Now the sun is shining and the hay meadows are coming to life we have started to scout locations for a series of six short videos about the cowhouses around Muker. We’ll be featuring the story of the imps of Pith Hill ; the amazing rescue of the two Dutch tourists from a hay shed one snowy winter as told to us by Jennie Harker along with fascinating stuff about the history of cowhouses and the stories of how they were used to store hay and overwinter cattle until relatively recently. Andy Kay from our Comms Team was out last week investigating the Hartlakes area and the location of the Pith Hill imps story near Muker. He sent along these wonderful images of his day for the blog
We recently posted a nineteenth century story about a schoolmaster called Raymond from Muker being hounded to death by some imps living in a cow’us at Pith Hill.
“He kept a couple of cows at Lile Hill cow-house, which lies in the direction of Crake Nest and Love Lane. Whenever he went to milk or fodder them he had to pass Pith Hill cow-house, and this is said to be haunted by an unmusical choir of fiendish imps, whose sole plea for existence is to terrorise the countryside with their unearthly songs”
Arthur Harwood Brierley Leeds Mercury 1879
We’ve now (rather excitingly) managed to track down the cow’us itself. A bit of research on the 1841 Tithe map found two fields side by side called Far & Near Pithill with a cow’us still standing – in fact we’d walked past it last week when doing some research for our walk leaflets.
It does look a little imposing doesn’t it? The lane the story calls Love Lane is the one which now carries the Pennine Way north out of Muker and it takes you past this cow’us and a field called Crows Nest which we assume is the Crake Nest in the story.
So, which cow’us was Lile Hill, the one belonging to Raymond? There are two candidates: the first is indeed up on a little hill, to the left hand side of the lane, but the field it sits in was called Spring Brow in the nineteenth century. The second candidate lies at the end of the lane in a field called Little Long Ings. We may never know but we’d like to think it’s the ruined cow’us up on Spring Brow – left deserted after the imps drove Raymond to his death there.
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’?
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’.
Over the winter we have been collecting memories from local people about the cow’usses they remember using when they were younger. Our Interpretation Officer, Karen Griffiths is now ready to start sharing these stories. Her first project is to produce a postcard for visitor businesses to hand out when they get asked what the little houses in the fields are for – this happens a lot apparently. She’s been testing out some layouts in the office today – there’s still a use for good old glue and scissors…