Why Enclose Land?
The mid-eighteenth century was a time of expansion and experiment in England; farming was no exception. At this time there was also a huge population explosion which meant that more food was needed to feed everyone.
The old Open Field farming system was insufficient to meet the demand and landowners and tenant farmers wanted to farm in much more efficient ways. This meant getting rid of their scattered strips in different places around the village and gathering all their land together with fences round the fields – like a modern farm as we know it. This was called ‘Inclosure’ – or Enclosure. You can find out more about the history of farming in the article ‘Turvey’s farming past’.
What happened in Turvey?
The landowners and tenant farmers in Turvey wanted to Enclose their land. To do this they needed an Act of Parliament, and at least three quarters of all the landowners in Turvey had to agree before a petition could be sent to Parliament asking for the land to be enclosed. The next step was to put a notice on the church door informing villagers of the intention to enclose the land.
This was really important because as well as the Open Fields being enclosed, where crops had been grown, so too the Common land and the woodland would be divided up and fenced off. This meant that villagers who had no right to arable land would also lose their right to graze their cow on the common or let their pig feed in the woods!
The date for the beginning of the petition in Turvey is given as ‘March 9th in the 23rd Year of the reign of George 111’, which was 1783.
0n 17th March, a meeting was held at Three Fishes, named as the house of Martin Cole. This is now known as Ye Three Fyshes, the pub by the bridge into the village
There was an assessment of all the ‘Open Lands’ and the old enclosures. Meetings were also held at the at The Bull in Olney. These were opportunities for ‘petitioning’ – suggesting where people wanted their land to be in the newly enclosed fields, and, perhaps more importantly, for any objections to be heard.
Notices were put on the church door in Turvey and in the Northampton Mercury.
Copies of the proposed land transfers were left at the Three Fyshes and at the Sign of the Tinker pub, kept by John Sander.
Richard Gee, who was a land surveyor of Northampton, drew the map which shows exactly where the Open Fields were, where the roads ran, where there was old enclosure (for example by the pathway know as London Lane), where the commons and woods were and other amenities such as the Gravel Field. (This wonderful map can still be seen in Bedfordshire Archives and Records Office, by appointment)
The amount of land to be enclosed was 1,760 acres, 3 roods and 15 perches and its yearly value was given as £720.3s.6d.
The names of those petitioning for Enclosure is interesting as many of them came from outside the village. The Mordaunt family, listed as Earls of Peterborough and Monmouth, ‘owned’ most of the land although by the time of enclosure they were living at Drayton House in Northamptonshire. This was a much grander house than Turvey Old Hall which by this time was in disrepair. Charles Mordaunt was an MP and spent his time in London. The names of the Petitioners are given as follows:
John Higgins of Weston Underwood
Gentleman: George King of Northampton
George Maxwell of Gravelye in the County of Hertford, now of Overton Longville, Northampton
Gentleman: Robert King of Moulsoe
Yeoman: John Rogers of Carlton
The Rt Hon Charles Henry (Mordaunt) – Earl of Peterborough & Monmouth
1 Esq: Robert Kilby Cox of Great King Street, Lincoln’s Inn Field, Middlesex
Yeoman: William Skevington of Turvey
Yeoman: William Davison of Turvey
Sir Robert Manoux of Sandy
Baronet: Robert Boon of Gretton, Northampton
Yeoman: John Davison of Turvey
Esq: Thomas Alston of Kempston
Revd. William Hooper of Carlton-cum-Chellington
Thomas Palmer of Philadelphia in North America – Merchant
Lace Buyer: Lavender Fowler of Turvey
Widow: Francis Bithray of Carlton
Draper: Archibald Roddick of Wellingborough
Draper: William Jeffson of Sutton Coldfield
Esq: Edmund Ashley of The Lynches, Webury, Salop
Revd Richard Biss Riland of Sutton Coldfield
Spinster: Ann Ash of Wellingborough
Revd. Joseph Griffith of Brompton, Middlesex – Rector of Turvey
Revd. Clifton Jones of Clifton Reynes
The Commissioners, who were to see the Enclosure was properly carried out, are listed as John Higgins, George King, Robert King, John Rogers and George Maxwell.
John Higgins involvement is especially interesting as shortly after the Enclosure Award was granted by Parliament on 7th April 1785, he purchased land in Turvey from the Earl of Peterborough.