Barnoldswick Local History Articles

Friday, January 11, 2002


Those of you who read the first part of the story of the 1580 Whitemoor map should have had time to recover from the gallop over the moor in search of the old boundaries. Those who missed it, get hold of a back number and read it because you missed a goodie. Remember, the original of the map and my paper on it is in the library.

Once I’d got my teeth into the map I found it was difficult to let go. Everywhere I looked I was learning new things about the moor and finding evidence on the ground I had overlooked for years. I was also getting plenty of exercise because the only way to get to the bottom of it was to walk!

One of the first things I did was to walk across Occupation Road or, as it is marked on the map, Lister Well Lane. A word here about the name commonly used in Barlick; ‘Occy’ or Occupation Road. I have seen the suggestion recently that this has something to do with the Roman Occupation of Britain. I have to say there is absolutely no evidence for this. On the contrary, the evidence points to a completely different derivation. You’ll find ‘Occupation’ roads and lanes all over the country and the name derives from the legal use of the word occupation as a modifier for any function or object that is for the use of a property owner. In other words, anything that enables the tenant or owner of a property to ‘occupy’ it. Lister Well Lane as we know it didn’t exist until the last enclosures were made on the moor in the early 19th century. It is an access road provided for the occupiers of the various enclosures on the moor. If all the land had been in one ownership there would be no need for a road as access could be gained by passing through the fields over land already owned. As soon as there is multiple tenancy, which was the case on the moor, a means has to be provided for access without trespass. So, what we now call Lister Well Lane was laid out as an occupation road and eventually received a name. Nothing to do with the Romans!

The first thing you’ll see if you keep your eyes open is some ruins behind the house built by the Sagars who were big quarry owners. This used to be Upper Hall and up to now I know nothing about it. Incidentally, take a good look at the quality of the lintels and cills used in the Sagar house. They are the best stone available and almost certainly came from what the workers used to call the ‘bottom end’ at Park Close Quarry. Jack Platt, who used to work in the quarry as a lad once told me that the stone from the bottom end was almost twice as hard as that up at the top. When put on the saws, which were large steel saw blades running in a mixture of water and lead shot, you could saw a foot an hour when working the top stone but this dropped to less than six inches on the bottom stone. Incidentally, anyone who knew Jack would have noticed that he had the tops missing of the first two fingers on I think, his left hand. He told me that when he was at school they used to play in the quarry and one day he found a small piece of copper tube which was just the right size for slipping over a pencil stub so you could use it right down to the bitter end. He was walking down Salterforth Lane and as he went, was forcing his pencil into the tube when it exploded and blew off part of his fingers! You’ve guessed it! What he had found was a detonator which was used to initiate the black powder charges used in the quarry for blasting. He said that the funny thing was that whenever he went for his PSV test when he worked for Wild Brothers on the buses the examiners never noticed that he had part of his hand missing.

I’ve done it again haven’t I, please excuse me for sliding off to the side when we are supposed to be doing serious work on the moor but I can’t resist the stories. If history isn’t about people it’s not worth bothering with.

Back to the moor. Lister Well Lane runs almost dead straight across the moor heading for Peel House on Gisburn Old Track. Take notice of the walls. They are well-built and are all freshly quarried stone. I suppose that most of you would be taught at school that the walls were built using the stone that was laid about in the fields when they were first cultivated. This was probably true of the earliest enclosures on bottom land by the Celts and the Anglo Saxons but by the time the 19th century enclosures were being made there was no time for this, indeed, the fields were intended for grazing in order to improve them and there was not enough loose stone to do the job. The land on the moor is very close to the rock and you don’t have to dig down far anywhere before you get to the top, fragmented layers of rock which is ideal for wall-building. In addition, stone was never carried any further than necessary and always down hill. If you look along the course of the walls you’ll find small depressions every now and again. These are ‘delphs’ or quarries that have healed over with time. The workers simply dug down far enough to get into stone and used it to build the walls until it became obvious that it would be easier to dig another hole. The lane itself is at a lower level than the fields in many places and I often wonder whether they took the stone for the walls out of the road bed as they levelled it. I haven’t any evidence for this but it would make sense.

Every now and again as you pass over the moor you’ll come across small walled plantings of scrubby trees. The only reason I can think of for these is that they were created deliberately to give shelter for wildlife so as to encourage sporting use of the moor. The walls give plenty of shelter for the sheep and I can think of no other explanation.

About two thirds of the way across the moor, just before you come to a small planting on the low side of the lane, you reach Lister Well, to be more correct, you reach the course of the feeder from the spring further up the hill which is the source of the water running down Whinberry Clough into Whitemoor reservoir. Before the reservoir was built in 1840, this was the highest feeder for Black or County Brook and is marked on the 1580 map as ‘Ellshaye’. Until about six years ago there was a stone trough in the field on the low side of the road and this was what was always known in recent memory as Lister Well. A few years ago someone tried to steal the trough and I have been told that the farmer at Sandiford moved it down to the farm for safety. I suppose this is a pity but I can see the sense in it. I don’t think we need go into too much of a decline because if you look at the 6” OS map of 1849 the well is marked as being on the top side of the road. There is still an old brick trough in that spot but the water has been diverted through a plastic pipe from the spring and flows into an old cast iron bath. Not quite as picturesque as the ‘old’ stone trough but exactly the same water, have a drink, it won’t do you any harm! Console yourself with the fact that if the maps are correct, the trough that was moved wasn’t the original well anyway.

When Lister Well Lane gets to the last field before Gisburn Old Track it hits a bog. Just before it gets there a gate on the top side leads onto an old track which goes off diagonally through a couple of old delphs and eventually hits Gisburn Track higher up the hill. I think this must have been the usual route even though the map says that the lane went straight forward towards Peel House. Someone has tipped a lot of ballast on the direct line recently and in time this will settle down into an adequate road and I suppose historians in 100 years will be convinced it is the original line.

Peel House has always interested me. When I first knew it fifty years ago Tommy Carter and his wife Sally lived there with their two daughters. Tommy Carter seemed to make his living as a casual labourer and Sally, his wife, used to work for Old Mother Hanson when she kept the Moorcock pub on the Gisburn road just over the hill. More about the Hansons later! The house was tiny and had a pitifully small land-holding and I have often thought that it had all the hallmarks of a squatters house. In other words, a small dwelling built illegally by someone who had simply appropriated some land on the moor without going through any of the legalities. I don’t know what the ancient law was in this part of the country but in many other places squatting was a recognised way of acquiring a place to live. All you had to do was erect a chimney, build a rudimentary shelter around it and have a fire burning within a certain period of time and you acquired ‘squatter’s rights’. The local lord might fine you a small amount each year but would usually leave you alone because it was a handy way of allowing people to become responsible for their own shelter instead of becoming the responsibility of the local poor-rate payers who had to provide for the destitute by law.

If you walk down the Gisburn Track from Lister Well Lane, just below Peel House you’ll see a short lane setting off into the field to the right. It’s very wet even in a dry time but if you walk down to the end you come to the boundary wall between Whitemoor and Admergill. This is the ancient boundary that I described before which was fought over for 400 years by the Crown and the Church. Look uphill and you will see that it is marked by a deep ditch as far as the eye can see. Going downhill the ditch isn’t so obvious but is still there. Maurice Horsfield who’s family have farmed on the moor for over 100 years tells me that from Peel House down, the Black Dyke takes all the water off the moor. He thinks it is diverted now at Blacko Hill Side and runs down into Beverley Road but I have an idea that at one time all the water went straight down to what we now know as the Cross Gaits pub. The pub has the date 1717 over the door which looks about right to me from the style of build. However, on the 1580 map it is marked as Black Dyke Mill. This is interesting enough but I’ll tell you what I think is even more fascinating.

Go up to Higher Sandiford and look back along the line of the Black Dyke. Ask yourself how water ever managed to cut out such an even dyke across the hillside. My opinion is that it couldn’t. I think that what we are looking at is an ancient and very well constructed boundary defence. It has gradually filled in over the years and become a gentle declivity and it wouldn’t have had a wall at the top but a wooden palisade if I’m right. This boundary is far older than the Norman Conquest and it makes sense to defend it against marauders from the north. Again, more work needed but a nice romantic theory to start with. Nowt wrong with a bit of romance!


I have recently done a paper on the 1580 map of Whitemoor and put it in the library. I also gave a copy to each of the schools in Barlick. What follows is the story of how I went about deciphering the map and some of the stories that unfolded. If you want to do more on it, go to the library and have a word with the librarians, they will show you their copy of the original map and my notations on it.

A few weeks ago I have to admit I was getting a bit bored. I had been writing on the same subject for six months and felt like a change, the question was, what? I remembered that I had a copy of a map made in 1580 of Whitemoor and had never really managed to decipher the notations on it. Considering they were in ‘clerkly hand’, the ornate handwriting used by the professions in the 16th century which is difficult to decipher even when on plain paper, this wasn’t surprising, the same script buried in shading on a map is even more difficult.

I got the map out and started work on it but to tell you the truth I wasn’t getting a lot further forward. I remembered that a friend of mine, Doreen Crowther, at Higherford, also had a copy of the map so I arranged to go down and see her about it. I’ve been in love with Doreen for years because she is one of the best local history researchers I know. For many years she has been patiently translating and transcribing old legal documents and her work can be found in the library. She is getting old now and is just recovering from a serious illness but still has a brain like a bear-trap and I knew she would be able to help me. I went down with my map, we sat down together and inside two hours we had deciphered almost all the notations on the map. I had something concrete to work on.

The first thing about the map that struck me all those years ago is the amount of land marked as ‘Improvements of Barnoldswick’. It’s quite important to recognise that 500 years ago, the countryside around Barlick looked different than it does now. There were walled fields in the valley bottoms near the villages, many of them an irregular shape and dating back to very early settlement. As you climbed the sides of the valleys towards the moor you came out of the cultivated land on to what was known as ‘The Waste’. This was land that was used as common grazing but had never been cultivated because there was no demand. Any food produced was eaten locally and as long as the existing fields could support the population there was no call for any more land.

We know that for a variety of reasons, the population in North West England was growing during the 16th century even though the rest of the country was in decline due to epidemics and hard times. Lots of reasons have been advanced for this but the most likely one seems to be that because of the growth of the domestic textile industry. Wealth was being generated by trade with other parts of the country and this influx of money was helping young couples to become independent earlier. Instead of waiting for parents to die before they took over the family holding they were able to set up as spinners and weavers and so married earlier. They were more fertile and had longer to raise children and so the population started to grow.

Because food wasn’t imported to the area because of inadequate transport, the rising population meant that more land was needed to support it and so ‘Improvements’ were made to the waste by enclosing land and cultivating it. You can readily identify these enclosures because they are a regular shape with straight walls and always at a higher level than the older fields. The significance of the improvements marked on the 1580 map is that they prove that this population growth had started in Barlick perhaps around 1500 and from the quantity of the enclosures, that it was a significant increase. I reckon they increased the amount of cultivated land by about half. Another factor that could have helped was that the climate warmed up slightly at this time, more corn was grown and we begin to find reports of pirate water mills being set up to grind corn. More of these later!

The 1580 map was drawn as evidence in a court case and it’s quite clear from the map what was in dispute, there is a notation that says ‘Whytmore, the land at variance’. The records of the Duchy of Lancaster tell us that the dispute was between Tempest et al. Tenants of Barnoldswick and Bannester et al. Tenants of Foulridge. The Tempests were at this time resident in Bracewell and held the Lordship of Bracewell and Barnoldswick. The Bannesters were Lords of Trawden and also held the Lordship of Foulridge. In essence, I suspect the dispute was as much about water rights as the land itself. All the water that rises on the moor, with the exception of Slipper Hill Clough and Sandiford Clough, runs off the watershed to the East. It is no accident that what we now know as County Brook was a significant boundary from earliest times although on the map it is called Black Brook (Blac Broc). The later name must have crept in when it became the county boundary dividing Yorkshire from Lancashire.

As I delved in the old records to find evidence about the 1580 dispute I found that there was a much older disagreement over boundaries on the moor which had considerable repercussions on Barlick. We have to go back another 400 years to the time when land ownership after the Norman Conquest had settled down a bit and a man called Henry de Lacy was in residence at Clitheroe Castle and held vast tracts of land across northern England as a reward for his family’s part in the Conquest.

Some time after 1140, Henry was a bit poorly. He was laid in bed convinced that he was going to die. Remember that the ‘doctors’ who he was relying on had no idea what was wrong with him or how to cure him. All they could do was dose him with herbs and bleed him, no wonder so many people died. Henry had only two other resources to call on, magic and religion. Being a Christian and of course, at this time, a Roman Catholic, he knew that magic belonged to the devil so he sent for his priest. He told the priest to have a word with God and tell him that if He made him better, he’d build a monastery for him. The priest went off into the chapel and set about his prayers and shortly afterwards Henry recovered from his illness. It was a combination of this event and probably also the fact that a neighbouring baron was setting up Sawley Abbey just down the road that brought Henry to the point where he had a word with the Cistercian monks at Fountains Abbey and told them that if they built a monastery in Barnoldswick he would give them the Lordship.

In 1147 Barnoldswick was granted to Abbot Alexander of Fountains by charter and we have a very good record of this land grant. These records include a contemporary account of the ‘perambulation’ that was necessary to prove the boundaries of the land being granted. Part of this perambulation is on our map and comparison of this account with the map enabled me to recover some lost names on the moor.

First, an explanation, ‘perambulation’ is a word which comes from the Latin and means to walk about to inspect. The point being that there were no reliable maps and the legally accepted way to prove a boundary was to walk it and note the various points passed through. The section that interests us in respect of the 1580 map goes as follows: ‘By the stream called Blackbroc and up the moor to Gailmers and so directly to Ellesagh, across Blacko Hill and up Oxgill to Alainsete and thence to the ancient ditch between Middop and Coverdale’.

When you’re researching something, an account like this is pure gold because it is tied to topographical features that cannot change. The first bit is obvious and gives us the best start we could have. Henry and his band of armed men (he wouldn’t be daft enough to go out without them) walked up Black Brook and straight up the moor. They came to ‘Gailmers’ which is a lost name but looking at the map we see that a bog in the corner of what is now Whitemoor reservoir was described as ‘Gail Mose’ or ‘Fail Mire’ depending on whether you listened to the defendant or the plaintiff. This must be Gailmers. ( ‘gale’ is an Old English word for Bog Myrtle hence ‘Gale Mire’. The next point mentioned is ‘Ellesagh’, another lost name, but on the map there is a notation referring to ‘Ellshaye’, again, can there be much doubt that this is the same name? From here the party struck out across the moor to Blacko Hill but before we follow them let’s look more closely at ‘Elleshagh’.

On the map, there is another notation that is almost completely obscured but it looks as if it is describing the well on the moor which we now know as Lister Well as ‘Ellshaye’. In 1580 it was marked on the map with a crucifix which denotes a site of religious importance. This was an attribute often given to important water sources and dates back far beyond Christianity to pagan times when sources of water were venerated as they were life-giving. The men of the early church weren’t daft and often appropriated important pagan sites into the church mythology. Let’s have a bit of fun with place names.

The nearest name to Elleshagh I can think of is Elslack. If you look in Eilert Ekwall’s Oxford dictionary of Place Names you’ll find that his explanation is that it means ‘Elesa’s stream’. Elesa is an Anglo-Saxon name and the first Elesa I have traced was born in 439 in Saxony, North Germany. His son Cerdic became King of Wessex and his line can be traced directly to Egbert, first King of All England in 827. So, we can be fairly certain there was an Anglo-Saxon bloke called Elesa known in the district over 1,300 years ago who might have been related to royalty. Suppose his name had been given to the well and this later became corrupted to Lister Well after the Listers became an important family in the area in the 15th century. It’s quite possible that in 1580 the folk memory still called the spring ‘Elesa’s Well’. Things like this are the romantic bit about history. I can’t prove any of it but it’s as good an explanation as any. One thing is sure and certain, the well was there and had importance before the Listers ever came into the district and must have had a name. I’ll stick with my theory until there’s a better one! Back to Henry and his perambulation.

From Blacko Hill he walked across to ‘Oxgill’ and up to ‘Alainesete’. We know that Alan’s Seat was the old name for the summit of Burn Moor, probably because this land had earlier been part of the Percy Fee (land held from the Crown by the Percy family in Yorkshire) and Alain de Percy must have rested here during an earlier perambulation of his boundary with the Forest of Blackburn. Whenever you see a summit marked as somebody’s ‘Seat’ you can be almost certain that this is the derivation of the name, it’s a point on a boundary. The only gill running up to Burn Moor that fits our path is what we now know as Claude’s Clough and Jackson Slack so this must have been Oxgill in 1147 and is marked as this on the map in 1580. So, taking the direct line from Blacko Hill we go via Wheathead, up the gill to the top of Burn Moor. From there we strike out to the east to ‘the ancient ditch between Middop and Coverdale’. This is the line of what we now know as Coal Pit Lane which is the extension of Gisburn Old Track down the back side of the moor. This is a good clue because the ‘ancient ditch’ referred to is either a much older boundary or perhaps a defensive earthwork. There’s a good opportunity here for a bit of legwork on the moor. I’ve never walked this track and it could be interesting.

The crucial thing about the boundary as perambulated by Henry de Lacy, apart from the fact that it explains three lost names with a degree of certainty, is that it includes Admergill with the Lordship of Barnoldswick. On the 1580 map there is a boundary marked ‘Black Dike which divideth Whitemoor and Admergill’ and this the modern boundary of Barnoldswick. It would seem that Henry rented Admergill from the King and actually had no right to grant it to the Cistercian Monks. For the next three hundred years the land was in dispute and sometime around 1340, after a court case lasting over 13 years, was adjudged to be the property of the Abbot and Convent of Kirkstall who by then held Barnoldswick as a grange or detached farm even though they had moved out of the town. Despite this the land was in dispute again in 1374 and by 1395 the King had enough confidence in his ownership to grant Admergill to William, son of John de Redcliff as a vaccary. (a stock-rearing farm) By the time of Henry VIII, (1509-1547) Barnoldswick was regarded as a Royal Manor and Kirkstall only had the church, the tithes and some land all of which was to be lost of course when Henry dissolved the monasteries between 1536 and 1540.

If you’re interested in what is known about the history of the monks in Barlick, have a look at Warner, History of Barnoldswick in the library. All we know about them is in there. The significant point as far as we are concerned is that the Dissolution of the Monasteries put all the old ecclesiastical land up for grabs and it was during the aftermath of this great shake-up in land ownership that the dispute referred to in the case of 1580 occurred. Notice that the dispute wasn’t between the Crown and the local lords but between the lords themselves. The Crown’s grip on land was slipping and control was passing to local gentry. This of course is the start of private ownership of land which is the norm today.

Right, we’ve made a good start with the map, it has given us clues about population growth, explained some lost names, given some indication of the massive changes in land ownership and set us another puzzle about the boundary between Middop and Coverdale. It’s a good start but there is much more to come!


Thursday, January 10, 2002


[Forty Steps is the local name for a path which leads from the Greyhound pub on Barnoldswick Lane to Bancroft Shed.]

Many years ago, in the days when my beard was black, I was sat having dinner with Lord Briggs at Gawthorpe Hall and in the course of conversation he said to me that the biggest disservice we do to our children is to knock the facility for being curious and observing their world by the time they reach fourteen. I suspect that the present-day diet of screen fodder has lowered this age considerably. His point was that, in general, people look but they don’t analyse and question what they see.

This is particularly true of local history, Barlick and the area round it is stuffed with visual clues but we are usually so engrossed in pursuing our daily lives that we haven’t got time to read them. This becomes a habit that makes our lives poorer and if you want to really enjoy your history, bear this thought in mind, observe and ask questions.

Longfield Lane and Forty Steps is a good place to test yourselves. You need a few tools first, you need to be able to put a rough date on what you see around you. This will come with practice. We haven’t space here to do a full analysis of the buildings in the area but please take it from me that if you were standing at the top of Crow Row in the mid-17th century you would get a bit of a shock. The Hey was there and possibly another building where the houses on the low side of the Dog are now, there is a ruin marked on the 1850 map at this point. Further up the hill, just out of sight would be Old Hall at the top of Barnoldswick Lane but looking out towards Bancroft, there would be nothing but open fields with Gillians Beck flowing down the hill and disappearing down Ouzeldale Clough. (Ouzel is an old name for a blackbird). We’ve got a bit of a problem here because Longfield Lane and Forty steps bear all the hallmarks of a medieval track. It’s sunk into the ground, there is the right mix of hedgerow trees and it definitely has a purpose, it runs through the valley towards Weets as straight as a shot. What’s the point of a pathway leading nowhere? In those days people had better things to do than walk aimlessly out towards the waste.

This puzzled me for years and even more so when I was engineer at Bancroft. I used to look through the engine house window and wonder why Forty Steps was there. I got a bit of a clue when I looked at the 1914 6" OS map of the area and saw that the field behind the mill was named Causeway Carr. (The 1914 map is good for this, it has far more information than the latest series) Once again, a puzzle, why name a field as though there was a track running through it. I progressed a bit further when I walked up Folly Lane one day and stopped at the top of the second sharp bend above Folly Cottages and looked back down the field. There seemed to be a raised section in line with the higher road behind me and Forty Steps in the distance.

Walking up the hill I climbed the stile just above Standridge House and followed the path up on to the Weets. For most of the way you can distinguish a raised track which seems to have been stoned and it goes right up the moor and passes to the south of the actual summit. When I got home I laid a ruler on the map and found that this line down from Weets and along Forty Steps roughly follows Park Avenue which used to be called Blue Pot Lane. This is another lane that doesn’t have any obvious purpose if you look at the 1851 OS map, there are no buildings on it and it heads out into open country until it suddenly makes its mind up to turn down to Barlick on what is now Park Road. Looking further along the direct route on the map, Long Ing Lane is on the line and heads out to Gill Church.
All very interesting but so what? For fifteen years these thoughts sat at the back of my mind, I had other fish to fry, there was a family that needed providing for and times were hard. Then, one day, I was talking to the County Archaeologist and he mentioned a Bronze Age hill fort over on Middop. I went out to have a look at it and was stunned by its size. I talked to the archaeologist again and he said that in the absence of any direct evidence from digging, he was convinced that it was an important site and supported itself by trade and a bit of rape and pillage in the Ribble Valley. He told me that one of the major commodities that would have moved through the area was gold from Ireland which was traded with the Baltic States. I was amazed when he said this, I had always imagined that trade was a local affair in those days because of the difficulty of travel but he said that the more he learned, the more he became convinced that trade was far more widespread than we imagined. In the last couple of weeks evidence has emerged in Denmark which seems to indicate that the Danes were trading with China over a thousand years ago so I tend to believe what he said.

All this got me thinking and I went back to my maps and projected my line a bit further afield. At the Weets end, it didn’t take a lot of imagination to connect the line with the Bronze Age hill fort. At the other end I realised that the line was striking out towards Kildwick. The significance of this is that Kildwick is the most northerly low level crossing of the Pennines. This is the reason for the presence of the monks there and the age of Kildwick bridge. Things were beginning to fall into place! It was beginning to look a fair bet that what I was looking at on the ground in Barlick was far older than I had thought. If it was a Bronze Age track, what we were looking at on Forty Steps is the equivalent of the M62 and is at least 3,500 years old.

We now come to the difficult and expensive bit. I have no hard evidence for any of the above beyond observation and conjecture. I can’t put my hand on my heart and swear that this is the Bronze Age M62. History is like that. It will take a lot of dirt archaeology to prove the case one way or the other. However, there is another way of looking at it. Bronze Age artefacts have been found in Barlick near Gill Church. If the hypothesis is wrong, there a lot of coincidences cropping up, too many in my estimation. Finally, what other explanation is there?

I’m not in the business of looking at history in order to prove that I’m right. At heart I’m a romantic and it suits me to cling to my theory until someone comprehensively demolishes it. There is something there on the ground and it allows me to imagine a solitary procession of pack animals and exhausted travellers slowly moving down from the Weets, along Forty Steps and up Park Avenue perhaps 4,000 years ago. Looking further into the puzzle, what was significant about the site of what is now Gill Church? If I’m right, this was a focal point long before Christianity was brought to this country. Could this have something to do with another knotty problem which has never been thoroughly investigated as far as I know; why Barlick’s parish church was built outside the town? History tells us that the founders of Christianity knew the benefits of appropriating Pagan customs and sites in order to establish their religion. Suppose this was what they did at Gill? I’m afraid I don’t buy the theory that the Cistercians built it there in a fit of pique to get their own back on Barlickers before they left for Kirkstall!

Right, enough, I think you’ve got enough to work on now. Get the maps out and study them. Go for a walk on Weets and come to your own conclusions. I’ll be delighted if someone comes up with a definitive answer that proves me wrong because I suspect it will be even more interesting than my theory. I’m not claiming that I’m right, just that I’m insatiably curious and a romantic at heart. Nowt wrong with that! Best of luck.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

A friend once bought me a tee shirt that said on the front; ‘You can always tell someone that comes from Barnoldswick, but you can’t tell them much’. I occasionally wear the shirt but I don’t believe the message. My experience of Barlickers is that they like to learn and most of all, they like to hear stories about the town and the people in it. They call it history.

I have to make a serious confession here, I’m an ‘off-comed ‘un’. I was born in Stockport, came to Earby in 1956 where I ran a grocer’s shop and didn’t move to Barlick until 1959 when I bought Hey Farm off ‘Sailor’ Brown. So, I’ve only lived here for 41 years and hope you won’t hold it against me.

Like many young lads, I was never turned on by history at school. They tried to teach me about Kings and Queens and politicians and battles and all it did was turn me off. It wasn’t until my natural curiosity surfaced and I recognised that history wasn’t just Kings and Queens that I developed an interest in local history. I was a long distance driver at the time and as I drove round the country I started to wonder who built the roads, what made towns spring up where they did and who on earth had been digging holes all over the landscape. I started reading and discovered that everything you saw and every person you met had a history that was far more important than Kings, Queens and politicians because without the little people, the big ones couldn’t survive. It wasn’t Royalty that built the towns and factories and ran the industries that created the wealth that made the big houses and high-living possible. It was little people like you and me who actually did the work, paid the price and made ‘History’ possible.

For the last thirty years I have spent much of my spare time digging into Barlick history and trying to make sense of what I saw around me. I have to admit that my primary interest isn’t what has been written down already, but what I can discover for myself by talking to people, recording their memoirs and closely observing the ground and asking why it is the shape that it is. Written records are useful in their place, they give us many clues but you really start to learn when you actually walk the ground and use your imagination. This means that you get it wrong quite often but occasionally you can start a hare off which interests other people and they go out and do more work on the problem. The result is wider understanding but you never have the complete answer, there is always something new to learn.

I’m retired now, they have decided that as I can’t lift heavy weights any more I’m surplus to requirements. That’s OK. It gives me time to drag a lot of research together and try to make sense of the town I know. I want to write this down and share it with the people who made it possible, Barlickers. This will lead to several books which may or may not get published but the brave editors of Barlick View have said that they will publish occasional pieces as long as I keep the sex and violence down. I can’t promise that I will do this of course because, human beings being what they are, it’s part of history. So, be patient with me and remember that I never claim to be right, I just have an opinion.

14 April, 2000
612 words

Monday, January 07, 2002


So, some time shortly after 1147, Alexander, the abbot of the newly founded Cistercian Monastery at Barlick ‘pulled the [existing] church down to its foundations’ in front of the native clerks and parishioners.

Here’s what Hugh, abbot of Kirkstall said in 1205 about what happened next. ‘So, peace restored and litigation laid to rest, the brethren applied themselves to the profit of the monastery in greater quiet yet even so were they troubled by a double discomfort, for freebooters, it being a time of war, would often carry off their effects, and a plague of rains continuing nigh all the year overwhelmed their crops. For six years and more they remained there in unbroken poverty and lack of food and clothing’.

One of the young monks who accompanied Alexander to Barlick in May 1147 was called Serlo. It was his account, recounted in 1207 to Hugh of Kirkstall, that Dr Whitaker used for the basis of his version of the story. Here’s what Serlo said, bear in mind he was actually present. ‘The place of our habitation at first was called Bernolfwic (also Barnolfswet) which we called by a changed name – The Mount of St Mary. We remained there for several years, suffering many discomforts of cold and hunger, partly because of the inclemency of the air and the ceaseless trouble of the rain, partly because, the kingdom being in a turmoil, many a time our possessions were wasted by brigands. The site of our habitation therefore displeased us, and the abbey was reduced to a grange.’

There is little doubt that Hugh of Kirkstall’s account is largely based on what Serlo told him. So there is nothing to be gained from the fact that both accounts agree. What we can be fairly certain about is that Serlo was giving what, in his lights, was an honest account of what happened in Barlick. However, we should remember that this was a story of the mighty Roman Church being humiliated and failing in its objective to found an abbey in Barlick. I have little doubt that he glosses over what actually did happen in the town during the period 1147 to 1152 when the monks left for a better site at Kirkstall near Leeds.

Let’s look at what happened and use our heads. A bunch of monks arrives in the town, throws the inhabitants of Brogden out and starts to build a monastery. At this point I should think we are looking at simple timber structures. These temporary quarters would need to be erected quickly before the winter set in. As they settle in and start to lay out fields round the buildings they start to complain about the fact that the noise of the villagers holding their services and festivals at their village church is disturbing their work and meditations. The abbot takes his men out and they start to demolish the church to its foundations. It may well be that they asked Henry de Lacy for a few men at arms to police the action. The villagers hear the commotion, pop down to see what is going on and are compelled to watch their ancient church being demolished. The fact that it is described as ‘being pulled down to its foundations’ tends to suggest that it was a stone building.

We know the villagers and their parson were up in arms about this because they took the trouble to go to court in York and Rome to seek redress. The fact that they lost the case can hardly have improved relations between the Barlickers and the monks. Can we believe that they knuckled under and took no further action against the monks? I doubt it myself, at the very least there would have been passive resistance and perhaps even a bit of light sabotage!

Whatever the truth of the matter, Alexander, whilst on monastery business, chanced upon a group of religious men in a valley near Leeds who followed the rule of The Brethren of Leruth. Their leader, a man called Seleth spoke to Alexander who was quick to note what a good place this was for an abbey. He admonished the brethren, in effect he told them that what they needed was a proper rule to follow. He had a word with Henry de Lacy who spoke to William Petvyn, the knight who owned the land and it was arranged that the estate would be made over to Alexander to build yet another monastery. This was successful and resulted in Kirkstall Abbey.

Barnoldswick was abandoned but kept by Kirkstall as a grange, that is an outlying estate, farmed by the monks and lay brothers, the profits of which went to the mother house, in this case Kirkstall. This is what Serlo meant when he said that Barlick became a grange. Actually it’s doubtful whether it was ever farmed to any great extent given the troubles that had gone before but legally, it remained a grange of Kirkstall until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century.

Right, that’s the story from the records. What does it tell us about Barlick? Quite a lot actually. For a start, let’s look at this matter of the church that was demolished. We are fairly certain that St Mary’s Mount is the hill to the north of Calf Hall Lane where Pickles Hippings intersects with the lane at St Mary’s Well. Assuming I am right about Townhead being the village centre, and remembering that the church was near enough to the monastery to disturb the monks, this puts its position somewhere between Townhead and St Mary’s Well. This got me to thinking about other evidence. Pickles Hippings is rather like Forty Steps. It’s a path that doesn’t seem to have a purpose and yet was important enough to have stepping stones across the beck, that is what ‘hippings’ means. What if it was the ancient path that lead to the church? The well would almost certainly be an old sacred site and this could have affected the original siteing of the church or even possibly a pagan temple before it. Add to this that the written evidence seems to indicate the possibility that it was a stone building. Conjecture I know, but it all fits.

The records say that not many years afterwards, there were churches at both Barnoldswick and Bracewell. Who financed the building of them? Why was Gill Church placed where it is? We can only guess at the answers at present. Suppose the scars left by the monks were so deep that the villagers couldn’t bear to build again on the old site. Suppose that the old site was in land being farmed by Kirkstall as a grange. Suppose that what the villagers looked for was another site that had been sacred from antiquity and Gill was such a site. The only thing that I really have a problem with is the old story that the monks were forced to replace the church and built it at Gill out of spite. Churches were sited very carefully and for strong reasons. The explanation is more likely to be based in ancient rituals than in spite. However, if you don’t like the theory, work one out for yourself, see if you can come up with a better one.

The whole story also says quite a lot about the Old Barlickers. It took considerable courage to stand up against the Norman establishment and the might of the Roman Church. The Barlickers did resist and in the end won the day. I have no doubt that there was bad weather, turmoil in the kingdom and raids from brigands from the north but what Serlo and Hugh don’t mention is anything about the attitudes of the villagers. The very fact that they ignore them seems to me to be evidence that they had reason to want to forget them. These intransigent villagers proved to be stronger than the monks, they not only survived but they stayed on the land even though it was a grange of Kirkstall. The fact that they built another church a few years later is another remarkable fact. The Cistercian policies of depopulation evidently failed completely in Barlick.

Let’s take a final snapshot of Barlick in 1200. The settlement at Townhead is looking very much as it is today in terms of layout. Stand at the top of Esp Lane looking down towards Pickles Hipping or Shitten Ginnel in our terms. The very name seems to imply contempt and I have often wondered why it was called that. Perhaps it was an indication of how the townspeople felt about what had happened down there. The houses would be lower and built of timber with thatched roofs but we could have little doubt that what we were looking at in 1200 was a settled community that was here to stay. It was strong enough to build a stone church after withstanding the worst that authority could throw at it. I have a very warm feeling about these people and their attitudes, they must have been fairly impressive!

Bracewell and Stock were solid little communities as well. Stock never had a church but Bracewell did. We know from the records that the church was first built at about the same time as Gill but it would be a mistake to assume that there was nothing there before. There could well have been an even older timber church on the site. The truth is that we don’t know.

The bottom line is that the bones of modern Barlick were set on the ground and well established by 1200. For the time being we’ll leave it there and come forward to more recent history.

I want to end this week by thanking all of you who have stayed the course over the last four months. I had to get a handle on the early history in order to understand the later period better. Thanks for bearing with me and I hope you might have learned something as well. The books on Paganism and Early Christianity can go back on the shelf now for a while. I shall get stuck into the transcripts again and do some more on modern Barlick.

One last word of thanks to Barlick View and the editor. It was a brave thing to do, to let me loose with what amounts now to almost 40,000 words of solid history in a paper that has to make a profit. I have an idea we might have made history ourselves, how many local papers have printed a history book in instalments? I am full of admiration and am very grateful to have had the chance to do it. I may be a bit soft but I am sure it makes a difference to the town. The more we know about the history, the better we will look after what we have got. We have much to be proud of and it’s a wonderful story. Thanks to you all.
Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on or

SCG/02 January 2002


Well, you’ve all been very patient for the last four months and I thank you. You have stuck with me through my exploration of the early history of Barlick and I promise you that we’ll get back on to more recent topics very soon. There is one more event we have to look at, the coming of the Cistercian monks to Barlick.

Whitaker set down a simplified version of this story in his great book on the History of the Deanery of Craven and as far as I can see, nobody has really looked into this any further and published the results. You’ve guessed it, I have been doing some digging and I think we have some new facts and clues so let me tell you the story as I understand it now.

In order to understand what was happening, as is so often the case, we have to go back to the beginnings of monasticism in Britain. From the very earliest days of Christianity there was a tradition of holy men setting themselves apart from the community. This started with hermits and anchorites who left the villages and lived a solitary life of prayer and meditation in their search for greater understanding of their faith. They might also have been influenced by the fact that they were persecuted in the villages by Pagans and other unbelievers. Such men were venerated by local Christians and supported by gifts.

As time went on, and Christianity established itself, there were other reasons why the church separated itself from the community. Devout Christians who had ambitions to learning, entering the priesthood or simply a wish to escape the temptations of everyday life tended to gather together into communities which were called monasteries. They built their own accommodation, churches and resources and whilst interacting with the local people, held themselves apart. Early on in the Roman Church’s history it was recognised that such communities needed rules and one of the earliest of these was set out by St Benedict and became known as the Benedictine Rule. This imposed strict limits on the monks as regards the ‘sins of the flesh’ and became one of the standards for monastic establishments in Britain and Europe.

Over the years some relaxation of these rules crept in to the extent that there were scandals involving debauched and lecherous monks all over Europe. This triggered off a movement to return to a strict Benedictine Order and at the end of the 11th century the Cistercian Order began on the 21st of March 1098 when Robert, the Abbot of Molesme in France, led twenty one of his monks out into the wild country nearby and founded a new abbey at Citeaux which he intended would follow the original strict Benedictine Rule. The Latin name for Citeaux was Cistercium and from this the monks of the new order became known as Cistercians. There was never a Cistercian order as such, the Rule they followed was strict Benedictine so when we say ‘Cistercian Abbey’ what we mean is a Strict Benedictine Abbey populated by Cistercian monks.

The main difference between the early Benedictines and this new version of the rule was that whilst the Benedictines had never enforced strict prohibition against accepting support from the manorial system, the Cistercians actively prohibited this. Once established, they were to be self-supporting and live by their own efforts. The concept was so successful that by 1200 over 500 daughter houses had been founded, some of them following an even stricter rule, Trappism, where they even renounced speech.

In 1132 the great Cistercian abbeys of Rievaulx and Fountains were established and rapidly became a dominant force in religious life in Yorkshire and far beyond. They spread their influence by establishing ‘daughter houses’ whenever the opportunity presented itself. This was encouraged by the Normans because much of the north and particularly Yorkshire had been laid waste during the ‘Harrowing of the North’ and the Cistercian Rule was a good way to bring the land back into production and therefore, profit.

It’s no accident that this great surge of religious power happened after the Conquest. The Normans were consolidating their hold on England by building castles which ensured military control. The establishment of monastic houses took care of religion and learning as the abbeys were the source of all priests and were the only centres of education. Another factor was something that we have difficulty in grasping nowadays, this was the power of the Church. Rome and the Pope was the highest authority, they even outranked the king. It took Henry the VIII to break this power in England. In addition they were the source of spiritual comfort and worldly charity, it took exceptional courage to oppose them. Bear this in mind because this is exactly what the Old Barlickers did!

Another crucial factor that we have to understand is the method the Cistercians adopted when siteing a new house of their order. As they were committed to self-sufficiency, their first move was always to de-populate the area around where they wanted to build. They needed control of all the land and resources in order to support themselves. There is plenty of evidence for this happening at other sites and the attempt to do this was their undoing in Barlick. Reading Whitaker one gets the impression that it was simply a matter of the locals being ‘uncooperative’, there was much more to it than this and I shall reveal all.

Right, let’s get down to the story! Sometime round about 1046, Henry de Lacy, in his castle at Clitheroe, was feeling a bit poorly and took to his bed. He sent for his priest and instructed him to pray for his return to health and promised that if God did this for him, he would found a monastery. Remember that there were no doctors and this was about all a person could do if they felt their life was threatened by ill-health, pray for relief.

Henry got better and no doubt his priest reminded him of his promise so he offered the Abbot of Fountains Abbey land at Barnoldswick to found a new Cistercian House. In fact he granted him the whole of the Manor of Barnoldswick and even included some land at Admergill which wasn’t his to give. So Abbot Alexander had complete power over Barlick, there is no doubt that it was his intention to use it. The Old Barlickers were in deep trouble.

There is something else we should take into account as it may have influenced the eventual outcome. In 1207, Hugh of Kirkstall, said that the vill of Barnoldswick actually belonged to Hugh Bigod, Earl of Norfolk and that Henry held it as a tenant on payment of an annual rent of five marks and a hawk. (a mark was a monetary unit equal to two thirds of a pound sterling, thirteen shillings and fourpence in proper money, sixty six and two thirds pence in modern terms) However, Henry hadn’t paid the rent for a number of years and so there was some question as to whether the charter transferring the land was legal.

Alexander, the prior of Fountains Abbey was promoted to abbot and on May 19th 1147 set out from there with twelve monks and two lay brothers to Barlick. The ‘lay brothers’ were labourers who helped with the agricultural work of the abbey, in effect they were serfs. Alexander was further reinforced in his authority by Henry Murdac, Archbishop of York who, with full Episcopal authority ‘granted and confirmed Barlick and its church as being free and quit and delivered of every claim to the monks there serving God’ In other words, apart from having the blessing of the state and the Pope, God’s authority was on the side of the monks!

When the abbot and his monks arrived at Barlick they found there ‘a church, very ancient and founded long before with four parochial vills, to wit Marton and another Marton, Bracewell and Stock besides the vill of Barnoldswick and two small vills appertaining, Elfwynetrop and Brogden of which the monks were by this time in possession, after removal of the inhabitants’. ( I haven’t found ‘Elfwynetrop’ yet. It appears to be the archaic equivalent of ‘Ellenthorpe’ and I don’t know of this name or anything like it in Barlick. It has been suggested that it might be the original name for Coates but there is no proof.) In other words, their first act was to decide on Brogden as the site of the monastery and throw all the existing inhabitants out. A sort of Papal ethnic cleansing!

This wasn’t unusual, there is plenty of evidence for this having been done in other places but usually, the evicted peasants were given new land. There is no mention of this happening in Barlick.

Further, the local inhabitants were in the habit of meeting at the church with the priest and the clerks ‘according to custom’ and they became a nuisance to the new monastery and the monks. Alexander saw an easy way to rectify this. He ordered his monks to pull the church down and level it so they could have some peace and quiet.

The clerk, who was rector and parson of the church took this very badly. With the support of the Barlickers he took the abbot and monks to court in before the Archbishop of York. The matter was referred to the Pope who found in favour of the abbot and the monks and ‘silence laid upon the opposing party’ on the grounds that ‘it was a pious thing that the church should fall provided the abbey be constructed in its stead so that the less good should yield to the greater’. In other words, game set and match to the monks!

Let us just stand back for a moment and consider what is going on here. We are getting a very clear picture of the consequences of being conquered by the Normans and having a powerful church as overlord. Our Old Barlickers had no rights whatsoever. They, and their lands, could be gifted to the Church by the Lord at Clitheroe and dispossessed without any recourse to law. Recognise that this is the great change we have been observing in our examination of the early history of Barlick. In earlier days the Old Barlickers owed allegiance to the tribe but had virtual freedom to do whatever they liked. They could enclose land, build houses and a church, take game, produce and fuel from the surrounding waste and worship whatever deities they liked. Now they are serfs, slaves to the whims of their masters. They are in a no win situation and things are looking very bleak.

The wonderful thing is that, unlike every other case I have been able to find, the Barlickers eventually won and the monks gave up on the town. We’ll have a look at what actually happened next week.

Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on or

SCG/02 January 2002
1809 words.

Sunday, January 06, 2002


At the end of the tenth century, the Danes had conquered the whole of England north of a line drawn from London to the Wirral. Barlick came under the Danelaw and there was a lot of Viking settlement in the area. This didn’t mean however that things were peaceful. The Saxon kings, led by Edward the Elder, king of Wessex, were campaigning against the invaders and By 924 had re-taken the whole of the Danelaw south of the Humber.

At the same time, Charles the Simple (Charles III of France) was having a bit of a problem. He had a large body of Norsemen squatting on his land at the mouth of the river Seine. They were led by the wonderfully named Gongu Hrolph and had settled, taken Frankish wives and looked like a threat. (Gongu Hrolph meant Hrolph the Walker. He was so big, no horse could carry him.) A new idea was abroad in Europe, it was called ‘feudalism’. The idea was that political stability could be achieved by people in authority like kings bribing their underlings to swear allegiance to them, this was usually done by giving control over large tracts of land. Charles offered to make Hrolph a Duke of France and overlord of the lands between the rivers Epte and Bresle in the Seine Valley. Hrolph agreed and converted to Christianity so that he could take the oath of allegiance.

The scribes changed his name to Rollo and called the new dukedom Normandia, the home of the Norsemen. His neighbours called him Rollo de Pieton, he built a castle at Rouen and founded a dynasty that was to last for 250 years. These ‘Normans’ were to become quite important to Barlick later and it would be as well if we realised that their origin was Norse.

In 937 the Celts and the Saxons united and fought and defeated the Danes at Brunanburg. We aren’t really sure where this was but Bromborough on the Wirral is seen as a favourite. [Some scholars argue for Ingleborough but I think this is an outside bet.] This wasn’t the end of Norse power in England but was a great consolidation of the kingdom of Wessex. They gave the country a new name, Engla Land and it stuck.

Meanwhile, the Danes were encountering problems in their campaigns across Europe and after a great defeat by Charlemagne at Hamburg they withdrew to the coast and concentrated their attention on Kent and Southern England. By 950, Norwegian raiders were active again. They sailed down the Irish Sea and established a base on the Wirral with the Mersey Estuary for a harbour. From here they raided far inland. In 978 Ethelred (the Unready) became king of Wessex. He couldn’t contain the Danish invaders and had to start paying Danegeld again. In 1002 he tried to organise the massacre of all the Danes in England but failed. The following year, Sveyn Forkbeard, king of Denmark, landed on the Humber and inside ten years had re-taken the whole of the country. Ethelred was in exile and this looked like the dawn of a Danish/English empire.

In 1014 Sveyn died and divided his kingdoms between his two sons. Knutr (Canute) took England and Harald reigned in Denmark. Canute defeated Ethelred’s son, Edmund Ironside in 1016, married his mother Emma and divided England into four earldoms: Northumbria, East Anglia. Mercia and Wessex. He died in 1035 and in the same year, Duke Robert of Normandy died as well and William the Bastard succeeded to the Dukedom. He was later to become William the Conqueror.

Right, that’s the history out of the way, we’ll come back to it later. What did all this mean for Barlick? We’ve got our little collection of villages and outlying hamlets. There is a church in Barlick and Norse settlers dotted about the countryside. One village, Earby, is named after a Norseman. The Old Barlickers are doing what they know best, keeping their heads down and trying not to get involved in the general unrest all around them.

These must have been dangerous times though, especially when the North Norsemen landed on the Wirral and started raiding inland. It’s difficult to see how Barlick could have escaped altogether but I think on balance, the fact that the village was still there 100 years later means that whatever their problems, they were relatively minor. We have to assume also that the Scots raiders would take advantage of the general unrest and there may have been trouble from them as well. One thing is certain, they knew what was going on, news travelled fast and it must have been a very worrying time. Anyone born around 900 was to have a very unsettled and uncertain life.

In 1040, Harald I, Canute’s son dies and his brother Harthcanut becomes king. Neither of the brothers had any children. Edmund Ironside’s son, Edward (‘The Confessor’) becomes king, his father was half Norman. In 1066 Edward the Confessor dies and Harold Godwinson takes over. This infuriated the Danes in Denmark. They regarded Harold II as a usurper and as far as they were concerned, England was theirs and was up for grabs. Harald Hardrad (the Ruthless) King of Norway was sure it was his and so was William of Normandy. Harald got his act together first and as soon as he heard that the Confessor was dead he set sail with an invading army and hundreds of ships and landed in Northumbria. He sacked and burned Scarborough, Cleveland and Holderness and then he marched south and was met by Harold and the English army at Stamford Bridge near York where Harold defeated them on the 26th September. The carnage was so great that only 24 ships were needed to carry the survivors home.

On the 28th September William the Bastard landed at Pevensey with a large army, 6000 horses and all his trusted knights in 400 ships. Harold’s army marched south, 250 miles in 12 days. On 14 October, Harold and his men waited for the Norman onslaught on the crest of Senlac Hill near Hastings. They were defeated, William, now no longer the Bastard but the Conqueror was crowned in Westminster Abbey on December 25th 1066. Yet another conquest of England, but this time it was serious, we know now that this was to be permanent.

William had become king but he still had to subdue the country. His method was direct and brutal. In 1067 he ravaged the West Country. Basically what this means is that his troops went in and slaughtered almost all the Anglo/Saxon lords. They looted and burned every place they arrived at and in short terrorised the land. In 1068 they did the same in Wales and in the following year turned their attention to the North. Even though the men who held Northumbria were his Norse cousins, William marched against them and sacked Viking York. (Jorvick) Northumbria was devastated, on his deathbed William is supposed to have confessed that by ‘Harrowing the North, he had consigned many more to death by starvation because his troops had burned all the crops as well as the buildings’. In three years, William wiped out between 4000 and 5000 Anglo Saxon Thegns and their families. The whole of the existing ruling class was destroyed and replaced by Normans. I can’t say how Barlick fared in the Harrowing, it may have been relatively unscathed because of its out of the way position, I hope so. However, the Old Barlickers would certainly know what was going on in the rest of the country and must have been terrified.

At the same time, William purged the church and installed his own clerics who spoke French and Latin. He divided the country up amongst his nobles and started castle-building. The idea of the castles was simple, they provided a secure, impregnable base for the local lord and his troops from where they could police and if necessary, terrorise the district. In Barlick’s case, this was Clitheroe and the lord was a Norman, Roger de Poictou.

The Old Barlickers now had a new Norman lord sat in his castle at Clitheroe who ruled them with a rod of iron. The way the lords made money out of their lands was by tax and rent. The Saxon lords had started this system. The free men of Barlick were told that the land didn’t belong to them, it was their lords and they had to pay rent. In addition, all the land around and the wild game in it was his and if they took any without permission they would be hanged. Now, they had a new landlord who wasn’t likely to be easy on them. Everything had changed and there was nothing they could do about it. Things must have looked very bleak.

Say what you like about the Normans but they were thorough. In 1085/86 William sent officials out into England to survey and register every land holding. Its size and value at the death of Edward the Confessor was noted down. This was the Domesday Book, the most complete historical document we could possibly have for this period.

The entries in the Domesday Book for our area were as follows:
( A carucate is a measure of land, also known as a hide in certain parts of the country. It is of uncertain size, supposedly the amount of land that could be farmed with eight oxen or the amount needed to support a family. Usually reckoned at about 120 acres but this could be changed by assessment. The values in the DB are those that were assessed at the end of Edward the Confessors time.)

Manor. In Bernulfesuuic (Barnoldswick) Gamel had twelve carucates to be taxed. Berenger de Todeni held it but now it is in the castellate of Roger de Poictou.
Manor. In Braisuelle (Bracewell) Ulchil and Archil had six carucates to be taxed. Manor. In Stoche, (Stock) Archil had four carucates to be taxed. Manor. In Torentune, (Thornton in Craven) Alcolm had three carucates to be taxed. Manor. In Eurebi (Earby) Alcolm had three carucates to be taxed. Manor Alia Eurebi (another Earby. Could have been Sough or Kelbrook or Salterforth) Alcolm had two carucates and six oxgangs to be taxed.

(Oxgang is another uncertain measure, many hold it to be the acreage that a pair of oxen can plough in a year, various measurements of land identified as one oxgang have resulted in acreages varying from 4 to 50 so take your pick!)

So, we’re beginning to get a clearer picture of Barlick. Around 1100 it was the biggest village in the area. Stock is interesting, the lost village was a third the size of Barlick and two thirds the size of Bracewell. We can’t tell from DB whether there was a church at Bracewell but I should say there was, the present building looks, if anything, older than Gill Church and is certainly better placed for the village. But then, they didn’t have the monks to deal with as was the case in Barlick. Next week I’ll tell you the full story of what happened when the lord at Clitheroe Castle was taken ill and what it meant for Barlick.

Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/29 December 2001


We are coming up towards 800 now and once again, we have to cast our eyes across the North Sea towards mainland Europe and Scandinavia and take note of what was happening there because it was to have serious consequences for Britain as a whole and Barlick in particular.

The Norsemen of what is now Norway were actively looking for plunder and new lands. The population was rising and they were constrained because there was only a narrow strip of land suitable for farming between the sea shore and the mountains inland. They looked out to sea for a solution and the first target was the lush pastures of the British east coast. They had already made some small raids on coastal monasteries early in the seventh century and had even penetrated the Western Isles but had never settled. The main source of sea-rover activity at this time seems to have been Hordaland, the area around Hardanger Fjord in south West Norway.

In 789 they attacked at Portland, in 793, on the 8th of June, they sacked Holy Island (Lindisfarne in Northumbria), in 794 they attacked Jarrow, the home of the Venerable Bede. In 795 Monkwearmouth and Iona were sacked. In 806 they attacked Iona again. All these were opportunistic raids for plunder, remember that the Norsemen were Pagan and the fact that all these places were monasteries meant nothing to them. They were rich and undefended, this was sufficient reason for attacking them.

The closest land to Norway was The Shetlands and Orkneys. By c.800 the Norsemen had established a staging post on Hjaltland (Shetland) which was the most northerly part of the territory of the Picts. The Norse influence can be seen there to this day, Orkney and Shetland were ruled by Norway until 1472. As well as settling on Shetland, the Norsemen colonised Caithness and Sutherland. We see the evidence in the place names; Thurso means ‘Thor’s River, Scrabster was Skaraboldstadr or ‘Homestead on the Edge’ and Wick is ‘Vik’ which means bay or inlet.

These bases were used as jumping off points for further exploration out into the Hebrides where they interrupted a long conflict between The Picts and the Dalradians (the struggle which was to eventually result in Scotland). By 850 serious settlement was taking place and after the Hebrides the Isle of Man was taken over. The Manx parliament, Tynwald, is a Norse meeting and still survives to this day. 100 years later they were still advancing, attacking Dublin in 981 and Limerick in 965.

In passing we should note that not all the Norse sea-raiders turned south into the Hebrides. Some of them sailed on out into the Atlantic and from this stemmed the colonisation of Iceland, Greenland and eventually, landings on North America long before Columbus.

Further South in Scandinavia the inhabitants of what we now know as Denmark were under the same pressures as the Norsemen. In 835 the Danes landed on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent and established a toehold in the kingdom of Aethelwulf, son of Egbert who is sometimes regarded as the first king of All England. Aethelwulf reigned as king of Kent and on his father’s death took over Wessex as well in 839. He reigned until 856. During this time the Danish incursions increased in frequency and numbers, Southampton and Dorset in 840, Somerset in 843 and 845, Devon in 850. In 850 the Danish army over-wintered on the Isle of Thanet for the first time. In 851 they attacked Canterbury and London. In 854 the Danes wintered in Sheppey. Lindsey and East Anglia were attacked in 841, the usurper Raedwulf of Northumbria was killed in 844, king Beorhtwulf of Mercia was defeated in 851 and the Danes were marauding in Shropshire in 855.

In 871 Aethelwulf’s son Alfred (later called The Great) succeeded to the throne of Wessex and Kent. The outlook was bleak and after a couple of defeats by the Danes Alfred followed the example of Mercia and paid the Danes a bribe to leave him alone, this was the infamous ‘Danegeld’. Under this arrangement the Danes took control of the east and north of England and London. If you imagine a line drawn from London to the Wirral, everything to the north and east of this as far as the Caledonian border became ‘The Danelaw’. The Danes kept their word and went off to concentrate their attack on Mercia and Northumbria. The Mercian’s Danegeld must have run out! In 876/77 the same thing happened to Alfred, the Danes attacked again. Once more Alfred paid them off but in 878 they were back again and subjected large parts of Wessex to their authority. Alfred had to flee to the west and found refuge in the marshy country of the Parret Valley in Somerset. If legend is to be believed, it was here that he burned the cakes.

Later in 878 Alfred gathered his followers and started a guerrilla war against the Danes. He gathered support and defeated the Danish army under Guthrum at Edington in Wiltshire. Guthrum was spared and converted to Christianity, he was baptised and swore to leave Wessex in peace.

In 884, a Danish army that had been campaigning in continental Europe against the Franks laid siege to Rochester. Alfred defeated them and chased them back to the continent. In 892 the Danes attacked Wessex again but by 896 they had decided that it was too tough a nut to crack and withdrew to concentrate on campaigns in East Anglia and on the continent. In 899 Alfred died at the age of fifty and was buried at Winchester.

Sorry about this glut of dates but in order to assess what was happening to Barlick we’ve got to have an idea of the extent of the Danish conquest. Theoretically, Barlick was inside the Danelaw but once again, the settlement might have been cushioned against the worst effects of the fighting by its remote location. There’s no doubt that the Vikings penetrated this area, we have place names that are definitely Scandinavian in origin like Earby, Ellenthorpe at Gisburn and Ingthorpe behind West Marton. Our language carries similar evidence, ‘laik’ is Norwegian for ‘play’, ‘kirk’ as in Gill Kirk is Old Norse for church, ‘laithe is the Old Norse ‘hlatha’ or barn, ‘bairn’ for child and ‘beck’ for brook both come directly from the Old Norse. The question is, what effect did this invasion have on Barlick?

There is no doubt that the Pagan Vikings were a terrifying lot when they were on the war path. There is abundant archaeological evidence for fierce battles and even massacres. Forget about them having horns on their helmets, they didn’t, this is a nineteenth century invention. However, they were heavily armed and very mobile in their Dragon Ships. The curious thing is that from what we can understand from the written history and the archaeology it seems that once they settled in an area they became industrious and peaceful neighbours and usually converted to Christianity within a generation. So, I think we are fairly safe in assuming that by about 880, our old Barlickers had some new neighbours and were learning how to get on with them.

This of course was nothing new. First the Saxons came and then the Norsemen from Norway and Denmark. Until very recently we had no way of knowing the extent to which the Celts were displaced or swamped by the invaders but recent advances in genetic testing have given us a new tool. In a recent programme on BBC, Blood of the Vikings, University College of London was commissioned to do a survey to try to determine what the ethnic origin of people was in various parts of the Isles. The study is continuing but one clear result is that in our area, the north west, we have the highest percentage of invader genes in England, York is remarkably high. So, I think we can say that the old Barlickers had changed quite a lot between 450 and 900. In 450 they were Celts but in 900 they were definitely a mixed bag. The significant thing is that by 900 they were essentially the same ethnic mix as we are today, the ‘English Race’ had arrived!

As I keep saying in these articles, the research continually modifies and clarifies our knowledge of Barlick. I came across something this week which perhaps gives us a clue about when Barlick gained a Christian Church.

In 601 Pope Gregory sent Mellitus and Paulinus to help Augustine in his work of conversion. In 627 Paulinus was created bishop and went to Northumbria to convert King Edwin. Remember that Barlick was within the kingdom of Northumbria. Edwin accepted conversion having already agreed to do so on the advice of king Ethelbert whose daughter Ethelburga he had married. Before he actually undertook baptism he consulted with his advisers, one of whom was his Pagan High Priest, Coefi (or Cefi). The Advisers all agreed to the conversion and surprisingly, after some thought, Coefi also agreed because he said that he had suspected for some time that the gods they were worshipping were useless. Coefi further said that it was his duty, as High Priest, to desecrate and destroy the temple, idols and altars. He went to the temple at Goodmanham, east of York and he and his followers desecrated the temple and burned the enclosure. Edwin was baptised and instructed all his subjects to do the same.

This was a fairly powerful message and given the speed at which news could travel even in those days, Barlick must have heard about it. In the absence of any other evidence, I think we can be fairly certain that Barlick as a settlement converted to Christianity by 630. Further, the first thing Paulinus did after Edwin’s conversion was to build a church at York where he became the first bishop. Did Barlick take their cue from the king? Was this when a church was built in Barlick? Given the evidence, this looks like a good bet.

So, it is 900 and we have another snapshot of Barlick. It is converted to Christianity and certainly has a church. The people are a mixture of Celtic and invader blood. The old Pagan beliefs are waning but still a powerful force. Bede gives us a very good clue as to how people viewed life and death in those days. When Edwin asked his nobles for their opinion on conversion one of them said that life was rather like being a sparrow on a wild and stormy winter’s night. By chance, the sparrow flies in through the window of a lord’s hall where there is a feast in progress. It flies through the warmth of the hall and out through a window at the other end into the storm. The noble said that the passage through the hall was a man’s life and that we knew nothing of the storm. If the new religion gave a better idea about what came before and went after, it was worth trying it out.

This was essentially the world picture in Barlick as well and doubtless one of the attractions of the new religion was the promise of life after death, something that the old gods had only promised to warriors who died in battle.

I think you deserve a little treat, I’ve been working you very hard this week. I have come across a nice example of the development of language. The word ‘angling’ to describe fishing with a rod and line originates from an Old English word ‘angul’ which in turn has Germanic roots and probably originated in the Indo-European word ‘ank’, to bend. The Latin ‘angulus’ comes from the same root and gives us our word ‘angle’ meaning the space between the junction of two straight lines. There was a tribe in Schleswig in Germany who lived in a district which was shaped like a fish hook. Consequently they named it Angul and eventually the tribe became known as the Angles. When they joined the Saxons and Jutes and invaded Britain they inadvertently gave us a new name for Lower Britannia. This was Engla Land, the land of the Angles. So, we live in a country that is named after a fish hook. Clever stuff eh?

Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .
SCG/24 December 2001


Our last snapshot of Barlick was in 600. The Saxons haven’t completed their takeover of Britain, indeed, they never did gain control over the whole of the country. However, by 630 they had enough control and territory to stop actively advancing and accommodations started to be arrived at with the Celtic Kings in the west and the Caledonians in the North. This isn’t to say that strife finished but it was confined to boundary disputes and the main body of Britain could settle down to a reasonably peaceful and progressive life.

In Barlick the family of Bernulf (Beornwulf or Bjornulfr are alternative spellings) was well established as the major figure in the district. They were so important that the village was described as being Bernulf’s Wick, or place. (‘wick’ can also mean a camp. It is the basis for ‘Vik’ in Viking) We can’t say when this became the accepted name and we don’t know what the Celts called the place before Bernulf came. All we know for certain is that by the time the Normans made the Domesday Book in 1086 the village was described as Bernulfesuuic. Perhaps one of the surviving names like Brogden, Calf Hall, Gillians or Esp could be a corruption of the original Celtic name.

We are getting on to firmer ground with the written evidence now. The Church was producing learned monks who were writing the history as they knew it. We are lucky in that we have The Venerable Bede, a monk at Jarrow who was a considerable scholar and wrote his Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 720/730. Some of his early history is suspect but by the time he gets to 600 onwards he has some good sources and copies of original documents so, with a bit of caution, we can get a firm grasp of many of the events around this time. We should never forget that the men who wrote these histories were Christians who were fighting what they saw as Pagans and barbarism so there is an undoubted bias in their treatment of the facts.

The major event around 600 was once again, a milestone in the history of the church. You might wonder why I keep going back to church history. The reason is that church matters had far more impact on the lives of ordinary people than they do now. This was never more true than when Pope Gregory the Great (590 to 604) turned his attention to the state of Christianity in Britain. Not only was Paganism still the majority belief but those monasteries which had been established were coming under attack by, significantly, seaborne raiders from Norway who we commonly describe as Vikings. (Viking is an old Norse word that means roughly ‘those who camp on sea inlets or creeks) St Donnan and his followers were massacred at Kildonnan on Eigg in 617 by Norse raiders and later there were attacks on Iona and other coastal monastic sites.

Gregory decided to send Augustine to Britain in 597. He went first to the court of King Ethelbert on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. He was fairly certain that he would get a welcome there because Ethelbert’s wife Bertha was Frankish and even though her husband was Pagan, she was Christian and had her own priest. Ethelbert converted to Christianity and instructed his Kentish subjects to do the same. He was the strongest Anglo-Saxon king and used his authority to spread the word. The king of Essex was his nephew and the king of Northumbria his son in law so they followed suit. The future king of East Anglia was his foster-son so they followed eventually. In 683 the Isle of Wight accepted the faith, the last place to do so and in theory the whole of England was converted. There was of course resistance, Penda, the Pagan king of Mercia killed five neighbouring kings who had converted but we suspect this may have been political rather than doctrinal.

The interesting thing about this litany of conversions is that it proves how extensive Paganism was around 600. We might have to put the date of Barlick’s conversion around 600/620 because as part of the old Brigantine territories they were also part of Northumbria. (The root of this name is ‘the lands of the tribes north of the Humber).

Bede quotes from letters written by Pope Gregory, the originals of which still exist in Rome so we can be sure of their authenticity. On 17th June 601 Gregory wrote to the Abbot Mellitus who he was sending to join Augustine at Canterbury, later he became Bishop of London and third archbishop of Canterbury. In the letter Gregory gives clear instructions as to how existing pagan temples should be dealt with. They were not to be destroyed, the idols should be removed, altars erected and the whole edifice sprinkled with Holy Water. The slaughter of animals for sacrifice should be allowed but only as celebrations connected with the festivals of the church or saints days. The intention was to make as few changes as possible so that the Pagans would accept the new religion. Gregory specifically mentioned the practice of decorating the church with greenery and said that this should be allowed but again, as part of church festivals.

When I first read this I immediately thought of the use of holly and mistletoe as Christmas decorations, both these were closely associated with Pagan rites. Think also of the practice of putting flowers in church and decorating the church with produce at Harvest Festivals. While I was in Germany last year I saw a church being decorated with boughs of greenery on the outside and was told it was part of the festival of Mary Himmelfart, that is Mary’s ascension to heaven.

So I think it would be a mistake to think that the old Pagan rituals died out immediately. The Roman church made it easy for the locals because the old festivals and rituals were converted to Christian uses. The springtime festival of Beltane had already been appropriated by St Patrick in Ireland and converted into Easter. Later, when the Roman church set a new date for Easter, Beltane became May-Day, the spring holiday. Christmas (or Christ Mass) seems to have originated in a Pagan festival to celebrate the shortest day of the year. The Romans had a similar feast and celebrated it on December 25th. As nobody had any clear idea when Christ was born, this seemed as good a day as any and the Roman Church appropriated it in the fourth century.

It wasn’t only festivals on certain days that were absorbed by Gregory’s version of Christianity. Pagan deities such as Brigit or Brid (the origin of the word bride) were taken over. St Brigid became the major saint in Irish Christianity. There were many other examples. The well-dressing ceremonies in Derbyshire particularly are pure pagan spring worship. The wells and springs which were worshipped were often given names which suggested a Christian provenance such as a saints name or Holywell. On the 1580 map of Whitemoor, what we now know as Lister Well is marked with a cross.

We can be certain then that Gregory knew quite a bit about Pagan practices in Britain and so we can draw some possible conclusions about Barlick. Suppose Barlick had a Pagan temple, we are not talking about a stone church, simply a small timber building used for worship. Suppose this was converted as Gregory instructed and became the first Christian Church in Barlick, it looks as this could be sometime around 620/630. We shall come later to what the monks did when they came to Barlick but what we do know is that they destroyed the original church because their worship was disturbed by the locals attending their festivals there. We know that the place where the monks built was at Calf Hall and so we can make a fairly well-informed guess that the original church was somewhere near there. This fits in with our main group of dwellings being at Townhead as the church would be nearby.

So, if we do one of our snapshots of Barlick in say 700, we have the main group of dwellings at Townhead and a small timber church nearby down the hill towards Calf Hall. This would fit with Hugh of Kirkstall’s later statement about ‘an ancient church’ being on the site in 1147. If we are right, the locals held festivals there, decorated the building with greenery and slaughtered animals for offerings which they then ate as part of the festivals. Wells like Lister Well and St Mary’s Well which is on the north side of Calf Hall Lane opposite the end of Shitten Ginnel would still be revered but under the auspices of Christianity. There is good reason to think that the name Saint Mary’s Well goes back a long way, until the 12th century at least, because when the monks came from Fountains they re-named the area ‘St Mary’s Mount’.

Does this mean that Barlickers abandoned their household gods and everyday customs? I think not. The church could do very little about what they called ‘superstition’ but which was in fact, the deeply embedded remains of the old religions. As I have pointed out before, these remnants are still with us, everything from not walking under ladders to throwing salt over our shoulders if we spill any. I always remember an old farmer I knew who swore that if a cow was facing due north when mounted by the bull it would have a heifer calf. I can’t prove it but I am willing to bet money that this is yet another example of a Pagan belief that has survived.

The church consolidated its power. In 680 at the Synod of Heathfield, Theodore of Canterbury styled himself ‘Archbishop of England’. In 757, Offa, the King of Mercia (the builder of Offa’s Dyke on the Welsh border) called himself ‘King of the English’. We are beginning to see the first stirrings of a national identity but there was serious trouble ahead and once more, Barlick was to see troubled times.

Over in Norway, the population was increasing and the natives were short of land. They were hardy and able people, very good farmers and excellent carpenters. They had evolved a design of fast, versatile boat they called ‘Dragon Ships’ and using these they started to explore west and south. The expansion of the Norsemen had begun and this was to have serious consequences, not only for Britain and Barlick but for the rest of the coast of Western Europe.

Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/16 December 2001.


What about Pagan worship and rituals at the beginning of the fifth century.

Just for once we can be absolutely certain about this. Paganism was alive and well, it wasn’t finally subdued by organised Christianity until the 7th century. Even then, it came under sporadic attack from the Pagan Danes and it wasn’t until they were finally converted in the 11th century that all danger was removed. The question is, what effect did this have on the ground, in say a small village like Barlick.

One thing is certain, the core beliefs of an ethnic group or community can’t be completely changed overnight. The impression I always got when I was taught history at school was that what happened was that as soon as word of Christianity reached a place, everyone flocked to be baptised and the old religions were cast aside. The reason we were taught this is that the history of these times was written and re-written much later by Roman Catholic monks who had an axe to grind. At the time they were writing, Paganism and heresy were still seen as a threat and they were, in effect, marketing their brand of religion by stressing its power to convert. If truth is to be told, the last vestiges of Paganism lasted much longer than this.

We will look at this in greater depth later on but here are two facts for you. Oxen were sacrificed as a neo-Pagan ritual in honour of Christian saints until quite recently. The last sacrifice to Saint Benyo at Clynogg Faur in Wales was in 1589 and in Wester Ross in Scotland, an ox was sacrificed annually to Saint Maelrubna until 1678. Both these saints were early Celtic and based on Pagan deities. Both rituals were stopped by reforming churchmen. Leaving aside modern Paganism and the Druid revivals, it would be a brave person who stated that Paganism was dead even in the 21st century.

All right, this is getting in front of our story but the point I want to make is that in terms of Barlick, we have to assume that even when Christianity reached us, Paganism would have survived. Indeed, I have a strong conviction that Christ would simply be accepted as yet another cult deity and incorporated into the old belief structures. It would take the discipline of the organised Roman Church to force it underground and this didn’t really happen for another 500 years.

So, sometime between 400 and 500AD we can safely assume that Barlick was seeing some fundamental changes. We have already remarked on the ‘Great Exodus’ during which many Romano-Celts left Britain for the Lower Seine. At the same time, there was a mass migration from the south west and Wales to Armorica (Brittany). So many Celts went that they swamped the original population and this explains why, to this day, there is such a strong link, including a common language, between the West Country and Brittany.

Another event far away in Rome was to trigger further migrations. In 455 Rome was sacked by the Vandals and the Western Empire disintegrated. Europe became unstable and this was one of the factors which triggered the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. I mentioned earlier that the Dal Riata of Ireland (the Scotti) had attempted an invasion of the west coast of Britain but were repulsed by the western Celts and their Saxon mercenaries. In the latter half of the 5th century the Dal Riata tried again, this time they invaded what we now call Argyll (Ar Gael which means ‘The Land of the Gaels’ or Irish). They drove out the Picts and founded the kingdom of Dalriada which eventually became what we now know as Scotland when Kenneth Mac Alpin, King of the Dalriada from 840 to 857, Lord of Kintyre, seized Pictland and imposed a hereditary monarchy calling it Scotia. He brought a stone from Ireland and installed it in the church at Scone as a coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny. Eventually their tribal homeland in Ireland was overrun, the Stone of Destiny became the last vestige of their Irish roots and Caledonia became their permanent home.

While all these tides of invasion and conquest were going on, we mustn’t forget that the Anglo Saxon invasion was spreading across Britain. Many Celts retreated before the oncoming tide and by 600AD Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria and Strathclyde were the final refuges of the displaced Celts. (In 603 a praise poem by Cadwallon, a Welsh poet included a new word to describe the land of the Cumrogi or Cumrogh. This was the word the western Celts used to describe themselves and meant ‘fellow citizens’ or ‘compatriots’. The word was Cymru and is now the Welsh name for Wales and the basis of our modern word Cumbria. The modern term ‘Welsh’ was introduced by the Saxons who called them ‘Welsch’ or ‘strangers’)

I have only described the main tides of war and migration. There were many more significant feuds and conflicts but it would take too much time to describe them. The bottom line is that the whole of mainland Britannica and Caledonia was in flux and in this chaos we can see the beginnings of the modern divisions of England, Scotland and Wales. What concerns us is how Barlick was getting on through all this turmoil.

This time I’m not too sure that Barlick escaped the disturbances because of it’s remote location. This was a time of armed struggle across the North and eventually resulted in the amalgamation of all the former tribal lands in the kingdom of Northumbria. The conflict was essentially between the Celts of the West and the Saxon incursion from the East. The battle line gradually moved across the country until by about 630, the Saxons reached the west coast on the Fylde. There must have been significant troop movements for over 100 years and one of the obvious routes from the west to the east would have been up the Ribble valley and across the hills towards our old friend, the Aire Gap at Kildwick, the most northerly low level crossing of the Pennines.

If large forces were using this route this would bring them perilously close to Barlick and on balance, it is almost certain that we were affected at this time. At the least, a bit of plunder and pillage could have been involved, at worst, complete destruction. On the whole I don’t think it got this bad because, going back to Hugh of Kirkstall again, it is difficult to imagine that a village destroyed in the sixth or seventh century could have had ‘an ancient church’ 300 years later. However, even if there was no disturbance at all, these were dangerous times and all the normal mechanisms of trade and travel must have been badly affected.

A good measure of how insecure life was during these times is the effect it had on the Christian church. We have already seen that by the fourth century the church was organised enough to have Bishops and send them to conferences abroad. The Celtic church had always been regarded as orthodox even though it had its own liturgy and customs but in 413 it produced a major heresy which shook the Christian world. We know that a son of a Romano-British family called Pelagius who may have been Scottish, was well-educated and travelled widely. He resided for a time in Rome, Egypt and Palestine and eventually died in the Orient. He preached against the doctrine of Original Sin and started a controversy that was to rumble on for centuries in the church. One of the hot beds of this heresy was the church in Wales and in 429 this was seen as serious enough for the orthodox British bishops to appeal to the church in Gaul for help. The bishops of Gaul, encouraged by Pope Celestine I sent Bishop Germanus to combat the problem. This created some interesting problems for Vortigern because, at a time when he was having to deal with Scotti invading from Ireland and the wiles of his Saxon mercenaries, he was forced to try to resolve the conflicting demands of the Church of Rome, the Celtic Church and the Pagans. Then as now, religion was becoming enmeshed in politics!

Right, I can hear you saying what has this got to do with Barlick? At the time, perhaps not a great deal but this dispute was a clear sign of what was to come, conflict between the Celtic Church and Rome and in the end, this was to directly affect Barlick. The general insecurity was forcing a change in the way the church organised itself. In real life, the clerics felt under attack from the rump of Paganism, disputes inside the church and the general ebb and flow of war, rape and pillage. Their reaction was to retreat into closed communities and it is around this time we see the first monastic institutions in places like Iona, Jarrow and many other centres scattered through the land. For centuries to come these were to be the centres of learning and spirituality in a sea of barbarism and military conquest. We shall look at this later but the way it affected Barlick in the end was that we got our own monastery and it was to cause nothing but trouble.

What about ordinary life in Barlick? Let’s set a date of 600 on our snapshot. Leaving aside the effects of the troubles, Barlick was quite capable of supporting itself. The settlement would have grown and assumed an air of being something more like our understanding of a village. The Saxon Bernulf had settled here and so there would have been new building. The houses would be more substantial, timber framed with wattle and daub infill and thatched roofs. There were no chimneys, simply a hole in the thatch above the hearth for smoke to escape. Animals were housed under the same roof as the humans but penned off separately. The floors were of beaten earth and there may have been some rudimentary partitioning to afford privacy, the beginnings of what we would call rooms. There were no windows, any ventilation holes in the walls were covered with skins or wooden shutters.

The business of the village was agriculture and stock-rearing. By this time they had all the domestic animals we have today. All the land was free apart from the fields which had been enclosed so there was plenty of fish, fowl and small animals to hunt. Gathering wild fruits was still an important part of the diet but increasingly, individual plants were brought back to the farmstead and cultivated to improve the quality and save time out in the fields. Blackberries, crab apple trees and perhaps even wild roses (the hips and haws were a valuable source of vitamins) were planted. This was the start of the English Rose Garden!

Many old tools would still be in use but iron was cheap enough now to be affordable in places as poor as Barlick. Axes, bill-hooks, reaping hooks and knives would be vastly improved and this meant faster working and higher standards of craftsmanship in building and carpentry. It is easy to imagine a man making his wife a kist or a cradle or even a wooden bed. The fifth century equivalent of the flat pack kitchen or bedroom had arrived! Simple things like doors would cease to be an impossible luxury and who knows, wooden toys for the children and cooking implements for the housewife. There would still be some personal ornaments and household valuables. In dangerous times these would be buried for safety, this is why modern archaeologists and metal detector users continually come across forgotten hoards of valuables. I’m hesitating to say that life was comfortable, by our standards it certainly was not, but given freedom from outside interference, Barlick wouldn’t be the worst place in the world to live at the end of the fifth century.

Thanks again for all the continuing feedback and support. The number is 813527 or email me on I’m always glad to hear from you. Back numbers on .

SCG/16 December 2001
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