A lord was the pivotal figure in the manorial system which emerged after 1066. His wealth came from appropriating the best land for himself and requiring the peasantry on his manor to work his land for him. You could view this as a modified form of slavery or as a kind of tax in kind. In return the peasant got sufficient land for himself and his family and a certain security of tenure. Most scholars now believe that the so-called Feudal System never quite operated in the pure form I have described and that certainly after the plague years in the middle of the 14th century the old system gave way to one based upon money.
The first invader, Maigno le Breton, established a motte and bailey castle near to the present site of Holy Trinity church and laid claim to the adjoining land for his demesne (domain). This would include the later fields, Great Dickens, Ratcliffe Close, Fiddler’s Butts, Morter Pitts, Home Park, High Park, Park Meadow, Low Park, Kiln Close and Ludwin’s Closes.
Fiddler’s Butts was probably used for archery practice and Francis Hyde suspects that Ratcliffe Close was also used for recreational purposes. The Morter Pitts would have been used to extract lime and there were obviously kilns on the present site of Wolverton Park House. Low Park was the original village settlement.
Medieval Farming was based upon large open fields which were communally farmed. The lord controlled rights of access to the land, usually in return for payment of a portion of produce, or services, or money, or sometimes a combination of all three. From the labourers point of view these rights were customary and could be passed from father to son and so on. Typically 30 acres was held to be sufficient to support a family. The local picture was often more complicated than this, but as a general description this is how the manor worked. The large fields were divided into strips and crops were rotated each year. I think there was originally a two field system, but in time this gave way to a three field system, so that a field could be left fallow one year in every three.
Francis Hyde explains that one of the fields extended from Stony Stratford to the mill drive and was bordered to the south by the Wolverton Road. Thus all the fields named Rylands – a good giveaway to the arable properties of the soil – were in this field.
The second field was to the south of the Wolverton Road, starting at the corner turn and encompassing Barr Piece and Barr Close, Marron Fields, Dean’s Close, Roger’s Holm and Lower Slade. This, as you can see from the overlay, is mostly covered by the Railway Works, McCorquodale’s and the 19th century town.
Barr (OE baere) means barley and plainly takes its name from what was grown there. It is likely that the name Atterbury, often found in Wolverton and area, can trace its origin from this or a similar named field in the area. When surnames originated in the 14th century people were quite as likely to take thier name from the place where they lived. Thus John atte Barre (John at the Barley Field) became in time, Atterbury.
I am not certain of the origin of Marron, but it may possibly come from the Old English maere, meaning great
I’ve just looked at Dr Francis Hyde’s drawing of a field map from 1742 which confirms what I suggested earlier – Green Lane followed a direct line to Gib Lane beside Gallows Hill on the Watling Street. I have reproduced the map below and added some colour overlays to illustrate the development of the town.
The path of Green Lane is drawn in (what else?) green.
The small flesh pink area, Rogers Holm, was essentially the first piece of land bought by the LBR for the works and cottages. This was soon extended into Shrub Field (yellow) for the southern streets (Creed, Ledsam, Young & Glyn Square). The next phase of development from 1860 goes into the pale green area. This was occupied by works extension, Stratford Road to the back lane of Cambridge Street, Oxford Street, Bedford Street, Aylesbury Street, Buckingham Street, Radcliffe Street and Church Street. The blue area represents the development from Moon Street to Osborne Street, developed in the 1890s and Marron Field (coloured violet pink) is the development from Cambridge Street to the field at the back of Anson Road. This phase took place over a number of years. Church Street reached its western limit by 1910, Western Road and Woburn Avenue was added in the subsequent decade, and I think Eton Crescent and Aylesbury Street West was developed in the 1930s.
The southern development (Stacey Avenue, Marina Drive and Gloucester Road) started in the 1930s. Furze Way (so named after the field Hodge Furze) and the extension of Windsor Street were post war developments and Southern Way was developed in the mid 1950s.
Some of the field names are very ancient but most came about after the enclosure of 1654 when the old three field system and ancient commons were appropriated by the Longueville family. Most of the peasants were deprived of their ancient rights to land and many settled on the scrub land on the east side of Watling Street – hence the development of Stony Stratford. They were still within the manor of Wolverton, but were more-or-less out of the way of the Longueville’s land ambitions.