In the Middle Ages some villagers were allocated strips of land on which they could grow vegetables, barley or oats or keep a few hens or pigs. These strips, called “doles” were usually about the size of a modern allotment and in Little Eaton they were situated to the north of Rigga Lane. In addition, some villagers were allowed to cultivate a garden and an orchard around their cottage. Others were given permission to graze some cattle or sheep on Outwoods common which comprised about a hundred acres south of the Midshires way.
All the land was owned by the Lord of the Manor. For Little Eaton the Lord of the Manor was the Dean of Lincoln but he delegated the position to more local families such as the Curzons of Kedleston, the Cavendish family of Chatsworth and the Degge family. These people settled disputes, gathered rents and oversaw exchanges of land through regular courts. The proceedings of the courts were recorded in “Manor Court Rolls”, copies of many of which are now held in the Lincolnshire Record Office.
This changed in the 18th Century. In 1789 there was an Act of Parliament which “awarded” the common land to the people who could claim they had rights to graze it. The land was divided into fields, as shown in an “Award Map”, drawn by the commissioners who made the decisions on who had made the best claims. The fields were then “enclosed” by fences, walls, rails or hedges.
The attached map shows the names of the fields. The map, drawn by Steve Brind, is based on the Award map, the original of which is held in the Derbyshire Record Office. It is also based on four lists of land that still exist. The first list was made by Thomas Stubbings in 1665 who drew up a catalogue of the lands directly controlled by the Dean and, in doing so, named some fields. The second was compiled by Stephen Degge in 1752, then acting as Lord of the Manor. The third was made by William Currey, solicitor to the Duke of Devonshire, Lord of the Manor between 1812 to1865. This third list was Currey’s attempt to show who owned the fields in 1812. The fourth was a map prepared for the Radford family in 1821.
Fields are named according to various characteristics. The following notes are based on the booklet “Little Eaton: A Village Surveyed”, produced in 1955 by a group of villagers, and from various web sites.
• Their size. A “dole” was a share of meadowland the size of one of the original strips that existed before 1789. A “pingle” was a very small field – perhaps two or three doles together. A “rood” was about a quarter of an acre. A “park” was a bigger field of several acres. Some were further defined as “Little”, “Long”, or “Broad” (St Peter’s Park today was called “The Long Close Roods”). One field is called “Furlong field”, indicating that it was about a furlong (200 metres) in length. The “Boat Meadow” is thought by some to be a shortening of “bovate”, which was the amount of land that could be ploughed in one day by an of ox – some 15 acres (a “bott” or “bout” was two days ploughing). “The Flatts” is a portion of an open field.
• The distance from the village or dwelling of the occupier, such as “Near” or “Far”. “Pennsylvania” was a name given to a field a long way from the village – though in Little Eaton it is closer than many others. “Outwoods” was a name given to a wooded area away from the village. “Middle Park” is neither near of far and “Outley Roods” lies outside the village.
• Their use. The Ox or Horse “pasture” or “meadow” was used for grazing cattle. The “Leys” were low lying meadow and “The Pitts” were marle pitts dug to produce clay for fertiliser.
• The buildings associated with it. There are two “Barn Closes” and “Chapel Fields” referred to the nearby chapel which preceded St Paul’s Church, consecrated in 1791.
• Vegetation or crops, such as in “Flaxholme”, “Peas Close”, Thistley Close”,” Primrose Hill” or “Crabtree Hill”. A “holme” indicated that there was holly growing there (though an alternative suggestion is that it refers to a bend in the river). The “Kite Yard” possibly refers to kitling or catling – willow catkins. “The Riddings” was a clearing in a forest.
• The people who lived there: Hieron’s wood was named after John Hieron (ejected as Rector of Breadsall Priory in 1662), his son Joseph and grandson John; Whittaker lane was named after John or Thomas Whittaker who is mentioned in the Court Rolls in 18th and 19th centuries; “Cresswell Park” was named after William Cresswell, mentioned by Simon Degge as having a cottage on this land.
• Their shape. “The Pyke” was a triangular field that came to a point at one end. A “bengor” was wedge shaped. “The Brow” was on the brow of a hill and “Edge Croft” was on the edge of a plateau.
Some names, such as “Dumble Close” and “The Cleats” meant something to the people who named them but, unfortunately, their meaning seems to have been lost.
Many of these names have disappeared from modern use. Others have survived in the names of the houses or areas of land. This record of them will, we hope, serve to keep them alive a little longer.
Steve Brind, Ruth Hunter and Philip Hunter
(see map below text)
Download a PDF version of the map here ...