The Inclosure Acts,which use an archaic spelling of the word now usually spelt "enclosure", cover enclosure of open fields and common land in England and Wales, creating legal property rights to land previously held in common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual enclosure acts were passed, affecting 28,000 km2.
Before the enclosures in England, a portion of the land was categorized as "common" or "waste"."Common" land was under the control of the lord of the manor, but certain rights on the land such as pasture, pannage, or estovers were held variously by certain nearby properties, or (occasionally) in gross by all manorial tenants. "Waste" was land without value as a farm strip – often very narrow areas (typically less than a yard wide) in awkward locations (such as cliff edges, or inconveniently shaped manorial borders), but also bare rock, and so forth. "Waste" was not officially used by anyone, and so was often farmed by landless peasants.
The remaining land was organised into a large number of narrow strips, each tenant possessing a number of disparate strips throughout the manor, as would the manorial lord. Called the open-field system, it was administered by manorial courts, which exercised some collective control.What might now be termed a single field would have been divided under this system among the lord and his tenants; poorer peasants (serfs or copyholders, depending on the era) were allowed to live on the strips owned by the lord in return for cultivating his land. The system facilitated common grazing and crop rotation.
Any individual might possess several strips of land within the manor, often at some distance from one another. Seeking better financial returns, landowners looked for more efficient farming techniques.Enclosure acts for small areas had been passed sporadically since the 12th century, but advances in agricultural knowledge and technology in the 18th century made them more commonplace. Because tenants, or even copyholders, had legally enforceable rights on the land, substantial compensation was provided to extinguish them; thus many tenants were active supporters of enclosure, though it enabled landlords to force reluctant tenants to comply with the process.
With legal control of the land, landlords introduced innovations in methods of crop production, increasing profits and supporting the Agricultural Revolution; higher productivity also enabled landowners to justify higher rents for the people working the land. In 1801, the Inclosure (Consolidation) Act was passed to tidy up previous acts. In 1845, another General Inclosure Act instituted the appointment of Inclosure Commissioners, who could enclose land without submitting a request to Parliament.
The powers granted in the Inclosure Act of 1773 of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain were often abused by landowners: the preliminary meetings where enclosure was discussed, intended to be held in public, often took place in the presence of only the local landowners, who regularly chose their own solicitors, surveyors and Commissioners to decide on each case. In 1786 there were still 250,000 independent landowners, but in the course of only thirty years their number was reduced to 32,000.
The tenants displaced by the process often left the countryside to work in the towns. This contributed to the Industrial Revolution – at the very moment new technological advances required large numbers of workers, a concentration of large numbers of people in need of work had emerged; the former country tenants and their descendants became workers in industrial factories within cities.
A poem from the 18th century reads as a protest of the inclosure acts:
They hang the man and flog the woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
Yet let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose
The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine
The poor and wretched don't escape
If they conspire the law to break
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law
The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back
The Inclosure Acts 1845 to 1882 mean:
Manorialism, also known as the manor system or manorial system, was the method of land ownership in parts of Europe, notably England, during the Middle Ages. Its defining features included a large, sometimes fortified manor house in which the lord of the manor and his dependents lived and administered a rural estate, and a population of labourers who worked the surrounding land to support themselves and the lord. These labourers fulfilled their obligations with labour time or in-kind produce at first, and later by cash payment as commercial activity increased. Manorialism is sometimes included in the definition of feudalism.
Copyhold tenure was a form of customary tenure of land common in England from the Middle Ages. The land was held according to the custom of the manor, and the mode of landholding took its name from the fact that the "title deed" received by the tenant was a copy of the relevant entry in the manorial court roll. A tenant – or mesne lord – who held land in this way was legally known as a copyholder.
Serfdom was the status of many peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to manorialism, and similar systems. It was a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude with similarities to and differences from slavery, which developed during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century.
The open-field system was the prevalent agricultural system in much of Europe during the Middle Ages and lasted into the 20th century in Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Under the open-field system, each manor or village had two or three large fields, usually several hundred acres each, which were divided into many narrow strips of land. The strips or selions were cultivated by individuals or peasant families, often called tenants or serfs. The holdings of a manor also included woodland and pasture areas for common usage and fields belonging to the lord of the manor and the religious authorities, usually Roman Catholics in medieval Western Europe. The farmers customarily lived in individual houses in a nucleated village with a much larger manor house and church nearby. The open-field system necessitated co-operation among the inhabitants of the manor.
'Enclosure' or 'Inclosure' is a term, used in English landownership, that refers to the appropriation of "waste" or "common land" enclosing it and by doing so depriving commoners of their ancient rights of access and privilege. Agreements to enclose land could be either through a "formal" or "informal" process. The process could normally be accomplished in three ways. First there was the creation of "closes", taken out of larger common fields by their owners. Secondly, there was enclosure by proprietors, owners who acted together, usually small farmers or squires, leading to the enclosure of whole parishes. Finally there were enclosures’ by Acts of Parliament.
Lord of the manor is a title that, in Anglo-Saxon England, referred to the landholder of a rural estate. The lord enjoyed manorial rights as well as seignory, the right to grant or draw benefit from the remainder. The title continues in modern England and Wales as a legally recognised form of property that can be held independently of its historical rights. It may belong entirely to one person or be a moiety shared with other people.
Common land is land owned collectively by a number of persons, or by one person, but over which other people have certain traditional rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, to collect wood, or to cut turf for fuel.
A demesne or domain was all the land retained and managed by a lord of the manor under the feudal system for his own use, occupation, or support. This distinguished it from land sub-enfeoffed by him to others as sub-tenants.
A vestry was a committee for the local secular and ecclesiastical government for a parish in England and Wales, which originally met in the vestry or sacristy of the parish church, and consequently became known colloquially as the "vestry".
The Settled Land Acts were a series of English land law enactments concerning the limits of creating a settlement, a conveyancing device used by a property owner who wants to ensure that provision of future generations of his family.
The Statute of Merton or Provisions of Merton, sometimes also known as the Ancient Statute of Merton, was a statute passed by the Parliament of England in 1235 during the reign of Henry III. It is considered to be the first English statute, and is printed as the first statute in The Statutes of the Realm. Containing 11 chapters, the terms of the statute were agreed at Merton between Henry and the barons of England in 1235. It was another instance, along with Magna Carta twenty years previously, of the struggle between the barons and the king to limit the latter's rights.
The manorial courts were the lowest courts of law in England during the feudal period. They had a civil jurisdiction limited both in subject matter and geography. They dealt with matters over which the lord of the manor had jurisdiction, primarily torts, local contracts and land tenure, and their powers only extended to those who lived within the lands of the manor: the demesne and such lands as the lord had enfeoffed to others, and to those who held land therein. Historians have divided manorial courts into those that were primarily seignorial – based on feudal responsibilities – and those based on separate delegation of authority from the monarch. There were three types of manorial court: the court of the honour; the court baron; and the court customary, also known as the halmote court.
The Wills Act 1837 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that confirms the power of every adult to dispose of their real and personal property, whether they are the outright owner or a beneficiary under a trust, by will on their death (s.3). The act extends to all testamentary dispositions or gifts, where "a person makes a disposition of his property to take effect after his decease, and which is in its own nature ambulatory and revocable during his life." As of 2012, much of it remains in force in England and Wales.
The history of English land law can be traced for eons, into Roman times, and through the Early Middle Ages under post-Roman chieftains and Saxon monarchs where, as for most of human history, land was the dominant source of personal wealth. English land law transformed further from the Saxon days, to post-Norman Invasion feudal encastellation, from the Industrial Revolution and over the 19th century, as the political power of the landed aristocracy diminished, and modern legislation increasingly made land a social form of wealth, subject to extensive social regulation, such as for housing, national parks, and agriculture.
The Short Titles Act 1896 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It replaces the Short Titles Act 1892.
The Western Rising was a series of riots which took place during 1626–1632 in Gillingham Forest on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, Braydon Forest in Wiltshire, and the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire in response to disafforestation of royal forests, sale of royal lands and enclosure of property by the new owners. Disafforestation is a change in legal status that allows the land to be sold normally, rather than being preserved as a forest. Enclosure takes the land out of common use, denying access to non-owners who had previously used it.
The common land of Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England, a former royal hunting forest created soon after the Norman conquest of England, covers some 6,400 acres. The map of the common land today largely dates back to 1693, when more than half the medieval Forest was taken into private hands, with the remainder being set aside as common land. The latter is today administered by a Board of Conservators. It is entirely open for public access and it is the largest area of its kind in South East England.
The Inclosure Act 1773 is an Act of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain, passed during the reign of George III. The Act is still in force in the United Kingdom. It created a law that enabled enclosure of land, at the same time removing the right of commoners' access.