Parliamentary Enclosure

The enclosure of common arable land, manorial ‘waste’ and grassland commons by Acts of Parliament. Initiated in 1607, the use of private Acts of Parliament to enforce enclosure became a common practice after 1750, with 1500 being passed between 1760 and 1797. Through this process, the landowners and common-right holders were awarded individual plots of land (allotments) in recompense for their former rights. These allotments were calculated by surveyors and usually have very straight boundaries and geometric shapes. These new boundaries were normally marked by newly-planted hawthorn hedges.

Under the General Enclosure Act of 1801 the process was streamlined and after the Enclosure Commission was established in 1845 the procedure for enclosure changed. Although local landowners still began the promotion of enclosure, they no longer needed an individual act of parliament. On an annual basis, all enclosure applications made to the Commission were assessed, and if successful, they were actioned together. After 1867, after many protests, there was a curtailment of enclosure unless it could be shown to be of benefit of the community.

In Suffolk, the earliest private Act was at Ixworth in 1736, with many more from 1772 onwards. A detailed list of Suffolk enclosure acts can be found in W.E. Tate and M.E. Turner, A Domesday of English enclosure acts and awards, Reading 1978, 242-46.

Map of enclosure in Suffolk from An Historical Atlas of Suffolk (1999)