A Brief History of a Pennine Village


revised by


October 2005


This thesis was produced as a sixth form Geography project at Keighley Girls’ Grammar School in 1954. It has no claims to being a polished piece of work but. hopefully, it contains information which might inform the readers and contain facts which otherwise could be lost with the passage of time. The chronology does not always follow logically, but there has been an attempt to group subjects of interest. With the passage of 50 years since it was first written new facts and information have come to light and have been added. These have been printed in bold type to distinguish from the text written in the early 1950’s

JMH – October 2005



There is sufficient proof to say that in Neolithic times our local hills were inhabited. Flint arrows and arrowheads have been found on Ickornshaw Moor and in the mid-1940’s a Flinting expedition came across a quantity of flint chippings (36 in number) scattered around a rock. This suggests that Neolithic workmen had fashioned implements in the locality. In turn, that equates with the development of farming because this period was the beginning of making advanced implements.


Overlapping the Neolithic Age was the Bronze Age and, again, implements have been found to suggest that Ickornshaw Moor was inhabited. A Bronze Celt of an early type was found in the 1930s and is 3 inches long, weighing 2.5oz, and is in the Keighley Museum. A more elaborate implement of a later date was found in Middleton when workmen were digging foundations for a cottage.


Very little can be said of this period in relation to Cowling; except the Romans had their military station of Olicana (Ilkley) and had two outposts in the Kildwick parish; one above Silsden at Woffa Bank and the other at Earls Crag, Cowling.


During the 5th and 6th Centuries there is evidence of Saxon and Danish occupation, and this is manifested mainly in the place names which have been left behind and which are still in use today. For example, Ickornshaw is derived from ‘icorni’ which is Scandinavian for ‘squirrel’ and ‘shaw’ which is ‘wood’ – hence ‘squirrel wood’. Also many of the local dialect words are said to have their origins in Scandinavia.


By the time of the Norman invasion the parish must have been permanently settled, for it is one of the few places in the district which is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, as Collinge. Dr Whit taker, whose History of Craven is an invaluable source, believes this name was given owing to the existence of coal in the peat deposits on the moors. This form of spelling of the village name has survived to the present day. There have been variations throughout history for example, in the Yorkshire Inquisitions 1255 it is spelt Colling, in the calendar of Charter Rolls 1279, Collinge, and in Kirby’s Inquests 1285 and 1316 the name is spelt Collynge and Colling. In the Yorkshire Feat of Fines 1550, mention is made of a Jon Cowlyng, almost the present day form of spelling.

In the Domesday book the name Collinge appears with Lothersdale, Carlton, Broughton and is distinct from the rest of the Kildwick Parish. It is stated to have belonged to Roger Pictavensis, third son of Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury. Roger owned fifty-two manors in Yorkshire and in adjoining Lancashire. In 1101, soon after the accession of Henry I, Roger forfeited his estates and rebelled against his elder brother, the Earl of Shrewsbury. Roger then retired to the Castle of Charroux near Civray in France.


From the reign of Edward 1 (1272 -1307) contemporary records make frequent reference to the parish. In the 10th year of Edward’s reign a charter was granted to Geoffrey Neville for Collinge and Ickornshaw. Ickornshaw also had a Lord of the Manor during the reigns of Edward the 1st. 2nd, and 3rd (1272-1377) when the Hargreaves’ were lords of Ickornshaw having land amounting to a Knights Fee (24 carucates) – from four to five hundred acres – and doing suit and military service to their liege lords of Skipton Castle.

Lord Clifford of Skipton must have exercised feudal lordship over the parish, for we find that six bow-men went from Cowling to Flodden in 1513. We also know the names of four of them viz:- Piers Tillotson – a bow, able horse

Xrofer (Christopher) Laycock – a bow

Nicholas Scarborough – a bow

Henry Waller – a bow.

In the Poll Tax of 1523 the names of Tillotson and Laycock appear but there is no mention of the others.


In early times when war threatened, the King of the time sent a demand to landowners of the district that all (not some) of the able-bodied men must meet at a certain place bringing with them their horses and any weapons they had. In March 1539 a list of men from Cowling had to meet Sir Thos.Tempest at Bracewell. The list of Cowling hablemen’ numbered 44. The contingent consisted of 12 archers and 32 billmen; 8 men had both a horse and harness and 6 had horses only. Seven men were provided with leather jackets (or jakkes), 3 had light metal helmets (salettes) and 4 had bills. Some of these men were owners of more than one weapon, and 22 had no weapon at all. Eleven of the troop from Cowling bore the name of Smith (often spelt ‘Smyth’); 7 had the surname Hargreaves, and 4 that of Laycock- There were 2 Barrets, Woolers, Fosters, Cravens and Tillotsons, and only one of each of the others.

In Henry VIII’s reign the manor of Cowling came into the hands of Henry, Earl of Cumberland. It was still in the possession of his grandson Earl George in 1580. George was an Admiral and fought in the Spanish Armada and later became a great favourite of Elizabeth I. He died in London at the age of 47 years and is buried in Skipton Church. His heir was Lady Anne Clifford who it is said to have had a residence at Cowling Hill which she occupied in the summer months.


Cowling is currently situated astride the main road from Keighley to Colne (now the A 6068). This road crosses the Yorkshire-Lancashire border on Reedshaw Moss, close to Laneshaw Bridge. This trunk road was known as the Blackburn, Addingham. Cocking End Road and was a ‘turnpike’ road. In 1706 the Turnpike Trusts were introduced in Buckinghamshire as a body of private persons appointed to manage a highway. This saw the beginning of a great system of Turnpike Trusts and Roads throughout the Country which eventually resulted in twenty-three thousand miles of English roads being managed in this way. By an Act of Parliament the maintenance of an existing highway was entrusted to a management body of trustees most of whom were landowners or other people of importance living along the line of the road. They were empowered to set up toll-gates

(or bars) and levy certain tolls on all users of the road and it was from those tolls that the trustees had to keep the road in good repair. { source: The King’s Highway in Craven by J.J Brigg 1927 ]


At Crosshills the road to Cowling meets the Keighley and Kendal Turnpike Road. The original road through Cowling was via Cowling Hill, known locally as York Road (possibly because it was a main highway from York to Lancaster). York Road passed from the old Colne to Skipton road at Black Lane Ends through the settlement of Cowling Hill and then down Long Lane and Carr Head Lane to meet the present highway at Malsis Hall near Glusburn Bridge.

Another old road comes from Cowling Hill down ‘Shop Lane’ through Gill Bottom and Gill Top and proceeds past the Church. This then goes up Winkholme and Old Lane, over Stake Hill to Oakworth. An old coach road came from Oakworth over Stake Hill and down Close Lane along Green Lane into Lumb Lane and eventually joined the existing road at Greensyke.

In the valley of Ickornshaw is another old road which passes through Freegate which, as the name implies, was free of tolls.

The present road through the village was opened in 1812. The building of it was said to be under the supervision of Blind Jack of Knaresborough, who constructed roads throughout Yorkshire.

The toll bars were at Winkholme Top (where hinges can still be seen) and at Moss Bar where a chain was used. A local story tells that by the time the men reached Reedshaw Moss they were weary of the job and so instead of laying a firm foundation, the ling and heather was laid and the road was laid on top of it. The journey over Reedshaw Moss can be very treacherous especially in bad weather; the story goes that in a bad storm a coach was carried over the wall into a field.

On the 31st August 1896 a petition was sent to parishes of Glusburn and Sutton to have the Glusburn Bridge altered. This bridge had a hump back at right angles to the road and was thought to be dangerous. At first the petition was rejected but in 1913 it was allowed.

It was in 18% that main road through the village was named; from Winkholme Top westwards was called Colne Road, and from Winkholme Top eastwards, Keighley Road.

The first means of transport, besides walking, was by horse and cart. In the early years of the 20th C. the local postman (Ezra Laycock) had to walk to Crossbills to collect his post and so he got a horse and cart. There were by then a number of local men who worked in Bradford and travelled by train from Kildwick and they asked the postman to provide them

with transport. He began in a small way in 1890, but bought more horses and bigger wagonettes in order to carry more passengers. At one time he had a stable of a dozen horses. He extended his service to Keighley and Colne on occasions. After enjoying success in this horse transport service he heard of a motor bus which had recently been developed in the south of England and he was determined to see this bus. He went to London, but was unable to find one. He then heard there was one in Brighton, so he went to the south coast and there he found what he had been looking for. He purchased a 20 horse powered Milnes-Daimler and brought it back to Cowling in 1905 on the 13th May. Preparations for the collection of this bus were elaborate and he selected twenty people -mostly family – to travel to London. Travelling home, north of London they were cheered on their four day journey, which was the longest made by a motor bus in this country at that time. Many local people predicted that the venture would fail because people would be too afraid to travel on the bus, but they were proved wrong. The demand to use this form of transport was so great that weeks passed before he could put it into operation. The ‘novelty’ value caused people to book outings and on one such event to Nelson, in July 1905, the police had to clear a way through the town centre. Soon a second bus was bought and it had rather more refinements than the first. The brakes on the first bus operated directly onto the tyres (which were solid) and a bowl of sand was located near the driver’s seat to throw onto the clutch to prevent it sticking. The second bus had a cover over the 25 seats and it rose from front to back so that passengers could see ahead. Demand exceeded supply and Ezra Laycock then bought a double decker, one of the first to be built and he eventually acquired another five. These did 300,000 miles before being discarded in 1920. After the first World War he bought the latest coach and took a party to Dumfries (to visit his brother) with 32 passengers; that may well have been the first conducted tour. | [source: article in Manchester Guardian April 1955 ]. A 1949 Yorkshire Illustrated article described Mr Laycock as a pioneer of the road motor services in Yorkshire and his services from Cowling to Kildwick Station and over the border to Lancashire to Laneshaw Bridge and Colne were the first north of Birmingham. This was not only a daring enterprise financially but also with risks to life and limb. This is a fine example of the entrepreneurial talents of local people.

In October 1900 plans were made for the construction of a light railway to run to the village, but after some discussion it was decided that there was insufficient demand.



Prior to November 1844 Cowling formed part of the ecclesiastical parish of Kildwick and had the right of nominating two church wardens to the Lang Kirk o’ Craven’ as Kildwick Church was known.. The Order in Council creating the independent parish was signed by Queen Victoria on the 28th November 1844 and took effect a few days later. It was not until 5th September 1854 that the new church was consecrated by the Bishop of Ripon The land for the church had been given, along with £100 by W. Wainman of Carr Head Hall. The road along the present Cinder Hill Lane (running north-east from the church to Ridge Mill Bridge and then to Lane Ends) was the main route for funerals to pass to Kildwick instead of taking the much longer route via Cowling Hill. This route was known locally as Corpse Road.

The architecture of the church is perpendicular in style and is conspicuous for the height of its tower. The top most portion of the tower came to grief in a violent thunderstorm on the 22nd December 1894. It was decided to build a taller tower so as to get the face of a clock above the surrounding trees.

It is of interest to note that the first burial in the new church yard was of Adam Shuttleworth on December 3rd 1845, followed five days later by the internment of Eve Shuttleworth. The east window is divided into three portions depicting Martha and Mary with Christ. The inscription is also divided and reads ” a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house”. The font is modern, the base, shaft and tank are octagonal. The church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and was built at a cost of £1,800.


The little Baptist Chapel at Cowling Hill might seem to be in an outlying area but at the tune of its founding this was effectively the centre of the village. It has an interesting history, for according to the Association Letter of 1842, the churches in Keighley, Earby, and Hellifield had their origins in part at Cowling HOI. It had originally been a branch of the Baptist Church in Bacup (Lancashire) and was founded by the great Baptist preacher David Crossley a friend of John Bunyan and George Whitfield. In 1756 it was decided to break the connection with Bacup, simply because of the distance separating the two churches. The chapel at Cowling Hill managed to survive by providing its own pastors. It was at that time on the main road into Lancashire. The land for the chapel was purchased in January 1753, and records show that in 1901 a former pastor returned to the old church to preach the closing sermons prior to renovations. As part of those renovations the gallery was pulled down, the stove replaced by central heating, the organ which had come from Sutton about 100 years before was kept. The opening ceremony took place on Good Friday 1902. During the period of the renovations services had been held in Middleton Chape) which had been taken over from the Primitive Methodists some years earlier, and was eventually sold by the Baptists in 1953. [source: Craven Herald and Pioneer l6th September 1966].


In June 1875 a Wesleyan Chapel foundation stone was laid in the hamlet of Ickornshaw. It was to replace an older chapel which was said to be “too small and much out of repair”. Efforts had been made to find another site but without success and so it was decided to demolish the old chapel and use the same site plus some adjoining land. Abram Binns had introduced Wesleyan Methodism to the village only ten years after John Wesley had founded the society (within the Church of England). The original Sunday School had been built by Abram Binns in 1795 and supported by him at his own expense until his death. The present building was designed by Architects Hargreaves and Bailey of Bradford, and the builders were Messrs Bancroft and Gott of Cowling. The building materials were specified to be new ashlar in the native sandstone (Millstone Grit) taken from local quarries. The footings of the earlier chapel were to be used where possible and other parts of the old chapel were to be incorporated in the new building. The building was described in the Keighley News when it was opened in July 1876, as a “plain substantial building” and the interior was said to be “very neat and well arranged”. It provided seating for 500 worshippers and had a Sunday School underneath the chapel which could accommodate 300 scholars. | source: The History of Ickornshaw Methodist Church published in 1976 to celebrate the centenary anniversary by June M.Hargreaves ) The Chapel was closed for worship in 1985.


The Methodist Church throughout the Country went through a period of dissent in the early 19th C. and this caused the formation of a number of independent revivals of religion. In Cowling several members of the Wesleyan Church were expelled by the Superintendent Minister and they commenced to hold services in Middleton Baptist Chapel which had fallen into disuse. This event caused others to leave the Wesleyan Church in sympathy and they formed a new community which was affiliated to the Keighley Circuit of Protestant Methodists. By 1832 it had become possible to plan a larger Chapel close to the main road and this opened for worship in 1833 and became known as the Bar Chapel, due to its close proximity to the toll bar. The village was still mainly concentrated in Ickornshaw and Middleton with very few houses lining the main street. Employment was poor due to the competition from power looms which resulted in many of the local hand loom weavers looking towards the towns for work. A small number of members of the Bar Chapel met to consider how they could save their village and their chapel. They decided to build a power loom mill in the village, and with co-operation from a few craftsmen they were able to pay for the first power mill at New Road Side. Poverty had turned into success and it encouraged others to build small mills in the village. As the congregation grew the original Bar Chapel was too small for the needs of the community. It had seating for 400 and there were over 300 scholars and 68 teachers. An adjoining site was purchased for £1030 and the congregation set about raising the money to employ an architect. By the tone the foundation stone was laid in June 1881 £2500 had been raised. It is said that the Trustees of the new chapel had expected the village to grow in size and population, and maybe even to become a town. These expectations explain why the new church had a seating capacity which would have accommodated half the population of the whole district. In October 1882 the fine building was opened. The total sum including the cost of the land and the building was £5,501 which was an enormous sum in those days. Within a few years plans were in train for a new Sunday School which would cost another £2500. These buildings were erected in 1886-87 and had a seating capacity for 500 persons with 15 classrooms surrounding a central hall.

Methodist history continued to be complicated for some time but eventually negotiations were begun between several of these diverse bodies culminating in 1907 in a union of three denominations, and at that point the Bar Chapel became known as the United Methodist Church. The site of the former chapel had become the burnt ground after the erection of the new buildings. | source: The Centenary Jubilee Handbook for the United Methodist Church Cowling of 1932 | The Chapel and Sunday School were demolished in the mid-1960’s and were replaced by a single storey chapel and hall on a site at Walton Street which had previously been occupied by a small Mission Room.


The first school was probably at Lane Ends in a private house, and was started in the middle 19th Century. The charge was 2d per week per pupil which was quite a lot in those days, especially as education was not compulsory and large families had ‘better things to do with their money*. Later a school was formed in the church schoolroom which is now part of the Old Vicarage. The present school was built in 1874 and was known as the Board School, before becoming a Church School.



Cowling is divided into three hamlets: namely Stott Hill, Ickornshaw and Cowling Hill.

Stott Hill was a place where the oxen of the parish were pastured. Chaucer in his ‘Piers Plowman’ uses ‘stott’ for oxen of three years old. As these animals were the principal beasts of burden in the early days special provision was evidently made for them. Stott Hill Moor is south of the present village.

Ickornshaw – As explained earlier in this work, philologists consider that the word is of Scandinavian origin with ‘icorni’ meaning squirrel and ‘shaw’ meaning wood We are therefore left to surmise that a squirrel wood once covered this valley of Ickornshaw.

Cowling Hill- Until the early 1800’s the centre of village life was at Cowling Hill. The majority of the population lived in that area and the pinfold and village green were situated there. Now, all that exists are a few farms and the chapel.

Whilst the village itself has few claims to being attractive it was created as an industrial settlement and is dominated by grey stone (Millstone Grit) houses situated alongside the main road and is linear in form. From Lane Ends to Park Lane is a distance of about I mile. The natural setting of the village is however rather impressive and typical of the Pennine landscape. To the south is the dominant Earls Crag which rises to over 1000 feet and from its summit are views of the Aire Valley with Wharfedale beyond. Whernside and Pen y gent rise in the background to the north, and Pendle Hill to the west. The village is however rich in natural features and also in several unusual man-made features.

The two most notable landmarks must be the pinnacles which are located on Earls Crag. They, like the rest of the village, are built of Millstone Grit. One is known as ‘Wainman’s Pinnacle’ and the other ‘Lund’s Tower’. The former stands on a natural boulder and is said to have been erected by Lady Ancotts the young wife of one of the Wainman family of Carr Head Hall, whose husband fell in the Royal cause during the Civic Wars 1644-8. Another account is that it was erected in 1815 to celebrate the victory of Waterloo. It was severely damaged at the end of the 19th C. by lightening and was rebuilt in 1900 by Messrs Gott and Riddiough of Cowling [source : Yorkshire Post 15th August 1994]. There seems to be no known reason for the second of these landmarks except one hint that as it is known as Lund’s Tower it was built by James Lund of Malsis Hall.

The Hitchingstone is a prominent landmark on Stott Hill Moor and is a solitary boulder of the local Millstone Grit weighing approximately 1060 tons. As far as Yorkshire is concerned it is the King of Boulder Stones. There is no record of its original purposes but there is evidence that it was previously larger in dimensions and that quarrymen have been at work on the south side where a huge hole has been cut. The stone’s measurements now are 28.5ft. x 25ft x 21ft high. Geologists say it is the harder material left of a long line of crags which used to cross the moors. The romantically minded people tell us that the rock used to stand in front of a witch’s cottage on the moors above Silsden. The witch got tired of seeing it, and after trying curses and spells to get rid of it, she put her broomstick in the long tapering hole (remains of a fossil tree Lepidodendron) and hitched it to where it now rests. On top of the stone are incised Latin crosses and on the west side is a ‘priest’s chair, this is believed to have connections with Druidical worship which were a tradition of these moors.

Undoubtedly, the neighbourhood of the Hitchingstone was, for many centuries, a meeting place of the villagers around, and a huge fair is said to have been held in the vicinity. The Hitchingstone Feast was held on the 12th August each year and it is difficult now to associate it with trading and joyous festivities in this wild upland district. It is possible that the fair was held in this area because a farm still exists called Fair Place. The older part of this farm was built some 300 years ago and is built on earlier foundations. We know that up to a little more than 120 years ago ( ie early 19th C] this ‘pleasure fair’ was in full swing. The Hitchingstone marks the boundary of Cowling and Sutton, and the two villages competed against each other in many events. Foot racing was most popular and the ‘course’ was one which would hardly appeal to modern sportsmen. The Hitchingstone was the starting point and the course continued across the bog to Stake Hill Road. Many competitors got into difficulties, and in some cases men had to be hauled out of clinging slime. Horse racing too was indulged in though it never gained the popularity of foot racing. Quoiting matches were played and men reached a high degree of skill in this once popular pastime. Dancing was freely indulged in to the music of the fiddle. In August 1834, there was an outbreak of Cholera said to have been brought by a soldier on leave from Egypt who visited the Feast. After this tragic event the Feast gradually dwindled until in the middle of the 19th C. it ceased altogether.

The Maw Stones. These are a group of flat stones about a mile beyond the Hitchingstone, on Ickornshaw Moor. They are 1454 ft. above sea level, which is the highest altitude of any part of the Kildwick district. The mountain flower, the cloud berry, can be found here and allegedly nowhere else in the district. There are initials on the stones, mostly of past gamekeepers from neighbouring moors. In one corner of the principal stone is a Latin Cross.

Wolf Stones These are similar stones to the Maw Stones, and are of the local grit stone. They are situated more to the south-west of Maw Stones and are the most south-westerly extremity of the Parish of Kildwick. It is here that the parishes of Oakworth, Keighley, Trawden and Cowling meet. Here also the Counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire meet.

The Tongue of Laneshaw At the extreme west of Ickornshaw Moor adjoining Lancashire is the Tongue of Laneshaw. Whatever the original reason for the County boundary taking this peculiar formation is lost in the dim past. The feature however gave the inhabitants an opportunity of coining the apt and expressive phrase ‘The tongue of Laneshaw’. There is abundant evidence that a large thick forest existed in former times on these swampy heights. The ‘tongue’ is now partly covered by Colne Corporation Reservoir. In the past 5O years trees have been planted on what was formerly bleak moss and have now grown to a height that might be described once again as ‘ thick forest’.

STONEHEAD BECK In 1986 a site alongside Stonehead Beck, with a short frontage to the Stonehead Lane was discovered and because of its importance became a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The area in question occupies 1.43 acres, and is identified as being of ” international importance” in the Geological Conservation Review. It consists of a 40 metre sequence of shales with seven marine bands in the bank of Stonehead Beck, a tributary of Gill Beck (by which the site is internationally known to Geologists) The technical date accompanying the statutory description is complicated, but because of its importance needs to be recorded. The site demonstrates the boundary between the E2 and H½ goniatite zones. The marked difference in goniatite and bivalve faunas between the two is well seen here, as is the transition in miospore floras. Gill Beck has been proposed as the boundary stratotype for the base of the Chokerian Stage, a chronostratigraphical unit to be adopted throughout western Europe. Since this horizon may be used as the dividing line between the upper and lower Carboniferous subsystems (equivalent to Mississippian- Pennsylvanian boundary in North America, and the tower-middle Carboniferous boundary in U.S.S.R) Gill Beck is a site of considerable international importance. [source: Geological Site Documentation /Management Brief for Stonehead Beck (also known as Gill Beck) compiled by Dept. of Earth Sciences, Liverpool University and published by English Nature in December 1993].

MIDDLETON WELL In the 1860’s Middleton’s most useful treasure was a never-failing spring of clear, cool water. This was used by all until, one day, the landowner (W. Wainman of Carr Head Hall) stopped its use by placing a huge stone over it. All Cowling rose and asserted their rights to continue using the spring. The Mills were closed and men, women and children armed themselves with cudgels and other primitive implements to resist, if necessary, by force. A few policemen hid in a barn which had been turned into a barracks, but after seeing the crowds they dare not leave their hideout. Fortunately, there was no riot so the Squire abandoned the project and the policemen were sent home, to Wakefield !

TOM WELL This well is situated away on the moor not far from the Hitchingstone. In early days it was discovered that quantities of the water had medicinal properties. This particular well attained a celebrity for straightening crooked limbs, and in the past 50 years [ ie. early 20th C.] there were a few living in the village who could still remember people bathing in its waters.


Prior to the establishment of the New Road Side (in 1812) following the construction of the main road, as we know it, the principal occupation of the inhabitants was farming and quarrying. There were two quarries in Cowling; Knoll Hill and Stunstead (north west of Carr Head Hall). Knoll Hill was run by Thomas Binns and the stone was particularly noted for not being as porous as that of other quarries in the area. Many of the houses in the village were built with stone from Knoll Hill, as were houses in Colne. It is also said that the foundation stone of Blackpool Tower came from Knoll Hill. In spite of this quarry not being exhausted the journey along either Hill Ends Road or Nan Scar and Winkholme became too steep for horses to move the stone.

THE INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION was late in reaching the parish. It was in the late 18th C. that hand loom weaving gave way to the use of machines. At one time there was hardly a house in the village (ie. New Road Side) that had not a hand loom in a bedroom. Abram Binns (who is mentioned in connection with Methodism in Ickornshaw) was disturbed by the overcrowded conditions in the cottages where one bedroom was filled with looms and spinning wheel, that he rented a weaving shop’ where looms could be accommodated. It was quite common for the bedroom to contain five or six hand looms and within this room weaving was done to support the whole family, which in those days was large. Also in that room members of the family had to sleep. The death rate at this time was very high which in many cases was due to the appalling housing and sleeping conditions.

In those hard times (late 18th and early 19th C) it was the custom for the finished pieces of cloth to be send to the factory once per fortnight, but the discipline of the workers was not very strict, so quite often they took life easy the first week and then worked day and night the second to meet the deadline.

ICKORNSHAW MILL The first mill to be built in the village was Ickornshaw Mill for which there was an Agreement dated 16th September 1791 granted to The Rev. John Dehane (Vicar of Kildwick) giving him the right to build a Mill for the purposes of making wicks for candles and later, spinning cotton ‘in the way and manner as is now used and practised at Holgate Bridge in Ickornshaw1. The candle-wick business was carried on under the management of Mr Dehane’s nephew.

In 1811 Abram Binns rented the mill as a weaving shed. Ickornshaw Mill was the first in the district where water or steam power was used and for a continual supply of water a large reservoir was built on the moor (near Cowloughton), but it burst its banks. The present dam situated beside the mill was built in 1849 and is associated with the traditional story which has given the name of ‘Moonrakers’ to the villagers. It is alleged that three men saw the moon reflecting in the water and mistook it for a cheese and tried to ‘rescue’ it. When the water was plentiful the water wheel was capable of reaching 50/60 H.P.

In 1880 part of the mill was totally destroyed by fire, but the weaving shed was untouched. An old lady was heard to remark, when she saw the huge volume of water being poured onto the fire by Keighley Fire Brigade ” the hosses might weel sweat, trailing all that watter fra Keighley”. After this fire the mill was rebuilt but with only two storeys instead of the previous four storeys. It is of interest to note that the ‘engine tenters’ job was in the Dawson family from 1791 to 1906; one of these Dawsons was in charge of the water wheel, engine, boiler, and was gas maker, blacksmith and general mill mechanic , all for fifteen shillings per week. He had however to do cloth dressing, soldering kettles and pans, glazing and caring for animals to earn a little more money. He also found time to play the harmonium each Sunday at Ickornshaw Chapel. It is little wonder that in the Craven Almanack of 1888 the early days of weaving are described thus :- ” the villagers of Cowling and Ickornshaw are straggling and situate on the sides of the glen. The name Cowling was once synonymous with roughness, thriftless-ness and ignorance. Cowling may now be regarded as almost a model village for intelligence and thrift…”

CROFT MILLS This mill was founded in 1852 by John Binns who was a farmer and carrier. Following the building of the New Road (1812) he, along with others in the village, sought to improve the life of the villagers (see section on the Bar Chapel) and decided to build a weaving factory. These were the first power looms in the district, and the mill was engaged in the worsted trade, especially blue serge. The founder’s two sons carried on the business in partnership until it was dissolved when one of the brothers built another mill -Carr Mill. Eventually these two mills were merged into one firm which later became a Public Company, and was the largest Rayon fabric manufacturing business in Yorkshire. The Mill closed in 1971 for weaving and was demolished in 1994, now mill croft.

HARTLEY’S MILL This was established in 1863 as a cotton manufacturing firm. In 1880 John Hartley built a mill called Acre Shed. The business developed from cotton and worsted to making high class rayon fabrics. This mill closed in 2002.

ROYD MILL This was built alongside the main road and was acquired by Gill Stansfield for making cotton and rayon linings. This mill closed in 1971 as a mill and was demolished in 2003 now Royd Court.

BOX SHOP This name applied to the factory founded by Wm.Bannister as a saw mill and joiners and cabinet makers. It later made boxes, mainly for poultry industry, which thrived in the village. Mr Bannister built a three storey workshop in 1874 where machines were driven by a gas engine. This was within the village, alongside the main road, at what became known as ‘Bannister corner’. Later, in 1916, the business moved to Lane Ends where is continued to operate until 1979 (foe box making) demolished in 2005 now the Old Sawmill 2005.

POULTRY FARMS There has been a long history of poultry rearing in the village, and at one time there were nine businesses of varying sizes. Thousands of day old chicks were sent from the village throughout the Country by train from Kildwick Station. By the l960’s this industry had almost been overtaken by the mass production of poultry on a scale which far exceeded the Cowling capacity.


The listing of buildings of ‘special architectural or historic interest’ as we know it today came about through the Town and Country Planning 1947. It has been up-dated since then but the principle of identifying those buildings which contribute to the character and history of the Country still stands. The whole Country has been surveyed and most parishes have ‘listed buildings’ and have been amended and extended from time to time. The current list for the Parish of Cowling contains 38 entries, which are set out below. Most of those listed are in the Grade II category, but there are two notable exceptions in Carr Head Hall and Long Croft Farm, both of which are Grade II*. and thus in the top 4% of listed buildings in the Country [source: Planning Policy Guidance Note No. 15 ].

Lumb Ghyll (former mill building): probably late 18th C.

Lumb Mill House house dated 1696.

Mile stone at junction of Lane Ends/Carr Head Lane: 18th C with lettering stating “To Settle 12 miles” (east side); “To Haworth” (west side). “This stone marks one of the old roads from Long Preston and Settle to Halifax”. [source: The King’s Highway in Craven qv. 1927 J.J.Brigg].

Carr Head Hall: Grade II*; probably mid-18th C. enlarged later 18th C and refurbished 1861, with slight alterations in early 20th C. Fine interior with three periods indicated; the list description states “the house preserves in part a small mansion of the mid-18th C of considerable interest”.

Summer House in garden 100 metres west of Carr Head Hall: Late 18th C.I early 19th C.

Coach House at Carr Head Hall; late 18th C.

Old Carr Head Farmhouse : mid 19th C. “The replacement or drastic rebuilding of the predecessor of Carr Head Hall.

Gamsgill: Datestone of EGMG 1707 on a fireplace in one of the upstairs rooms.

Stott Fold Farmhouse, Cowling Hill Lane: probably later 17th C with alterations.

Stott Fold Farm: reputed to have been an inn, probably 17th C. Listed as a survival of period when Cowling Hill was main settlement of the parish situated at the crossing of the roads north from Halifax and west from Skipton. The bam bears the date of 1616 on a lintel.

Chapel House, Cowling Hill : later 18th C. there has been a Baptist Chapel since 18th C.

Lower Windhill Farmhouse: later 17th or early 18th C; altered.

The Stubbings: probably 1700 (datestone).

Skythorne Farmhouse: late 17th C; altered

Long Syke Edge farmhouse and barn; Farmhouse 1670; barn 1676. Plaque on left hand side of chamfered doorway “TTST MDCLXX”, another plaque above plain doorway appears to read 1674. The attached barn has a plaque which reads TT ST AD 1676″

Church of Holy Trinity: 1845 by R.D. Chantrell. Perpendicular in style. Inside open timber roof is arch braced. West gallery now removed. Stalls 1956 from workshop of Robert Thompson of Kilburn. 500 free sittings (based on board which records grant from Incorporated Church Building Society).

Barns 50 m. north of Lower Summer House: two bams end to end probably 17th /16th C.

Lower Summerhouse: probably mid 17th C.

Overhouse Farm, Grandage Lane: House 1764 and earlier; datestone J.H.E. 1764

Town End Farmhouse, Ickornshaw: probably mid/late 17th C.

Mile Stone nr. Hey Farm: iron milestone 19th C. triangular prism with semi-circular top bearing words ” Blackburn, Addingham and Cocking End Road, Cowling” left hand panels Colne 5 miles, Burnley 11 miles; right hand panel ‘Keighley 81/4 miles, Addingham l0miles and Ilkley 13.25 miles”.

Moorview, Lane Ends Lane (formerly Lower Lane Ends) Farmhouse 1677.

Long Hill End Farmhouse: datestone over chamfered doorway 1699; on lintel panel inscribed DHV 1892.

Norwood Farmhouse : probably 17th C. with alterations.

Lower Bowsedge Farmhouse: probably later 17th C. altered.

Barn to south of Lower Bowsedge: barn 1675; Queen-post roof, door near one corner has finely moulded doorway with Tudor head.

Memorial on Ickornshaw Moor, Pad Cote Lane: erected May 1937 with tablet of black stone recording death of Philip Snowden first Viscount of Ickornshaw.

Lower Coppy Farmhouse and attached barn: later 18th C. refronted early 19th C. Interior of house has early 19th C. fittings; barn has original wooden stalls with hay loft and has a Queen-post roof.

Reedshaw Farmhouse and barn; inscription on chamfered doorway SMP 1886 and 1618 (it is clearly 1886) but barn is perhaps 17th C.

Gill Bottom Farmhouse: Utter 17th or early 18th C, three cottages 19th C. thought to have been extended to provide accommodation for a nearby mill (now demolished).

Thornesfield Farmhouse and barn. Shop Lane (formerly Thorites Field): mid-late 17th C.

Long Croft and attached barn: listed Grade II* – both probably circa 1700. Farmhouse 2.5 storeys and 3 rooms on L-plan. Porch 2 storeys the upper part carried on a cyma string. Chamfered doorways and windows . Interior of farmhouse has baffle entry against massive fireplace in room to left, with radiation of voussoirs continued in iambs. Simitar but moulded fireplace to kitchen at rear and decorated linked to former doorway between kitchen and parlour. Stone spiral stair, now replaced in state. Roof said to have King-post truss with fishbone and angle struts. The barn is probably earlier than the house but no dateable features exist. It has a Queen-post roof, in publication by a group concerned with vernacular architecture it is said to be ‘an exceptionally welt-preserved building from the phase of Great Rebuilding’ with good detail and an unusual plan.

Lower Stone Head: apparently 17th C but several builds. Probably linked with William Pickells whose name is in the head of a semi-circular window and is inscribed with his name and A.D. 1677.

Stone Head (formerly listed as Higher Stone Head): house said to be 1690 but may be earlier (also thought to be from same family as above).

Upper Stone Head: farmhouse circa 1800.

The Oliver Farmhouse Tom Lane: circa 1800.

Old Village Vicarage and attached hall: former Sunday School and Schoolmasters house.

Lime Kiln, Wainman’s Bottoms (in front of Carr Head Hall) probably late 18th C.draw kiln of roughly dressed stone, semi-circular in plan with elliptical arched entrance 1.5 metres high. Total height c 4 metres. Said to be remaining one of 15 m vicinity near local becks.

[source: Listed of buildings of special architectural or historic interest held by English Heritage and up-dated to January 2005]

There are a few other buildings of interest which are not now listed but are worth mention; one such is Winter House which was formerly a farmstead on the main turn pike road. The initials over the doorway have often puzzled people. These initials are H.S. and below A.M.5825. and on the next line A,D. 1821. The meaning of H.S. is Hugh Smith, the builder who was a prominent man in Cowling in his day. A.M. means Anno Mundi (in the year of the world) 5825; and A.D. (Anno Domini) 1821. Bishop Usher said that the world was created exactly 4004 years before the birth of Christ, and he even went so far as giving the hours and minutes. The building at Winter House is two storeys and of coursed rubble with a bam of the ‘long house’ type.


Cowling has produced many people who have risen to fame in their respective fields, the greatest of whom must be Philip Snowden. Philip Snowden was born in a small cottage in Middleton in 1864 and attended the local school. When he was 12½ he became a ‘pupil teacher’ at the school. He was the youngest of three children, and the only boy. in a family of regular worshippers at Ickornshaw Chapel. The family moved to Nelson when he was 15 and there he became an insurance clerk and started attending political meetings. He joined the Civic Service and moved from Liverpool to Aberdeen and then to Plymouth. Whilst in Plymouth he had a bicycle accident which left him paralysed. He returned to Cowling where his mother was now living and he retired from the Civil Service in 1893. Confined to bed he started writing articles for the local newspaper and eventually he managed to learn to walk again. He started public speaking and became a member of the Independent Labour Party. He then started to offer himself for Parliament, but was unsuccessful in the early attempts. He was a member of the Cowling Parish Council and in 1894 became the first Clerk of the Parish Council. Cowling was at that time one of the first communities to have its own Parish Council following legislation in May 1894. He was elected to the Keighley Town Council in 1899 and for a time edited the Keighley Labour Journal. In 1906 he was elected to Parliament for the seat of Blackburn. He lost his Blackburn seat in 1918 but was returned to Parliament in 1922 as M.P. for Colne Valley. In 1923 the first Labour Government was formed and Philip Snowden was its first Chancellor of the Exchequer, and position he held again from June 1929 to August 1931. He resigned his seat for Colne Valley in 1931 becoming disillusioned with the Government and he subsequently resigned from the Labour Party after a career of 25 years. He had reached national prominence as a Labour Politician and eventually was elevated to the House of Lords as the first Viscount Snowden of Ickornshaw. He died on the 15th May 1937 at the age of 72 and had been a semi-invalid for 44 years. His ashes were scattered on Ickornshaw Moor and a memorial cairn was later unveiled on the 21st May 1938, at Pad Cote, in his memory; his wife’s ashes were later scattered alongside in 1951. His library was left to Keighley Library.

For a village of its (then) size. Cowling has produced a number of people of distinction who have achieved prominence in their respective fields. Several have become head teachers, other editors of important newspapers, one a head chemist of “Pullers of Perth -important dyers, several Methodist preachers and even missionaries, and there are many others. Above ail, there has been a strong entrepreneurial trait which has played a significant role in the life of the village, and beyond. Not only has it made money for those who took the risks and had the foresight, but it has also provided employment and. as described in other parts of this work, has influenced the religious background of many villagers and their families. This points to an ethos for hard work and ambition which seems to have been inbred amongst those who sought to “better themselves”.

Additional Footnote – J. Tindale (Dec. 2005)

Philip Snowden died – 15/5/37, age 72 at Tilford, Surrey.
The funeral was on 18/5/37 in Woking, Surrey (Private Funeral)

Ashes were scattered on 22/5/37 at Pad Cote, Ickornshaw Moor

Plaques were later unveiled both at Middleton & Cairn on 21/5/38, and a fund for a memorial in the village was created


Much has been said in this work about Ickornshaw Moor and the part it has played in the early history of the village. It has another claim to fame by being associated with the fact that it is renowned for its grouse shooting. Here there are special rights connected with Ickornshaw Moor which means that certain residents in the village are entitled to use the Moor for the digging of peat (rights of turnbary) and for shooting game. The main attraction comes in August at the beginning of the grouse shooting season. There is doubt as to the exact nature of these rights, but it is said that the Manor of Ickornshaw included parts that were not enclosed under the Inclosure Acts |sic| and the common land was divided among the Lord of the Manor and the freeholders. In about 1S6S Richard Tirrell (then Lord of the Manor) sold to the tenants of the manor their holdings in fee simple, reserving only the ‘quit rents’. They became ‘freeholders’ of their holdings or farms. His son, Edward, conveyed to them the manor or lordship of Cowling including ‘the commons, moors and wastes, and certain other privileges and royalties’. He also released them from payment of their quit rents. The Moor was divided into 304 parts, the number of parts taken by each freeholder being proportionate to his quota of the former amount of the quit rents. So the commons, moors and wastes of the manor, including Ickornshaw Moor, became vested in the freeholders as tenants-in-common, which means that each has a separate and defined but undivided share. Bach freeholder has the usual rights to ownership including shooting and pasturage [source: Craven Herald 30th August 1963].

In 1892 two men came from Halifax and persuaded most of the villagers to sign a petition giving away their rights to the moor. A few keen shooters refused to sign and after a great deal of friction the case was taken to the High Court in London, where the Freeholders won the day. Shooting as a sport has tended to be traditional amongst certain families, and several have constructed ‘huts’ in which they sleep and from which they can make an early start when the shooting season starts. This early start is known as ‘The Quack ‘. These are private huts, but there is also a ‘stone hut’ which was intended for use by any who wished to stay overnight and be ready for the first light. Other shooters choose to walk onto the moor in the early hours in order to be on the highest part of the moor at day break. Many have their favourite butt from which they will start the day’s shoot. This is all done in an informal manner and with great camaraderie.

On the moor is a large dam known as ‘New Dam’ which supplies part of Keighley with water. This was built in 1820 and burst in 1849. The present dam was built soon afterwards.


There has long been a tradition in the village of calling people by their Christian name followed by the name of their father or (sometimes) mother, or else their farm. For example John o’Robbs; Tom o’Noah’s; Harry o’Bill o’ Toms; Billy o’ Kitty’s; James at t ‘Lumb; Jimmy at t Fleet. This custom became so strong that in 1879 a marriage is recorded at the Parish Church between

“Watson o’Little Jims, and Susannah o’Harry o’ t Shop, all of Cowling.”

That incorporates nicknames, family names and names of farms. The most likely explanation for this must be the number of people with the same surname, and the need to distinguish them by other means. So common was this form of address that many people in the village did not know the real name of the person about whom they spoke; but everyone else knew who they were talking about, so it did not matter !

COWLING a poem by W.R.Holloway

Chaps, come wi me ta Cowin-heard
A’ll promise ya a reyt good time,
We’ll off ower’t moors to t’shooiting hahse
An’ tell owd tales i’prose, er rhyme,
O’t good owd days.

T’wor o’this moor, i’days goan by
When t’landlord claimed all shotting reyts.
An t’Cowling fowk com’ clutterin rahnd
Prepared, if need, fera stand up fehyt
Ta keep their awn.

When’er a gam bird let ta rise
An’ one o’t sportsmen raised his gun
As sewer as fate, up popped a heard
An spoiled his spoart, an ah’ll be bun
Made him sweear.

Ye’ll see fra this what sooart o’fowk
They are ‘at lives o’theese heigh lands
Ther jannock, sturdy, upreyt chaps.
Stryt as loitch, when t’case demands
A stern lewk ant.

Ye’ve heeard t’awd tale o’Middleton
When t’Landlord aimed at cloisin t’spring
Hah young and ‘old all left ther wark
Rolled t’stoan off t’ cart, dahn into fling
At Middleton

An hah one lusty woman then.
Defied all t’lot, ta cross her mark, sho shewk ‘er kneyf i’ivery face.

An kept ’em ail at bay, we! dark,
At Middleton.

Nah, if ya leet ta hear o’one
Ats made his mark – in t’Church -at t’Bar
Be sewer he duzzent cum sa far
Fra Cowin-heeard.

An when i’all this wide, wide world
Will ye hev welcum gien sa free;
Ther fain ter meet a good owd frend
Ther’s welcum booath fer ye an ‘me
At Cowin-heeard.


In spite of the dialect contained in the above poem, there can be few true Cowin-heearder’s who do not understand it; and there can be even fewer from outside Cowling who do ! One rule must however be respected by all, and that is the correct pronunciation of the name Cowling; it has the long ‘o’ and the village should never be called Cow (the milky lady) ling.