Charcoal ovens and witch charms (more stone than wood again)

We went to Skipton Castle last Saturday morning (cheapskates, there was a voucher for free family admission in the local paper – Craven Herald).  I was amazed to see how old Swiss army knives are – see them featured on the ancient coat of arms of the Clifford family above.

The castle is in very good nick to say its 900 years old, mind you the walls are 3 metres thick and it held out for 3 years under siege during the Revolution.  Part of the castle is still occupied by the Fattorini family, but the Clifford family managed to hold onto it for nearly 400 years.  Here’s a view from the back showing the occupied quarters (more like half – Ed.)

Anyways, the feature that struck me immediately was the masons’ marks on each window reveal:

It quickly became apparent that these marks are not only masons’ marks, but some are charms to keep something evil out of the castle by protecting the window openings and at least one doorway (couldn’t spot any on a fireplace though, but I’m told there is one such in the oak room above the shell grotto in the East tower of the gatehouse.)  Feast your eyes.  Apparently the genuine mason’s marks help to date similar parts of the castle and its additions and alterations.

This could be what we’re missing these days – perhaps we should get some of these in our house, workshops and woods to stop onslaughts from bankers, trolls, junk mail, deer, rabbits, squirrels and the rest?  I’ve got a glass rolling-pin I’m intending to fill with salt & hang by the fireplace which apparently has a similar preventative effect.

I guess these marks may have been made during the siege as the windows were added in Tudor times (before the Civil War) when they thought war in England was over (never mind, we’re all wise in retrospect.)

I really liked the roof timbers in this room (the kitchen I think, off the banqueting hall).  The room also has a garderobe just off, a view from the outside of which shows why it is also called “the long drop”:

There was a rubbish chute from the kitchen next to it.  This also shows what a good location for the castle was chosen in 1090 – just about impregnable up the North side cliff.

Another thing that caught my professional/businessman’s eye was this:

Any guesses?

I also liked the warm irregularity of this building in the courtyard.  Why don’t they build like that anymore?

Inevitably we had to do a little walk in the woods too.  Skipton Woods are owned by The Castle and managed by The Woodland Trust.  The ransoms (Wild Garlic) are just coming through.


What the well dressed woodsman is wearing

Last Saturday, after running another woodland animal making course and delivering an oak garden bench,

we called in at Ilkley (home of bah’t ‘at) ostensibly to get a part for a coffee-making machine.  Had to call in a couple of charity (thrift) shops in case there was a sheepskin to make saddles for the two shave horses in Strid bodgery.

Struck it in gold at Oxfam, only £15!  I’d been looking for one for ages.  “Shall I put it in a big bag?”  The lady asked. “Nah, I’ll wear it.” said I.  It is heavy, didn’t fancy carrying it round Ilkley.  It was a cold day and the sheepskin coat’s skin was saved.  Far too good to cut up, and so warm.  Why pay more?  And you can – about £500 without trying too hard even.

Trouble is, I now need a sheepskin coat to make into saddles for the horses …

Five ton gates

This morning I went early to:

Five Rise Locks on the Leeds Liverpool canal where the lock gates have just been replaced and British Waterways (soon to become a charitable trust) held an open day to celebrate.  And what a thing to celebrate.  This is a section of the canal where the barges go through five lock either up or down using gates that weigh 5 tons each and are manufactured from green oak in BW’s Wakefield workshops.  The deal was a walk through the lock beds where you can only walk but occasionally, the gates are expected to last for 25 years, so I may not be around next time.  The turnout of people was impressive, a large queue had formed by the time I had chatted my way through attempting to make the many attendant employees’ day less than boring.

One of the otherwise hidden gems was the masons’ marks to show who had worked which stone and therefore needed payment:

See the two top stones with a half arrow pointing left and the star on the one below?  There were many different marks, it must have been a massive operation when they were first built in 1774.

There was a video playing at the canal-side showing in time-lapse photography the manufacture of the gates and their installation.  This is supposed to be on-line in April – watch this space!

I had today away from the woods, as I was there yesterday running a deer and fox making course: great fun:


Ah too much fun!  Back to felling tomorrow.

Sawing up and settling down.

Last week we took down a bough that had blown down in a recent gale and embedded itself upright in the ground.

Didn’t take long to down it and get it sawn up.

And all the brash burnt.

Then yesterday we went out at dusk to watch this display …

What the ..


Just a few thousand



Tomorrow it’s the start of felling.

What I did on my birthday – tomorrow

I started my birthday early, yesterday.  It’s due tomorrow but I started it early with a walk on the moor above our cottage – I like to stoke up the stove before I set off so I can see the smoke on the way.

I grew up in this village, here are a couple of scenes.

The quarry

We used to play up here as kids, never fell off the top, or even tried to climb it, well not far anyway.  And just in the field next to it is Hardacre Barn…

When I worked on the dairy farm across the road from home I used to have to walk up to this ‘outbarn’ as they are called and feed and muck out dry cattle that wintered there.  The outbarn is a very traditional building round here, mostly about this size.  The small ‘window’ on the sunny side is where the muck was thrown out onto the midden below.  The cattle were housed tied in the shippon at the bottom over them was the baulks where the hay was stored and at the top end the fothergang from where the beasts were fed.  It was the last job on a Sunday morning and I had to run down the field to the sound of the church bells calling me to sing in the choir at matins.

Anyway, today we visited Cliffe Castle museum, which is only 4 miles away but I’d not been there for many years.  It was occupied in the late 19th century by the Butterfield family who adopted a griffon as their heraldic motif, makes a prosaic lightning conductor quite stunning:

You can see the ‘B’ of Butterfield in the wind-vane.  The builder (well the commissioner) Christopher Netherwood was a solicitor, but the building was extensively remodelled by his beneficiary textile millionaire Henry Butterfield.  The contrast between his public rooms and the squalor that most folk in Keighley (the local town) lived in must have been extreme, and I must say I find it rather obscene:

However, the museum has a good section on the tools used by the craftsmen of the time including wheelwrights, pipe-makers, clog iron and nail makers and cloggers.  Check out these stock knives.

I can’t understand why the handles were so curved.  In the film the clogger is always cripplingly bent over.  A straight handle would have cured this.  During the film there is no point where a straight handle would have been a disadvantage.  Peg makers’ knives, I believe were straight-handled.  The one I have was sold to me as a clogger’s but I suspect it is actually a peg-maker’s.

The clogger’s shop has an accompanying video filmed by Sam Hanna in mid 20th century as trades were dying out.  There’s in the museum another film by him showing the making of clog irons and nails and the transition from hand working to power hammers.  This is particularly interesting for me as the next village to us Silsden was famous for making irons and nails, at one time there were 200 forges at work there.

The Sam Hannah documentary films are great, but I think they are only available at the North West Film Archive. (See foot of this post for the range of crafts covered on his films).

There is a short composite extract on uTube here

Then we went to one of our favourite local destinations, Salts Mill.  This is at Saltaire which is a village and massive textile mill built by Sir Titus Salt.  I should do a separate post on this sometime, but you can find out more about this world heritage site here:

We had lunch in the lively Diner there:

Then after obtaining my birthday present, a new chain for my bike, we went on to Bradford Industrial Museum.

This 3/4 car took my fancy.  It’s called a Scott Social.  Scott was a motorcycle manufacturing business in Bradford, and this is actually a motorbike and side car, altered so that the sidecar passengers were not isolated from the rider.  They proved unpopular, apparently, just because they had a tendency to tip over when turning left sharply.

There is a row of back to back houses at the museum, dismantled from elsewhere and rebuilt here:

These were one up, one down houses in terraces with one dwelling at the front and one at the back (hence back to back).  Many were condemned as slums in the 1960s and stupidly demolished rather than updated.  What replaced them is not so pretty usually.

Anyway, with terrace houses you got one of these:

Known round here as a back yard, where you had a privy, hung your washing, and mebbe grew something (during the Second World War only, I suspect).  It tickles me when I keep coming across ‘back yard’ in American writings, as I always tend to think of the above, whereas an American back yard is a whole different scuttle of turkeys.

Anyway a fitting end to the day was a rather brief sunset visit to the world-famous Undercliffe Cemetery, which was bought by a dozen Victorians including Sir Titus Salt, as a business venture.  It was laid out so that the prestigious lots were in the middle next to the great promenade which ends in a splendid view over Bradford, surrounding hills and valleys.  So the expensive lots were acquired by the wealthy, and this is what they did with them:

Some are very overblown, but what about this one?

They must have thought they were mighty in death as in life – fools!  In a more obscure corner there is a clogger buried who must have done well enough to have been able to afford a headstone.

However, it is not such a gloomy place and there’s even a band stand!

So all in all – yes – another Grand Yorkshire Day Out.

Films of Sam Hannah:

Village Blacksmith Tyring a wheel – The blacksmith is shown as he fits iron tyres to cart wheels.
Village Blacksmith shoeing a horse – The village smithy as he makes the shoes, and later fits them to the waiting horse.

Clay Pipe Making – The stages from the raw clay to the finished pipe are shown.

Coopering – The making of an oak cask.

Clogger – The making of a complete pair of Lancashire clogs is shown in detail.

Clog Block Maker – The last of the clog-block makers is seen as he sets out to fell an alder tree and convert it into clog blocks.

Clog Iron Maker – The last of the clog-iron makers manufacturing men’s ‘iron’ clogs.

Modern Clog Making – The mass production of Lancashire clogs in a factory in Todmorden, Lancashire.

The Village Tannery – The production of leather uppers for Lancashire clogs.

Handloom Weaving – Wool from local sheep is spun and dyed, and the weaver is seen at her loom making her cloth.

Potter – The processes involved in making clay pots.

Besom Maker – In the north of England besoms (brooms) were made of ling (heather), this film shows the manufacturing of these brooms.

Dry Stone Walling – Such walls pattern the countryside of Lancashire and Yorkshire. The walls are built of local stone, grit or limestone without the use of mortar.

Making Stained Glass – The making of stained glass windows is followed through all the stages, from the design to the finished window.

Slate Quarry – In North Lancashire, amongst the mountains of the Lake District, we see the processes of obtaining slate from the heart of the mountain for the roofing of houses.

Saddler – The making of saddles and harnesses for horses.

Horn Works – The cutting and shaping of horns for knives, forks, spoons, and table decorations.

Lancashire Rake Maker – The craftsman is shown in an old Bobbin Mill in the Furness District producing his own design of Lancashire rakes.

Tadley Rake Maker – The making of rakes in Tadley, Hampshire.

Basket Making – The making of the traditional swill basket of the Lake District from oak timber.

Making Hay Creels – These are made from hazel wood and rope and enable the farmer to carry a large amount of hay around the bleak hills.

Rope Making – The rope maker is seen at work, making ropes for the farmer and weaving harness bands for horses.

Snuff Making – The process of making camphorated/menthol snuff from imported tobacco leaves.

Haffe Net Fishing – Fishing for Salmon using a haffe net in the River Lune Estuary near Lancaster, Lancashire.

Hand made Files – The making of files by hand in Warrington, Lancashire.

Brush Making – Established in Burnley, Lancashire 1854, brushes were still being made by hand in the workshop.

Corn Dolly Making – The making of corn dollies near Preston, Lancashire, in shapes influenced by the area.

Rush Seating – The making of seats for ladder-back chairs, from rushes imported from Holland.

Oat Cake Making -The making of oval shaped cakes from a batter of oat meal, water and salt in a family-run bakery near Preston, Lancashire.

Charcoal Making – Members of a family of Charcoal Burners producing charcoal at Grizedale Forest in the Lake District.

Clock Making – The restoration of an antique clock.

Sculptor – The sculptor shaping clay, with a spatula and his fingers, to create a likeness of the head of his sitter.

Burnley Weaving Shed – The production of coloured woven cloth at Barden Mill in Burnley, Lancashire.

What’s worse than my bark?

What bark is that?

And the above is just a little scary, get those red tips.  Doesn’t look so good for working though but.  And on the same walk we came across this:

I’d just said to my daughter that where we were looked like it had been a stone quarry, there are lots of them round here, very small many of them used to win the wall stones for enclosing the land and robbing the poor.  Much of our landscape looks like this.

Small fields divided by millstone grit dry walls.  So the picture second-above shows where a large piece of stone has been split off using a drill chisel and wedges quite some time ago.

We went to Haworth today for a walk.  It’s only about 20 minutes drive from here, but we usually avoid it like the plague as it is full of Bronte sisters tourists.  We had a good walk round the back lanes, bought a couple of ex-army shirts for work and a good cap with flaps which, though cosy is less full-on than my shearling one which can get too hot at times.  Then we walked back up to the car over the railway bridge.  I like the way the engine driver keeps his tea good and warm!

Delivering two peeled oak gates tomorrow, but mostly enjoying a good break from The Bodgery which was so busy in the lead up to Christmas. So I’m now relaxing installing Linux on my old Mac Powerbook, mending the front mech on me bike, reseating the sound card in the Mac Mini, sawing off the remaining gate post, sawing a few logs, cooking, brewing and generally chilling out … man.