We went along to a rather special event in Keld last week celebrating the end of the community effort to develop Keld Resource Centre, with the official opening of its new meeting and exhibition space on the upper floor.
Ernest Whitehead cuts the ribbon outside Keld Resource Centre 28 April 2017
We’ve already made great use of the room for the Every Barn project and can thoroughly recommend it.
The event started off in Keld Chapel and we were fascinated to hear about the chapel’s origins. There’s apparently been a chapel on the site since at least the 1540s, which ended up being wrecked during a riot in the seventeenth century. A poem found years later suggested that this was sparked by a stranger looking for someone to sell him a calf in the chapel:
“There was a man that stood up in the place Where he had sate, and did proclaim ‘Oyez! Oyez! I want a calf, if any here Can give me notice of one, far or near, I duly will his labour recompense And will for his trouble give him twopence'”
Extract from papers belonging to Anthony Clarkson of Smithyholme who died in 1857
The chapel was eventually rebuilt in 1789 for the preacher Edward Stillman who up to that point had been preaching in local barns and people’s houses.
It just goes to show the part that cattle and the cowhouses have played for centuries in this part of the world! Read more on the Keld Resource Centre website
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.
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!
Anyone who has walked from Muker north towards Keld through the deserted settlement at Hartlakes will know how atmospheric the place is with its encroaching dark woodland and derelict houses. Many of the houses had been turned into cow’usses by the end of the nineteenth century and William Calvert remembers just how creepy those buildings could be at nightfall.
“I always tried to get those jobs done [at Hartlakes], cows and so forth, before dark. One day, it didn’t work out that way, it was getting dusk. And I was nervous. And I went down, the first building I came into, I let cows out, did what [was] necessary, went to get hay, and I felt some leather of some sort, where hay was [supposed to be] . And I panicked, I thought, it felt like a [suit]case. And I whipped out, got cows in, I went like blazes. Everything was done very very quickly that night. And when I came back the following morning, I said to Percy [his boss] a bit o’story, and he started to laugh. He said ‘well, I left the horse gear there, I’d been doing something wi’t’horse that day and left the horse gear there just where the hay was,’ and of course, I felt it and panicked…I thought it was a suitcase, I didn’t know what the heck it was…I mean I was only just in me very early twenties and nervous in dark anyway. It’s creepy down there at night as well. It frightened me.. [the cows got a] very quick do, I don’t know whether one or two was missed to be honest [laughter].”
Look at that fabulous frosty view posted on Keld Public Hall’s facebook page this morning. If you are up that way the Keld Public Hall is offering a winter self-service tea and coffee facility (and locally made cakes too). We were so impressed when we visited last week and all to raise money to improve the facilities. The Every Barn project will be making full use of the hall later in the year for a project celebration – watch this space!