UK History: Charles I 'The Anti-Enclosure King'

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Jun 3 16:11:55 BST 2008

More evidence here that Charles I halted enclosure in its tracks in the
Another account of pre-Civil War actions by the King to penalise lords of
manors, merchants and other enclosers. 
I suggest resentment caused by these retrospective compositions, or fines,
may have been the true reason for the war between the feudal and merchant
classes. It certainly speaks very well for Charles' record and after the
war enclosure was greatly accellerated to blight the entire population to
the present day.

 With footnotes. Extracted using a scanner so there may be minor errors. 
Please note the use of the spelling "inclosure" as compared to the more
common "enclosure".

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 with footnotes as a word document here

'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,"'


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 combina-tions 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 condi-tion 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 Fitz-Herbert 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 circum-stances 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 con-tinuance
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
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,
Bucking-hamshire, 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 illus-trated
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 memo-rial 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 com-mons to inclosure." Again, Trigge
in The Humble Peti-tion 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 depopu-lation. 
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 Leicester-shire (1653). To this there appeared an
answer, Con-siderations Concerning Common Fields and Inclosures (1653).
Moore replied in a printed sheet which apparently is lost. To this the
author of the Considerations 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 in-closures 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, Worces-tershire, 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 seven-teenth 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 testi-mony 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 move-ment 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 appre-hended 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 in-closure,  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
	More systematic attention to inclosure is shown during the second quarter
of the century. The great adminis-trative 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 under-takings that the houses of husbandry be not restricted
injuriously or the highways interfered with.  That con-siderable 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. Un-fortunately 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 sugges-tion 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
pre-served.  Some 600 persons were fined during this period, the amounts in
some cases being considerable. The follow-ing is a summary of the sums
obtained from compositions in the several counties affected during these

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

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,
Hunting-don, 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 dis-tribution, 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 agree-ments 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 collu-sive 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 Com-mons 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 agree-ment 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, to-gether with the movement of the Diggers,
add the testi-mony 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 con-tinuous 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 move-ment 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 Geo-graphical 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,
Hamp-shire, 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 con-tinued 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, Ponte-fract,
York, to Gainsborough, and thence to the coast. 'The more southerly side
runs through Salisbury, Hunger-ford, 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, Hunting-don, 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 course,
open land outside, in addition to that lying in down, moor, heath, 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 con-stituted 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
particularly conspicuous in Northamptonshire, S. Leicester-shire, 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
con-siderable 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, Notting-ham, and Rutland. They
certainly do not do much to stay the movement in the Midlands, which leads
to con-siderable 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 in-dividuals 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 discrimina-tion 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 Devon-shire 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 Worcester-shire
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 cen-tury. 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
con-tended 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 remem-bered
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 con-clusions. 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. coun-try 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 encroach-ment 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 cen-tury 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 loco-motion 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
Hence arose the movement which began in the pro-motion 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 pre-cedent 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 parlia-ment 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
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 de-finitely 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 con-clusions 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


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