Croft (land)

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The Shetland Crofthouse Museum, with peat stacked outside Shetland crofthouse museum.jpg
The Shetland Crofthouse Museum, with peat stacked outside

A croft is a fenced or enclosed area of land, usually small and arable, and usually, but not always, with a crofter's dwelling thereon. A crofter is one who has tenure and use of the land, typically as a tenant farmer, especially in rural areas.

Agricultural fencing

In agriculture, fences are used to keep animals in or out of an area. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, depending on terrain, location and animals to be confined. Most agricultural fencing averages about 4 feet (1.2 m) high, and in some places, the height and construction of fences designed to hold livestock is mandated by law.

Enclosure was the legal process in England of consolidating (enclosing) small landholdings into larger farms. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

Arable land Land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops

Arable land is, according to one definition, land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. In Britain, it was traditionally contrasted with pasturable land such as heaths which could be used for sheep-rearing but not farmland.

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Etymology

The word croft is West Germanic in etymology [1] and is now most familiar in Scotland, most crofts being in the Highlands and Islands area. Elsewhere the expression is generally archaic. In Scottish Gaelic, it is rendered croit (pronounced  [kʰɾɔtʲ] , plural croitean [ˈkʰɾɔtʲʰən] ).

The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic family of languages.

Scotland Country in Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Sharing a border with England to the southeast, Scotland is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, by the North Sea to the northeast and by the Irish Sea to the south. In addition to the mainland, situated on the northern third of the island of Great Britain, Scotland has over 790 islands, including the Northern Isles and the Hebrides.

Highlands and Islands Area of Scotland

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are broadly the Scottish Highlands, plus Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

Essentially similar positions have been the medieval villein [ citation needed ] and the Swedish torpare and Norwegian husmenn.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Torp (architecture)

A torp is, in modern usage, the emblematic Swedish summer house, a small cottage painted Falu red and white, and evidence of the way in which urbanization came quite late to all of Scandinavia. In the meaning of "simple second home", the concept exists under other names in Danish and Norwegian and Finnish (mökki).

Legislation

The Scottish croft is a small agricultural landholding of a type which has been subject to special legislation applying to the Highland region of Scotland since 1886. [2] The legislation was largely a response to the complaints and demands of tenant families who were victims of the Highland Clearances. The modern crofters or tenants appear very little in evidence before the beginning of the 18th century. They were tenants at will underneath the tacksman and wadsetters, but practically their tenure was secure enough. The first evidence that can be found of small tenants holding directly of the proprietor is in a rental of the estates of Sir D. MacDonald in Skye and North Uist in 1715.[ citation needed ]

Agriculture Cultivation of plants and animals to provide useful products

Agriculture is the science and art of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that enabled people to live in cities. The history of agriculture began thousands of years ago. After gathering wild grains beginning at least 105,000 years ago, nascent farmers began to plant them around 11,500 years ago. Pigs, sheep and cattle were domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Plants were independently cultivated in at least 11 regions of the world. Industrial agriculture based on large-scale monoculture in the twentieth century came to dominate agricultural output, though about 2 billion people still depended on subsistence agriculture into the twenty-first.

Legislation is law which has been promulgated by a legislature or other governing body or the process of making it. Before an item of legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill, and may be broadly referred to as "legislation", while it remains under consideration to distinguish it from other business. Legislation can have many purposes: to regulate, to authorize, to outlaw, to provide (funds), to sanction, to grant, to declare or to restrict. It may be contrasted with a non-legislative act which is adopted by an executive or administrative body under the authority of a legislative act or for implementing a legislative act.

Scottish Highlands Place

The Highlands is a historic region of Scotland. Culturally, the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands. The term is also used for the area north and west of the Highland Boundary Fault, although the exact boundaries are not clearly defined, particularly to the east. The Great Glen divides the Grampian Mountains to the southeast from the Northwest Highlands. The Scottish Gaelic name of A' Ghàidhealtachd literally means "the place of the Gaels" and traditionally, from a Gaelic-speaking point of view, includes both the Western Isles and the Highlands.

The first planned crofting townships in the Outer Hebrides were Barragloum and Kirkibost (Great Bernera) which were laid out into 32 large "lots" of between 14 and 30 acres in the uniform rectangular pattern that would become very familiar in later decades. This work was carried out in 1805 by James Chapman for the Earl of Seaforth.[ citation needed ]

The first edition of the Ordnance Survey in 1850 clearly highlights the division of this land and the turf and stone boundaries built by the first tenants in 1805 are still in use today as croft boundaries. Kirkibost was 'cleared' of its tenants in 1823 and the 1850 mapping clearly shows roofless ruins on each parcel of land. The township was however re-settled in 1878 following the Bernera Riot four years earlier using exactly the same division boundaries set out in 1805.[ citation needed ]

The Parliament of the United Kingdom created the Crofters' Act 1886, after the Highland Land League had gained seats in that parliament. The government was then Liberal, with William Ewart Gladstone as Prime Minister. Another Crofters' Act was created in 1993 (the Crofters' (Scotland) Act 1993). The earlier Act established the first Crofting Commission, but its responsibilities were quite different from those of the newer Crofters Commission created in 1955. The Commission is based in Inverness.[ citation needed ]

Crofts held subject to the provisions of the Crofters' Acts are in the administrative counties of Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross-shire, Inverness-shire and Argyll, in the north and west of Scotland. Under the 1886 legislation (the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act) protected crofters are members of a crofters' township, consisting of tenants of neighbouring crofts with a shared right to use common pasture. Since 1976 it has been legally possible for a crofter to acquire title to his croft, thus becoming an owner-occupier.[ citation needed ]

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives crofters the right to buy their land.

See also

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Great Bernera island off the Isle of Lewis, Scotland

Great Bernera, often known just as Bernera, is an island and community in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. With an area of just over 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi), it is the thirty-fourth largest Scottish island.

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The first Highland Land League emerged as a distinct political force in Scotland during the 1880s, with its power base in the country's Highlands and Islands. It was known also as the Highland Land Law Reform Association and the Crofters' Party. It was consciously modelled on the Irish Land League.

Crofting form of land tenure and small-scale food production particular to the Scottish Highlands and Islands, and formerly on the Isle of Man

Crofting is a form of land tenure and small-scale food production particular to the Scottish Highlands, the islands of Scotland, and formerly on the Isle of Man. Within the 19th century townships, individual crofts are established on the better land, and a large area of poorer-quality hill ground is shared by all the crofters of the township for grazing of their livestock.

Highland Potato Famine major agrarian crisis in the Scottish Highlands from 1846 to 1857

The Highland Potato Famine was a period of 19th century Highland and Scottish history over which the agricultural communities of the Hebrides and the western Scottish Highlands saw their potato crop repeatedly devastated by potato blight. It was part of the wider food crisis facing Northern Europe caused by potato blight during the mid-1840s, whose most famous manifestation is the Great Irish Famine, but compared to its Irish counterpart it was much less extensive and took many fewer lives. The terms on which charitable relief was given, however, led to destitution and malnutrition amongst its recipients. A government enquiry could suggest no short-term solution other than reduction of the population of the area at risk by emigration to Canada or Australia. Highland landlords organised and paid for the emigration of more than 16,000 of their tenants and a significant but unknown number paid for their own passage. Evidence suggests that the majority of Highlanders who permanently left the famine-struck regions emigrated, rather than moving to other parts of Scotland. It is estimated that about a third of the population of the western Scottish Highlands emigrated between 1841 and 1861.

Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 act of the UK Parliament governing land tenure in Scotland

The Crofters Holdings (Scotland) Act 1886 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that created legal definitions of crofting parish and crofter, granted security of land tenure to crofters and produced the first Crofters Commission, a land court which ruled on disputes between landlords and crofters. The same court ruled on whether parishes were or were not crofting parishes. In many respects the Act was modelled on the Irish Land Acts of 1870 and 1881. By granting the crofters security of tenure, the Act put an end to the Highland Clearances.

The Napier Commission, officially the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Condition of Crofters and Cottars in the Highlands and Islands was a royal commission and public inquiry into the condition of crofters and cottars in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

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Crofters Party

The Crofters' Party was the parliamentary arm of the Highland Land League. It managed to elect five MPs in the 1885 general election and a sixth the following year.

Boreraig

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The Bernera Riot occurred in 1874, on the island of Great Bernera, in Scotland in response to the Highland Clearances. The use of the term 'Bernera Riot' correctly relates to the court case which exposed the maltreatment of the peasant classes in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and exposed the corruption that was inherent in the landowning class. The 'riot' was not fought in the streets or in the fields but in the Scots Lawcourts. It is notable as the first successful legal challenge to nineteenth century Landlordism in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and was the catalyst for future resistance in what became known as the Crofters War. Modern land reform in Scotland has its roots in the outcome of this event.

Camastianavaig human settlement in United Kingdom

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Highland Clearances the mass eviction of tenants from the Scottish Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries

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Charles Fraser-Mackintosh was a Scottish lawyer, land developer, author and Liberal and Crofters Party politician. He was a significant champion of the Scottish Gaelic language in Victorian Britain.

Crofting Commission

The Crofting Commission took the place of the Crofters Commission on 1 April 2012 as the statutory regulator for crofting in Scotland. Based in Inverness, it is an executive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government. The Commission comprises six Crofting Commissioners elected from geographic areas in the crofting counties, and three Commissioners appointed by the Scottish Government. The Convener is appointed from among Commission members. The Commission is supported by around 60 staff led by a Chief Executive.

John Murdoch (editor) Murdoch, John (1818–1903), journalist and customs and excise official

John Murdoch was a Scottish newspaper owner and editor and land reform campaigner who played a significant part in the campaign for crofters rights in the late 19th century

References

  1. From Old English croft, enclosed field, app. corresp. to Dutch kroft, krocht, prominent rocky height, high and dry land, field on the downs. Ulterior etymology unknown. Oxford English Dictionary , 2nd. ed., 1989
  2. Chambers's encyclopaedia: a dictionary of universal knowledge for the people. Volume 3 (revised ed.). W. and R. Chambers. 1901. p. 575. Retrieved 10 September 2016.

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