An Arduous and Unprofitable Undertaking: The Enclosure of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire

Nov 1998 | 026

Authors: David Stead

This paper provides a case study of the parliamentary enclosure of Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire. A collection of nearly eighty letters reveals the often-acrimonious negotiations over the draft clauses of the enclosure bill, and the extent of the concessions needed to overcome opposition to enclosure. Rents on the manorial lords property in Stanton Harcourt after enclosure are adjusted to obtain the income actually derived from the land. These time-series are compared with three counterfactual paths for income had the land remained open. At best enclosure raised net rents received by an immediate and persistent 7%. At worst income would have been slightly higher had the land remained open. Under the conventional method of project appraisal, for the manorial lord the enclosure was 100% unprofitable in both the short and long run. Perhaps Stanton Harcourt is best seen as an example of enclosure driven by motives other than purely agricultural profits.

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