Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage

Enclosure Act and Award of the Open Fields of the Parish of Braithwell. 1855 - 1857.

Notes by Allen Smith of Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage Group

General

For centuries, enclosure in one form or another had been going on: the enclosure of waste and forest, the conversion of "open fields" with their widely spaced strips into 'hedged compounds' with the prospect of greater economic use; the enclosure of common land, and the enclosure of arable land and its conversion into pasturage for sheep.

From Tudor times there was a steady increase in the population of the country, with a much steeper increase from the late eighteenth century onwards. This was in part due to the early enclosures, and the creation of larger farm units. Many former smallholders, unable to meet the cost of fencing their acreage, either became agricultural labourers, or migrated to the swiftly growing industrial towns where work was available. The rural population of England declined whilst the newly established industrial towns increased in size. As a direct result of enclosure, there was also an increase in the amount of pasture land at the expense of the production of arable crops. Sheep roamed the pastures, the wool being a saleable commodity. Again this caused an exodus in the rural population as sheep rearing was nowhere near as labour intensive as arable farming.

With less land under the plough, and the population of the country rising, England was no longer self-sufficient, and corn was imported from continental Europe in large quantities. In this way the needs of the country were met with little fluctuation in the price of corn.

The end of the eighteenth century saw the start of the French and Napoleonic Wars and there was also a series of poor harvests in Britain and Europe. Importing corn became more difficult. In consequence, the price of corn rose sharply causing widespread hardship. The ones to benefit from this state of affairs were the landowners and the larger tenant farmers who could hold back produce until it reached the highest price.

With the ending of the War, imports again resumed and the price of the commodity began to stabilise. For those owners and tenant farmers, who had adapted themselves and their way of life to the higher income, the sudden change in fortune led to fears of hardship and ruin. They used their influence to pressurise Parliament into introducing the Corn Laws (1815), which in effect set an artificially high price for corn, thus subsidising the farmers at the expense of the consumer.

In 1846, during the Irish famine, these Corn Laws were repealed, and once again the price of corn was able to 'find its own level'.

"At Victoria's accession (1837), the enclosure of the Open Fields, and therewith the end of the strip system of agriculture was already accomplished, except for a few scattered survivals" (Trevelyan, G.M. English Social History. 1944).

It would seem that the Parish of Braithwell could be classed as one of these "scattered survivals".

It was then essential that the best economic use was made of the land available in order for the landowner/tenant to make a reasonable living from the land, and so the pace of enclosure quickened.

Under the old 'strip' system, cattle could stray from one plot to another. Selective breeding could not be attempted, as all animals mixed together on the common land, and new methods, such as the rotation of crops could not be introduced. A family’s plots could be so widely spaced as to make working them labour intensive, and many of the open fields were crossed by footpaths and bridleways.

Regarding Braithwell, the enclosure of waste and common land followed the Act of 1765/6, and the schedule gives evidence of a great deal of enclosing of the land having taken place prior to that date, either by consolidation of plots, or purchase.

There are no records as to when the 'hay meadows' were enclosed or even where they were situated in the Parish, but when one studies the enclosure plan attached to the 1857 award, and the field names on the Tithe Map of 1839, it would seem safe to assume that they were to be found to the South and East of the village.

It was thought that no map was in existence to show the position of the various holdings in the village prior to the 1855 Enclosure Act, but the Tithe Map of 1839 helps greatly. This map itemizes all the many plots, clearly showing the need for redistribution, and it also gives a good idea of the amount of consolidation of plots which had already taken place, and also the size of the 'ancient enclosures'.

The main areas of unenclosed land appear to have been in the centre of the Parish - an area of 492 acres. The map shows that within this space there were no fewer than 32 owners of land and 37 tenants. (In the whole of the Parish there were only 64 owners and 72 occupiers of tenants!) Over 100 of the plots were of less than 1 acre in size, 90 between 1 and 2 acres, and only 12 out of the 275 plots were of more than 5 acres. About half of the plots belonged to 5 landowners, but their plots were not as widespread as one might have thought - further evidence of consolidation by agreement having previously taken place.

It should be noted that almost three quarters of the 1920 acres of the Parish had been enclosed by the year 1855: only 167 acres by Act of Parliament and the rest by means of ancient enclosures and consolidation of plots.

In 1839 the Assessor found that of the 1920 acres in the Parish; 1368 acres were arable.

502 acres were Pasture or meadowland.

7 acres were tithe free woodland.

42 acres were roads and waste.

As far as the open fields were concerned, they varied greatly in size, the largest plot in the open fields being in excess of 12 acres, whilst there were many plots of less than one acre. As well as the names of the main open fields, most of the plots adjacent to them have been given individual names, some of which are still in use, while others have been lost over the last 150 years. The word "close" occurs at regular intervals. It should be noted that "close" in this context does not mean "near to" or "adjacent", but it signifies that this plot has been "enCLOSEd" by fences or hedges. (The names and sizes of all the village plots can be found in the Appendix).

The Award of 1855 takes the form of a personal statement from George Dyson Simpson, the Commissioner, and this document was read, signed and sealed at a public meeting at the end of the complicated process.

The Award is a lengthy document, written in "legal terms", and it covers 54 sheets of parchment. The first part deals with the terms of reference given to the Commissioner by the Act of Parliament, and it covers all the procedures to be enacted. The second part deals more specifically with the procedures he adopted in the Parish of Braithwell in order to reach agreement regarding the

division, setting out and allotment of the said open or common, arable, meadow and pasture lands". (no mean feat!)

The rules re-starting the enclosure process were roughly the same as for the earlier Award. The Act goes into lengthy detail as to how the process should be carried out.

In the summer of 1855, some freeholders of the village requested a meeting to be held to 'sound out' the views of others regarding enclosing the remaining open fields. (John Thompson, William Wild, Thomas Toone, and William Wasteneys Toone.) As the law stated, they placed an advertisement in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent newspaper, and in the Sheffield Times. The 'advert' appeared in the newspapers on Saturday 19th.May 1855. A poster was also affixed to the outer door of the Church. This had to be done at least 14 days prior to the meeting.

The meeting was held in the house of George Kay - The Red Lion Hotel -on the 30th May 1855. In order to be quorate the meeting had to be attended by at least two thirds of those who would be directly affected by the proposed enclosure.

Those attending the meeting were;

The Earl of Scarborough

Edmund Denison (representing the Mallinson family)

Amory Matthewman (a lunatic)

Samuel Vickers

Rev.James Reece (who with Edward Spencer was a Trustee for the School and the Poor.)

Matthew Waterhouse Roberts

George Pearson Nicholson (attorney of Edmund Denison)

Richard Baxter                                     Elizabeth Snipe

Thomas Toone                                     George Nicholson

Robert Bayes                                       John Thompson

Martha Wilson                                      William Wild

William Wasteneys Toone                    Robert Thompson

William Fiddler                                     Thomas Vickers

Jane Snipe                                           George Godber (the elder)

George Godber (the younger)              Rev.J.W.Gleadall

William Wild & Margaret Wild (trustees of the Will of Matthew Wild)

Edward W Fox                                     Joseph Roberts

Thomas Dyson.                                   John Milward.

Following detailed discussion, a unanimous decision was taken to begin the process of enclosure, and a further meeting was planned for 20th August 1855 at the same venue. (Thomas Dyson died during the course of the Award being made, and J.F.Edwards and John Thompson were his devisees.)

At this second meeting, George Dyson Simpson was appointed as Commissioner whose job it was to "effect the enclosing of the said open and arable fields". The Commissioner appointed Henry Ellison of Stone as Surveyor the next day. The Commissioner also appointed a Clerk, and the lengthy process began at once.

The fields concerned in the enclosure were named as follows;

 

Little field                                                         166 acres 3 roods 16 perches

Great field                                                        81 acres 2 roods 37 perches

Little Ings Hills                                                 15 acres 1 rood 9 perches

Tootle Ing                                                         15 acres 3 roods 16 perches

Skernel Dale                                                    13 acres 2 roods 11 perches

Cockhill field                                                     54 acres 3 roods 11 perches

Sandgreave field                                              27 acres 3 roods 36 perches

Short Lands                                                     15 acres 1 rood 14 perches

Little Hay Bottom                                              48 acres 30 perches

Marsh field                                                       17 acres 36 perches

Austwood Ash                                                  8 acres 6 perches

Birchwood field                                                 26 acres 3 roods 26 perches

and certain unenclosed lands in Marsh Hill Close,( 1 acre 10 perches), Raddle Pit ( 1 acre 26 perches) and Shut Close.

"…in all a total of 492 acres 3 roods 4 perches".

The Award, when made, apportioned the land according to a person’s quantity of land held before enclosure, and also took account of its quality and availability. Appeals against the allotments could be made at the Quarter Sessions by an aggrieved party. Four fifths "in number and value of people concerned" were needed to adopt the plan or map, and also agree on the principles of division.

Before making the Award, the Commisioner began by saying, "Know ye, that I, George Dyson Simpson, having from time to time had and duly held all such meetings that are required in and by the said reciting Act for carrying into effect and execution the several powers and provisions therein contained so far as the same are applicable to an enclosure of the

said several Open and Arable fields…and having duly considered the

nature, quality and situation thereof of every part thereof…and having duly weighed and considered the admeasurement and survey of the same open and arable fields, and all and every the right, shares, common rights and other interests therein ... and also having duly weighed and considered all and every the claims and objections made and delivered to me... I do order and award that the said fields be inclosed.”

I list below the names of all the landowners with plots on the Open fields who benefited from the enclosure. It is interesting to note how many of them did not reside in the Parish. When the 1856 survey was carried out, it is obvious that the acreages arrived at did not match those shown in the Tithe survey of 1839. In nearly all cases they were shown to be slightly smaller... just another point which would make it harder for the Commissioner to convince farmers that they were being allocated their correct share.

Name

Size 1839

No of Plot 1839

1858 Award

No of plot

Baxter R

(Sheffield)

2.2.25

279

2.2.0. Great

Field

44

Bayes

(Micklebring)

12.0.34

236.259.287

289.341.344

315.316

7.3.34 Gt Field

3.1.4 Little Field

0.1.16 Littlehay Bottom

41

41a

17

School and Poor Trust

9.2.24

204.280.297.

488.567

9.0.27 Gt Field

42

Brook J

(Awkley)

2.3.28

340.343.349.

2.1.36 Gt Field

45

Dyson Ts

Devisees

(J.Thompson. B’well)

(J.Lymm Cheshire)

26.3.12

91.201.202.205

228.248.250.294

539.573.577.579

582

22.0.0 Little Field

  1.2.0 Gt Field

11

41a

Fiddler W

(Braithwell

2.0.23

232.6.619

1.1.29 Shortlands

0.1.32 Littlehay Btm

54

55

Fox E W

(Newbold Field Chesterfield)

35.2.22

110.231.284.559

617.635.256.305

327.348.563.571

272.561.602.605

607.620.643

3.0.36 Little Field

13.0.3. Little Field

5.1.32 L.Hay Btm

0.1.10 Marsh Hill

12.3.5.Cockhill Fld

16

26

60

63

6

Gleadall J W

Rev (Middlesex)

9.0.23

345.545

7.2.6 Little Field

20

Godber G

(Maltby)

10.1.30

198.240.270.277

555.560.609.629

11.1.0 Sandgreave

9

Hoyle R C

(Aughton Hall)

0.0.4

444

0.0.4 Great Field

40

Kay J

(Attercliffe)

1.2.3

211.246.497

1.1.23. Little Hay Bottom

58

Matthewman M A (Committee)

(Braithwell)

60.1.23

203.205.209.213

241.566.621.626

628.637.639.331

225.247.251.254

266.285.292.295

300.309.339.342

483.485.487.493

498.500.514.516

529.543.547.542

230.281

12.0.32 Cockhill Fd

4.2.12 L Hay Bottom

33.2.36 L Hay Bottom

17.0.36 Marsh Fld

1.0.26 Ruddlepit Shut

5

61

 

62

64

 

65

Milward J

(Belmont Nr Doncaster)

4.2.1

528.532

4.2.12 Little Fld

19

Nicholson G

(Stone)

18.0.35

229.304.311.312

314.511.534.536

7.3.32 Little Field

0.0.14 Little Ings

9.2.0 Great Field

27

28

39

Nicholson G

(Wath upon Dearne)

15.2.31

92.95.208.210

237.243.245.261

271.276.302

15.3.0 Birchwood Fld

 

 

51

Roberts J

10.1.6

494.504.524.526

10.2.0 Little Field

15

Roberts M W

(Bramley)

2.0.4.

94

1.2.10 Little Field

18

Ruddle Mill

Proprietors

(William Wasteneys Toone)

1.0.20

268

0.3.32 Little Ings

36

Scarbrough

Earl of.

29.0.39

104.252.257.267

301.307.310.544

565.569.608.618

627

 

8.0.0 Cockhill Field

8.0.28 Little Field

11.2.38 Great Field

4

25

49

Shirt J S

(Wales)

0.1.33

537

0.1.30 Little Field

15a

Snipe J&E

(Braithwell)

3.2.37

200.283.574

3.2.8 Great Field

43

Spencer E

(Braithwell)

1.1.35

495

1.1,0 Little Field

21

Thompson  R

Braithwell

3.0.5

306.520.521

3.0.32 Great Field

 

Toone  W W

(Lamcote Grange)

8.3.2

103.106.107.108

109.206.235.111

503.512

3.2.8 Little Ing

8.1.22 Little Ing

7.1.14 Austwood Ash

0.3.16 Little Ing

34

38

 

1

Vickers T

(micklebring)

15.1.31

273.274.278.553.

556

8.0.19 Little Field

7.1.0 Little Field

23

22

Vickers S

(Cadeby)

14.1.24

93.96.616.264

290.291. 293.492

489

8.1.32 Cockhill Fld

0.2.1. Little Field

4.3.30 Tootle Ing

14.3.36 Little Fld

15.0.10 Little Fld

10.2.3 Great Fld

6.0.38 Shortlands

11.0.11 Birchwood

11.1.0 Sandgreave

5.1.36 Sandgreave

8

30

33

12

13

47

52

50

10

10a

Wasteneys W P (Hatfield Hall)

59.1.34

505.542.244.282

288.296.298.303

313.522.523.530

531.554.546.634

638.199.606.90

540.580.242.262

275.486.507.509

207.212.239.258

263.269.491.499

501.568

13.1.20Skernel Dale

0.015 Skernel Dale

11.3.36 Little Fld

1.0.2 Little Ing

3.0.1 Little Fld

10.3.26 Tootle Ing

19.0.2 Great Fld

3

3a

29

35

31

32

46

Wild W

(Braithwell)

31.0.10

238.484.642.197

227.265.551.557

558.622.623.629

630.640.641

0.1.27 Austwood Ash

0.016 Skernel Dale

12.3.3 Cockhill Fld

6.0.26 Shortlands

9.3.36 Little Fld

2

 

2a

7

53

24

Wild Mary

(Clifton)

1.3.16

249

1.2.36 L Hay Bottom

59

Wild Margaret

(Clifton)

9.1.22

552. 557.558

9.1.0 Little Field

14

Wood G

2.0.8

232.234

1.0.0 Shortlands

0.1.17 L Hay Bottom

56

57

 

The Commissioner could allot compensation for growing crops which were spoiled, and he could also insist on the state of cultivation remaining in suspension until the enclosure was completed. Adjoining parcels of land need not be fenced if the proprietors so wished and agreed, provided that prior notice was given to the Commissioner. Drains and fences had to be constructed and repaired by the plot holder.

Holders of plots of less than 2 acres were not liable to pay the expenses of enclosure, and it was possible, if 4/5ths of the landowners agreed at a duly convened meeting, that those with less than 5 acres should be spared the cost of expenses. Manorial Rights would not be prejudiced, unless compensation was paid. All accounts were to be inspected annually by 3 J.P.'s.

George Dyson had a hard task, and in the Award he states that he supervised all the surveying and walked the lands of the Parish to aquaint himself with the quality of land in the different fields. He had the surveyed acreages published, and held individual meetings as required with all those persons affected by the Act. (although the majority of landowners were in favour of the Enclosure taking place, there were a number of small farmers who were not pleased, The Earl of Scarborough has a letter in the Archives from such a group trying to enlist his support. The Commissioner would certainly have had a problem on his hands trying to convince these people of the need for the changes he was proposing.)

As in the 1766 Award, provision for roads is made. (It is noted that in the earlier Award, roads of 60ft. between ditches was stated. In the 1857 Award, roads of 30ft and 23 ft. are detailed.)

In many cases, roads, bridleways, footpaths and private access roads as they existed in 1855, cut across many of the newly formed allotments, and so it was necessary in the interests of efficiency for changes to be made. The Micklebring to Doncaster road was diverted into what is now its present position, the old portion being "stopped up". (C to A on the map). The new portion was made up to 30' wide.

A Private occupation road was also made from Clifton to join the Micklebring Braithwell road at point G. This was to be 23 ft.wide, and took the place of the footpath and bridleway which went diagonally across Little Field. With the opening of the new road, this was discontinued. Another road to give the farmers access to their fields was set up from point F to H, and called Little Field Road.

Other Private occupation roads which were made were from:

I to J, and called Austwood Road.

K to L, called Skernel Dale Road.

From point S in a northerly direction called Cockhill Field Road. All these Private occupation roads were to be 15ft.wide. Occupiers and Tenants with land adjacent to these roads were responsible for keeping them in good repair. Their "rights" stretched as far as the centre of the road.

A footpath across what had been Great Field leading to Micklebring was "stopped up" (0 to P), as was the path across Little Hay Bottoms and Marsh Field (Q to R).

It was also detailed in the Act that all fences erected were to be set 18 inches inside the field boundary, and kept in good order. All enclosing of plots had to be completed within 6 months of the Award having been accepted.