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DOCUMENT 1

MS 280: 20th century copy of map of Laxton by Mark Pierce, 1635, in four sections

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This is a copy of an original map held at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford (reference: MS. C17:48 (9). See a digital version on the Bodleian Digital Image Library website, http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/digitalimagelibrary/index.html). The original map is accompanied by a terrier or survey, naming all the people who farmed each strip of land. The map and terrier were published by C.S. and C.S. Orwin in the first edition of their book The Open Fields in 1938.

The map clearly shows the houses in the village centre, and the 2280 strips of land in the four open fields. Towards the north of the village centre is the ‘demesne’ estate. This was the Lord of the Manor’s own land, concentrated into a compact holding near the remains of the medieval motte-and-bailey castle. All that remains of the castle today are the earthworks. The three-gabled manor house shown on the map was probably built in the 16th century. As the map shows, it possessed stables, brewhouse, dovecotes, garden and an orchard. It fell into decay in the 17th century and its materials were used in the 18th-century rebuilding of houses in the village.

DOCUMENT 2

Ma B 184/710: Schedule of land owned by William Doncaster, 1718-1720

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The schedule names the people owning the adjacent lands, so that the pieces could be accurately identified. Notice how small some of the lands were. One acre was just under half the size of a modern hectare. There were four roods in an acre, and 40 perches in a rood. One perch measured 30½ square yards. See the Research Guidance unit on Weights and Measures for more details about old land measurements.

The small size of the lands did have one advantage - it was possible for an energetic farmer to build up his holdings, and increase the size of his farm with a much smaller capital outlay than would be required today, because it could be done gradually. This suggests that the social structure within open field villages could be quite fluid. One example of this was the Doncaster family which rose in eminence within the village and disappeared almost as quickly. The Doncasters were a substantial family in Laxton during the 18th century. This is clearly indicated in the window tax schedule for 1771, land tax schedule 1800 and the tithe schedule for 1789. A member of that family occasionally held office in the parish administration, e.g. Overseer of the Poor, Overseer of the Highways.

DOCUMENT 3

Ma B 184/712: Advertisement for sale of land in Laxton, 1825

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This printed advertisement from 1825 illustrates the division of land at Laxton into small parcels. It shows how many 'lands' made up each of the lots offered for sale, and the name of the furlong in which they were located.

DOCUMENT 4

Ma 4919: Page from terrier accompanying a map of the parish of Laxton, 1820

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This is a page from a survey of Earl Manvers’ property in Laxton in 1820, and illustrates the division of furlongs into strips. It also shows how many different people occupied the various pieces of land in the furlong. The result was a patchwork of landholdings across the open fields.

DOCUMENT 5

Ma S 16: Pages from a survey of the manor of Laxton, relating to Joseph Rose’s house and farm and Sarah Rose’s cottage, 1862

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Joseph Rose’s farm was scattered across 22 separate pieces of enclosed and open field land. The surveyor comments that all the arable land was more than a mile away from the farmhouse. The survey is also of interest because it describes the size and condition of Joseph Rose’s farmhouse and outbuildings.

DOCUMENT 6

De C 3/2: Feoffment (Latin) of two selions of land in Laxton, 1614

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This is a title deed recording the sale in 1614, from Thomas Taylor to Peter Dickinson, of two selions of land in the Mill Field of Laxton. Like most other legal documents of that period, it is in Latin. For details about the format and contents of title deeds, and hints on how to read and understand them, see the Skills Resource ‘Deeds in Depth‘.

DOCUMENT 7

De C 2/4/1: Bargain and sale of land in Moorhouse in the parish of Laxton, 1729

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This is a later deed, dated 1729 and in English, recording the sale of various selions of land in the common fields of Moorhouse, from Samuel Roos, gentleman, and his wife Jane, to John Jepson. The deed includes seven selions of land in Gorald Pool Furlong, divided into four individual holdings. They are all described in the same way, ‘Two Selions of Arable Land lying on the same furlong called Gorald Pool furlong containing by Estimacion one Rood the Lands of the Duke of Kingston lying South thereof and the Lands of Mr Hynd lying North thereof’. There is no reference to a plan or detailed schedule. Local knowledge was clearly necessary in order to determine exactly which pieces of land were included in this sale.

DOCUMENT 8

Ma 4892: Pages from an abstract of freehold estates (other than the Duke of Kingston’s) in Laxton, 1732

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The first page contains a description of the small amount of land owned by Samuel Roos. The entry has subsequently been crossed out and replaced with the words ‘Put to Edm’d Blighton D’. This indicates that Roos did not own this freehold for long after 1732. Sure enough, a survey of the Manor of Laxton dated 1736 (Ma 4893), shows that the plots of land were owned by the Duke of Kingston and tenanted by Edmund Blighton.

The second part of Document 8 is a summary table giving the names of the 39 freeholders in Laxton, and the total amounts of land owned by each of them

DOCUMENT 9

Ma 4893: Page from a survey of the manor of Laxton, 1736, showing the lands tenanted by Christopher Roos

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DOCUMENT 10

Ma 4897: Pages from a survey of the manor of Laxton,n.d. [mid-late 18th century]

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These pages show the open field land held by John Roose as a tenant of the Duke of Kingston, and the open field land owned by Christopher Roose, who was a freeholder.

DOCUMENT 11

Ma 5411: Hand-drawn and coloured map of the lordship of Laxton and Laxton Moorhouse, 1789

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This map accompanied the 'Book of Tenures' (Ma 4899), see Document 12 below.

DOCUMENT 12

Ma 4899: Pages from ‘Book of tenures’ accompanying map of the lordship of Laxton and Laxton Moorhouse, 1789, showing the lands tenanted by Peter Roose and Joseph Rose.

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Peter Roose’s holding was the 129-acre Brockilow Farm, which was mostly enclosed, but which included some strips in the open fields. Joseph’s farm was much smaller. A comparison with the 1862 map and schedule reveals that the farmhouse in which this Joseph Rose lived in 1789 (plot 88) was the same farmhouse in which Joseph Rose lived in 1862 (plot 72). This suggests that they were probably related.

DOCUMENT 13

Ma 5415: Hand-drawn map of the parish of Laxton, 1820

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This map shows the strips in the open fields very clearly. The map was accompanied by a detailed schedule (Ma 4919).

DOCUMENT 14

Ma 4919: Table of transcribed entries relating to the Roos family, from a schedule accompanying the map of the parish of Laxton, 1820

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The survey, by Francis Wharton, gives details of each piece of land in Laxton and Moorhouse in numerical order according to type of land (enclosures first, followed by separate sections for each of the four open fields). This transcription draws out all the details relating to members of the Roos family. It is possible to plot all these pieces of land on the map (Document 13), to see how much land they worked and where it was. Ann Roose was the tenant of Brockilow Farm. Joseph Roose was the tenant of lands scattered through the open fields. His farmhouse (plot 70 in this schedule) was the same property as the house tenanted by Joseph Rose in 1789 (plot 88) and by Joseph Rose in 1862 (plot 72).

DOCUMENT 15

Ma 5420: Hand-drawn and coloured plan of Earl Manvers’ estate in Laxton, 1862

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This magnificent map was colour-coded to show the holdings of each of the Earl’s tenants. Again, the strips of land in the open fields are prominent.

DOCUMENT 16

Ma 4891: Page from record of exchanges of land in Laxton, 1727-1732

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This agreement was made between the agents for the Duke of Kingston and Lady Broughton, and was witnessed by Samuel Roos. Each of the pieces of land were very small, but the exchanges meant that the Duke took control of continuous areas of land at the edges of the village – woodlands and scrubland, some meadow land, and also some areas of arable land at the edges of the open fields.

DOCUMENT 17

Ma B 213/1-8: Copy correspondence about proposed enclosure of Laxton and Eakring, 1844.

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These letters were written by William Clutton, agent of the 2nd Earl Manvers, and John A. Powell, agent of the 8th Earl of Scarborough. The two Earls were the major landowners in Laxton. The Earl of Scarborough was the heir of Sir George Savile of Rufford Park, who had purchased the Broughton family’s estate in Laxton in 1751. The correspondence indicates the lack of willingness by either side to compromise, and the proposed enclosures and exchanges of land never occurred.

DOCUMENT 18

Ma B 204/1/3: Schedule of owners of land in the open fields of Laxton, 1849

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Enclosure was still being considered in 1849 when this schedule listing all the owners of land in the open field and the amounts they owned, was drawn up. However, no further progress was made.

DOCUMENT 19

Ma S 16: Report of Mr Thomas Huskinson recommending enclosure of Laxton, 1862

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In this report Huskinson describes the current state of agriculture in Laxton, and strongly recommends enclosure and rationalisation of the farms:

'It is quite melancholy to see so fine a Property as this, capable of being made one of the best Estates in the district, comparatively unproductive and left subject to rights and usages so ancient and barbarous that their origin is lost in antiquity, and so adverse to improvement that the only two cases now remaining in the Midland Counties are Laxton and Eakring.'

See Document 15 for the map of the Laxton estate which accompanies his survey.

DOCUMENT 20

Ma 5431: Plan of the West Field of Laxton, 1906

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Between 1903 and 1908, parts of each of the open fields were enclosed (with the agreement of tenants), and the remaining portions were re-organised. The strips were consolidated and made bigger, furlong boundaries were taken out, and efforts were made to group each tenant’s holdings together. The West Field was completed in 1906.

 

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