Chafers and cumpas

PUBLISHED: 11:59 10 February 2006 | UPDATED: 21:40 28 May 2010

TIMES have changed in Fenland villages when the only excitement was the weekly whist drive, or the midweek or Saturday trip to market. Today you re as likely to find yourself living next door to an easyJet air steward or a London banker as townies have m

TIMES have changed in Fenland villages when the only excitement was the weekly whist drive, or the midweek or Saturday trip to market.

Today you're as likely to find yourself living next door to an easyJet air steward or a London banker as townies have moved in either for economic reasons or to savour some of the good life.

To help newcomers adjust, and to allow for those of a certain age to reminisce, we've compiled a collection of words to help you understand a little more of village life.

The list is only a glimpse into the vocabulary of the Fenland villager, and we'd welcome your suggestions for words or phrases (and, of course their definitions) for those we might have overlooked.

If you have a favourite village phrase, saying or word then let us know. E-mail john.elworthy @archant.co.uk.

Meanwhile here's an alphabetical guide to some of our favourite words (and by way of acknowledgement we'd like to thank www.eng-villages.co.uk for their help.

ALMERYE: cupboard

BAYLE: a ladle for beer.

BERE: pillow-bere, a pillow case

BORDAR: Villager; differing from the villein in that the latter held little land, the bordar still less.

BUHRSILVER: medieval tax on whole village for upkeep of manorial hall or 'bury'.

BUSHEL: measure of volume of corn: 8 gallons: a quarter of a coomb.

BUTTERY: room where ale was brewed and kept

CHAFER: dish with a lid, for keeping food hot.

CHALDRON: measure of volume of coal; equal to 52cwt.

CLUNCH: chalk, usually soft chalk for making floors.

COUTTOLYNE: covering for a bed.

CUMPAS: compost, manure.

DAUBING: mixture of clay or clunch, cow-hair and lime to make walls.

DISTRAINT: seizure of goods or animals for debt or other reason.

DOWNECKE: fine down from neck and breast of goose.

FARM: block letting for fixed payment for a number of years.

FEE: area of jurisdiction of a lord of the manor.

FLITCH: one side of a pig, when killed, minus legs, thighs and ribs, ie bacon

GARNESS: set of pewter dishes, plates, bowls.

GERSUMA: fee paid on inheritance of freehold land by daughter.

HERIOT: payment made when a holding was inherited on death of previous holder.

HECKFERTH: heifer; cow before its first calf.

HEYWARD: one of the constables with special responsibility for boundaries and encroachments.

HOGGET: sheep one year old.

HUE AND CRY: when it was 'raised' by the constable or injured party, it was the duty of everyone to help catch the offender. The actual cry was probably 'Hue! Hue!' - hence modern 'hoot' and 'hooray'.

MASLIN: mixed corn, usually wheat and rye.

MESSUAGE: a house with land attached.

PINNER: the constable with special duty of impounding stray animals.

PIPE: large barrel holding 126 gallons of wine or ale.

PORINGER: porridge-bowl.

QUERN: two circular stones, one rotated on top of the other, for grinding corn.

REEKE: rick, stack of corn in sheaves.

ROOD: a quarter of an acre, cross of Christ, or crucifix.

SKELLET: originally 'solar', a room where a lady could be alone; later simply an upstairs room.

STRYNER: strainer; flat ladle with fine holes in it, for removing scum from beer.

TALLAGE: tax levied annually by manor-court on all the tenants, for no specific reason, except that they were there.

TITHING: originally a group of 10 men all mutually responsible for the good behaviour of the group.

VIRGINTALL: twenty masses said or sung for the soul of a dead person.

WEATHER: one-year-old castrated ram.

YEOMAN: name given to farmer in 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

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