Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Open Fields

Medieval Farming was based upon large open fields which were communally farmed. The lord controlled rights of access to the land, usually in return for payment of a portion of produce, or services, or money, or sometimes a combination of all three. From the labourers point of view these rights were customary and could be passed from father to son and so on. Typically 30 acres was held to be sufficient to support a family. The local picture was often more complicated than this, but as a general description this is how the manor worked. The large fields were divided into strips and crops were rotated each year. I think there was originally a two field system, but in time this gave way to a three field system, so that a field could be left fallow one year in every three.
Francis Hyde explains that one of the fields extended from Stony Stratford to the mill drive and was bordered to the south by the Wolverton Road. Thus all the fields named Rylands - a good giveaway to the arable properties of the soil - were in this field.

The second field was to the south of the Wolverton Road, starting at the corner turn and encompassing Barr Piece and Barr Close, Marron Fields, Dean's Close,  Roger's Holm and Lower Slade.  This, as you can see from the overlay, is mostly covered by the Railway Works, McCorquodale's and the 19th century town.
Barr (OE baere) means barley and plainly takes its name from what was grown there. It is likely that the name Atterbury, often found in Wolverton and area, can trace its origin from this or a similar named field in the area. When surnames originated in the 14th century people were quite as likely to take thier name from the place where they lived. Thus John atte Barre (John at the Barley Field) became in time, Atterbury.
I am not certain of the origin of Marron, but it may possibly come from the Old English maere, meaning great


The third field included Colt's Holm, Linces, Upper Hey, Kent's Hook and Debb's Hook and the Severidge. Great Dickens (great diggings) was probably part of the lord's demesne. Linces, from linchets meaning ledges of ploughed earth gives us a clue as to how this land was traditionally used. Kent's Hook and Debb's Hook, meaning Kent's and Debb's corner respectively are also ancient Saxon names.

Nash Meadow, beside the river, was always pasture land.

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