A Review of Balks as Strip Boundaries in the Open Fields
Agricultural History Review, Volume 4 part 1 (1956)
It was Seebohrn who first alleged that individual holdings–strips or parcels–in the Open Fields of medieval England were bounded by green balks of unploughed turf. This statement was accepted and copied by many later historians until the publication of the Orwins’ Open Fields in 1938. The Orwins, in this and the subsequent edition published in 1954, disputed Seebohm’s general statement on the grounds that he had misinterpreted his evidence.” They argued that any purpose balks might have had was already served by a boundary of a different sort. The action of the fixed mouldboard plough was to form lands (ridges, beds, warps, stitches, etc.) and between each land was a clearly demarcated furrow. Each man knew how many lands went to his strip and the furrow showed where each land joined the one adjacent to it. Balks would have been pointless and wasteful; and it is difficult to conceive such a wastage of land at a time when the cultivated area in each parish was barely sufficient to support the needs of the community.