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The Holland Fen: social and topographical changes in a Fenland environment, 1750-1945

By Betty Brammer


Although much has been written about the consequences of drainage work carried out in peat fens, the result of eighteenth-century drainage and parliamentary enclosures in Lincolnshire silt fens has received little attention other than at a general level. This thesis explores the Holland Fen, to consider how an inflexible configuration of drainage and enclosure procedures in the eighteenth century was able to dominate the topography and all aspects of its social development and economy, for more than two centuries.\ud Central to this thesis are the complicated and unusual procedures taken by a group of eleven neighbouring parishes to drain and enclose a Lincolnshire fen in which they held undisputed common rights. How radical were these actions, and why were they taken? Particular use is made of contemporary documents including the drainage acts of 1762-6, the enclosure award and maps of 1769, various eighteenth-century London newspapers, and council minutes of a local borough. Data taken from proprietors' lists, census material, annual crop returns, and MAF documents reveal the progression of images of a confined and remote fen. These continue throughout its reclamation, challenges of extra-parochial areas, social development, economic growth and convoluted formation of civil communities.\ud While most studies of drainage and enclosure are only concerned with the first few years, or perhaps the first half-century after such events, the long-term nature of this topic, 1750-1945, has been determined by the direct interaction of these layouts with other important issues. These include plot sizes, leases, tenant rights, rebellion and social responses, migration, farm buildings, and farm servants in late-nineteenth century Lincolnshire. Local documents, photographs, diaries, and oral testimony contribute useful insights. Could an unyielding topography also influence religion, education, the triumph of local enterprise in a depressed economy, emigration, leisure, identity, coastal defences, and national security in wartime? This thesis claims research into lesser known fenlands is more likely to produce that wider range of information needed to fully appreciate the diversity of regional fenlands

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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  1. (1.4%) born outside Lincolnshire,
  2. 185; Census 1851, Part I, Population Tables 1801-1851,
  3. 1861 Census; Census 1851, Part I, Population Tables 1801-1851, doi
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  5. 2 Chelsea pensioners, 1 feeder of threshing machine, 1 female working for farmer,
  6. 23/8, Holland Fen Allotments 1836.
  7. 80 households, 415 persons (224 male + 191 female). Place of birth not clearly defined by enumerator, parish stated but not fen area.
  8. (1900). A Domesday of English Enclosure Acts and Awards (Reading,
  9. Allocated 1258a.0r.10p. three enclosed plots.
  10. Allocated 1513a.3r.14p. three enclosed plots (1502a.2r.5p. after roads etc.)
  11. Allocated 2,075a.1r.14p. in 6 enclosed plots (2118a.?r.?p. after roads etc.)
  12. Allocated 2380acres.1rood.22perches in one enclosed plot (2327a.1r.19p after roads etc.).
  13. Allocated 2488a.2r.23p. in one enclosed plot (2481a.0r.29p. after roads etc.).
  14. Allocated 756a.3r.27p. in one enclosed plot. Owner Sir Charles Frederick.
  15. Allocated 887a.?r.?p. one enclosed plot (879a.2r.30p.after roads etc).
  16. Allocated 994a.1r34p. in 2 enclosed plots (975a.2r.26p. after roads etc.)
  17. Allocated at enclosure, a generous roadway of 60 feet in width, known as the Chapel Hill Road. It ran alongside the eastern bank of the North Forty Foot drain from Toft Tunnel, Brothertoft to Chapel Hill.
  18. and Carter also found evidence of this,
  19. born outside Lincolnshire, i.e. America, East Indies,
  20. butcher, 1 driver of threshing machine,
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  27. Divided into 101 plots ranging from 0a.0r.15p. to 309a.2r.17p.
  28. Divided into 112 plots. Wigtoft census forms do not allow the fen allotment area to be determined with any certainty.
  29. Divided into 168 plots ranging from 0a.0r.32p.
  30. Divided into 168 plots Swineshead census forms do not allow the fen allotment area to be determined with any certainty.
  31. Divided into 21 plots ranging from 1 to 343acres.
  32. Divided into 60 plots ranging from 0a.1r.20p. to 372a.1r.32p.
  33. Edge of photocopied page blurred, roods and perches unreadable.
  34. Estimated 30 households, 31 families,
  35. Estimated 62 households, 61 families, population 261 persons.
  36. Extra-parochial 1,110 acres.
  37. Extra-parochial 1,110 acres. 9 households, 60 persons (31 male + 29 female).
  38. Extra-parochial land of 740 acres.
  39. families chiefly employed Agriculture.
  40. families chiefly employed trade, manufacturing, or handicraft.
  41. Formerly part of the old river Witham and extra parochial, 444 acres. Owned by Earl Fitzwilliam.
  42. households, 122 persons (65 male + 57 female)
  43. households, 124 persons (58 male + 66 female)
  44. households, 160 persons (79male + 81 female)
  45. households, 300 persons (157 male + 143 female)
  46. households, 343 persons.
  47. inhabitants (5%) born outside Lincolnshire, i.e.
  48. inhabitants (wives) not born Lincolnshire.
  49. inhabitants born Holland Fen (33.3%) Remainder born Lincolnshire.
  50. inhabitants born Holland Fen (37.1%)
  51. inhabitants born Holland Fen (41.5%)
  52. inhabitants born outside Lincolnshire.
  53. inhabitants born the Holland Fen
  54. inhabitants not born Lincolnshire, i.e. Huntingdonshire,
  55. inhabitants not born Lincolnshire.
  56. Lands allocated to and part purchased, by C.A.
  57. no details however 1836 plan shows 57 plots. Largest 219a. smallest 3r.1p.2r.
  58. of total inhabitants born outside
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  61. persons born outside Lincolnshire i.e.
  62. persons not born Lincolnshire i.e. doi
  63. Places of birth not clearly defined, parish stated only.
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  72. Total area 900 acres purchased by Major
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