Farmhouses and History

Much of the history of any English district is recorded in its farmhouses. This, writes W.G. Hoskins, is particularly true of Devon; where, at some places, “farming has been carried out without a break since Romano-British times,” and possibly from the prehistoric period.

There are in Devon a vast number of old farmhouses, as indeed there are in all the counties of the highland zone. Each of these farms has a separate history, and a distinct identity, extending over many centuries. There have, of course, been changes in the course of this long period of time: some farms have enlarged their acreage, others have diminished in size or have disappeared altogether. Nevertheless, it is still true that several thousand Devonshire farms have maintained a recognizable identity for the last seven hundred to a thousand years, and that some are considerably older than this. 

This identity is in complete contrast to the farms in all those counties that were affected by parliamentary enclosure, mainly in the Georgian period. Here, there was a complete reshuffle and re-grouping of the lands attached to the open-field farms, so that after the enclosure every farm had a new identity and, in most cases, a new name. Thus it is not possible to discuss the history of these midland farms in most cases for more than two hundred years back.


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