Landholding and enclosure
Laxton was a fairly typical example of a Midlands open field village. The main features of an open field village can be traced on the map of Laxton drawn up in 1635 (Document 1). Farmhouses, cottages and other buildings were concentrated in the centre of the village, along the main street. Behind the houses was a long 'croft', fenced off from its neighbours. This piece of land could be used to graze animals, to keep pigs or hens, or to grow vegetables.
Most of the arable land worked by the farmers was in the four open fields surrounding the village. The fields were subdivided into strips (also known as 'selions' or 'lands'). The strips can be seen very clearly on the 1635 map. They were long and thin, because this was the easiest shape that a man could plough using oxen or horses. Each strip of land in the open field was owned by an individual landowner, although the boundaries were not marked by hedges or fences.
Enclosure (often spelled 'inclosure' in original documents) was the process of hedging or fencing off pieces of land. Enclosed pieces of land were known as 'closes', and were usually square or rectangular in shape, rather than long and thin. Some enclosure had already taken place in Laxton by 1635, and it continued to happen until the 20th century.
In most villages, all the open field land had been enclosed by the mid-19th century, and open fields had been replaced by separate farmsteads. This did not happen in Laxton.
These web pages allow you to explore some issues concerning landholding and enclosure in Laxton. They include background information and full-size images of documents and maps.
Next page: The Manor of Laxton and Mark Pierce's 1635 map