Only village in England not to be privatised (enclosed)

Tony Gosling tony at
Fri Oct 14 01:27:57 BST 2011

Loads of stuff on these two great Laxton sites
better still pay Laxton a visit!

The members of Laxton History Group are villagers 
past and present and people with an interest in 
Laxton and its history. We enjoy monthly meetings 
with speakers on topics chosen by members. Recent 
meetings have looked at Crosshill Farm, Laxton 
church and its history, WWI food, Creswell Crags, 
agriculture in the East Midlands in medieval 
times and 'Rural Nostalgia' - an evening of old films on agricultural topics.
Laxton is probably best known for its three field 
farming system which survived the Enclosures Act 
of 1845 and can still be seen today, although on 
a smaller scale than at its height.
The Laxton Estate is owned by the Crown Estate 
and the agricultural land and associated farm 
houses are leased to 14 tenant farmers. There are 
also 4 smallholdings in the village with strips associated.
The boundaries of the strips and roadways and the 
common land in the fields is maintained through 
the ancient manorial court, known as the Court Leet.

Laxton is situated in the north of 
Nottinghamshire, close to the A1, but its 
agricultural system functions according to the 
rules of the system established in mediaeval times.
The three Open Fields contain strips worked by 
the farmers of the village, tenants of the Crown 
Estate, under the jurisdiction of the Court Leet 
and Jury. This legally constituted manorial court 
ensures that the three year crop rotation 
continues and that the farmers maintain the 
boundaries of their strips as they always have.
There are approximately 100 dwellings in the 
village, which has a church, a popular pub, The 
Dovecote Inn, and a traditional village shop. The 
Laxton Visitor Centre stands in the grounds of The Dovecote.
The church of St Michael the Archangel is a 
historic building in its own right and has a host 
of historic features of interest to visitors and scholars alike.
Laxton Church, The Dovecote Inn and Laxton Visitor Centre

Jury Day
Jury Day in Laxton takes place on the last 
Thursday in November. The Bailiff - a position 
currently held by Robert Haigh - selects the Jury 
of twelve from the Laxton tenants. A foreman, 
chosen by the the Court and automatically a 
member of the Jury,  holds office for each field. 
The foreman of the wheat field leads the 
inspection of the strip boundaries, the dykes 
(ditches) and roadways of that field.
The Jury walks the field, discussing any 
instances of ploughing over boundaries or failing 
to plough right up to them. Stakes are carried 
into the field and knocked in at the junction of 
each strip to denote the correct position. Any 
contraventions are noted and these are recorded 
by the Bailiff on a 'Presentment Paper' during a 
discussion after lunch. The Presentment Paper is 
put before the Steward of the Court Leet the 
following week when fines are decided. The 
farmers are invited to appeal and the fine is 
applied if they are found to be guilty.	
The Court Leet
The Court Leet is the legally constituted ancient 
manorial court of Laxton. The Court is held a 
week after Jury Day, on the first Thursday in 
December. The Court hearing is called by the 
Bailiff. The Court convenes at The Dovecote Inn 
and all names on the Manor Suite Roll must 
attend. The penalty for non-attendance is 2p, and is collected by the Bailiff.
The Court is presided over and advised by the 
Steward of the Manor, a Newark solicitor, 
appointed by the Crown Estate. He hears appeals 
to the fines and swears in members of the Jury 
for the coming year in the traditional manner.

Laxton Grass Sales
The three Open Fields each contain areas which 
are too wet or too steep to be cultivated. These 
areas, which are not part of any tenancy, 
provided the farmers of old with somewhere to 
turn their horses when they ploughed and most 
incorporate a cart road or drainage ditch. These 
areas, known as ‘sykes’ (pronounced ‘six’), are 
designated unimproved meadowland and have never 
been treated with fertilisers or chemicals. Some 
are also designated SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest).
The grass and wild flowers which grow on the 
sykes make wonderful hay. The right to make this 
hay is sold by an independent auctioneer at the 
annual Grass Sales to ‘anyone who puts smoke up a 
chimney in Laxton’ i.e. tenants of the Laxton 
Crown Estate. The grass may not be cut before 
July 15th under the current Countryside 
Stewardship scheme, so in recent times the sale 
has been in early July. In the past the sale 
often took place on the longest day with the 
payment falling due on the shortest day - 
allegedly to give the buyer the minimum time to 
worry about it on the day! The proceeds of the 
sale go into the Laxton Gaits and Commons account 
and help towards the upkeep of the roads of the 
Open Fields. The sale of each of the 26 parcels 
of land is also subject to a £2 levy to pay for 
refreshments in The Dovecote afterwards.
The photos opposite show the processes of cutting 
the hay, turning it by hand and mechanically and 
baling into small bales, suitable for individual horse owners' use.
+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered 
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that 
shall not be made known. What I tell you in 
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye 
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27  

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