Fulling at Fuller’s Slade?

I read in a book  a couple of days ago by Marion Hill that Fuller’s Slade was so named because Fulling was practised there. Fulling was the process of treating coarse woollen cloth so that it was more wearable. While not knowing any better than Marion Hill, one way or the other, I can only say that this is highly unlikely. Fulling as an industry required a good water supply and a power source. The hand beating of cloth during the fulling process was very, very hard work and would only be undertaken by peasants preparing cloth for their own personal use. If Fuller’s Slade was named after a practising Fuller, doing the work for the community, it strikes me as improbable without any machinery.

If fulling was done in Wolverton, which would also require the carting of Fuller’s Earth from Wobutn Sands, it is more likely that this happened beside the river or one of the brooks where water power could drive the fulling hammers.

It is more probable that Fuller’s Slade acquired its name in a different way. A slade (from the Old English) is a clearing in the wood. Since that area was once heavily wooded the land would have been gradually cleared, become known as the slade, and eventually getting a name attached to it to distinguish it from slades farmed by others. Indeed there are other fields across Wolverton which are known as slades and have other names attached to them.

Professor Hyde suggests that it might have been “Fowler’s Slade” at one point. Most of the early documentary references from the 13th and 14th centuries write it as Fulwell’s Slade, or some variant. I have also come across a reference to this land naming a William Full.

Fuller’s Slade

Some time ago I wrote about the 18th century field names on the Wolverton Manor. Fuller’s Slade was one of them and its name survives in the eponymous housing development.
Francis Hyde, in his book on the History of Wolverton, hazarded a guess that it may have originated as “Fowler’s Slade”.
Who knows?, but I have just come across a reference in the Wolverton Manorial documents that may shine a little light on the name’s origin.

from half acre in Fuleweelslade next land of Thomas the clerk and from William Fule

The document dates from between 1235 and 1270 – mid-13th century. It may suggest that  William Full or one of his ancestors gave their name to the slade. The slade is a green area of land often surrounded by woods. It is usually rendered in dictionaries  as “greensward” but even that word has no currency these days.

If we separate the word Fuleweelslade to Fule, Weel and Slade we can probably understand the composite.

Fule, after the Full family

Weel, meaning well or good

Slade – as described above

Thus, Full’s  good slade.

In time Full’s well slade would have modified through usage to Fuller’s Slade, having only a tenuous connection with its origin and having lost any semblance of meaning.

This is merely my speculation, but at the moment the theory looks attractive.