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At the INFANT SCHOOL-ROOM, DUFFIELD, on MONDAY, October 26th, 1885.



Very much has been said and written lately about the Enclosure of Common and Waste Lands at the close of last century and subsequently.

It is alleged that during this period the people have had 2,000,000 acres or more of such lands stolen from them by landlords and others; - and the restoration of such commons and wastes as have been illegally enclosed within the last fifty years is demanded as a matter of simple right and justice to the people, who have been so grievously wronged.

In a little book entitled a "Tourist's Guide to Derbyshire," the author says with respect to the commons which formed part of the Duffield Frith, and which had been given to the people by Charles I., that "such commons have been pilfered by Lords of the Manors long ago."

I purpose to-night to reply to these charges, and to prove that with respect to the disposal of the commons and waste lands formerly within the parish of Duffield, everything was done that could be done to deal justly and fairly towards every person, rich or poor, who possessed the right of common on these lands.

In the course of this lecture I shall

  1. Give a brief historical account of the old parish of Duffield;
  2. Point out where the commons and wastes lay, which are alleged to have been stolen from the poor by the landed rich; and
  3. Give particulars as to what became of them.


The earliest authentic historical account and survey of this country in general, and of the Forest and Manors and Wastes of Duffield in particular is found in Domesday Book - a work 800 years old - still in a state of good preservation.

This survey gives the quantity of wood, meadow, and pasture, with fishponds and mills, churches, names of owners, number of tenants, gross annual value, and other particulars.

In the old Saxon Chronicles, written about this period there is the following reference to Domesday Survey: "After this, the King had a great council, and very deep speech with his lords about the land, - how it was peopled, or by what men; then he sent his men over all England into every shire, and caused to be ascertained how many hundred hides there were in the shire, or what land the King himself had, and what cattle within the land * * * * so very narrowly he caused it to be traced out, that there was not one single hide, nor one yard of land, nor even - it is a shame to tell, though it seemed to him no shame to do - an ox, nor a cow, nor a swine, was left that was not set down in his writ, and all the writings were brought to him afterwards."

From this survey made with so much care we find -

  1. That Duffield, Shottle, Holbrooke, Milford, and Makeney, were included in two manors, those of Duffield and Shottle,
  2. That Holbrooke, Milford, and Makeney were waste lands.
  3. That in Duffield and Shottle together there were (roughly speaking)1,500 acres of arable land;
  • 200 acres of underwood, most of this at Burley;
  • 10,000 acres of pasturable woods, - these woods formed the Duffield Forest and Chase so often referred to in later surveys and grants; - the remainder of the old parish was made up of meadow, swamp, river, brook, and detached pieces of waste land.


The lands on the banks of the Derwent, especially on the west side, from excessive rainfalls, and the absence of drainage, were frequently swamps. The church could not be approached on such occasions. Some gentlemen passing through the village about a century ago, found the floor of the church nearly two feet deep in water.

There were no roads at the time of this survey, but only tracks made by oxen, which were used for draught purposes, and pack horses.

The Derwent was crossed by two narrow wooden bridges made of timber roughly hewn from the trees in the forest; - one of these bridges was near Duffield church, - the other was at Belper.

There was no bridge at Milford, but the river was forded by horses, mules, and oxen, hence the place is called in Domesday Book, Mule forde.

The whole number of people in Duffield old Parish at this time could hardly have reached three hundred. Their only centre was near the junction of the Ecclesbourne and the Derwent. Here was the little village of Duffield with its wooden church and rectory. Scattered about in the woods were families living a gipsy life, supporting themselves on the wild fruits of the forest, on the cattle they pastured on the common, and the animals they captured in the chase.


Such was the condition of Duffield Frith at the time that the forces of William the Conqueror overran it and other parts of the country, dispossessing the Saxon lords, and seizing their estates. To secure the lands so acquired, William formed a number of military districts covering a great part of the country, - each was granted to one or other of his officers, who had rendered him essential service in obtaining the throne, - who would be able to hold these estates against any attempt of Saxon lords to recover them, and who would maintain therein a body of soldiers - a local militia - who could go forth when required under the command of their lord to fight under the King's banner.

The question has been frequently asked "What right William the Conqueror to take away the lands of the people, original owners, and to give them to his Norman officers ?"

As a matter of fact the poorer people remained pretty much in the same condition under Norman officers as they had been under Anglo-Saxon lords: probably the people enjoyed a greater measure of protection, as in Saxon times life and property were made insecure by the repeated invasions of the Danes.

The Saxon lords who were dispossessed of their estates by Normans were not descendants of the original owners - their ancestors were foreigners from the neighbourhood of the mouth of the river Elbe in north-west Germany, who some four or hundred years before came up the Thames, the Ouse, the Humber, the Trent, and the Derwent, and by maintaining a warfare extending over 150 years, exterminated the previous owners and cultivators of the soil or drove them from shire to shire, until they were forced to take refuge in the mountains of Wales, Cornwall, Cumberland, and Scotland. Some left the country altogether and settled in Ireland, while others took possession of the extreme west corner of France, and colonised the province now called Brittany.

William the Conqueror granted the Duffield estates, together with many parishes between Duffield and Tutbury, and manors in other counties, to a distinguished cavalry officer named Ferrars, a nobleman enjoying the special confidence of the King, who allowed him to erect a castle at Duffield, on the north of his Derbyshire estates, and another at Tutbury on the southern border.


The Earl granted the larger portion of his estates to the officers under him. To one of his Knights he granted the lands at Kedleston so that the present Lord Scarsdale has an eight-hundred years' title to his inheritance. These inferior officers rendered to their lord, the same kind of service that the lord rendered to the King.

These subordinate officers in their turn gave portions of land to their servants down to the common labourer; each had his own little hut or house, made of timber taken from the forest, and cultivated a patch of land attached to his dwelling on which he could raise crops of corn; he could go into the forest and pick up decayed wood, or branches broken off by the wind, for fuel; he could turn into the wood a limited number of swine at acorn time; and a good part of the year he could let in his horse or his cow to graze. In return for these privileges, all tenants, large or small, had services of various kinds to render to those over them, while all had to take their part when called upon to fight for their lord in local and national warfare.

In this manner the superior lord, the subordinate officer, the artisan, and the labourer were bound together for mutual protection and security, and under this system of feudal tenure, not unknown to the Anglo-Saxons, considerable liberty in those unsettled times was often enjoyed.

In addition to the privileges already enumerated, the Earls de Ferrars issued warrants to some of their tenants and friends, to cut down trees in the forest for their own use; this allowance was called house boote, if for building purposes; hayboote, if for palings and fences; and fire boote, if for fuel. They permitted their tenants occasionally to hunt the deer that roamed the forest, these animals were especially numerous in Derbyshire, probably giving the name both to the river that traverses its whole length, and to the county-town. They granted licenses to fish in the Derwent and Ecclesbourne, and sometimes allowed their tenants to hawk in the woods.


Subsequently the privileges granted to each tenant, and the exact services he was to render to his lord in return for them, were described in a book kept by the Steward, who gave a copy of the same to the tenant, consequently these tenants were afterwards called Copyholders.

By the time of Edward III., who came to the throne in 1327, these privileges of the tenants to the use of the Forest were demanded as rights.

Green - in his history of the English people says, "Not only had their service and time of rendering it, become limited by custom; not only had the possession of each man's little hut with the plot around it, and the privilege of turning out a few cattle into the Forest, passed from mere indulgence granted or withdrawn at a lord's caprice, but were now demanded as rights, rights which could be pleaded at law."

The records of Courts of law reveal numerous instances of actions being brought by copyholders and freeholders to maintain, or to recover rights of pasture in Duffield Forest, and of actions taken against others, who depastured cattle when they had no right to do so. It must be borne in mind that these rights of common did not extend to the ownership of the soil, but to the produce; the freeholders and copyholders could not cart away the soil of the forest, which was vested in the lord, but could use the grass, and wild fruits, and take away decaying wood and broken branches of trees. The rights of common were not attached to persons but to houses and lands; owners and occupiers enjoyed these rights because of their interest in houses and lands adjacent to and in the same parish with the Forest.

I shall soon have occasion to give you some account of the attempt of Charles I. to enclose Duffield Forest, but before I do so, I must show you how these estates became Crown lands.


The Duffield estates granted by William the Conqueror to Henry de Ferrars, remained in the possession of this family for 200 years, i.e., till 1266. There were seven members of this family who inherited these estates.

The second earl (Robert de Ferrars) raised an army around his castle, and marched north to join King Stephen. This nobleman was conspicuous for his bravery at the battle of the Standard.

The fourth earl (William de Ferrars) accompanied Richard I. to the Holy Land, and took part at the siege of Acre, and died there in 1190.

The sixth earl (William de Ferrars) had a grant of Free Warren from Henry III. 1252, in which we meet with the names Duffeld, Beaurepaire, Winlegh, Suwood (Southwood), Ravensdale, and Holland (Hulland).

The seventh and last earl (Robert de Ferrars) joined the rebellion of Simon de Montford, who called together the first House of Commons, in 1266. The House of Lords is the older institution by many centuries.

Simon de Montford, the popular leader of the people, was killed in battle, and Earl de Ferrars pursued by King Henry's troops marched northward and took forcible possession of Chesterfield. Here he was overtaken and attacked on the 24th of May, 1266, and completely routed. His place of concealment in the Church was discovered, and he was taken to London and thrown into prison. This being his second offence, Duffield castle was demolished and his estates were confiscated.


Henry III., granted the Duffield estates to Edmund Crookback, his second son, whom he created Earl of Lancaster.

The third earl, Henry of Lancaster, gave away, in 1333, the tithes of Duffield Church, which had hitherto supported the Rector of Duffield, to a religious house which this nobleman had founded at Leicester.

The fourth Earl of Lancaster, Henry the Younger, was a man greatly beloved by the people, and a favourite of the King. He took a distinguished part in the wars in France, at the time of the battles of Crecy and Poictiers.

Edward III., in 1351, created him a Duke, and from this date, and for centuries after, the Duffield estates were part and parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster.

This duke of Lancaster left his Duffield lands and houses, together with other property, to his second daughter Blanche, who became the first wife of John of Gaunt, the fourth son of Edward III. John of Gaunt spent several days on his Duffield estates.

48 Edw. III. - Ravensdale - Aug. 27th, Warrant to the Master Forester of Duffield Fryth, to permit the Abbot of Darley to take some dead wood for fewell out of the forest of Duffield Fryth.

4 Richard II. - Ravensdale - Sept. 12th, Warrant to the chief Warden of the chace of Duffield Fryth, to deliver an oak to Henry Richman, of Wynlemore.

4 Richard IL - Ravensdale - Sept 15th, Warrant to the Receiver of Tuttebury, to make some repairs at the Castle of Tuttebury, and the houses of the Manor of Beaurepaire.

Extracts from John of Gaunt's Register in the Public Record Office.


Their only son Henry, in 1399, became King of England, and now we have reached the period when the Duffield Manors and Forest were vested in the Crown, the King holding them as Duke of Lancaster.

Henry V., in 1415, had a survey made of all the estates belonging to the Duchy of Lancaster. An account of this survey fills two large volumes called the "Coucher Book," now in the Public Record Office. This work gives a full and detailed account of the Duffield Manors, and Forest and Chase; the officers of the Forest, - their privileges and duties; the copyholders, - their rights in the Forest, and the payments they had to make at certain defined times, - and other information.

In this survey, among other local names, we have Hasull Wood, Houlebroke, Idrysitche hey, Turnditch, Cowhouse, Heighbridge, Wyndley, and Bigginge; these districts were then considered part and parcel of Duffield Forest.

We find also at this period, that owing to the quantity of timber that had at previous times been felled, often wrongly by dishonest woodmen and tenants, the forest was broken up into large detached pieces, each known by some distinctive name.

The three largest portions were known as-

  • Hulland Ward,
  • Belper Ward, and
  • Duffield or Chevin Ward.

With respect to the rights of the tenants to the use of the Forest at this time, we find in a MS. in the Harleian Library;-

"The King's tenants had common in the King's Forest and Chase at all times of the year, for all beasts of their own rearing, except beasts not commonable, as goats and sheep, and beasts of merchandise,"

The tenants had for their common, all roots of fallen trees, hoar linte (white wood of the lime tree when the inner bark had been stripped of to make ropes of), blackthorn, and all small boughs blown down.

For swine turned into the King's Forest in pannage time they paid fourpence. Some tenants were "free of tacke called pannage."

The number of swine allowed to be turned in was limited, as one Sir Humphrey Bradburne, who died in Queen Elizabeth's time, "had pannage for 20 hogs, which right he left to his son William."

The Abbot of Darley, the Parson of Duffield, and the Parson of Mugginton, had the right of houseboote, hayboote, and fireboote in the Forest "tyme out of mind."

In 1411, January 11th, Henry V., made a grant of timber to repair Duffield Bridge. Henry VIII enforced the raising of special crops, one of which was flax. The flaxholme is a part of Duffield known to all of us.

The encroachments by tenants and others on the timber in the Forests was so great that at times complaints reached the ears of the Sovereign, who instituted inquiries into such matters.

The Forest appears to have suffered during, or after, the time *Sir Roger Mynor was keeper, and a commission was appointed, consisting of the Abbot of Darley and others, to make investigation.

* His tomb is in the Vicar's Chancel of Duffield Church.

In the second year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, 1560, a survey of her forest, and woods, and underwoods, at Duffield was made, which is now in the Public Record Office, from which account the following is extracted :-

"Duffield Frith is in circuit 30 miles, and is divided into four wards."

"Duffield or Chevin Ward " - containing eleven separate and detached woods, in which "there are 3,000 small oaks for building timber, 1,700 decayed oaks for firewood."

"The said Ward is plotted with many lands and plains, whereon groweth no timber. The underwood is very thin and evil thriven, and not likely to amend."

Similar reports are given of the state of the timber and underwood in the other wards. Neglect and decay appear to have prevailed all over the Duchy estates.


We now come to the time of Charles I., who, as Duke of Lancaster, sold all the Duffield Manors (the Forest and Chase excepted), to the Corporation of the City of London.

With respect to the Forest and Chase, the King was minded to improve it, and he thought this could only be done by enclosing it, and he attempted to do so; but the Freeholders and Copyholders, with the Earl of Newcastle at their head, broke down the enclosures and turned in their cattle as before.

Action was then taken in the duchy court against the Earl of Newcastle and others, witnesses were examined, and the case ended with a proposal of the King to come to some terms with the Commoners, so that the property could be improved.

The arrangements agreed upon (although some commoners appear not to have been consulted in this matter), were

  1. That the Belper, Holland, and Chevin Wards should be surveyed and mapped;
  2. That the same should be divided into three portions of equal value and size;
  3. That the king should take one portion by lot; and
  4. That he should convey the soil and buildings of the other two portions to Trustees, who should hold the same for the use of the Commoners..

By a decree in the Duchy of Lancaster Court (9, Charles I.) the agreement was confirmed, and the following persons and their heirs were appointed Trustees : - John Osbourne, Edward Smith, Roger Allestree of Derby, John Wright, and William Woolley of Riber, Matlock, who was the last surviving Trustee, and died in October, 1666.

From this survey it appears that there were in
Hulland Ward, 1470 acres of common land.
Chevin Ward, 900
Belper Ward, 1683
The portions which fell to the King in
Hulland Ward were 490 acres in the middle of it;
Belper Ward were 561 including the part called Whitemore;
Chevin Ward were 300 comprising portions of Postern and Cowhouse
Total 1,351

The respective portions of the Trustees and of the King were shown on a map prepared by William Jourdan. The King's portion "are mentioned to be coloured green." On the 10th day of September, 1635, the King sold his share to one Edward Sydenham, who began to enclose the same.

The Commoners, however, were not satisfied with the arrangement come to with the King, on the grounds -

  1. That all the Commoners had not been parties to the Agreement; and
  2. That the King had taken the best one-third.

Whereupon the Commoners pulled down the palings, and turned in their cattle to pasture.

The affair remained in this unsettled state until 1650, when Oliver Cromwell's Parliament appointed a Commission to make "a survey of the Royalty of the late disaforested forest or chase called Duffield Frith, lying and being in the hundred of Appletree in the county of Derby, and also of certain cottages and encroachments within the several Wards of the same."

The Commissioners found that no less than 44 persons in Hulland Ward, 25 persons in Duffield Ward, and 57 persons in Belper Ward, had improperly enclosed portions of the Common lands.

Of these one-hundred-and-twenty-six persons, only one is described as a gentleman, the rest appear to have been poor people: -

Henry Gregson, gentleman, had taken a piece of the common 120 yards by 40 yards, or nearly one acre. Ralph Alt had taken two acres. William Fox two acres, and Daniel Deave two and a half acres for cottages and gardens. Widow Garratt, Widow Duffield, Widow Newton, Widow Beardsley, Widow Mills, and most of the other persons mentioned in the report had also made encroachments for small cottages and gardens.

Soon after the restoration in 1660, the late King's one-third, which had been sold to Edward Sydenham, came into the possession of Sir William Smith, and he renewed the attempt to enclose it.

He was, however, opposed by the Commoners, at the head of whom were German Pole, of Radbourne; George Pole, his brother; George Raynor, of Duffield; and Robert Mellor.

Sir William Smith brought an action against these gentlemen, in the Duchy Court, and won the case. Nevertheless, he was not allowed peaceably to enjoy these estates.

The contention of the Commoners was that the King's one-third was the best, and therefore some portion of the land ought to be given up to them.

After ten years of litigation the Commoners came to an agreement with Sir William Smith, in respect of which the latter gave up 95 acres of common on Hulland Ward, 120 acres on Belper Ward, and 60 acres on Chevin Ward, making a total of 275 acres; all of which had been part of the King's one-third granted to Sydenham.

The legal and other expenses connected with this dispute amounted to seven hundred pounds, and on the Commoners complaining that they did not so much want the land recovered from Sir W. Smith, as the return of the money they had expended in these suits, Sir John Curzon paid £650 1s. 2d. of this money, and the land was conveyed to him as Trustee for the Commoners - such land to remain open.

This arrangement was confirmed by Act of Parliament, March 6th, 1670.


The Common lands (not including Waste patches) measured at this date

  • In Hulland Ward 1075 acres
  • In Belper Ward 1242 acres
  • In Chevin Ward 660 acres
  • Total ... 2977 acres.

As these are the lands alleged to have been stolen from the people, I will point out where they lay, and give particulars as to what became of them.


The 1075 acres of Common lands at Hulland Ward lay in the neighbourhood of the Cross of Hands, and comprised parts of the parishes of Biggin, Hulland, Ireton Wood, Idridgehay, Mercaston, Mugginton, Turnditch, and Windley, the inhabitants of which eight parishes had the right of common on this Ward.


Belper Ward, containing 1242 acres, lay one half in the township of Heage, and the other in the township of Belper.

It included nearly the whole of the township of Belper which lies on the east and north of the Market Place and St. Peter's Church, and nearly the whole of the land between the road to Heage on the east and the river Derwent on the west, and on in a belt of varying breadth towards Heage Church.


Chevin Ward included 660 acres. This common extended from near the Derwent on the east, to the Cart House Lane and the Depth of Lumb on the west; and from the neighbourhood of Milford School, right on without a break to the southern boundary of the parish of Alderwasley.


1. - Belper.

  • (a) Part of Hopping Hill;
  • (b) Forty acres on Cow Hill;
  • (c) The north side of Bridge Hill; and
  • (d) Over a hundred acres at Belper Lane End, on the west of the Derwent.

2. - Duffield

  • (a) A small piece where the Baptist Chapel now stands.
  • (b) A large piece on the east side of Duffield Bank Road, extending from the Manor Farm Road to the Lane leading to Winson's Farm.

3. - Makeney

  • Small patches of land near the bottom of the Holbrooke Lane, not far from Makeney Lodge.

4. - Milford

  • About eight acres in a line by the roadside in the neighbourhood of the King William IV. Inn.

5. - Hazelwood

  • (a) Both sides of the Road from Duffield to Hazelwood Church, commencing at the foot of Hazelwood Hill;
  • (b) Patches by the road side from the Church to Lumb Lane;
  • (c) Pieces of land on both sides of the upper half of the road between the Church and the Railway Station.

6. - Shottle Gate

  • (a) From Blackbrook to Shottle Gate, strips by the roadside on the left all the way;
  • (b) From Shottle Gate to Shottle Station, detached strips on both sides of Cow House Lane.

7. - Holbrooke

  • About 300 acres of common lands, open fields, and waste grounds, lying partly on the Moor, partly near the Horsley Brook, and the remainder between the Church and the Railway Station.


The quantity of commons and waste lands in England at the beginning of last century (1700) has been variously estimated at from ten to twenty thousand square miles, or from one third to one fifth of the whole country.

Considerable encroachments on these lands were made every year by all classes - the unenclosed portions were never manured, ditched, or drained; in bad weather the lower parts were mere swamps and bogs; in dry weather the hill sides were almost destitute of pasture. The price of corn, meat, cheese, and butter was high; trade was often bad; wars were frequent; taxation was excessive; the national debt was rising by leaps and bounds; the poor in some districts were starving; and discontent generally prevailed.

It was at this crisis that public attention was called to the state of the common lands, which if enclosed and cultivated would provide abundance of work for the labourer; corn would be raised on these allotments and pasture would be greatly improved. To use the words of an eminent historian, "a wilderness would be converted into a garden." The artisan too would find employment, as houses and outbuildings would be required for the new farms, and cottages for the labourer. Thus all classes would be benefited by the enclosures.. Great improvements had already been effected where commons and waste lands had been enclosed. Accordingly, we find that numerous applications were made to Parliament about this time by persons having an interest in the commons and waste lands for authority to enclose.


The first application to Parliament for authority to enclose a portion of the Duffield Commons was made by the Commoners at Heage. They obtained an enclosure Act in 1769, under the provisions of which 600 acres of Be1per Ward, i.e., that portion which lay outside of Be1per township, was assigned to the freeholders and copyholders of Heage. The land is described as "lying open and unfenced so that the cattle belonging to the inhabitants of Heage and Belper pasture in common."

The Commissioners were Thomas Oldknow of Nottingham, Thomas Berisford of Broadlow Ash, and John Beighton of Hazelwood; and in the discharge of their duties in allotting, no share was to be given to Mr. Francis Hurt as Lord of the Manor, but only what he was entitled to as owner of certain houses and farms.


The Act for the enclosure of Hulland Ward was passed about the same time.

The commons, which amounted to "1,000 acres, and the waste lands to 500 acres more, were said to be incapable of improvement in their present situation, and that it would be advantageous to the several persons interested therein, if the same was divided and enclosed, but such division and enclosure could not be made effectual without the authority of Parliament."

Under the provisions of this Act, the lands were to be divided amongst those owners or occupiers in the eight parishes, in respect of whose houses or tenements the parties from time immemorial have enjoyed uninterrupted rights of common upon the said Ward.

Owners who had become so by encroachments on the commons were to be excluded from any further share of the commons.


The Holbrooke Enclosure Act was passed in 1785. There were 300 acres of land described as open, common fields, common meadows, common lands, and waste ground.

The soil and minerals belonged to the Lords and Ladies of the Holbrooke Manor, who agreed to give up such rights and take only such share of the said lands as they were entitled to as owners of lands and tenements, without regard to their being Lords and Ladies of the said Manor, and they declared that the said common lands should be enclosed and allotted and held hereafter as freehold lands.

All encroachments made over twenty years ago were to be allowed to remain in possession of their present owners.

The number of persons who received allotments of the wastes and open fields was thirty-seven.


We have now to consider what became of the remainder of the old Forest and of Waste lands of Duffield. There were left

  • 600 acres of common in Belper township;
  • 660 in Chevin Ward; and
  • 240 acres of waste lands in Duffield, Hazelwood, and Belper; making a total of 1,500 acres.

These were enclosed by Act of Parliament passed in 1785. The times were eventful. We had lost part of our American Colonies; a large war bill had to be faced, disturbances were frequent, reforms were demanded by the people, and reforms were promised by the young and popular Prime Minister, Wm. Pitt, the son of the late Earl Chatham.

It was at this juncture that a meeting of persons, having rights of common on the Duffield Commons and Waste lands, met together to consider the advisability of applying to Parliament for authority to enclose and divide these lands, on the ground that they were incapable of improvement in their present situation, and it would be advantageous to the said persons if the same were enclosed and divided. The decision of the meeting was in favour of making such application, and in due course a bill, authorising such enclosure and division, was carried through Parliament. Under the provisions of this Act, John Beighton of Hazelwood, and Joseph Outram of Alfreton, were appointed Commissioners for enclosing and dividing the Common and Waste lands; and in the event of a disagreement between them on any point, the matter was to be referred to Benjamin Chambers, of Tibshelf, whose decision was to be final. These gentlemen, having had much experience in work of this character, were eminently qualified for the efficient and proper discharge of their onerous duties.

The principal requirements of the Act were as follows :-

  1. The Commissioners were to take oath before the Commoners, that they would discharge their duties without favour or affection, - without malice or hatred, - to any person whomsoever.
  2. The Surveyor was to measure each person's property in respect of which he claimed rights of Common, or the use of the Waste lands, and to lay down on a map all such property, together with all the Commons and Wastes.
  3. All persons having, or claiming, any rights of common in the said Common and Waste lands, were to send particulars of such claim in writing to the Commissioners on or before a certain date, or be debarred.
  4. All claims sent in were to be shown to any person having an interest in such commons.
  5. The list of claimants having been settled, the lands were to be divided according to the respective rights, properties, and interests of such claimants, and in making such allotments, the Commissioners were to have regard to the quality, quantity, and convenience of the land to be assigned to the claimants.
  6. Provision was made in the Act also for the settlement of any grievance on the part of the majority of the Commoners with respect to the decision of the Commissioners or the Umpire in the allotment of the commons and wastes, by a trial at law at the first or second Assizes following, to be held at Derby.
  7. All encroachments made from the common or waste lands within twenty years were to be given up.
  8. The Lord of the Manor of Duffield having claimed that the allotments on the common to be made to the copyholders, should be considered as of copyhold tenure, provision was made in the Act for testing the legality of this claim, by a trial before a special jury at an Assizes to be held at Warwick.

Such were the principal provisions of this enclosure Act. In the carrying out of the same, the Commissioners by advertisement in the Derby Mercury, and notice on the church doors at Duffield and Belper, requested all persons having or claiming any rights of common in the said common or waste lands to send particulars of such claim to the Commissioners on or before Monday, the 19th day of February, 1787.

The claims sent in by Duffield, Hazelwood, and Makeney people, lay for examination at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, kept by Mr Swift; and the claims by Belper persons could be inspected at the King's Head Inn, Belper. This was in April 1787. Notices that effect appeared in the Derby Mercury for several weeks.

A final notice was inserted in the Mercury of the 2nd day of January, 1788, to the effect that all claims sent in on or before the 19th day of January, would be received, but after that date all persons (if any) claiming any right or interest in the said common and waste lands, would be debarred from any share or allotment of he same.

The list of claimants having been arranged, their names were advertised in the Derby Mercury of Feb. 27th, 1788, and persons having objections to make in any case were requested to meet the commissioners.

The meetings for the receiving of evidence in support of, or against, the various claims, were held at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, on March 20th and 21st, and at the Upper Swan Inn, Belper, on March 24th and 25th, 1788. The claimants and their opponents were severally examined by the Commissioners, and in cases where the evidence was deemed insufficient, twenty-one days were allowed for the production of further evidence.

The claim of the Lord of the Manor of Duffield, to consider all allotments of the commons made to copyholders as of copyhold tenure, was contested. The case was tried at Warwick Assizes, and the jury gave their verdict in favour of the copyholders. Thus all the allotments of the commons were taken and held as freeholds.

The Commissioners then proceeded to allot the commons and waste lands to all the persons who had proved their right to the use of the said lands.

The award of the Commissioners, with respect to the allotments, was communicated to the several persons interested therein, at a meeting called by advertisement, and held at the King's Head Inn, Duffield, on Monday, August 18th, 1788.

The work of the Commissioners, however, was not confined to the enclosure and allotment of the commons and wastes. They had to settle the dispute with respect to the boundary between the town ships of Belper and Duffield, and to decide what new roads should be made and what old ways should be closed, so that it was not until May 11th, 1791, that the award, as a whole, was finally settled. On the 14th of November, 1793, it was enrolled in the King's Bench.

The number of persons in Duffield who received allotments was 117; in Makeney 28; in Hazelwood 46, and in Belper 190; making a total of 381 people who received some portion of the common and wastes.

The claims of the poorest persons having an interest in the commons and wastes were not overlooked. Over a hundred families received allotments, in right of their possessing a few perches of land with or without a cottage thereon. Cases taken at random are given below, viz.: -

Owned Received of the Common or Waste Lands
Roods Perches
Stephen Bates 32 perches of land    2 10
Elizabeth Chadwick 4 1 17
Dorothy Eyre 14 2 23
William Foreman 4 1 1
John Hill 9 1 31
Sarah Langley 33 2 30
Samuel Peters 2 1 0
John Spencer 30 2 20
Sarah Simpson 14 1 4
Joseph Haynes, 18 perches of land 2 8
Francis Shaw 37 2 9
John Allsop 2 perches of land 1 12
Samuel Boothby 11 1 9
Samuel Crofts 5 1 12
Ann Russel 5 1 8
Edward Day 5 perches of land 0 30
Jonathan Fletcher 14 1 0
Joseph Gillott 23 2 33
Abraham Harrison 8 0 38
Lucy Kay 21 1 35
Abraham Smith 6 2 6
William Milward 33 3 1

Of the remaining Commoners, one hundred and thirteen were owners of less than three acres of land each. All these received allotments of the commons or wastes.

Any person owning two, three, or more tenements to which rights of common were severally attached, received an allotment in respect of each of such tenements.

The expenses incurred in obtaining this Act, and in surveying, enclosing, dividing, allotting, making roads, advertising, etc., were very considerable, and had to be defrayed by the Commoners in proportion to the size of their holdings.

Owners in Hazelwood had to pay as their share of these expenses more than £500; proprietors in Makeney upwards of £300; freeholders and copyholders in Belper and Duffield considerably more.

The work of the Commissioners being now completed, an advertisement to that effect appeared in the Derby Mercury on the 12th day of May, 1791.

This enclosure, made under the authority of an Act of Parliament procured by the Commoners themselves, and carried out with care and judgment, - nothing hurried, - all the meetings open and called by public notice, - every opportunity given to claimants to prove their right to portions of the commons or wastes. This enclosure, which wronged nobody, and benefited every Commoner, is one of those transactions which for party purposes have just now been called "a robbery of the people by landlords and others."

The numbers of the Derby Mercury issued at this eventful period have been carefully examined, and not a single paragraph has been met with which implies that the people of that day considered themselves wronged by this enclosure.


It appears from advertisements in the Derby Mercury that the enclosures at Alvaston, Boulton, Barlborough, Beighton, Brampton, Brassington, Callow, Chaddesden, Chelmorton, Flagg, Codnor and Loscoe, Crich, Doveridge, Egginton, Etwall, Eyam, Great and Little Hucklow, Hatton and Hoon, Heanor, Hemington, Kirk Ireton, Kirk Langley, Ilkeston, Morley, Marston Montgomery, Melbourne, Mickleover, Osmaston-by-Derby, Parwich, Sandiacre, Sawley, Sinfin, South Normanton, South Wingfield, Spondon, Staveley, Taddington and Priestcliffe, Tideswell, Wirksworth, Walton-by-Chesterfield, Wormhill, were made under the authority of various Acts of Parliament applied for by the people who had rights of common upon the respective commons and wastes in these parishes, - and that the safeguards for securing justice to every claimant, - the principles of enclosure and division, - and the same publicity to every meeting of the Commissioners, which have been described with respect to the Duffield enclosures, held good for these enclosures also.

How wilfully misleading then is the Election cry, that "THE POOR HAVE BEEN ROBBED OF MILLIONS OF ACRES OF LAND BY THE LANDED RICH."


The commons and wastes in Duffield old parish, soon after their enclosure and allotment, were changed into farms and gardens and sites for several hundreds of houses, giving abundance of work for some years to the poorer classes.

The money of the proprietor and the labour of the workman converted these wastes into gardens within a single generation, and heavy as the local rates have been, they would have been at the least twenty-five per cent. heavier but for these improvements.

It has been proposed that lands should be recovered which have been encroachments from commons or wastes within the last fifty years. This proposal, if carried into practice, would be a less liberal arrangement than that in force a hundred years ago, when twenty years' possession, without frequent payment of acknowledgements, was considered a good and sufficient title to the encroachment.

If the principle of a fifty years' title be admitted and enforced by Act of Parliament, in thousands of cases the poor would be the greatest sufferers. In Oliver Cromwell's time, the Commissioners found, that for one gentleman who had made encroachments, there were a hundred-and-twenty-five poor people who had taken portions of the common, on which they had erected cottages, or which had been converted into gardens.

Great numbers of people in every county have made similar encroachments within the last fifty years, and believing that uninterrupted possession for twenty years was a good title to this property, have built houses upon the enclosures and turned the adjoining wastes into gardens; - are these persons or their children now to give up their homesteads and lose the money and labour expended thereon? If so, will not every honest man cry, "Shame!" Or, if they are to receive compensation, how is the money to be raised ?

Many thousands of cottages built on encroachments from commons or on slips taken from the roadside, and many thousands of patches of land acquired in a similar way within the last fifty years have been sold and re-sold. Are these purchasers, who have paid in hard cash the full market value of these estates, believing that a twenty years' title would be amply sufficient to secure themselves from risk; - are these people now to be dispossessed without compensation? Such a transaction would be pure and simple confiscation.


There is a great cry abroad for reform in the expenses connected with the transfer of land and houses; and rightly so, especially with respect to copyhold property; but if a fifty years' title is required, so as to make the purchaser secure, then the expenses in connection with the transfer of land will be greatly increased.

Those who have had occasion to buy property know that the expense of preparing the conveyance is only part of the cost of the transfer; there is usually another document necessary for the completion of the transaction, and this is called an "Abstract of Title."

This document is intended to show that the vendor has a good title to the property he is about to sell: it shows also in whose possession the property in question has been for the last twelve or twenty-one years; and how such property was acquired; but if the solicitor, to make his client secure has to trace the title for fifty years back, the preparation of this abstract will in some cases be a costly affair.

No! We must oppose the principle of a fifty years' title; - we must have the transfer of land made simple and inexpensive. The fines and fees charged in connection with the purchase or inheritance of landed property, especially that of copyhold tenure, must be reformed, and we must make it as easy as possible for a working man to buy an allotment of land and to build a cottage upon it, and when he has got it, we must make it secure for him against all comers.

There must be no confiscation; no setting of one class against another class; but so far as is possible, we must bring the rich and the poor, the master and the servant, into closer bonds of unity. WHOEVER ARE SEEKING TO PROMOTE THIS HAPPY CONSUMMATION ARE THE REAL FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE. LET US DISTRUST ALL OTHERS!

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First published 1885, Website copyright 2008 Jed Bland. 07.09.08