Scan of the original The 1893 Award
Transcript of the 1893 Award
The 1990 Statutory Instrument that amends the 1893 award
Mrs King’s history.
On Therfield Heath there are several burial mounds and the mile ditches, all evidence of early man in the area, and for centuries since the land bordering the Icknield Way has provided summer grazing for sheep.
This grazing was managed by the Lord of the Manor, and a system of stintholders with grazing rights was well established; in 1690 Manor Court records show an agreement to allow 16 sheep to every 20 acres of heath. At the end of the next century 2500 sheep were being grazed between April 15th and November 1st each year. All animals had to be disease free and sheep dipping ditches were ordered to be kept dug out and clean. All sheep had to be removed from the heath during the hours of darkness.
Not all the Therfield farmers had stintholders rights . Those who held land under the Lords of the Rectory Manor and of Five House Manor had rights to the heath. One stint represented 4 sheep. It was also a unit of voting power when stintholders met to appoint their representatives, later called Conservators
This system worked well but in 1795 neighbouring Kelshall was enclosed and it’s Common Land vanished .
50 years later Therfield was enclosed under a public Enclosure Act and the heath was given definite boundaries with stintholders continuing their rights. BUT Royston was growing, and viewpoints differed even amongst families in the village. Fordhams were anxious to protect the heath and ensure the expanding town of Royston knew where to stop.
Therfield’s parish boundary had already been moved several times to give Royston a larger civil parish.
By the 1880s it became necessary to take steps to further regulate the Heath . A provisional Act was drawn up under the then recently passed Commons Act . Land Commissioners advised stintholders and the Fordham, Phillips and Nash families of their rights .
Letters passed to and fro, and often the reply from Mr Moore of the Land Commissioners began
In reply to your letter of yesterday.
In March 1888 letters went between London and Royston daily, as the bye— laws were written. Examples of similar Acts were taken when wording clauses, and amongst the Conservator’s papers are copies of these Acts ones from Clapham and Mitcham, in London, and Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham.
It took 5 years to smooth out all the problems bundles of correspondence were kept by the Conservators which raised many interesting points. The stintholders wished to continue grazing their sheep The Roystonians were seeking pleasure and recreation .
Stintholder William Lees took up his pen on several occasions. He was sharply critical of some of the Conservators, even doubting their intentions . One letter contained a proposal that part of the heath should become a fine people’ s park next to which should be a cemetery so that the pleasure seekers should never lose sight of their final resting place.
A year or so later Lees wrote again. The whole of the Heath should become a cemetery, it was so convenient, having the railway running close by. He added this way cremation could be put off for another century or so.
In constituting the governing body of Conservators , a balance was struck.
3 Conservators were to be appointed by the stintholders,3 were to represent the rate payers of
Royston, and 1 would represent the Lord of the Manor.Eventually the final Act was passed in 1893.It covered all known aspects of heath usage and looked to the future to protect it from then unknown threats. Provision was made for the golfers and the fair, the kite fliers and the sheep.
Wild flowers had been studied and recorded by one of the Fordhams. Even in 1859 he had noted rare and disappearing varieties. All forms of wild life are now protected and in these conditions flourish as never before. In 1954 the Heath became a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
The long strip of land nearest to the main road, where the gallops are, was once used as a camp and training ground for the Bedfordshire Yeomanry, In a remote corner, the rifle range attracted societies using ancient weapons, until recently when it was closed. SHEEP are still grazed by stintholdders .