The Description of Penbrokshire (1892)

The first Booke of the Description of Penbrookshire in generall (1603)
George Owen of Henllys, Lord of Kemes (1552-1613)

They use alsoe in this Countrie much bettinge1 and burninge the lande wherein they sowe most comonlie Rie and sometymes barlie and oates: this kind of tillage is also in two sortes, either cleane betland or pied betland: the cleane betland is that which is digged up with the bettax2 clene leavinge noe parte of the turffe uncutt, and in this they sowe Rie and sometymes wheat as the land requirethe: this they bett3 in Maie June & Julye and lettinge it lye with the grasse side downeward till it be dried with the sunne and wynde fitt and apt to take fier, then they pile them in heapes and give them fire on the wyndie side till the same be consumed to ashes, which they spread in October and November and sowe their rie: and thereof often cometh great profitt, but this is said to be a great ympayringe of the grounde for after the rie and one badd Cropp of oates, there will noe more corne be had thereof for twentie or foure and twentie yeares after, and for a yeare or two scarse any pasture; but there is much grounde in this sheere that bearing nothinge but heath and smale furse & shallowe withall cannot be otherwise manured but in this sorte. And in those places this kind of yll husbandrie is to be borne withall; but I have seane many poore men use this kinde of betting in lande, which otherwise would have been tilled to better profit; wherein they were much to be blamed in doinge themselves, the lande and the Countrie, harme.

The pied4 betlande is that which is but halffe digged with the bettax, leavinge halffe the turffe whole and undigged, this is piled and burned as before is saied and in March the heapes of ashes beinge spread abroade, the husbandmen sowe therein oates which it beareth to great proffitt, this pied betlande ys founde to endure longer in strength, & to yeald more croppes of Corne then the clene bettid lande, for this will contynue to beare oates well five or sixe yeres, whereas the other hath spent all his strengthe in two yeares.

  1. Beating.
  2. The beating axe, the implement used for beating or paring the sod.
  3. Beat, the true form of peat. There is a Wiltshire term, 'burn-beking', for burning turf to improve the soil. It is called in South Wales 'llosgi bieting'.
  4. Probably this custom is often the origin of the brith or braith so common in Welsh place-names, or brech, as in Brechsa, 'Pied-field'.