In the thirteenth century Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel gave several pieces of land to the people of Chipping Norton which in total amounted to some five hundred acres. For many years following Lord Arundel�s gift the town prospered, mainly because of the popularity of the wool trade, and the amount of fine grazing, part of which was the land he had given. In total approximately 5000 acres formed the Manor of Chipping Norton half of which was cultivated, tenants were required to undertake a certain amount of work each year for the Lord of the Manor.
They could also cultivate half acre strips which were scattered over the open fields and divided by grass "balks" which looked like allotments. Each year three fields were planted with wheat, barley or oats, whilst a fourth field lay fallow (i.e. rested ), and crops were rotated annually. The land which formed lord Arundel�s grant plus other land in the Manor was used for grazing horses cattle and sheep.
All corn grown within the manor had to be ground at one of the three mills belonging to the Lord of the Manor. One mill was at the Over Norton end of town, another was probably where Bliss Mill now stands and the third, Hartley�s Mill, was on the brook opposite Meads Farm. These mills provided a good source of income for the Lord of the Manor.
In the reign of King George III, Enclosure Acts were passed by Parliament to enable the division and enclosing of common and other land as a method of assisting better farming methods.
Throughout England some 5,000,000 acres of common land was converted to be used by private individuals. Chipping Norton did not escape Enclosure! An Act of 1770 took almost half of the gifted land and in the early 1800�s, "The Corporation" decided that only householders at the time of the enclosure would have any rights to common.
In 1849 a further enclosure, this time conducted by Thomas Edward Washbourne (a valuer from Oxford) enclosed more land at Southcombe and on the Great Common on the Worcester Road, leaving some 75 acres as a Regulated Pasture on which there would be 85 stints, (grazing rights ), these were allotted to individuals who could confirm that they had established "rights to common "
One Cow or Ox or Gelding or Mare was allowed on the pasture, or if all the stintholders grazed "in common " two Ewe or Wether sheep were allowed in respect of one stint. Field Reeves would be appointed annually to administer the pasture.
This system continued until 1932 when Life Trustees were appointed under the Law of Property Act 1925, and there was no longer a need to appoint Field Reeves each year.On the death of a Trustee a new one is chosen by remaining Trustees.
Over the years several pieces of the pasture were sold, firstly for a railway and later to provide a new cemetery, in both cases under Parliamentary powers.
In 1937 following several attempts to find a suitable site for a Recreation Ground an agreement was reached between the Borough Council and the trustees to have some four acres set aside at the bottom of New Street at a "peppercorn rent " renewable every seven years, and this has continued ever since.
In 1952 it was no longer possible for individuals to put animals on and off the pasture at will. The introduction of Tuburculin Tested Milk Regulations meant that for health reasons more control was required when animals were moved from one site to another. From that time until now the various pieces of land which are part of The Regulated Pasture have been rented annually to tenant farmers for grazing.
Therefore the Regulated Pasture is not what is normally understood to be common land , but "common owners", if ownership had passed through various families from 1849 until now it would now be private land.
However in 1905 the then Borough Council used its powers under various Local and Parliamentary Acts to purchase " Stints" as they were offered for sale. This continued to be their policy and over the years they have acquired some 58 stints and are now the Major stintholders. Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-operative Society have 17 stints, in addition there are 8 individual stintholders and two are suspended in respect of a piece of land adjacent to Bliss mill, still making 85 in total.
This short account is by John Grantham. John is one of the four present Field Reeves. He was born in Chipping Norton in 1937 and educated in the town. He became Manufacturing Director of Parker Knoll - the town's largest employer. John served for many years on the District Council and is still a member of the Town Council. He was Mayor of Chipping Norton in 1976 and 1977. His book entitled, "The Regulated Pasture" (a history of common land in Chipping Norton ) gives a much more detailed account. It is obtainable from The Bookshop in West Street. Price �6.99.