The Hoar Oak Cottage Fields


Panoramic view of the fields around Hoar Oak Cottage. Looking from Cheriton Ridge on Brendon Common west across the Hoar Oak Water . The cottage is surrounded by the dark square of trees.

Thanks to the 1836 Tithe Surveys and the Commutation Act of 1836 we learn the names of the fields around Hoar Oak Cottage – some pretty, some plain  – but all quite descriptive.  Nineteen parcels of land owned by John Vellacott at Hoar Oak were surveyed, numbered and named including:

  • House Field
  • The Gate Field
  • Higher Hills
  • Lower Hills
  • Bottom of the Mountain
  • Higher Six Acres
  • Lower Six Acres
  • Bottom
  • Hoar Oak Common
  • House and Gardens
  • Mountain (several parcels of land have this name but different numbers)

The names above are very descriptive but of particular interest are the following, rather romantic-sounding,  field names:

  • The Daisy Field
  • Goviers Lake Field
  • The Oaken Piece
  • Bottom of the Mountain

Where did those names come from?  Who gave them to these bundles of rough Exmoor land?  How long were the fields known by these names before 1836?  These are questions we’d like to find answers to.  If anyone can help please get in touch.  More information about the 1836 Tithe Maps below……….

The House and Garden Field              Image Bette Baldwin

About The 1836 Tithe Survey and Commutation Act

From 1836, for a decade or so, the whole of England and Wales was surveyed.  This was a huge task and its aim was to establish the boundaries of each parish as well as every parcel of land within the parish, who owned it, its value and the calculated tithe the owner would be liable to pay to the parish. Why was it done?  To formalise the money raised to support the parish and its clergy. Its not that long ago that people needing help and support in hard times would turn first to their family and neighbours and then, if needs be, to the parish to provide them with food, clothing, money etc.  The money for the parish came from the community, from ‘tithes’ paid by local property owners.

Prior to The Commutation Act passed in 1836, this tithe payment had been made, generally speaking, “in kind”.  The 1836 Act changed all that.  The survey produced, for each parish, a map which identified each plot of land, who owned it, its size and its monetary value in terms of tithe payable to the parish. Once the tithe maps and apportionments were drawn up for each parish the landowners had to convert their payment in kind to a monetary payment.  Finding the hard cash was probably a challenge for many.

In 1836, that duty to pay would have fallen on John Vellacott who owned Hoar Oak Cottage and the land around it at that time. The total duty for Hoar Oak Cottage and all of its fields was £4.7.6.  Using the National Archive currency convertor  this was the equivalent of £200+ in current money.  We don’t have any record of what John thought about paying this new charge. In 1836, Hoar Oak was occupied by Richard and Betsy Lancey who were either relatives of, or working for, the Vellacotts.  The Lanceys were busy then with the marriage of their daughter to their lodger, George Saunders the Thatcher – more on this link – so perhaps weren’t too worried about paying tithes either.

However, the tithe maps and apportionments do give fascinating information about Hoar Oak Cottage and the land around it.  We often think of Hoar Oak sitting isolated and remote in a barren landscape but the Tithe Maps show it was surrounded by clearly marked fields with specified names and, no doubt, specified functions.  Even the notes written by the surveyor show the realities of life at Hoar Oak as he mentions how wet everything is, including the paper he is trying to record his survey measurements on.

The Tithe Map and Apportionment document for the parish of Lynton, which includes Hoar Oak Cottage, can be found online.  Follow this link and then choose the Parish of Lynton in the drop down box.  .



Thanks to Royalty Free Stock Photos for daisy image.



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