Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Dorset Heathland History 2 Middle Ages

1200 -1500 the Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages The heaths were used as commons. “Common Land,” means a place where the rights of the Common may be exercised. The rights to Common Land were granted by the land owners to local families.

Common rights may have been granted to serfs who would have been indentured to the lord of the manor. As part of their servitude they would be granted rights to a small amount of land and certain Common rights.

© Paintwalk 2020
Rights of Common included:

Rights of Pasturage: You can graze live stock.
Rights of Turbary: You can gather Peat and turf for fuel, Heather for roofing, fodder and bedding for animals.
Rights of Estover: You can take specific timber products from the land.

The Common rights depended on the environment of the landscape and the permission of the land owner. The people who chose to exercise these rights were known as Commoners. During this time the Dorset heaths would have been mainly used for grazing, fuel and timber. Some heaths in Dorset still carry the name “Common” and a few still have some Commoners rights.

With the arrival of the Black Death in 1348 and after the peasant revolt of 1381, serfdom began to decline in England. By the end of 1300s the Black Death had killed between 30 to 60% of the population. With the smaller number of workers available the grain production began to fall. 

Peasants began to demand higher wages for their labours, and this was not popular with the landowners. Land Rights were replaced by Copyhold a new form of tenure to the landlord. 
Farming circa 1520
Up until the 1400s prestige had been an important role for the landlord but with a dwindling supply of serfs and wages to pay, the landowners started to use the land in more profitable ways.

The landowners began to enter themselves for offices like justice of the peace, sheriff and member of parliament. The landed gentry took advantage of these new positions and corruption became widespread. Their effect on the heathlands would lead to enclosure. 
The English Gentleman
Enclosure simply meant that once a landowner had secured a fence around an area, all of the rights belonged to them. This left many tenants without the land they needed to grow food for themselves.

Dorset heathland
Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4   

(4) Serfdom wiki
(6) Landed gentry wiki

No comments:

Paint walk