"The chiefest wealth of our country" : the foldcourse in East Anglia

Belcher, John (2016) "The chiefest wealth of our country" : the foldcourse in East Anglia. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This thesis will examine why the foldcourse, which is usually seen as a regional version of sheep-corn husbandry, was apparently confined to East Anglia. It will explore the foldcourse through its complex interactions with the environment, social structures and agrarian practices of the region and use these factors to establish the pre-conditions for the presence or absence of the foldcourse. The manorial right to a foldcourse was not ‘automatic’, and in a number of multi-manorial townships there was a connection between the possession of a foldcourse and Domesday estates. In the medieval period, the foldcourse and individual free folds co-existed in a diverse system that evolved into one under more direct manorial control in the sixteenth century - a period in which the term foldcourse became more widely and loosely used. The foldcourse remained, however, essentially an ‘individualistic’ rather than communal regime throughout its lifespan with only the minimal necessary communal activity.
The foldcourse was, rather than a form of sheep-corn husbandry, intimately connected with infield-outfield agriculture which was widespread across the light soil regions of East Anglia. Thus, foldcourse rights, as opposed to shack, were often confined to the outfield (which itself operated under a variety of names), as was the ‘compensation’ or provision of exchange lands by manorial lords. The cropping regimes employed in the light soil regions commonly involved significant periods of extended fallowing of both infield and outfield arable; the purpose of which was to improve the soil structure and thereby the retention of nutrients and moisture, and for the development of better plant cover and improved grazing for the flocks. On some Norfolk estates, this combination of foldcourse, variable infield-outfield cropping regimes with extended fallowing developed, during the early-modern period, into an improved and flexible form of open-field agriculture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 15:30
Last Modified: 26 Aug 2020 10:35
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/59229

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