Land ownership and use

In 1499, Henry VII made Marsden a copyhold manor in the Honour of Pontefract. In 1724 William Radcliffe of Milnsbridge House purchased the Manor of Marsden. Joseph Radcliffe inherited the estate in 1795, was created a baronet in 1813 for his duties as magistrate in the Luddite Trials, and was succeeded in 1819 by his grandson, Sir Joseph Radcliffe 2nd Bart; Milnsbridge House was sold, and the family moved to Rudding Park, Harrogate. The last Radcliffe land in Marsden, Marsden Moor Estate, passed to the National Trust in 1955, in lieu of the death duties of Sir Everard Henry Joseph Radcliffe, 5th Bart.1

A list of those qualified to vote in 1837 (franchise was limited, e.g. to copyholder tenures of £10 or more2) shows that 19% of those owning land (not just buildings) held it freehold, while 79% of them owned it copyhold from the Lord of the Manor. Copyholders paid a small annual rent, and could dispose of land by sale, mortgage or inheritance, with the consent of the Lord of the Manor3, who was paid a small fine.

Common Fields?

In much of the country, communities farmed on the "common field system", where each family farmed a strip on each of three huge arable fields, and sometimes there was an additional common pasture field. The only weak evidence that it may have applied to Marsden lies in the 1801 Survey map4. Four fields, Grange Ing, Mean Field, Great Hey, and Ready Carr are marked in "Old English" script, which suggests that they had some special significance. "Grange" land is land farmed for or by the Church, but there is no independent evidence that the Church held farming land in Marsden. "Great Hey" lies adjacent to other fields called Hey, and could have been common meadowland. The five fields called Mean Field ("mean" once meant "possessed jointly"), and the six fields to their left, were all occupied by a different person in 1801, which does suggest they may have once belonged to an old common field where each family held a strip.


Whether or not there were ever common fields, it is likely that Marsden would have followed the South Pennine pattern; from late medieval times on land would have been enclosed, either by the Lord of the Manor granting small "intakes" of land to farmers, or by squatting5. The new land, whether wooded in the valley bottom, or moorland above, had to be broken in; cleared of trees, bushes and stones, walled, and perhaps given elementary drainage. Fields named (in 1801) Intake, Intack, New Break or Newbrick (newly broken land) and Stubbins (where trees were "stubbed up") show this gradual process; they are distributed from near the village centre to the edge of present-day moorland.

  1. Information from National Trust website.


  3. Marsden Memorials, Huddersfield Local History Library.

  4. Marsden in Almondbury 1801 Survey and Map, KC391, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Kirklees.

  5. Porter, John (1980), The Making of the Central Pennines, Ashgrove Books, pp. 98-104.