A Village of Two Halves - Goxhill Gander

Summer 2024
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Written Summer 2000
A Village of Two Halves

H ave you ever looked at a road map of Goxhill? There is the little squiggly bit where the houses are with the road from Barrow to East Halton running along the bottom and then there are the long straight roads of the Marsh, which take up far more space than the village. Why were these big wide straight roads built? They do not take us to other villages and only provide access to the houses and farms. Well of course as with so many things about our village we have to turn to the inclosure of the village for an answer.

Before Inclosure there were four big fields these were called the Mill field the Hallands field the Horsegate field and Chapel field but in addition there were extensive grazing areas in the Marshes. The Neatgangs together with the West and East Marsh and the Salt Marsh were badly drained but they provided excellent summer grazing land. The area of arable land and the area of grazing land were almost equal. Goxhill was a village of two halves and the nature of the land in each half was quite different. Because there were no boundary fences and cattle could wander as they wished they had to be tended (Local word “Tented”) and were driven out to these areas to graze and brought in to small-inclosed fields at night. Many of the more wealthy people living at the South end of the village who had a large share of the land had their own inclosures at the North end. This cut down the distance that the cattle had to walk each day.

It can be seen from this that although the arable fields and the grazing lands were separate the whole village operated as an integrated system. Now the idea of inclosure was to improve the land and the agricultural methods used upon it and thus to make more money from it. The last thing that the Great and Good wished to do was to separate the Arable from the Grazing land and thereby to destroy this productive system. It was therefore decided that when the land was divided up and allotted to the recipients that the commissioners who were appointed to do the work should not only allocate the land according to the Quantity or number of acres to which each person was entitled but also according to the Quality and the position or Situation. The words “Quality Quantity and Situation” are used several times in the Act and Award and because of this consideration each person was awarded several separate pieces of land. 

Only a small number of pieces of land of more than 100 acres were awarded and all of the major recipients had several pieces at different locations in the arable fields and grazing lands. This caused a problem because everyone needed access to his or her own land and to be able to travel from one piece to another without passing over the land belonging to other people. Not only people with ploughs and farm carts but animals also had to go from farmstead to fields so that good hedges and roads wide enough for cattle to be driven were required. To solve this problem Public and Private roads were awarded. That is land was allocated for use as Public roads Private roads and Foot roads (footpaths) from the total area available before the remainder was divided between the recipients. The width of each road was set out in the Act and responsibility for Hedges and Ditches and their maintenance and upkeep was also laid down. The width of these roads seems excessive to us when we view them from the narrow strip of Tarmac upon which we drive. Take away the hard surface and add some mud and ruts together with the daily passage of a lot of animals and even 60 feet of available space might not suffice for unhindered passage. Then comes the clever bit, the maintenance and upkeep of the roads was to be the responsibility of the Surveyors of the Highways. They had to Auction the Herbage of the roads on Easter Monday every year to the highest bidder for the “Bating of Geldings and Mares only which shall not be put on before sunrise or stay after sunset”.  The income from this was to be expended upon the upkeep of the roads. The wide roadsides were not to be wasted.

Our neighbours at East Halton had no such problems They had only a narrow coastal margin of grazing land and many people had only one large piece of ground allotted to them so that a big road network was not needed. Barrow on the other hand had a similar division of arable and pastureland to Goxhill and a network of roads was laid out. The coming of the Railway and the growth of New Holland in the Ox-Marsh gave a modern purpose to these roads, which would otherwise look very much like ours.

Land drainage and management have improved the quality of the fields that were once only used for grazing. The importance of animals and arable crops to the farmers of the village has changed over the years. Within living memory milk, which was taken each day to the railway station, provided a very important part of farm income. Today very few animals other than horses are to be found in the village. The appearance, to those of us who are not farmers, of the fields to the North of the village is not much different from those to the South. Although much of the land is now cultivated some pieces have never been ploughed since they were inclosed.

Maurice Brawn

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