The 1857 Hebden Enclosure Awards
In 1848 the Government's Inclosure Commission recommended to the Secretary of State for the Home Department that 2,666 acres of common land in Hebden should be subjected to enclosure on the grounds "that the land is capable of very great improvement, and its value may be increased threefold by draining, and a proper system of cultivation". This accounted for almost 75% of the township's total acreage. The recommendation was duly approved and in October 1848 Ralph Lodge, a land agent from Aysgarth in Bishopdale, was appointed as the valuer.
Ralph Lodge (1786-1871) appears to have been the go-to man for such exercises, as he was, during the same period, also the appointed valuer for the Malham, Buckden and Kildwick enclosures.
He held the first of several meetings in November 1848 in the Clarendon Inn (not the current one) to hear representations from interested parties. Eventually, nine years later in June 1857, the results of his deliberations were confirmed by the Inclosure Commission, and the moorland previous held in common, was allocated to the various landowners in proportion to the size of their holdings, ensuring that the well off became better off.
This had the effect of depriving the smaller farms of their common grazing to the extent that several became unviable. Parishioners also had their gaming rights withdrawn, depriving them of an important source of food. The enclosure did, however, establish the parish lands, such as Backstone Edge Allotment which was set aside "as a place for getting Turfs for the Inhabitant Householders", and the recreation grounds "as a place for Exercise and Recreation for the Inhabitants". It also resulted in many miles of walling being built across the moors to divide the allotments in the short space of eighteen months, creating the landscape we have today.
The enclosure awards is held by the Parish Council, and consists of a map identifying the various allotments and new roads, and a seven page report tied to the map with silk ribbons, which itemises the awards. The map is in the process of digitisation and will be made available later, but the 1866 Hebden Moor Mining Company map which is available used the Enclosure Awards map as a basis, and many of the allotment numbers and access roads are marked on that. The report has been digitised and the digital image and transcription of the first page of the report may be found here.
Enclosure map in process of digitisation