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Charitable Objectives

Multiple Leases and Enclosure

Leases were not always one-to-one contracts. In Co. Louth Young noted that 'Large tracts were rented by villages, the cottars dividing it among themselves, and making the mountains common for their cattle.'256  This was a version of the outfield/infield system. The management of the infield might vary, but the outfield was held in common, or in the 'lump'; here each tenant was entitled to so much grazing, measured as so many 'collops': for example, a collop could be 1 horse = 2 cows or 1 cow and 2 yearling calves; another collop was 10 goats/sheep or 20 geese. After the harvest the livestock was returned to the infields to manure them for the next season's crops. Agreement had to be reached about the date of the harvest and the return of the cattle. This was not always easy: 'fights, trespasses, confusion and assaults' were common and progress tended to reflect the pace of the slower members of the society rather than its more entre­preneurial citizens. Variations of this system were prevalent throughout pre-industrial Europe. In some areas young cattle were bought by hill farmers and then sold back to the lowland farmers at the big midland cattle fairs to be finally fattened for market on the richer pastures.257

The enclosure movement gradually gathered momentum through the century, but was not complete by its close. Usually consolidation could only be done in stages. For instance, in 1754 Nathaniel Nisbitt reported to Lord Abercorn that 'there are several farms divided [enclosed] tho' but one lease; I advised more indeed to divide, but the tenants cou'd not or wou'd not agree among themselves.' Where enclosures were agreed the lands were professionally surveyed. On the Abercorn estate the surveyor told Nisbitt that he got a shilling an acre. Nisbitt replied that he 'believed he might for a small job but a penny was enough for a large one'.258

Where a number of estates marched disagreements could occur, and successful enclosure needed a resident and knowledge­able landlord or good, reliable agents; for example, Robert Molesworth (1419) remarked that:

There is nothing which requires more careful inspection than these scattered estates of ours about Swords, of all our estate it is the place where we have been most wronged ... there is such stealing, chopping and changing that every one of us have lost something at last to my cousin Taylor who, by residing in the town, and knowing nicely all the parcels and secrets of these lands, finds a way to make all these stolen and concealed parcels to centre on him.259

Normally the Sheriff was required to be present when the writ of enclosure was exercised, or, if that was impossible, the Under-Sheriff and two Justices of the Peace. By statute enclosures were to be made with good ditches planted with one or two rows of quicksets or thorns or else stone walls as the land allowed; Wakefield noticed that in Galway, Roscommon, Mayo and Clare enclosure was with dry stone walls and this was also quite common in parts of Ulster. Tenants were to hold their land 'under the same conditions and covenants' as before the enclosure. Those with leases renewable for ever or 60-year leases were to bear the total expense of the enclosure. Where leases were for three lives or 21 years the landlord and tenant shared the ex­penses equally, but in the case of shorter leases the landlord was solely responsible for any expense involved in the enclosure. Penalties were legislated for not enclosing within six months of the partition, and 'all mearing [boundary] fences, ditches and drains made ... be ... kept open, scoured and cleansed, that the water may not stand but pass away'.

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Registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC100280