chapter  2
22 Pages

Abandoned, Avoided, Expelled: The Creation of “Empty” Landscapes

The 'Domesday Book' describing the vacant fields and empty villages of England following the Norman conquest. Encroachment by the sea, by the plague. But the greatest depopulator of English and Scottish villages was the phenomenon known as enclosure, by which hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land were turned to pasture by their owners. One of the earliest recorded enclosures was in 1489, when Thomas Twyford evicted the inhabitants of seven cottages. The jurors called to investigate found that Twyford had willfully allowed the houses to fall into ruin and turned the fields from cultivation to a feeding place for brute animals. Eighty people who worked here went sorrowfully away to idleness; to drag out a miserable life and truthfully so to die in misery. Historian of British lost villages Maurice Beresford cited other reports of people evicted from their homes or villages. Houses became derelict, villages were abandoned, the parish church marooned in a sea of paddocks.