Skellalley Orchard, Ganges, Hanging Hill, Dinny Ball, Pretty Croft, Marvels and Tea Plot. Just some of the 150 or so field names that appear in the Stoke St Gregory Parish Tithe Map Apportionment Book of 1840. Alongside these are many that include the term ‘Acre’, but even these have different meanings. Some of them include a number, the largest being ‘Huntham Fourteen Acres’, between Lower Huntham Farm and Sedgemoor Old Rhyne. Others predate the time when an acre became a fixed unit of area. The word has the same root as ‘agriculture’ and was originally used to denote any area of land under cultivation. It was qualified by the occupation of the owner, as in ‘Glovers Acre’; usage, as in ‘Spar Acre’ (trees grown for ships’ masts and booms); a particular feature, as in ‘Pit Acre’ (just south of Sturts), which has a large pond, possibly the result of an old quarry; or shape, as in ‘Hook Acre’ (halfway down Curload Hill on the left). The map below shows some of the field names in the Saxon hamlet of Huntham - the homestead of a man named Hunta.
Pretty Croft is an affectation. Farmers would sometimes give their fields fanciful names, especially if they were wanting to sell them or rent them out.
Oglanders, Pooleys, Parratts Orchard, Dollings Plot, Baileys and Biddles Mead all refer to present or previous owners.
Tea Plot refers to the shape of the field rather than what was grown there!
Orchard was a term used for an area growing any fruit, but Skellalley Orchard? Long and thin like a skittle alley? Who knows?
Hembrows Coal Garden has nothing to do with coal. It comes from the anglo saxon word cōl, meaning cool. We do know that withies were once grown in that corner of Huntham Lane, where the watercourses from Meare Green and Higher Huntham meet.
Mill Ponds remains a mystery for the moment. Although the field is bounded by a watercourse, there is very little gradient.
Some spellings may have changed as they were written down by clerks who may not have understood the local accent, but it is certain that many of the names date back to at least Anglo Saxon times, when clearings were made in the ancient forest. The Ball of Dinny Ball (a narrow field to the East of the track leading up from Stanmoor Drove to Slough Court) is almost certainly from the Saxon word balca (modern balk). It was a strip of land left unploughed, sometimes grazed, between two cultivated areas. Hanging Hill, N & SW of Dykes Farm, sadly has no connection with public executions. The Saxon word hangehole simply means a steep slope. Ganges (where Stanmoor Drove meets the railway) would be a much later name given in jest to a field some distance away from the farm, and maybe awkward to get to. Other examples around the country are Botany Bay, Jericho, and New Zealand.
The area around Lane End is shown in the map below. Three, Four & Five Acre fields appear alongside Pim's Ground. Ground, Field, Acre and Plot all come via Old English words, but it is unclear why a particular word is used.
Marrow Field is a good example of naming by what was grown there, although it would be inconvenient if the crop was changed.
Upper Willey was originally called Upper Wells Hay. Hay is Anglo Saxon for hedge or enclosure, and Wells would refer the Bishop of Wells, the Lord of the Manor.
Dunfield is one of the oldest field names in the village. It was was part of a much larger field, probably stretching to Meare Green, in medieval times.
Low Hay also gets it's name from Old English. It is one of the highest points in the village at the top of Curload Hill. Hay is from Saxon hege - a hedge, or the land surrounded by a hedge or fence. Low is from the Saxon hlāw - a mound, so it’s an enclosed piece of land on a hill.
There are other fields in the village that gave their names to dwellings. Culvercroft, Woodhill (where the Lord’s doves would be kept); Woodbridge, Woodhill, the name taken from the area of land called Wood Breach (a clearing in the large woodland of Woodhill); Longacre, Woodhill, another 'shape' name, the enclosure being long and narrow.