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Farm field and fell in Upper Teesdale 1600-1900: a study of historical geography

Britton, Jennifer M. (1974) Farm field and fell in Upper Teesdale 1600-1900: a study of historical geography. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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The historical geography of Upper Teesdale may best be traced through three inter-related topics: enclosures, land use and lead mining. By 1600 enclosures already stretched high up the dale. Around Middleton, the dale’s main village, were large fields, subdivided into strips. Most of these lay ‘open’, but some were being enclosed, thus fossilizing the strip patterns. Higher up the dale were islands of enclosed land, surrounded by a sea of waste. Between the 17th and 19th centuries both piecemeal and organized intaking from the waste went on until enclosed land stretched continuously from Middleton to the very head of the dale at over 2,000 feet. Before 1600 the ‘pen’ fields around Middleton were given over to subsistence arable production. At this time, however, there was a changeover to permanent grass, to support the sheep and cattle increasingly bred for commercial reasons. This changeover led to the enclosure of the open fields. Higher up the dale, an area not suited to arable crops, the land had probably always been under grass. The story here is one of increasing intensity of land use, the enclosure of the commons eventually resulting in the strict limitation in the number of beasts which could be pastured there. Lead mining has had a profound influence upon the historical geography of the area. It grew in importance through the centuries, reaching a peak in the 19th century. Tenant farmers spent much of their time mining, clearly deriving a large proportion of their income from it. It seems unlikely that enclosures would have reached so high up the dale, had the miners not been ‘land hungry’ attempting to create farms as close to the mines as possible. The fall in the dales’ population, and the recession in enclosed land following the decline in lead mining bears witness to the industries importance.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:1974
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:31

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