Holt Lowes is a relict of the once very extensive tract of heathland that was found in North Norfolk between Cromer and Holt, extending south all the way to Norwich (see Faden’s Map of Norfolk, first printed in 1797). These heaths had been formed on the deposits of sands and gravels that had been dumped by the retreating glaciers of various Ice Ages. But the heathlands themselves were not the natural vegetation of the area, rather they were the result of man’s activities since the Bronze Age, and had been formed and maintained by grazing, burning and periodic cultivation.

In the 19th and 20th centuries improving agricultural techniques have allowed much of the once-extensive heathland to be ploughed-up and reclaimed for agriculture. Much of the remainder has been planted with coniferous trees. The small areas that remain are mostly commons or ‘poors’ allotments, in which the very worst (in terms of their potential for agriculture) areas of heathland were set aside in the period of parliamentary enclosures for the poor of the parish. Thus Holt Lowes is a ‘Poors’ Allotment’ of 49.3 hectares set aside by the Holt and Letheringsett Enclosure Act in 1807. It was described in the Act as an allotment for houses of the parish not exceeding £10 per annum (i.e. annual rent), and was to be used by the owners and occupiers of such ancient houses for supplying each of them with common pasture for one head of ‘neat’ (cattle), or for one gelding or mare, and for taking flag, ling, brakes and furze for domestic firing. These activities were to be subject to the control of the trustees, namely the Rector, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor. In 1807 there were around 140 qualifying ‘poor’ in the parish of Holt.



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