Farming the Valley
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Early Modern East Meon

In Elizabethan times, most houses had enough ground to grow vegetables and keep animals to feed the family.


The early modern period saw changes in the ownership of land as the Crown, then Parliament, confiscated church lands, including in East Meon. After the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660, ownership was restored to the diocese, but land-holdings, representing control of the properties, were assigned to wealthy, often absentee landlords. Meanwhile, increased availability of brick was transforming the architecture of houses and farm buildings, and the nature of the farm household changed as well. Enclosure drove tenants off their open fields and more farmsteads were now built among the fields owned by prosperous farmers.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century there were about 3 sheep to every human: 8 million sheep to 2.5 – 3 million people. Plagues continued to reduce the workforce, and to limit the amount of land under cultivation. In the later sixteenth century, rates of population grew rapidly; in 1561 it was over 4 million by 1601 it reached 5.23 million, an overall increase of 75%. Towns grew rapidly creating a growth of demand for food; farming became more productive. For the lucky few, living standards rose, for most, poverty and insecurity increased. There was huge inequality between rich and poor.


For a PDF of the full report of Early Modern East Meon, click here.