Chapter 4 The Process of Parliamentary Enclosure

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Chapter 4

The Process of Parliamentary Enclosure

A traveller passing through the Wantage area in 1800 would have seen a patchwork of enclosed and unenclosed hamlets. Land in the north of the four parishes had long been enclosed. In this part of the region farmers were able to specialise in livestock production. Again, in the south of the parishes, eighteenth century enclosures had made it possible for farmers convert relatively poor downland sheepwalk to a more productive arable/sheep husbandry. The adjoining parishes of Farnborough, Letcombe Bassett, and Childrey were enclosed through acts of Parliament in the 1770s. The enclosure of Farnborough and an agreement to enclose an area of common grazed by both Farnborough and Betterton may have encouraged Matthew Wymondsold to suggest, unsuccessfully, that East Lockinge should enclose in 1778. It was another several decades before there was sufficient incentive and agreement for any of the four parishes around Wantage to begin the process of petitioning Parliament. In the ten years between 1801 and 1811, however, 73.5 per cent of the remaining area of open field, common meadow, and waste and commons was enclosed. The first parish to complete the process was West Challow in 1803. Letcombe Regis and East Challow followed in 1804, Wantage and Grove in 1806 and Ardington in 1811. In doing so, they joined part of a widespread, national movement to end traditional agriculture. East Lockinge and Charlton were slower to enclose (see Appendix 1). On the 23rd June 1810 John Pollexfen Bastard wrote the following to the Rev Dr Isham at All Soul’s College, Oxford

Under the idea that the same advantage would accrue to inclosing Lockinge, as has to the neighbouring Parishes which have been recently inclosed, I venture to propose the Measure to you. Certain it is that the Tithe of the common field will benefit considerably independent of the consideration of the Quantity of Downs, furze, and waste that will be brought into cultivation, and which is now worth scarcely anything to the Tithe.1

This proposal, however advantageous it may have been, came to nothing and the remaining 25 per cent of land in East Lockinge were not enclosed until 1853. Charlton, enclosed in 1868, was the penultimate enclosure in Berkshire. Both of these enclosures were carried out under the General Act of 1845.

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