Monday, October 05, 2009

Questing.

There's always something to be found out isn't there? This and that - and why?

In our case it's the line of a road, the shape of a field or that field's name that provide the clues and starting points.

A question.....and we're off, off on another quest.

Which is why, at the end of last week, my patient fellow sleuth and I were at the Powys County Archives in Llandridod Wells anticipating, if not answers, then some very good questions. Does that make sense? I don't think we actually know what we want to know - but what we discover will very well help us to find out. What a conundrum indeed.

The seat of government in Powys, while not exactly marble-halled, is a very fine building indeed. Modern and functional with nod to the grand hotel it replaced, its grounds landscaped with pools, pebbles, water spouts and luscious leafy planting. I am reminded in a small way of the visual might that the medieval cathedral builders achieved - huge and powerful edifices overshadowing the hovels of the peasantry in the surrounding countryside. There was and is, no doubt who was in control. We were not quite in the right place however - 'Reception' waved a vague Friday afternoon hand and directed us 'Over there - the flat building across the way'. We wandered 'over there' in the direction of a low brick-built building, perhaps the old gardeners' bothy, rang bells and were admitted. Is this it then? At first glance 'this' seems to be couple of desks with the instructions 'Pencils Only' sellotaped to them and a wall of books. There are some micro fiche and film readers too. Hopefully somewhere in the bowels of this place are the real treasures.

Well, there are and there aren't. Sadly we were not to get our mitts on anything original but fairly good photocopies were produced. Oh look, here it is: the small mountain kingdom of Trelystan circa 1844; The tithe map and accompanying schedule.

I'm vaguely disappointed - larger than the Vatican city but probably smaller than Andorra. Ambitious, avaricious and land grabbing? Moi? No definitely not - it's the most perfect little township a person could wish to see depicted. I recognise woods, lanes and field shapes - were I a bird or an angel flying over, then or now, I would know exactly where I was.

The field outside our bedroom window (currently home to convalescent cows and calves) and which we know as 'The Little Triangle Field' turns out to be formerly known as Wainhouse Meadow. Its neighbour is White Leasow and beyond that, Marlin Piece - descriptive names - as are Broomy Leasow, Brick kiln Piece, Pant y Maes (field in the valley/hollow) and the less prosaic Cow Pasture and Eight Acres. My garden is called 'Patch' - a name which holds true even now, 150 years later. It is just that, still defying more detailed definition.

The little farm whose barn we now live in comprised a little over 139 acres and tithes of £8 19s 6d were payable to the Rector of Worthen. But Wainhouse? Where was the 'wainhouse'? Hardly likely to be way up the field but neither do I think where I am sitting right now was a cart shed back in the day.....or what about the hovel Alan so lovingly reconstructed? Hardly big enough there either. So where? I think I need to keep looking. We leave with photocopies of photocopies to pore over on the long winter evenings.

So. I've spent a soothing half hour, pencil in hand putting names to numbers - wondering how much or how little is still known by those names. I obviously need to get out more. If only to ask farmers questions about field names....

9 comments:

Frances said...

Your detection trail sounds so interesting. Think that the interviewing in the field will reveal lots.

Please do write updates! xo

Julia said...

Is it possible that your Wainhouse field is a misspelling of Weanhouse? Sickly calves were sometimes kept in a lean-to stable in a field with their mothers until they were weaned.

Kari L√łnning said...

How fun to read about your sleuthing. The names sound like British TV movie sets to this American - Dahhhh!
They're lovely and fun to try and visualize.

elizabethm said...

I would love to know more of the history of my house and yours too! Clearly I need to get down among the archives.

her at home said...

Hmm are you sure that "Pant y Maes" doesnt refer to knickers lost in the mais field??? No? well just a thought.

Another useful source is the Object name books held by the Ordnance Survey which gaev names spellign and derivation and often smal tales about names included on maps. You might try them although they used ot be held at Southampton Head Quarters I suspect now they may be up with everything else at St Catherines house at the public records office or wahtever it is called now.

Nikki-ann said...

I need to get myself there and do some family history research!

Morning's Minion said...

Searching for the past, be it of people or places, is fascinating--and frustrating. So often a quest for something in particular is thwarted and then some surprising tidbit of information comes from an unlikely source.

muddyboots said...

WOnderful field names, we have hem here too

rachel said...

What a delightful thing to do! And a quest that didn't just stop dead, but still has some way to go - very satisfying, I'd say.