Seventeenth-Century Case Studies: Farming to Halves on Four Norfolk Estates

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
  • Mark Overton


The purpose of the Norfolk case studies presented in this chapter is to describe the context in which sharefarming existed and developed during the course of the seventeenth century and into the eighteenth. Sets of agreements from four Norfolk estates show why landowners resorted to these methods, how they adapted them to particular circumstances, the problems they encountered, the success they achieved, and why they abandoned them in the early eighteenth century. The case studies, drawn primarily from estate records, inevitably present farming, or letting, to halves from the landowners’ perspective. However, they still provide insights into forms of sharefarming at a lower social level, between tenant and sub-tenant, yeomen and husbandmen, and generally within rural communities. Norfolk landowners used farming to halves throughout this period, firstly, as a device for effecting expansion and improvement from the 1600s, and, secondly, as a way of dealing with vacant farms and falling rents from the late 1660s. The driving force behind the improvements of early 1600s, was the inflation of the late sixteenth century. Prices accelerated rapidly in the 1580s and continued rising until the 1640s, leaving landowners in a vulnerable position. To maintain their incomes, they needed to modernize their procedures, place their rents and tenures on a commercial footing, and exploit their demesnes.


Seventeenth Century Dairy Farming Direct Labour Corn Crop Early Eighteenth Century 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    E.M. Griffiths, ‘Sir Henry Hobart: a new hero of Norfolk agriculture?’, Agricultural History Review, 46 (1998) 15–34Google Scholar
  2. J. Whittle, The Development of Agrarian Capitalism: Land and Labour in Norfolk 1440–1580, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 61.
    R. Allen, Enclosure and the Yeoman: The Agricultural Development of the South Midlands, 1450–1850, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 66.
    R.W. Ketton-Cremer, Felbrigg: The Story of a House, (Ipswich: The Boydell Press, 1962), pp. 44–77.Google Scholar
  5. 89.
    R.H. Hilton, ‘Why was there so little champart rent in Medieval England?’, Journal of Peasant Studies, 17 (1990), p. 517.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 92.
    S. Wade Martins and T. Williamson, ‘The Development of the Lease and its Role in Agricultural Improvement in East Anglia, 1660–1870’, Agricultural History Review, 46 (1998) 129–30.Google Scholar
  7. 103.
    G.A. Chinnery, A Handlist of the Cholmondeley (Houghton) Manuscripts: Sir Robert Walpole’s Archive, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953).Google Scholar
  8. 107.
    C. Oestmann, Lordship and Community, The Lestrange Family and the Village of Hunstanton, Norfolk in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  9. 156.
    D. Stone, ‘Productivity and Sheepfarming in late Medieval England’, Agricultural HistoryReview, 51 (2003) 1–22.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Elizabeth Madeleine Griffiths and Mark Overton 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Griffiths
    • 1
  • Mark Overton
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ExeterUK

Personalised recommendations