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Wiltshire Community History

Wiltshire History Questions Search Results

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Question Date :

Monday 4th July 2011 10:03

There has recently been a suggestion that burgage plots can be identified in Amesbury: can you tell me a little more about burgage plots?

Burgage plots or burgage tenements are the tracts of land within a medieval town which were allocated to the burgesses, who were the freemen (those who were entitled to practise a trade and to elect members of the town's ruling council) and in many instances the members of the council. In the very earliest - pre-Conquest - foundations, the plots were based directly on the ploughland strips of pre-existing agrarian settlements, and in towns like Burford and Chipping Campden in Oxford or Cricklade in Wiltshire, the property on the frontage has a very long garden behind. Where later development has occurred, there will be a shop and/or a house, with outbuildings behind, and even, subsequently, back-to-back shops. The basic unit of measurement was the perch (5-and-a-half yards), and at Cricklade most of the plots were 2 perches wide (with a few of four perches) and 12 long, while at Charmouth in Dorset, a charter of 1320 provided plots 4 perches wide and 20 long, giving the typical plot size of half an acre, held at an annual rent of 6d. Where a town was developed along a single main street or a long market, frontages were at a premium, and the plots were long and narrow - foreshadowing the layout of nineteenth-century byelaw housing. Where a town was developed on a grid-pattern the plots were more regular: at Salisbury the rental plots were 3 perches x 7 perches, with the prime sites being those on the corners of the chequers. So, to return to Amesbury, if the frontages in the High Street or Salisbury Street (the original market-place) are multiples of 5 1/2 yards (16'6”), it is likely these were burgage plots.

Hey, D., editor: The Oxford companion to local and family history (Oxford University Press, 1996. – ISBN 0 19 211688 6) – p. 60
West, J: Town records (Phillimore, 1983. – ISBN 0 85033 472 1) – p. 86
Purvis, B.: Salisbury: the changing city (Breedon Books, 2003. – ISBN 1 85983 306 3) – pp. 26-27
W&SRO: Cricklade St Sampson Tithe Map, c. 1840
Thomson, T.R., editor: Materials for a history of Cricklade (Oxford University Press for the Cricklade Historical Society, 1961) – pp. 67, 70.
Holmes, D.: Cricklade: a town trail (Cricklade Historical Society, 1987) – p.[5].

Tithe Award Map
Tithe Award Map

Image Date: 1837
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham



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