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West Cleveland land use, circa 1550 to 1850

Mitchell, Peter K. (1965) West Cleveland land use, circa 1550 to 1850. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Land use patterns were dominated, circa 1550, "by open-field systems comparable with those of the Midlands, but in which grassland" probably played a larger part. Diversity was introduced by demesne land, by several farmholds in partially enclosed townships and by land use in depopulated areas. On such farms, grass acreages were proportionally greater than in 'open' areas, but arable cultivation was not unknown. Enclosure was intensified during the seventeenth century, reaching its peek between 1620 and I67O: few open-fields survived after I70G. In the earlier eighteenth century the heavy clay soils of the vale were devoted mainly to butter production for the London market and to quality stock-breeding, especially of cattle and horses. Arable agriculture was a really restricted and conservative - improvement came very slowly. A revival of crop-farming (stimulated by rising prices) was apparent by 1790, increased in tempo during the Napoleonic Wars and, despite unfavourable economic circumstances, continued - to reach a maximum shortly before mid-century. Techniques were inadequate for the extensive arable culture of local soils: only the introduction of sown grasses, of under-draining and the growth of the markets of urban Teeside saved the area from disaster in the later nineteenth century. This sequence of changes, and the associated land use patterns, are traced from contemporary documents and illustrated by many sketch- maps. Causal factors - ecological, economic and social - are discussed at each stage in such detail as data permit. Characteristics both of change and continuity are examined, and the area's natural propensity for mixed farming established. During these three centuries, the cattle-orientated economy, which flourished circa 1720, appears to represent the optimum adjustment to the environment. Relative prosperity was greatest during this era, to which are to be dated the principal features of the modern rural landscape.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1965
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 10:23

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