Enclosure Movement


The Enclosure Movement began around two centuries ago and continued until the early nineteenth century. It had a large effect on the landscape of Britain. There were different methods of enclosure. In the lowland part of Britain hedgerow, which are large tall bushes, became the most common method of enclosure. In the upper areas of Britian it was the drystone wall. Drystone walls were built entirely without any kind of mortar. This is an example of a drystone wall in the South Pennies area of Yorkshire.

Encloseure was used for many reasons, it was used to divide land and also protect and keep the animals from wandering too far. Enclosure made it a lot easier for farmers to heard the animals espesialy sheep and cows. Sheep were a big part of the ecomomy in Europe at this time and as new ways were developed to better care for them the better farmers did.


The enclosure movement was a movement in which landowners closed off

public lands in order to better organize and keep track of land and animals.

It also served the purpose of closing off the land they owned from that

which was previously shared with peasant farmers. This movement began around

two centuries ago and continued up until the early 19th Century, although the

method of enclosing dates back to medieval times. The enclosure movement

began in Britain, and had its biggest effect on the Midlands East Angila and

Central England. . It also spread to many other European countries such as

Russia, Hungary, Germany, France, and Denmark.

There were several methods used by farmers to enclose their land. The

most popular methods were putting up drystone walls. This method involved

farmers building stone walls entirely without any type of mortar. Another

method was growing hedges. This method was particularly popular in the

lowlands part of Britain. Wooden fences also became a practical way of

closing off land.

Though the enclosure movement was practical in organizing land among

wealthy landowners it also had a negative impact on peasant farmers. It

caused massive urbanization as many farmers were forced to give up their

shares of the land to wealthy landowners and move into the cities in search

of work. A good amount of these farmers were unsuccessful and lived in

poverty with their families because there was not enough work. Families who

held land by custom were unable to produce legal documents proving their

ownership. What had once been traditional access to public lands used to get

firewood, fruit, nuts and "pig fodder" were now taken away.

On the positive side, there were many farmers who gained from enclosing.

More productive ways of farming were developed. Farms that were small and

practically unprofitable came into the market. Some farmers whose farms had

been yielding no profits, were able to work on large farms to support their

families. There was a general increase in food being produced. They

improved the health of the general population, especially of those who lived

in towns and cities.

Certain landowners in the 1830's, like Charles Townsend, showed that by

enclosing land into large compact blocks, instead of scattered strips, saved

time while farming and also avoided wasting land between strips. New and

larger farming machinery, such as the seed drill, became more useful with

enclosure. Also, experimental methods such as "four-field" crop rotation

could be used more effectively.

The enclosure movement had spread through Europe like wildfire, starting

in Britain. It sparked ideas onto the minds of large landowners and peasants

alike. Although the enclosure movement caused great hardship to some and

brought abundant futures to others, it was a great turning point in history.

It brought on new ideas and ways of working. It helped factories and

industry grow in a whole new way.




"Enclosure", Funk & Wagnalls Corporation, 1994 ed.


"Enclosure", The Hutchinson Encyclopedia, 1998 ed.


Gray, S., "Enclosure", 1995. URL:http://www.multiamedia.calpoly.edu/

libarts/call/enclsoures.html (22 Nov. 1999)


Lowe, V., "Photo of Drystone Wall, South Pennines", 1997. URL:http://www.

vlec.u-net.com/mono/mono-01.html (22 Nov. 1999)


McCarthy, E.J., "The Enclosure Movement-20th Century version", The

Progressive Populist, 1999. URL:http://www.populist.com/ 3.96.McCarthy.html

(22 Nov. 1999).