Conclusion : Settlement Pattern And Agricultural Practice
The tithe commutation and common award maps show the limit of the enclosed 'ancient land', though the acreages stated there (235-0-35) greatly exceeds the total (140) set down in the 1604 survey. Only to the south-west does Rochester ancient land abut Stobbs ancient land. Otherwise they are separated by a glacis of unenclosed common grazing lands.
To the west Rochester is separated from Birdhope Craig ancient land by the Sills Burn. The pattern of settlement is striking, with the outlying farmsteads of Hillock, Dykehead, Petty Knowes and even Low/Nether Rochester all set along the boundary between the ancient lands and the unenclosed common. The name of Dykehead even emphasises such a position, head-dyke being the common term in Scotland and parts of northern England for the main wall, hedge or bank separating a community's enclosed fields of arable and winter pasture from the rough common or waste beyond (Winchester 1987, 59-60; 2002, 52-5, 146-7).
The antiquity of this boundary may be reflected in the structure of the wall, especially around the northern side of Dykehead ancient land. The wall there comprises large, irregular boulders, changing abruptly to upper courses of smaller, more homogenous stonework markedly different in appearance. The surviving field-walls within the ancient lands are built of regular dry-stonework similar to that along the top of the head-dyke. These inner field-walls may therefore represent a later phase of field division, replacing hedging or fencing, a phase which perhaps included recapping the head-dyke.
Early-modern agricultural practice is further illuminated by the 1791 award cited above (cf. NRO 542.59). This did not constitute an enclosure and partition of common land properly speaking, like Rochester Common. Rather it seems to represent a private agreement formally and permanently dividing unbounded parcels of land which had hitherto been proportionately re-alloted every year. Thus one surviving extract from the award refers to the Rev. Thomas Hope's pre-existing rights to a moiety of 'the lands and tenements of the said Caleb Dixon lying dispersed and intermixed'.
These 'lands and tenements' presumably comprised unbounded parcels of rig and furrow which may well have shifted position each year according to the prevalent system of arable-fallow rotation - a continuation of the practice alluded to by the 1618 Rental ('as it is divided by years' - Rental, 338). Rights to use the wetter meadowland beside the Sills Burn and below the fort walls may well have been shared.
Picture : Ridge And Furrow at Woolaw Farm, Rochester