Landholding in England/Chapter 19

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CHAPTER XIX.—ENCLOSURE IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


"By nineteen Enclosure Acts out of twenty, the poor are injured, in some grossly injured. … The poor in these parishes may say. and with truth, Parliament may he tender of property, all I know is. I had a cow, and an Act of Parliament has taken it from me."—Arthur Young, "Enquiry into the Propriety of applying Wastes to the better Support and Maintenance of the Poor."


FOR a generation or two now, enclosure had been carried on, as it were, on sufferance—the rich were enclosing,[1] the poor were entering feeble protests, but it was the people who had to show that an enclosure was illegal, not the landlord who had to prove it was legal. And now came another stage. While philanthropists, moralists, and economists were asking why there was so much poverty, and how it could be removed, and were arguing with each other as to whether there was or was not plenty of work waiting somewhere or other for everybody willing to work, the landlords were preparing to take away still more of the lands which once belonged to the people.

The first Enclosure Act was in 1709. There was a second Act in Queen Anne's reign. In the thirteen years of George I. there were sixteen more Enclosure Acts. In the thirty-three years of George II. there were 226. In the sixty years of George III. there were 3446. Queen Anne's Acts only enclosed 1439 acres. Those of George I. enclosed 17,660. Those of George II., 318,784, Those of George III., 3,500,000. So between 1709 and 1820, 3,837,883 acres were withdrawn from the people, and made private property.[2]

These Enclosure Acts appear as petitions; they are usually in the names of the lord of the manor, the parson of the parish, and a greater or less number of the holders of the lands. For now enclosure concerns the "open fields." It is represented that the "strip system" is very inconvenient—the land being so "scattered." It would be for the benefit of all if the lands were enclosed and divided among the holders—that is, if each holder got his share in one piece. This, it is added, will do away with "the half-year's close, and the rights of common and sheep-walks." It was no doubt inconvenient to have the land in these non-contiguous strips—a man had a strip here and another there. And the six months' "close," or rather throwing open of the land to pasture, though it manured the land, was too long, and prevented the raising of any winter crop, such as turnips. And common pasture was always involved in these enclosures. So we often find counter-petitions, from other holders, who represent that if the lands are enclosed they will lose "the right of pasture."

Where this was the case the "enclosing and dividing" of the open field must have greatly facilitated the buying-out of the petty tenants, and the absorption of their lands in larger farms. The loss of pasture would make a man less reluctant to sell. Tillage and pasture worked in with each other; together, they brought the poor man a sufficient reward for his toil. When the pasture was gone, his cow became an expense instead of a source of income. Her milk was too dearly purchased when he could no longer feed her half the year in the open field, and the other half in the common pasture. And so the good wages often to be got in the town attracted him more and more. He sold his few roods or acres, and went to swell the population of cities.

Suffolk and most of Essex were so early enclosed that they are mentioned by Tusser, who highly approved of the better farming, made possible by enclosing the, "champion."[3] But in 1795, in his Survey of Essex, Young found the part next Middlesex, "in about 40 parishes, still very much in open fields." In Kent, no portion "was occupied by a community of persons, as in many other counties," Two-thirds of Hertfordshire were enclosed. "The larger common fields lie towards Cambridgeshire" (Young's Second Survey). In Warwick, rather more than a third was enclosed. About 1754 the south and west parts had been mostly open fields (Marshall, Survey of 1794). Pitt's Survey of 1813 gives two-thirds of Worcester as enclosed (not the S.E. corner). "The greater part of this country is ancient enclosure." Part of the Vale of Evesham and some other "rich common fields are of modern enclosure."

Durham was enclosed from 1658 to soon after the Restoration. In Northamptonshire enclosure was early (it is mentioned in the "Four Supplications," 1530). The old enclosed land was chiefly turned into grazing farms. Shropshire was very early enclosed. In Norfolk, the rebels did not complain of the enclosing of arable land, so probably this had been stopped. One-fourth of the arable land there was in common fields even in 1796. But most of east Norfolk is "a very old enclosed country" (Marshall). The Survey of 1796 says:

"The natural industry of the people is such that wherever a person can get four or five acres together, he plants a whitethorn hedge around it, and sets an oak at every rod distance, which is consented to by a kind of general courtesy from one neighbour to another. ... In this way many of the common fields of East Norfolk appear to have been enclosed."

But in many counties—Middlesex, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, the chief part of Bedfordshire, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, the south of Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire — there were open fields up to about 1794.

Nothing was easier than to get an Act. A pamphlet[4] published in 1786 says that to obtain an Act to enclose a common field, "two witnesses are produced to swear that the lands thereof, in their present state, are not worth occupying, though at the same time they are land of the best soil in the kingdom, and produce corn in the greatest abundance and of the best quality. And by enclosing such lands they are generally prevented from producing any corn at all, as the landowner converts twenty small farms into about four large ones, and at the same time the tenants of those large farms are tied down in their leases not to plough any of the premises so let to farm, by which means, of several hundred villages, that forty years ago contained between four or five hundred inhabitants, very few will now be found to exceed eighty, and some not half that number; nay, some contain only one poor decrepit man or woman, housed by the occupiers of lands who live in another parish, to prevent them being obliged to pay towards the support of the poor who live in the next parish" (p. 2).

An earlier pamphlet[5] makes the result of enclosure bad for everybody except the landowner and tithe-owner—that is, it benefits the rich but injures the poor. The great farmer is afraid his rent will be raised, and he himself forced into a more costly way of farming. The small farmer fears his farm will be taken from him, to be "consolidated" with the large one. The cottager not only expects to lose his commons, but his work, and to be obliged to leave his native place. This writer says that a parish which before enclosure could provide employment for thirty families, after enclosure could barely support sixteen. And the "General Report on Enclosure" of 1808 admits the conclusion of both those writers, by saying that "to stock rich grass lands demands a far greater sum than open field arable … and if profit be measured by a percentage on the capital employed, the old system might, at the old rents, exceed the profits of the new." Thus the system which enriches one class by impoverishing another is admitted to be bad economically.

Marshall, writing in 1805, says[6] that West Devon has no traces of common fields. The cultivated lands are all enclosed; mostly in good-sized enclosures. "They have every appearance of having been formed from a state of common pasture, in which state some considerable part of the District still remains; and, what is observable, the better parts of those open commons have evidently been, heretofore, in a state of aration; lying in obvious ridges and furrows, with generally the remains of hedgebanks, and with faint traces of buildings." They look as though they had been permanently enclosed "and have been thrown up again through a decrease of population." Labourers have 6s. a week, and many, "honestly dishonest," say they cannot bring up a family on 6s. a week and honesty! Wages are too low, and what farmers save in wages they lose by pillage! All ranks EXCEPT farm labourers have had an increase of income with increase in prices;[7] so poor rates are increasing. Marshall points out other places which show signs of having been formerly open fields. He thinks it was once the prevailing practice of Devon to CULTIVATE ITS COMMUNABLE LANDS. (The capitals are Marshall's.)

In Leicestershire, Belton, Newton, Austrey, Shuttington, Edinghall, and three or four more townships in the Bosworth quarter, were the only townships "that remain in any degree open. Half-a-century ago, the district was principally open." He says that each township appears to have been laid out originally into three arable fields with grassy "balks and ley lands," a common meadow and a common cow pasture. It is remarkable that neither Young nor Marshall seems aware of the history of those lands, which had "every appearance of having been formed from a state of common pasture," and the "better parts in a state of aration." Nor does Marshall seem to realise the significance of the "decrease of population," which he suspects, without seeming to connect it with any particular event or period.

Young, however, gives a few incidents of his tours which enable us to understand retrospectively many things which happened long before. One concerns enclosure; one the working of the poor law in rural parishes.

Mr Nicholas Styleman was a country gentleman who had been very active in the enclosure of some commons in Snettisham parish (near Sandringham). There were forty-one houses that had a right of commonage over all the open fields, after harvest. This totally prevented the growing of turnips and clover in those fields.

"This great inconvenience induced Mr Styleman to give his consent to, and promote, an Act for enclosing the commons, and preventing so great an incumbrance on the husbandry of the open fields. But in executing this idea he planned the outline of it in so candid and charitable a manner, that he kept as strict an eye to the interests of the poor people as to his own. In lieu of rights of commonage, the proprietors of a parish inclosed generally divide it amongst themselves, and give the poor no indemnity; but Mr Styleman determined at first that they should have something valuable in exchange for their right. He allotted each of the old common-right houses three acres contiguous to their dwellings, or their other property. Six hundred acres of old grass common were left so for these poor to turn their cattle on in a stinted manner. It maintains 205 cows, 120 mares and foals till 10 months old; 80 yearling calves, and 80 fillies. In their little inclosures they grow turnips, barley, wheat, and a little hemp."

Mr Styleman also assigned to the poor of the whole parish, "100 acres of common in one inclosure for cutting turf; each house under 40s. a year rent has a right to cut 3000 flag (turf), a quantity sufficient for the winter's firing." This was in lieu of the old practice of cutting whins for firing over the whole extent of open fields—a practice "destructive of much land." Young says the scheme succeeded perfectly.

"Their little inclosures are of great use in maintaining their cows on a pinch in winter on turnips or clover hay; and their tillage is executed by their broodmares. And it is observable that no instance has been known of any inhabitant of these 41 cottages ever being chargeable to the parish. The poor rates are from 9d. to 1s. in the pound; before the inclosure they were 1s. 6d. This fall has been owing to the increase of employment arising from the inclosure and its consequences; and to the poor having been so much favoured in the Act. At the same time that such uncommon attention has been given to the poor, it has not destroyed, through a false idea, the rise of the landlord's income, generally expected on such occasions. The rents of the parish are in general raised a third by the inclosure: one farm belonging to the Corporation of Lynn is raised from £160 to £360 a year."

With it all, there was an increase of inhabitants—people were tempted to settle in a parish which offered

"such superior benefits. There were 500 souls before the inclosure—now there are 600. And if 20 new cottages were built, they would be immediately filled: and Mr Styleman is not clear that, was such an addition made, whether the rates would rise."

He further told Young that there was never any want of hands "for the greatest works; had he miles of banking to do, the procuring hands for the execution would never be the least difficult."

The last words refer to a "great work" which Mr Styleman had actually accomplished some years before—banking out the sea—"which undertaking was by many thought very daring and hazardous." He began it in 1750, and finished it in a year. The bank was a mile long. He recovered 300 acres, and spent £1500. As he got £240 more rent a year, this daring and hazardous undertaking brought him back 16 per cent, for his outlay.

Another illuminating incident took place near Hook in Hampshire. Young tells us how Mr Holroyd, of Sheffield Place, got down a poor rate. When he came to reside in the parish he found "great abuses in matters of poor and rates." The rates ran up "to a most extravagant height, owing to farmers playing into each other's hands. They paid weekly allowances and house rent to labourers in full health and strength, and many children were taught no industry till fifteen or sixteen years old. They agreed among themselves that they should have allowances from the parish, of 1s. 6d. or 2s. a week per lad, for taking them as servants, besides being partly clothed at the parish expense also ; while many of the lads were worth near as much wages as they were paid for taking them, and maid-servants were also taken in the same manner. By this ingenious device, the farmers got the parish to pay their servants' wages, and a trifle over! Mr Holroyd, however, changed all this. He made extracts from the poor law, and gave them to the farmers; and he himself took the office of overseer. He apprenticed the smallest boys and girls to the richest, and the "stoutest" to the poorer farmers, with no allowance but 25s. a year for clothes. Six indignant farmers submitted to the fine of £10 for infringement of the law rather than agree to terms "that so fully proved the tendency of their former transactions—and these forfeitures have clothed the children." Holroyd reduced the rate from 4s. 6d. to 1s. 6d., and "the old people are taken much better care of"; for before this, "no attention was given to anything but great families, which the officers made the sources of plunder." The poor man and his children are exploited in other directions than war. Large families keep down wages.

In 1795 a correspondent, who signs himself "An unwearied Friend to the Poor," gives an account of the parish of Shottesbrook, Berks., in the time of "the all-accomplished, learned and pious Francis Cherry, the generous patron of the learned Thomas Hearn." Mr Cherry died in 1714, so the picture is of Queen Anne's time. He owned many other manors in Berks, and Surrey, and "was landlord of every house but one in Shottesbrook." There were several moderate farms, one very large one, the rest cottages, every one had a good orchard, kept a cow, a sow and poultry. "Now there is a clause in the original Poor Act," that a parish which has no poor of its own shall help its neighbours. A neighbouring parish, Lawrence Waltham, was "a very poor parish, with very rich inhabitants." Waltham called on Shottesbrook for help. The Shottesbrook farmers, alarmed, called a vestry, and ordered all the poor men to attend, when one man was requested to accept 3s. a week, because he had nine children. He replied: "On no account, for thank God, he kept his family very well, and would not on any account be beholden to the parish." Another, "who had a sickly lame wife, begged to be excused." So did they all. At last the farmers bethought them of "old Dame Tooley,"[8] who had 3s. a week "for weeding in his honour's garden and all her victual at the great house, and she was made to accept 3s. a week from the parish, and so deliver them from assisting the poor of Waltham." "Now, Mr Urban, the cause of this riches was the orchards, and the great goodness of Mr Cherry, who constantly ordered his steward to take every man's cow into his park or strawyard according to the season, and to let the grass of the orchards become hay to feed the cows before and at calving time." But this excellent squire died, leaving daughters, who sold the estate to the uncle of the "present worthy possessor, Arthur Vansittart, Esq., a very amiable man, but, bred a Dutch merchant, he entered not into the economy of the poor, took away all their orchards to make a garden of thirty acres, pulled down several of the farmhouses, and many of the cottages. The consequence was that in a few years the poor tax became very high, and the poor of Shottesbrook were very poor, though they had very charitable rich neighbours." In 1745 or 1746, when the writer visited a widowed daughter of Mr Cherry's, who had returned to live in the parish, she lamented to her visitor that she had to send her man-servant two miles for milk, if she wanted more than a quart a day, and told him that she paid a twelve-penny rate to the poor three times a year. Yet in Mr Cherry's time there were under thirty houses—"I believe are now pulled down to about a dozen."

This last statement is a striking example of the amount of economic mischief done by depriving cottagers of their bit of land.

The "Friend to the Poor" contrasts the mere helping of the poor with the helping the poor to help themselves.

"Many plans are laid," he says, "to keep our poor from perishing from want of bread, hut that is the lowest link in the chain of Charily; indeed, I doubt whether it be any charity, except to ourselves—to prevent their rising and knocking us on the head. True charity to the poor, honest labourer is, to enable him to become rich: I mean comparatively rich. Let us suppose a labourer with seven children to earn 9s. a week, and my charity leads me to add to it half-a-crown; it will enable him to purchase a little piece of bacon. Suppose I give it every week; at the year's end I shall have given the poor man seven guineas, wanting one shilling, and he will be just in the same state at the year's end, still a poor starving cottager in a little hole in a village with two or three alehouses, the bane of the labourer and his family. Now, suppose the poor man in a cottage with a little orchard, on or near a common, no vile alehouse near, and of these seven guineas I lay out five in buying him a little Welsh cow; one guinea in buying him a young open sow; the remainder of the seven guineas in two geese and a gander, a few hens and a cock; all of which, if the English had as much acuteness as the Irish and Scotch, would be supported on the common the whole Summer and great part of the Winter; the cow, God sending good luck, will produce a calf, which, if managed as by the excellent farmers and labourers in Kent, will suck the whole of the cow's milk only the last fortnight before it goes off to the butcher; when gone, butter will be made; the skimmed milk will more than half keep the family; the butter-milk will help to keep the sow; the poor woman will be able to raise six shillings to buy a bushel of malt, which, as was lately shown in the St fame's Chronicle, by some benevolent person, will make twenty-two gallons of beer for the poor man, without going to an alehouse; the grains will benefit the sow. Everyone that has lived in the country knows that geese always keep themselves through the whole year, except the hen-geese whilst sitting. I once knew a poor old widow, who, living in a single room up one pair of stairs, supported herself comfortably by keeping geese on an adjacent common, the amiable minister of the parish allowing her to coop the old goose in the churchyard about five days after the young ones were hatched, before they were turned out to provide for themselves on the common.
·······
"The cottager, thus placed, thus assisted, will in a few years be able to rent 'a little bargain,' as it is called, of about 12s. or 15s. a-year; grow a little wheat, barley, etc., and by degrees rise to a small farm of £60 or £70 a-year. I myself knew two instances, where, beginning originally with only the sow and a few geese, and the man working (shameful to tell!) for only six shillings a-week, hay-time and harvest excepted, each rose to good farms ; one to a £60 farm, the other died, about five years ago, in one of £120 a-year."[9]

He concludes with an account of two poor families in different parts of the country, who are rendered comfortable "by my letting two good tidy houses, one with a large orchard and garden at £4, 10s. a year, the other with two fields at £6 a year. In the first, a widow with eight children is supported by the cow, etc.; in the second, a very aged man, with an insane daughter, and a person to take care of them." If dismissed from their "little bargain," they must immediately be "supported at great expense by the parish to which they belong. … It is absurd to talk of turning commons into cornfields, that the poor may reap and thrash corn, and so remain wretchedly poor. No … let them build, or allow poor labourers, young farm-servants, when they marry, to run up an hut on the common, and enclose as much as they can cultivate. It is the only way to diffuse happiness among the poor."

The newly-established Board of Argriculture, with its founder. Sir John Sinclair, at its head, was very keen on enclosure. "A General View of the County of Salop" was drawn up for the Board in 1794, by J. Bishton of Kilsaal in that county. It gives the landlord's side of enclosure, and shows the alarm caused by the revolt of the French peasantry. The use of common land by labourers "operates upon their minds as a sort of independence," whereby they get "a habit of indolence." When the commons are enclosed, "the labourers will work every day in the year, and their children will be put out to labour early." Best of all, "that subordination of the lower ranks of society, which in the present times is so much wanted, would be thereby considerably secured."[10]

"Six inclosure bills were read the first time" on 20th February 1795; and in February 1796, Sir John Sinclair made his motion for "improving and inclosing the waste lands." His object was to grow more corn, and not to have to pay more than £1,000,000 sterling for bounties on imported corn (for to that it had come in the late scarcity). The Bill was "to facilitate dividing and inclosure." There was a great outcry from those who understood the importance of commons to small holdings. Sinclair meant well—his Bill was not intended to enrich the larger holders, but this was the almost invariable result. The only effect on the poor was to deprive them of the means of keeping live-stock. Enclosure has always been, as was said at the time, "an annihilation of public right for the advancement of separate property." The writer of a letter in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1798, signed "Agricola," says that it has been the custom in open fields of leaving one-third or one-fourth every year as of common right for all persons, "as well those of smaller property, and that not in land, as those of superior property and that in land, to turn their cattle, horses and sheep to feed, in proportion to their several legal holdings, whether land or cottage." "Agricola" does not believe in "the unlimited right of common—it is too absurd to be defended." But an experience of forty years has taught him that enclosure, as practised during that time, "has turned both country gentlemen and their overgrown tenants into arrogant and unfeeling monopolists. For when did you know a man, or combination of men, with exclusive rights and privileges, consider the public in any other light than as an object of plunder? "Agricola" explains that he calls the tenants "overgrown," because they occupy so "vast an extent of land" under such long leases, that they often bid defiance to their landlords! He admits that "the property of individuals" lies most inconveniently scattered in various parts of the open fields, so as to cause daily trespasses on each other's lands, and that commons are overstocked and neglected; but Commissioners could be empowered to allot to each proprietor a fair equivalent of land lying together, instead of being dispersed; it might even be enclosed, leaving one-third or other reasonable portion open every year to a general right of common.

Another writer gives an account of how lands were being stolen from the people. "Throughout England there has been till lately numerous cottagers, many with several acres of land; but as land became more valuable, the lords of manors find means of getting them into their hands." This is the real cause of the failure of enclosure. "I will relate what happened in my own neighbourhood. Many poor families have been served in the following manner, though they have enjoyed uninterrupted possession, time immemorial, by regular descent from father to son. The lord of the manor comes first and tells the cottagers that their houses and lands belong to him; that he will no longer submit to such encroachments; and will take them into his possession. This frightens the poor people, knowing themselves unable to assert their rights. The next step, a country attorney sends them notice to quit. This generally effects all they desire. To prevent immediate ruin they beg hard for leases, and obtain them readily, and at an easy rate ; which draws others in to follow the example. However, when the first lease is expired, they are always raised to rack-rent."[11] When of course their acceptance of a lease gave the lord of the manor the title he wanted.

A pamphlet by Thomas Wright of Mark Lane, published in 1797, says that "three wealthy farmers have monopolised within a few years 24 farms in the parishes of Sawbridgeworth, Much Hadham, and Stocken Pelham, in Hertfordshire, on each of which 24 was a house, yard, barns, etc." Mr Wright was last year at a farm of 160 acres, the stock of which was "80 sheep, 5 cows, 2 calves, 17 hogs and pigs, 70 fowls, 23 ducks, in all, 207, besides a number of pigeons." Markets had been supplied from this farm almost weekly during the year. He calculates the loss to the community by clearing off the twenty-four farms at something like 4447 animals. He proposes a society for buying up large estates, and dividing them into small farms.

We may, if we please, consider as fortunate exceptions the cases of the two families which rose to comparative opulence. Far more important are the cases of those who maintained their independence, until deprived of their orchards and of the ability to keep a cow. Those who write on small holdings too often consider them from the point of view of the money which can be made out of them, and appear scarcely to take into account that the man may be obtaining more than half his food from his bit of land, and if so, he is getting a great deal more than the money—he is getting money's worth. Until we take into account this money's worth we shall never form a practical idea of the "success" or "failure" of small holdings. Another argument used against small holdings is that the cottages of English labourers are more "comfortable" than those of French or German peasants. I have even seen the flowers in an English cottage window mentioned as though they were a sort of set-off to the independence of the Swiss—who, these persons assure us, never have any flowers in their windows. How much happier is the English agricultural labourer, say these persons. How comfortable is his cottage; how much the squire and the parson do for him in the winter; how rough and unrefined is the life of a French peasant in comparison! But these persons quite forget that the French peasant is independent; he has not to please the squire, or be compelled to leave his village. He can, if he chooses, and has the money, build a house upon his land, to accommodate a grown-up son—there is no squire to say that no new houses shall be built. The French peasant saves money—did he not pay the indemnity demanded by the Prussians?—but first of all, he lives on his land. In years gone by, English peasants did the same, and if they do not do it now, it is because the classes above them have contrived to deprive them of that land.

Occasionally, but very occasionally, in these enclosures, there was some thought of "the poor." In the manor of Barnardcastle (Durham), for instance, "several small tracts of waste land lying on the side of one of the outskirts, and on the skirts of the public roads, together with a narrow slip of moor, which only invited vagabonds, who sought to harbour and maintain their half-starved asses, and were not of any material benefit to the legal settlers, were by the act invested in the commissioners, in trust to be sold, and the product was thereby directed to be applied to the relief of poor persons belonging to Barnardcastle, who do not receive alms. By this means, after paying all expenses, 17 poor persons are relieved … they are elected by the select vestrymen and sidesmen for life. The men receive £5 a year each, and the women £4" (Letter in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1797). The writer hopes this may be an example to lords of manors on future enclosures, "that the poor may not be wholly shut out, where the rich are increasing their property."

Note.—Tusser's views on "Champion" and "Severall" are set forth in a "Comparison," from which it is plain that his preference for "enclosed country," is not because he thinks small holdings unprofitable, but because he objects to the practice of throwing the open fields into common pasture at certain seasons of the year (whence they were called "Lammas Land"), and so went unfilled for that time, and produced no winter crops. There is no mistaking his meaning. If you tie your horse to a balk, he "is ready with thief for to walk." What is gotten by summer is eaten clean in winter. There is greater plenty of mutton "and beef, corn, butter and cheese of the best," more people, and handsomer, "there, where enclosure is most"; more work for the labouring man, fewer poor "begging from door unto door."

""In Norfolk behold the despair
 Of tillage, too much to be borne.
By drovers, from fair unto fair.
 And others destroying the corn.
By custom and covetous pates.
By gaps, and by opening of gates."

The corn is so "noyed" as it lies, that half your labour is lost. Even the larger owners do not respect the champion.

"The flocks of the lords of the soil,
 Do yearly the winter corn wrong;
The same in a manner they spoil,
 By feeding so low and so long."

In Cambridge, "a town I do know, where many good husbands do dwell," the losels rob the champion by night, and prowl and filch by day. No orchard or hen-roost escapes, and the lord of the manor knows it all, and does nothing. Horses and cattle are driven through every man's corn, and when they drive their sheep to be washed, "How careless such sheep they do drive!" Then what hunting and hawking, when the corn is waiting for the sickle. How much better it is where pasture is in severall. With champion, men eat bread and beans, and go barefoot and ragged; with severall, they have two loaves instead of one, and "of meslin, of rye, or of wheat." In woodland, poor men that have "scarce fully two acres of land" live more merrily than in champion with twenty. But the last verse explains why the poor do not like enclosure—

"The poor at enclosures do grutch.
 Because of abuses that fall;
Lest some men should have but too much.
 And some again nothing at all."

A comparison between Champion Country and Severall—"Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry."

The "Country Farmer" gives an instance of aparish enclosed about 40 years before he wrote. Before enclosure, it contained 82 houses, of which 20 were small farms and 42 were cottages with common rights. There were 1800 acres of common field arable, 200 of rich common cow pasture, and 200 of meadow, commonable after hay harvest. The common pasture fed 200 milch cows and 60 dry ones till hay harvest, when they were turned into the meadows, and their place taken by about 100 horses. 1200 sheep were fed on the stubble. He gives the gross produce of the parish before enclosure as:

1100 quarters wheat at 28s. per quarter £1540  0  0
1200   „   barley at 16s.    „ 960 0 0
900    „   beans at 15s.    „ 675 0 0
250 todds wool at 16s. per todd 200 0 0
600 lambs at 10s. each 300 0 0
5000 lb. cheese at 1½d. per lb. 31 5 0
6000 lb. butter at 5d. 125 0 0
100 calves at 20s. each 100 0 0
150 pigs at 12s. each 90 0 0
poultry and eggs 80 0 0
£4101 5 0

On enclosure, the twenty farms were made into four, the whole area was devoted to grazing, sixty cottages were pulled down or otherwise disappeared, and the necessary work was done by four herds (one for each farm) at £25 a year each, board included, and eight maid-servants at £18 a year each, board included. The gross produce after enclosure was:

Fat beasts £960  0  0
Sheep and lambs 760 0 0
Calves 165 0 0
Wool 235 0 0
Butter 190 0 0
Cheese 100 0 0
Horses 250 0 0
£2660 0 0

But while the gross produce was reduced about one-third, the gross rent was raised from £1137, 17s. to £1801, 12s. 2d. Thus sixty families were driven out in one parish of about 2300 acres.


  1. "An ancient surveyor" told John Cowper, author of a pamphlet against Enclosure, that in the eighty years before 1732, one-third of all the land of England had been enclosed. In 1714, the population of England and Wales was 5,750,000.
  2. One hundred and twenty-six Enclosure Acts were passed for lands in the four counties of Oxon., Bucks., Northampton, and part of Leicestershire, from 1762 to 1772. This probably meant the sending adrift of 1800 families, about 9000 individuals.—Slater, "The English Peasantry and the Enclosure of Common Fields." (Mr Slater takes the number of families and persons from a calculation made by "A Country Gentleman" in a tract published in 1772—"The Advantages and Disadvantages of enclosing Waste Land and Common Fields,")
  3. Tusser wrote in the reign of Elizabeth. See note at end of chapter.
  4. "Thoughts on Enclosure, by a Country Farmer." Mr Slater quotes this tract in his admirable work on Enclosure, but I was unable to find it at the British Museum. No locality is named, but Mr Slater thinks it was in that part of the Midlands, where enclosure was attended by the conversion of arable to pasture. The "Country Farmer" gives tables showing that the process resulted in a large reduction in the value of the produce, but in a large rise in rent. See note at end of chapter.
  5. "The Advantages and Disadvantages of enclosing Waste Lands and Common Fields. By a Country Gentleman, 1772." This is quoted with approval by the Board of Agriculture in the report of 1808.
  6. "Rural Economy of the West of England."
  7. "The price of drudging labour in every country where there is plenty of hands is nearly the same. It is mere existence. What are at present the wages of common farm-labourers throughout the kingdom of Great Britain ? Say about four pecks of bread-corn per week. And what are they less than this in any other country? There can be no good reason given that the price of corn and grass should be higher now than they were formerly, or than they are in other countries. I have said that the price of common labour does not and cannot increase: but the farmer will say that rent and taxes increase. To which I reply: if they do, they ought not : because everything that tends to raise the price of the first necessaries, must repeat its effects in all the millions of exchanges afterwards made."—S. in the Gentleman's Magazine, June 1825.
  8. "Who died at 106, for the stone is falsely engraved."
  9. The writer remarks on "the extreme cruelty of the generality of farmers, in refusing to take in a cottager's cow to straw-yard in winter, that the poor man may not keep his cow on the common in summer." He knows of one such instance, "where a farmer, by this method, raised a fortune of £20,000, but his children have dropped off like rotten sheep."
  10. "A daughter kept at home to milk a half-starved cow, being open to temptations, soon turns ——— and becomes an ignorant distressed mother instead of a good useful servant. The surrounding farmers by this means have neither industrious labourers nor servants."
  11. Letter of B. I. B., Gentleman's Magazine, 1798.