Field names are often very ancient: they range from Saxon times to the 20th century. They are interesting in themselves;they also often give clues to land use and to land owners. Many of our local names may be found in other parts but some of them do not appear in books of reference on field names: these latter are a challenge to local historians, who know that names were given for a reason and once meant something.
Field names come from a variety of documents. Estate maps are a fertile source; so are enclosure awards and deeds of conveyance. Sometimes Quarter Sessions records and manor rolls name particular fields (The term 'field' is here taken to include the open fields and the closes into which the open fields were eventually divided) Names used by today's farmers are often modern inventions but they are sometimes very ancient, although over the years they may have changed their spelling or their pronunciation. It is worthwhile discovering what today's usage is. The trick is never to accept a name at face value.
(In the instances below we point out where local pronunciation has twisted the original meaning. Also, drawers of maps and clerks in lawyers' offices sometimes misunderstood or mis-spelled field names in the same way that they mis-spelled personal names
Manor of Alcester
NEW INN PIECE on the parish boundary on the Ridgeway suggests, if it does not prove, that a lost public house stood here or nearby.
BRICK KILN PIECE at King's Coughton is undoubtedly the site of a brick kiln, though no remains are visible now.
FLOTHERS, also at King's Coughton, derives from a Saxon word meaning 'a boggy place'; indeed, the area along the road to Studley received more than its fair share of water from the Ridgeway and the flooding of the Arrow.
Manor of Spernall
We would perhaps never have known the position of the parish pound had it not left a clue in a field called PINFOLD. Spernall,too, has a BRICKELL CLOSE and little imagination is needed to see how 'Brick Kiln' was pronounced locally.
Parish of Haselor
WHISSON and WHISTON are names deriving from Whitsun, probably the time when land changed ownership or tenancy.
STOCKINGWELL is another field name deriving from Old English (Saxon), indicating a close of tree stumps, where a local wood was destroyed for more farming ground; it helps to plot the original extent of woodland in the parish.
FLAX HIDE indicates what is becoming more and more obvious, that flax was a common crop in our area in the Middle Ages; and
WALK GROUND in the same area was a close where the fulling of cloth took place.
ROSEHALL in Oversley was once Rosall, which in its turn was Rouse Hill: Rouse was the name of an earlier occupier in the manor. Lazy speech has not been an Oversley prerogative -- it is a national characteristic. BLOODY POOL GROUND, also in Oversley,leaves our imagination to go to work: a Civil War skirmish?
Many field names are obvious descriptions of size ( 'Ten Acres' of use ('Barn Ground'), of condition ('Little Gains') or of ownership ('Collins Piece'). They all point to periods in the past and help to paint a picture of a parish's history. Some names seem to have little meaning - until one comes across an earlier form of the word and it becomes obvious how it has altered and from whence it came.
Some field names are very old indeed and one has to have recourse to an Anglo-Saxon dictionary to understand how long they have been in use. Our area is rich in interesting names, many of Saxon origin and many having changed over the centuries. Some tell us about things which have disappeared, with only their names remaining.
Here are some local examples of the statements above. Manor of Oversley Modern maps have named an area as DUNLOP HILL or DIRLIP HILL. Older deeds and maps, however, called it DEERLEAP HILL and this fits well with the mediaeval hunting park at Oversley, which allowed deer into the park but not out. The name also helps to define the boundary of the Oversley Park. Oversley also provides a field called BETLEY HILL, which looks like a proper name; and it is indeed, going back nearly to the Conquest, when the Boteler family were lords of the manor and built their castle (probably wooden) at Oversley. The modern name marks the spot so to speak
Winter 1992 Index
© G.E. Saville 1992