Some Devonshire Field-Names (1913)

Author(s): Laycock. C. H., Lega-Weekes. Miss E., and Stanbury. Edwin Origin: DA Transactions
Topic(s): toponymy Year published: 1913
Location(s): South Tawton Pages: 479-488

Full title: Some Devonshire Field-Names, with suggestions as to their signification, by Edwin Stanbury, of North Wyke, near North Tawton.

Communicated by C. H. Laycock.

(Read at Buckfastleigh, 24th July, 1913.)

Note. Mr. Stanbury’s comments on the Field-names included in this paper are supplemented by remarks by Miss Lega-Weekes and Mr. C. H. Laycock, which are indicated by being enclosed in brackets and initialled E. L.-W. and C. H. L. respectively.


Field-names, having been handed down by the agricultural labourer, are likely to retain more traces of Anglo-Saxon nomenclature than names of manors or towns where Norman-French or Latin influence would have been more active.

Field-names are derived principally from three sources:

(1) Their size, shape, or suitability of soil for certain crops or stock; e.g. Five Acres, Ten Acres, Great Field, Longlands, Three-cornered Field, Roundabout, etc.; Oat-park, Lamb-close, Wheaty, Wheatland, Calves’-park, Lay, etc.

(2) Their situation; e.g. Weir Park, Road Park, Outer Field, Homer Field, Copse Meadow, Cross Park, etc.

(3) The names of former owners or occupiers; e.g. Clark’s Plot, Hill’s Barn-field, Beck’s Park, Hooper’s Moor, Phillips’ Plantation, etc.

In the case of minor holdings, the name of the field was presumably more often applied to the messuage built upon it than vice versa; hence field-names may assist in the identification of a manor or farm whose original name no longer clings to the house, but has been retained by the field.

The occurrence of the same field-name, but with such a distinction as higher, lower, etc., in two contiguous holdings, points to their having been originally comprised in one estate.

Names which seem to indicate a position that the fields do not in fact occupy, e.g. Road-field, River-field, etc., may sometimes be explained as resulting from the subdivision of a larger field, and the retention of the old name for one of its portions only.

Batteford (No. 1442).(*) When ploughing damp soil, they plough in batts, about 16 feet wide = 1 land yard, and in very wet soil 8 feet apart.
Another name is Battle-by-the-Ford. Perhaps to commemorate a fight or battle by the ford.

[Hal.-Phil. gives Bat, the root-end of a tree after it has been thrown. E. L.-W.]

(*) The numbers refer to the corresponding numbers by which the fields are distinguished in the printed South Tawton Tithe-Commutation List of 1844, copies of which, and of the large-scale map accompanying it, may be consulted at the Episcopal Registry, Exeter; the Office of the Board of Agriculture, 4 St. James’s Square, London; and the District Council School, South Zeal, South Tawton.

Blacklands (Nos. 242, 1809-10, 2056). Fields so called are often, like this one, woody fields, and so they look black at a distance. Also perhaps on account of the blackness or peaty nature of the soil.

Brandy Park (No. 2235). ‘Brandy’ = light, like bran. They will say, ‘That’s brandy soil’, meaning light, well-pulverized soil.
Also Brandise Park, i.e. a three-cornered field.
Brandise = a three-legged iron stand to rest a crock, saucepan, or frying-pan on over a hearth-fire.

(Cp. Brandis Corner, the name commonly given to a place where three cross-roads form a triangle, from which a small hamlet in North Devon is so named. Brandis-wise or Brandis-fashion means in a triangular position. The utensil, as described above, from which the name and idea are taken, is so called probably because it is placed over the brands or logs on a hearth-fire. C. H. L.)
[N. E. D. has Brandise – a trivet. Old English brandisen, from brand = burning, and isen = iron. E. L.-W.]

Chamming Park (Nos. 2052-3). Always called Channin’s Park. It is not near any road. So called probably after a man’s name.

[Possibly from Cham = to chew, nibble, champ. See N. E. D. and Hal-Phil. E. L.-W.]

Chilpark (Nos. 563, 1169-70). Might mean a cold, wet field. Sounds something like another field-name, Cholapark.

[Cp. Chilvery (No. 476). Chylle = herb, cilium vel psillium. Prompt. Parv. E. L.-W.]

Cholapark (No. 1690). There is a field, belonging to Cross, and leading to Cherubeer, in Dolton parish, called Sharrerpark.

[This latter name probably from French charrue — a plough. Cp. also Cholwell (No. 290), Chalbury (No. 1536), and Colstone (No. 565). E. L.-W.]

Cleave (Nos. 158, 159, 162) = Cliff. Often used for a hilly field.

(There is a field in the parish of North Bovey which is always called by the natives Clay Field, but which is written Cleave in documents, and as it is on the side of a hill and not on clay soil, Clay is no doubt a corruption of Claive, the local pronunciation of Cleave. This is most interesting as showing a development in pronunciation on orthodox lines in our dialect. In the first place cliff becomes cleeve, i.e. short i becomes long e; cp. peen for pin, een for in or inn, eef for if, eez for his, etc. Then, owing no doubt to the usual spelling of Cleeve, viz. Cleave, the ea becomes ai; cp. ait for eat, mait for meat, aich for each, etc. Thus Cleave becomes Claive. Lustleigh Cleave is always pronounced “Listly Claive” by natives. Lastly the termination –ve is dropped, also a common feature of our dialect, hence Claive becomes Clai or Clay. C. H. L.)
[Cp. “Clay Stiches als Cleave Stiches, adjoining Lower Drewston als Thurston, formerly in possession of Trend … etc.” Indenture, Trans. XXXVII, 356.
N. E. D. has Cleve, cleeve, M. E. cleof, cleove, a variant of Clif. Sometimes erroneously spelt “cleave”, and associated with cleave, to split, with which it has no connection. E.L.-W.]

Collibeer (No. 1631). ‘Colly’ is a fairly common name for a cow. Hence Collibeer may be colly-byre, i.e. cow-house.
I never heard that ‘Colly’ meant black, or a blackbird.

(Children often speak of cows as “collie-cows”, just as in the North of England they say “cooshy-coo”. It is a semi-term of endearment, like “chüggie-pigs”, “baa-lambs”, etc. No doubt this is the correct derivation of this field-name, nevertheless “Colly” is the usual, almost invariable, name for the blackbird in East Devon and West Somerset. C. H. L.)
[In old Norse, Kolla = a cow.
There are several holdings known respectively as Great Collibeer, Higher Collibeer, Doctor’s Collibeer, and Pit Collibeer.
N. E. D. has Colly (adj.), obs. or dial. = dirtied with coal-dust, coal-black.
A. S. Dict. gives Col = charcoal.
Having regard to the situation of Collibeer, and the fact that the element beer or beare is believed by Skeat(*) to be derived from A.-S. bearu – a grove or wood, could it be that charcoal was produced in this region, and that the black dust shed along the way in carrying it to places such as Chagford, where charcoal must have been employed for the refining of metals, might account for such names as Blackstreet (in South Tawton), Colerewe, Coleton, and perhaps even Holy Street? Mutation from C to H is in accordance with philological laws, and the Rev. O. J. Reichel identifies Colebroca (W. 309) with Holbrook in Aylesbeare. E. L.-W.]

(*) Notes and Queries, 22 Nov., 1902, p. 416.

Creadon (Nos. 1451, 1477). Usually pronounced Crayton = Craie-town.

[French Craie = chalk, or lime, which abounds near by. Latin creta = chalk. E. L.-W.]

Faiges (No. 709). Might come from fadge, e.g. “You’ve had a lot of trouble to fadge this together”; “It took me a lot of fadging”.
If a man had been dishonest in preparing his vegetables for show they might say, “You’ve a-took a lot o’ trouble fadgin’ this together”.

(“How d’ee fadge?” = How do you do? C. H. L.)
[N. E. D. has Fadge, a bundle of leather, sticks, wool, etc. So this may possibly be a field where faggots were made or stacked.
Again, Hal.-Phil. gives Faigh, refuse stones. Possibly there were piles of broken stone in the field. E. L.-W.]

Galloping Close (No. 487). Have known several fields with that name; there is one near Winkleigh, good for racing.

Grab Close (No. 1314). This may be Crab (-apple) Close. But I am inclined rather to think it is so called from the nature of the soil. ‘Crabbed’ = cross, obstinate, cross-grained, etc., meaning it would be stiff and bad to work.

Ham (Nos. 2237, 2490, 2500-1). A ham is a strip of waste, uncultivated ground, or rough wood, forming a strip or border to a field.

(The word Ham is used in South Devon for flat low-lying pasture-land, usually near rivers and streams, and liable to be flooded in wet seasons, but by no means always in a state of swamp or marsh; it is usually very rich and fertile. Cp. South Hams, the name given to the rich land around Kingsbridge and South Brent. C. H. L.)
[Cp. The hem of a garment. Perhaps the original signification of the Hams in South Devon is the borders of Dartmoor. E. L.-W.]

Harepath (No. 231). There are many fields of this name spelt thus in notices of sales, etc., but known by the residents as Harper. When ‘Harepath’ in Beaford parish, near Dolton, was so announced for sale, people in the parish asked where it was, for they only knew it as Harper.
Another ‘Harepath’, near Drewsteignton, is locally called Harper.
It might have got its name from paths made by hares. They do travel in one path, and were once very numerous. Have killed fourteen hares one September at Dolton”.

[The earliest of the Anglo-Saxon Charters in the Crawford Collection — that of a grant of land for the foundation of the monastery of Crediton, dated 739, in specifying the boundaries, names Herepadhford. Charter II mentions “Herepadhes onsuhlford to eaxan.” Charter III, in a late fifteenth-century rendering of the boundaries, has “from Crydian brugge to herpadh.” E. L.-W.]

Hollands (Nos. 1094, 1096, 1104, 1302, 1305). A common field-name. It means hollow-land.

[Cp. Hollacombe Farm and Cross, near Whiddon Down; and Hollacombe Moor in North Devon.
Old English hol = hollow; the o being sounded short, was represented in Middle English by holl. N. E. D. E. L.-W.]

Janin (No. 1054). Might be a variation in the pronunciation of Channing. See Chamming. No doubt from name of owner or occupier.

Kiln Close (No. 1040). Containing a lime-kiln. A man drowned himself here lately.
Also Great and Little Kiln Close, pronounced ‘Kill’ locally. So called, perhaps, because near a malt-kiln formerly; there is no lime quarry near.

[Cp. Killaford, No. 2865. E. L.-W.]

Lay, or Ley (Nos. 334, 479-82, 708, 2051, 2369, 2382, 2386). A ‘Lay-field’ is grass-land, but not permanent, like meadows.
A mixture of seed will be advertised as a “two-, three-, or so many years’ lay”.

(In literary English, on the other hand, “lea” implies a permanent meadow. Anglo-Saxon leáh. C. H. L.)

Mumbledown (Nos. 97, 102, 1032-3, 1037). There is the expression, to mumble a crust.

(Eng. Dial. Dict. gives the word Mumbly, of stones used in building — shapeless, rounded, having no flat surface, crumbly. Might not the above name imply a field abounding in stones of this description? C. H. L.)

Nap Park (No. 1118). Knap means the brow or ridge of a hill. ‘A sharp nap for the horses to go over’. A ‘Knappy field’ is one where the meat-earth has washed down off the little hills.

Nymph (Nos. 1351, 1369). Generally pronounced Nymp. Perhaps it has reference to the goddesses of forest and meadow.

(Cp. the name Joseph, which is always pronounced Josep locally. C. H. L.)
[Nymph and Nimet (= New-take, land reclaimed from waste) are discussed in Crawford Collection of Early Charters, ed. by Napier, p. 59. E. L.-W.]

Putchers (No. 681). Putcher is the usual pronunciation in Devon of pitcher. And a pitcher is a withy stick of about the size of a broom handle; cut in winter, and stuck in the moist soil, it will shoot out and grow, and make a living fence. Fences were commonly made in this way formerly.

[Putcher, in some counties putchen, is the local term for a conical basket or wicker trap for catching salmon or eels. N. E. D.
has Putchkin, a wicker bottle. West. Dial. E. L.-W.]

Quick Building (No. 1647). The old legend is that three old women built it before breakfast. But I should think it was originally Quick’s building, after an owner or occupier.

(Quick, Quicken, and Quick-beam are common names for the Mountain ash, Pyrus aucuparia. C. H. L.)

Ramsley (Nos. 823, 914, 2779). ‘Black-ram’ is in abundance here. It has no commercial value, but indicates the presence or proximity of minerals or metals.

[The s might be an intrusion here for convenience of pronunciation, as also in Rounsley Park, No. 1545, and in Warmshay, No. 1510.
The dictionaries give Rams (dialect), Old English hramsa = wild garlic, ramsons, Allium ursinum.
Again, this might possibly have been the spot for the annual pastime of the capture and roasting of a ram.
Ley has already been explained. E. L.-W.]

Ringhall Field. It has a road all round it.

Rust Meadow. ‘Rust’ in corn is a disease in the stalk, it ripens all black and ‘rusty’.

Scurhills (No. 1123). Pronounced locally Scurreel. A field full of little sharp stones or ‘scurs’, perhaps broken off from a bed of rock underneath, so that the surface would be full of little bits of it. It might be spoken of as a ‘skurry’ field. They would call a little hump in a field, with no earth on it, a ‘scur’, or a ‘thin nap’.

(Cp. Scorhill, near Gidleigh. C. H. L.)
[In South Tawton Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1608-9, is the entry : “Arrerag’ tenem’ Alexandri Knapman, pro Scurrells et Loventon P’ke.”
As to a field near Malborough, Devon, named Squirrel, and pronounced Scirrel, the Rev. O. J. Reichel says that Scirrel or Scörrel may = Score-hill, equivalent to Share-hill, the field certainly embracing only a portion of the hill. See Trans. XXXIII, p. 480. E. L.-W.]

Sharland (No. 1553). A shear, so spelt, but pronounced share, is a crop of grass; e.g. “A fine share o’ grass”. The same word as shearing or sharing sheep. The name implies that the field usually yields a good cut of grass.

[Cp. Shoreland, Nos. 370, 865.
Bosworth’s A.-S. Dict. gives Scearu = a share, portion, what is cut off, land separated or apportioned. E. L.-W.]

Shute (No. 1666). Probably has a ‘shoot’ to convey a stream of water into a drinking-trough.

[Cp. Shute orchard, 1666; Shoot mead, 2857; Shut meadow, 207, 711. E. L.-W.]

Splatty (No. 283). There is a small village called Splatt, near Broadwood Kelly. Splatter-footed is the local word for splay-footed. They would call a lazy fellow, turning out his toes, ‘splatter-footed’.

[Bosworth’s A.-S. Dict. gives Splot, a spot, plot, place. This is the most probable derivation.
Hal.-Phil. has Splette (vb.), to spread out flat. The root idea of several similar words seems to be flat, spreading out.
Plot is usually pronounced plat in Devon, to which initial s is added in splat.
Bronescombe’s Episcopal Register, Exeter, p. 214, records the ordination of Hugonem Splote. In 1755 John Splatt holds land in Chagford, Tawton, etc. Possibly the field commemorates him; but even if so, his surname was probably derived from that of a place. Personal and place names often interact. E. L.-W.]

Stattle (No. 497). Many years ago they always put corn on a ‘stattle’, pronounced staddle, before thrashing. It was a timber frame supported on short posts about 6 feet apart with a stone on top of each called a stattle-cap.

[Bosworth’s A.-S. Dict. has Stadol = a foundation, basis. E.L.-W.]

Stitch (No. 828). Must mean ‘stitch of corn’, i.e. ten sheaves of wheat, or six of oats, set up in the field at harvest time to dry, before being ricked.

[Cp. Stitches (No. 380). Also, vide ante, Cleave-stitches.
There was perhaps an early form Tich, for Hal.-Phil. gives Ticher = a sheaf of corn (South), and Tiching = setting up turves to dry, or sheaves of corn. Mr. S. O. Addy writes : “It is very likely that stitch and tich are the same word; cp. squench for quench, scraunch for crunch, scrumple for crumple, etc.; formed, according to Skeat, by prefixing an x for emphasis; the s being the French es, Latin ex.”
See Eng. Dial. Dict. under Stitch. E. L.-W.]

Strangly (No. 575). No doubt means straggly.

Strappy (No. 264). ‘Strap’ = a strip. A ‘strappy piece’ is a long irregular piece, a strip.

Swallet (No. 1163). To ‘swale’ is to burn the coarse grass and herbage as they do on Dartmoor. The name probably refers to this custom.

[Bosworth’s A.-S. Dict. has Swélan = to burn, Swell = burning, heat. E. L.-W.]

Teazle Park (No. 1886). The name given to ‘Homer Stockland’ by Thomas Powlesland. Teazles used to be grown about here for the woollen industry. Have often seen the barn near Moon’s Cross, South Tawton, full of teazles packed in dry to send away. Have seen teazles growing on the Exeter road not ten years ago. The name of the field was changed on account of the crop for which it was suited. I think many fields have had their names changed in the same way.

Tickhanger (Nos. 1497, 1522, 1537). ‘Ticks’ are more troublesome in some fields than in others.

[Eng. Dial. Dict. gives Tick =a bird, the whinchat. Also Tick = the common field horse-bean. Som., with a quotation as to “Tick Fair”, a fair at which these beans were sold.
N. E. D. gives Hanger, Old English hangra, a wood on the side of a steep hill or bank.
Cp. the place-name Chattehanger. Devon Fines, Mich. 37-8 Eliz. E.L.-W.]

Trundlebeer (Nos. 1056, 2564). A ‘Trundel’ or ‘Trendel’ is the term used in bills of sales for the large oval tub in which beef is salted, now commonly called a Salter. It is made like a butter tub, but oval, with handles. It is generally about 4 feet by 2 feet and 2 feet deep, contracting towards the top. Some old-fashioned ones would hold the meat of two bullocks. Four lads once got in one and rowed it like a boat on the pond.

[The name suggests that the place was situated in a circular valley. Trendle, trendell, or trendall as a circular chandelier, or ring set round with candles, is familiar in old Churchwardens’ Accounts. It is early found in personal names, e.g. Ric. de Trendelbur, 11 Ed. II (Exch. Plea Roll, 40, m. 22). And in South Tawton Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1592-3, Ricus Trendlebere als Smyth debet vid. E.L.-W.]

Warren (No. 119). A rabbit warren, a game preserve.

Witney (No. 684). Might be a corruption of ‘Wheaten-hay’. They talk of ‘Wheaten bread’. Or might be from wit = white.

Zoggy Means soft, spongy, boggy. From sog or zog, often pronounced zug = a bog.

[Cp. Zogny Park, No. 746.
Bosworth’s A.-S. Dict. gives Sogedha = juice, moisture. E. L.-W.]

Other writings by C. H. Laycock

Other writings by Ethel Lega-Weekes