Sunday, August 22, 2010

Field Names on the Wolverton Manor

After discussing the Pancake Hills and the Happy Morn, I thought I would look into the names of the fields  around Wolverton. As I remarked before, just as we now name streets, our predecessors named fields and local landmarks, like "Two Mile Ash" for example.
The pioneering history on this subject was undertaken by Dr. Francis Hyde, formerly a professor of Economic History at Liverpool University. He was, I believe, a Stony Stratford boy who went to the Wolverton County School at Moon Street and from there to university. He wrote a small 40 page history of Wolverton about 1939 (I am not sure of the date) and collaborated with Sir Frank Markham on a History of Stony Stratford in the 1940s. In his subsequent academic career he became an expert in the 19th century shipping trade to the Far East.
The Wolverton Manor was cleared by the ruling de Longueville family in the 17th century. It was one of the earliest land clearances and thus there are no legal records. In fact the predatory Longuevilles appropriated most of the land illegally. I'll return to this subject in another post.  After The Radcliffe Trust took over in 1713 the manor came under more responsible management and a map of all the fields was drawn up in 1742. Many of these field names date from Saxon times.
Some of these names have been preserved in the names of housing developments, first by Wolverton UDC and latterly by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation. Stacey Avenue, built in the 1930s, took its name from Stacey Farm, which had previously taken its name from the field called Stacey Bushes. In the 1940s, the post war construction of Furze Way, was named after the fields known as Hodge Furze. More recently, the 1960s development of Fuller's Slade, took its name from one of the fields in that area, and the subsequent development of Greenleys assumed the name of the fields over which it has been built.
The names of these fields tell us that this higher land was probably not the most fertile on the manor. "Stacey" comes from the Old English word stocc, meaning stock or stump. So Stacey Bushes would have meant stumpy bushes - land which had been partially cleared of woodland but leaving a lot of stumps in the ground and some growth of bushes, and presumably mainly used as grazing pasture. Those of us who remember the Moon Street school in its earlier years will recollect how rough and undulating some of the playing fields were, as was the field rising up to Stacey Farm.
Furze is a common name given to spiny evergreen shrubs which still grow abundantly today on waste land. One can therefore infer that Hodge Furze, presumably named after a man named Hodge, was more or less waste ground. Much of Hodge Furze was built up in the first half of the twentieth century, while parts were converted to allotments - so there must have been some fertility in the land.
Greenleys covers a number of fields with slight variations in name - Great Greenleys, Greenleys, Greenleys Ten Acres, Little Grindley and Front Grindley (bordering on the Watling street). This was green meadow land - pastures.
A slade (OE slaed) is a patch of green land, sometimes in a valley, but probably in this case between wooded area. The name possibly comes from the man who owned it - Fowler, perhaps.
I have taken a 1930s map and drawn over the field boundaries in yellow. With the exception of the development of Wolverton and parts of Stony Stratford, the field boundaries were virtually unchanged from the 18th century. Many of these fields have now gone with the last half-century's development. Only the northern part of the manor retains some of its fields, and even now these are quickly disappearing.
Francis Hyde describes a large area of waste land, starting at the marshy West Moor by the Stony Stratford Bridge, working along the Watling Street and encircling Warren Farm and taking in most of the southern part of the Manor beyond Green Lane, including Stacey Farm. Brook Fields, to the east, where the remains of Bancroft Villa are to be found, was fertile. All of this land was probably common grazing land or was wooded in medieval times. The three great open fields, farmed communally in the Medieval system, were in the north, mostly beyond the present Stratford Road.
I will show larger versions of sections of the map in subsequent posts and describe them in more detail.

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