Before the Enclosure Acts, Chrishall Common was the land at the back of the High Street heading over towards Chishill. Exactly where it was I don’t know but you do see it marked on old maps occasionally and it should be on the Enclosure Map when we get a copy. In the mean time, I was interested to find the following extract in the Church Registers written by Thomas Melville, a man who was not afraid of getting things sorted out it seems. Rev Melville was vicar of Chrishall between 1720 and 1749 and wasted no time in putting things to rights as soon as he started in post:
May 8 1721
Mem.dum To my Successors for ever.
That at my comeing to this Vicarages I found Law-suits Great Differences Heart-burnings and Jangling amongst ye Parishioners about the Common To compose w.ch I address’d mySelf in ye first place to ye Hon.ble Sr Cane James Bar:t who very readily and in a most Christian manner promoted my Design, and not only condescended to Give us a Meeting at a Vestry called for that end But drew up ye following Scheme of agreement (wch I intreat may be carefully preserved) in Such reasonable Terms, That by the blessing of God it had ye Desired Success. May all Differences for ye Future be in such a Christian Method accomodated.
The Contents of the within specified agreement are these Viz: That every Housekeeper may have a Right and Liberty to put into ye sd common one Bullock or Milch Cow from 3 May to ye 1st Nov.r
- 2. That in case ye Poor can’t purchase one they may Either hire a Milch Cow from any house=keeper of ye Parish or Lett their Commonages to any of them But best for intent of one in the Towne.
- 3. If ye Poor hire a Milch cow out of Town or from one not a householder They must make it appear yt ye Milk or Profit is for their own use.
- 4. That each Farmer or Person yt hires Lane or yt uses his own shall yearly pay 8 pence per head and every other Housekeeper 4d towards defroying ye charge w.ch ye s.d Common requires To be collected by ye church Wardens or Overseers of ye poor.
- 5. That all Certificate Men shall have no benefit of feeding on ye sd Common or any other parish privileges of Such feed. And yt one house ths 202 more dr’s therein shall have shall have privilege of Common but for one Beast.
W.ch agreem.t to continue in full force the virtues provided no ancient writing or Doc.t to ye contrary be found out.
This is a Faithfull Abstract of ye sd Agreement subscribed by all ye Parishioners and inserted here.
Pr me Tho: Melvill vic.
The Original in futuram Roi Memoriam is wax’d on ye other side.
Notice the reference to the village as ‘Town’. We think the ‘certificate men’ mentioned in the last point were probably those who had the vote, i.e. the wealthier members of society as this time.
Sadly I think Thomas’s sorting out of the problem of grazing your animals was probably overtaken by the Enclosure Act, and I would not recommend trying to turn out your own ‘bullock or milch cow’ on Chrishall Common these days!