Deatil from Sale of Land document from the Abbey Museum Collection


Imagine walking into a real estate agent’s office and asking to buy an oxgang of land.  You would most likely receive some very strange looks and be sent packing. Or you might just be lucky enough to talk to a real estate agent who knew something about historical land measurements. They would then realise that you were using a unit of measurement that has been in vogue in England and Scotland since the early 16th century and under another name, a bovate, right back to the Vikings.

Medieval Measures

The Domesday Book refers to a bovata, which represents the amount of land which could be ploughed using one ox in a single annual season.  The Latin word for ox is Bos (from which we also get our descriptive word, bovine, meaning slightly slow and stupid).  Thus depending on the abilities of a ploughman, an oxgang could range between  15 and 20 acres.  A furlong (meaning furrow length) was the distance an ox- team could plough without resting. Pulling a plough through the heavy northern soils of the British Isles …

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longcase clock by William Terry

The Story of a Clockmaker

Sometimes it is extraordinary how small serendipitous consequences can have great results. Such was the outcome from a recent visitor to the Museum who came from Bedale, a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales.  They reported back to their local newspaper that they had seen a longcase clock in the Abbey Museum in Australia that came from Bedale, made by the famous clock maker, William Terry.  The newspaper item was spotted by a Mr David Severs, who had published a book on the Clockmakers of Bedale. David then contacted the Museum and generously offered to date the Abbey Museum’s clock and provide information on its maker, William Terry. 

The vast majority of painted-dial clocks, or white-dial clocks as they were known at the time, were made in Birmingham and the manufacturers copied each other’s styles. From their introduction about 1772 until around 1800 painted-dial clocks had Roman hours and dotted minutes marked 5,10,15… with either gold decoration in imitation of the cast brass spandrels on brass-dial clocks or flowers or fruit in the corners often in raised gold triangles. …

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