Listed below is a step-by-step guide to the procedures that lead to a Parliamentary enclosure. It should be noted that the time taken between steps 1 and 8 could range between one year and ten years, and on rare occasions more.
Before the physical act of enclosing any common land or wastes could begin it was necessary to obtain the agreement of the principal local landowners. Legally a simple majority by value was sufficient; in practice it was desirable to gain the agreement of most, if not all landowners, as this would save expensive disputes later on. The landowners then had to decide the terms of the enclosure, and agreed who to invite to act as enclosure commissioners and surveyors.
Having reach agreement about the aims of the enclosure a Bill was introduced to Parliament. Once it had passed into an Act the process of enclosure in the locality could begin.
The first actions of the enclosure commissioners after the Act had been passed were to give public notice in the local newspapers of their appointment, and to name the place (usually a local inn) and date of their first meeting. To make sure that everyone in the parish read these notices copies were also nailed to the door of the parish church.
At their first meeting the commissioners and surveyor swore and signed an oath declaring that they would carry out "without prejudice or partiality" the powers and authorities vested in them by virtue of the Act.
The commissioners ordered all persons alleging an interest in or over the lands to submit their claims. Copies of these claims were displayed for public inspection and comment. Further meetings would then be held to consider claims and counter-claims. Throughout the process the clerk recorded all the commissioners' decisions in the meeting minutes.
Meanwhile the surveyor made an accurate survey and map of the parish to ascertain how many acres were to be enclosed. As the commissioners decided the location and size of the new allotments and the course and width of the new roads and drains, the surveyor marked them on his map and staked them out on the ground.
The final act of the commissioners was to draw up their enclosure award, the permanent legal record of enclosure. The award comprised accurate descriptions of the size and location of every allotment allocated by the commissioners, and was usually accompanied by a map showing their locations.
At the last meeting the award was "signed, sealed and delivered" by the commissioners and the clerk. At least two copies of each award and map were made. One copy was deposited in the parish chest, as a source of reference for the parishioners. A second copy, usually not sealed, was enrolled at Quarter Sessions or sometimes at one of the central courts of justice (Chancery, King's Bench or Common Pleas). Most local copies have now been deposited with the appropriate county record office, and the copies enrolled with the central courts of justice can be viewed at The National Archives.
Hollowell, S., Enclosure Records for Historians (Chichester, 2000), pp.28-107 Russell, R.C., and E., Parliamentary Enclosure & New Landscapes in Lincolnshire (Lincolnshire County Council, 1987), pp.14-23 Tate, W.E., A Domesday of English Enclosure Acts & Awards, Turner, M.E. (ed.) (Reading, 1978)