There were three castle place-names mentioned in the 1626 Rochdale Manor Survey, but I found the site before I knew of the reference to it.
We commissioned a geophysical survey and Al Oswald of English Heritage identified a strip lynchet on one of the site’s steep slopes (west facing).
It was not actually in Rochdale, it is in what was the old parish of….Middleton, in Ashworth township.
Copped Hill (facing North)
See the map/aerial view Note
Select “Satellite” to see an aerial view instead of the map.
“Have looked at data we have on Copped Hill. I’m vaguely remember the
location. I’m pretty sure I never went to the top of the hill. Maps I
did at the time show it has melt water channels on western and southern
sides. The hill is capped by sand and gravel which would have provided
a better drained/dryer site if it was chosen as settlement location.”
Dick Crofts – British Geological Survey 2008/12/03
There are plenty of early farming sites on and around Rooley Moor. Medieval records are also plentiful (from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey) too and when combined with manorial records and other sources a detailed study of farming in the area will be possible.
But It’s moorland! How could you farm it?
If the soil, climate and farming techniques are right you can farm! Rooley Moor has been farmed since prehistoric times! poorer land was used for pasture.
Want to see the early fields?
Retrieved from Microsoft Bing, Copyright Microsoft You can see the stone walls of the recent fields overlaying the early fields (dark brown grass).There appear to be severaly early field systems overlaying each other at SD 855177. These fields are overlooked by the Bronze Age cairns on Bagden Hillocks, on the higher ground to the east of the fields, above Rooley Moor Road.
In a visit to Rooley Moor in 2010, Al Oswald of English Heritage thought these fields were likely to be the site of prehistoric settlement. The Fields are overlooked by the Bagden Hillocks cairns to the north east.
Old wall next to Ding Quarry
North of these early fields (an area called Clegg Ding) and nearer Ding Quarry there is a covering of peat but still the area was in use because a wall was built along the eastern edge Ding Clough, perhaps to stop sheep from going over the edge. There may be other features visible in the foreground of the picture too.
Birchen Holts (ruin) – Farmstead next to Rooley Moor OS grid reference: SD 847 173
Birchen Holts was reclaimed from waste and included five closes, in the 1626 Rochdale Manor Survey it was recorded as being 73 acres one rood and 20 perches in total. The annual rent was £7 and 6 shillings Note the sheltered site and the fields south of the Ding in the background. Birchen Holts by Stuart Davies SD 847173
Three sites were partially surveyed in 2010, with the help of Groundwork volunteers trained by Al Oswald of English Heritage.
One site, Naden Head has already been mentioned in earlier posts, the two other sites, were discovered.in 2010. A fourth site discovered in 2007 was the subject of an inconclusive geophysical survey in 2010, a possible barrow lies to the west of this, naturally defensive site.
The Hill Fort
Hill forts are extremely rare in Lancashire and this appears to be in a better state of preservation than the scheduled hill fort north of Bury, known as Castlesteads. Castlesteads had a single ditch, Portfield Camp near Whalley, Lancashire is perhaps closer in construction and has similar dimensions to the site near Rochdale.
I found the Medieval reference to the hill fort in November 2012, the site was discovered in 2010 using aerial photography and field work.
How could anyone miss this? this area has never been archaeologically surveyed!
I have blanked out the background to hide the exact location, it has been reported to English Heritage, but not visited by them yet.
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.
There is no substitute for walking areas, even soggy moor land, if you want to find something.
Here are some of the sites I have found in areas that were supposed to have been surveyed by archaeologists. They also said there was “a hiatus in Medieval times”, did they read there own references? I have reproduced some early names from Fishwick’s History of the Parish of Rochdale, many are on Rooley Moor! The name Ding was written Dinge in medieval times. A survey of the area found no medieval records for the area! but mentioned a ‘hiatus’ in medieval times, how many charter are there for the area?
Apart from Dinge we have Bikeden (Bagden), Naden and Prickshaw, for example. There are many medieval charters that relate to the the Ding area, as well as mentions in the Manor Surveys of Rochdale in the 17th. century.
Enclosure and Early Fields at SD 855177
Enclosure on Rooley Moor
The yellow arrows mark the line of the earlier enclosure, which has been “overlayed” with the larger and later fields marked by the stone wall running diagonally to the left of the arrows and one wall running horizontally in the picture above. Grid reference SD 855177.
Pits SD 859183
This area of small “quarry pits” covers several acres and is easily visible on aerial photographs. Mysteriously they are invisible on maps and on an archaeological survey that was supposed to have walked the are. If they had walked the area they would have stumbled into the pits! This is the clearest indication that the survey failed to find even the most obvious and large archaeological features. They have not just appeared, they can be seen on 1940s black and white photographs and all subsequent aerial photographs.
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.