Pukes Close – an unusual field-name with a surprising explanation

Pukes Close – the field adjacent to Calvert House (left) and stretching lengthways to the right

Pukes Close – the field adjacent to Calvert House (left) and stretching lengthways to the right.

Pukes Close was recorded in 1844 as the name of an upper Swaledale field located about half a mile west of the hamlet of Ivelet, next to Calvert House. To anyone unfamiliar with the life and culture of upper Swaledale, Puke seems to be a very strange word for a field-name. But for Swaledale folk, it makes perfect sense.

Puke is a short form of the locally common surname Peacock. Two well-known Pukes from Swaledale were immortalised in the dialect poem Reeth Bartle Fair, written in the mid-1800s by Captain John Harland. Among the named participants at the fair were Gudgeon Jem Puke (‘simple’ James Peacock) and Kit Puke (Christopher Peacock).

Puke was also used as the short form of Peacock in nicknames that differentiated people with identical full names. The style was to add the name of a parent or grandparent, and sometimes more than one, to the extent that the surname might become irrelevant. In Edmund Cooper’s book Muker: the story of a Yorkshire Parish (1948) he identified several examples of this name-form, including one man known as Kit Puke Jock. People known as Puke are still remembered in the dale today.

For more information, including on other meanings of Puke, visit the web page associated with this blog at Pukes Close.


About Will Swales

Amateur historian with a special interest in Swaledale, Yorkshire.
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