Cock Hall today comprises a range of farm buildings with some dating back to the 17th C. This name appears to derive from ‘Cokgreues’ underlined in red in the Latin charter (number 59) transcribed below.
This charter describes land boundaries, which refer to features such as ditches, (fossatum) and streams such as Cowm Brook (Cumbebrok). The features are described in relation to compass points, so for example ‘occidentum‘ is west and ‘orientem‘ is east.
The charter also indicates the land use in the area, so there are references to meadows (pratem)and grassland (Campum). So the area was open in medieval times. With the aid of this and the dozens of charters in Whitworth we should be able to create a land use map and associated features in the landscape.
Who was involved?
The charter refers to “Andrew and Alan” of Whitworth and the Abbot of ‘Stanlawe‘ ( Stanlaw Abbey later relocated to Whalley).
What can be seen today?
Cock Hall is still surrounded by fields and aerial views show banks and ditches which may correspond to the features described in the charter shown above.
This brief look at just one charter shows the wealth of historical and archaeological information for just Whitworth, which features in nearly 100 charters from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. When you include all the charters for land in SE lancashire you see the wealth of information that is yet to be researched. How many other archaeological features can be gleaned from the study of this vast untapped archive? Indications from other sites mentioned in the charters would appear to show a huge number of surviving sites yet to be surveyed.
A systematic study of this area will surely challenge and change our view of the history and the landscape of SE Lancs.
Want to read more?
Download the Coucher Book of Whalley (in Latin) for free here.
With many major and minor sites unrecorded SE Lancashire is the most exciting area in the UK if you want to discover archaeological sites. Don’t believe it? well I even had to get a 2 metre high medieval cross put on the Sites and Monuments register a few years ago, amazing but true. It is at Doffcocker near Bolton and is in the grounds of the church. The local paper was very helpful in tracking background information to the cross, which had been moved from a previous location, a bridge over a stream!
When looking for an archaeological site check SAW!
Soil – was the site on good soil or were there mineral deposits like coal or marl?
Aspect – Was the site facing the south and was it sheltered or on a hilltop?
W – Water was vital for farming and survival and also a source of power for water and fulling mills. Water (streams, rivers and lakes) could be a place to catch fish! In some places in Lancashire water was used as a defence in the form of a moat, even Prestwich Rectory had a moat and this can clearly be seen in the first series OS map in the mid 19th C.
Clues in the Landscape
Banks and ditches and old boundary walls are good indicators of rural archaeological sites. You may even see some stones where a building has decayed and probably had stone robbed. Wooden structures are unlikely to have left clues above ground but sometimes a moat survives, or was evident, at Prestwich Rectory (Old site not the one near the church) for example.
Place-names sometimes give clues for archaeologists, indicating an archaeological site a good example is the place-name “castle” as in Castleton in Rochdale. Yes, Rochdale had a Norman castle, but nothing is visible today.
The chance discovery of finds may sometimes indicate an archaeological site. However valuable finds were often hidden away from the main site, burial sites being the exception to this. Usually it is the mundane finds which indicate an archaeological site. These can be found on the surface of a ploughed field or a stream.
The Web has made access to aerial photographs easy, given a low angle of sunlight it is possible to see banks, ditches, roads and old cultivation marks which may indicate a nearby site.
Sites such as Google Earth have a wealth of information, Ssince photos were taken at different times of day the angle of sunlight varies and so will the visibility of features. Try viewing different views of the same site and different dates, try comparing the views from different sites.
Older photographs can show sites before they were ploughed or built on and show changes over time.
Medieval deeds, charters, court records and wills give many valuable clues to finding archaeological sites. Many deeds and charters are still to be translated from the Medieval Latin. Salford Hundred has a large number of untranslated medieval documents, many refer to boundaries and sites that remain undiscovered.
Getting out in the landscape and surveying sites is the essential work when discovering sites and it is the vital drawing together and evaluation of all evidence that might indicate an archaeological site.
Always start with the most mundane theory for your site and work your way logically through other interpretations of what you have found. Many antiquarians from the region were inclined to see many sites as ‘Roman’ rather than post Roman.
The geology of the region is complex and many natural features have been seen as archaeological sites, could your ‘site’ be glacial in origin? Sound geological knowledge is a vital part of any archaeological research and geological research must be undertaken for each site.
The local ecology is also vital in assessing archaeological sites, the climate has changed over time. If evidence of early vegetation survives there may be clues to human activity, such as forest clearance, or evidence of agriculture.
Folklore is not reliable, but sometimes it may indicate a site, or at least give an interesting background to the the site and landscape you are researching. The name ‘castle’ is one of the more common indicators of an archaeological site.
Make sure you act responsibly when accessing a site, respect landowners and the environment. Work with local communities to further the knowledge of and protect your local heritage.
Surveying What You Find
Here are some articles about surveying archaeological sites:
Archaeological survey requires many skills and a holistic approach, a team of experts is needed to really assess the potential of an archaeological site. Included in this team is the local expert, who knows the landscape and local history of the site in question. Publishing and professionally reviewing information is crucial in getting discoveries accepted and advancing archaeological knowledge.
Few areas in Lancashire offer so much of interest to the archaeologist and medieval historian as Whitworth.
Why? Quite simply, little recent archaeological research has been done, and that which has been undertaken has failed to record visible monuments, such as Naden Head and the associated archaeology as well as newly discovered sites in south Whitworth (prehistoric and medieval).
The 1982 Manchester University excavation at the prehistoric cairn at Hades Hill was never published.
The medieval documentation for the area is striking: nearly 100 charters relating to Whitworth alone are recorded in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey.
A more detailed survey and study of Whitworth’s archaeology and medieval documentation is certain to reveal much of interest.
With high mesolithic site desity and a large number of medieval sites documeneted one wonders about the archaeology of the area between these epochs.
No systematic archaeological survey of Whitworth has been undertaken, so many sites remain to be discovered and recorded.
Many mesolithic sites have been recorded in the Rochdale area, and the density of sites indicates that the area was used by hunter-gatherer communities at this time. In fact the density of sites is one of the highest in Europe. Mesolithic flints were found at Hades Hill, for example (see Littleborough Museum Worksheet 87). The site also has a Bronze Age cairn and may indicate continuity of use from the Mesolithic to the Bronze Age.
Few Neolithic sites in the area have been researched recently. Known prehistoric sites left few extensive earthworks or stone alignments/settings. It is possible that sites used wood constructions that are no longer evident, or were destroyed, or robbed for stone, by later generations.
Bronze Age sites can still be seen in the Whitworth area, though after around 3,000 years we can expect some damage. The main sites are burials, evident at Bagden and Hades Hill which are of a similar form and size.
Other sites exist in the area on Rooley Moor and east of Whitworth too, and more work is needed to confirm the nature and age of these sites. How these sites relate to local finds from the Bronze Age has not been researched yet. With detailed survey, the number of surface finds and sites will, no doubt, increase. The fact that the climate was at its best in the Bronze Age perhaps explains why this prehistoric period has the largest number of sites compared to other prehistoric epochs, such as the Iron Age.
Barrow discovered in south Whitworth! more news soon!
Finds from the Iron Age are rare in this area, however this does not mean that the area was unoccupied. Many of the sites are probably obscured, or have been destroyed by later settlements. Surviving Celtic place-names in the area may indicate good locations to look for archaeologicayl evidence. Lake Kor, now lost, is one possible site. It is recorded in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey as being near Prickshaw.
A site with a triple ditch, discovered in 2010 ma well be iron age in date with later use, such a site would normally have been identified many years earlier as is the case for an adjacent with a clearly visible bank. Both areas are mentioned in medieval documents.
Roman coin hoards have been found in the Rochdale area. How these relate to any settlements is unknown, as is the relationship to forts at Manchester and Castleshaw, for example.
The first reference to the Rochdale area is in the Domesday Book. It would appear that Rochdale had some autonomy and appears to have been administered by an Anglo-Scandinavia thegn, Gamel, based in Calderdale. The large area of Rochdale parish and the reference to Rochdale as a “wapentake”, a Scandinavian term for a county sub-district supports this hypothesis. Additionally, the recording of Scandinavian names such as “Dolfinus of Healey” in medieval charters, and Scandinavian place-names such as Sike and Ding (a meeting place for local administration), indicates Scandinavian settlement in the area.
This Scandinavian settlement is important in understanding the number of medieval charters relating to Whitworth in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. Rather than being dominated by a single feudal landowner, several Whitworth freeholders were able to grant land to the Abbey. Perhaps Scandinavian settlement in the area led to several freemen owning farmsteads in the area, some places such as Bagden and Harsenden may well have been occupied before their mention in 13th-Century charters.
Whitworth has an exceptional number of medieval charters for a village, perhaps ten times more than would normally be the case for an English village.
Whitworth people mentioned in the Coucher Book of Whalley (12th and 13th C.) They range from “Agnes” to “Wiilmus”. Whitworth was “Whitword” in medieval times.
This can perhaps be explained by “sokemen” freemen who owed minor service to their lord and could sell and exchange land, which could be inherited by their children. In the 1626 Manor Survey of Rochdale a Mr Chadwick, who held land “”in sokeage” the south of Whitworth. Ownership of land would have given sokemen more incentive to develop and improve their land.
When the 16th-Century records of Whitworth farmsteads in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey are combined with fieldwork and the translation of medieval documentation, it should be possible to plot many of the settlements and boundaries mentioned in charters.
A detailed chronology of land transfers in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey can be found in C. D. King’s thesis of 1991.
King, C. D . – The Whalley Coucher book and the dialectal phonology of Lancashire and Cheshire 1175-1350 . – University of St Andrews PHD Thesis, 1991 (Unpublished).
This thesis is now available for free download by individuals via the British Library’s EThOS service http://ethos.bl.uk
Economic ties with Whalley Abbey ranged from wool to iron-working. Farmsteads with small cultivation plots combined with communal pasture for sheep and cattle, would have been the characteristic settlement pattern. The highest land would have been for grazing in the Summer. Surprisingly if the land was south facing and of reasonable quality it could be used for farming up to 400 m OD. Some fields were just used for hay although a type of field system dating back to prehistoric field systems was used in Rochdale.
You can still see extensive signs of earlier field systems and boundaries East of Hamer Hill and down through, Withens, Bagden, Bartle Cowm and Meadows for example. These places and land boundaries are often mentioned in medieval cgarters from The Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey.
There are place-name and documentary evidence for vaccaries (medieval cattle ranch) in the area, one rural site has recently been identified,
By the 16th-Century, local freeholders worked together to build a local chapel in Whitworth.
Bagden and other farms, their associated boundary ditches, and old cultivation can still be seen to the west of Whitworth. Mention of a medieval bridge, corn and fulling mills and iron smelting indicates many opportunities for future archaeological research.
The 1600s saw an expansion in stone building in the Whitworth area, at Cock Hall and Smallshaw, for example. The manor surveys of 1610 and 1626 give many detailed accounts of settlements in the area.
Coal mining was also recorded in the 1626 Manor Survey – it became increasingly important as timber supplies were depleted. Wool and textiles were becoming increasingly important in the area by the 16th-Century, cutlery production (at Cutler Green) was another local economic activity, as was quarrying.
Archaeologists and historians have overlooked Whitworth and the Rochdale area. The lack of research has led people to conclude that the area was sparsely populated. However, 16th-Century moorland assarts (area enclosed for cultivation and farming), like that at Birchen Holts, would appear to show that marginal land was being used as population levels were recovering from the ravages of the Plague and land was in short supply. Settlement patterns in Whitworth mainly comprised single farmsteads, many of which are still farms today, and earlier boundaries and cultivation can still be seen.
Medieval Whitworth Places
Here is a list of Whitworth places mentioned around 800 years ago, there are so many and quite a few have gone from the map.
With so much to discover and research, Whitworth’s past will keep future generations occupied for some time to come!
Specific references to Whitworth can also be found in the Lancashire Assize Rolls, See Lancashire Assize Rolls: 4 John – 13 Edward I (pp. 393-439) here.
Naden was first mentioned in a deed of 1107 and again in the 13thC. in the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. Many ruins can still be seen in the area.
Naden Head has commanding views down the Naden Valley and over the Manchester Plain. It is sheltered by a shale bank, immediately to the west of the ruins.
Below the manor can be seen boundary walls an cultivation that probably range from medieval to more recent drainage ditches and cultivation terraces.
A survey of the area is needed to record the landscape context of Naden Head, and historic land use.
Naden Head From the air
See an aerial view of Naden Head here. An old OS map of the area can be found here
This wall can be seen to the SW of Naden Head.
A manor house, belonging to a member of the Holt family, who even held their own court, is mentioned in the 16th C. In the 1626 Rochdale Manor Survey it is mentioned as “a capital messuage”. The manor house ruins can still be seen as well as an early boundary wall and ditch.
Extract from 1st Series OS Map of Naden Head and Naden Dean
Even on the moors, at 440 metres above sea level, many archaeological sites can be seen, several previously unrecorded.
I will list my recent discoveries in this blog. Most sites have been subsequently confirmed by other archaeologists and a geologist. Certainly much work needs to be done and detailed survey is urgently needed.
What’s new – June 2010
Detailed photographic survey of a site on Rooley Moor completed and magnetometer survey of another site (TBA) undertaken. Watch this blog for more details!
Video added! July
Great grass covered burial mound, near Rooley Moor, also missed amazingly.
The site below was missed in an earlier archaeological survey (oops!) and is man made and not a quarry or a mine, according to a British Geological Survey Geologist who kindly visited the site. Why not a quarry? not local stone! If the stones were quarried on the spot they would be “Haslingden Flags”. The number and orientation of the stones cannot be explained by glaciation. The difference in vegetation, visible in the photograph, may be why this area was chosen by whoever built this damaged, enigmatic site.
Archaeological site on Rooley Moor
Clear signs of working, note the two notches at the base of the stone.
This stone is clearly not from the immediate vicinity and so cannot be the result of quarrying at this location.
Here is another to the SW.
Bagden Hillocks Cairn
Still visible after thousands of years, the Bronze Age cairn (burial mound) at Bagden Hillocks. The area of the cairn is marked by the greener vegetation, the pile of stones in the centre is more recent.
Thanks to Bury Archaeology Group and Whitworth Historical Society regarding this cairn.
Another damaged mound nearby
Close to Bagden Hillocks cairn another damaged mound can be seen.