Farms and farming

The story of farming in Leicestershire can be considered in three broad periods.

  • For the medieval period, the poor survival of records can often make it difficult to discover very much at all. Even where records do survive, their form and language (usually abbreviated Latin), and the handwriting, pose additional barriers to those who would like to study them, although perseverance will pay off in the end.
  • The second period, between about the 1480s and the 1790s, was dominated by the enclosure of the open fields, sometimes a single event, but often a series of events spread over a century or more.
  • The final period, from the 1790s to the present day, saw many changes, including mechanisation, a decline in agricultural employment and the growing interest of central government in food production.

Farming practices varied widely, according to soil type, the ability of farmers to invest in their land and each farmer’s individual preferences or views about what would be most profitable. If you are interested in a specific farm, parish or wider area, you will need to look at original source material. Our research guides on Farming and Enclosure, 1480-1790 and Farming in Leicestershire, from 1790 will guide you through the records that are available to help you to find out more about farming in your parish, or about the history of an individual farm.

Further reading

The chapter on agrarian history in volume II of the Victoria County History of Leicestershire provides an excellent overview of farming in Leicestershire. This volume can be found in many county libraries and in The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland

S. Wade Martins, Farms and Fields (Batsford, London, 1995)  will tell you more about farming in general and its changing impact on the landscape.