A changing landscape

One of the great changes which has taken place on our countryside during the second half of this century has been the removal of hedges and the enlargement of the fields.

At the time of the Tithe Survey (1840-42) there were approximately 2,220 enclosed fields and homestead paddocks in the parish. Not so today, and this knocking of fields together has played havoc with field names and identification.

In the early years of this century our fields were small, averaging perhaps less than ten acres each. There were a few large fields, the largest being Great Moltons (near Instaple Cross), 56 acres, and Forest Marsh (Lympscott), 35 acres.

As the village and several farm names in the parish are of Saxon origin it is likely that much of the land around Bradworthy has been cultivated for over a thousand years.

Small settlements were possibly first carved out of the large areas of virgin heath and woodland in Celtic times.

After the Norman Conquest and into the 12th and 13th centuries new farms were created and old farms enlarged and most of the farms we know today were already established in the 14th century.

However it was mainly open field farming using the cropping strip system. Traces of this could be seen in the narrow fields north of our village, but are now being obliterated by housing development. Great hedge banks, marking manorial boundaries can still be found on our countryside.

All had access to the Common lands known as Bradworthy Moors. A certain amount of enclosure of land went on through the centuries, but large scale enclosure began with the Enclosure Acts from the late 18th century onwards.

Gradually the peasant was deprived of his bit of land. Avaricious landowners seized hold of everything they could, even attempting to enclose the Commons - but there was sturdy resistance.

Hedges put up by day were demolished by villagers at night - low banks now visible on the Commons are the remains of foiled efforts to enclose. The area of the Commons is approximately 88 acres.

Field names came gradually, some of them from a time long before enclosure. Many have been corrupted by misspelling, their original names and meaning lost. Dialect played its part in this.

About fifty names are surnames of former owners or occupiers. Shapes of fields, crops formerly grown on them, situation on high or lowland, all contributed to the naming of the enclosed fields. Some names are so obscure we shall probably never know why they were thus named.

Two very strange field names appear in the Tithe Survey.

These are Trendle Bear (on North Worden) and Chisley Walls (a field off Scotworthy Lane on Silworthy Farm).

Trendle is Saxon for 'circle'.

Of Chisley Walls there is a legend that an attempt was made to build a church here, but what was put up by day was transferred to a site where Bradworthy Church now stands.

Could there have been a primitive place of worship here when Celtic Christianity spread across this part of the south-west; or something even earlier as many worked flints have been found in this field?

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