VILLAGERS who launched an e-petition against plans to erect a fence across an Eden common were amazed to discover they were following in the footsteps of their 18th century forefathers.

Householders at Fell End, near Ravenstonedale, lodged an e-petition with the Secretary of State for the Environment against a proposal by Natural England to erect a fence on Greenriggs Common.

Since the launch of the e-petition, the existence of an historic petition, which is not dated but considered to be around 1770, has come to light.

The parchment is addressed to the House of Lords and signed by 91 landowners from the Parish of Ravenstonedale against a proposal to enclose common land.

Local campaigner Libby Bateman said: “I was explaining the process of an e-petition to a friend who is in her 90s when she offered a casual comment about a petition in the 1700s.

“I thought it worth investigating. I asked at the local history society but nobody knew anything about it. I then asked a friend who has an interest in local history and she offered to do some research.

“She then came back with two document reference numbers at Kendal Archive office.

“The best I hoped for was to find some reference to the petition, so you can imagine my delight when I visited the archives office and found the actual document, written on parchment.

“This is a really important find for our campaign, as it was the power of the people that prevented the common from being enclosed 240 years ago, which is why Ravenstonedale Common was never enclosed; something that is celebrated today as it makes our area so enjoyable for recreational activities and attracts visitors to the area.

“We have a duty to continue the wishes of our forefathers and protect the openness of our common land for generations to come.”

Local historian Ann Sandell said: “I was delighted to be able to help. It must have been quite something for the commoners of the past to go up against the landowners and prevent enclosure. We certainly all need to stand up for what we believe to be right.”

Photographs of the petition have been submitted to the local archives held by Ravenstonedale History Society at the High Chapel Heritage Centre.