Bourne Archive: BAEM: The Heg                              Latest edit 1 Jan 2011.  

Text, page and picture ©R.J.PENHEY 2008.  

The Bourne Archive Gallery

The Heg at Dyke, from the Bourne Abbots Estate Map of 1825.

This is a detail, covering the area of the Heg, south of Dyke, taken from the Bourne Abbots Estate Map of 1825.


Car Dyke

The Heg is a strip-shaped plot of land bounded by outer limits of the raised lateral banks of the Car Dyke, which perhaps as a result of the plot’s existence, have been conserved particularly well here. The Exeter Estate Book gives its area as 6 acres, 2 roods, 31 perches (2.7170 ha) and confirms that its owner was Henry Bott, copyhold of the Manor of Bourne. It does not give the plot’s name on the relevant plan but it is included in the form ‘The Hegg’, in the EEB list of premises. There is a similar strip plot along the Car Dyke north of Dyke but this belonged to neither the Exeter Estate nor the Bourne Abbots Estate. In the 1820s, it was held, apparently freehold, by John Brittain so, while the records of both the big estates record his ownership, neither names the plot. (See John Brittain’s plot straddling the Car Dyke and adjoining the Wath Field.)

Dyke Haws

Parts of the Car Dyke act today, as a catchwater drain. The sections draining from north and south into Bourne are clear cases in point but it may be illuminating if we hypothesize that the Car Dyke was cut primarily as a security fence controlling movement into and particularly of goods, out of a Roman imperial estate in the fens.

It seems possible that the names Car and Heg have the same meaning but with origins in the Brythonic and Germanic language families respectively. Compare the modern Welsh caer (a fort), lle caeëdig (an enclosure) and cae (a field) or the English hedge, respectively. Each of these words embraces the concept of an enclosing boundary (Geiriadur Newydd & OED). Two of the three Anglo-Saxon words for ‘hedge’, given by Pollington are haga and hega but his words for concepts such as ‘enclosure’, ‘boundary’ and ‘fencing’ are distinctly different. However, the St. John’s College Forest site glossary of medieval land use terms, under hay, gives the Old English meaning of haga as ‘enclosure generally’.

The ‘hay’ form of ‘heg’ is easily explicable.

Car Dyke

This district underwent considerable Danish influence under the Danelaw. The modern Danish word for fence is hegn. When heg is pronounced in the Danish manner, it sounds as hey, which is very close ‘hay’ and to the French haie. La haie normally means ‘the hedge’ but in place names it seems also to be ‘the enclosure’: compare La Haye Sainte at Waterloo.  La Haye is the French version of the Dutch s’Gravenhage. This in turn, means ‘the count’s park’.  A park is an enclosure: compare Gobold’s Park, a pre-eighteenth century enclosure in Bourne Fen, or the general term, ‘deer park’. s’Gravenhage is known in English as ‘The Hague’. The Swedish inhägnad means ‘enclosure’ (Danielsson). It is therefore possible to see that the elementheg is widely associated with the concept of enclosure. Compare also the job description of the hayward: an officer of a manor having charge of the fences and enclosures (OED). See also OED entries for Hag n.² and Haw n.1 (RJP3). Indeed, the lands adjacent to the Heg on its eastern side were known as Dyke Haws. Their small size and irregular shapes are consistent with their having been early enclosures.

The other Brythonic languages, Cornish and Breton are more influenced than Welsh is by the languages of their neighbours but ‘to fence in’ can be expressed in Breton, as kaea or kêa (Garnier: enclore), kael may be a fence, wall, railings or hedge, depending on the material used (Garnier: kae & Collins: clôture) and the act of enclosing may be kaea or kaela, while he who does the enclosing is kaeour (Garnier: clôturer). In Cornish, ‘to enclose’ is keas (Morton Nance: enclose) and the noun ‘hedge’ is ke (Morton Nance: hedge). Thus even where the vocabulary of these languages is in the Brythonic pattern they both, the Cornish particularly, offer less clear support for the hypothesis than Welsh does. Nonetheless, they do offer some.

The application of the car and heg names to the archaeological feature, the Car Dyke would imply that their use is old: dating from a time when the dyke’s significance as a boundary of a Roman imperial estate in The Fens was still remembered. That this part of it serves also as a catchwater drain would seem to have been regarded as of lesser significance when names were allocated.

 Given the correctness of the enclosure line of argument as an explanation of the Car and Heg names, the Brythonic name can hardly refer to anything much later than the Roman use of the dyke. On the other hand, the use of ‘heg’ may arise from  a translation of ‘car’ when Anglian settlers spread their influence into the area from the north, in the fifth or sixth century but it may refer to the dyke’s twelfth century use under Henry I, as the western boundary of his royal forest. See a brief description of the forest’s boundaries, from the Parliamentary Gazetteer of 1841 and a map of Kesteven Forest, from the forest research of St. John’s College.


Other details from the Bourne Abbots Estate Map: a general view of Dyke: the Main Street area: Dyke Fen: Dyke Meadows: Dyke Haws.

For the pre-enclosure open fields, see Moor Field: Nutto Field: Wath Field

Index of samples from the map                   Archive Contents