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The Enclosure of Barrowby in 1762

Enclosure in England

In England the enclosure of open fields commenced in the twelfth century but did not gain pace until 1450–1640. At this stage the intention was usually to increase the amount of permanent pasture.

From 1604 onwards enclosure by Act of Parliament was introduced, although less formal agreemented continued too. By the 1750s the Parliamentary System had become the most common method.

During the seventeenth century the aims shifted from increasing grazing to increasing arable. In particular to overcome the problem of arable fields becoming infertile. Artificial fertlisers, although invented in 1842 and 're-invented' in 1903, have only been used extensively from the late 1940s. Prior to that the supply of natural fertilisers rarely proved sufficient. Open fields could easily become exhausted, especially if rotations were imposed in an inflexible fashion.

The change from several open fields to multiple smaller 'closes' benefited the bigger farmers. But deprived the poorer residents of the village of long-standing rights to graze cattle on the fallow field.

Whatever the details this would have been the most radical change to the farming practices in the parish for about a thousand years. While some of the Enclosure hedges were removed in the 1960s to 1990s the current arrangement of fields owes more to events in 1762 than anything that went before.

Enclosure in Barrowby

There is an example of a field becoming infertile recorded for Barrowby as, in 1697, land in Cawklands (sorry, seemingly no record of where this was) was found to be so 'sour' from over-ploughing that it was to be rested under grass. To compensate one-third of Barrowby Moor was enclosed each year to make up the deficit of arable land. 'This was probably not intended to be a permanent arrangement, but was the sort of informal agreement which ultimately led to the abandonment of communal rights and controls' (Kain et al 2004 p4–5)

So far as I am aware there has been no detailed work on the Enclosure Award for Barrowby.

John Smith and John Manterfield list the relevant documents in Lincolnshire Archives (Smith and Manterfield 1973 p31–2) but – understandably as the scope of their report extends only to about 1500 – do not provide a summary. L.R. Cryer omits any reference to the Enclosure of Barrowby (Cryer 1979).

If you are able to provide any additional information about the Enclosure of Barrowby parish (or are interested in doing some research) then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.


The Green a.k.a. Stevens Gutter

To compensate – at least in a small way – for the loss of grazing rights communal 'greens' were created. There is now a village green at the intersection of Casthorpe Road, Main Street and Low Road. The road sign conveniently gives the by-name of 'Stevens Gutter'.

My initial guess is that this is a communal green created as part of the Enclosure Award of 1762, although this needs confirmation.

Before 1940 there was a retaining wall around it about four feet high enabling cattle to be grazed there (Cryer 1979 p71). The cattle were owned by the butchers – still in business as Skinners but named by Cryer as Griffin (with the inference that Griffin was the butcher around 1940 when the wall was demolished).

I assume (but have no evidence) that the wall was removed to allow the land to be used for additional allotments during the Second World War. The location would be convenient to most people in the village at the time. If it had remained as common land then it could readily be 'repurposed'. Presumbaly it was 'reinstated' as a playing field some time after the rationing of foodstuffs ended in July 1954.

When green doesn't mean green

Just for those who don't already know, when used in phases such as 'village green' and 'green lane' the the word 'green' has nothing to do with colour! Since the late fifteenth century in these contexts 'green' has the specific sense of 'grassland belonging to the community'. To use a different phrase it was 'common grazing' – grazing available (subject to all sorts of constraints to avoid over-grazing) to the 'commoners' of a village i.e. residents who held grazing rights 'in common' (i.e. shared).

Why 'Stevens Gutter'?

Firstly, this name is shown on older maps as 'Steven Gutter' and only more recently as 'Stevens Gutter' or 'Steven's Gutter'. A photograph published as recently as 1979 is captioned 'Steven Gutter' (Cryer 1979 p33).

The gutter part of the name is quite simple – it was a drain to take away surface water. Before the green was levelled to make it suitable as a playing field there was a dip across it.

The word 'gutter' originates in the late thirteenth century to refer to a 'watercourse, water drainage channel along the side of a street. It derives from Anglo-French gotere, Old French guitere, goutiere, all meaning a 'spout' of water (cf. Modern French gouttière). The use of 'gutter' to refer to a 'trough under the eaves of a roof to carry off rainwater' is from the mid-fourteenth century. From the 1580s 'gutter' acquires the secondary meaning of a 'furrow made by running water'. Source

Given the known use of the land by Mr Griffin, the butcher around 1940, then maybe Stevens was the surname of an otherwise-unrecorded tenant of the land, maybe the butcher occupying a precursor to Skinner's premises. But these are big 'maybe's as the early records say 'Steven' not 'Stevens'.


    L.R. Cryer, in his 1979 booklet, names nearly seven hundred people. Among them was a Michael Stevens listed as a publican in 1698. He did not remain in the trade, at least not in Barrowby. A Mary Stevens is named in 1842 and she – or her family – could possibly have owned (or rented?) land. But the possibility of Steven Gutter being derived from this family (who called themselves Stevens not Steven) seems rather remote.


So does 'Steven Gutter' share the etymology of 'Kesteven', the administrative district? Just possibly. Early spellings include Chetsteven (1086) and Ketstevene (1185). The first part is the 'Celtic' word ceto meaning 'wood' (and evolves into the modern Welsh word coed). The second is said to be from the Scandinavian word stefna meaning 'meeting'. (Cameron 1998 p72) There's plenty of other Anglo-Saxon meeting places at woods – the nearest example is Framland Hundred (the precursor to Melton Borough Council) which historically met at Great Framlands Wood.

Could there have been meetings at Steven Gutter? Well the Domesday Book entries make it clear that a considerable number of other settlements were administered from Barrowby so indeed there would have been plenty of meetings which, until around the thirteenth century, would have taken place outdoors. The location of Steven Gutter is entirely plausible for such get-togethers. But 'meeting-place gutter' does seem a little improbable as 'gutter' only begins to be used after the meetings were likely to have been in decline.

There is however another option which fits 'Steven' better – the Old English word stive (various spellings). This means 'tree stump place'. The 'n' is the Scandinavian dialect plural (as in 'ox' and 'oxen' or 'child' and 'children'). The 'i' would have been pronounced as in modern German, that is rather like a short 'e' (as in, for example 'oxen'). So phonetically 'stev‑en' rather than 'steev‑an'.

So 'stiven gutter' is a plausible etymology, describing a drainage channel associated with lots of tree stumps (which might have been coppiced to provide winter fodder for livestock). As no early forms of the name exist this can only remain speculation. The corruption from 'Steven Gutter' to 'Stevens Gutter' would follow quite naturally. But spelling it as 'Steven's Gutter' is wrong whether the origin is with a personal name or from stiven!


If you think I've got something wrong – or can add additional information or photographs – then please email me:– bobtrubs@indigogroup.co.uk.


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