The curious case of Scottish money in Swaledale

A Muker Manor court record of 1686 showing an example of partible inheritance creating rents involving placks. Facsimile created by Timothy Bagenal. Image courtesy of North Yorkshire County Records Office and Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group.

A Muker Manor court record of 1686 showing an example of partible inheritance creating rents involving placks. Facsimile created by Timothy Bagenal. Image courtesy of North Yorkshire County Records Office and Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group.

The court books of the manors of Healaugh and Muker in Swaledale, from the earliest in 1686 until 1712, show that some of the annual rents paid by copyhold tenants included an unfamiliar monetary denomination – a plack.

The rents were recorded in words and digits, making it clear that the value of a plack was one-sixth of a penny. But it wasn’t even a denomination of English currency. It was Scottish. And even in Scotland it was long-since obsolete. So what was going on? Read more here: Value of a plack: the curious case of Scottish money in Swaledale.

Advertisements
Posted in Swaledale history | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Two stories of Reeth Swing Bridge

The new Reeth Swing Bridge looking towards Harkerside.

The new Reeth Swing Bridge looking towards Harkerside.

Almost everyone who enjoys walking around the Reeth area in Swaledale will know of the footbridge over the River Swale, known locally as Reeth Swing Bridge or sometimes as Harkerside Swing Bridge since it links these two communities. Two stories of interest relate to this structure.

The first unravels a puzzle – why it’s called the swing bridge, when it’s a fixed-span suspension bridge? To learn why, read here: Doesn’t swing? Oh yes it does!

The second story searches behind a phrase on the information board next to the bridge, which explains that the predecessor of the current structure was built in 1920 ‘after the community helped raise the money to connect the parishes of Grinton and Reeth’. In fact, nearly 100 years ago the community did a lot more than help fund the bridge, and a mix-up over a deal with the council left a handful of Harkerside farmers who provided the money feeling unhappy. For this story, read here: How the original Reeth Swing Bridge left farmers paying more than they planned.

Posted in Swaledale history | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Haunted’ Muker barn identified

A previous post resurrecting a Victorian ghost story about a haunted barn near Muker caught the attention of researcher Karen Griffiths who is working on a Heritage Lottery Fund project ‘Every Barn Tells a Story’.

Her careful follow-up investigation has identified the place-names and the two barns described in the story, which means that walkers in the Muker area can now see for themselves the places where the chilling events were said to have happened.

To read about the awful fate of a much-hated local schoolmaster in 1846, and to link to the historical background and the research findings of the Every Barn Tells a Story project, visit Muker Schoolmaster’s ghostly adventure.

Posted in Swaledale history | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Wham – a mixed bag of meanings

The Wham in Arkengarthdale has a steep-sided marshy hollow by a bend in the road.

The Wham in Arkengarthdale has a steep-sided marshy hollow by a bend in the road.

Swaledale and Arkengarthdale have between them three places with the word-element wham in the name. It’s an obscure northern dialect word occurring in the Pennine hills of Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, as well as in Lancashire, Cheshire, Dumfries and Galloway, and as far north as the central belt of Scotland from St Andrews to Stirlingshire.

The geographical spread suggests it was a word introduced by the Norwegian Vikings who migrated from Ireland in the early 900s to settle in northern England and Scotland. Wham is used as a word for a land formation. However, the topographies of the places called wham vary so widely, and the range of interpretations of the word given in dialect and place-name dictionaries is so great, that maybe it’s time for someone to undertake a careful study of all the whams in a search for greater clarity.

The three wham places in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale illustrate the point. All are different from each other. Two of them fit some of the meanings offered by the dictionaries, and the third struggles even to achieve that. The Wham in Arkengarthdale is a perfect match for the most common interpretation of a marshy hollow.

Two root words have been identified by the experts, the Old Norse hvammr, meaning a grassy slope or vale, and the Old English hwamm meaning a corner or angle, usually of a building. Both seem to be some distance from a meaning of a marshy hollow. So maybe there is another root word at play and maybe over the centuries they have become confused or conflated.

Images and descriptions of the three wham places in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale are now entered on the website associated with this blog, and can be seen at The Wham, Wham Bottom, and Whamp. Comments and feedback will be very welcome.

Posted in Swaledale place-names | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for source material on the drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill

Mud Beck looking downstream in the area around Scabba Wath.

Mud Beck looking downstream in the area around Scabba Wath.

Having been intrigued by the unusual place-name Scabba Wath that marks a ford across the River Swale in upper Swaledale, I was excited while browsing the OS map to spot another Scabba Wath, marked as a crossing of Mud Beck in an area of remote moorland at the head of Arkengarthdale. It was named on all the OS maps of the area dating back to the first, published in 1856.

Curiously no OS map has ever marked a track crossing Mud Beck at Scabba Wath. It appears as a crossing from nowhere to nowhere. Helpfully, Arthur Raistrick’s book Green tracks on the Pennines (Clapham, 1962) later republished as Green roads in the mid-Pennines (Ashbourne, 1978) mentioned a crossing on Mud Beck as a point on an ancient drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill. But he didn’t give the crossing a name.

In two recent visits to this wild and empty landscape I found no sign of the track described by Raistrick and no sign of the ford named on the maps. Unfortunately Arthur Raistrick didn’t quote any sources for his knowledge of the drove-road between Barnard Castle and Tan Hill. Does anyone know where earlier sources might be found?

More information on this mysterious place-name is here – Scabba Wath in Arkengarthdale, and here – Scabba Wath in Swaledale.

Posted in Swaledale place-names | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

How Norwegian Vikings brought Irish Gaelic words to Swaledale

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close with its field barn on the top wall, house platform in the bottom right quarter, and above and to the right the estate boundary wall descending from the moor top to the road below.

Creeton Close, a two-acre enclosed pasture between Gunnerside and Low Row in upper Swaledale, is notable for having what appears to be an ancient house-platform cut from its steep slope, and for its extremely unusual name, which seems to have come from the Gaelic language of Ireland, courtesy of Norwegian Vikings.

This strange occurrence is explained because the Norwegian Vikings who settled upper Swaledale in the early 900s had come by a circuitous route. Having first settled the northern isles of Scotland they ventured south along the Irish Sea and settled again around Dublin and County Wicklow. There they absorbed into their Old Norse language some words of Irish Gaelic, especially relating to land.

When the Irish kicked out the Vikings, they took to their boats again and came to north-west England. Many settled there, while others came over the Pennines and settled in upper Swaledale, which now has a preponderance of Old Norse place-names. Among them are a few that have no roots in Old Norse, nor in Old English, nor Old Welsh, nor any other of the early languages sometimes found in the area.

One such is the field recorded in 1844 as Creeton Close, which by its location at the extremity of a farm settlement and next to a moor-top and hillside boundary wall that separated the village estates of Gunnerside and Low Row, seems likely to have been named form the Gaelic word crioch, pronounced cree, and the Old Norse word tún, which together mean ‘boundary house-enclosure’. For a more detailed explanation, visit the Swaledale place-names web page Creeton Close.

Posted in Swaledale place-names | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Swaledale place-names | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment