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’.
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.
Our local researcher Glenda Calvert has been out researching a route for the children’s leaflet we are producing as part of the project. She had a wonderful day out – read all about it on her blog here
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].”