Blanche Parry

Field-Names are Archaeological Indicators of past use

Every piece of land that has been used anywhere in the world is likely to have, or had, a name. This allows it to be easily identified, which is useful for locating a particular field, recording its crop, noting its best use, and noting any working difficulties it might present. Such information can also be passed down the generations to future farmers.

Fields are named for practical reasons and so reflect something distinctive about a particular field. Soil suiting a certain crop could be recorded in the field-name, e.g: Wheat field. However, a Stoney field would have a lower yield and could even break the plough, which was an expense farmers would want to avoid. Farming was always at the mercy of the weather so any additional information about a field’s potential was welcomed. It could make the difference between life and death as a failed crop often meant starvation.

Use caution in interpreting field-names: the original field might have been much larger and, when subdivided, the field-name remained attached to the ’wrong’ portion. So examine the field-names surrounding the field in which you are interested. The field-name might have been changed. The ’new’ name may show when this happened – no field could be called America before Europeans had reached it. Try to find the earliest field-name for the field you are investigating. What may look like similar field-names may originally have had different meanings. So use caution. Visit the field. Look for more information in other records. Field-names are clues to past use. They are a message to us from the past.

There is further information in Ruth's papers which can be accessed here:

Click on each one to go directly to the pages - if you have any comments please do contact Ruth.