How extraordinary it seems to 21st century urbanites who hardly know a sheep dip from a five-bar gate, that there was once a whole lexicon of ploughing. An oxgang was the area an ox was able to plough in one season. It was about 15 acres, which tells us, give or take and allowing for wet weather and sacrosanct Sundays, how long the ploughing season lasted. A virgate was the area two oxen could cover in a season. And if you had a team of 8 oxen - you should be so lucky - you could expect them to plough a carucate of land. Carucate: a wonderful word now lost to everyone but compilers of crosswords.
One more measurement for your entertainment. You will know the expression, ‘give him an inch and he’ll soon take a mile’. An earlier version was, ‘he’ll soon take an ell.’
So what, pray, was an ell? It was the distance from a man’s elbow to the tip of his middle finger, about half a yard. A double ell, a yard, was the commonly used measurement for cloth and in any tailor’s workshop you would have found a wooden measure called an ell-stick or ell-wand.
Today we have centimetres and metres. How excruciatingly dull.