The practice of enclosing agricultural land began with the Tudors, but escalated rapidly during the 18th century (from 39 Acts in the 1730s to 660 in the 1770s). The measure promoted greater efficiency, and opened the way to mechanization, with the cause of greater productivity espoused by a wave of agricultural reformers. In the early 1700s, Jethro Tull invented the seed drill, and a more effective plough, while Lord ‘Turnip’ Townshend introduced the ‘Norfolk Four-Course System’ of crop rotation (barley, clover, wheat, and, of course, turnips). Later on, both Robert Bakewell and Lord Coke of Holkham, promoted new forms of husbandry, in particular the selective breeding of livestock. Coke and Townshend were Norfolk-based: its sandy soils needed ploughing by ‘rabbits yoked to a pocket-knife’, inspiring innovative cultivators. The movement for agricultural improvement was endorsed from the top, with ‘Farmer George’ III, proud of his model Windsor and Richmond estate farms.
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