March 2012 - Holes, holes and some more holes….
After fourteen months of field work, out of the two hundred and twelve possible traditional farm building sites identified in the parish, there are now only three that we have yet to visit. However a further thirteen unconverted buildings still require survey.
This gable has a regular pattern of square ventilators and an owl hole.
© Phil Carroll
Our three remaining recording teams have been surveying this month; all have a backlog of reports to file, even though Team Three did manage three reports in March. Team Two continued to work in the Scale Park area, moving from west to east, Team Three have been working in Starbotton village and after recording the outside of two converted buildings in Kettlewell, Team Five also turned their attention to Starbotton. In the meantime, the desk top research group attempted to identify landowners and their properties, over the last four hundred years.
This high status barn has a row of slit ventilators with elaborate surrounds as well as
plain square vents and an owl hole high in the gable. © Phil Carroll
To aid the successful storage of hay, ventilation was provided to the mew and hay loft by holes through the walls. These ventilators vary from a simple gap in the masonry, with or without facing stones, to ones with elaborately dressed surrounds. Most are square or rectangular in shape but may also be long narrow slits, especially in the earlier buildings. Today many barns have their ventilators blocked, often making them almost undetectable on the external wall, although usually still visible, from inside.
This seventeenth century barn, modified in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries shows slit and square ventilators. © Phil Carroll
Forking holes are window like openings closed off with wooden shutters, through which the new crop of hay was forked into the barn. They are most often found on the back wall of the barn but may also occur in the front wall and the gables. In earlier times, the hay was moved on sweeps and sledges and would have been unloaded through low forking holes, which can still be found in the rear walls of some barns. With the introduction of carts to transport the hay, forking holes were placed much higher in the wall and many date from this period.
This barn, cut back into the slope, has low doors which would have
been used from a sledge or a sweep. © Phil Carroll
Hay would have been forked from a cart into this barn, which has one forking hole in the front wall
serving the hay loft and another in the gable serving the mew. © Phil Carrol
Many barns have owl holes near the apex of the gable. These were left to encourage owls which helped to keep the rodent population down, some owl holes even have protruding stones which act as a landing perch.
Owl hole with perch © Phil Carroll
These are niches in the internal wall of the shippon, which provided a safe place for the farmer to place his lantern. In modern times many barns have had roof lights and /or windows inserted, but traditional barns were very dark, the only light coming through an open door and with the short hours of daylight in winter, the farmer must have often worked by the light of a lantern.
Lantern hole with shuttered mucking out hole to the left. © Phil Carroll
Mucking Out Holes
In winter, when the cows were being kept in the shippon, they had to be turned out to water every day, during which time the manure was hand shovelled, out through the mucking out hole. This was a rectangular hole at shoulder height usually along the length of the shippon. The hole was closed with a wooden shutter which would be fastened open when in use. Many mucking out holes opened onto a midden which may only be a cobbled area but could also be walled or even roofed. The contents of the midden were spread over the field to improve the hay crop