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Traditional Farm Building Census

In early 2011, UWHG members began the fieldwork for a project launched the previous year, the study and recording of all the traditional farm buildings within the Kettlewell with Starbotton parish boundary

Having carried out a desktop analysis of what was recorded on the first edition of the local Ordnance Survey map (from the early 1850’s) the follow-up series in 1909 and a mid 20th century version, it was estimated there were at least 150 fieldbarns in the parish.

Confirmation of the existence of certain buildings was reinforced from present day mapping and by checking more questionable locations through the aerial photography of Google Earth.
The isolated fieldbarns or ‘outhouses’ as the early records identified them, were the strongest and most obvious indicators of the changing agricultural patterns within the valley of the Upper Wharfe during the last half-century.

Frozen into the landscape and with many of the buildings ‘frozen in time’, these buildings reflected the earlier patterns of milk cows living in fields, distant from the farm locations and wintering within the building, fed from the hay gathered from the adjoining field(s).

Follow the progress of the census:

April 2011
May 2011
June 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November/December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012

For a guide to the names used to describe the parts
 of field barns please see here


Though no longer used for the wintering of cattle, many field barns still retain the

wooden boskins in which the cattle were tethered  © Phil Carroll

It was the evolving pattern of farming into a larger, mechanised and more centralised model that brought to an end the traditional fieldbarns with their ‘resident’ six or eight cows per building.

However, our emphasis focuses both on these semi-redundant solitary structures and includes all agricultural buildings prior to the 1950’s, so buildings adjacent to the farms and within the villages of Starbotton and Kettlewell are to be studied. Our overall survey target will be well over two hundred structures (there are over twenty buildings meeting the classification in Starbotton alone) and even with the present five Recording Teams it will be many months before they are all visited and recorded.

Underpinning our desire to have a detailed snapshot of the current state of the traditional agricultural buildings, as we enter the 21st century, is the desire to see if anything remains of the early buildings, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries that were known to abound. It was during this period that as the old common land was enclosed, farmers who had distant holdings, built the fieldbarns so their cows, hay fodder and manure were all kept out in the field and only he, the farmer, had to travel. This successful system, once established, remained unchanged from 1550 to 1960, resulting in a landscape of meadows with their field barns, with wide bio-diversity and of national importance.

In a Crown Survey conducted in 1605 of the Manor of Middleham land in Kettlewell over eighty ‘outhouses’ were recorded, and though these will have been changed dramatically through re-building, re-roofing and raising, it is likely that some physical evidence remains of these older structures.


An indication of an earlier building, upon which a more recent structure stands,

is a heavy plinth of roughly dressed limestone boulders   © Phil Carroll

February saw two of the Recording Teams commencing work, followed the following month by a second pair and, by late March, nearly thirty individual sites had been visited, some have proved not to be agricultural buildings, some were, but are longer extant, whilst others, not previously identified, have been added to our survey list.

Phil and Pat Carroll March 2011

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