Friday, August 7, 2009

the enclosures of england

What follows is a summary of the economic history of Langford Downs (Langford Downs, a farm north of Leclade, should not be confused with the nearby town of Langford.):

The enclosure of common lands occurred throughout English history. Motivation was the improvement and profitable use of common land. Enclosure in and around Lechlade was carried out under a private Act of 1808 promoted by the rectors of the several churches holding land and other freemen. "Among leading farmers, ... the rector’s lessee received 450a., Richard Wells and William Young of Langford Downs farm 380 a., mostly for
freehold land..."

History of Langford Downs

Langford Downs was newly built and one of the larger enclosures at 380 acres.

Whether as a landowner or as a tenant, my family possessed the farm for a period of time in the mid to late 1800's. This statement is based only on the picture of the house of Langford Downs passed on to my by my father Arthur Harvey Davis, Jr.. Wouldn't it be nice to confirm this from the land records?

By 1910 Langford Downs farm was enlarged to 424 acres, while by comparison Kelmscott estate, the summer home of William Morris, was 99 acres. (The image of hay is from Kelmscott.)

The late 19th and early 20th centuries was a difficult for Langford's farmers as imports of cheap foodstuffs undercut the British farmer. Dairy herd were introduced to many farms to increase profit. By the beginning of World War II, "Langford Downs farm was 72 per cent arable and had a flock of over 400 sheep. The chief crops were still wheat, barley, and oats, together with root crops. All the farms had dairy herds, most raised pigs and poultry, but only Langford Downs and Rectory farms kept flocks totaling nearly 1,000 sheep."

History of Langford Downs, page 19

Anecdotally, when I was in England in 1979, I spoke with a Mr. Davis who had owned the chemist shop in Lechlade. (The picture of Langford Downs house that I have spoken of earlier was developed at his shop, but presumably from an earlier date.) He was, to my knowledge the last remaining Davis still living in the area. He was then in his seventies and childless. He claimed that Langford Downs was a chicken farm. My wife Robin was then and now much amused.

On another occasion in 2009 I again visited Lechlade and spoke with the historian of the church in Lechlade. As a young man growing up he remembered Mr. Davis (first name forgotten) and described him as a bit of a character, so that one has to question the characterization of chicken farmer.

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