmed by Ogilby. Of Durham the east is “most champain,” according to the Geographical Description, a condition apparently continuing in 1673, when, Blome writes in Britannia, the east is champain. On the other hand, according to John Lawrence in 1726 nine parts in ten are inclosed. In North Wilts, according to Leland, the route from Cirencester to Malmesbury was after the first mile all by champain, which continues to Chippenham. But by the latter part of the century much in this district was inclosed, a state of things very clearly shown in the roads passing through Malmesbury by Ogilby. Again, if Norden is accurate in describing Dorset, Wilts, Hampshire, and Berks as being champion in 1607, the state of the roads in Ogilby indicates that in Berkshire as well as in Wiltshire a considerable amount of inclosing had taken place during the seventeenth century. The same, though probably to a less extent, is true of Hampshire.

Before summarising the foregoing some account may be attempted of the condition of the country in respect of inclosure at the time of Ogilby’s road book Britannia, which bears date 1675, supplementing that with references of the same time or a little later. Such an account requires considerable additions to make it applicable to the end of the century, since there can be no doubt that the movement progressed considerably during the last two decades.

If we follow Ogilby’s description of the land lying at the side of the routes he traversed as fairly illustrating the country, the area in which open land chiefly continued at that time forms an irregular triangle, the apex of which lies in South Wilts, somewhat south and midway between Warminster and Salisbury, and the sides extend in a north-easterly and easterly direction respectively to the east coast. Of these the north side may be roughly figured as passing through Warminster and Devizes to Highworth; thence almost direct north to Stow, whence it makes a detour in a north-westerly direction through Pershore almost to Worcester, thence by Alcester, Coventry, Kegworth, Mansfield, Blyth, Doncaster, Pontefract, York, to Gainsborough, and thence to the coast. ‘The more southerly side runs through Salisbury, Hungerford, Oxford, Aylesbury, Newport Pagnel, thence with a southerly detour through Luton to Biggleswade, thence by Royston, Linton, Newmarket, to Bury St. Edmunds, and thence by Thetford, Hingham, Norwich, southerly to Great Yarmouth. The triangular area thus roughly delineated consists of the following counties: all or very nearly all of Cambridge, Bedford, Northampton, Huntingdon, Rutland, Lincoln, and Leicester, also S. and E. Warwick, S. Wilts, W. Norfolk, E. Yorks, a considerable part of Oxford, Buckingham, Nottingham, some part of Worcester, and small portions of Berks and Suffolk. There was, of courseopen land outside, in addition to that lying in down, moorheath, and hill, but if Ogilby can be taken as indicating the average character of the land it was in this area that open field and commons constituted a widespread feature. On the other hand, it is equally clear from Ogilby that there was a very large amount of in closed land in the area described, a feature

particularly conspicuous in Northamptonshire, S. Leicestershire, W. Norfolk, S. Nottinghamshire, S. Lincolnshire, and Yorkshire. Elsewhere the inclosed land presents itself more intermixt and in less continuous amounts, as in Bedfordshire. There is little doubt that by the end of the century the proportion of this had increased. The tendency for inclosure to prevail near towns of any size is marked and important. But this suggests the need of some allowance in our account for a larger amount of open land more distant from roads and so less accessible to or more distant from towns.

Summarising the evidence which has been adduced, it is clear that inclosure had been going on with some activity in the latter part of the sixteenth century. When the seventeenth century opens inclosure is attracting considerable attention, some part of which is no doubt due to the menace of disorder, or even to actual disturbances as in Northamptonshire. Complaint, however, is not confined to that county, but extends into Warwickshire and elsewhere. At the same time in Cornwall wastes are being inclosed for the purpose, it may be assumed, of cultivation. With time the movement in the Midlands, so far from being stayed, gathers force and extends over the adjacent districts to such an extent that the fear of depopulation leads to official inquiry into what was happening in the counties of Northampton, Leicester, Derby, Huntingdon, Nottingham, Gloucester, Wilts, Somerset, and Lincoln. Redress in certain cases is attempted, but not, it would seem, often, the most systematic use of the information obtained by these or other inquiries being the exaction of compositions from offenders, a course which obviously assisted the king in his effort to avoid dependence upon parliamentary supplies, though it might not remedy the evil. The chief counties affected by such compositions were Lincoln, Leicester, Northampton, Huntingdon, Nottingham, and Rutland. They certainly do not do much to stay the movement in the Midlands, which leads to considerable local controversy as to the results occasioned. Whatever be thought of these there can be no doubt that inclosure in the Midlands was both continuous and wide ‘spread, though it probably was most severe in the border district between Warwickshire, Leicestershire, and Northamptonshire. Meantime there are marks of like change elsewhere, as in North Wilts, where the inclosures extend over a considerable area, and in other districts where the mentions which survive are of separate instances. During the latter half of the century there is a great body of evidence as to the extensive nature of the movement, which evidently increases during the last two decades. As to this latter period, the evidence goes to show that very large quantities of land were regularly inclosed. The question of in closure is now not in any sense local, its advocates going so far as to seek to obtain parliamentary sanction to remove the difficulties which seem to have impeded though they could not check its course.

As can be seen from a comparison of this summary with the account drawn from Ogilby the chief area in which inclosure is mentioned as taking place coincides roughly with the region in which there still remained a large quantity of open. But in closure also took place just on the borders, and the inclosures in Durham and the north must be treated as additional. But it must be remembered that in closures which created no grievance, public or private, which, that is, did not threaten the realm with depopulation or dearth, or dispossess individuals of rights or of all opportunity of earning a living, were little likely to attract attention. What we know of the north or of Wilts, or of the sands of Norfolk, is due to rather casual notices. Even Moore, the vehement censor of the movement, writes, “I complain not of inclosure in Kent or Essex, where they have other callings and trades to maintain their country, or of places near the sea or city.” By the side of this passage may be put his remark that” the great manufacture of Leicestershire and many (if not most) of the inland counties is tillage.” Probably this attempt at discrimination is due to a desire to distinguish between what was occurring in his neighbourhood and what was taking place elsewhere. The reference may be restricted intentionally to Essex and Kent, in neither of which is it probable that there was inclosing during this century, but on the whole a wider application seems more probable. Towns, it must be remembered, were growing and manufacture was on the increase, and, to judge from Ogilby and other sources, inclosure in the neighbourhood of the towns’ was of usual occurrence. Some further evidence to this effect is offered by the complaint that the poor, deprived of the chance of labour in the field, were driven into towns. The material conclusion is that additional inclosure, which, far from being complained of, was regarded with favour, took place round the growing cities and towns. The growth of industries had undoubted influence in this direction. The weaving districts both in the east and in the west had been gravely affected in the early part of the sixteenth century, when the need of local supplies led to a considerable alteration in the cultivation of the land. It must not be assumed that the conversion, when it occurred, from arable to grazing was wholly in view of wool. The increase in the need for food, and especially animal products for consumption, must be taken into account. In some districts no doubt both wool and corn were largely imported, as was the case in part of Devonshire at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth centuries, when, as we hear in an account in 1630, the country was so full of cloth-making that food was imported. The wool used was not only local, or even from the neighbouring counties of Cornwall and Dorset, but brought from elsewhere, as from Worcestershire and Warwickshire. Probably this was true also of Somerset. Though tillage was still the great interest in the Midlands in the seventeenth century, town growth and the spread of industry were beginning, and these had a necessary effect upon inclosure.

Again, the inclosures in the north and in Cornwall have been mentioned. But these were not the only districts where wastes existed. To judge from the accounts of England towards the end of the sixteenth century there was a vast quantity of wild, uncultivated ground, of heath, moor, fen, and forest. To this Leland bears testimony in his Itinerary, while the already cited memorial by Alderman Box lays stress on its amount, as also on the desirability of its cultivation. Now any such quantity of waste land, as may be estimated from these and other sources, is, save in some districts in the north, quite inadequately accounted for in the inclosures by private act in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, or in the other recorded inclosures. Considerable ground was brought into cultivation by the drainage of the fens, and to this, it is contended, must be added the land recovered as it were from a wild condition. It is probable, indeed, that some portion was inclosed and cultivated during the earlier years of the eighteenth century. But, granting this and making allowance for the condition of the country in the late sixteenth century, the conclusion that a very considerable quantity of inclosure from a wild condition took place in the seventeenth or early eighteenth century is necessary. It may be contended that in a large number of cases such a course did not imply technical inclosure, inasmuch as the land may not have been under any common right servitude, and further that in such an event there would be nothing to tell of its inclosure, if the term be employed, even during the period of private acts. This may be true or partially true in the more outlying regions, but so far as much wild land is concerned the testimony of Box is in the opposite direction, since one object of the particular method suggested by him is to prevent tenants having rights from being deprived of them, as they evidently were being deprived on inclosure. But even in the case of land where rights either had not existed or had fallen into desuetude, from the early middle of the eighteenth century our knowledge of the movement is sufficiently complete to preclude its inclosure in large quantities without some notice. The enlargement of the whole region of or near cultivation after the middle of the sixteenth century seems to justify the conclusion that much in closure of this kind must have taken place during the seventeenth century, possibly during the latter years.

During the long period dealt with, extending from the later years of the sixteenth to the beginning of the eighteenth century, there seems abundant evidence as to the progress of inclosure in the following counties :

Warwick, Derby, Norfolk, Leicester, Nottingham, Durham, Northampton, Rutland, Cornwall (early), Hunts, Wilts,

There is also testimony as to some inclosure in certain other counties, though not of so definite a character or in such great amount

Buckingham, Hampshire, Gloucester, Berkshire, Somerset, Yorkshire (part of)

-to which might possibly be added other counties in the north to which inclosure had spread from Durham. In addition both from the Decree Rolls as also from scattered instances occasional inclosure was taking place throughout the country generally. But as to this it should be remembered that some counties were in a highly inclosed state when the period opened. Among these were Suffolk, Essex, Hertford, Kent, Devon, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Cheshire. Both Cornwall and Somerset, different in character as their inclosures are, were probably highly inclosed. Whether much inclosure went on during this period in Bedfordshire is difficult to decide. According to Ogilby a good deal of inclosure had been achieved by that time. It seems probable that the northern part of Cambridgeshire was in closed at the end of the century.

Leaving, however, the more special cases on one side the general outlines of the seventeenth-century inclosure seem clear and sufficiently distinctive to permit of certain conclusions. Firstly, there is evidence of inclosure continuing from earlier times through the Thames district. The Norfolk inclosures probably arose from new causes and at the end of the period. In Durham and the north the movement rises and develops. Probably much the same may be said of the whole district round the Wash. In the Midlands we have a movement which, though not new, since the north of Warwickshire was already inclosed to a great extent, increases very rapidly. Secondly, the. country in the regions of early industrial and town growth was already largely inclosed. Thirdly, a considerable amount of land was reclaimed from an uncultivated state by fen or draining inclosures, and in some cases from encroachment by the sea. Fourthly, the development of inclosure in the northern Midlands attacks a region, little affected hitherto, under very particular conditions. The soil of a large part of the district under the old common field system could not be devoted to the use for which it was best adapted-namely, grazing. Again, during that century a considerable quantity of land was reclaimed, thus adding to the area of cultivation much new and good corn land. Transport was developing and security of locomotion was greater. On the other hand towns were beginning to develop, and to some extent at any rate it would seem probable that inclosure took place owing to their development, and it may have been to supply their needs.

The method and nature of the inclosures during this period now call for some notice. The mode whereby these were effected at once follows in due sequence on that pursued in earlier times, and prepares. the way for that which was employed in the next century. In the first place approvement was still in force, and there is evidence that the powers thus at the disposal of the lord of the manor were in use. Among the answers to the inquiries set on foot by the privy council are references to sufficient land being left to others, in one case the lord alleging that he has left as much “as by law he ought to do.” That this means became of less use as time passed and with the decrease of the land in waste seems evident both from the nature of the case and also from the attempts in 1696 and 1697 to revive or even extend old powers. In the second place, while arbitrary inclosures no doubt took place, they seem, so far as their direct character is concerned, to have yielded to the development in the administration of the law. Agreements take their place, though not necessarily to the prevention of arbitrary action. That is removed one stage further off, and manifests itself in the kind of pressure exerted to secure assent to these agreements. Unwilling commoners are threatened with the risks of long and expensive lawsuits; in other cases they are subject to persecution by the great proprietors, who ditch in their own demesne and force them to go a long way round to their own land, or maliciously breed rabbits and keep geese on adjoining ground, to the detriment of their crops. In addition, to some extent, though until the records of the decrees in chancery have been fully examined it will be impossible to say to what extent, advantage was taken of the ignorance of the small commoners to make an illegal use of judgments obtained in their absence against their right of common. Thus agreements real or fictitious were secured. Probably where but few were concerned it was not difficult to bring people to .a voluntary assent, and in other cases by mingled cajolery and pressure dissent could be prevented. But the complexity of rights which existed in the larger number of open fields and the growing knowledge that decrees obtained in chancery did not bind a dissentient minority rendered resort to parliamentary sanction desirable.

Hence arose the movement which began in the promotion of a bill to make such decrees valid, and ended in the resort to private acts. These must not be regarded as involving a novel system of inclosure. They became necessary in order to carry out the system of agreements on a large and uniform scale, supplying both a means of registering them, where unanimous, more convenient than that previously employed, and further a legal method of enforcing agreements arrived at by a large majority upon a small and very often an ignorant minority. In many cases the early acts do little more than give legal assent and force to a division and inclosure already agreed upon and apparently in the process of execution. Nor were they without precedent. In addition to the acts passed for the inclosure and division of lands under particular conditions, as, for instance, those reclaimed by drainage or needing protection from encroachments by the sea, there is at least one early act of this very nature. The precedent was not, indeed, followed at the time, owing, at any rate in part, to the other means which presented themselves for the ready accomplishment of the end in view. At the close of the period matters had changed. These means had been exhausted or found ineffective for further use. So gradually recourse was had to the system of private acts. Their use, however, coincides in an interesting way with the growing assertion of parliamentary methods as contrasted with the action of the crown by ordinance or decree. A private act is the answer by the king in parliament to the petition by a subject. But the decree in chancery is the answer by the king to such a petition in his court of chancery. In this sense continuity is exhibited in form as well as in substance.

Though it is not possible here to attempt a discussion of the nature of the inclosures of this period or of their consequences, one or two remarks may be added. Taking the century as a whole the grave apprehensions expressed as to depopulation or diminution of arable were not fulfilled. In large measure inclosure was promoted in view of agricultural or even arable necessities. The relief of these inspired the support of the movement by its strongest advocates, as Standish, Lee, the author of the Considerations, and Houghton. The. opportunities which were offering for skilful farming made some alteration imperative. Again, at the very close of the century there is the positive assertion that less land is devoted to stock than was recently the case, while the Records of the Privy Council show that these results were often absent in the very cases selected for inquiry. It will be remembered that writers like Moore admit that a good deal of inclosure might occur without such consequences. On the other hand it is clear that at certain times and in certain districts, particularly in the Midlands, conversion from arable to pasture took place. Diverse influences were at work. Of these the most important are the growth of towns, which, while making better farming imperative, tended towards inclosure in the neighbourhood and the local increase of stock; the improvement in farming methods, which made the difference greater between the good and the bad farmer; and, lastly, the growth of locomotion. The skilful farmer required freedom for the exercise of his skill, and it was to the benefit of the nation that land should be put to the use for which it was fitted.

Speaking generally, the notion that the sole aim and result of inclosure during this period was the conversion of arable to pasture must be abandoned. No doubt this took place in many cases. No doubt, too, that in the earliest stage of the movement conversion was an important though possibly an exaggerated feature. But the description does not apply to the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as a whole. In Leland’s Itinerary, as has been already pointed out, there is mention of inclosed land in some sixty instances. In twenty-six of these notice is definitely made of corn. Sometimes the land is termed “goodly corn land” ; sometimes it is said to be fruitful and plentiful of grass and corn, and at other times fruitful of grass and corn. But in each case the corn is sufficiently obvious to be noted. Again, in the Properties of the Shires, printed with the Itinerary, we hear of Somerset, a much inclosed county, that it is “good for whete.” If we turn to Suffolk, also a very early inclosed county, we learn from Reyce that in Mid Suffolk there is both pasture and tillage; but mainly the latter, and this is not the district which he treats as champion. On the contrary, the greater number of flocks are in the champion district, the west. There is, of course, much other evidence so far as many cases are concerned. Lee, in Regulated Inclosure, while claiming that hedges provide shelter for cattle also argues that they are good for crops, an opinion which, though probably erroneous, shows that the inclosure movement was definitely viewed as acting favourably on arable cultivation. Reconversion after a rest is evidence as to result, if not intention. If at the end of the century we turn to Celia Fiennes’s record of her journeys, despite the sporadic character of her references, which invalidates her testimony with regard to the condition of the land, whether open or inclosed, her mention of inclosures makes it clear that these had not necessarily resulted in the substitution of pasture for arable. Her distinct references to inclosure are some thirty in number. In about half these instances there is nothing said to indicate the use made of the land. Of the remainder in some six instances she specifically mentions the corn, while in the rest the ground is styled fruitful, or good, or the like.

I t will not be out of place to conclude with a brief statement of the chief matters dealt with and the conclusions reached, or at any rate indicated. In the first place it has been contended that during this century inclosure proceeded steadily and over a wide area, and that a very large amount of land from being open passed into several ownership and was in closed. In the second place, these inclosures form part of a general movement which during this period of a century and a half extends into and then becomes very marked in a particular area, while doubtless still continuing, though to a much less extent, outside that area. In some districts it would appear that for the time it had reached its limits. In the third place, the movement was continuous not only in itself but in the means adopted to give it effect. These means follow each other in natural and explicable sequence. Lastly, the condition of the Midlands attracted particular attention. This area was affected for different reasons, and especially because, firstly, towns and industries were beginning to develop, secondly, in certain districts the old common field system had kept under grain land peculiarly suited for pasture, and thirdly, better land for grain had been added by means of drained and reclaimed or improved land.

a Landrights campaign for Britain

%d bloggers like this: