Commons, greens and heaths

Brill Common, showing much pitting from clay-workingsCommons, greens and heaths are open land traditionally used for rough grazing, collecting fuel and for certain industries. Buckinghamshire commons vary in shape, from ribbon like along a road such as the Nap Hill Common, to vast areas of common land (much of it lost) at Iver and Stoke. In many places settlements coalesced on and around commons during the medieval and post-medieval periods in a process similar to “assarting” of woodland.  Manorial lords regulated rights on commons, which were an important part of the medieval economy, particularly in the Chilterns. Many greens and heaths lie on infertile soils such as Reading Beds and plateau gravels. The distribution of commons and greens is quite pronounced with most found in the Chilterns in contrast to a dearth of the type in the Vale of Aylesbury and north Buckinghamshire.


Commons, greens and heaths were probably most extensive in pre-medieval times but only coalesced into the documented form in the medieval period. Their earliest county-wide mapping by Thomas Jefferys shows their extent just prior to the major phase of parliamentary enclosure.


Commons and heaths are archaeologically as well as historically sensitive places. They often became foci for historic settlement and were frequently exploited by the clay industries for quarrying, fuel and manufacture. Notable examples of this are at Brill and Cadmore End commons. The lack of cultivation means that archaeological remains are often well preserved.