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! 

Lightning House

We’ll be sharing some of the fantastic stories we’ve collected about the cowhouses of Muker parish on this blog and here is one that our researcher Glenda Calvert tracked down – she’d heard rumour of a cowhouse struck by a lightning bolt and eventually found the story behind it. Here it is as told to her by Raymond Parker formerly of Kisdon Farm:The Lightning House aka Kierton cowhouse

“I think it would be ’61…[a summer storm?]..yes, it must have been latter end of August , a really bad storm, and there was this big flash and bang, where we were milking and me mother, she was frightened of thunder and she came out to us and after this bang she said oh you’d better look out, I think that must have done some damage and when we looked out we could just see this building roof and smoke just coming out of it. [And how far from the homestead was this?]…about  a hundred yards. So we went and thunderbolt must have gone in the top and it just like starting to burn, on top of hay mew, so, well, we went and tried to get some water but there wasn’t much about and, it had put telephone off, so mother went down to Usha Gap to ring for fire brigade, which they came, but they couldn’t really do anything. It just had to burn itself out…[this was after haytime?] aye, yes, it was full of hay, was t’hay mew [small bales or loose hay?] oh, all loose. [Just a hay mew on its own or was it a cow’us, and was it empty being summer?] Oh cow’us..actually I think there was a young calf in, put in for some reason, anyway we got it out alright, I don’t know why we put it in there, we got it out and then…it was on evening, 5 or 6 o’clock when it…and it got out a grand night, sunny fine night again. And there was a lot of people came up to look at it…[so was it actually flames?]..oh aye. Walls kept standing, but all roof came in and all woodwork inside was all gutted out, it had to all be redone….[that would be a big loss, all your hay?]…aye, yes, well, I suppose it wasn’t same as if you’d got a big building where you put all your hay you know, it was just off a couple of fields that would be in that one, so it mebbe wasn’t just as bad that way…we’d have to buy some extra hay [next winter], yes and we must have been like 4 or 5 stalls short as well somewhere. We must have worked round it somehow…[So the people from Muker came?] Aye, there was quite a lot came up to see. ..Trouble was, you see,  there was no water up there of any quantity, so fire engine, well, fire brigade didn’t bring a fire engine, just came in the landrover  I think and they couldn’t really do anything about it. [Even if they had been able to hose the hay, it would have been ruined?]…oh aye, it would’ve been all ruined. It really might as well burn I suppose…might’a  just have saved more of the building, but walls stayed up, they probably just pointed ‘em up a bit. All the inside walls, after, few years after, bits of stones kept breaking off with being so hot…so it’s lucky that it still stood. [So, did your family repair it?] … Well actually, it was just rented farm then so just landlords that had to do that. They got it done straight away. You could still smell it though, for years after, oh aye, the smell was there.”

[Did you used to call it Lightning House?]. “No, it was Kierton cowhouse to us”

Raymond Parker formerly of Kisdon Farm