Jack's Land

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In Scotland, there is a relatively well-known custom of ‘Cloutie's Croft’, the name given to a portion of the best land of a farm which is always left untilled and uncultivated as it belongs to the Devil. In many areas of England, similar patches of untouched land were found, although the dedication to the Devil was rarely so explicit or clear-cut, and they bore local names such as ‘Jack's Land’ or ‘No Man's Land’. In addition to being uncultivated, this land usually had some sort of sinister reputation, or at least was believed to be unusually infertile (see a Devon example in Henderson, 1879: 278). References in N∧Q attest to the Scottish custom and a similar one in Ireland, and mention another sinister piece of land at Hickling, Nottinghamshire, known as ‘Jack Craft’. There is a tendency nowadays—well known to local historians, but usually totally unfounded—for people to explain any patch of apparently unused land, in urban as well as rural areas, as old ‘plague-pits’.

Evans, 1966:136–7;N∧Q 1s:3 (1851), 477;8s:10 (1896), 74, 219, 324;9s:4 (1899), 68, 118.

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