- Laxton, Nottinghamshire
infobox UK place
country = England
Newark and Sherwood
region= East Midlands
postcode_district = NG22
Laxton is a small
villagein the civil parishof Laxton and Moorhousein the English county of Nottinghamshire. It is best known for having the last remaining working open field systemin the United Kingdom.
The village has the remains of a Norman
motte and bailey castleand a small HolocaustMuseum. In addition, there are the remnants of a substantial system of fish-ponds (possibly belonging to the castle, or to the later manor built on the site), two mediæval mill mounds, and ridge-and-furrow earthworks. The village church mostly dates back to the 12th century; after this, the earliest known standing structure is a 1703 farmhouse. Most of the village architecture sits firmly in the local vernacular tradition, with nearly a fifth of the buildings dating from the 18th century, and around 40% from each of the 19th and 20th.
Laxton parish today has much conventionally-farmed land, but retains also a significant part of the mediæval open field system. Fields, divided into strips, are farmed in common between the landowners of the village [Beckett, J.V. (1989) "A history of Laxton : England's last open-field village", Oxford : Basil Blackwell, ISBN 0-631-15972-X] . Today, there are three open fields remaining; the Mill Field, the South Field and the West Field. A 1635 survey of the parish carried out by Mark Pierce (still extant, and held in the
Bodleian Library) shows that these three fields were in use at that date, but that they were significantly larger than their current size. There was also a fourth field, the East Field, which was considerably smaller than the others, and farmed as part of the West Field [Orwin, C.S. and Orwin, C.S. (1938) "The open fields", Oxford : Clarendon Press, 332 p.] . This was fully enclosed, and today is a number of small fields.
The strips within the fields have also changed significantly, with changes in technology. Originally, a single strip would have represented approximately a single day of
ploughing; such a strip today would be far too small to be really practical for a tractor-drawn plough. Instead, over time strips have been consolidated to provide workable parcels of land; the result today is that the average strip size has increased significantly over mediæval times. However, the practical aspects of open field farming are still very much what they would have been 500 years ago.
Laxton is unique because the open field system is still alive and in daily use. Although the village is now recognised as an important heritage site, it is home to working farmers who rely on the land for their income. While modern expectations and needs mean that all the farmers also own land outside the open fields, the open fields are not part of a museum or showcase, but a living part of the agricultural landscape. The system is protected today by a Parliamentary undertaking given by the
Crown EstateCommissioners on their 1981 purchase of the Laxton estate, and by a Countryside Stewardship agreement held between the Court Leet and the then- Countryside Commission. The sykes, four areas of grassland, are also protected by SSSI status.
Laxton’s strip fields were depicted on a postage stamp designed by
David Tressthat was issued in 1999 by the Royal Mail as part of their Millennium stampseries; the stamp also doubled as Royal Mail’s contribution to that year’s Europa postage stampissue with the theme of Parks and Reserves.
* [http://mahan.wonkwang.ac.kr/link/med/economy/agricul/laxsurv.html Laxton Village Survey report by Trent & Peak Archæological Trust]
* [http://www.collectgbstamps.co.uk/displayset.asp?setid=244 Laxton's fields on a 19p Royal Mail stamp]
* [http://www.laxtonvisitorcentre.org.uk Site for Laxton's Visitor Centre]
* [http://www.laxtonnotts.org.uk Site for Stuart Rose - Laxton farmer]
* [http://www.openfield.org.uk Site for the Open Field parish magazine]
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