Tag : Dagan

Tradition of farmers giving names to their land at risk of dying

The tradition of farmers giving names to their land is at risk of dying out, a researcher has warned after compiling a new dictionary of English field names.Field names are first recorded during Anglo-Saxon times and were essential for everyday life before mapping was established with first ordnance survey maps in the mid 18th century.Some original names survive, others are lost or been renamed as the landscape has changed.But few field names appear today on modern maps adding to the disconnection between town and country people.Linguistics expert Dr Paul Cavill fears changing farm practices are driving out historic names for parcels of land that make up the British countryside.He said: “The demand for bigger fields which has destroyed hedgerows and stone walls has led to the disappearance of many place names that were once well-known in communities.”Dr Cavill, who has just completed a new dictionary of English field names, said: “People looking at names on maps today would not know the history of the land. Field names used to give clues to what was happening on the land, whether it was a field for crops or cattle, which birds or wild animals were  seen there, what locals used it for, as a Mayfield for May Day celebrations or a Lovers’ Lane.”He added: “Farmers today for example don’t need a headland in their field. They wouldn’t call it that today. It used to be the  space needed to turn a plough, but modern tractors don’t need it.”If the word dyke or sitch(corr sp) was in a field name people knew it would be wet or boggy so would avoid walking through it. Communities used to understand what went on on the land because of the name.”I sometimes find field names in catalogues of land sales but not many as they have become urban sprawl.  Townies like me are losing a connection with the land we live in.” The academic who teaches Old English at Nottingham Universiry is now appealing to landowners to tell him the modern names they are giving their fields and if they reflect developments in today’s countryside.His new  dictionary with 45,000 field names  is a treasure trove for enthusiasts of language and local history.But the information has largely been gleaned from tithe records of the mid 19th century and while local authorities today name streets and decide the  spelling of road signs they have no responsibility for field names.He laments: “I haven’t found many modern examples of field names. There is a Bulldozer( Great Dalby, Leicestershire) and various Machine Fields or Orchards and Pylon meadows  but nothing about recent changes to the landscape.”Are there fields out there named after mobile phone masts, wind turbines or quad bikes? I don’t even know of a field named after a post box or telephone kiosk, though there are some about signposts. I would love to hear about new field names.”His research however has unearthed some fascinating information. It seems there was a Disneyland was established in England  569 years before Walt Disney opened his first adventure theme park in California in 1955.A field in Lincolnshire was named Disney land in 1386 after the owners, the Disney family, originally from D’Isigny  in France. Dr Cavill said he had no grid reference to locate the precise field today.Ketchup Piece in West Haddon, Northamptonshire, was nothing to do with tomatoes but a former mushroom field. While it known today world wide as a distinctive red sauce for burgers and chips, English ketchup was originally made of mushrooms with the first recipe recorded in 1727 in Eliza Smith’s “The Compleat Housewife,”Other imaginative field names include Puppies Parlour,  found around the country were canoodling spots for lovers while in Barnston, Essex, a field called Please Your Honour is thought to be the place where the Lord of the Manor Arranged to meet local girls.Farmers angry with the poor quality of some fields dubbed them Purgatory, Tedious, Misery,  Shameful and Labour In Vain, while land furthest from the farmhouse were named after far-flung  places around the world such as Zululand or Bermuda or after military battles such as Crimea and Waterloo.Fashion inspired names for  funny shaped fields such as Footed Stocking and Lady Gown’s Tail while sites of public hangings refer to Gallows and Jibbets.Places with terms such as pye, major and madge refer to havens of magpies while urchin means it was a home to hedgehogs. urchin was the old English word , still existing today  for similarly spiny sea urchins,  though difficult to link with the word for a  raggedly dressed child.Land is often named after monastic communities such as Frying Croft owned by friars or Mincings Ley and Minchins  Acres from the old English name for a nun, mynchen and myncen, also a derivation of minx.Many of these names still appear on farm deeds if not on maps and while many are unknown to most people,  farmers such as Tim Breitmeyer, president the Country Landowners Association, who farms 1,450 acres in Cambridgeshire, still rely on them.”We’ve had the farm for 50 years and have not changed any of our field names,” he said. ” A lot are geographically named  such as Underwood or the Spinney,  but I have some light stony ground called Poorlands, a field called The Plum after a beautiful plum hedge and one called Ocean, though I don’t know why as it is nowhere near the sea and doesn’t flood.   “I find the names vital for our crop management schedule for example to record which fields  have been sprayed with certain chemicals I know of some farmers with fields named after former RAF stations but nothing very modern.”A New Dictionary of English Field-Names is published by the English Place-Name Society Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? 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