in Victorian times
  Enclosing the open land

As more people in Britain began to live and work in towns and cities, more food was needed to feed the growing populations. This was to drastically impact on agriculture all across rural parts of the country.
Up until the 18th Century, much of the farmland in Powys was vast stretches of open fields and common land. But the demand for more food changed both how the land was managed, and the traditional farming methods that had been used for sowing and harvesting crops.
From the years 1700 to 1850, demand for more efficient and productive farming brought about enclosures. The open fields and commons would literally be enclosed with fences, hedgerows or stone walls to mark out which individual owned which piece of private land.

Common Land - land on which a villager had rights to graze his animals in common with other villagers.
Enclosures - land divided in to private fields belonging to an individual landowner.
Common land
at Vronvari
Common on a
tithe map of
around 1840
Map of common land This portion of a tithe map made around 1840 shows Vronvari Common, a few miles north of Llandrindod Wells. This former area of common land is shown broken up by small individual holdings. These resulted from the old custom of claiming property rights if a house is built in one night with a fire burning in the hearth by sunrise ! This was known as Ty un Nos or 'house in a night'.  

This division of the land resulted in the fields and hedgerows that we are familiar with today as our natural landscape. However, in Victorian times, many people were upset at the loss of the beautiful open views across the land. Also, many villagers lost their rights to graze their animals on common land.
We can see this process of enclosing land happening in Powys from maps that survive from the Victorian era.
See the pages on the enclosure of Cole Brook common land at Bronllys, and the common field at Llyswen, and compare how the maps looked before and after they were enclosed. Use the links in the blue box on the right to get to these pages.
There is more about changes to agriculture in Victorian Powys on the next page...

New ways of farming the land...


You can find examples of the effect of enclosing the common lands in the map sections of our website. To see maps for Colebrook common land at Bronlyss click here and for the land at Llyswen click here.
Link to sources
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