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Amesbury Agriculture

In the later 12th century the demesne of Amesbury manor included several pastures for cattle and in the early 13th century extensive several pastures for sheep. Nearly all of Amesbury’s other land including some meadow & pasture for cattle was evidently used in common. Until the arrival of military establishments in the 20th century, agriculture was the mainstay of the Amesbury economy & the principal occupation. Before 1750 the pattern of agriculture had changed little for centuries the large common fields still being known by their medieval names and still divided into acres. Enclosure was not carried out by act of parliament at Amesbury so cannot be pinned down to a single date. The whole of Amesbury was controlled by one landowner, the duke of Queensberry and he was free to enclose his land without legal sanction. It is clear that the majority of the manor was enclosed between 1742 & 1771.

In 1771 most land owned by the manor had been divided between 6 farms in order of size; Red House farm, South Ham farm, Earl’s farm, Countess Court farm, West Amesbury farm and Kent House farm. Along with the abbey mansion controlled 5105 acres of pasture, meadowland and arable land. In 1824 only 4 farms remained. Incorporation of South Ham into Red House and parts of Kent House into Countess and west Amesbury. Increased efficiency of agriculture in 19th century caused by enclosure, machinery and irrigation. The controlled flooding created early grass crops which led to more fertile soil. In more recent years competition from abroad killed off the profit to be made in farming.           

Content derived from research undertaken as part of the Victoria County History project