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The commutation of lammas grazing rights

P1030088

Coe's Map of Walthamstow Parish of 1822 shows the individual strips of lag for hay making.

The commutation of lammas grazing rights

A measure of how fast urbanisation proceeded in this area can be judged from the believable claim that by 1904 there was little common grazing on Leyton Marshes and few animals were turned out on Lammas Day. It seems even sheep were being allowed to graze, a practice formerly forbidden and enforced by the manorial Hayward. Open land in the Leyton area was increasingly being used for leisure purposes, including structured recreational pursuits such as cricket.

The time had come for change, and the Leyton Lammas Lands Defence Committee negotiated for the grazing rights that the people of Leyton had enjoyed for over two thousand years to be commuted into the right of full and free access to the public all year round forever. Under the Leyton Urban District Council Act 1904 (the Corporation Act), Leyton Council obtained powers enabling the Leyton Marshes to be vested in the Council - that is, held in stewardship by the Council on behalf of the people - on 4th October 1904 subject to the subsequent extinguishment of the Lammas grazing rights. Section 139 of the Act stated that the Local Authority would hold the former Lammas Lands “for an open space for the perpetual use thereof for exercise and recreation and shall maintain preserve manage and regulate the same accordingly.” The Act did not allow the Council to enclose any part of the Lammas Lands for any purpose unless for any reason the land was unsuitable for recreational use.

At a Public Meeting held at the Town Hall on 26th January 1905, EdwardJ. Davis moved and RichardWardJP seconded a motion “that the Lammas Rights over the Lammas Lands acquired by the Council under the Leyton Urban District Council Act 1904 be extinguished in consideration of the said lands being devoted to the purpose of an open space or recreation ground as provided by the Act.” This was carried unanimously by the ninety-seven people present, and thus so long as the land remained open space for the free enjoyment of the public the now seldom used rights to Lammas Grazing had been given up.

The Council subsequently minuted that Lammas Rights had been extinguished and the Lammas Lands would now be devoted to the purposes of a “public open space or recreation ground.” The Act therefore came into operation extinguishing the rights to Lammas Grazing and instead guaranteeing the use of the land as a public open space in perpetuity for the purposes of relaxation and recreation.

All outstanding claims for compensation for the loss of Lammas Rights are stated to have been settled by 1909.

leabridge.org.uk December 2012
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