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The field names of Hoton

Rachel and Ian Flynn

How the fields developed

The Domesday Survey shows a small settlement already established at Hoton with at least four families working the land. A typical Midland medieval open field strip system evolved, with three communal fields surrounding the village and rough common grazing land on the northern and southern boundaries of the parish. Later documents variously identify the three open fields as The Overfield, Long Sick Field and Well Field or the Upper, Lower and Middle Fields (see map 1). The Long Sick Field took its name from a stream (now a drainage ditch) running down its length. The Well Field contained a communal well, while the Overfield was on the more elevated land to the east of the village. Different parts of each field bore their own names, such as Longside (or Lingside) Furlong, Long Furlongs and Fox Furlong in Longsick Field, Moonshine Furlong overlapping from Longsick Field into the Well Field and Church Furlong in the Overfield, all names which were preserved in the post-enclosure field system. Other names such as Crab Hedge Furlong (denoting crab apples) and Tafts Furlong did not survive enclosure.

During the 15th and 16th centuries open land began to be enclosed as sheep pasture, providing landowners with greater profits. This could, and did, cause conflict between landlord and tenant. In the earliest reference we have found to such enclosed land in Hoton, Farnham describes how in 1448 Richard and Isabel Neell took action against William Haynton for ploughing up the grass in their close in Hoton 'so that they lost the profits of their soil for a long time'. While the greater part of the parish remained open until 1760, a number of enclosed fields had been created by that date. These included Sockets Close, Town End Close (at the west end of the village), Newton's Closes, Davy Wong and Red Wong among others. The name Wong could refer to enclosed land among open field strips. Each farm also had some enclosures immediately adjoining the farmstead, giving rise to names such as Home Close and Croft.

The agricultural improvements of the 18th century brought further pressure for enclosure so that land holdings could be consolidated and new farming methods fully utilised. Charles James Packe of Prestwold Hall was instrumental in getting the Hoton Enclosure Act passed in 1760 and the land was reallocated in substantial blocks. A system of small fields enclosed by hedges was soon established and this stayed fairly intact until the second world war. Soon after enclosure, two outlying farms were established at Hoton Hills and these acquired their own homesteads. Between 1870 and 1890 a few of the arable fields were combined, almost certainly as a result of mechanisation. An agricultural steam cultivation business had become established in Rempstone and the smaller fields would have been ill-suited to large 'traction' engines. When the war came many of the old fields were swept away to be replaced by an airfield and then more recently a large number of the remaining field boundaries were removed by the Prestwold Estate in the interests of greater efficiency.

In some ways the present field system represents a return to the old open fields shown on map 1. Map 2 shows the fields as they were at their most diverse during the 19th century, with names taken partly from an estate survey of 1825 and partly from later sale documents. Some fields kept their name for centuries, others changed name, often through change of use. Thus part of Brook Leys was known as Turnip Close in 1805 and the names Brickyard Close and Kiln Close only appeared part way through the nineteenth century.

The field names

click here for map of field names

Some field names were simply based on shape, thus Square Close, Round Close (not shown on the map, but in existence next to Town End Close before 1760), Three Cornered Close, the less obvious Pike Close (another triangular piece) and, probably, Hook Close. Plank Wong refers to a narrow grass enclosure. Size and position provided other names such as West Close or Seven Acre; Cow, Ewe and Calf closes are obvious references to animals which grazed them. Other names refer to crops, including Lucerne Close (a fodder crop introduced to Britain in the late 14th century), and vegetation. The Gorse Closes and Lings Closes, enclosed from the old common land, come into the latter category. Sandsick and Sandholes indicate soil type, while Red Wong might be a reference to red soil but more probably refers to reeds. Small Thorns Close refers to slender trees or perhaps scrub.

Various topographical features found their way into field names. Thus the meadow land alongside Wymeswold Brook gave Brook Leys and the long ridge running towards Stanford probably gave us the name Riggetts. The less pronounced ridge overlooking Rempstone Brook was known before 1760 as Stourpits Riggett. The Barn Closes and Hovel Close took their names from outlying farm buildings. The name Turnpike Close reminds us that the A60 road from Cotes Bridge to Nottingham was once a Turnpike Road and Well Green was recorded at the 1760 enclosure as a public watering place for cattle. On the subject of water, Spring Close and Swampy Close are self-explanatory and the nearby Water Furrows would be badly-drained land where water stood in the furrows after rain.

A number of names were linked to local rural industries. The Limekiln Closes alongside the Rempstone road were advertised for sale in 1828 'with a valuable bed of limestone' and the old lime quarry at the top of the hill is now designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The name Mill Close marks both the windmill that stood alongside the Rempstone road and an earlier mill that stood just inside Prestwold parish on what is now the airfield. This mill may have been horse powered; a horse-powered mill was recorded in Prestwold in 1558. Other field names mark the location of brick kilns and stone pits and Salter's Close may have been associated in some way with the trade in salt.

Several fields were named after former owners. Pratt's Close took its name from a 16th century farmer and a field worked in the following century by Thomas Bartram became known as Bartram's Close. The Newton Closes also took their name from a family that farmed in the area in the 17th century. Davy Wong was named after another farming family, the name Davy appearing in the 17th century parish registers. Churchman's Gorse took its name from Thomas Churchman who was allocated the close in 1760. Other 1760 owners whose names are commemorated include Thomas Jones of what is now called Holt's Farm, and the Lacey family of Hoton House and later of Peartree Farm and The Hollies. Sampson Blackshaw bought Hoton House from the Laceys in the 1780s, together with land along Wymeswold Lane which later carried his name. Angrave's Close, known in 1690 as Thorny Close, took its name from a family closely associated with the rise of Methodism in the area and Spencer's Longside Meadow and Close were fields which the wheelwright William Spencer rented in the early 19th century from the Prestwold Estate The various Fox names are more problematical. Fox Croft on the western edge of the parish was actually part of Cotes parish when Hoton was enclosed and may take its name from a Fox who was farming in Cotes at the time. The other 'Fox' fields may well be named after animals that frequented them.

Some of the remaining names, such as Spitfire Close, are enigmatic. Moonshine Close might have produced disappointing crops or might have been associated with illicit activities, such as poaching or the illegal distilling of spirits. It was certainly in a quiet spot, fairly close to the village but unlikely to be overlooked. The adjoining False Acre is a bit of a mystery as is the extensive area in the west of the parish known as Burletts or Bunletts; any suggestions gratefully received!


English Field Names – a Dictionary by John Field, David and Charles, 1972.
'Prestwold and its Hamlets in Medieval Times' by George Farnham, L.A.HS. Transactions Vol. 17.
Hoton Enclosure Award 1760.
Various Prestwold estate surveys and 18th & 19th century sale particulars.
Hoton and Prestwold Parish Registers.

Originally published in Wolds Reflections 1997

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