Welsh Social History (continued)

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of this section

Land was measured in the following way:
The Family or Tylwyth
Land enclosure


Land was measured in the following way:
 

1 Erw

=

1 acre. (The smallest holding)
 

4 Erw

=

1 Tyddyn.
 

4 Tyddyn

=

1 Tref = 16 acres (a family size holding)
 

4 Tref

=

1 Maenol (Important family holding by fee payment plural)
 

12 Maenolydd

=

1 Commote (a gift of land by kings to sons and close kin - holder often termed: Lord of Territories)
 

2 Commotes

=

1 Cantref (96 Tref : A Prince's inheritance)

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The Family or Tylwyth

To the countryman the most real social grouping apart from the family was his home district within which he knew intimately all the farms, houses, streams, hills and mountains, their names and the traditions and the persons linked with them. This was the little world into which he was born and in which all his life would be spent. In it would live nearly all the people he would ever know; their influence on him would be more compelling than that of outsiders because it was so direct and personal, arising as it did, from frequent contact in work, leisure and worship. Indeed in all spheres of life, the countryman would meet and mix with the same familiar persons. People living together in this intimate way in a moorland tract shared the same interests and felt that they 'belonged'. During the sheep shearing or harvest and whenever family life was upset by death, confinement or illness, relations and neighbours were always at hand and ready to help.

The land and its way of life were a further unifying force for although farming skills were many and varied; they were shared by most of the farmers and farm servants and even by the craftsmen and shopkeepers.

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Land enclosure

The pattern of settlement that this medieval system of inheritance indicated is often quite recognisable in rural Wales today, for hamlets of scattered farms are typical of many districts. The existence of these homesteads (tyddynau, which are synonymous with smallholdings), contributed to the numbers of small farms that arose, especially in river valleys. Uplands and moors were widely used for summer grazing - with increasing demands for land, especially in the 19th C., many of these hafodai became permanent dwellings. During that period much of the common land was enclosed and peasant families set up Ty unnos (one night houses)on the previously unoccupied land. The custom was that if a house was built in a single night and smoke was seen coming from the chimney at dawn, then the occupier of that temporary dwelling had a legal right to the homestead. An axe thrown from the house marked the extent of an enclosure around the homestead. In time the claims of the occupier were consolidated, and a stone built dwelling was constructed to replace the temporary ty unnos. In upland districts today may be found the dispersed settlements scattered evenly over the land. During the Middle Ages the agricultural land of England and the greater part of Wales was divided into long strips in large open fields.

From about 1450 onwards the farmers of numerous parishes set about measuring all of the agricultural land in the parish and dividing it into compact fields between them selves according to the number of acres they had owned previously, and enclosing it by forming boundaries around each farm. During the 18th C. a new phase of land enclosure began in England spreading to Wales in the 19th C.. The small farmer was at a disadvantage under such a system since as a tenant, he paid rent for his land. When all the farming land within the parish was enclosed the master would absorb the common land for himself - that open land used by all villagers to graze their animals. The loss of this land was a severe blow to the small farmer and after prices fell sharply between 1810 and 1815 many of them were forced to leave their farms.

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