Ref NoQ/RI
TitleQuarter Sessions (registration): Enclosure maps and awards
Date18th-19th cent
DescriptionQ/RI/1-115, c1-203: Enclosure maps and awards, 18th-19th cent
Administrative HistoryThe enclosure records held by Derbyshire Record Office relate chiefly to parliamentary enclosure in this county, i.e. enclosure carried out by the authority of Acts of Parliament. Most parliamentary enclosure in Derbyshire took place between the mid-eighteenth and the mid-nineteenth centuries, although the first enclosure by Act of Parliament, at Scarcliffe, was as early as 1730. Enclosure by private agreement amongst landowners had been taking place for centuries before the advent of enclosure by Act of Parliament, but it is rarely well documented. Moreover, where a village was in the hands of a single landowner, enclosure might occur without producing any written evidence.

The gradual effect of enclosure was to replace the great arable fields of the open field system and unenclosed areas of commons and waste land used for pasture, with relatively small hedged or walled "closes", fields in modern usage (the original meaning of "field" was "open land"). Enclosure enabled technical advances in agriculture to take place and the more efficient and convenient arrangement of a farm's lands, but for a landlord, the chief attraction lay in the higher rents enclosed land could command. As a quite unintended by-product of enclosure, it also played a significant part in the evolution of the English landscape.

Where the agriculture of a village was based on the open field system there might be only three or four huge arable fields each subdivided into dozens of unfenced strips of land. A farm would consist of numerous strips distributed throughout the fields. Although these were privately owned, farming was organised communally: the same crop would be grown by every farmer in a particular field, there was an agreed crop rota and at certain times the villager's cattle and sheep would graze the arable fields. Further pasture was provided by the commons, whether stinted (this is, restricted to a certain number of animals for each commoner proportionate to the amount of arable he farmed) or unstinted (unrestricted).

Private enclosure of arable land might be carried out by a series of exchanges until the lands of each owner concerned were regrouped in compact holdings, which could then be fenced. This often produced long narrow S-shaped fields followed the shapes of the old strips. Parliamentary enclosure ignored the pre-existing boundaries and land was redistributed in more or less rectangular blocs with straight boundaries and new wide, straight roads laid out between the enclosures.
Related MaterialThere is also an alphabetical list by place name of all the enclosure maps (in Quarter Sessions and other collections)
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