Fields

The term “field” was first used to distinguish areas cleared of trees from the tracts of forest found by the earliest settlers in Britain.

The great fields were divided into smaller areas, known as furlongs or shots and these were subdivided into strips or plots held by individual tenants.

Each furlong also had its own name.

Field names usually consist of two recognizable separate words.

e.g.  North Field, Mill Close

Sometimes the two words are combined e.g. Millfield.

Field names have never been constant they have changed or evolved throughout history. The Field Milloppers was at the time of the enclosure act called Mill Hoppers.

This is because names are more frequently used in speech than in writing and compared with records containing major place-names; there are fewer documents to provide sources for the field names.  Changes have also been caused by many boundary changes and rearrangements, first caused by the enclosure of open-fields and more recently, in many parts of the country by the removal of hedges.

The reason for a name was to provide a common identification for the villagers or landowner.

Field names grew out of the use of the land, name of ownership, position, adjacent feature, shape, size or distance of field. The following are examples taken from the LMPAGD Map, including their field number:-

Use of land: Ploughed Field [198], Orchard Field [88]

Name of ownership: Old Tom’s Meadow [140], Hobb’s Piece [171]

Position: Home Close [199], Near Hill [38]

Adjacent feature: Mill Field [194], Windmill [26]

Shape: Narrows [33], Long Lea [64, 65, 66]

Size: Little Tiscott [7],

Distance: First Lays [22], Second Lays [13]

Explanation of Some Other Names

Brade (Upper Brade [145]) – The field is large and wide (from old English  bradu, ‘breadth’).

The Butts [124] – generally, land that was formerly the irregularly shaped end pieces of the common piece, but may have been land used for archery or as a shooting-range.

Godspeed [182] – A return to good fortune is declared, or hoped for.

Grass Close – pasture or meadow land

Gravel [204] – land from which gravel was dug or with gravel soil

Ham (Brockett’s Ham [51]) – enclosure, land beside a river

Hob Field (Hobbling Furlong [95] Hassocky [6]) – land covered in tussocky grass (from old English hobbe)

Home Close [199] – land near centre of farm.

The Hook [34] – a spur of land, a spit of land in a river bend or a hook-spaded field

Hop Gardens [41] – land on which hops were grown (this plant was introduced in the 16th century)

Horsefield [10] – land on which horses were kept or pastured

Hovel Piece [69] – land containing a shed for implements or a framework on which a stack is built

Klondyke [208] – transferred name alluding to distant land.  Gold was discovered on the Klondike in 1896

The Knoll – land with hillocks

Leys [22] – meadows land

Mead [71] – Grassy land, meadow.

Pightle [197] – A small field or enclosure; a close or croft.

Features

Earthworks

At Barscroft, extensive earthwork remains of medieval agriculture and settlement, which collectively form the best example of a well-preserved landscape in Hertfordshire and are one of the best examples in the region. The remains of the deserted settlement of Tiscott comprise a series of well-defined enclosures which are marked by ditches or in some cases by larger sunken route ways or ‘hollow ways’.  These almost certainly mark the boundaries of the properties of ‘tofts’ which made up the rural hamlet of Tiscott.  Tiscott is a manor recorded in Doomsday Book, which suggests it dates back at least to the late Anglo-Saxon period.  The earthwork remains however, probably date between the 11th and the 13th centuries, although there are references to homesteads at Tiscott as late as the 18th century and the last building was pulled down at the beginning of the 20th century.

There is also reference to a chapel at Tiscott, which was pulled down in 1661.  The importance of the remains at Tiscott is reflected in their designation as Scheduled Ancient Monument. Other examples are at Ardwick [23] and Puttenham [155]

Ridge and Furrow (Strip farming)

Is the result of medieval strip farming where the ridge has been caused by the ploughing process and the furrow is where people would have walked. Examples can be seen at Upper Brade [145], Horse Field [10], Home Ground [20]

Black Poplar

This is nationally now a rare tree, the greatest concentration being in this area where the trees are a visual feature in our landscape.  Most of the poplars have been pollarded and were planted from cuttings or stakes many years ago. Most are found along the brooks and ditches.

Alternative leaves are longer than they are broad, with translucent margins and small regular teeth.  The stalk is flattened.  Leaves turn banana yellow in autumn.  Crimson male and green female catkins ripen on separate trees in March.  Female catkins release fluffy seeds in June. Bark is grey-brown, fissured, sometimes burred. The spreading crown forms a large dome. It reaches 100ft (30m).

Hedging

It is generally thought that the age of a hedge can be told from the plants growing in it.  For every 100 years of life, a hedge will gain one species of tree, shrub or woody climber.  Of course it should be remembered that a new hedge may be planted with more than one species.

Hedgerows are part of our British landscape.  They are an important wildlife habitat, providing food and shelter. A well managed hedge is essential to retain cattle or sheep.  Hedge laying is one of the techniques used to achieve this. 

Public Footpaths

In England and Wales a public footpath is a path on which the public have a legally protected right to travel on foot.  These routes can be hundreds of years old.

Article written by Ernestine Matthews.

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