History of Mayfield: Before 1086

Mayfield is an ancient place. It was referenced in the Domesday Book of 1086. But its history goes back much further than that, before, even, the County of Staffordshire itself. According to A Survey and Analysis of the Place-Names of Staffordshire by David Horovitz, Mayfield was originally a meeting place. He says

The present study has revealed an intriguing possible cluster of meeting place-names in the Mayfield area. Mayfield is in north-east Staffordshire hard against the river Dove, which forms the boundary with Derbyshire. The name Mayfield itself has been held to incorporate Old English mæeddre 'madder' but botanists say that the plant is unlikely here, and the early spellings make a derivation from Old English moethel 'meeting, council' with Old English feld 'field, open land' quite certain. The meeting place or places cannot now be identified, but the presence nearby of Harlow (unparalleled in Staffordshire and perhaps from Old English "whole people" (or Viking multitude) so perhaps 'the mound associated with the Vikings', or 'the mound where the people met' and "mound" '(Viking) army, host, multitude', but also used for 'the whole people', with Old English hiaw 'mound, tumulus', so perhaps 'the mound associated with the Vikings', or 'the mound where the people met')…tending to suggest that at some period in history the area played host to assemblies of some importance.

From the reference to Mayfield in Domesday Book, and the absence in early records of any mention of meetings here, it can be concluded that the gatherings took place before the late Anglo-Saxon period, quite possibly before the creation of the county of Stafford, in which case they may be associated with the people known as the Pecsætan, 'the people of the Peak', mentioned in the mysterious document known as the Tribal Hidage.

Supposedly pre-Conquest earthworks known as The Cliffs and Hollow Lane have also been recorded in Mayfield.

It may be noted that the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1836 shows that the Staffordshire boundary then extended beyond the Dove into Derbyshire opposite Church Mayfield. If the deviation is ancient, it may mark the former course of the river which continued as the county boundary, or simply reflect the not unusual arrangement whereby one authority has jurisdiction over both banks at a river crossing, or it may perhaps show that the river Dove served as a territorial boundary before Staffordshire was created, and two neighbouring peoples met on some neutral territory on the east side of the Dove

It has been observed that it was a well-established custom for kings to negotiate with one another on the boundary between their territories. It may be noted that Matlock in Derbyshire, 18 miles north-east of Mayfield, also incorporates the element moethel, and stands on an important crossing of the river Derwent. Both Mayfield and Matlock might be thought of as strategically significant places, and a major river crossing would be a place where travellers would naturally tend to congregate. The noticeable absence of ancient markets at meeting places, where trading would otherwise have been expected, might be explained if the meetings were limited by custom to appropriate representatives to conduct formal legal, judicial and administrative business, and were not generally attended by non-participants in any numbers, or because distracting commercial activity or entertainment was discouraged or forbidden.