Lesley Chapman, in her book The Living History of Hedgerows, recommends seeking out the local 1840 Tithe Map as an aid to research. I had already done this (thank you library microfiche) and from that we have not only been able to see the changes in the hedges and boundaries, but also to identify the original names of many of the fields around us here.
I have to be honest and confess that I didn't really know exactly what the 1840 Tithe Maps were but, as expected, it involved a tax of money paid by land owners to the local church, thus replacing the previous one tenth of everything made, earned, grown or produced. Charges were set as a proportion of the value of the land owned and this involved the massive national survey that produced these historic maps.
There, now we all know.
I can highly recommend the microfiche adventure in your local library if this sort of thing is of any interest. I commandeered the thing for hours, running off photocopies and taking notes for the best part of a day, and with no queue waiting I carried on. I have since discovered that Devon are in the process of digitisng this archive so eventually access will be online.
This may not seem very exciting, but to know more about how this Parish land that I am walking looked in 1840, and to know the names that those who lived and worked would have used for the fields, does feel like a real and vibrant connection with the past, and an important one given that so much has been eroded and lost down the years.
As you can see we are right on the limits of the Parish Boundary, and our house (red arrow just below the centre, and not yet built in 1840) we now know sits in the corner of Lower Parson Dart's Field, whilst nearby we have Scramble Land Orchard and Long Field, and that field to the front of the house is called Moor. Closer perusal suggests that, unlike many, our little portion of the Tithe Map is highly accurate, especially when compared with the 21st century Google maps satellite image... even down to that dog-leg bend in the hedge in the field behind us. How on earth the Land Surveyors achieved such accuracy without an aerial view defies belief.
The shape of the fields around us largely unchanged since 1840, though some hedges have disappeared, but I can now look out for their traces as I walk and reimagine the fields as they would have been.
But the 1840 Tithe Map Records also revealed something else.
When we moved here in 1994 our house was called Youngcott Cottage. That seemed entirely too many Cotts in one name so we dropped the 'Cottage' and had thousands of address labels printed that said 'Youngcott.'
When some derelict barns, situated on the original Youngcott land lower down from us, were sold for conversion, our new neighbours asked if they could reclaim the proper name. We threw the labels away, had a think and came up with umpteen suggestions before eventually plumping for Higher Youngcott, and for no other reason than that we were 'above' them on the lie of the land. It seemed obvious even to our twentieth century rural sensibilities.
Has anyone else out there researched their home and its history, or their environs in a similar way??
I would be really interested to hear about it, and also other possible sources of information...