Englefield after Ballard
While under the open field system each strip of land had its owner, exclusive rights applied only during the growing and harvest seasons. For the remainder of the time the entire field became common land available to all for the grazing if animals. In the years between Ballard’s survey and the end of the century the open field system was progressively abandoned, with single blocks of land being allocated permanently to the various owners in place of a multitude of small strips. This action was entirely initiated and carried through by agreement between the individuals themselves, with the lord of the manor, Powlett Wrighte, being merely one of the parties involved.
In 1762, the year of Ballard’s survey, the tenants and landowners in the Great Field agreed to suspend the custom of farming in common for seven years - perhaps they had already done this informally to some extent since Ballard’s map shows Ridgeway Lane cutting through the middle of some of the individual strips. Although Powlett Wrighte owned much of the land he was not a signatory to this agreement, leaving this to the tenants who would be directly affected.
Then in 1774 the arrangement in the Great Field was made permanent by the reallocation of holdings from a number of scattered individual strips into single blocks of land. The plan showing the arrangement and ownership of the various strips before the reallocation already has the 1771 turnpike from Bostock and linking up with Green Lane cutting straight across the middle of many of them in addition to Ridgeway Lane so it is likely that the rearrangement was already in effect for some time before it was made formal. The agreement clearly shows that the various landowners were well aware of the necessity for change and that the holding of land in “small parcels” could not continue, declaring that they had “found by experience that such situation…is very inconvenient”.
At the same time as the Great Field rearrangement, the Punt Field was also enclosed, this time as a single block in the ownership of Powlett Wrighte.
Powlett died in 1779 and was succeeded by his uncle, Nathan Wrighte, until 1789 when he died and Richard Benyon inherited. The final stage came in 1791 when the holdings in the Englefield Meadow were similarly rearranged.
© 2021 Richard J Smith