In medieval times land in England was either waste, common pasture or arable. The waste included all lands not in use or not usable as pasture or for tillage. The manors resembled islands of cultivation in a sea of common or unenclosed waste, which was subject to public or quasi-public rights. Cottages were often built on strips of waste. The pasture was common to all, and the arable land was great open fields. The big East and West Fields in Harwell are described by Anthony Fletcher in his book Elizabethan Village.
The modernisation of agriculture ended the old collective methods of farming. Private ownership spread across the wastes, and the commoners of the manors were compensated for their lost rights with smallholdings and allotments for food, fuel, stone and recreation. Each had to be content with the land or money awarded to him by the parliamentary commissioners, whose decisions had the force of law.
During every parliament of the long reign of George III (1760 – 1820), hundreds of Enclosure Acts were legalised, opening the way for better farming, and greater prosperity to the country as a whole, although some poor people were victimised, while others already rich profited more. Harwell’s Award map, drawn in 1802, divides the parish amongst many owners.
Names of Harwell Families on Award Map:
Lord Bishop of Winchester