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The Birtwhistles of Craven and Galloway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 4 The Great Close on Malham moor

 

 

 

Good pasture was generally in short supply in Craven in the middle of the 18th century, but a stocking inventory of the Great Close in 1619 may explain why the pasture of 732 acres was available for hire, and not being used as summer pasture by local dairy farmers. In the 17th century the Great Close was used to raise oxen, for which the demand would have ceased abruptly when the Craven  townfields were converted to pastoral use on the arrival of large numbers of droving animals in the  middle of the 18th century. The stocking inventory also enables us to make a rough estimate of how much grass was grown on the Great Close in a season, and suggests   that the Great Close could have supported Thomas Hurtley’s estimate of 20,000 animals a year, providing that they did not stay longer than a few days on the close. This is a reasonable assumption, since drovers were charged for the grass eaten by their cattle, and will have planned to arrive at the Great Close just before a fair. 

If there had been  5000 animals on the Great Close at any one time, some 50 -100 drovers would have been required to bring them to Malham, and many will  have frequented the drovers’ inn, whose remains may still be seen on the Great Close at SD 905 666. According to local accounts, there were nightly festivities to primitive music at the inn, and Margaret Hurtley, the Malham school master’s grand-daughter, was a clever step-dancer who danced in public when she was approaching  80 ( private communication Richard Harland).

Thomas Hurtley claimed that John Birtwhistle had purchased the cattle for his Great Close fairs by “travelling the Hebrides and Scottish Isle and Counties of the north of Scotland, and that at a hazardous time in 1745… every herd enticed  from the soil and ushered into this fragrant pasture (i.e. Malham), by the Pipes of an Highland Orpheus”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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