What’s in a name? Honey Field and Wax Hanger
Just a few miles from Vita offices is the church of the father of English beekeeping, Rev Charles Butler. This year is the 400th anniversary of the publishing of the influential and landmark second edition of The Feminine Monarchie, so we’ve been doing a little research.
Rev Charles Butler’s church is in Wooton St Lawrence in Hampshire and, as in most places in England, the fields around his church have names. Many are mundane – The Four Acres, Three Acres, Church Yard Piece – but two have resonance – Honey Field and Wax Hanger. Could they have been named by Butler or during his time at Wootton?
The earliest reference we have found for the names so far is on the tithe map of 1840. (Tithe maps were created when payments for land were measured in cash rather than goods.) The two fields have since been merged but have retained the name Wax Hanger, an unusual name in any context. Hanger in Hampshire is a common name for a steeply wooded slope, but the one behind the church is just a gentle southeast-facing side of a shallow dry valley in the Hampshire chalk downland.
Honey Field is a relatively common name found in many parts of the country, but it is all too easy to jump to a honey bee connection. True, Honey Field can mean a place where bees are kept or where a rich nectar source grows. It’s certainly the latter this year as it is planted with oilseed rape. But it mightn’t have anything to do with nectar at all. Honey Field is sometimes an ironic name for a muddy, gloopy field. I asked the local shepherd about the field. Oh yes, it can be sticky, he said. The chalk there is covered by a clay cap and, when it gets wet, walking in it can be a boot-sucking experience.
Could Wax Hanger then be another ironic naming, suggesting that it’s the drier field? That would be such an anti-climax and we don’t want to believe that just yet! Surely the Butler connection must be implicated? Investigations continue.
There’s even a Mead Cottage Field nearby that seemed quite exciting. But that’s a definite disappointment. The use of the word mead in this context is almost certainly an abbreviation for meadow.
In August there will be special quadecentenary celebrations at the church: charles-butler400.co.uk