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Location: Barnoldswick. Nearer to Heaven than Gloria.


Post by Stanley »


One of the hardest things to discover is the dates when innovations such as the use of animals and later, wheeled vehicles became common. There is no doubt that the first animal used to replace human power was the ox. This was a bull which had been castrated when young to make it more tractable. We can’t possibly know when they were first used but we know that the term ‘oxgang’ or ‘bovate’ was a measure of land which was a rough guide to how much land could be ploughed with an ox in a season. This measure was used as early as the 9th century. We know this because it was mentioned in assessing the Danegeld, the bribe that was paid to the Danes to prevent further conquest by them. In the Domesday Book (1085/1086) the oxgang was the standard measure of land.

The ox was a good haulage animal, I don’t know when they were replaced by the horse in this country but in the colonies, notably South Africa and Australia bullock teams were used until well into the 20th century and so we have good contemporary evidence of how good they were. Here’s a direct quotation from an old bullock driver cited in a book written in 1916: 'In a hole gimme the bullocks. A 'orse is good to go when he's at it, but he hasn't got the heart. If 'orses get fixed for twenty minutes they're punctured. They won't pull any more, however long you stay there. But bullocks - they'll go back next day and pull the same as ever. (C. E. Bean. On the Wool Track, 1916, Ch. XX.)

Thomas Barcroft of Barrowford wrote in his accounts for 1691: ‘Received of Thomas Driver of Noyno [Noyna] for a pair of oxen of mine sold him by James Tattersall (which were bought at our Michaelmas Fair of John Tillotson of Surgill and cost £9-10-0) about 3 weeks after Michaelmas Sum of £9-18-6.’ This equates to about £600 per ox at today’s prices and gives us a good idea of how important they were to the 17th century farmer. Notice that oxen were still being used even though horses as pack animals or draught animals for light loads were common earlier in the century.

The Manorial Court Rolls can be useful here. The Manorial Court was the forerunner of the Local Board or District Council and was the local authority during medieval times. In the Court Rolls for the Honour of Clitheroe; 1442/1443 there is a record of ‘two loads of timber from Barnoldswick Wood carried to the water mill at Colne to make ‘two balkes’ at 8d. per load’. These were substantial timbers and I can think of no other way they could be moved except by wheeled transport. This may be the earliest record we have for wheeled transport in the area and was presumably an exceptional event. It’s almost certain that the draught animals were oxen.

In the Barnoldswick Manorial Court we find the following entry: ‘17th April 1733. Every person using the way from Salterforth Town Stoops to Barnoldswick Coates with cart or carriage or any other loads (not having the right to be there) in the mercy of the Lords [fined] 4/-‘. This must be the old road from the boundary at Salterforth to Coates. This was not a public road as part of it at Rainhall was later designated a private road. From this later judgement we also know that it was not considered of sufficient standard for wheeled vehicles. This is the first direct evidence I know for the existence of wheeled vehicle traffic in Barnoldswick and is proof of the pressure that was growing for adequate roads for such vehicles. The owners of this way were trying to reduce the wear on it by excluding wheeled traffic and hence the expense to them of repairing it.

So, what can we learn from all this about transport in Barlick? We can be sure that men were carrying small loads on their backs as late as the 20th century. Packhorses became common probably around 1650 and wheeled vehicles for local haulage later in the same century. We get another important clue in the Manorial Court Rolls for 18th October 1762. One of the customary rights of people living within the bounds of the Manor of Barnoldswick and Salterforth was that they were allowed to bring turf (for fuel), sand and stone from the moor down into the town for their own use. A bye-law passed on this date restricted the size of the wagons used by limiting the teams to three horses. The same bye-law also curtailed this right to the months of May to September inclusive. This shows that the roads used weren’t paved because the tenants were only allowed the privilege in dry weather to protect the ways from wear. The fact that there was a restriction on the number of horses suggests that bigger teams were common in the Manor.

The picture we are building up say around 1700 is several groups of houses at Townhead, Westgate (Church Street) and Jepp Hill, Coates and Salterforth, joined by narrow lanes that were mainly unpaved as late as 1750 and probably later. These ways were used by foot traffic, packhorses and the occasional wheeled vehicle all year round and in winter they must have been a right muck hole. One of the things we forget nowadays is the fact that everyone who entered a house on a rainy day carried in a pile of mud, not only on their feet but imagine the state that ladies long skirts must have got into. In dry weather the dust would blow everywhere and it’s no wonder that a constant low level of stomach infections was common, the dust would settle on any uncovered food. I’ll leave you with a poem my grandmother taught me: ‘The wind, the wind, the naughty wind. It blows our skirts up high. But God is just, he sends the dust to blind the bad man’s eye’.

SCG/26 September 2005
1027 words.


A bullock team in Dubbo, Australia in 1987.
Stanley Challenger Graham
Stanley's View
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