The following descriptions are given in the context of enclosure.


Acre – a measure of land, equivalent to 4 rods, 4840 sq yards or 0.40 hectares.

Act of Parliament –- a statute of law.

Allotment – a piece of land awarded by the Enclosure Commissioners, under the terms of an Act of Enclosure, in exchange for rights and holdings held in the open field system. It could be made up of several hundred acres or just a small strip of land.

Allottee – the person receiving an allotment of land at the time of enclosure.

Attorney – a law official.

Award – see Enclosure Award.

Bill - a draft Act of Parliament – not yet agreed.

Bridle-path, -road, -way – a right of way suitable for horses and pedestrians.

Certified copy – a copy of a public document, signed and certified as a true copy by the officer to whose custody the original is entrusted.

Chain – a unit of length used in surveying, equivalent to 22 yards.

Churchwarden – a parish officer responsible for keeping the church and levying church and other rates.

Claim – a written declaration of the amount of land held in the open fields, commons and wastes at the time of enclosure.

Clerk of the Peace – the principal law officer of the court of Quarter Sessions.

Close – a piece of land enclosed within hedges, fences or walls.

Commissioner – see Enclosure Commissioner.

Common – a piece of land subject to rights of common. See Common rights.

Common rights - rights enjoyed by manorial tenants over the commons and open fields. Common rights varied from parish to parish and from manor to manor, but usually included rights of pasture (for cattle, sheep, and horses), pannage (for pigs), turbary (peat), estovers (wood), piscary (fish), or commons in the soil (sand, stone, gravel, etc.).

Commoners – anyone who enjoyed common rights.

Copyhold tenure – tenure of land or property by which a tenant held a copy of a court roll which recorded his or her possession of a holding on agreed terms.

Cottager – the tenant of a cottage, with or without a small piece of land.

Enclosure – the act of freeing land from rights of common enjoyed by tenants of a manor over some or all of the open lands in a parish, and the redistribution of the land into individual ownership. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was usually spelt ‘inclosure’.

Enclosure Award – The final legal document produced by the Enclosure Commissioners in accordance with the Act, recording the ownership and distribution of the lands enclosed.

Enclosure Map – a map showing the approved re-allotment of the open and common fields, and waste.

Enclosure Commissioner – an official appointed to bring about the terms of the Enclosure Act. There were usually at least three commissioners for each enclosure, appointed respectively by the lord of the manor, the incumbent, and the other proprietors.

Endorsement – writing on the back of a document.

Enrolment – the entering of an agreement or transaction into the records of a court.

Fallow – that part of the arable land of a manor that was left untilled every second or third year.

Field – before enclosure a field was a large stretch of open arable land subdivided into strips. After enclosure it was more typically a close.

Footpath – a highway over which the public has a right of way on foot only. See Rights of Way.

Freehold – absolute tenure of a property, free of obligations to the lord of the manor.

Furlong – a unit of linear measurement, equivalent to 220 yards or 1/8 of a mile, originally, the length of a furrow in an open field. The term was also used for a block of strips within an open field.

Glebe – the land held by a clergyman.

Heath – an area of flat uncultivated land with low shrubs.

Hedge – a fence or boundary formed by closely planted bushes or shrubs.

Highway – a road or way open to the public as a right for the purpose of passing and repassing.

Inclosure – see Enclosure

Lease – a grant of real property to a tenant for a specified number of years or lives of people.

Leasehold – lands held under a lease for years.

Lord of the manor – the head of the manor, originally a landlord, who held the estate from the king.

Manor – an estate held by a landlord as tenant of the king. The typical manor contained a village with a church, and agricultural land consisting of large arable fields. A manor could be part of a parish, co-extensive with a parish, or spread over more than one parish.

Messuage – a dwelling house and the surrounding property, including gardens, courtyard, orchard and outbuildings. A capital messuage was that of the lord of a manor, or any other large residential property.

Mound – the spoil excavated from a ditch upon which hedges were often planted.

Open fields – the system whereby the agricultural land of a parish or manor was farmed in large fields, which were divided into strips. The number and extent of the fields varied. They were normally farmed communally under regulations agreed at the manor court.

Overseer of the Poor – appointed yearly by each vestry to levy a poor rate and supervise its distribution. They were unpaid and selected from among the parishioners.

Parchment – made from the skin of an animal (usually a sheep). The flesh-side, the inner side of the roll, was called the face and carried the main written entry; the outer, hair-side, was the back or dorse.

Parish – originally a township or group of townships possessing its own church and parson. A parish could contain one or several manors.

Perch – a unit of area, equivalent to 30 Ό sq. yards or 1/40th of a rod.

Quarter Sessions – a system of quarterly meetings of the Justices of the Peace for each county and some boroughs.

Right of way – the right of passing over the land of another. A right of way is either public or private.

Rod – a unit of area, equivalent to 40 perch or Ό acre.

Strips or selions – long, narrow divisions of arable land in the open fields, normally 22 yards in length. Several adjacent strips or selions made up a furlong.

Surveyor – a professional surveyor of land employed by the Enclosure Commissioners to survey the open fields and draw up a map of their re-allotment.

Tenement – originally any rented property. Later a term to describe the holdings of yeomen and husbandmen, which were smaller than farms but larger than the properties of cottagers.

Terrier – a written description of individual's lands, containing acreages, boundaries and tenants names.

Tithe – the payment due by the inhabitants of a parish for the support of the parish church. Originally tithe was payable in kind and consisted of the tenth part of all yearly profits. Rectorial or great tithe were payable to the rector, vicarial or little tithe to the vicar. Tithes generally were commuted for a rent charge.

Tithe map – a detailed parish map drawn up in consequence of the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act 1836.

Umpire – in arbitration, the person who supersedes the arbitrators if they cannot agree.

Waste – uncultivated land, usually on the manor boundaries and subject to the tenant’s right of common. The land of a manor not devoted to arable, meadow, and wood.

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