Enclosure maps and their accompanying awards are important sources for local, agricultural and economic history, and reflect a time when communities were experiencing significant change.
Enclosure was the process of dividing open, commonly-farmed land into individual enclosed fields. Although this process started in the medieval period, most surviving documentation relates to the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries, which were brought about through by Acts of Parliament.
Surveyors (known as ‘commissioners’) were appointed to oversee the enclosure process, allocating the land and, in some cases, laying down new roads for access. This resulted in a series of detailed maps and awards being drawn up to show the new landscape.
Enclosure awards are often bulky parchment documents, often containing the original act, and detail the allotment of land, roads, paths and public utilities (such as gravel pits). The maps are large in scale and usually highly accurate, showing the layout of fields, roads and adjacent buildings. However, enclosure maps do not show areas which were unaffected by the process and do not record buildings beyond the vicinity of the enclosure.
For a free PDF download giving further information about enclosure maps and a full list of Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service enclosure map holdings, please see the Guides to Sources page on this website.