Glossop Heritage Trust

The Whitfield Enclosure Award, 1813.


Notes written for an evening walk conducted by Glossop & District Historical Society on 18th May 1983 provide the background to enclosure in Glossopdale and are reproduced below.

Enclosure was a feature of agricultural improvement, which began in England in the 13th century. In Glossopdale there was some amount of enclosure in the 16th century, when Francis Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, was Lord of the Manor. The idea behind, enclosure was to convert little-used land into pasture, and to improve the methods of arable and livestock farming by abolishing the open fields of the medieval system (and a proportion of the common lands) in favour of consolidated holdings where a farmer’s initiative and ability could be given free rein. With enclosure a farmer was no longer at the mercy of his neighbour in the open field, where a holding might be widely fragmented on good, land and bad. And, except in parts that remained common pasture, no longer did a farmer's livestock have to rub shoulders with his neighbour's.

Enclosure may thus be seen either as a genuine method of improvement, or as a monstrous imposition by greedy landlords against defenceless common people. Certainly where arable land was converted into pasture for the exclusive use of the landlord, and where tenants and cottagers were evicted to pave the way to it, it - was a monstrous imposition upon the victims, but it seems not to have been so in Glossopdale.

Some of the dry stone walls which feature so prominently in Glossop's landscape - even into the moorland edges - are very probably a direct legacy of 16th-century enclosure. In places like Peak Naze, which has now returned to moorland, we believe there was some cultivation and much better pasture than now from the 16th to the 19th centuries. In the 16th century parts of the Heath and Windy Harbour were taken out of common land and granted to tenants like William Newton (in 1557) who could make better and more-profitable use of them. Francis Talbot was a lenient landlord. In Glossopdale he demonstrated improved methods, and invited his better Glossop tenants to join him in exploiting them. But nevertheless, there must have been one or two evictions even in Glossopdale in the 16th century.

Enclosure required an Act of Parliament, which was very easy for a landlord to obtain, as long as he promised not to reduce the rights of common pasturage below the subsistence level of the poorest inhabitant. But once granted an Award, the landlord could do as he liked. The enclosure which took place in Glossopdale up to 1813 was done without Acts of Parliament, for it was very gradual and piecemeal through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. By about 1800 most of the Manor of Glossop had already been enclosed in this fashion.

But Whitfield was different from the rest of the Manor in that it had a substantial number of Freeholders, who had obtained their freeholds either by purchase from the Lord of the Manor or by ancient rights, perhaps dating back to the Forest of Peak period. So that in Whitfield the Lord of the Manor was not Lord of all the soil, but only of about one-fifth of the soil. But he was still the most substantial freeholder in Whitfield, the other four-fifths of the soil being owned by twenty to thirty freeholders. Thus the common land in Whitfield had never been encroached upon, as it had almost entirely in the other townships.

In 1794 the Glossop Bailiff John Shaw told the Lord of the Manor (Bernard Edward Howard) that parts of Whitfield Common were being enclosed. He had questioned the labourers who were putting up fences, and had been told by them that their instructions had come from George Roberts and other freeholders. The Lord of the Manor sought legal advice as to how he might resist these encroachments and restore the Common to its original extent and use. He was advised that he had a right to throw down the fences, and this the Freeholders were told, but they replied that Whitfield was not part of the Manor of Glossop; therefore the Lord of the Manor had no jurisdiction over them.

But on the Lord of the Manor's instructions John Shaw began to pull down the fences, after inviting the Freeholders to join him. But "they stood looking timidly on and would not assist". They knew they were in the wrong; no doubt George Roberts, with his keen legal brain, advised them. They were in the wrong because they had started to enclose the Common, not piecemeal and gradually, but in a fairly big way, without obtaining an Act to support them. And even though the Lord of the Manor was not Lord of all the soil in Whitfield he was still the largest freeholder; the others could not do what they wanted without his support. And - worst of all for the Freeholders - they had continued to attend the Manorial Courts in Glossop (the meetings of the Court Leet) and had therefore continued to do "suit and service” to the Lord of the Manor. They had continued to eat his food at the Annual Rent Dinner, which acknowledged that they accepted his overlordship even though he had no claim to their particular pieces of ground. Thus their cry that Whitfield was not in the Manor of Glossop was made to seem immaterial.

The evidence begins to fade out, but the dispute may have simmered for another sixteen years. After 1801 enclosure became simpler still through a Consolidating Act, but by then fewer people continued to depend upon agriculture as a sole moans of livelihood in Glossopdale. Cottage industry and the early cotton mills had taken many away from the land. Fewer people made any use of their commonage rights; they let them fall into disuse. And in 1810 a petition for the Enclosure of the Whitfield Common was made by Bernard Edward Howard, as if to say to the Freeholders or their successors: “Enclosure seems to be what you have wanted, and now that circumstances are more appropriate let us do it properly by Act of Parliament, and not surreptitiously”.

The petition was granted in 1813, and enclosure took place. Individual plots were allocated by drawing lots, but actual acreages corresponded with previous size of freehold. Thus the Lord of the Manor was allotted one-fifth of the total area, but it seems more than pure chance that he acquired the land adjoining Holden Clough and Whitethorn Clough, no doubt to maintain his shooting. The only remnant of ancient rights that was left for the general inhabitants of Whitfield was the Peat Road and the High Bank Spring footway, unless Bernard Edward Howard continued to allow common grazing, etc., on his own particular allotments resulting from the enclosure.


Accompanying the document produced by the Commissioners was a map showing where each of the allocated plots were situated.

Whitfield enclosure map


In February 1929, Alderman Joseph Dempsey Doyle wrote an article for “The Wheatsheaf” (a monthly publication for members of co-operative societies) which dealt with enclosure in general and followed it up, in May 1929, with the article below, which describes the land which was enclosed in Whitfield. The May article included the map above but presented in two pieces so that it would fit the page, hence the reference to the smaller map being attached to the larger to see the complete picture.

We concluded our last article with the statement that in Whitfield, in the last century, nearly two thousand acres of common land were divided up and enclosed by a relatively small number of people. Let us now glimpse the common of Whitfield, as it was, and examine the probable effects of enclosure.

There were three general entrances to the common, viz., from Whitfield, Chunal and the Hurst. The road leading from Whitfield towards Moorfield, and which was known as “Whitfield Town Lane”, ended at a gate, near the entrance to the farmstead now owned and occupied by Mr. Albert Bradbury, and known as “Lane Ends Farm”. The gate was called “Lane End Gate”, for the obvious reason that there was then only one lane and this ended, whilst the common began, at this gate. At the point where the river crosses the road, beyond “Gnat Hole Farm”, and is itself crossed by a bridge, there was another gate, and this was the entrance from the township of Chunal, and a third gate at the Hurst gave entrance frm that part of the town.

These were the main entrances and exits to the common. The reader may question the existence of gates since the land was common, but it will be readily seen that gates were necessary when it is realised that cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, and geese were commonly grazed upon the land. It will also readily be seen that the Pinfold in Old Glossop had a real function to perform in providing suitable enclosure for animals and geese straying from the large common at Whitfield. All such annuals caught in the stronghold of the Lord of the Manor, Old Glossop, were impounded and their owners forced to pay toll to the Lord of the Manor, this being collected by the Pinder, a manorial right, which, in all probability now belongs to the Town Council.

The foregoing will have enabled the reader familiar with the country roughly to visualise the extent of the common. If the reader will stand at Lane Ends, follow with the eye the right hand wall leading to Lean Town - which marks the extent of ancient enclosure - and from there trace the course on the moor, below Worm Rocks, of the right hand stream, these two landmarks define the limit of the common in this direction. From these two points, all the land to the front and left of the person, so viewing the country, right up to the skyline, every inch of land, with the solitary exception of the field immediately in front of 'the farm house of Mr. Albert Bradbury, and the land of my own garden, and that upon which my house stands, was a vast expanse of common land. It stretched right away past the Turf Pits to the boundaries of the Woodlands and Great Hamlet (or Hayfield), and all the land to the right of the Derbyshire level, just past the house occupied by Mr. George Wilson, and the land upon which the mansion of Moorfield is built, and the park surrounding it, was up to 1813 common land.

There were no roads across the common but there were probably tracks. Looking now at the nature of the land - largely rough pasture - it is difficult to believe that the common at Whitfield contained any common arable strips as in other parts of the country. In all probability people could roam at will unhindered. The roads we know as Kidd Road and : Derbyshire Level, the road leading past Vernon's farm to Leantown; the Turf Pits Road, and the road from Moorfield to Gnat Hole did not exist, nor was there any legal Highway from Whitfield via Gladstone Street to Glossop. All these roads were surveyed and ordered to be fenced out by the Commissioners in 1813. Practically all the houses on both sides of Gladstone Street, and the Chapel of Little Moor, are built upon what, up to1813 was common land, unfenced and unenclosed, and was known as Little Moor.

The road leading from “an antient gate at the Hurst Lane to an antient gate in the hamlet of Chunal” was declared a public carriage way and named Hurst Road, we now call it Derbyshire Level. The road leading “from the gate known as Lane End gate to the Hurst Road” was declared a public carriage way and named Whitfield Green Road; we now call it Hague Street, and Kidd Road. The road “from the village of Whitfield, over the commons called Little Moor” was also declared to be a public carriage way; we now call this road Gladstone Street. All these roads were ordered to be made 30 feet wide.

The road from Lane End, past Vernon's Farm to Chunal via Leantown, was declared a public bridle road (that is a road down which a led horse may be taken), to be made 10 feet wide. All these roads were, and are, repairable by the inhabitants at large, that is to say, by the local authorities. The road to the Turf Pits, that to Black Moor Pasturage, known as Whitethorn Road, and the road to Jumble Farm are private carriage roads the cost of repairing which is borne by the holders of certain plots, according to the proportions determined by the Commissioners. Three of the awards I will quote in full from the original document, because they are of great public interest, and contain public rights that ought to be preserved. It is interesting to observe by the way, that the narrow alley-like path, leading from Victoria Street to the Sandhole was declared by this award to be a public footpath. The path is named the “Simondly Footway”, and runs from the turnpike road leading from Glossop to Hayfield near the end of Little Moor Road to the stile in the fence of an antient enclosure belonging to Bernard Edward Howard called Hare Hill Brow.”

In the field on the Moorfield side of the cottages known as High Bank Cottages lies a spring, and the right of access to this spring is laid down by the award as follows:-
“One private footway of the breadth of six feet extending from the Whitfield Green Road at or near the easterly corner of an allotment No. 57 to a spring in the same allotment called High Bank Spring.”

The commissioners then proceed to state that the footway is awarded as such for the use of the owners and occupiers for the time being of the lands and estates within the said hamlet or township of Whitfield for fetching or using the water of the said spring'. This road starting from the point indicated by the Commissioners is easily visible to anyone who looks over the fence.

The right to the use of the water at the wells known as Whitfield Wells is also laid down by the Award thus “We have set out and allotted ... the following parcel of land … as and for a public watering place for cattle within the said hamlet of township . . . that is to say, one parcel of land, part of the said common in the township of Whitfield, containing seven perches bounded by the town street of Whitfield, and by antient enclosures of Bernard Edward Howard”. The land awarded for a public watering place can easily be seen on the small map. At the time of this award – 1813 - the local authorities were the Church Vestry and the Justices of the Peace. Since 1875, the date of the first Public Health Act, all wells are vested in the local authority, in other words, our Town Council.

The third quotation from the Award deals with The Turf Pits. The Commissioners awarded to the overseers of the poor, for the time being, 15 acres of the common, “for the purpose that all the inhabitants of Whitfield may have the privilege of cutting turves or furze for fuel thereon”, and in this allotted land each householder was permitted to cut turves to the extent of six yards in width for each dwelling-house.

It must not be supposed that the plots of land enclosed by walls and fences in Whitfield on the old common, are all the original allotments. Some undoubtedly are and may be easily traced. Thus going up Hague Street to High Bank and along by Derbyshire Level, it may be observed frequently that the walls of two pastures, are not, at an angle, bonded. The walls have been built separately by different owners, without agreement, and in all probability at different times within the six months after allotment prescribed by the Commissioners for fencing. Reference to the map will show that in practically all such cases the walls are the fences of the original enclosed land.

Digressing slightly - The question is frequently asked, when, and by whom were all these walls built? So far as Whitfield is concerned a large number of these walls were obviously built after October 23rd, 1813, the date when the Whitfield Common was ordered to be enclosed.

Wages were very low; building tradesmen’s wages varied from 2s. 6d. to 4s. per day, whilst a labourer would be doing well if lie received 1s. 6d. per day, and, of course, the usual allowance of ale. The survey of Derbyshire of the Board of Agriculture, dated 1813, gives the price of dry walling for the High Peak as varying between 6s. to 12s. per rood of seven yards in length, for a wall four-and-a-half feet high, with a nine inch coping, this price being paid for getting the stone, carting, and building the wall.

A very good view point from which some of the original enclosures may be seen, is the third bend on the Chunal Road past Sandy Bank. From this vantage point, the plots marked 45, 46, 47, 48, can be seen to be unaltered in shape, the only variation being that on plot 48 High Bank Cottages have been built. From this point also can be seen plot 57 and the manner in which it has been treated. This plot, it will be observed, was awarded to Bernard Edward Howard the Lord of the Manor. Now the Lord of the Manor employed a steward and a bailiff and their handiwork may be easily discerned in the manner in which this large plot was split up into regular pastures.

So far as the actual enclosure is concerned it only remains to be said that the large map shows quite clearly the manner in which the land was divided up amongst those who claimed to have rights of commonage at Whitfield. To obtain a complete view of the commons the smaller map should be attached to the larger at the words, “Lane End Gate”.

How would this enclosure affect the working folk of the time? The factory system was just beginning in Glossop. It had not properly become established, and in consequence apart from labourers on the land, most people would be employed in their homes in some form or other of cottage industry. We must remember that there were no Public Health Acts, hence there were no restrictions on the keeping of animals, such as cows, pigs, and goats in close proximity to the dwelling-houses of the people. All those landless people, other than tenant farmers, who did keep such animals grazed them on the common at Whitfield. By these means the family were readily and cheaply supplied with milk from cows or goats, and with flesh foods when cows and pigs were slaughtered. Moreover, large numbers of geese were kept, and being thus cheaply kept were a valuable source of flesh food. Almost every man possessed, either about his cottage or elsewhere, a garden or allotment, and from the animals was derived a ready and certain supply of manure for the growing of vegetables.

By the enclosure of the common all the valuable privileges which actually made living more easily possible, were suddenly swept away. The cottager, owning no land, yet with valuable rights on the land, suddenly became utterly, and by law, divorced from his rights. The cottager became, as he has since remained, landless. Then there was the fuel; the cutting of brushwood, furze and turf. There can be no doubt that the principal kind of fuel used by the cottagers of Whitfield in those days was turf. Before the enclosure turf could be cut anywhere on the common where turf was to be found. The practice was to cut the turf in the spring, stack it in the open, wall fashion, to dry until the old wakes when the turf, sun and wind dried, was “led” to the house for the winter's fuel. That turf was extensively used is proved by the allotment of 15 acres as a turbary and the construction of a road thereto. Everyone in Glossop knows the situation of the turf pits, and we can realise the great hardship to the cottagers that would ensue from the restriction of turf-getting to this relatively inaccessible place.

Space does not permit my dealing any further with the question and in closing I can but express regret that at that distant day, so few people could write, and, there were so few newspapers that there is no record of the probable outburst of local indignation when the common at Whitfield was enclosed.

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Page last updated: 3 May 2017.