Enclosure and the Fields of Today
From around 900 for many centuries, East Farndon followed the Open Field system like all other villages in the area. The land of the parish was divided into two or three large fields. Each year, one would be left fallow while the others were ploughed and crops were sown. Land was not held in blocks but everyone's holdings were split up into small strips spread throughout the fields. In this way, good and bad soil was allotted to everyone. And of course, it would be no use having all your land in one field if that field was going to be left fallow.
East Farndon, by the seventeenth century, had three fields, known as Brakenborrowe Field, Oldemill Field and Debdale Field (the spellings vary in different documents). Debdale means 'deep dale' and refers to the landscape to the east of the main village street where there is a steep-sided valley known today as 'The Gosse' (meaning 'gorse'). The 'old mill' must have stood in the south-west of the parish, west of the Clipston road, not near the later mill which was just north of the Marston road.
These three fields, each of perhaps 400 acres, would have had no hedges within them. Today's countryside, with its patchwork of smaller fields, few more than 40 acres and many much less, all divided by hedges, presents a completely different picture. The change was brought about by enclosure.
There was a general and unstoppable movement towards the enclosure of the open fields all over the country at different times. In the East Midlands, enclosure in most parishes took place in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Each parish enclosure required a separate Act of Parliament, requested by a number of leading citizens of the parish. Enclosure favoured the raising of cattle and sheep, in small fields with hedges or fences round. The Act for East Farndon was passed in 1780. A small group of men were chosen as Commissioners and they organised and supervised the allotment of blocks of land to those who were entitled. So instead of having twenty acres of land split up into numerous strips scattered throughout the parish, you would have a single block or perhaps two blocks. There was more pasture now. So although formerly most land had been arable, by the 1920s a local directory could report that 'the parish is entirely pasture'. That situation has changed again and the need to 'dig for victory' meant that more land was ploughed in the second world war and the trend has continued. However, much 'ridge and furrow', the evidence of the ploughing of the open fields, is still visible. Land showing ridge and furrow must have been pasture ever since 1781.
The field boundaries on either side of the road to Marston Trussell show the straight lines characteristic of allotments of land made under an Enclosure Act. This view dates from the 1960s.
There is no surviving map from the Enclosure, showing exactly who was allotted which land. However, from the details given in the Act, it is possible to reconstruct a map which may not be entirely correct but which gives a reasonable approximation to the allotment made. If this reconstructed map is compared with a map of today's field pattern, it is clear that our present landscape has its origins in the Enclosure of 1781.
The field in the lower centre in this aerial view from the 1960s is known as Dairy Close. Up to the enclosure of 1781 it was part of Debdale Field in the former Open Field system. In 1781 it formed part of the land allotted to Rev. John Farrer in the Enclosure Act.