Stafford's Potato Crisis
Petition from burgesses of Stafford to the Mayor, 1844, requesting the delay in the opening of the Coton Field as common land because of the failure of the potato crop to ripen in time. This was coincidental to the rotting blight that affected Ireland so catastrophically in the mid-1840s.
© Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service
The Field was originally owned by St Thomas' Priory until the Dissolution, and belonged to the lord of the manor of Coton, but from time immemorial the town claimed rights of common pasture. Individual acres were allotted to burgesses, and through this acre they obtained the property qualification that enabled them to vote in municipal and Parliamentary elections. By the 19th century, any new allocation of vacant plots was prioritised for "poor and necessitous" burgesses or their widows. The land was officially opened each autumn for common use, between the time of the gathering of the crops and the setting of seed in the spring. There was also a race course on the Field in the 18th century, until the Meeting was moved to Stafford Common in 1820.
The edges of the Coton Field Estate were put aside for Corporation building land from the 1890s. The remainder of the land is still used today as allotments, and played a central role in wartime "Dig for Victory" campaigns.
Because of the importance of the Field, there are very many other documents about it in the collection, including an early Chancery ruling over the Borough's historic rights and customs, negotiations with the Committee of the neighbouring Stafford Asylum, notices about the common usage, and applications to individual acres or complaints about non-residency. There are also many other petitions in the collection about local and national matters, some including hundreds of names.
Staffordshire Record Office: D1323/S/5
Copyright reserved, Stafford Borough Council