The Seventh Stile

This has long been something of a minor mystery to me,  but there must be some local folk who can give a definitive answer.  Every now and then I walk over to Hammerwich (and beyond), much as my local ancestors often did on Sunday afternoons.  My parents knew this route from the Triangle as The Seven Stiles, but just where were the stiles?

seven stiles os 1974 (640x227)
Ordnance Survey 1974 (surveyed over a long period), showing the official public footpath in pecked green. It also shows the current path in a fine black dotted line.

To find out more it would be interesting to see how the land lay in great grandfather’s day.

seven stiles os 1882-83 nls
Footpath from Triangle to Hammwerwich. Ordnance Survey 1882-83, reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Going from Triangle, the path strikes straight east towards Hammerwich Square, but, having crossed two fields, it then hugs field boundaries until reaching Hammerwich more or less where it does today.  The stiles would be where the path crossed field boundaries, such as hedgerows and stock-proof fences.  I count ten possible locations, excluding the ends.

Today, the path runs uphill from the Triangle, opposite The Ridgeway, through a gap in the hedge where the remains of a stile are visible.  From there it climbs beside a low hedge, more or less south east, the only strong echo of those old field boundaries.  At the end of the hedge the path zigs left, then zags right.  From my reading of the various maps I think the path then follows the old line up to Overton Lane (to the east of the line of longitude).

seven stiles path (480x319)
Seven stiles path, looking west towards Triangle.

As in many farming areas the old hedges have gone and the path crosses an open hillside, but, back in the 1910s, when Granddad and Nan were courting, I suspect it seemed a more enclosed place, offering a moment’s privacy here and there.

What was the path for?  Hammerwich is very old, at least 1,400 years old.  There would have been paths in many directions.  More recently, though, with the village being dry, I wonder whether it was the way to the pub, at the Triangle Tavern.  It was also a route for people living at Triangle and further west to get to the parish church and this is where I will continue.

Having reached Overton Lane, turn right and then left, down towards the village stores.  Opposite is a steep bank climbed by a footpath that emerges into a field, giving a view of one of Hammerwich’s two most prominent landmarks, the old mill, now a residence.

hammerwich mill (640x246)
Hammerwich Mill 2016.

After crossing Mill Lane you enter an enclosed, narrow alley path.  Back in the 1950s, though, and obviously earlier, it was a bit more open, allowing this view of the disused mill.  The view is obstructed by a house, now.

hammerwich mill 1950s (480x348)
Hammerwich Mill 1950s.

Next are some horse paddocks and the other prominent landmark.

hammerwich church (640x480)
Hammwerwich.parish church, St John the Baptist.

Today access to Church Lane is by a wicket gate, but was this once the seventh stile?

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