V is for vaccary

I’ll be honest, I haven’t made an exhaustive study of this but do wonder how many places there are where entire areas are named after cow-pastures.

As the Middle Ages progressed the lords realised that they could make more money by oxen-farming than they ever would be deer hunting, so the deer were corralled into a deer park and the rest of the medieval forest divided into 12 vaccaries. These became the basis for the later townships and were administrative as well as geographical areas. Land use reflecting profitability has a long history.

Springhill was in the vaccary of Deadwenclough (“D is for..’) and the farming was centred on Cloughfold. There were two pinfolds in Rossendale for stray animals, with one of these in Deadwenclough and thought to be on Dobbin Lane about 100 yds from Springhill - the 1901 census has a farm there called ‘Pinfold Farm’ whilst tradition places the pinfold across the (old) road by the rectory.

It is said that every vaccary had 50 cows, 50 calves and one bull. At deforestation in 1507 the population of Rossendale was said to be 16 and even taking these as being adult males rather than individuals that leaves just over one family per vaccary which seems a little low. The court records suggest many more people living here than that - I’ve found over 16 just living in Deadwenclough. The ’16’ were probably main tenants and one per vaccary seems more reasonable.

In C15 the trend was towards smallholding and subletting, a trend which intensified after deforestation. Common ground was shared in certain areas with a complex network of rights of way over the moors to reach this shared ground, leading to lots of green dashed lines on modern OS maps and ‘paths’ which will test anyone’s navigation skills on the moors in the mist.

Incidentally ‘Deadwenclough’ is a search engine nightmare. Documents have it as one word or two, ‘dead’ as ‘ded’ or ‘died’, ‘wen’ as ‘win’ or ‘quene’...or any combination of these. It is also a spellchecker nightmare with ‘ded’ being turned to ‘red’ and ‘quene’ to ‘queen’ on a regular basis.

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