Shropshire FHS Oct 2016 Monthly Meeting

Tue, 18/10/2016 - 19:00

Subject - "Commons, Custom and Cottages in Shropshire during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries"
Speaker - James Bowen
Venue - The Old Chapel Community Centre, Cross Houses, Nr Shrewsbury SY5 6JH

Exploring the themes of commons, custom and cottages, this paper, illustrated with evidence from Shropshire examines a series of disputes over the loss of access to common land both arable and waste, emphasising the fundamental importance of commons in the everyday lives of rural agrarian communities. Common land provided a range of resources which were utilised for agricultural use, but also increasing for rural crafts and industrial purposes; not solely that of herbage or pasture for livestock grazing, but a multiplicity of other common rights which included the right to pannage, estovers - the exploitation of timber, firewood, bracken, fern and rushes, and the right to cut peat and turf for fuel. Discussion considers the significance of statute regarding cottages, poor relief and vagrancy in influencing the distribution of the population of rural England and the pattern of cottage building at a local level, and the use of commons resources by cottagers and the rural poor who frequently legitimised their claim on the basis of custom, or alternatively being granted commons access as part of an informal system of poor relief which went alongside that operated by parish administration.

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