cultivating surbiton & tolworth: from the middle ages to present day
From the middle of the 15th century the ‘open field system’ of the Middle Ages, which saw tenants and peasants allowed to live on strips of land in return for cultivating it, was overhauled by the ‘enclosure’ system. Enclosures created legal property rights to wealthy landowners on land that was previously held in common - 5,200 ‘Enclosure Acts’ were passed between 1604 and 1914, covering 6.8 million acres of land, resulting in hedges and fences becoming symbols of the new England.
This development also led to the creation of a landless working class, many of whom migrated to cities to work in factories and mills upon industrialisation, and concurrently the concept of the allotment was born.
Enclosure came to our area relatively late – in the 1820s. As a result, it did not have the effect of improving agricultural production as it did in other areas; instead, it contributed towards the urban development that occurred with the railway age half a generation later.
Follow the links below to see how the land use, urbanisation and allotments have changed in Tolworth and Surbiton throughout the years.