Huntingdonshire Archives Reference 1322
The Inclosure or Enclosure Acts were a series of Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land in the country. Enclosure did away with the medieval strip system by joining the strips together to make larger units of land, which could be fenced or hedged off from the next person’s land. In this way a farmer had his land in one place which was more practical and gave him greater independence. This was good for the farmers but not for the local people whose previous rights such as cultivation, cutting hay, grazing animals or use of other resources such as small timber, fish, and turf were taken away.
Inclosure Acts for small areas had been passed sporadically since the 12th century but the majority were passed between 1750 and 1860. Prior to about 1740 villages were generally enclosed by agreement. This was when the main owners of the land made a private agreement to join their strips together and this may have involved buying some strips from the small farmers to get rid of any possible opposition. If the land in a village was owned by one or two people, enclosure by agreement was relatively straightforward, but if a number of smaller landowners opposed enclosure by agreement an Act of Parliament had to be obtained. This became the accepted procedure after 1750 as it meant that the whole of the village (including common land, wasteland, meadows and open fields) could be dealt with at the same time, allowing for any opposition to be heard and each enclosure had proper legal documentation and certification.
Attached to the Wistow Inclosure Map of 1832 is a sheaf of papers stating that the survey was carried out by:
Martin Nockolds of Stanstead in the County of Essex Gentleman of the Commissioner appointed by an Act of Parliament made and passed in the Eleventh year in the reign of His late Majesty King George the Fourth intituled “An Act for Inclosing Lands in the Parish of Wistow in the County of Huntingdon and for extinguishing the Tithes in the said Parish.”
These papers give a key to the references in the map with descriptions of the lands and tenements; tenures (e.g. freehold), quantity of land in acres, yearly corn rents or sums of money and quantity of wheat in bushels.
The following photographs of the 1832 Inclosure map and papers are published with the permission of David Walker.
by Althea Walker