1 : Fruits Of Labour
Before we get to proper husbandry ("farming"),
there are many "catch-crops" (NON-technical).
A little labour is often called-for;
perhaps more in the way of cunning!.
We have mentioned rabbits : a Fenland pit
for trapping was called a toipe.
Otherwise, a ferret is possibly essential.
A muzzled ferret is a coped one.
Even outside Broadland, wild duck ( smee )
could be located (and shot?!); likewise
pheasant or partridge.
Two types of the latter are identified :-
Frenchman : French or red-legged partridge;
Greybird (graybaad) the English partridge.
A brood of pheasants is a noye.
A seat is a sitting upon eggs (any variety).
Good King Wenceslas heads a long tradition of
gathering sticks for heating purposes.
The practice (including beachcombing)
is known as pawkin'.
On a larger scale, loppings from felled trees are
bra(tt)lin(g)s; and twigs & small sticks shruff.
The latter are also known as ti(t)-faggo(t)s,
as opposed to bavins (light, loose faggots).
Hazel-rods (used in thatching) are sways;
larger hazel branches (e.g. for wattle and daub
buildings) are rhizzes.
Smuggling is an old profession, appearing
in many places and guises. There were,
at one time, wool-smugglers : called owlers.
2 : Growing Pains
Before saturation by chemicals, weeds grew
alongside crops (any gardener knows the
weeds prosper more . . . )
Beggary is the highly appropriate word
for a large clump of weeds.
Poppies in a wheatfield are called corn-canker.
Twitch, or couch-grass, is quick.
Coarse, rough grass is ben(t)s (plural).
A tussock of rough grass is a hassock,.
Planting alternately, in rows, (e.g. in an orchard)
is known as mockin'.
After seed-planting, comes germination :
which is to chick.
Crops which prosper are said to moise
(thrive or improve); and to thrive is also to
addle ; but weak and sickly crops
(and people?) are dwainy.
Spells of cold, wet weather are said to make
the corn appear yallerified [ from yellow ].
Corn flattened by storms is said to be laid.
As crops fill-out and expand (hopefully)
they fathom. And foison is the quality of
moisture within the herbaceous crops (e.g. hay) :
ple(tt)y-a foison being plenty of moisture!
Crops allowed to run to seed are
described as sho(t) or pipy.
To tiller is not to rake the soil, but where
many stems appear from one root.
Above-average and impressive crops are
We 'ent 'arf go(t) some clinkers t-yare!
Sustenance "on the job" (packed-lunches)
may cheer-up the farmworker, faced with
bad weather and pestilence of all sorts.
A dockey-bag or pricker-bag is used
to carry the food from home, dockey
being dinner (i.e. lunch).
Snacks at other times of day are : bai(t)
(mid-morning); beaver (afternoon);
also fourses (afternoon),
pronounced farses ( fower-ses ).
A thumb-bi(t) is an amount of bread, cheese
and onion, held between the thumb and fingers
of one hand; while the other employs a
shut-knife to cut it and pass to the mouth.
3 : All Is Safely . . .
...gathered in, says the old hymn.
An irreverant reference occurs here, to ladies'
bloomers - known as Harvest Festivals !!
Harvesting might well be a one-journey
(janny) affair; i.e. working through,
without a meal break!
With the last load brought in, revelry can start.
The following social event & feast (traditionally
in the barn) is known as the horkey; hence
horkey-lood for the last one.
An alternative name, for the last load -
by custom decorated with leafy branches -
is the bough-load.
A special gift of money - largees (Fr. largesse)
was expected, by the labourers, at the end;
and they would haller largees until they got it.
At the simplest, a meadow is mowed; but the
feed left behind (or a second crop) rejoices in
the ancient name of the aftermath.
(See shack in 4. below). Barley is
gathered in awns or, in Norfolk, avels.
Before machinery arrived, the sheaves of corn
were placed on horse-drawn wagons.
The pitcher was the man loading the wagon.
The hold-ye boy (How'dgee Booy)
alternately cried (hallered) "Hold" to the man
atop the load; and "Gee" to the horses.
There is not much more to say about the
harvesting itself, but there is a multitude of
words to apply to the various quantities/types
of produce obtained.
If the harvested corn contained (as it often did)
quantities of weeds and foreign matter, this
was termed bulk, but pronounced thus :
"There's more boke (book) than corn!"
A sheaf of corn, before tying-up, is a gavel.
This term also describes a loose bundle of
straw for thatching purposes. Another term for
bundle is bol(t), again used in connection
Finally, reeds [not in our current purview, really]
used for thatching are bundled in fathoms
(a second use of the word) or yellums.
A finished sheaf of corn is a shoof,
and a group is a shock.
A stack, when there were any, had corners;
which were called hips.
A goof (or gooft) is a
corn-rick laid-up in a barn.
4 : Beasts Of The Field
Not wild ones, but beware of the bull at any time,
especially if he starts bellowing i.e. rorpin' !.
This word can be applied to any loud and scary noise.
Pigs can make a lot of noise too; they also
burrow in the soil (for roots etc.) i.e. rootlin',
with their big snout or grunny.
Another animal to keep clear of is the male pig
(boar) : appropriately known as a brawn.
Young animals often have separate names
(e.g. lamb ). For year-old lambs, read dans.
For the (younger) boar, as mentioned,
For a young sow, read yel(t).
The smallest, of a litter of pigs, is the barrer
[barrow]-pig, or pe(t)man or pi(t)man.
A weaned calf is a wennel;  when
beginning to show its horns is a bud (neat!).
Bullocks need special supervision, and their
enclosed area set aside is called a par-yard.
Pigs whose sex is undetermined (why?)
are called Jonamy Jones.
A sheep, after its first shearing, is a hogge(t).
Cattle with stunted, down-turned horns
are described as slung-(h)orn.
Shepherds may still exist : but do they
still have lads - assistants - called pages
(as in Good King Wenceslas)?
Sometimes a female animal will be barren
which is called gast.
Animals need feeding, and winter feed
is the tricky one : called stover.
Arable farming is complementary
in the matter of shack, which is either -
Shack-time means post-harvest
- the feed-name :
(grain lying about in the field after harvest).
- the act of turning-out animals or poultry
onto such a field.
(i.e. gleaning time).
A trough, for pig food or watering animals, is
pronounced, in Norfolk - like so many similar
words - as trow (sound as in low, not now).
5 : Food Processing
Our forbears would never have used such
an expression, but jargon moves on!. We will
take it as any agricultural activity post-harvest.
There isn't much you have to do to a harvested
apple, apart from esoteric "grading"
and fancy packing.
A famous variety of Norfolk cooking-apple
is the biffin.
A yellow plum has the nice name of
Apples, in large numbers, were used for making
cider [in Norfolk, as well as the West Country!].
The pulp left-over was called pummace
Grain, on the other hand, needs threshing
(troshin') and all-sorts.
The miscellaneous refuse left-over
by threshing is called cavings (cairvins).
In particular, oat chaff is termed oat-flights
Later comes the flour-mill, at which the
second sifting of the "meal" is known as randan.
Sacks ( pokes ) were carried from the mill
on a pook-car(t).
Good vegetable crops are spol(t) or spoul(t)
(not spoilt!) after harvesting : crisp and brittle.
Scorin(g) (or scoring-up ) means hoeing
sugar-beet after initial chopping-out.
To shuck anything (e.g. peas) is
to remove the shells.
[Americans use the word for removing clothing!].
Knockin' an' toppin' describes what is
necessary for harvested sugar-beet : knock the
beet together to remove most soil, and slice-off
the leaves with a hook!
Another word for the rubble
(husks, chaff, bits of straw) left-over is colder.
6 : Tools Of The Trade
Some trades, e.g. thatching ( thackin' ), use
natural materials and ancient skills; yet are
trades not exclusively rural or agricultural
in nature. They just feel as if they are!
The thatcher's boy assistant was,
unpleasantly, known as his toad (tood).
A short stick, pointed at one end, has the
same name as a hazel rod used specifically
for thatching, namely brotch (or broach,
pronounced bruch - using the "mid-u" sound).
Another type of short rod, for ridge thatching,
is a ligger.
Combing thatch is yelmin(g)
( yellums see 3. above).
Other tools for general usage include :
A rub is, unsurprisingly, a sharpening-stone
- bee(t)le (heavy wooden mallet);
- crud-barrer ( crowd-barrow )
i.e. push-barrow = wheelbarrow !;
- dipper (handled receptacle for getting
water from the top of a tank, butt etc.);
- firplen (dustpan, but not in Norwich?).
for (sharp) tools. Conversely, a tool may be
blunted, or have the edge turned-over.
This is to bezzle (i.e. bevel ) the tool.
Weeding tools are needed not only by
A long-handled reap-hook for cutting weeds
is a meager (mearger); whereas a sickle -
a smaller "agricultural" scythe - is an
The handle of a big scythe is a tack,
and the scythe itself a July Razor (Juloi Rairzer).
A long-handled (or walking-stick based)
weeding tool is either a spud, a grubber
or a dock-chisel.
A flasher, unexcitingly, is for hedge-cutting
(flashing); other obscure tools for this purpose
being a bagging-hook and a scrogger.
Carpentry is represented by the fillister -
for cutting grooves or rebating i.e. a rabbit !
(either as a noun or verb).
Repairs will be needed for a wooden handle
which has sprung (split).
7 : Fieldwork
The attractively-named sedlip was a container,
hanging in front of the body, being suspended
from the shoulders; which left the hands free
to broadcast seed (sed) or indeed fertiliser.
A slop (apron or working-smock)
would also be a good idea . . .
Much of the on-going work, apart from weeds,
arose from the need to keep ditches & drains clear.
To dig or clean out (fye-ou(t)) is to didle-ou(t),
the name also given to a ditching spade (with
long handle). A similar long-handled scoop is
a mud-scuppi(t) or just plain scuppi(t) . . .
Another implement for ditch-clearing, a kind of
rake with strong, curved tines, is a crome.
The same (famous) name is used for a
muck-rake, or a digger for lifting root-crops;
the tasks and implements all very similar.
Finally the long-handled scythe (mearger)
or the knife (shore-cu(tt)er) can help in ditch-clearing.
A pritch (in general) being a prick, so is the
name given to an iron rod, with a pointed end.
In the case of a fold-pritch, the rod is very
heavy and substantial; and is hammered into
This operation provides holes into which
sheep enclosure "hurdles" can be fitted.
If collecting eggs from the hins (hens) comes
under this heading, then the noise they make
after laying is a good signal i.e. hens pra(t)ing.
See biddles in D.7
Even more dramatic is the work sometimes
undertaken for the "sporting" Gentry,
out on a shoot : beating-up the pheasants etc.
Well, not beating the birds themselves, as
explained in the Norfolk term : gorn' a-brushin'
which covers it!.
8 : Heavy Stuff
Smithy work, in fact.
The shoeing of lively colts usually required
extra restraints, in the form of a wooden frame
i.e. trave.. Hence trav'us (trave house)
for the smithy yard.
The blacksmith's hammer is a swedge.
In winter, to avoid slipping, the heels of the
horseshoes were turned-in: to form small
spurs or calkins.
The process was known as roughin(g).
As for repairing vehicles (e.g. the tumbler
= tumbril), the axle is a vital component.
In Norfolk this has the name of ackulster
or ecclester (axle tree of wagon or cart).
Even the humble wheel has a Norfolk name -
Quite a performance to place a heated iron tyre
around a wooden cart-wheel! : so a special
platform, called a plate (plair(t)), is needed.
A less exacting task, not requiring ironwork,
is to fashion some hinges out of leather : useful
for such things as rabbit hutches. These are termed jimmers.
An axe may suffer a broken handle or a
split one (subtle difference there).
If the wood is brittle or short-grained (leading
to breakage) it is spol(t) (see Vegetables ).
If split, the wood has sprung.
9 : Pots And Pans
And baskets. . . and things . . .
A broomsquire is an ancient occupation :
a maker of birch and heather brooms.
Buskins are more than everyday footwear :
being leather leggings or gaiters, much needed
in agricultural work (watch the brumbles!).
Similarly, hedging is tough work on the hands,
so special gloves i.e. dannocks are worn.
Highlows are leather ankle-boots,
useful in wet weather.
Much cheaper are the bits of string commonly
tied around trouser-bottoms (to keep out
the cold and other things . . .)
These modest strings have impressive names :
Elijahs (= Lijahs)
or Yorkers (= Yorks).
A keeler or killer is a large wooden tub,
used for scalding a pig after it has been killed.
The same term is used for any large tub
employed in washing or brewing.
A basket, in general terms (to and from market),
is called a ped (as in pedlar ); while a shallow
basket, made of rushes, is a frail.
Poor little Moses!
It is no surprise (to modern ears) to find
skep used for a much bigger wicker-basket.
A smaller cousin, made of fine and skinned
willows, and without handles, is a windle.
A gotch is a large jug or ewer, often used
to carry beer to the harvesters (men),
by the skinker.
This lad also filled the glasses and horns
at ale-house gatherings.