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Enclosure awards contain the names of all persons receiving land at enclosure. The names are usually arranged by rank, beginning with the lord of the manor, and ending with the cottagers. Besides the name of the allottees, awards also specify the location and acreage of their allotment(s). They do not include any personal information about allottees, such as their address, age, marital status, or the names of members of their family. Some allotments were also made to corporate bodies, such as Oxford colleges, rather than to individuals.

[ As part of this project, all the awards have been individually indexed. This fully searchable index gives the name of the allottee, the allotment number, and the page number in the award. ]

[ A list of the surveyors known to have worked on the Berkshire parliamentary enclosures is available here. ]


Enclosure was only concerned with the allotment of land, not buildings. As a result the inclusion of buildings in enclosure maps or awards is usually only incidental. Some maps do include depictions of major buildings, such as a church, inn, or large house or farm, but usually only as a means of locating the new allotments. The maps also occasionally show a village or town, in block plan, if the enclosure covers all or most of a parish (e.g. Wokingham map, 1817, ref: D/P 154/26B), but more often they only show the actual area enclosed. It should be noted that the non-depiction of a building does not necessarily mean that no building existed on the site, but on the other hand the depiction of a building only proves that there was a building on the site, not that it is the same building that exists on the site today.

Roads and footpaths

Many roads and footpaths trace their origins back to the parish enclosure award, when they were laid out across the former open fields and commons to the new allotments. The enclosure award will give details of all new public carriage roads, private roads, public bridleways and public footpaths laid out by the enclosure commissioners. It will specify their course, width and status, and name those responsible for their upkeep. The enclosure map will show the course of these new roads and footpaths, as well as any pre-existing roads, such as ancient tracks and drift roads. Occasionally, these old roads were widened and straightened under the award, but more often new roads were laid out, typically being both straight and wide.

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of [ roads ] and [ footpaths ] are located in a specific enclosure award.

For more information see P. Hindle Roads & Tracks for Historians (Chichester, 2001).

Public gravel pits and stone quarries

The enclosure award may include details of public stone quarries and gravel pits created under the award. These pits and quarries were established to provide stone and gravel for the building and maintenance of the new public roads. Their location is described in the award and depicted on the accompanying map (e.g. Finchampstead, 1817, ref: D/P 56/26A-B, includes an allotment of 2a. for a public gravel pit).

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of public [ gravel ] pits and stone [ quarries ] are located in a specific enclosure award.

Hedges and boundaries

Hedges, fences and ditches were fundamental components of enclosure, and many of today’s hedges date their existence back to this time. They were used to define the boundaries of the new allotments carved out of the open and common fields. The enclosure award sets out how these new boundaries were to be fenced and ditched, also stating who was responsible for their creation and maintenance. Most awards stipulated that the allottees were to fence their allotments within twelve months of the awards, most commonly with a hedge of ‘Quickset’, otherwise known as hawthorn. The enclosure map shows the lines of the new boundaries, with a letter ‘T’ marked on the inside boundary to indicate which owner was responsible for their maintenance.

For more information see J.V. Beckett, B.Cowell & M.E.Turner Parliamentary enclosure hedges and landscape preservation British Association for Local History, 1999, pp.14-24.

Public drains and watercourses

Enclosure awards will include details of any public drains or watercourses created under the award. One of the primary aims of enclosure was to improve the productivity of the land, and therefore drainage played an important part. The award will detail the position and dimensions of these new drains, and name those responsible for their maintenance. The enclosure map will show their course (e.g. Thatcham (Greenham) award, 1845, ref: Q/RDC 74A, in which responsibility for cleaning watercourses and ditches is apportioned at the end of the award).

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of public [ drains ] and [ watercourses ] are located in a specific enclosure award.

Land alloted for public purposes

Enclosure awards also deal with the allotment of land for public purposes. The awards used in this project include allotments for a fairground (Stratfield Mortimer, 1804, ref: D/ER/P3A-B), the site for a church and school (Brightwalton, 1863, D/EW/P24/1A-B), for playing fields (Marcham (Frilford), 1861, ref: Q/RDC 47A-D), and a public pound (Longworth (Draycott Moor), 1844, ref: Q/RDC 59A-B). Details of the location and extent of these public allotments will be found in the award, together with the names of those responsible for their maintenance: their location will be marked on the accompanying map.

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of land allotted for [ public purposes ] is located in a specific enclosure award.

Land alloted for the poor

Allotments were often made at the time of enclosure to the parish churchwardens and overseers for the benefit of the poor, in compensation for their loss of common rights. Many ‘poor land’ charities, therefore, derive their title to property from the enclosure award. The location and extent of the allotment, and names the trustees of the charity, will be described in the award.

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of land allotted for [ the poor ] is located in a specific enclosure award.

Common Land and Common Rights

The enclosure award extinguished all rights of common. Instead those who claimed common rights were granted allotments by the commissioners in lieu of their rights. Details of these extinguished rights can sometimes be found in the award (e.g. Lambourn (Eastbury & Blagrave), 1776, ref: CP43/777, p.26, includes a table of persons claiming rights of sheep commons on the heaths and open fields). Lists of claims may be found in the commissioner’s papers: details of any surviving papers will be found in the database under ‘Related Material’.

The names of the open and common fields, heaths and wastes can be found in the award. They can also sometimes be seen on the enclosure map, with the new allotments drawn over them.

Search the Awards Index to find out where details of [ common land and common rights ] are located in a specific enclosure award.


This page was printed from the BRO New Landscapes website on 7/22/2024.