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Field Names in Wymeswold

Alec Moretti

Place-name study is well-established and usually this deals with names of settlements and physical features, but many of the inhabitants worked the land for their living and so had to be able to identify areas of land or fields. The names that were given to these plots derived from a variety of sources such as their location, their owner and perhaps most importantly their characteristics of shape or ease of working etc. The majority of these names come down to us in early deeds and lists and Potter's History of Wymeswold refers to a number of them starting in 1182–3 when the land granted to Beauchief Abbey was listed. Later sources are those of grants of land and lists (or terriers) of church land, Trinity College land and that belonging to the Lord of the Manor. The Enclosure Award of 1757–9 and various later assessments for tax purposes in the 19th century give many field names. Sales documents sometimes used these names, and we must assume that they were referred to by farmers in their spoken language, hence the changes in these names over time.

The word "field" can be a little confusing as we normally think of the rectangular fenced fields that derive from the enclosure movement of the 18th & 19th centuries, whereas before that date the "fields" were the large open fields worked by the community and being sub-divided into "furlongs" and "lands" etc. The names of these "open fields" in Wymeswold first occur as far as we can tell in the 15th century when "Orrow" (or Arrow) was referred to in the "Statutem de Wymundeswold" (c.1425) which laid down rules about the organisation and the cultivation of the land. During the next century "Hardacre", "Thorpe" and "West" fields were referred to in a Terrier of Church Lands of 1543. By 1716 "Burton" and "Woulds" had appeared in the list of "open fields" as used in the Survey of Lands belonging to Leeke Okeover who was the Lord of the Manor of Wymeswold. These six names were in use during the 18th century and in the Enclosure Award of 1757--9. From the details in this it has been possible to draw up a map to show their location. "Thorpe", "West" and "Burton" were clearly named according to their location, while "Hardacre" might imply land that was difficult to cultivate. "Orrow" (or more usually "Arrow") is not easily explained, though it is perhaps worth noting the occurence of "Harrow Farm" just over the parish boundary in Burton on the Wolds. "Wolds" is a term widely used to describe rolling and lightly wooded land often used for grazing, and in Wymeswold is largely the area between the Melton Road and the valley North East of the road. After the enclosure of 1757–9 these names became less important.

Turning to the names of furlongs used before the enclosure the first thing to note is that there were many of these with the Lord of the Manor's Survey in 1716 naming about 90, and Trinity College naming about 60 in their Survey of 1744. As some of these furlongs occur in both lists there were perhaps about 100 in total. The origin of these furlongs is thought to derive from the gradual clearance of the land as the population grew, and their size (about 200 yards by 20 yards) and strip shape to the method of ploughing which created the "ridge and furrow" which we may see still existing in fields which have been under grass for a long time.

The oldest names which we can understand come from the "Cartulary of Beauchief Abbey" 1182--3 and one, "Longbenelandichende", which probably became "Beneland" and "Bean Hill Furlong" is in the north-west of the parish and could have become "Bandlands". I presume that the name is linked to the crop grown there and so it is not surprising to find "Peaselands" nearby, and this was named first in the 15th century. In the same early list is Milne Hill and a quick guess might suggest that this became Mill Hill, but there is no evidence of a mill there until about 300 years later! So we need to beware of jumping to conclusions! Another crop that probably gave its name to a field is flax, with Flaxland being mentioned in 1716. This is located in Arrow Field beyond the conservation meadow. Kiln Close, at the corner of Burton Lane, was first mentioned at the same time. Brick building was becoming more common at that time and this could have been the site of the kilns for locally made bricks. Did the clay come from Clay Close which was on the opposite side of Hoton Road?

In the 13th century grant to the monks of Garendon Thorpe Hill & Syke and Smalling Syke were first mentioned in Thorpe open field, and these names continued into the mid 18th century. A syke (or sick) is a shallow valley with a small stream. Such sicks occur south of the village and are called Hither Sick and Far Sick (according to their distance from the village). They have small streams running westwards. These two names have been used in deeds from at least 1716 until the end of the 19th century and into this century. There is also Rushy Sick alongside the Willoughby Road (south side beyond the cottages). This name was in use over the same period and no doubt is descriptive of the vegetation there. Another name descriptive of ithe land and that has been used from the Terrier of Church lands in 1543 into the 20th century, is Marsh Furlong or Meadow which is the flat land by Hoton Road.

Also used over such a long period is Waydale which is the area between the village and the Melton to Willoughby road junction, where, not surprisingly, there is a field called Turnpost Close. This name first appears in use in the Trinity College schedule of their estate in 1889. In this they listed about 150 fields each with a name some of which had a long history e.g. Waterlands, Conery Close (was this where the Lord of the Manor had his rabbit warren?) and Highthorns; and some with new names e.g. Fox Covert, Twelve Acres, Carriers Field.

While it may be possible to explain these names others are recorded which need more research or imagination. What can we make of Damazines (or Damsons ) just north of the Rempstone Road, or Germany (First and Middle) near the cottages on the Willoughbby Road, and somewhere nearby is Deadmans Grave Furlong. Has Potters Ford Close at the parish boundary on the Melton Road any link with Thomas Rossal Potter who lived at The Hermitage? I doubt it because the name appears in the Enclosure Award of 1757 and Thomas Rossal Potter and family only came to Wymeswold in 1814 from West Hallam. Was Anna Leas (or Annalys) along the Burton Road named after Anna? If so ,who was she? (Leas is another name for meadows.)

It is beyond the scope of this article to explain and possibly locate all the field names collected, but I have compiled a list of the names occuring at different times in the history of Wymeswold. If anybody is interested they may consult this, and the maps that I am drawing up. Perhaps they may be able to add to it and locate more of the fields.

Originally published in WHO Newsletter 1999.

Copyright the author.

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