Sometimes field-names are straightforward, and sometimes much less so. Beryl, one of our volunteers, has been working with some maps and surveys of Hopton, just north-east of Stafford, and found a cluster of fields containing the word quarry – Quarry Field, Quarry Meadow, and so on. This isn’t unusual in itself – there are hundreds, if not thousands, of fields across the country with quarry in their names, and most are simply pieces of land containing or adjoining a quarry. (John Field gives plenty of examples in English Field-Names: A dictionary.)
What stumped us, however, was that there didn’t seem to be an obvious quarry anywhere in sight, either on the modern Ordnance Survey maps, the late nineteenth-century ones, or even on the maps which accompanies the survey where Beryl found the quarry fields. There weren’t any pools which might have once been quarries, nor any other indication of why the fields were named as such.
So, Beryl took it upon herself to do some digging (bad pun alert – sorry!) and found that there might be an alternative meaning of quarry. She found that quarrie (or quarrie – it could be spelt either way) used to be a word meaning “square” or “diamond-shaped” (see the Oxford English Dictionary), so wondered whether the name might be describing the shape of the field rather than its location. You can see from the map above that at least one of the fields could certainly be described as square. The English Dialect Dictionary confirms that the word quarry was used in Staffordshire in the nineteenth century in this sense, especially meaning a square flooring-brick or paving-stone (and metaphorical use for a piece of land is certainly possible).
So, are we looking at a square shaped field (or fields), or at fields near a quarry? The Ordnance Survey map from the 1920s (below) shows several “Old Marl Pits” not far from the quarry fields, although not immediately adjacent to them. Could this be what the names refer to? For now, it will have to remain unexplained, but as we collect more forms of these names and look at more maps and documents, we will hopefully be able to find a more definite answer! Thanks to Beryl for sharing her research.