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Cavenham Enclosure 1801 

The Award

The first meeting of the Commissioners, all described as gentlemen, William Dalton of Bury St. Edmunds, Charles Wedge of Gasely, Henry Wyatt of Brome and Benjamin Cherry of Hertford, was held at the Bull Public Inn, Little Bartlow at 12 o’clock on the 8th July 1801. Prior notice was given in the form of a written document attached to the door of Cavenham Church and an advertisement was published in the local newspaper, the Bury and Norwich Post. All interested parties were invited to attend, although the probability is that no local people did, as Little Bartlow was too far from Cavenham.

On the agenda was an Act for dividing, allotting and inclosing the Fen grounds, Heath and Commons and Waste grounds within the parish of Cavenham. The Commissioners task was to set out both public and private roads, foot paths, rights of ways and also ditches, fences, banks, drains, gates, stiles, bars, inlets, outlets, watercourses, trenches, tunnels, bridges and other works. All roads were to be 30 ft in width and sufficiently fenced and any person interested could appeal to any decision with regards to boundaries at the Justices of Peace within four months after the publication of the Enclosure award.

During the following sixteen months the land to be subjected to Enclosure was surveyed and mapped out by the Commissioners, who decided what new boundaries and roads were needed. Their findings were published with the Enclosure Award on the 4th November 1802. New roads and highways were ordered to be set out and to be formed, together with the necessary bridges and arches at a cost of £24.4s with further expense. The existing roads and ways had to be put into good repair at a cost of £25.10s. A new right of way to the village clay pit was ordered, giving access to dig for clay which was used to daub the houses. Richard Jacques - village carpenter, was appointed surveyor of the new roads and was paid £21.00 as a salary and reward in his supervision of the construction works. Richard Wing - village farmer, was given £135.10s to fence and gate post the allotted land, this money was paid to him by Henry Brownie - solicitor, who was in turn repaid by the several proprietors of the Cavenham Estate. The total cost of the Enclosure came to £1796, of which £1597.6s was met by the Marquis of Cornwall, as he was the largest benefactor and the major landowner of the parish. William Cornell paid £39.7s, Jonathan Lawrence £29.15s, James Clarke £11.5s, the previously mentioned Richard Jacques £14.3s, Louisiana Palmer £2.7s, John Risdale £15.5s, Elizabeth Frost £12.10s, William Steele £13.15s, G.L Mason £10.17s, Trinity College (Cambridge) £38.14s, Edward Gwilt £7.1s and Charles Gwilt £3.13s.

Of the allotted land, the Marquis of Cornwall gained 537 acres, approximately 60% of all the enclosed land. The Church gained 299 acres, but lost their tithes. The minor landowners and tenant farmers were given the remainder, but this was better quality land. Richard Jaques - carpenter, was allotted 4 acres in respect of his loss of commonable rights to common land which belonged to his message and all tithes were exonerated and discharged as a result of the loss of these rights. Similarly John Risdale - Yeoman was allotted 3 acres, Elizabeth Frost - widow 3 acres, Jonathan Lawrence - farmer of Thetford 4 acres, James Clarke - gardener 5 acres,

William Steele - farmer of Icklingham 5 acres, George Lindley Mason - blacksmith of Cheveley 5 acres and Charles Gwilt 6 acres. Most of these smaller allotments lay in a narrow strip of land next to the Cavenham stream and the copy hold was held by George, Earl of Leicester, who was the Lord of the Manor of Wesning, who was paid a ‘quit rent’ of 1 pence per acre annually.

The majority of Cavenham's population were agricultural labourers and held no land of their own, they were given rights to a 76 acre ‘poors allotment’, formally known as Great Drays. There they could hunt game and cut the peat to burn as fuel, although this allotment was situated in the farthest corner of the parish, some two and a half miles from the village. Today, the ‘poors allotment’ is leased to English Nature and has become a National Nature Reserve, with restricted access and is one of the last surviving examples of the Breckland Heath. After the Enclosure Act all grass and herbage along public roads became part of the adjoining properties.

In 1802 a Plan of the Parish of Cavenham was published, showing all the new boundaries and detailing the allotments, their size and benefactors, together with the new roads and rights of way. These new boundaries remained largely unchanged for almost one hundred years. 

Enclosure Award & Map 1801

Cavenham Enclosure 1772

Unfortunately no Enclosure Map survives to fully understand the 1772 Enclosure of Cavenham, although an Enclosure Award from 1772 is kept at the Bury. St Edmunds record office.

©2000 Brian Moles

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