Abandoned Communities ..... Buckinghamshire
Later members of the Dayrell family were responsible for the evacuation of the inhabitants of the village and its conversion into sheep pasture. The process was completed in 1493, when Thomas Dayrell enclosed 164 acres and evicted the occupants of eight houses and four cottages. Altogether 40 people were required to leave. Only the manor house and the church remained, the rest of the village, as assessed by the 1517 Commission of Inquiry, being “totaliter devastata”.

A supplementary Inquiry conducted in 1518 gives an indication of the way in which property would increase in value as a result of enclosure. It valued Lillingstone Dayrell at £23 before enclosure, and £46 afterwards. Anti-enclosure Acts passed by Parliament in 1489 and 1515 made it possible for the authorities to require that half of the profits from enclosed land should be forfeited to the Crown. However, in 1519 Thomas Dayrell avoided such a penalty by promising to rebuild seven houses, thereby obtaining a writ of supersedeas.

Another Act was passed in 1536, prompting further investigations and legal action by the Crown. The sheriff of Buckinghamshire was ordered to summon the owner of Lillingstone Dayrell to appear and show why he should not forfeit half his profits. Paul Dayrell, who had inherited the land from his father Thomas, claimed that only five houses had been destroyed in 1493 and three had been built in 1535. After the case had been adjourned eighteen times a local jury was set up in 1545 to get to the bottom of the matter. Witnesses confirmed to the jury that three houses had indeed been rebuilt and ploughmen had been maintained on 160 acres. At this point the Crown decided to adjourn the case indefinitely.

More information on the anti-enclosure legislation, the Commissions of Inquiry, and legal action taken by the Crown can be found in Maurice Beresford, The Lost Villages of England, 1998 edition published by Sutton Publishing Ltd. Chapter four deals with State action in general, while an account of the proceedings related to Lillingstone Dayrell can be found at page 320.

Confirmation that Lillingstone Dayrell was abandoned comes from glebe terriers dated 1601 and 1625.

A good definition of a glebe terrier has been provided by Bedfordshire County Council.  

The church at Lillingstone Dayrell was kept by the Dayrell family, but in the first glebe terrier the parson complained that “theyre hath ben a gleabe but what should be the quantity and where yt shoulde lye, not man can tell bie reason of the pullinge downe of the towne and inclosure of the whole Lordship about some hundred yeres begon.”

Similar complaints were expressed by the parson in 1625. He reported the recollections of men aged eighty who asserted that 120 people once lived in the village until Thomas Dayrell enclosed the Lordship, turning the towne into fish pondes, and pulling down the parsonage house “as it doth credentilie appeare bie divers foundations of walles.” In the parson’s opinion “it was an easie matter for a gredie Lordship to swallow up a little glebe”. He also believed that Thomas Dayrell had made an attempt to atone for his actions as “in a blind zeale for his soules health he hath given the pasture to Luffield Abbey.”

At both Littlecote and Lillingstone Dayrell, then, the evidence indicates that enclosure took place in stages. We do not know what happened to the people who were evicted. They would have lost their means of making a living as well as their homes. We cannot tell what possessions they were able to take with them, how far they had to travel before they found an opportunity to resettle, or how many of them eventually succeeded in creating a new life for themselves.

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