Land lease and tenure auctions

Land lease and tenure auctions
   There are a number of surviving customs pertaining to the letting of land, each designed to maximize fairness within the constraints of local conditions, but each has accrued its own methods and traditions which seem quaint and odd to modern eyes. The most common is by 'candle auction, but the following are examples of other methods. At Congresbury (Somerset), after four acres were let 'by inch of candle' on the Saturday before Old Midsummer Day, two pieces of common land, called East and West Dolemoors, were divided into acres and each one was marked with a spade in a distinctive way. A number of apples were marked in a similar way, placed in a bag, and pulled out to decide which commoner received which acre for the coming year (Collinson, History of the County of Somerset (1791); Keith Gardner, 'Apples in the Landscape: The Puxton Dolmoors', Bristol & Avon Archaeology 4 (1985), 13-20).
   At Wishford (Wiltshire) on Rogation Monday, the 'foreshare' or summer grazing on two water meadows is auctioned in the churchyard. At five minutes to sunset, the Parish Clerk starts pacing up and down between church porch and gate, and the people start bidding. As soon as the sun dips beneath the horizon he strikes the church key against the gate and the bidding stops (Kightly, 1986: 66). At Bourne, Surrey, 'White Bread Meadow' used to be let by special auction. At each bid, a boy was sent to run to a particular point and back, and any bid unchallenged when the last boy returned was accepted (Surrey Magazine 4 (1902), 150, reprinting from the Daily Mail). At Yarnton, Oxfordshire, on the first Monday following St Peter's Day, a complicated process is undergone to determine the rights to the tenancy to Yarnton West Mead. Several local farmers have common ownership of this meadow, and mowing and grazing rights are auctioned in lots. As each 'lot' is actually split up over different sections of the meadow, a further process of drawing lots (using special balls of cherry wood) has to take place, under the auspices of the Meadsman, who organizes the whole affair (Sykes, 1977: 104-7).
   ■ Porter, 1969: 348-59.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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