The Statute of Merton or Provisions of Merton (Latin: Provisiones de Merton, or Stat. Merton), sometimes also known as the Ancient Statute of Merton, is considered to be the first English statute, and is printed as the first statute in The Statutes of the Realm.
The statute's terms were agreed at Merton between Henry III and the barons of England in the 20th year of Henry's reign (1235). It was another instance, along with the Magna Carta twenty years previously, of the struggle between the barons and the king to limit the latter's rights.
Amongst its provisions, the statute allowed a Lord of the Manor to enclose common land (provided that sufficient pasture remained for his tenants), and set out when and how manorial lords could assert rights over waste land, woods, and pastures against their tenants. It quickly became a basis for English common law, developing and clarifying legal concepts of ownership,and was one of the English statutes carried over into the law of the Lordship of Ireland.It is strange to think of the mighty oaks (common law and Parliament quite possibly) that have grown over nearly 800 years from a promulgation that almost certainly took place in the the exact (currently modest) spot where I enjoyed a goblet of wine with my lunch yesterday.