The final enclosure of Englefield by act of parliament came in 1829, although by then it was really just a formalisation of sales and exchanges that had taken place over the previous 20 years. The Punt Field had been entirely owned by Powlett Wrighte since 1774 and in 1809 his successor, Richard Benyon, and other major landowners decided to finish what had already been started and to rearrange the consolidated holdings that had been created in the Great Field in 1774 and in the Englefield Meadow in 1791 into contiguous blocks and also to abolish the remaining rights of common. Notices were posted on the door of the church and in the local newspapers and the process of arranging for a private bill to be presented to parliament began. While we call this enclosure, that had already effectively happened and this process probably represented a reduction in the total length of hedges and fences due to the rearrangement of holdings into fewer, larger blocks.
Anyone with a holding in the common fields was also entitled to certain rights of common such as grazing of animals on stubble and these rights would be lost when the bill was passed through parliament. Those who held such rights therefore petitioned the appointed Enclosure Commissioners, John Trumper and William Bushnell, for appropriate compensation, usually by way of a small piece of land. Among those who made such claims were William and John Horn and Isabella May for her son James who was then not quite of age being only 19, his father having died in 1805.
Although the holdings in the River Furlong of the Englefield Meadow had been rearranged and consolidated in 1791, there had clearly been further change since then for the enclosure map of 1829 shows that in the River Furlong are only a few small individual parcels of land, many with new owners, along the north side. The major part of River Furlong was allotted to Richard Benyon and most of the owners of the small parcels received land elsewhere in exchange for them so Richard Benyon gained these a swell. The hides, although still operating in the old way in 1806, were, along with Claper Acre Furlong, reallocated into a few larger blocks now oriented east-west. John Horn was one of the few owners in 1791 still to retain a holding in 1809 and his brother William had also acquired some land there too. Both exchanged these for small pieces of land contiguous with what they already owned elsewhere so this process actually represented a benefit to the Horns, rather than the curse that Clare and others claimed, because it meant that they lost no actual acreage and had a far more compact holding around their main homestead.
The same sort of exchanges occurred all over the rest of the parish so that Richard Benyon, as by far the major landowner was able to consolidate the majority of the land in the village and around Englefield House into a single block, including the piece just outside the east front of the House where the Rectory stood alongside the church. This he exchanged for another piece of land on which a house already stood that then became the Rectory, the other one being demolished. One consequence of this is that he was able to create a new deer park and ornamental lake to the south of Englefield House.
The full enclosure process did not stop there, however, for in some cases having made the exchanges some of the smaller landowners, among them the Horns and James May, subsequently sold their land to Richard Benyon. So the complete enclosure agreement passed by parliament is effectively in two stages, the earlier part dealing with the exchanges and the later part with the subsequent sales.
Even with sales such as these, there are still shown on the definitive enclosure map eight landowners other than Richard Benyon, though three of them were what we might call “corporate landowners” being the Corporation of Reading, the Rector of Wallingford and the Rector of Englefield. The other five were: William Keep, Robert Hopkins, J Keen, Thomas Price and the heirs of T Clarke.
© 2021 Richard J Smith