At first glance the village of Laxton in north Nottinghamshire does not appear unusual. A few miles from the A1, it is surrounded by farmland and there is a welcoming pub. Laxton has always been a fairly typical Midlands agricultural community.
The village of Laxton
However, Laxton is unique. It is the only place in Europe where open field farming is still practised across a whole village, with a functioning manorial Court Leet to oversee the management of the open fields and levy fines. In an open field system, individual farmers work separate strips of land but the field has a strict crop rotation which they must all follow. Such systems date back to medieval times but in most places they were swept away by the process of enclosure.
View of Laxton West Field from the castle
Laxton’s special status was recognised by its last private owner, Gervas Pierrepont, 6th Earl Manvers (1881-1955). To prevent death duties causing the break-up of the estate, he sold the manor and the open field farms in 1952 to a sympathetic purchaser, the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1981 Laxton was sold to the Crown Estate, which undertook to maintain the open field system as long as there were tenants able and willing to continue the tradition.
Nowadays, the Laxton Visitor Centre promotes the village’s heritage. Guided walks are offered by Stuart Rose, one of the Laxton farmers (see www.laxtonnotts.org.uk). The open fields are managed in a way that promotes the conservation of the historic landscape and encourages biodiversity.
Stuart Rose leading a group of visitors on a guided walk of Laxton
More: Medieval Laxton
Laxton: Farming in an Open Field Village home