Cow’us NOT Barn!

We have been putting together a presentation about the project for the upcoming Yorkshire Dales Archaeology Day School over in Barbon village. One of the things we are going to have to explain is why the title of the project has been altered to ‘Every Cowus Tells a Story’?

EBTAS Project Logo

Well, it didn’t take us long to realise that local people nearly always called them cowhouses,or cow’usses in the local dialect. Listen to this clip recorded by local researcher Glenda Calvert interviewing four local women right at the start of the project.

Interestingly, some research we have been doing into the 1686-1701 Court Book for the parish has revealed that even that early on, they were called ‘cowhouses’.

Ned Cowus

At one of our open days a local farmer identified a cowus up near Kisdon Farm as Ned Cowus. A search of the 1841 Tithe map showed us that the field it was next to was called Fiddler Ned’s Close. This got us wondering because we had heard of the famous nineteenth century musician from Keld known as Neddy Dick who built a lithophone from local stones. Could this cowus and field have belonged to him? Sadly, a bit of research showed us that he hadn’t been born in 1841 so Fiddler Ned must have been another local musician. Read all about Neddy Dick aka Richard Alderson on the Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group’s website.

Here’s a  photo of the cowus in question taken recently by Glenda Calvert while out researching a children’s walk leaflet for the project. Nowadays the field is simply known as Ned’s Field.

Ned Cowus with Fiddler Ned’s Close beyond, now known simply as Ned’s Field

Roadside cowusses

Many of the cowusses in Muker parish were built at the top of their various meadows to make life easier hauling the muck out and down onto the field in the spring. However we came across two rather fine examples last week that are definitely roadside buildings, one called Willy Greens (Willow Green on the 1841 Tithe map) and the other called Mary Field cowus. Both lie alongside the road between Angram and Keld.

Mary Field cowus

Both were once farmed by Billy Hutchinson’s dad who had Keld Green Farm:

“Me dad was farming from there ..just milk cows and followers ..three or four cow’usses all round, on Kisdon Side, on Willy Greens, Mary Field.”

“Well, we had stock in them all, but I don’t think there is mebbe today, but we had stock in them ..hay mews, aye, was all loose hay then [made hay off fields by cow’uss] ..and then swept in by ‘oss, very first instance, and then we had old land wagons ..before the tractors came.”

Willy Greens cowus

Keld to Angram circular walk

With the weather improving we are on with testing out the various walk routes that our ranger Michael has devised for the project. Last week we tried out a circular walk from Keld to Angram and back. We had some fantastic views of the classic walls and barns landscape that the area is famous for and got up close and personal with lots of rather magnificent cowusses including at least one that we didn’t know was actually there. We also had to wade through a bog and quite a bit of water, but only got lost once so we think it should be a goer with a little bit of work done on it which is what this project is all about. We were treated to a beautiful rainbow while we were walking along the side of Kisdon Hill – we wondered if the cowus it rested on had a pot of gold hidden in it – but we were too tired to check!