top of page

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.

March 2012-1.jpg

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.

March 2012-2.jpg

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.

March 2012-3.jpg

This seventeenth century barn, modified in the eighteenth and nineteenth

centuries shows slit and square ventilators.   © Phil Carroll

Forking Holes

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.

March 2012-4.jpg

This barn, cut back into the slope, has low doors which would have

been used from a sledge or a sweep.   © Phil Carroll

March 2012-5.jpg

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

Owl Holes
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.

March 2012-6.jpg

 Owl hole with perch © Phil Carroll


Lantern Holes

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.

March 2012-7.jpg

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

March 2012-9.jpg

A mucking out hole still in use.   © Phil Carroll


Pat Carroll

Read the April 2012 Report


Back to main TFB page

bottom of page