Until the opening of the colliery in 1952, the greatest social change in Calverton’s history had been arguably the parliamentary enclosure of 1778–80. By the time that an enclosure petition was presented to Parliament on 1 December 1778 by ‘several landowners and persons interested’, some 996 acres, or about 30% of the parish had already been enclosed. Some of these acres would of course have been accounted for by the houses and gardens of the settlement itself and the rest had been enclosed piece-meal over centuries. The award, when it came in 1780, would reveal that there had been only 51 acres of the open fields left to enclose. This is about 1½% of the total area of the parish, so any notion that the primary objective of Calverton’s enclosure was to rearrange the village arable from strips and furlongs in large communally farmed fields, into the landscape of today, must be resisted. The rest of the land enclosed was about 550 acres of warren and Sansom wood and 1728 acres of common and forest, much of it to the west of the Old Rufford Road (A614).
Calverton was one of forty or so townships within the ancient bounds of Sherwood Forest, and so was subject to forest law, which protected both the animals (primarily deer) for the exclusive use of the king. It may be that because of this, agricultural improvement and commercial development in Calverton was different from other, more purely agricultural, settlements. Specifically the village was situated in the southern of the two administrative districts or bailiwicks into which Sherwood Forest was divided, the part called Thorney Wood Chase, of which the Earl of Chesterfield was hereditary keeper. Thorney Wood Chase was formerly well wooded and stocked with fallow deer, but growth of population and changes in agricultural practice were altering the character of the area.
Back in 1609 Richard Bankes’ map had shown the progress of enclosure in the parish. Calverton, like most settlements on Bankes’ map, was found to be surrounded by a number of large communally farmed arable fields. These must have been in existence for many centuries, but by 1609 each of the large open fields had had some of its land changed into non-communable closes, some of which may have been used for pasture. In Calverton the map shows about twenty small closes converted out of a portion of a field, The Moores, to the north east of the village, between the present Carrington Lane and the Doverbeck. Nearby was a bigger New Close. Many other closes, large and small, had been created between Dark Lane and the southern parish boundary with Woodborough, in the large Hyll Feild. More closes line the western edge of the Hyll Feild along the course of the stream which now flows near George’s Lane. Other parts of the parish were less subject to the making of permanent closes, as they were more wooded and breck agriculture was practised. These brecks were temporary enclosures made out of the forest waste land and sheep walks. Plots of land were fenced off and ploughed as arable for up to seven years, after which period the fences were taken down and the land reverted to open forest. In Calverton each messuage was entitled, as a customary or common right, to an acre of the breck, and each cottage to half an acre.
According to Dr. Thoroton’s history of the county, the freeholders of Calverton in 1612 were Christopher Strelley, John Sturtivant, Robert Cooper, John Lees, Thomas Leeson, Ed. Benet, John Barber, John Lambrey, Humfr. Youle, Euseby Marshall of Arnall, John Chaworth of Southwell, esquire and John Cressewell.
A bill was presented in March 1779 by the Nottinghamshire MP Lord Edward Bentinck, who was the younger brother of the third Duke of Portland. It noted counter-petitions to some of its provisions by the Earl of Chesterfield and other smaller owners. The Earl of Chesterfield’s objections concerns the alleged insufficient compensation to be allowed to him as hereditary ranger of Thorney Wood Chase. The earl’s claims were apparently met by the promoters, and the bill was amended accordingly. The other counter-petitioners, led by villager William Huthwaite, described themselves as ‘owners and proprietors of ancient houses having right of common’. They alleged that if the bill passed it would be prejudicial to their rights and properties and injurious to the public in general. They successfully secured the appointment of an additional, fifth, commissioner, a local man George Padley of Calverton, to represent their interests.
An Act for dividing and inclosing the open fields, meadows, pastures, commons, forest and waste grounds in the parish of Calverton in the County of Nottingham was passed by Parliament in May 1779. After a little over a year, on 7 July 1780, the commissioners were able to sign the award. One hundred and seventy plots of land were allotted to nearly ninety owners. Because about 2,334 acres of Calverton had been enclosed in such a short time, it seems very likely that much of the detail mentioned in the award had alreadybeen agreed by the principal owners, and the work of the commissioners will have been to satisfy the claims of those villagers who perhaps owned no land at all, but did have common rights around the parish. These rights would be replaced, at enclosure, by small allotments of land. John Roe (q.v.) for example received just 11 perches, or about 330 square yards.
The principal landowners were now the prebends of Oxton, Revd James Bingham as vicar, the Duke of Portland, Margaret Sherbrooke, Elizabeth Bainbrigge and Thomas Smith. There were many other smaller proprietors however, and because of this multiplicity of ownership, Calverton could not be described as a ‘closed village’, where the property was in the hands of a few people who could control development and, for example, restrict people coming in who might become dependent on poor relief.
The initial stimulus or spark to parliamentary enclosure is not clear. As noted, it was not to reorganise the arable, but since the largest Calverton landowners were now the holders of the two prebends of Oxton, Hugh Thomas and John Marsden, it may well have been prompted by them, so that the annual payment of tithes to the prebendaries could be changed into an allotment of land, and all tithes could be extinguished. Thereafter the land, that had been allotted, would provide an income to maintain the prebendaries, who served at Southwell Minster. The Duke of Portland would also have been a supporter of enclosure, since the Calverton villagers’ common right of breck agriculture must have been an irritation at a time when the ‘Dukeries’ were beginning to subsume the forest wastes.
Enclosure meant that the system whereby land which was owned by one person, but over which other people had certain traditional or common rights, such as to allow their livestock to graze upon it, or to collect firewood, or collect sand and gravel was ended forever. The common right of breck agriculture, which was peculiar to forest villages, was also brought to an end.
The landscape of the parish was also altered. Hedges were planted, drains dug, gates and stiles erected, footpaths and bridleways established in law and roads (sixty feet between the hedges) were laid out, so that today’s Calverton is recognisably as set down in the Award of July 1780.