About Enclosure Awards
Traditional agriculture involved peasants (owner-occupiers) and tenants farming small areas of land (known as 'strips') which were intermixed with those of others in large open fields and cultivated according to communal agreement. The village might also have uncultivated common land, known as commons, used for rough grazing, fuel-gathering and timber.
Enclosure was the process by which the various strips of each owner were reorganised and consolidated into separate holdings, fenced off from the land of their neighbours. Where there were commons, this land too could be divided up between those who had rights to use it. The process made agriculture more efficient and it also exerted a major impact upon the communities affected.
The process of enclosure generally began by landowners in a community obtaining a local Act of Parliament. This authorised the appointment of enclosure commissioners, local men, one of whom was often a surveyor. They would investigate the rights of each owners, survey the land, allocate fields to owners and lay out new roads. Their final decision was then embodied in a formal written document, the 'enclosure award', which from the later eighteenth century was often accompanied by a map.
Over two dozen enclosure awards were made for places in the Doncaster area in the hundred years between 1754 and 1861. In all, 27,000 acres of land (10,927 hectares) of open fields and commons were enclosed. Much of this was organised under the stimulus of high agricultural prices during the Napoleonic Wars. A third of all the land enclosed in the Doncaster area was planned in eleven enclosure Acts obtained in the fifteen years between 1800 and 1815.
An enclosure award gives an overview of a community at a crucial moment in its history. For family historians, enclosure awards give the names of the landowners who owned land at the date of the enclosure and identifies the land which they owned. The same information is just as important, from another perspective, to local historians, who will also be aware that the process of enclosure usually made major changes to the local landscape.
Sometimes, enclosure was used as the opportunity for extinguishing tithes by allocating land to the tithe-owner in lieu of tithe-payments. See also the webpage on Tithes.
Doncaster Archives holds three dozen original (signed and sealed) enclosure awards and copies of awards.
Further information can be found in Barbara English's, Yorkshire Enclosure Awards (University of Hull, 1985). A copy is available at Doncaster Archives.
Original and Copy Enclosure Awards 1754-1861
|Place||Date of Act |
(* copy available)
|Date of Award||Original/Copy Available?||Map Available?|
|Adwick le Street||1760||1761||copy||no|
|Arksey see Bentley|
|Askern see Campsall|
|Balby see Hexthorpe|
|Bentley with Arksey||1758*||1759||original||no|
|Bentley with Arksey||1827*||1830||original||yes|
|Blaxton see Finningley|
|Branton see Cantley|
|Campsall, Askern and Norton||1814*||1818||original||yes|
|Cantley, Branton, Bessacarr and High Ellers||1777*||1779||original||copy, yes|
|Clayton and Frickley||1814*||1821||original||yes|
|Conisbrough and Clifton||1855||1858||original||yes|
|Cowick see Stainton|
|Doncaster, Cantley, Rossington and Wadworth||1765*||1771||copy, part||copy, yes|
|Edlington see Stainton|
|Finningley, Auckley and Blaxton||1774||1778||original||copy, yes|
|Fishlake see Hatfield|
|Frickley see Clayton|
|Hatfield, Thorne, Fishlake, Stainforth and Sykehouse||1811*||1825||original||yes|
|Heck, Great and Little see Pollington|
|Hexthorpe with Balby and Long Sandall||1784||1786||original||yes|
|High Ellers see Cantley|
|Mexborough and Dolcliffe||1859||1861||original||yes|
|Moss and Kirk Bramwith||1780||1783||original||yes|
|Norton see Campsall|
|Pollington, Balne, Whitley, Whitley Thorpe, Great and Little Heck||1772||1775||original||no|
|Rossington||1810||[Act confirms agreement]||no|
|Snaith, Cowick and Rawcliffe||1752||1754||original||no|
|Snaith and Cowick||1773||1781||original||no|
|Stainforth see Hatfield|
|Stainton and Edlington||1810||1815||original||yes|
|Sykehouse see Hatfield|
|Thorne see Hatfield|
|Whitley, Whitley Thorpe see Pollington|