By Stephen Harrison, BA, MPil Phd, Consultant Archaeologist
Bronze Age
Iron Age
Early Modern

Main Index
MODERN (c. 1800 to the present-day)

Between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, the face of Fast Yorkshire, especially that of the chalklands of the Wolds, was transformed by the large-scale enclosure of the remaining Medieval open fields and common land. During this time, a pattern of settlement and land use which had slowly evolved over many centuries was overlaid, but nowhere entirely obliterated, by a new landscape, more regular and more efficient, which, in all its essential components, survives intact to the present-day. Enclosure by Act of Parliament was largely responsible for this transformation.The total area involved was extremely large: between c.,1730-1810, some 83,360 hectares were enclosed on the Wolds alone.

During those years, the appearance of the Wolds changed from an essentially open, treeless, landscape to one in which: The country is all enclosed, generally by thorn hedges; and plantations, everywhere grouped over its surface, add beauty to the outline, while they shelter the fields from the cutting blasts of winter and spring. Green pasture fields are occasionally intermixed with corn, or more frequently surround the spacious and comfortable homestead. Large and numerous corn ricks give an air of warmth and plenty, while the turnip fields, crowded with sheep, make up a cheerful and animated picture.

At the same time as the wold land was enclosed, rabbit warrens disappeared, but the basic grazing-arable dichotomy, familiar in the earlier periods, seems to have continued. New farmsteads are a characteristic feature of the enclosure period.

By 1870, most land on the Wolds was under plough, except for the steep valley sides, which, to a large extent, remained as open grassland, as most do up to the present, although with modern machinery the ploughing out of steep inclines is possible.

Copyright 1999 - Michael S. Hopps.
The History of Ploughing in the Wolds.

There was much poor farming land until the nineteenth century, when the Sykes family and others introduced improved agricultural methods. The Wolds are now intensively cultivated, much wheat and barley is grown, together with a range of lesser crops, e.g. oilseed rape. Turnips, once so common on the Wolds, are now a rarity. Sheep farming continued to be important, particularly on the High Wolds, until recent times, but now are greatly reduced in numbers.

Pathaeolithic c.250,000 - 8,300 BC
Mesolithic c.8,300 - 4,000 BC
Neolithic c.4,000 - 2,000 BC
Bronze Agec.2,000 - 800 BC
Iron Agec.800 BC - AD 71
Romano-British c.AD 71 - 410
Anglo-Saxon and Vikingc.AD 410 - 1066
Medieval c.AD 1066 - 1540
Early Modernc.1600 -1800
Modern c.1800 to the present day

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