Common Land

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This is a backup copy of the West Yorkshire Archive Service's "Off the Record" wiki from 2015. The live went offline in 2016 and is currently unavailable. Editing and account creation are disabled.

Common land is land (usually in private ownership) that has rights of common over it. All common land has an owner. The term 'common' refers to the rights held in common by certain people ('commoners') to use the product of the soil by grazing, cutting turf etc. Generally common land is open, unfenced and remote. At present the general public do not have rights to go onto common land unless a right of way crosses it.

Rights of Common can include:

  • grazing sheep or cattle (herbage)
  • taking peat or turf (turbary)
  • taking wood, gorse or furze (estovers)
  • taking of fish (piscary)
  • eating of acorns or beechmast by pigs (pannage)

The people able to exercise these rights are usually known as 'commoners'.

Each local authority, as a Commons Registration Authority, has the duty to maintain a Register of Common Land and Village Greens. This is a statutory document which can be inspected by appointment and is used for Common Land Searches, usually when property is bought or sold. For more information about the Register of Common Land and Village Greens see here.

West Yorkshire Registers of Common Lands and Village Greens can be found in the following local authority departments:

For historic records of common land indictments etc for the misuse of common land can be found at the West Riding Quarter Sessions. Enclosure Maps may also be useful in determining ownership etc.