How the enclosure of common land sparked riots, revolts and resistance in the Midlands

Posted by pt91 at Apr 25, 2017 01:50 PM |
Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society’s annual Hoskins Lecture for the University of Leicester takes place on 5 May

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 25 April 2017

A series of riots by angry farmers opposing the enclosure of common land in the Midlands in 1607 will be the subject of this year’s Hoskins Lecture on Friday 5 May 2017.

The annual event for the University of Leicester is hosted by the Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society and this year’s lecture – ‘The Enclosure Riots of 1607’ - will be delivered by Dr Len Holden, a retired principal lecturer from De Montfort University.

He will examine the causes and consequences of the riots and consider the role of charismatic leader ‘Captain Pouch’ who inspired the aggrieved farmers and local tradespeople.

Dr Holden said: "In 1607 a series of riots led by John Reynolds, known as ‘Captain Pouch,’ exploded across Warwickshire, South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. The causes were a series of bad harvests combined with the enclosure of land, which resulted in many people being evicted from their homes and losing their land and animals.

“‘Pouch’ was a charismatic and strange figure who inspired the angry peasants to take things into their own hands by digging up the hedges and throwing down the fences which the new landowners had erected.

“The riots affected many local villages such as Cotesbach, Haselbech and Withybrook and culminated in a huge battle at Newton, near Kettering in which nearly 50 people died."

The Hoskins Lecture is held each year to commemorate the work of W G Hoskins who is regarded by many as having played a primary role in promoting the study of English history at the local level. He became the first professor of local history at the University of Leicester in 1965 when he was appointed Hatton Professor of English History.  It was at Leicester that he developed his deep commitment to adult education, teaching local people about the history and especially the landscape of their own county.

The Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society sprang directly from classes taught by Hoskins and the annual lecture is held in his honour.

Dr Len Holden is a retired Principal Lecturer at De Montfort University. Before that he was a history teacher. Since his retirement he has taken a lively interest in aspects of local history and is now Secretary of Market Harborough Historical Society. He also makes films on local history subjects.

Vaughan Archaeological & Historical Society’s 2017 Hoskins Lecture: ‘The Enclosure Riots of 1607’ by Dr Leonard Holden will take place at St Christopher’s Church, Tudor Grange Samworth Academy, 50 Trenant Road, Leicester, LE2 6UA, on Friday 5 May 2017 at 7.15pm.  Visitors are welcome, there is a charge of £3.

Gerry Stacey, secretary of the Vaughan Archaeological and Historical Society, said: "The society has also arranged two visits for our summer programme.  On 5 July we will be holding a tour of the Bradgate Park excavations starting at 11.30am and led by the archaeologist Dr Richard Thomas from the University of Leicester. On 16 August a guided tour of the Jewry Wall baths and museum, led by Guy Raynor a member of the museum staff, will start at 11.15am.

"Non-members and their friends and family are welcome to join us on both of these visits."

Contact secretary Gerry Stacey for any information, at


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