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LECTURE BY WILLIAM BLAND,
At the INFANT SCHOOL-ROOM,
DUFFIELD, on MONDAY, October 26th, 1885.
ENCLOSURE OF COMMONS AND WASTE LANDS,
FORMERLY IN THE
TOWNSHIPS OF BELPER, DUFFIELD,HAZELWOOD, HEAGE, HOLBROOKE, TURNDITCH, AND
ELSEWHERE IN THE OLD PARISH OF DUFFIELD,
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Very much has been said and written lately about the Enclosure of Common and
Waste Lands at the close of last century and subsequently.
It is alleged that during this period the people have had 2,000,000 acres or
more of such lands stolen from them by landlords and others; - and the
restoration of such commons and wastes as have been illegally enclosed within
the last fifty years is demanded as a matter of simple right and justice to the
people, who have been so grievously wronged.
In a little book entitled a "Tourist's Guide to Derbyshire," the
author says with respect to the commons which formed part of the Duffield Frith,
and which had been given to the people by Charles I., that "such commons
have been pilfered by Lords of the Manors long ago."
I purpose to-night to reply to these charges, and to prove that with respect
to the disposal of the commons and waste lands formerly within the parish of
Duffield, everything was done that could be done to deal justly and fairly
towards every person, rich or poor, who possessed the right of common on these
In the course of this lecture I shall
- Give a brief historical account of the old parish of Duffield;
- Point out where the commons and wastes lay, which are alleged to have been
stolen from the poor by the landed rich; and
- Give particulars as to what became of them.
The earliest authentic historical account and survey of this country in
general, and of the Forest and Manors and Wastes of Duffield in particular is
found in Domesday Book - a work 800 years old - still in a state of good
This survey gives the quantity of wood, meadow, and pasture, with fishponds
and mills, churches, names of owners, number of tenants, gross annual value, and
In the old Saxon Chronicles, written about this period there is the
following reference to Domesday Survey: "After this, the King had a
great council, and very deep speech with his lords about the land, - how it was
peopled, or by what men; then he sent his men over all England into every shire,
and caused to be ascertained how many hundred hides there were in the shire, or
what land the King himself had, and what cattle within the land * * * * so very
narrowly he caused it to be traced out, that there was not one single hide, nor
one yard of land, nor even - it is a shame to tell, though it seemed to him no
shame to do - an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine, was left that was not set down in
his writ, and all the writings were brought to him afterwards."
From this survey made with so much care we find -
- That Duffield, Shottle, Holbrooke, Milford, and Makeney, were included in
two manors, those of Duffield and Shottle,
- That Holbrooke, Milford, and Makeney were waste lands.
- That in Duffield and Shottle together there were (roughly speaking)1,500
acres of arable land;
- 200 acres of underwood, most of this at Burley;
- 10,000 acres of pasturable woods, - these woods formed the Duffield Forest
and Chase so often referred to in later surveys and grants; - the remainder of
the old parish was made up of meadow, swamp, river, brook, and detached pieces
of waste land.
The lands on the banks of the Derwent, especially on the west side, from
excessive rainfalls, and the absence of drainage, were frequently swamps. The
church could not be approached on such occasions. Some gentlemen passing through
the village about a century ago, found the floor of the church nearly two feet
deep in water.
There were no roads at the time of this survey, but only tracks made by
oxen, which were used for draught purposes, and pack horses.
The Derwent was crossed by two narrow wooden bridges made of timber roughly
hewn from the trees in the forest; - one of these bridges was near Duffield
church, - the other was at Belper.
There was no bridge at Milford, but the river was forded by horses, mules,
and oxen, hence the place is called in Domesday Book, Mule forde.
The whole number of people in Duffield old Parish at this time could hardly
have reached three hundred. Their only centre was near the junction of the
Ecclesbourne and the Derwent. Here was the little village of Duffield with its
wooden church and rectory. Scattered about in the woods were families living a
gipsy life, supporting themselves on the wild fruits of the forest, on the
cattle they pastured on the common, and the animals they captured in the chase.
Such was the condition of Duffield Frith at the time that the forces of
William the Conqueror overran it and other parts of the country, dispossessing
the Saxon lords, and seizing their estates. To secure the lands so acquired,
William formed a number of military districts covering a great part of the
country, - each was granted to one or other of his officers, who had rendered
him essential service in obtaining the throne, - who would be able to hold these
estates against any attempt of Saxon lords to recover them, and who would
maintain therein a body of soldiers - a local militia - who could go forth when
required under the command of their lord to fight under the King's banner.
The question has been frequently asked "What right William the
Conqueror to take away the lands of the people, original owners, and to give
them to his Norman officers ?"
As a matter of fact the poorer people remained pretty in. in the same
condition under Norman officers as they had been under Anglo-Saxon lords:
probably the people enjoyed a greater measure of protection, as in Saxon times
life and property were made insecure by the repeated invasions of the Danes.
The Saxon lords who were dispossessed of their estates by Normans were not
descendants of the original owners - their ancestors were foreigners from the
neighbourhood of the mouth of the river Elbe in north-west Germany, who some
four or hundred years before came up the Thames, the Ouse, the Humber, the
Trent, and the Derwent, and by maintaining a warfare extending over 150 years,
exterminated the previous owners and cultivators of the soil or drove them from
shire to shire, until they were forced to take refuge in the mountains of Wales,
Cornwall, Cumberland, and Scotland. Some left the country altogether and
settled in Ireland, while others took possession of the extreme west corner of
France, and colonised the province now called Brittany.
William the Conqueror granted the Duffield estates, together with many
parishes between Duffield and Tutbury, and manors in other counties, to a
distinguished cavalry officer named Ferrars, a nobleman enjoying the special
confidence of the King, who allowed him to erect a castle at Duffield, on the
north of his Derbyshire estates, and another at Tutbury on the southern border.
The Earl granted the larger portion of his estates to the officers under
him. To one of his Knights he granted the lands at Kedleston so that the present
Lord Scarsdale has an eight-hundred years' title to his inheritance. These
inferior officers rendered to their lord, the same kind of service that the lord
rendered to the King.
These subordinate officers in their turn gave portions of land to their
servants down to the common labourer; each had his own little hut or house, made
of timber taken from the forest, and cultivated a patch of land attached to his
dwelling on which he could raise crops of corn; he could go into the forest and
pick up decayed wood, or branches broken off by the wind, for fuel; he could
turn into the wood a limited number of swine at acorn time; and a good part of
the year he could let in his horse or his cow to graze. In return for these
privileges, all tenants, large or small, had services of various kinds to render
to those over them, while all had to take their part when called upon to fight
for their lord in local and national warfare.
In this manner the superior lord, the subordinate officer, the artisan, and
the labourer were bound together for mutual protection and security, and under
this system of feudal tenure, not unknown to the Anglo-Saxons, considerable
liberty in those unsettled times was often enjoyed.
In addition to the privileges already enumerated, the Earls de Ferrars
issued warrants to some of their tenants and friends, to cut down trees in the
forest for their own use; this allowance was called house boote, if for building
purposes; hayboote, if for palings and fences; and fire boote, if for fuel. They
permitted their tenants occasionally to hunt the deer that roamed the forest,
these animals were especially numerous in Derbyshire, probably giving the name
both to the river that traverses its whole length, and to the county-town. They
granted licenses to fish in the Derwent and Ecclesbourne, and sometimes allowed
their tenants to hawk in the woods.
Subsequently the privileges granted to each tenant, and the exact services
he was to render to his lord in return for them, were described in a book kept
by the Steward, who gave a copy of the same to the tenant, consequently these
tenants were afterwards called Copyholders.
By the time of Edward III., who came to the throne in 1327, these privileges
of the tenants to the use of the Forest were demanded as rights.
Green - in his history of the English people says, "Not only had
their service and time of rendering it, become limited by custom; not only had
the possession of each man's little hut with the plot around it, and the
privilege of turning out a few cattle into the Forest, passed from mere
indulgence granted or withdrawn at a lord's caprice, but were now demanded as
rights, rights which could be pleaded at law."
The records of Courts of law reveal numerous instances of actions being
brought by copyholders and freeholders to maintain, or to recover rights of
pasture in Duffield Forest, and of actions taken against others, who depastured
cattle when they had no right to do so. It must be borne in mind that these
rights of common did not extend to the ownership of the soil, but to the
produce; the freeholders and copyholders could not cart away the soil of the
forest, which was vested in the lord, but could use the grass, and wild fruits,
and take away decaying wood and broken branches of trees. The rights of common
were not attached to persons but to houses and lands; owners and occupiers
enjoyed these rights because of their interest in houses and lands adjacent to
and in the same parish with the Forest.
I shall soon have occasion to give you some account of the attempt of
Charles I. to enclose Duffield Forest, but before I do so, I must show you how
these estates became Crown lands.
The Duffield estates granted by William the Conqueror to Henry de Ferrars,
remained in the possession of this family for 200 years, i.e., till 1266. There
were seven members of this family who inherited these estates.
The second earl (Robert de Ferrars) raised an army around his castle, and
marched north to join King Stephen. This nobleman was conspicuous for his
bravery at the battle of the Standard.
The fourth earl (William de Ferrars) accompanied Richard I. to the Holy
Land, and took part at the siege of Acre, and died there in 1190.
The sixth earl (William de Ferrars) had a grant of Free Warren from Henry
III. 1252, in which we meet with the names Duffeld, Beaurepaire, Winlegh, Suwood
(Southwood), Ravensdale, and Holland (Hulland).
The seventh and last earl (Robert de Ferrars) joined the rebellion of Simon
de Montford, who called together the first House of Commons, in 1266. The House
of Lords is the older institution by many centuries.
Simon de Montford, the popular leader of the people, was killed in battle,
and Earl de Ferrars pursued by King Henry's troops marched northward and took
forcible possession of Chesterfield. Here he was overtaken and attacked on the
24th of May, 1266, and completely routed. His place of concealment in the Church
was discovered, and he was taken to London and thrown into prison. This being
his second offence, Duffield castle was demolished and his estates were
Henry III., granted the Duffield estates to Edmund Crookback, his second
son, whom he created Earl of Lancaster.
The third earl, Henry of Lancaster, gave away, in 1333, the tithes of
Duffield Church, which had hitherto supported the Rector of Duffield, to a
religious house which this nobleman had founded at Leicester.
The fourth Earl of Lancaster, Henry the Younger, was a man greatly beloved
by the people, and a favourite of the King. He took a distinguished part in the
wars in France, at the time of the battles of Crecy and Poictiers.
Edward III., in 1351, created him a Duke, and from this date, and for
centuries after, the Duffield estates were part and parcel of the Duchy of
This duke of Lancaster left his Duffield lands and houses, together with
other property, to his second daughter Blanche, who became the first wife of
John of Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III. John of Gaunt spent several days on
his Duffield estates.
48 Edw. III. - Ravensdale - Aug. 27th, Warrant to the Master Forester of
Duffield Fryth, to permit the Abbot of Darley to take some dead wood for fewell
out of the forest of Duffield Fryth.
4 Richard II. - Ravensdale - Sept. 12th, Warrant to the chief Warden of the
chace of Duffield Fryth, to deliver an oak to Henry Richman, of Wynlemore.
4 Richard IL - Ravensdale - Sept 15th, Warrant to the Receiver of Tuttebury,
to make some repairs at the Castle of Tuttebury, and the houses of the Manor of
Extracts from John of Gaunt's Register in the Public Record Office.
Their only son Henry, in 1399, became King of England, and now we have
reached the period when the Duffield Manors and Forest were vested in the Crown,
the King holding them as Duke of Lancaster.
Henry V., in 1415, had a survey made of all the estates belonging to the
Duchy of Lancaster. An account of this survey fills two large volumes called the
"Coucher Book," now in the Public Record Office. This work gives a
full and detailed account of the Duffield Manors, and Forest and Chase; the
officers of the Forest, - their privileges and duties; the copyholders, - their
rights in the Forest, and the payments they had to make at certain defined
times, - and other information.
In this survey, among other local names, we have Hasull Wood, Houlebroke,
Idrysitche hey, Turnditch, Cowhouse, Heighbridge, Wyndley, and Bigginge; these
districts were then considered part and parcel of Duffield Forest.
We find also at this period, that owing to the quantity of timber that had
at previous times been felled, often wrongly by dishonest woodmen and tenants,
the forest was broken up into large detached pieces, each known by some
The three largest portions were known as-
- Hulland Ward,
- Belper Ward, and
- Duffield or Chevin Ward.
With respect to the rights of the tenants to the use of the Forest at this
time, we find in a MS. in the Harleian Library;-
"The King's tenants had common in the King's Forest and Chase at
all times of the year, for all beasts of their own rearing, except beasts not
commonable, as goats and sheep, and beasts of merchandise,"
The tenants had for their common, all roots of fallen trees, hoar linte
(white wood of the lime tree when the inner bark had been stripped of to make
ropes of), blackthorn, and all small boughs blown down.
For swine turned into the King's Forest in pannage time they paid fourpence.
Some tenants were "free of tacke called pannage."
The number of swine allowed to be turned in was limited, as one Sir Humphrey
Bradburne, who died in Queen Elizabeth's time, "had pannage for 20 hogs,
which right he left to his son William."
The Abbot of Darley, the Parson of Duffield, and the Parson of Mugginton,
had the right of houseboote, hayboote, and fireboote in the Forest "tyme
out of mind."
In 1411, January 11th, Henry V., made a grant of timber to repair Duffield
Bridge. Henry VIII enforced the raising of special crops, one of which was flax.
The flaxholme is a part of Duffield known to all of us.
The encroachments by tenants and others on the timber in the Forests was so
great that at times complaints reached the ears of the Sovereign, who instituted
inquiries into such matters.
The Forest appears to have suffered during, or after, the time *Sir Roger
Mynor was keeper, and a commission was appointed, consisting of the Abbot of
Darley and others, to make investigation.
* His tomb is in the Vicar's Chancel of Duffield Church.
In the second year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 1560, a survey of her
forest, and woods, and underwoods, at Duffield was made, which is now in the
Public Record Office, from which account the following is extracted :-
"Duffield Frith is in circuit 30 miles, and is divided into four wards."
"Duffield or Chevin Ward " - containing eleven separate and
detached woods, in which "there are 3,000 small oaks for building timber,
1,700 decayed oaks for firewood."
"The said Ward is plotted with many lands and plains, whereon groweth
no timber. The underwood is very thin and evil thriven, and not likely to amend."
Similar reports are given of the state of the timber and underwood in the
other wards. Neglect and decay appear to have prevailed all over the Duchy
We now come to the time of Charles I., who, as Duke of Lancaster, sold all
the Duffield Manors (the Forest and Chase excepted), to the Corporation of the
City of London.
With respect to the Forest and Chase, the King was minded to improve it, and
he thought this could only be done by enclosing it, and he attempted to do so;
but the Freeholders and Copyholders, with the Earl of Newcastle at their head,
broke clown the enclosures and turned in their cattle as before.
Action was then taken in the duchy court against the Earl of Newcastle and
others, witnesses were examined, and the case ended with a proposal of the King
to come to some terms with the Commoners, so that the property could be
The arrangements agreed upon (although some commoners appear not to have
been consulted in this matter), were
- That the Belper, Holland, and Chevin Wards should be surveyed and mapped;
- That the same should be divided into three portions of equal value and
- That the king should take one portion by lot; and
- That he should convey the soil and buildings of the other two portions to
Trustees, who should hold the same for the use of the Commoners..
By a decree in the Duchy of Lancaster Court (9, Charles I.) the agreement
was confirmed, and the following persons and their heirs were appointed Trustees
: - John Osbourne, Edward Smith, Roger Allestree of Derby, John Wright, and
William Woolley of Riber, Matlock, who was the last surviving Trustee, and died
in October, 1666.
|From this survey it appears that there were in|
||1470 acres of common land.|
|The portions which fell to the King in
||were 490 acres
||in the middle of it;|
||including the part called Whitemore;|
||comprising portions of Postern and Cowhouse|
The respective portions of the Trustees and of the King were shown on a map
prepared by William Jourdan. The King's portion "are mentioned to be
coloured green." On the 10th day of September, 1635, the King sold his
share to one Edward Sydenham, who began to enclose the same.
The Commoners, however, were not satisfied with the arrangement come to with
the King, on the grounds -
- That all the Commoners had not been parties to the Agreement; and
- That the King had taken the best one-third.
Whereupon the Commoners pulled down the palings, and turned in their cattle
The affair remained in this unsettled state until 1650, when Oliver
Cromwell's Parliament appointed a Commission to make "a survey of the
Royalty of the late disaforested forest or chase called Duffield Frith, lying
and being in the hundred of Appletree in the county of Derby, and also of
certain cottages and encroachments within the several Wards of the same."
The Commissioners found that no less than 44 persons in Hulland Ward, 25
persons in Duffield Ward, and 57 persons in Belper Ward, had improperly enclosed
portions of the Common lands.
Of these one-hundred-and-twenty-six persons, only one is described as a
gentleman, the rest appear to have been poor people: -
Henry Gregson, gentleman, had taken a piece of the common 120 yards by 40
yards, or nearly one acre. Ralph Alt had taken two acres. William Fox two acres,
and Daniel Deave two and a half acres for cottages and gardens. Widow Garratt,
Widow Duffield, Widow Newton, Widow Beardsley, Widow Mills, and most of the
other persons mentioned in the report had also made encroachments for small
cottages and gardens.
Soon after the restoration in 1660, the late King's one-third, which had
been sold to Edward Sydenham, came into the possession of Sir William Smith, and
he renewed the attempt to enclose it.
He was, however, opposed by the Commoners, at the head of whom were German
Pole, of Radbourne; George Pole, his brother; George Raynor, of Duffield; and
Sir William Smith brought an action against these gentlemen, in the Duchy
Court, and won the case. Nevertheless, he was not allowed peaceably to enjoy
The contention of the Commoners was that the King's one-third was the best,
and therefore some portion of the land ought to be given up to them.
After ten years of litigation the Commoners came to an agreement with Sir
William Smith, in respect of which the latter gave up 95 acres of common on
Hulland Ward, 120 acres on Belper Ward, and 60 acres on Chevin Ward, making a
total of 275 acres; all of which had been part of the King's one-third granted
The legal and other expenses connected with this dispute amounted to seven
hundred pounds, and on the Commoners complaining that they did not so much want
the land recovered from Sir W. Smith, as the return of the money they had
expended in these suits, Sir John Curzon paid £650 1s. 2d. of this money,
and the land was conveyed to him as Trustee for the Commoners - such land to
This arrangement was confirmed by Act of Parliament, March 6th, 1670.
The Common lands (not including Waste patches) measured at this date
- In Hulland Ward 1075 acres
- In Belper Ward 1242 acres
- In Chevin Ward 660 acres
- Total ... 2977 acres.
As these are the lands alleged to have been stolen from the people, I will
point out where they lay, and give particulars as to what became of them.
The 1075 acres of Common lands at Hulland Ward lay in the neighbourhood of
the Cross of Hands, and comprised parts of the parishes of Biggin, Hulland,
Ireton Wood, Idridgehay, Mercaston, Mugginton, Turnditch, and Windley, the
inhabitants of which eight parishes had the right of common on this Ward.
Belper Ward, containing 1242 acres, lay one half in the township of Heage,
and the other in the township of Belper.
It included nearly the whole of the township of Belper which lies on the
east and north of the Market Place and St. Peter's Church, and nearly the whole
of the land between the road to Heage on the east and the river Derwent on the
west, and on in a belt of varying breadth towards Heage Church.
Chevin Ward included 660 acres. This common extended from near the Derwent
on the east, to the Cart House Lane and the Depth of Lumb on the west; and from
the neighbourhood of Milford School, right on without a break to the southern
boundary of the parish of Alderwasley.
PATCHES OF WASTE LAND.
1. - Belper.
- (a) Part of Hopping Hill;
- (b) Forty acres on Cow Hill;
- (c) The north side of Bridge Hill; and
- (d) Over a hundred acres at Belper Lane End, on the west of the Derwent.
2. - Duffield
- (a) A small piece where the Baptist Chapel now stands.
- (b) A large piece on the east side of Duffield Bank Road, extending from
the Manor Farm Road to the Lane leading to Winson's Farm.
3. - Makeney
- Small patches of land near the bottom of the Holbrooke Lane, not far from
4. - Milford
- About eight acres in a line by the roadside in the neighbourhood of the
King William IV. Inn.
5. - Hazelwood
- (a) Both sides of the Road from Duffield to Hazelwood Church, commencing at
the foot of Hazelwood Hill;
- (b) Patches by the road side from the Church to Lumb Lane;
- (c) Pieces of land on both sides of the upper half of the road between the
Church and the Railway Station.
6. - Shottle Gate
- (a) From Blackbrook to Shottle Gate, strips by the roadside on the left all
- (b) From Shottle Gate to Shottle Station, detached strips on both sides of
Cow House Lane.
7. - Holbrooke
- About 300 acres of common lands, open fields, and waste grounds, lying
partly on the Moor, partly near the Horsley Brook, and the remainder between the
Church and the Railway Station.
The quantity of commons and waste lands in England at the beginning of last
century (1700) has been variously estimated at from ten to twenty thousand
square miles, or from one third to one fifth of the whole country.
Considerable encroachments on these lands were made every year by all
classes - the unenclosed portions were never manured, ditched, or drained; in
bad weather the lower parts were mere swamps and bogs; in dry weather the hill
sides were almost destitute of pasture. The price of corn, meat, cheese, and
butter was high; trade was often bad; wars were frequent; taxation was
excessive; the national debt was rising by leaps and bounds; the poor in some
districts were starving; and discontent generally prevailed.
It was at this crisis that public attention was called to the state of the
common lands, which if enclosed and cultivated would provide abundance of work
for the labourer; corn would be raised on these allotments and pasture would be
greatly improved. To use the words of an eminent historian, "a
wilderness would be converted into a garden." The artisan too would
find employment, as houses and outbuildings would be required for the new farms,
and cottages for the labourer. Thus all classes would be benefited by the
enclosures.. Great improvements had already been effected where commons and
waste lands had been enclosed. Accordingly, we find that numerous applications
were made to Parliament about this time by persons having an interest in the
commons and waste lands for authority to enclose.
ENCLOSURE OF HEAGE COMMONS AND WASTES.
The first application to Parliament for authority to enclose a portion of
the Duffield Commons was made by the Commoners at Heage. They obtained an
enclosure Act in 1769, under the provisions of which 600 acres of Be1per Ward,
i.e., that portion which lay outside of Be1per township, was assigned
to the freeholders and copyholders of Heage. The land is described as "lying
open and unfenced so that the cattle belonging to the inhabitants of Heage and
Belper pasture in common."
The Commissioners were Thomas Oldknow of Nottingham, Thomas Berisford of
Broadlow Ash, and John Beighton of Hazelwood; and in the discharge of their
duties in allotting, no share was to be given to Mr. Francis Hurt as Lord of the
Manor, but only what he was entitled to as owner of certain houses and farms.
ENCLOSURE OF HULLAND WARD AND WASTES.
The Act for the enclosure of Hulland Ward was passed about the same time.
The commons, which amounted to "1,000 acres, and the waste lands
to 500 acres more, were said to be incapable of improvement in their present
situation, and that it would be advantageous to the several persons interested
therein, if the same was divided and enclosed, but such division and enclosure
could not be made effectual without the authority of Parliament."
Under the provisions of this Act, the lands were to be divided amongst those
owners or occupiers in the eight parishes, in respect of whose houses or
tenements the parties from time immemorial have enjoyed uninterrupted rights of
common upon the said Ward.
Owners who had become so by encroachments on the commons were to be excluded
from any further share of the commons.
ENCLOSURE OF HOLBROOKE COMMON LANDS.
The Holbrooke Enclosure Act was passed in 1785. There were 300 acres of land
described as open, common fields, common meadows, common lands, and waste
The soil and minerals belonged to the Lords and Ladies of the Holbrooke
Manor, who agreed to give up such rights and take only such share of the said
lands as they were entitled to as owners of lands and tenements, without regard
to their being Lords and Ladies of the said Manor, and they declared that the
said common lands should be enclosed and allotted and held hereafter as freehold
All encroachments made over twenty years ago were to be allowed to
remain in possession of their present owners.
The number of persons who received allotments of the wastes and open fields
ENCLOSURE OF DUFFIELD COMMONS AND WASTES.
We have now to consider what became of the remainder of the old Forest and
of Waste lands of Duffield. There were left
- 600 acres of common in Belper township;
- 660 in Chevin Ward; and
- 240 acres of waste lands in Duffield, Hazelwood, and Belper; making a total
of 1,500 acres.
These were enclosed by Act of Parliament passed in 1785. The times were
eventful. We had lost part of our American Colonies; a large war bill had to be
faced, disturbances were frequent, reforms were demanded by the people, and
reforms were promised by the young and popular Prime Minister, Wm. Pitt, the son
of the late Earl Chatham.
It was at this juncture that a meeting of persons, having rights of common
on the Duffield Commons and Waste lands, met together to consider the
advisability of applying to Parliament for authority to enclose and divide these
lands, on the ground that they were incapable of improvement in their present
situation, and it would be advantageous to the said persons if the same were
enclosed and divided. The decision of the meeting was in favour of making such
application, and in due course a bill, authorising such enclosure and division,
was carried through Parliament. Under the provisions of this Act, John Beighton
of Hazelwood, and Joseph Outram of Alfreton, were appointed Commissioners for
enclosing and dividing the Common and Waste lands; and in the event of a
disagreement between them on any point, the matter was to be referred to
Benjamin Chambers, of Tibshelf, whose decision was to be final. These gentlemen,
having had much experience in work of this character, were eminently qualified
for the efficient and proper discharge of their onerous duties.
The principal requirements of the Act were as follows :-
- The Commissioners were to take oath before the Commoners, that they would
discharge their duties without favour or affection, - without malice or hatred,
- to any person whomsoever.
- The Surveyor was to measure each person's property in respect of which he
claimed rights of Common, or the use of the Waste lands, and to lay down on a
map all such property, together with all the Commons and Wastes.
- All persons having, or claiming, any rights of common in the said Common
and Waste lands, were to send particulars of such claim in writing to the
Commissioners on or before a certain date, or be debarred.
- All claims sent in were to be shown to any person having an interest in
- The list of claimants having been settled, the lands were to be divided
according to the respective rights, properties, and interests of such claimants,
and in making such allotments, the Commissioners were to have regard to the
quality, quantity, and convenience of the land to be assigned to the claimants.
- Provision was made in the Act also for the settlement of any grievance on
the part of the majority of the Commoners with respect to the decision of the
Commissioners or the Umpire in the allotment of the commons and wastes, by a
trial at law at the first or second Assizes following, to be held at Derby.
- All encroachments made from the common or waste lands within twenty
years were to be given up.
- The Lord of the Manor of Duffield having claimed that the allotments on the
common to be made to the copyholders, should be considered as of copyhold
tenure, provision was made in the Act for testing the legality of this claim, by
a trial before a special jury at an Assizes to be held at Warwick.
Such were the principal provisions of this enclosure Act. In the carrying
out of the same, the Commissioners by advertisement in the Derby Mercury,
and notice on the church doors at Duffield and Belper, requested all persons
having or claiming any rights of common in the said common or waste lands to
send particulars of such claim to the Commissioners on or before Monday, the
19th day of February, 1787.
The claims sent in by Duffield, Hazelwood, and Makeney people, lay for
examination at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, kept by Mr Swift; and the claims
by Belper persons could be inspected at the King's Head Inn, Belper. This was in
April 1787. Notices that effect appeared in the Derby Mercury for
A final notice was inserted in the Mercury of the 2nd day of
January, 1788, to the effect that all claims sent in on or before the 19th day
of January, would be received, but after that date all persons (if any) claiming
any right or interest in the said common and waste lands, would be debarred from
any share or allotment of he same.
The list of claimants having been arranged, their names were advertised in
the Derby Mercury of Feb. 27th, 1788, and persons having objections to
make in any case were requested to meet the commissioners.
The meetings for the receiving of evidence in support of, or against, the
various claims, were held at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, on March 20th and
21st, and at the Upper Swan Inn, Belper, on March 24th and 25th, 1788. The
claimants and their opponents were severally examined by the Commissioners, and
in cases where the evidence was deemed insufficient, twenty-one days were
allowed for the production of further evidence.
The claim of the Lord of the Manor of Duffield, to consider all allotments
of the commons made to copyholders as of copyhold tenure, was contested. The
case was tried at Warwick Assizes, and the jury gave their verdict in favour of
the copyholders. Thus all the allotments of the commons were taken and held
The Commissioners then proceeded to allot the commons and waste lands to all
the persons who had proved their right to the use of the said lands.
The award of the Commissioners, with respect to the allotments, was
communicated to the several persons interested therein, at a meeting called by
advertisement, and held at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, on Monday, August
The work of the Commissioners, however, was not confined to the enclosure
and allotment of the commons and wastes. They had to settle the dispute with
respect to the boundary between the town ships of Belper and Duffield, and to
decide what new roads should be made and what old ways should be closed, so that
it was not until May 11th, 1791, that the award, as a whole, was finally
settled. On the 14th of November, 1793, it was enrolled in the King's Bench.
The number of persons in Duffield who received allotments was 117; in
Makeney 28; in Hazelwood 46, and in Belper 190; making a total of 381 people who
received some portion of the common and wastes.
The claims of the poorest persons having an interest in the commons and
wastes were not overlooked. Over a hundred families received allotments, in
right of their possessing a few perches of land with or without a cottage
thereon. Cases taken at random are given below, viz.: -
||Received of the Common or Waste Lands|
||32 perches of land
||18 perches of land
||2 perches of land
||5 perches of land
Of the remaining Commoners, one hundred and thirteen were owners of less
than three acres of land each. All these received allotments of the commons or
Any person owning two, three, or more tenements to which rights of common
were severally attached, received an allotment in respect of each of such
The expenses incurred in obtaining this Act, and in surveying, enclosing,
dividing, allotting, making roads, advertising, etc., were very considerable,
and had to be defrayed by the Commoners in proportion to the size of their
Owners in Hazelwood had to pay as their share of these expenses more than £500;
proprietors in Makeney upwards of £300; freeholders and copyholders in
Belper and Duffield considerably more.
The work of the Commissioners being now completed, an advertisement to that
effect appeared in the Derby Mercury on the 12th day of May, 1791.
This enclosure, made under the authority of an Act of Parliament procured
by the Commoners themselves, and carried out with care and judgment, -
nothing hurried, - all the meetings open and called by public notice, - every
opportunity given to claimants to prove their right to portions of the commons
or wastes. This enclosure, which wronged nobody, and benefited every Commoner,
is one of those transactions which for party purposes have just now been called
"a robbery of the people by landlords and others."
The numbers of the Derby Mercury issued at this eventful period
have been carefully examined, and not a single paragraph has been met with which
implies that the people of that day considered themselves wronged by this
It appears from advertisements in the Derby Mercury that the
enclosures at Alvaston, Boulton, Barlborough, Beighton, Brampton, Brassington,
Callow, Chaddesden, Chelmorton, Flagg, Codnor and Loscoe, Crich, Doveridge,
Egginton, Etwall, Eyam, Great and Little Hucklow, Hatton and Hoon, Heanor,
Hemington, Kirk Ireton, Kirk Langley, Ilkeston, Morley, Marston Montgomery,
Melbourne, Mickleover, Osmaston-by-Derby, Parwich, Sandiacre, Sawley, Sinfin,
South Normanton, South Wingfield, Spondon, Staveley, Taddington and
Priestcliffe, Tideswell, Wirksworth, Walton-by-Chesterfield, Wormhill, were made
under the authority of various Acts of Parliament applied for by the people
who had rights of common upon the respective commons and wastes in these
parishes, - and that the safeguards for securing justice to every claimant,
- the principles of enclosure and division, - and the same publicity to every
meeting of the Commissioners, which have been described with respect to the
Duffield enclosures, held good for these enclosures also.
How wilfully misleading then is the Election cry, that "THE POOR HAVE
BEEN ROBBED OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF LAND BY THE LANDED RICH."
The commons and wastes in Duffield old parish, soon after their enclosure
and allotment, were changed into farms and gardens and sites for several
hundreds of houses, giving abundance of work for some years to the poorer
The money of the proprietor and the labour of the workman converted these
wastes into gardens within a single generation, and heavy as the local
rates have been, they would have been at the least twenty-five per cent. heavier
but for these improvements.
It has been proposed that lands should be recovered which have been
encroachments from commons or wastes within the last fifty years. This proposal,
if carried into practice, would be a less liberal arrangement than that in force
a hundred years ago, when twenty years' possession, without frequent payment of
acknowledgements, was considered a good and sufficient title to the
If the principle of a fifty years' title be admitted and enforced by Act of
Parliament, in thousands of cases the poor would be the greatest sufferers. In
Oliver Cromwell's time, the Commissioners found, that for one gentleman who had
made encroachments, there were a hundred-and-twenty-five poor people who had
taken portions of the common, on which they had erected cottages, or which had
been converted into gardens.
Great numbers of people in every county have made similar encroachments
within the last fifty years, and believing that uninterrupted possession for
twenty years was a good title to this property, have built houses upon the
enclosures and turned the adjoining wastes into gardens; - are these persons or
their children now to give up their homesteads and lose the money and labour
expended thereon? If so, will not every honest man cry, "Shame!" Or,
if they are to receive compensation, how is the money to be raised ?
Many thousands of cottages built on encroachments from commons or on slips
taken from the roadside, and many thousands of patches of land acquired in a
similar way within the last fifty years have been sold and re-sold. Are these
purchasers, who have paid in hard cash the full market value of these estates,
believing that a twenty years' title would be amply sufficient to secure
themselves from risk; - are these people now to be dispossessed without
compensation? Such a transaction would be pure and simple confiscation.
There is a great cry abroad for reform in the expenses connected with the
transfer of land and houses; and rightly so, especially with respect to copyhold
property; but if a fifty years' title is required, so as to make the purchaser
secure, then the expenses in connection with the transfer of land will be
Those who have had occasion to buy property know that the expense of
preparing the conveyance is only part of the cost of the transfer; there is
usually another document necessary for the completion of the transaction, and
this is called an "Abstract of Title."
This document is intended to show that the vendor has a good title to the
property he is about to sell: it shows also in whose possession the property in
question has been for the last twelve or twenty-one years; and how such property
was acquired; but if the solicitor, to make his client secure has to trace the
title for fifty years back, the preparation of this abstract will in some cases
be a costly affair.
No! We must oppose the principle of a fifty years' title; - we must have the
transfer of land made simple and inexpensive. The fines and fees charged in
connection with the purchase or inheritance of landed property, especially that
of copyhold tenure, must be reformed, and we must make it as easy as possible
for a working man to buy an allotment of land and to build a cottage upon it,
and when he has got it, we must make it secure for him against all comers.
There must be no confiscation; no setting of one class against another
class; but so far as is possible, we must bring the rich and the poor, the
master and the servant, into closer bonds of unity. WHOEVER ARE SEEKING TO
PROMOTE THIS HAPPY CONSUMMATION ARE THE REAL FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE. LET US
DISTRUST ALL OTHERS!
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First published 1885, Website copyright 2008 Jed Bland. 07.09.08