Fields And Commons : The Wider Township Territory
The clearest impression of the overall settlement pattern in the township in the late medieval/early modern period is provided by the 1632 Wellbeck Atlas maps. Although this map is some 250 years after the late 13th century high water mark of medieval settlement, and the the usual caveats therefore apply, the basic elements of the pattern depicted probably held true throughout the medieval pattern.
The village of Great Tosson lay on the interface between the two basic resources of the township community. To the north, on the lower slopes of the valley side and extending on to the flood plain of the Coquet, lay the large open arable fields, meadows and orchards with names like ‘Great Tosson Howp field’, ‘Great Tosson greene’, etc. The Howp Field also figures in the ‘Survey of the Ogle lands’, in 1724, cited by Dixon (1903, 326).
To the south of the village, a long narrow, wedge-shaped slice of territory extended into the Simonside Hills, as far as the confluence of the Smiddy Burn and Newbiggin Burn, where it reached an apex at the foot of ‘Kame Hill’. The territorial slice is thus equivalent to the strip which is currently forested and did not include the additional area to the south east - incorporating Selby’s Cove, Cove Glen and extending down to Coquet Cairn - all of which formed part of the territory of the late 19th century Tosson township. This represented the community’s unenclosed common grazing.
Hedley and Quartermaine (2004, 345) have described the system of hollow-ways which can be traced leading into the Simonside Hills via Tosson Burgh, Spital Hill, Little Church Rock and Bob Pyle’s Studdie and which were probably associated with the driving of livestock up on to the high pastures. The map shows that the great majority of early 17th-century topographical placenames in the Simonside Hills were very different from those recorded on the Ordnance Survey maps of more recent centuries.
Apart from the water mill(s) and the building on the site of the hospital at Ryehill, no dispersed farmsteads are shown within Great Tosson township. To the west, Little Tosson is shown as a hamlet of four houses. Another hamlet of three or four houses, called ‘Fernelow Hill’ or sometimes just Fernelow, which has now vanished completely, is shown to the south west beside the ‘Snawdene Intackt’, a small intake in the joint common of Hepple, Fernelow and Little Tosson townships, on the southern edge of ‘Bickering (i.e. Bickerton) and Fernelow’ grounds.
Fernelow seems to have been associated with Bickerton, but the sites of both the hamlet and the intake are probably located within the later territory of Little Tosson township (approximately at NZ 005 998). The only man-made structure shown in Great Tosson common is a boundary or waymarker cross, ‘Eldin Stob’, shown on the eastern edge of the township near the present Ferneybed Hill (approximately at NZ 020 973). On the west side, a very large glacial erratic, labelled ‘maine stone on Tosson Moor’, was apparently used as a boundary marker. Main Stone, also known as Mere Stone, still exists (cf. Dixon 1903, 482). From there, the western boundary of Great Tosson continued north to reach the Chesterhope Burn which was followed until the enclosed ground was reached.
At the southern end of Hepple, Fernelow and Little Tosson Common lay an area labelled Charnters Shield. A single building called ‘The Shield’ is shown in this area. Rather than being associated with long distance transhumance this building may have provided seasonal shelter for those tending and milking the community’s cattle on the common (cf. Winchester 2000, 90 - 93).
The label applied to this area, Chartners Shield, refers to the Chartenays the family which held a share of the Hepple barony prior to the Ogles. The significance of the placename is not altogether clear, but it may refer to a part of the moorland which was once reserved for the Chartenay lords own stock and hence was not part of the common proper.
Alternatively it might represent a sheiling ground which the Chartenays leased out, either to their own tenants or to those from townships much further afield, who needed additional grazing for their stock. ‘Chartners’ survives today incorporated in several placenames in this part of the former common, notably Chartner Burn, Chartner Lough, and the ‘solitary house’ of Chartners (cf. Dixon 1903, 488), now encircled by the trees of Harwood Forest.