The effect of the Agrarian Revolution of the eighteenth century had been to push forward the need for the redistribution of land holdings in the parishes which had been held in common. These tended to be the open fields, common meadows, commons, heaths, greens and forests.
The 6 million acres of open fields, commons and wastes were to be enclosed in 4000 private Acts of Parliament. Of course should everyone agree to enclose the land then a private Act was not necessary. Earlier enclosures had been by consensus.
By the enclosure Act commissioners were appointed, a map drawn up and a schedule of owners and tenants was made.
The enclosures are worth seeing and occurred sometime between 1750 and 1850. Records of these can be found, usually, in the County Record Offices. See: W. E. Tate Domesday of English Enclosure Acts.
The Land Tax was introduced in the late 17th Century. Before about 1780 the records were a bit hit and miss. The parish lists contain names of proprieters and possibly those of occupiers. The best one is that for 1798 which was a uniform Land Tax for England and Wales.
The Land Tax records can be found usually with Quarter Session records, estate and family archives or even in Parish collections. Try the local County Record Office.
A good tip is to check the annual returns and see when the head of the household is replaced by a different one.
One tenth part of the main produce of land, stock and labour, wool, pigs, milk etc., was given to the local Church.
The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 changed the tithes to a rent charge based on the price of corn as this was more efficient. They were eventually abolished in 1936. Two in three parishes were effected by the Act.
Three copies of the awards were made. One was retained by the Parish (perhaps now in the County Record Office), one went to the bishop (now kept by places like the Borthwick Institute, the Ecclesiastical Record Office) and the last copy went to the Government (now the Public Record Office at Ashridge).
The awards contain loads of names and land details so are ideal for the family historian.
For further details see: R. J. P. Kain and H. C. Prince, The Tithe Surveys of England and Wales.
This page is compiled by Timothy J. Owston of York, England,
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