Discovering Field Names

FIELD NAMES

 This paper describes the prominent places that we pass on our walk and we hope that it will enhance your time with us.

St. Peter’s Church – The earliest dateable features in the church are c.1200 and it was built in a prominent position so that it could be clearly seen from many parts of the parish. The tower of the church is built entirely of timber; only a handful of similar ones exist. It has been dendro-dated to 1525, and the church was re-roofed at much the same date. A detailed guide is available in the church. The church is blessed with wonderful wood-carvings and Jane Lilley has written an illustrated book describing the carvings and the carvers. Being in the heart of the Weald, wood was a vital commodity, and it is natural that this fact should be commemorated throughout the church.

The fence around the churchyard was traditionally maintained by the farmers, each farm having its own designated section to keep in good repair. So that there could be no argument about where each section began and ended, each was a separate fence, with a post at each end, so that the divisions were marked by ‘double’ posts where two fence posts were set together.

Church Cottages – These cottages replaced an old former farmhouse called Clerks. They were built in about 1862, and were called Clerks Cottages for many years. Clerks was a fine house in the 1600s, when it was owned by George Booth, but by the 1850s it was occupied by four families and in a very poor state. This picture was drawn in the first half of the nineteenth century and the Six Bells and the village stocks can be seen.

 Clerk's House - by Hassell c.1823

Medlar Court – The former Rectory, now apartments, was probably built in 1877, at the same time as the church was heavily renovated. It replaced an ‘almost ruinous’ Tudor rectory which had been extended in the early 1600s by the Rev. George Steere, who founded the school.

Postmark 1906

Dean House Farm – This fascinating building is one of only two houses in the parish to be ‘jettied’. This is mostly an urban style designed to look showy and maximise the interior space on a very restricted plot of land.

Dean House Farm - 6

 

George Horley Place – This building stands on the site of the original school, which was built and endowed in about 1660 by the rector George Steere, on a corner of the land belonging to Clerks Farm, which he owned. The school was rebuilt in 1838 and again in 1873. In 1964 the school moved to its present site on Village Street, and the road, which until then had been called School Lane as often as Church Lane, became Old School Lane for a time and then just Church Lane. The old school building was demolished and George Horley Place built in 1967-1969, to provide flats for the elderly.

It was named after George Horley, who lived in the village all his life. He was the local postman for many years and also held almost every parish office, including those of churchwarden and chairman of the parish council; he died in 1974.

 

Newdigate School and Dean House Farm Cottages - the little girl is Vi Buckman (later Higgs)

School Pond – The Cartwash Pond may have been used to wash carts, but its primary purpose was to soak the wooden wheels of farm carts and wagons in hot weather. Wheels were expensive, constructed from many carefully-shaped wooden parts which were jointed together and held rigid by an iron tyre. If the wood dried out too much, it shrank and the iron tyre fell off, allowing the wheel to come apart. So unless there was a handy river, every farm had a cart pond. This pond has a chalk bottom, to give a firm surface, and is flat-bottomed with a slope at each end. Carts were driven in at one end, stood for a while in the middle while the horse had a long drink and relaxed after a hard day’s work, and then were driven out at the other end. This pond is unusually long, and probably served both Dean House Farm opposite and Horsieland Farm further down Church Lane, and perhaps also Clerks Farm opposite the church.

School Lane - 3

 

Each field with local name, not marked on maps, How come by, how begotten; Long since forgotten …….

 Taken from ‘The Land’ by Vita Sackville-West

The field names which were given in about 1840 are shown on the maps at the top. Many of the smaller fields have now been combined into larger ones. For the first half of the walk we also have the field names from 1907, and some of these differ interestingly.

Swampet Field i.e. a very wet field had been modified to the much nicer-sounding Swanpit Field by 1907.

Fox Causeway Field, of which there are two adjacent, probably had a ridge of higher ground running across them which was regularly used by the local foxes as a dry route.

Little and Great Railey Fields may have been fenced with posts and rails, instead of being surrounded by the usual hedge. Alternatively, they may have been the field from which timber was cut on some occasion when Horsielands Farm, to which they belonged, had to replace the 11½ feet of the post-and-rail fence around the churchyard for which it was responsible.

Dencher Field had become Denshire Field by 1907. ‘Denchering’ or ‘Devonshiring’ was done to bring pasture under the plough, and involved the cutting the turf and burning it, the burnt clay being ploughed back into the soil to improve it.

Kimbers Mead is a very old name, although by 1907 it had been modified to Timbersmead, probably because the handwriting on an old document was misread. The name can be traced back to a charter from before 1377, when it was part of the land granted by Henry Kymer to William Newdigate. The meadow retained the name of Kymer, which changed slowly to Kymbers Mead, then Kimbers Mead and finally Timbermead.

There are several Church Fields in the parish; could you glimpse the church from each of them?

The stream is part of the Beam Brook, which forms the moat around Cudworth Farm and eventually flows into the river Mole. ‘Beam’ was Anglo-Saxon for a tree, so the name goes back to the earliest settlement of the parish.

Green Lane was the old road from Newdigate Place (now Home Farm) to the church and village, and part of one of the ancient north-south tracks along which the Weald was originally settled. As it was a local lane, not a through road, it was not surfaced in the 1820s, remaining an earth track, and was little used after a new road was made from Home Farm to the Rusper Road and gave an alternative access to the village.

The lakes were created in the later twentieth century by damming the stream. The area was always very wet; ‘The Lags’ describes an area of wet meadow along a stream, and the field name Great Island probably refer to slightly higher areas which were above flood level. Under one of the lakes is the site of a former farmhouse which was known as The Old House when it was abandoned in about 1840. Its farm lay south of Beam Brook and was called Beam Land; it was amalgamated into Horsieland Farm at an early date.

South of the lakes, Putney Field and the ‘Sitchey’ field names probably also recall the names of men who once owned or rented the fields. If the name was an unusual one in the parish, it might stick for a long time after the man himself was long forgotten. The names of many of the farms are also those of former farmers.

Home Farm – This timber-framed house was the original Newdigate Place manor house. The oldest part has been dendro-dated to about 1351, and was undoubtedly not the first house built on the site. It was the home of the Newdegate family from the early days of the parish; the family reportedly lived here from the time of King Henry I (1100-1135) until they sold their estate to John Budgen in 1636. He pulled down a large part of the old house. Later the farmhouse was divided into three dwellings and occupied mainly by families of farm labourers, but it remained Newdigate Place until a new Newdigate Place was built in the 1880s, replacing Ockleys Farm. In 1807 Newdigate Place was bought by the Duke of Norfolk and became part of his very extensive landholdings in the area.  Some time after 1840 his steward or bailiff was responsible for the building of a road from the farm to the Rusper Road, giving an alternative access to the village, and this was probably referred to locally as The Duke’s Road or The Duke’s Drive. The estate was sold in 1873 and again in 1886, the second time to George Herron. In 1897 he built a third Newdigate Place close to the Back Road (Partridge Lane), and extended the Duke’s road to the Back Road, so that he had access in both directions. The new road was his carriage drive, and was generally referred to as Dukes Drive. Unfortunately a rare use of ‘Dukes Road’ in print resulted in the council concluding that this was the oldest recorded form and so should be the official name.

Home Farm 001

Flax Platt is a name which occurs several times in the parish in the 1840 tithe apportionment survey, and indicates that it was the field in which the rather unusual crop of flax had been grown. The tall flowering stems of flax provided long, fine fibres which could be spun into linen thread.

Marl Pit field names also occur several times. ‘Marl’ was soil with a high lime content, which here probably meant that the clay contained a thin bed of limestone which broke  up readily. Farmers learnt that spreading marl on the land made it ‘lighter’ and easier to work, so they dug it where they could find it. The large pond is probably the old marl pit, long since flooded.

Stoney Furrow is another indicator of what the soil was like here. Although there is now little stone in the parish, the clay contains thin beds of both sandstone and limestone. These were always valuable to pave floors (although for good quality paving you had to import great slabs of Horsham Stone at huge expense) and to firm-up poached gateways, but they were intensively worked in the 1820s to provide stone to surface the roads. Any stone which could be found was removed at that time, so there is now very little on the surface, although deep excavations such as those at the former brickpits show that they remain at depth.

Beechen Field is one of a number of field names referring to a distinctive tree; we passed Apple Tree Field earlier. Beeches grow well on the clay, but only if planted; they do not seem to seed successfully. This meant that any beech tree had been put there deliberately, and so they were often used as boundary markers. There are the remains of beech hedges in several parts of the parish growing on the banks which formed the boundaries of estates. This beech may have marked the corner of the land belonging to Ockleys Farm.

Ockley Lodge – This house was built on the site of an old farmhouse called Ockleys. This is another personal name. Back in the 1100s or so, in the days before surnames became fixed, a man called, let us say, John moved from Ockley to somewhere else. There they called him John of Ockley, to distinguish him from John the smith, John the carter and John the thatcher. After a few generations Ockley had become his family’s surname, and at some time after that one of the family farmed here for a few decades. It became known as ‘Ockley’s farm’, and when the last Mr. Ockley died or moved away, the farm was taken over by a man with a common name in the parish, so the old name stuck. It remained Ockleys Farm until it was demolished some time between 1886 and 1890 and a new house built. This was initially called Newdigate Place, but in 1897 a much bigger and better Newdigate Place was built near the Back Road, and this one was renamed Ockley Lodge.

7-Ockley Lodge

Just north of Ockley Lodge the road was realigned in the early twentieth century, shifting it onto slightly higher ground in order to prevent the regular deep flooding of the road in wet weather. The long strip of ground where the road formerly ran can still be seen. The place where the stream crosses the road near Tanhouse Farm was known as the Tote. There are a number of similar place names in Surrey and Sussex, often spelt Toat or Tot, but they usually refer to a hill or high place which could be used as a lookout. Possibly the original Tote was the rise north of Ockley Lodge, so people referred to the flooding near the Tote, and the name eventually transferred to that place on the road.

 Tanhouse Farm – An old name for Tanhouse Farm was Gardener’s Horsie. A  ‘Horsie’ was a drier bit of land in a generally wet area, and the name survives in Horsielands Farm. Tanhouse was called Gardener’s Horsie from the name of the family who lived there for several generations in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Gardeners were tanners, and the farm later became known as Tanhouse, Tanhurst or Tanners. The tannery certainly existed for several generations, and probably for centuries. Like other crafts which required a specialised working area, once a tannery was set up, it tended to remain in use for a very long period. Blacksmiths, wheelwrights and carpenters also tended to remain on the same sites for long periods. Tanning was a smelly job, so it needed to be well away from the village, and it required a lot of water, provided by the Beam Brook. We know of three Thomas Gardiners who farmed there, dying in 1561/2, 1610 and 1654; the first was probably a tanner and the other two certainly were, although Edward Gardiner in 1702 was a farmer and John Gardiner in 1706 a carpenter. The original farm was only 31 acres, which was sufficient to provide the family with a living, and the income from the tanning provided the money needed to pay rent and taxes, and to buy those things that the farm could not produce.

Tanhouse - 1

Just north of Tanhouse Farm there was once another small farm called Old House Farm (not to be confused with Old House) or Newdigate Horsie; for a time it was also called Wolfs after John Woolf who died in 1796. The farm was of just 24 acres, which probably means that the farmer was also a craftsman of some kind, although we do not know what.

Potter Mead might suggest that a potter once worked there, but it is more likely that the field was once owned or farmed by a man called Potter.

Wenhouse Mead was probably originally Wainhouse, a wain being a big wagon.

Greens

Part of Greens Farmhouse is the oldest house in Newdigate and one of the oldest in Surrey. It has been dendro-dated to 1309, and was built to a remarkably high standard, with decorative features which you would expect in a noble’s house rather than a rural farmhouse. One of the farm buildings was once the parlour wing of the house, again with decorative mouldings and evidence that it had a garderobe (privy) in what would have been the owner’s private bedroom. The farm is right on the parish boundary, only yards from Capel parish, and it is said that at times the farmer would move his cattle and other stock across the parish boundary to reduce his assessment for tithes in Newdigate, then move them back before the Capel assessors came round. In 1709 there was a dispute about exactly where the parish boundary ran through Greens farm.

Greens

Coneybury Field means ‘rabbit-burrow field’.

Great Oxlay Field recalls the days when oxen were used for most farm work; they were slower than horses, but very strong, and served multiple purposes: female calves became milking cows, male calves were castrated and grew into oxen, which were trained, worked for five or more years, and then fattened and eaten; their hides made the toughest leather. Oxlay fields or meads were common in the outer parts of farms, usually close to water.

Kiln Field and Kiln Platt are reminders that in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries virtually every farm had a lime kiln. By this time the sources of marl had long since been exhausted, and instead it had been discovered that if chalk was burnt over several days to give quicklime, and then ‘slaked’ with water, this produced powdered lime. When spread on the fields, it made the heavy clay easier to work and reduced the acidity, to the benefit of most crops. Liming was often described as ‘manuring’ because the crops benefited so much.

The name of the road from Greens Farm to the village is disputed. In the 1960s it was officially designated as Trigg Street, although locals claimed that this name referred to the road west of Greens Farm, and that the road east of it had always been Kingsland. Kingsland was originally a farm whose land extended on both sides of the road, not the road itself; but the road leading to a farm was commonly given its name, and here the names Kingsland Lane and Kingsland Farm have merged into a single ‘Kingsland’ which is used for both the road and the area. The name Kingsland almost certainly originated because the farm was part of the estates owned by King Alfred before the Norman Conquest, and as such, it was described in the Domesday Book as being formerly the King’s land. Newdigate is not named in the Domesday Book, and this entry is under the royal manor of Merton; Kingsland is known to have been owned in 1291 by Merton Priory. There were almost certainly other farms in the parish by this date, but they were owned by various manors in the surrounding area, and the entries are not identifiable.

The short stretch of road from the end of the track to the first houses on Kingsland may be a fragment of a Roman track. This is thought to have run from the Roman road at Ockley, and to have continued across the Brocus, along part of Parkgate Road and then a footpath to Parkgate, up Broad Lane, and across country towards Reigate; the destination is thought to have been Gatton. There is no evidence for it on the ground apart from the line of the route, but the use of ‘Street’ in Trigg Street is suggestive. A street was usually in the centre of a village, but the word originally meant a paved road, and virtually the only paved roads in rural England for centuries were Roman. There is no evidence to suggest that Trigg Street was originally the centre of the village, so a Roman origin is possible.

The Northland field names recall another small farm which lost its identity centuries ago. There were three ‘Northland’ farms in the parish at one time; this one was also known as Hastett or Hasteds. Its farmhouse survives, and is now divided into Olde Cottage and White Cottage.

The Chimes was built in 1927 and number two was the former home of George & Louisa Horley.

The Chimes

The building which is now the Six Bells dates from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, so it was already over a hundred years old when it became a pub in about 1784. It was originally just named The Bells, but later was sometimes called The Five Bells. It had to be renamed in 1805 when the church recast its bells and added a sixth.

Six Bells - 3

Jane Lilley

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Further reading:

The Church of Saint Peter, Newdigate by Joyce Banks

The Book of Newdigate by John Callcut

The Wood-carvings of St. Peter’s Church, Newdigate by Jane Lilley

A Village at War by John Callcut

Newdigate School – 350 Years of Learning by Jane Lilley