The Whitfield Enclosure Award, 1813.


In 1994, when I first started researching the history of my family, I discovered that both the Hadfields and the Robinsons received land as part of the Whitfield Enclosure Awards in 1813. I obtained a copy of an article, printed in the Glossop Chronicle on 30 August 1929, which describes the land which was enclosed in Whitfield. The article was a copy of one by Alderman Joseph Dempsey Doyle, originally printed in “The Wheatsheaf” (a monthly publication for members of co-operative societies) the previous May. It was a follow up to an article from February 1929 which dealt with enclosure in general. This page is based on a transcript of the article from the Chronicle. The article included the map below (showing where each of the allocated plots were situated) 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.

Whitfield enclosure map


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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Last updated: 16 October 2020