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Photographs


Photograph  Caption 
Slide showing strips in an open field, in different stages of cultivation, 20th century Photograph 1 
Ch Pa 164: Slide showing strips in an open field, in different stages of cultivation, 20th century 

Each farmer was at liberty to grow any type of crop he wanted, as long as it suited the rotation of the field. This photograph shows narrow strips in an open field, on which a variety of different crops are growing.
Slide showing ploughing with horses at Laxton, c.1930s Photograph 2
Ch Pa 178: Slide showing ploughing with horses at Laxton, c.1930s

The fields were ploughed in the autumn and winter after the previous year’s crops had been harvested. Ploughs were pulled by a pair of oxen and a horse (and later by horses only), with the farmer walking behind and making sure that the ploughing was straight and even. This was hard physical work.

The original definition of an acre was the amount of land which could be ploughed by a team of oxen in a day. In practice, this varied depending on the condition of the soil. The official definition of an acre by the 17th century was an area measuring 1 furlong (40 poles, 660 feet or one-eighth of a mile) in length and 4 poles (66 feet) in breadth.

The rectangular shape of this measure came about because arable fields were made up of ‘lands’ (strips), bounded by furrows running lengthwise. The word ‘furlong’ comes from ‘furrow long’.

The photograph is undated, but was probably taken in the 1930s.
Slide showing ridge and furrow, 20th century Photograph 3
Ch Pa 160: Slide showing ridge and furrow, 20th century

Modern-day ploughing methods have destroyed most ridges and furrows, but they can still be seen today in fields which were turned to grass instead of being ploughed away. This aerial photograph shows a ridge and furrow pattern.

As we saw in Theme 1, the open fields were arranged into ‘furlongs’, which were groups of strips all oriented in the same direction. The direction was chosen based on the lie of the land, so that surface water could run off down the furrows and into a stream or some boggy ground.

In this photograph, the boundaries of the furlongs can be seen where the ridges change direction.
Photograph of the Laxton Jury assembling for their annual visit to the Fallow Field, Laxton, Nottinghamshire, 20th century Photograph 4
Ch Pc 1: Photograph of the Laxton Jury assembling for their annual visit to the Fallow Field, Laxton, Nottinghamshire, c.1960

This photograph shows the members of the Laxton jury on a tractor and trailer, ready to set off for the annual inspection of the wheat field. The photograph is undated but was probably taken in the 1950s or 1960s.

The Jury went round the wheatfield to see that the boundary stakes marking each person’s strips were in position, and replaced those which were missing. The jury also noted whether anybody had encroached upon (ploughed up) the sykes and other patches of common grassland, and checked that ditches were clean and fences repaired. In this way each of the open fields of the village was thoroughly inspected once every three years.

 

Next page: The village population

 

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