Open field system and manorial court
Most people in Laxton were wholly dependent upon farming for their livelihood. The open field system developed gradually, over centuries, at a time when villagers needed to be as self-sufficient as possible.
Most farmers were 'mixed' farmers, who grew crops on the open fields, and also kept cows and sheep to produce meat, milk, wool and leather, and horses to pull machinery such as ploughs and carts. Pigs, poultry and bees could be kept on the crofts at the backs of the farmhouses to provide meat, eggs and honey. Vegetables were grown in crofts or gardens. Anything which the villagers were not able to produce themselves could be bought at the neighbouring market towns of Ollerton, Tuxford, Retford and Newark, where the farmers could also sell their livestock and any spare produce.
In Theme 1 we saw that most arable land, although owned by individual proprietors, was farmed in large open fields without internal hedges or boundaries, and was never fully enclosed. Such a system required (and still requires) a high level of co-operation by all the farmers. The working of the open fields was monitored and regulated by the manorial court, presided over by the Lord of the Manor or his representative.
These web pages allow you to explore some issues concerning agriculture, the farming year, and the manorial court in Laxton. They include background information and full-size images of documents and maps.
Next page: Arable farming