Written Autumn 2004
The Sheep in the Meadow
I have always enjoyed listening to the sound of sheep and lambs in the fields. Unfortunately only a small number of sheep are to be found in Goxhill now but for many years sheep were an important part of the economy of the village. In the thirteenth century there was a Sheepfold for 300 sheep. It belonged to the Convent and Priory of Bridlington. Sheep were kept on the common land but enclosures were needed in to which the sheep could be penned for shearing and marking etc. These areas were enclosed with walls in other parts of the country where rocks and stones were available but here in the marsh where there are no suitable building materials Hedges Ditches and Hurdles would have been used.
The map of the Award of land for the Act of Inclosure in 1775 shows ten existing (Antient) inclosures. These were owned privately and were not part of the common land they were about one or two acres in size. Some of these enclosed places appear on the map as islands surrounded by water. This is because deep ditches or land drains surrounded them. There may also have been buildings for shepherds to live in. Other uses for these enclosures may have involved cattle or horses.Because the marshes were common land it was not easy to regulate the grazing and husbandry. We know that grass was cut to make hay. Each year there is a record of the area of meadow in the East and West marsh that was mown and of the payment made for the work. Clearly the sheep would need to have been kept out of the area to be cut for hay. There were probably conflicts of interest and disputes.
A record of an agreement in 1755 from the notes of Thomas Hardy contains much interesting information. And helps us to assess the number of sheep that there were grazing in the marshes.Whereas we whose names are hereunto Subscribed being ye principal inhabitants and farmers of Lands and Tenants lying in Goxhill in ye County of Lincoln have Agreed that ye East Marsh & West Marsh Lying in Goxhill Aforesaid Shall not be Stocked with Sheep until ye tenth day of October Next Ensuing that If Any person or persons put any Sheep into Ether of The Said Marshes before ye Said Day or time that ye Common Pinder do impound ye Same Sheep and that In Any Case any Action or Actions Suit or Suits shall be commenced and Procecuted by ye Owners or Owners of Such Sheep Against ye Common Pinder or Any Other person or persons for impounding ye Same Sheep We do Hereby Agree that Wm. Hyldyard of Great Grimsby in ye said County Aforesaid Attorney att Law Shall and do Defend them and Every Of them Agains Such Action or Actions Suit or Suits and we do hereby for our Own Selves our Excutors and Adminisrors and Assignes do promise and Agree to pay him ye Said Wm. Hyldyard his Just fees for Defending and Soliciting such Action or Actions Suit or Suits and All Such Sums of Money as he Shall or May Lay out and Disburse In ye Management of ye said Bussiness the Charges And Expenses Occasioned by such Suit or Suits Acction or Actions to be payd by us in Eaquall proportion & for According to Our Rents of Land and tenements in Goxhill AforeSaidWittness our hands the Seventh day of August in ye year of Our Lord One thousand Seven hundred and fifty five
Jno Sherewood Wm Gylliott Tho Brown Jno Eaby Rich Green Jno Smith Robt England jnr Ed Eaby Henry Bean Jno Border Ed Arnold Jno Chapman Tho Bean Rich Trout Robt England Snr Jno Laysy Francis Faulding Jno Richardson Ant Wardell Jno Bas Wm Harrison Roger Norfolk Jno Mumby Jno Trout Jno Smith Wm Markham Jno Wiles Thos Tenby Jno Border Wm Bedom Geor Smith.
No reason is given for not stocking the marshes with sheep before the tenth day of October. The fact that this date is just before the time at which the Tup was introduced to the Ewes may have some bearing upon it. Another factor which may have been involved was the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar which had occurred in 1752 and which had removed 11 days from September of that year. This caused considerable confusion and was used by many people as an excellent excuse for breaking old conventions and customs. Even thirty years later there are still references to “Old Candlemas” as a date. It is however quite clear that some very compelling circumstance must have existed to cause the making of this agreement which seems to carry with it the prospect of dissent and has the promise of the expenditure of a large sum of money. 31 people signed and were presumably interested in grazing sheep in the marsh. There must have been others who were the cause of this precaution in case of legal action who were also entitled to use the grazing for their sheep. (More than 120 names are awarded allotments at the Inclosure.) It is reasonable to suggest that at least 40 and probably more people had some interest in grazing sheep. From Thomas Hardy’s records we see that in June 1755 he had 146 sheep and lambs. It is probable that Thos Cavill and at least one or more others had a similar number and if the rest had no more than 10 or 20 sheep each then the total number of sheep in the Marshes could have been more than a thousand.Now that flock of sheep and lambs would have made a sound worth hearing! Based upon the farm records kept by Thomas Hardy (1726-1793) and Joseph Hardy (1753-1812) and the Award and Award Map of the Act of Inclosure. An extract of numbers of sheep, wool sales etc. from 1753 to 1800 is available.