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Project Manager, Maureen Spinks wrote this overview at the beginning of the Enclosure Map Project in 2005. As well as describing the operation of the project, she also describes the historical process of village enclosure.

The idea for the project originally came about while attending a Local History Fair at Worcester Guildhall. During the course of the day, I took time out from The Badsey Society’s stand to go and listen to a talk by Malcolm Atkin, the County Archaeologist, about a new project his Service had just embarked upon. Worcestershire Historic Environment & Archaeological Service had received funding to digitise the enclosure and tithe maps for Worcestershire, but they were looking for parishes to work in partnership with. By being able to view the maps on a computer screen, it would be possible to see how the landscape has changed during the last two centuries. As this coincided with one of the most important periods in Badsey’s history, the rise (and fall) of market gardening, we felt that the project could be very beneficial for further research into the history of Badsey and Aldington. We were fortunate to find that grants were available from the Countryside Agency for projects such as this and so decided to pursue it further.

There then began a lot of form-filling and fact-finding in order to try and secure a grant, without which it would not have been possible for the project to move forward, as there needed to be a significant investment in technology (which does not come cheaply) in order to record these changes. A welcome Christmas present at the end of 2004 was the news that we had been successful in our bid. We are most grateful to Local Heritage Initiative for providing the grant to make this project possible.

Having gained the grant, our first task was to obtain permission to take copies of the first-ever maps of the two parishes. The first known map of Aldington dates back to 1807 when a map was drawn up after a private Act of Parliament was passed to enclose the lands in the parish. Five years later, in 1812, a similar Enclosure Act was passed for Badsey, and a map drawn up. The original maps have been well preserved but are large and unwieldy and inaccessible to many. The Badsey map is in the library of Christ Church, Oxford (the Patrons of the parish), whilst the Aldington map is in the Worcestershire Record Office. Robin Whittaker, the Archives Manager of Worcestershire Record Office and Judith Curthoys, the Archivist at Christ Church, both gave their permission for the maps to be copied.

We then paid for a professional company, HEDS (Higher Education Digitisation Services), to scan the maps. The maps and the accompanying Award Schedules were taken to a laboratory at the University of Central England in Birmingham to be scanned. HEDS then prepared computer images of the maps and schedules, which will be used by the Archaeological Service to digitise the maps. At the same time, we decided it would be lovely if we could have a copy of each map for public display in the village. HEDS thus provided actual-size photographic prints of the maps which have been framed.

Our next task was to find out exactly what the maps were telling us. Accompanying each map was a set of schedules detailing who was allotted each piece of land at the time of enclosure. The Badsey map has 16 poster-size sheets of parchment accompanying it and the Aldington map is incorporated into a leather-bound volume containing 20 pages of information. We arranged for full-size copies of the schedules to be made to make it easier on the eyes when extracting information from the documents.

Following a request for volunteer transcribers, I was delighted to receive offers of help from 18 people who wanted to help transcribe the 200-year-old documents. So what exactly is it that they are transcribing and what can we learn from the information obtained? In order to help you to understand, I need to begin by explaining a little about enclosures.

Around 200 years ago, the landscape of many areas of England and Wales was transformed by enclosing the land. The Enclosure Acts that were passed were probably the most significant redistribution of land use and ownership for many centuries. This period was, in many respects, the beginning of the shaping of the village we live in today; it certainly marked the change from a more feudal society to a more modern one.

What does enclosure mean? Before the 18th century, the open-field system of farming was used, with each landowner having a number of long strips scattered over each field. With the improved methods of farming discovered in the 18th century, strip farming became impractical, so enclosures (literally fencing off the land) were carried out. A large local landowner of some standing in the parish would make a petition for permission to enclose to Parliament, and when the petition had been supported by owners of three-quarters of the land concerned, a private Act of Parliament was passed. A survey of the village was made and commissioners were sent to re-allot the land, including ploughland, meadow and common to individuals in separate compact pieces. Common rights were abolished but sometimes made up for with small pieces of land. The new divisions were hedged or fenced off (hence “enclosure”).

Poor people did very badly out of enclosures. All the new improvements could only be used if you had money. If a person held only a few strips and then on the re-allotment was given an equivalent area in one compact holding, he might find it was too small to support him and his family and was forced to sell. With the open-field system, such a man would have been able to live on the produce of a few strips because he also had the right to the use of common land for pasturing any animals or geese he might possess, but now this was impossible. When the land was re-allotted, the common land was included with the arable fields so that each holder obtained a proportion of it in addition to the area equivalent to that of his strips. This was not much compensation to a poor man for the loss of his common-land rights; it was even worse for villagers who had no land as they lost their common-land rights without receiving any compensation at all.

One wonders what Samuel Jelfs’ opinion of the Commissioners was. Almost everyone in those days lived in the centre of the village, but Samuel Jelfs lived up on the Bretforton Road, roughly where Hither Green is now located. Samuel had laid claim to a footpath from his cottage over Badsey Leys down to the homestead of Elizabeth Ballard, which appears to be about the site of the current-day No 5 Old Post Office Lane. But the schedules tell us that the footpath “hath been stopped by two Magistrates on view thereof” and instead they allotted him a small piece of land. The schedules go on to say, “And the said Commissioners do hereby declare that the said allotment is a full compensation and satisfaction to the said Samuel Jelfs as a full equivalent for the loss of the said foot road”. I bet Samuel Jelfs may have had contrary views on the subject!

So, nearly 200 years ago, the land in Badsey and Aldington was enclosed, and we are fortunate that the maps survive to show us who owned the land then. It was a fairly long and laborious process for the land to be surveyed and the award schedules to be drawn up. In Aldington’s case it took one year and in Badsey’s case it took three years before the final decisions were made.

The maps show who the landowners were in Badsey and Aldington 200 years ago, and every house and field is plotted. It is unlikely that the population of the two parishes had changed significantly for many centuries, but during the last two centuries what changes there have been! Since 1801, the population of Badsey has risen nine-fold (from 284 to 2531), whilst that of Aldington has risen three-fold (from 83 to 232). Badsey has seen a more significant increase in population, growing three times faster than Aldington. Home ownership today in the 1100 houses which make up the two parishes stands at 86% whereas 200 years ago, very few people would have owned their own homes and the vast amount of land in the parishes was owned by just a handful of people.

At the time of the Badsey enclosure, there were only 12 substantial landowners in the parish, with 1090 acres between them out of the total 1200. The largest landowner of all was the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church. Christ Church still owns several acres within the parish today, including 8 acres in the south of the parish by the Willersey Road which belongs to the Aldington and Badsey Relief in Need Charity. The rent received from letting this “Poor’s Land” was used to buy bread for poor people. Now that there is no longer a need for a distribution of free bread, the money is used to help residents who are “… in conditions of need, hardship or distress”.The second largest landowner was Thomas Byrd whose family had lived in Badsey and Aldington for several generations. The Byrds increased their landholding in Badsey and Aldington throughout the 19th century. In a list of 1873, Sarah Byrd (daughter of Thomas) was the largest landholder in the parish; between her and her two nephews, Henry and William, they owned over 300 acres. But the family fortunes were not to last for ever. William, who had inherited Seward House and spent a considerable amount of money in refurbishing it, was soon in financial difficulties and was almost declared bankrupt in 1879. A decade later, his eldest son, William, was selling off much of the land. I happen to know all this because his name crops up in many a house deed I have looked at in all parts of the village. To this day, a descendant of the Byrd family still owns three fields in Badsey. Rosy, who lives in London, is the great-great-great-granddaughter of the Thomas Byrd who is mentioned in the Enclosure Awards.

The Commissioners, as well as allotting land, also had power to stop up, widen or alter any of the parish roads. One main change took place in Badsey when in 1815 it was determined that a new road should be built northwards from the High Street which forms the modern-day Synehurst. If you look very closely at the Badsey map you will see that just to the east of the Manor House, there are two small cottages which must have been demolished when the new road was built. I do hope the occupants got adequate compensation!

By undertaking this in-depth study of the parishes up to the present day, we hope that we will encourage you to find out more about your home, street and village. By the end of the project, whether you live in a Tudor mansion or a 1970s semi, you will be able to see the changing use of the land on which your house stands. The findings will be displayed on two websites: the Badsey website and the Worcestershire County Council website.

We hope to have a series of pages showing the different time periods of house-building in Badsey and Aldington, starting with the houses which feature on the early maps. Two hundred years ago, the parishes were both nucleated settlements. The housing in Badsey was predominantly along the present-day High Street and Old Post Office Lane (which was then the main road to Evesham) and in Aldington, all the housing was centred around the Manor.

One of the effects of enclosures was that farm-houses then began to spring up in the more remote parts of the parish. In 1815, there were no buildings at the end of Badsey Fields Lane or at Bowers Hill, but there were certainly farms there by the time of the 1841 census. Out at Aldington, it is believed that the building which is now the Riverside Hotel was built post-enclosure. Unfortunately, the Aldington map does not quite reach as far as the River Avon, but one assumes there was no building there to be recorded. By the mid 19th century, a settlement had definitely grown up in the area which is known as The Parks.

By studying census returns from 1841 to 1901, we can chart the emergence of new houses and see the gradual building of more new housing as the large landowners began to sell of their land at the end of the 19th century. House deeds are also extremely important as they often give crucial information about who owned the land before a house was built. I hope that after tonight’s series of talks, you will feel tempted to root out any old documents that you might have belonging to your house. The important thing to remember is that, whether your house was built 200 or 20 years ago, we all have access to the same historical roots.

Maureen Spinks, March 2005

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