An act of Parliament passed in 1836 placed the management of the common pasture surrounding the town of Beverley, namely Westwood, Swinemoor and Figham, in the body of 12 pasture masters elected annually from among the pasture freemen.
The pasture masters elections are held on 1st March each year, unless it falls on a Sunday when the election will take place on the Monday, at the Guildhall, Beverley and, on behalf of the Chairman of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, is presided over by the Town Mayor of Beverley. The election may be terminated by the Town Mayor if a period exceeding 20 minutes elapses between votes. Two auditors are also elected from among the pasture freemen.
Each year, the elected pasture masters assess the grazing possibilities of each pasture and allocate the number of livestock allowed on each. The allocation is known as 'gaits', a cow and a horse being one gait each with three sheep to one gait.
The pasture masters advertise in the press the availability of gaits and allocate on the replies received. The pasture freemen or their widows receive priority when the pasture masters are allocating gaits with the remaining gaits let to whoever applies. Stocking the pastures is usually from mid-April to mid-December each year.
If there is a surplus of revenue over the expenditure at the year-end, a part is retained for emergencies and the remainder is distributed in October to non-stocking freemen or their widows.
When a pasture freeman dies, their widow is entitled to have their name entered on the widows’ roll. They are entitled to stock the pastures in the same way as a pasture freeman, but they are not eligible to vote in the election of pasture masters.