1) A narrow piece of land, although the precise meaning has varied from one district to another and even from one parish to another.
Several writers commented on the word in the nineteenth century, among them Joseph Lucas in Studies in Nidderdale: ‘the country is covered with little step-like terraces called ‘raines’ ... each being twenty or thirty yards long and two or three yards wide’, the feature that is which landscape historians call lynchets. These strips are now under grass but are said by some to have been arable formerly: 1517 two half-acres of lande callyd Grenhowbuttes, lying est and west of either side a rane, Threshfield
1607 Henry Deane for getting gress in the Raines in the Field, Kirkby Malham
1748 four rains called Cross Green or Cross Green Lands in Malham East. In 1894, Canon Atkinson wrote: I made oral inquiries in Wensleydale about ‘reins’ and got the answer 'the grass headland ... all round a field' then 'terraces on a hillside, like steps on a stair'. The other day they were 'grassy banks ... between the arable steps’. In fact, different shades of meaning are implicit in early records: in some south Pennine townships the word referred to thin strips of woodland where fields dropped steeply down to a stream: 1519 all the wodes within the birke stubyng except a reyne in the north syde, Tong
1611 one little reyne of spring wood of small value, Almondbury
1704 And all Reines belonging and usually fallen with the same, Bradley
1739 To the Pillars when pilled the Reign instead of making mares [meres, i.e boundary markers] 3s 6d, Whitley. It survives as the minor place-name Reinwood in both Lindley and Horsforth. In other contexts its meaning overlapped with ‘hedge’: 1608 followinge a certaine rayne or hedge devydinge Gomersall and Liversedge
1676 set his nett at the end of a reine or hedge, Sprotborough. However, even in those regions where ‘rein’ was used of wooded strips of land or hillside lynchets, it could also be part of the open field vocabulary: 1517 one acre called Gosepittes lying north and sowth emongest raynes ... also one acre callyd the Brode Rayn ... betwixt raynes and wainway, Threshfield
1609 all the common or waste grounds or soyle commonly called balks and reanes situate in the Biredolefeilds of Wibsey . The evidence of minor place-names takes the word's history back to the twelfth century, although some of the references are undated: c.1192 septem acras terre ... ad Cumbedenerane ... et ad Henganderane et ad Goditrane et ad Hermitrane, North Stainley
1300 ‘three acres at Henryran, two acres at Ryflatte ... one acre and one rood at Doweranes, Bishopton
1481 veridi bosco crescente plantatum vulgariter vocatum le call raynes, Ripon. The diversity of the spellings in these examples, and the varied meanings, may be a reflection of the word’s complex etymology, for Smith lists his examples under two distinct headwords, that is rein and *r?n, the former Old Norse in origin and the latter Old English. The meaning given is ‘boundary strip’ in both cases although they are, he said, ‘often indistinguishable’.