Farming Then

Jill Wilson

Long ago there were six large fields surrounding Chipping Campden. Two belonged to Berrington, two to Westington and two to Broad Campden. The Town itself did not have any; after all it was a market town and had been set up to provide homes, workshops and shops for craftsmen, merchants and suchlike, not for farmers and agricultural labourers.

The burgage plots (the long backyards that ran right back from the frontages on the High Street to Back Ends or Calf Lane) provided enough space to grow some food crops, keep some chickens and pig or two. There might be a small stable or a cowshed as well. Alas, as yet our information for very early times is a bit thin so we have to extrapolate from other similar towns where more records have survived.

One area where we can see the evidence for past cultivation with our own eyes is in the fields where the old ridge and furrow still survives. The strips can be outlined by melting snow or can be shown up by evening shadows.  In the old manor the strips were allocated to farmers each year.  According to some books a man might be allocated several strips in different parts of a field so that he got a fair mix of types of ground.  The old large fields were eventually enclosed and divided up, some parts in Tudor times perhaps, but the biggest change occurred with the Inclosure Act of 1799.

Developments in ploughing – the use of tractors in the C20th for example – and fresh methods and ideas have meant that much of the land once used for strip farming no longer shows the ridge and furrow evidence.  However CCHS volunteers are endeavouring to find and record what is left.  Footpaths are being trudged, photographs taken, old documents studied, field-names researched.  Amongst the ridge and furrow still to be seen close to the town is on the Coneygree, in a field near the eastern end of Back Ends and in Badger’s Field.   A good resource is aerial photography, for instance those held in the national archives at Swindon.  It is hoped that a comparison of these, especially the early ones, with what can still be found will assist in working out where the old field strips and boundaries were and what has happened since.

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