Glenda Calvert has been working on a children’s ‘Every Barn…’ walk leaflet with a group of local children. As a reward for all their hard work, she and her husband Chris laid on a hay timing afternoon at Pry House farm for them, complete with ‘drinkings’ at the end. The children learned how to use wooden hay rakes to row up the hay, build foot cocks and jockeys – it was absolutely fascinating to watch Chris demonstrating these age-old techniques. Everyone worked really hard and thoroughly enjoyed the slap up tea that Glenda had laid on afterwards – best cheese scones ever!
We were lucky to have photographer Stephen Garnett along too to capture both the fun and the hard work. Even more amazingly, the sun shone all afternoon – we experienced a truly magical day in upper Swaledale.
When the builders were at work restoring Great Rampsholme cowhouse recently as part of our sister Muker Barn Restoration project, they came across this child’s shoe.
One can only imagine the ticking off the owner got when it was discovered they’d lost it – perhaps while they were hard at work tramping down the hay in the mew one hot summer’s day.
“Oh yes, when they were leading the hay. It was nice to go in there because you were away from the midges, you used to get eaten with the midges…lot of trees around [Park House]. Probably two of us might go in..it was very hot …[dark?] well as the haymew got fuller it was, especially when it got up round the forking hole…There was often a place at one side where they could throw the hay over into the byre and so there was a little bit of light would come in from there, but when that got blocked up you couldn’t…but it was hot and there was dust from the hay…it was nice when you came back out again…[right up into the rafters?] Oh yes, sometimes you did, you were sort of sticking it in… after the hay had been a while it did settle quite a bit.”
Elsie Metcalfe (nee Scott) (83), formerly of Park House farm
We’ve already mentioned the origins for some of the words used to name the parts of a cowhouse in Swaledale, but we’ve now brought these all together to go with a nicely labelled drawing of a cut-away cowhouse.
Booses/buses – the stalls where the cows were tied. A wooden post in the middle of a buse allowed two cows to be tied side-by-side without bumping into each other. Probably from the Old Norse ‘bas’ meaning box.
Skelbuse – wooden or sometimes stone-built division between the hay store (mew) and the cow stalls (booses). From Old Norse ‘skelja’ meaning to divide & ‘bas’ meaning box. Also called the boose’yead (ie boose-head) in Upper Swaledale.
Group or groop – stone-lined channel behind the stalls (booses), where the cow muck collected. From Old Norse word ‘grop’ meaning drain or open sewer. Boskins – wooden panels or large flagstones forming the division between the stalls (booses), again possibly from Old Norse ‘bas’ meaning box.
Mew – large open part of the cowhouse where the hay to feed the cows was stored, right up to the rafters. The word ‘mew’ can have the meaning of ‘to shut away or confine’ but in this case it is more likely to come from the Old English ‘mūga‘ and Old Norse ‘múgi’ having meanings of stack, swathe or crowd. And indeed ‘mow’ descends from these too.
Rudster or rudstake – wooden post to which cattle were tied using a chain, from the Old English ‘rodd’ probably related to Old Norse ‘rudda’ meaning club
Settlestanes – stones forming a kerb along the back edge of the cow stall. From the Old English ‘stān’ for stone.
Truffs/throughstones – long stones binding together the inner and outer skin of the walls, usually projecting in parallel lines on the outside of the cowhouse.
Foddergang – passage-way linking byre to mew along which hay was carried to feed the cows, from the Old Norse ‘fóthr’ feed & ‘gangr’ to go.
Baux/baulks – wooden loft over cow stalls where green hay and bracken for bedding was stored. Early ‘stick-baux’ were made from wooden poles interwoven with heather. More recent baux were made from sawn planks of wood. From the Old Norse ‘balkr’ and Old English ‘balc’.
Forking’ole A small opening with a door, built high up in the back wall of the mew through which hay was forked into the mew.
Muck’ole Cow muck collected behind the tethered cows in the group. It was regularly shovelled outside through the muck hole located at the end of the group nearest the hay meadow. The pile of muck was then spread by hand onto the field in order to feed the next hay crop. Muck comes from the Old Norse word ‘myki’ meaning manure or dirt.
Recess – a small hole built into the inside wall of the byre where a tin ‘budget’ or backcan for carrying milk might be rested along with a candle or lantern or perhaps cattle medicines and a milking pail and stool or ‘coppy’. There were no windows or electric lights inside the cowhouse.
Ventilation holes – hay that hadn’t completely dried could heat up and sometimes catch fire so good ventilation into the mew was essential.
Doors into mew and byre – different cowhouses have different arrangements and numbers of doors. A cowhouse with a single door into the cow byre end is probably an earlier type than one with doors into both the byre and mew. Sometime doors were inserted into older cowhouses. Sometimes they were closed up and new ones created. All part of the individual cowhouse’s story.
The daily round, all winter long, of letting the cows out for water, feeding them, mucking out and so on, usually twice a day is remembered by many of the project’s older participants. William Calvert worked at Crackpot Hall farm as young man.
They had the deserted houses converted into cowhouses that once formed the scattered settlement called Hartlakes, near Keld. Even on a sunny day, it’s quite a spooky spot.
It was quite common to find tramps sleeping in the hay mew of a cowhouse and the young folk of Muker were scared to death of them. William recalls one gloomy evening at Hartlakes when he thought his worst fears had come true:
Artist Helen Peyton has been hard at work using her magnificent Victorian printing press. She has sent us this background information on it:
“Since training on a Columbian printing press at Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art, Dundee it has been my life’s ambition to be able to print on one again. So when Jane rang from Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln to offer me theirs it felt like a dream come true.
Invented in 1813 by the American George Clymer, the Columbian Press was one of the first iron printing presses The eagle which perches with outstretched wings and open beak on the main counterbalance lever. The eagle isn’t ornament, it is the counterbalance weight. In its talons the eagle clutches a flight of Jove’s thunderbolts, representing war, and the olive branch of peace and the cornucopia or Horn of Plenty, signifying prosperity. Further decoration can be found on the supporting pillars and the lever and include a Caduceus, the staff of Hermes, the messenger of the ancient Greek Gods and serpents which are symbols of wisdom.
“If the merits of a machine were to be appreciated wholly by its ornamental appearance, certainly no other press could enter into competition with the Columbian.” (T. C. Hansard, Typographia, 1825)
Moving it became the next priority, due to scheduled building works at the University, I only had a week to arrange transport and a home. A hoist and 7 sturdy men were needed to move this one and half ton cast iron beast. A sleepless night or two working out logistics, much scratching of heads, two days, a landrover and trailer and a lot of muscle proved to be the winning combination.
The press prints broadsheet or A1 so it will influence the scale and content of my work for the foreseeable future, it is giving options to work at larger scale for this project. Watch this space as I now go into the printing stage.”
While we were filming inside one of the cowhouses near Keld last week, we sadly found a dead barn owl. It had died some time ago but we checked it over and found that it had a British Trust for Ornithology leg ring so we asked our Wildlife team to send it off for us.
Barn owls aren’t a common sight up in the Dales and it seems that numbers in Britain declined through the 20th century but are now recovering. They’ve had a particularly good breeding season in the Dales this year. Oddly enough we saw one flying alongside the road near Ribblehead the following day when returning from a trip up to Swaledale.
The BTO report came back really quickly and we discovered that the bird was male and had been ringed in the nest in August 2014 about 14km away in Cumbria. The floor of the cowhouse we found it in was thick with owl pellets so we assume that it’s been used as a roost/nesting place for generations of these wonderful creatures. Some barns were built with small ‘owl holes’ high up on the gable ends as these birds were a welcome visitor helping to keep rodent numbers down.
There’s lots going on at the moment including our film makers being out and about capturing footage of hay meadows and cowhouses. They began with a morning recording Karen Griffiths, the Every Barn project lead and Sue Wrathmell, the project’s historic buildings specialist talking about how to date cowhouses. They visited Willy Greens and Jordan Close cowhouses near Aygill and had a great time inspite of the showers.
We are employing a North Yorkshire-based company called Aberration Films to do most of the filming and editing and have been most impressed so far – there’s quite a bit of walking involved lugging camera and lighting equipment and the cowhouses themselves are dark and pretty dirty inside so it’s no picnic!
After filming around Aygill, the team moved on to interview Chris Calvert talking about his childhood memories of working with his dad at various farms in the area. His wife Glenda took some great pics and has featured them on her Pry House blog
Sunny days out mowing, drying and bringing in the hay or ‘haytiming’ as it is known up in Swaledale sound like a rather idyllic way to spend your childhood. Years ago, the whole family helped out , it was often a race against the weather to get the mown grass dried off sufficiently and into the hay mew of the nearest cowhouse, so it was all hands to the deck, from the smallest child upwards as this photo of the Calvert family taken in the 1930s shows.
The children of the family usually ended up in the hay mew trampling down the loose hay. This was in fact far from an idyllic job – it was hot, dusty and dark in there. Dorothy Brown (nee Clarkson), formerly of Scarr House farm, has less than fond memories of one particular occasion inside Banty Barn, as she tells our interviewer Glenda Calvert here:
Banty is a large cowhouse – the first one after the Buttertubs pass. Dorothy must have spent quite a long time in that hay mew!
In our post about the Rievaulx Abbey estates in Upper Swaledale we ended by saying that we were keen to find a Latin scholar to help us understand more about the Abbey grant’s description of the estate. We have now found that person in the shape of Glynn Coppack who has written many articles and books about the history of Rievaulx Abbey. He kindly did us a translation of this extract from the Rievaulx Cartularium:
And it reads as follows:
The gift … that Gilbert of Ghent, son of Robert of Ghent, of the whole pasture of Swaledale with its appurtenances within certain bounds contained in the same charter, both in woods and in fields, held in perpetuity, and to have there their beasts, as many and of what kind they wish, and the fields [folds] and lodges of their beasts, and dogs and horns, and for making hay and enclosing meadows, outside the said bounds, where and how much they please, and for having there houses for the (lay) brothers and servants and their beasts, and sufficient gardens and closes, and for freely taking wherever sufficient (timber) within the aforesaid bounds for all their needs for their houses and garths and fires and folds and lodges, and their other easements in the same forest, and the fallen boughs of trees, of (taking) their beasts to pasture and of using all of the pasture as they wish, and for taking wolves by whatever means they can, and further free chase and rechase of their beasts to the said pasture through all the lands of the said Gilbert and his heirs, excepting cultivated fields and meadows.”
He also discussed the meaning of the word ‘pecorini’ which we were keen to know:
“Pecorini or ‘beasts’ implies larger, brutish animals, presumably cattle, though pecorius apparently means fleecy, so it could be sheep I suppose. You have to remember it is a royal clerk who is making the summary who has no idea what is going on in Swaledale and probably thinks such a wild area probably has cows but uses a word that means both…I suspect ‘pecoris’ was used to mean both cattle and sheep in the second confirmation, because it post-dates an outbreak of sheep scab and the collapse of the Cistercian’s wool trade.“
So it seems that, then, as until relatively recently, cattle were at least as important as sheep in the farming economy here.
Also, and perhaps even more exciting, he confirmed that the lay brothers sent out by the Abbey to manage the estate, would have been housed in a grange and that this was located in Angram along with housing for their servants and domestic animals. And that these were separate to the fields/folds and lodges for the beasts which we must assume are out in the fields. Furthermore, these houses and lodges were built using timber taken from the woodland on the estate.
Were we looking at some of this timber reused in the roof of Jordan cowhouse?!
We wondered whether there would be any visible evidence for the monastic grange in Angram. Glynn tells us:
“The grange co-existed with the local population, but would have been enclosed. The-lay brothers’ buildings were often built round a small cloister. The problem is that lay-brothers dried up in the early 14th century and distant granges were leased out. The 12th and 13th century building would have been taken down and replaced with more domestic buildings. I would look for a farm with earthwork enclosures around it…”
We will be scanning our aerial photograph collection keenly for earthworks around Angram. We already have a possible candidate for one of the later, replacement buildings with this little building by the roadside in Angram – now a cowhouse but with a stone-mullioned window facing the fields and the remnants of an early corbelled chimney stack at one end.
The folks running Keld Resource Centre are looking forward to promoting the Every Barn project to a wider audience over the summer when they tour the new portable display unit that we have bought for them. We’ve also just taken delivery of some promotional materials to go with it: an A-board; posters which can be overprinted with dates and locations and a load of colourful leaflets that will point people in the direction of further information, including this blog.