Louth’s oldest recorded field name still in use?

Black croft Termonfeckin copy

Ordnance Survey map of Termonfeckin showing the Black Croft.

We know that many Irish names referring to landscape features like hills and rivers are of considerable antiquity and probably date to the prehistoric period, but what about field names? Medieval documents, like those in the Dowdall Deeds list the names of many fields, but most these names have long gone out of use. If we want to find the oldest continually used field name then we have to go to the mid-sixteenth century, 1540 to be exact.

When the Augustinian Priory of Louth was dissolved in 1540 a list of its landed possessions was drawn up. Among them was a parcel of land in Termonfeckin called ‘le Black crofte’. The land was held by one Patrick Dowdall, a tenant at will of the priors, and in return for holding the land he was obligated to repair ‘the chancel of the parish church of Termonfeckin with tiles, “pynnes”, “lathes”, and “nayles” whenever necessary. The land was valued at four shillings (White 1943, 230).

A field called the Black Craft was recorded by the LFNP in Termonfeckin. The field is located just behind Triple House, alongside a small road. The word craft in this name is a corruption of croft, a term that is Old English in origin and has the meaning of a piece of enclosed ground used for tillage or pasture. It is most often used to refer to small piece of arable land adjacent to a house (Field 1993, 20). The location of the field at the centre of Termonfeckin village, and its close similarity to the name recorded in 1540 suggests that they are very likely one and the same field!

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