In the year 1858 there were still 178 acres of 'Common Land' within the parish of Penlline. This was uncultivated scrub land that was nominally in the ownership of Caroline Dowager Countess of Dunraven but by tradition it was open and available for use or misuse by any parishioner of Penlline. A large part of it was the marshy land west of the River Thaw often referred to as the Moors the rest was steep and wooded at Graig and Vistla.. It was the remnant of a much larger area of waste land that the original Lord of the Manor, the knight Norris, had allowed to be used for grazing by any parishioner of Penlline all of whom would have owed him a duty of service in some form.
Over time parts of the common land were taken into cultivation, enclosed and granted as a tenancy for rent by the Lord of the Manor. Other parts had been acquired probably by landless squatters under the 'ty-unnos 'tradition whereby it was popularly believed that if a cottage could be erected on the common in one night and with smoke rising from its roof by morning the builder held a legal right to the dwelling and the land within one axe throw in every direction which became fenced as the garden. The surveys of 1847 Tithe and 1858 Enclosure suggest this is exactly how the Graig came into existence. The only authentic stone built house with an original attested name is Cimle, which means 'house on the border of the common' and my guess is it was the original dwelling of the village Reeve. Gradually the squatters' hovels acquired a rented tenancy and were improved and some became freehold but the rump of the common land persisted with the tradition of free grazing for every parishioner. In 1848 the government had to regularise the legal position of common land for in many parts of the countryside riots were breaking out as landowners who had claimed the title of Lord of the Manor tried to enforce what they believed were their rights to enclose common lands for more productive use. The government created a Bill the 'General Enclosure Act of 1848 'which allowed all the freeholders of a parish to vote and by a majority they could have all the recognised common land of the Parish defined by an accredited surveyor and then shared out after provision of roads and drainage in direct proportion to freehold held. The whole to be approved by local magistrates and this gave freehold title to such lands which then had to be fenced etc; This Act also made provision for some account to be taken of the very poor who claimed by tradition that they lost benefits by loss of access to common land.. The Assessors in their award had to make provision for 'exercise and enjoyment of the poor' and in the award for Penlline they set aside an area called field numbered 14c that was an area of 4 acres. This was to become the responsibility of the Churchwardens and the Overseer for the poor who were to fence and maintain it for the benefit of the poor. This responsibility was devolved to the Parish Council and from them to the Community Council, though on occasions they have had to be reminded of it. There was also provision for allotment gardens for the poor where an area of an acre was set aside and for many years assiduously administered by the Parish Council until just after the last war when it was sold for development with the approval of the Charities Commissioner.
Historically therefore the Parish Field has been in constant use by the Parish from time immemorial and has never been cultivated. Whilst originally defined as 4 acres its boundaries have been nibbled, but since 1919 they appear to have stabilised at 3.095 acres and the only disturbance evident is some wartime trenches, probably Home Guard. Can anyone remember?
However we can justifiably claim that this field is an authentic historic and environmental 'Village Treasure' and the County Records Office has documents to prove it. Ken Price has always preached the unique value of this unploughed land and has been asked to describe it for you.