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A MAP OF BINGHAM FOR 1586 (10)

Holdings and Strips in the furlongs

What is a strip?
Size of Holdings
Constructing the holdings on the map

Reconstructing Holdings

An attempt has been made to reconstruct maps of the layout of holdings for selected furlongs in East Field. It would take too long to do all furlongs! It must not be assumed these holdings maps are in any way accurate; however, we are confident that they a reasonably good approximation. They are certainly a good indicator of the scatter of individuals’ holdings. Our purpose is to demonstrate the physical and consequent social arrangements that governed the farming practice of the day.

What is a strip?

The Orwins describe a strip (the Bingham surveyor used the term tennament or ‘holding’) as comprising one or more ‘lands’. A land was a length of ploughed ground bounded on its long sides by deeper drainage furrows. On heavy waterlogged ground a land might be quite narrow with several to the strip. On lighter well drained soil a land could be the full width of the strip. In the Laxton survey, reported by the Orwins, the number of lands comprising a strip was noted – see p101:

No    
a
r
p
125 Widdow Tailer 5 lands
0
3
34
126 Mr Hindle 4 lands Free
0
3
33
127 Willm Challond 1 land
0
1
12
128 Anthony Whalehead 1 land
0
1
12

The introduction to the summary list of furlongs in the Bingham survey reads:

‘Hereafter followeth the Terrar or Feild Book of the com[m]on feildes digested under sixe severall Tytles and Cullompnes [columns]; Whereof the First sheweth the number of the Furlong, The Second the names of such tenaunts as have land in that Furlong; The Third sheweth how many Lands or Ridges ech tennament hath; The Foweth Fifte and Sixte do shew the severall natures of the groundes - as howe muche of Meadow, how much of Pasture and so of Arrable. In the Table of Furlongs you shall fynde what name ech furlong hath according to the number in the First Collumpne’

The phrase “The Third sheweth how many Lands or Ridges ech tennament hath” is the only use of the term land in the whole document except rare cases within the description of boundaries of furlongs (e.g. ‘short lands of Toothill furlong’). The column is headed striga (a lengthwise furrow, i.e. a strip). The Bingham surveyor used the column heading strig to mean the same as the term land as used by the Orwins The survey does not assign numbers to each holding (we have done this for convenience of analysis), as at Laxton, but it does show the number of striga (strips) for each holding. Sometimes in the same furlong similar areas of holding are divided into different numbers of strips..

The Orwins make no mention of some open field holdings being divided into arable and pasture/meadow as they are in the survey. In some cases a holding (or indeed a furlong) was wholly meadow or pasture; in a number of cases some or all of the holdings were divided between arable and grass.

Size of Strips and Holdings

Table 1 shows that 85% of Holdings contained only one strip (or land) and 11% had two. Average areas of strips varied greatly between furlongs (range 330 to 3300 square yards).

No of Strips in a holding
No of holdings
1
3535
2
479
3
51
4
20
5
8
6
10
7
13
8
11
9
7
10
11
11
10
12 - 15
13
16 – 2
6

Table 1 Size of holdings

Size of strips seems to have had nothing to do with status of tenant. The average for the main farmers varied between 1216 and 1578 square yards, with half falling in the 1300s - see chart 1. Demesne strips tended to be larger, averaging 1700 square yards. More often than not these were consolidated into large holdings, which would make the lord of the manor’s management task easier. Similarly, in Laxton holdings that were worked directly for the lord of the manor were consolidated into blocks for more efficient operation.

Holdings with more than one strip were generally interspersed seemingly randomly between the single strip holdings. If the average area per strip was constant this would imply the size of holding was directly proportional to number of strips. However, only 25 furlongs out of the total of 117 (23%) show any tendency (a less than 10% difference) towards showing the same average area per strip for single and two-strip holdings. For detailed tables and graphs for each field click here.

The Orwins speculate that consolidation of tenanted holdings might happen over time as a result of an adjacent occupier dying without an heir and the lord (to whom the holdings would revert on the death of a tenant) might allocate the vacant holdings to a neighbouring strip holder. There are very few examples in the Bingham document of adjacent holdings being occupied by the same person, but it might be that holdings were consolidated in this way but retained the ‘lands’ profile of adjoining strips. This could help explain the differentials in sizes of some holdings.

Differences in average strip areas between furlongs could be because of ground conditions, as suggested by the Orwins (p 101-2). Within any furlong the sizes of adjacent strips varied considerably and for no discernible reason. The area of the largest strip can be anything from twice to ten times that of the smallest. In the most extreme cases this can be a result of there being half-strips end on to each other. As average strip sizes for farmers do not vary a great deal, there is no evidence that some tenants persistently had smaller strips than others. It would seem unlikely that the differences between adjacent holdings reflected changes in soil conditions over such small areas of ground.

There is a weak relationship between size of furlong and average area of strip in that smaller furlongs tended to have smaller strips, perhaps to achieve a wider distribution between tenants. Sometimes a tenant would have more than one holding in a furlong, but they would not be conveniently adjacent!

The literature suggests that a standard strip/land was about 220 yards long and about 11 yards wide, i.e. about 2400 square yards (2000 square metres). It was said to represent a day’s work, and thus might be expected to vary with ease of working the land. Certainly there were great variations in area of strips at Laxton and East Bridgford, as roprted above for Bingham. The Orwins (p101) suggest a maximum length of 220 yards as being the most a ploughman (or more likely a plough horse team) could work without a halt. Many holdings in East Bridgford were much longer, up to 400 yards in a few cases. Heaviness of soil could have influenced when a halt was required and thus maximum length. We have allowed for some long holdings in our model for Bingham.

A high proportion of holdings in East Bridgford were nearer 8 yards wide (the minimum was 5 yards) and showed a wide variation in length, in one case up to 470 yards. The maps we have reconstructed suggest 8 yards was one of the norms for Bingham. We have measured the four small extant remains of ridge and furrow in Bingham, which showed widths between the centre points of the furrow varied between 24 and 30 feet, with an average of 27 (9 yards). The Orwins (p 99) do indicate some holdings were ‘narrow’ or ‘only a few yards wide’ which could make cultivation more difficult, to the extent that a holding might have to be completed by digging rather than ploughing. Some furlongs at East Bridgford had groups of holdings following different directions to accommodate odd shaped boundaries. Some large square furlongs had two blocks of holdings separated by some sort of accommodation path. Without any evidence we have occasionally reproduced these models for Bingham! Orwin and Orwin (p34) suggest that on heavy soils, widths could be a little as three yards. Although the Orwins are silent on the point, one might perhaps expect a very narrow holding also to be relatively short, as it might have been quite difficult to keep to a very long but very narrow straight furrow line

If the Flintham Show rules are anything to go by, it would take 4 - 4½hours to plough a quarter of an acre. The Ploughman’s Society web site suggests a furrow would have been around 6 inches wide. At 220 yards long a quarter acre strip would be 5½ yards wide and thus half a day’s work and produce a dozen furrows. So a three yard strip would have had six furrows – it would probably not be worth turning out for much less!

Access to holdings would also be an issue. The Orwins discuss this at some length (pages 98-100), concluding that uncultivated balks or a holding alongside the furlong boundary and headlands might provide occupation roads, and that in some cases a farmer would access his holding by travelling across his neighbours’ and making good the damage. The East Bridgford map shows many accommodation roads (sometimes as named meares) between furlongs or blocks of holdings within a furlong and in a couple of cases actually going diagonally across all the holdings in a furlong. We cannot hope to reproduce these features on our conjectural map. At least one furlong is acknowledged in the survey as crossing a (Wyverton) ‘gate’ and there are a few examples of possible narrow domain holdings of grazing in an otherwise arable field being available as pathways.

Constructing the holdings on the map

We adopted a highly empirical method of constructing holdings. The only firm data from the survey is the areas of arable, pasture and meadow of non freehold holdings - the majority. To calculate furlong sizes we had assumed freehold strips would be of the average area of the tenanted strips for the furlong. We assume generally that the direction of walking is across the holdings, which gives us an orientation for the holdings opposite to the walking direction (i.e. a furlong walked from the west or east would have holdings running north to south). Additionally, Orwin and Orwin suggest (pp 96-7) suggest the furrows would run down the slope, so that the furrow could take away the water draining from the furrow slice above it. They suggest local terrain features would have combined to produce differently sized furlongs to allow for draining a land in this way. However, holdings at East Bridgford seem to have been orientated across the slope as often as down it. Furlongs were developed piecemeal over time to accommodate a growing population, another factor to explain differential sizes. As the Orwins say, if one were planning an open field from scratch and as a piece, furlongs would be more regular in shape and size, much as happened when they were enclosed. Except for large square furlongs we generally assumed the holdings run across the shorter dimension of the furlong, unless the longer side is less than about 250-275 yards. We then digitised a GIS layer of polygons to represent holdings as accurately as we could, given the time constraints already mentioned, on the basis of these assumptions. . Inevitably the inaccuracies inherent in the assumed furlong boundaries and the difficulty of drawing completely ‘accurate’ holding areas present more problems. Time constraints led us to approximate these and sometimes the holding areas are significantly different on the map from the originals! Where furlong boundaries are not parallel we show holdings as coming to very narrow, even pointed, ends. This happened at East Bridgford and Laxton. In the latter case the Orwins (p 103) describe the end triangles as gores or gore acre. Other odd shaped remainder pieces produced by irregular boundaries were called butts. Only two (adjacent) pieces in the whole of the Bingham survey are described as gores.

Click here for map of Sweete Hill

In common with other very large furlongs, every farmer had at least one holding on Sweete Hill furlong. For clarity the map is coloured for only ten of the holdings, plus the two large blocks of demesne holdings. The large area of demesne in the centre corresponds with a piece of freehold today. It can be seen that the western end seemed to have much narrower strips than the eastern end; there could have been a soil type/condition reason for this. The northern part of the furlong would have been underlain by the area of the prehistoric lake marsh and lesser marsh, which may have made the soil relatively wet and difficult to work, possibly the more so in the west. All of the strips had meadow portions at their northern ends and are adjacent to common meadow/moor. Even today the area of the furlong is divided between soils described by the National Soils Research Institute as ‘loamy and clayey floodplain soils with naturally high ground water’(west) and ‘slowly permeable seasonally wet acid loamy and clayey soils’ (east). So there could have been a difference in workability of the soils.

Click here for map of East Field

We have produced a map of the holdings for a number of furlongs in East Field, including all those with some meadow/pasture portions. Lack of time prevented us from mapping the whole field. The orientation of the holdings is consistent with the discussion in another section describing the process of mapping East Field. The disposition of furlongs must be considered to be highly conjectural! Starnhill, to the south, is shown to have had considerable areas of meadow/pasture, consistent with our conclusions elsewhere that this are was largely pasture for most of the period up to the nineteenth century. Although one should be cautious about the accuracy of the maps, to some extent the widths shown in our layout of holdings do hint at the differences between furlongs in size of holdings.

Click here for map of Agnes Musson Strips

As a demonstration of the scattered distribution of holdings of a typical large farmer around the open field system we have produce a map of the strips occupied by Anges Musson. The wide distribution was supposedly to ensure a fair allocation of lands of different quality.


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