Cocket and Swaw Beck, Giggleswick

C. Roger Moss and Michael Slater
 JOURNAL 
 2016 
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

This article has been compiled incorporating much information from Dr Tony Stephens and has benefited from the opinions of others as acknowledged below.

Swaw Beck house near Giggleswick Station (SD 801 628) has attracted the attention of historians and those interested in vernacular architecture in recent years, in part because it has unusual constructional features. It is probable that it is on the site of Cokhed (Cocket)Lodge, known from the Clifford rent survey of 1499 (held at the Yorkshire Archaeological Society). Its location in the landscape is notable, at the edge of the flood plain, with views of Ingleborough and surrounding country. How and when was the house constructed? Was there ever a tower or turret later incorporated into the house?

John Brinnand is the first recorded owner of Swaw Beck (Swarbeck, Shaw Beck), in 1726 [Hoyle, 1986 p.127]. The Swaw Beck lies to the north nearby across the lane (partially culverted). The meaning of the name may be that of Old English swalg, (pool or pit) or Anglo-Saxon swaer (slothful, inactive) coupled with OE bekkr. There is a Swar Beck in Swaledale. The Scottish National Dictionary suggests svaga (Scandinavian) meaning wave, ripple or glide.

A date of 1726 (owner John Brinnand) is compatible with what we see today, inside and outside the house. It is considered to be a gentleman’s high status residence with a ground plan very similar to a few other properties in the area. The exterior appears very little changed from the time it was built. The south-facing exterior wall with water-shot stones contains windows of 1700s type. The north-facing wall (not water-shot) contains four mullioned windows, probably moved from an earlier building, a tall 1700s window to light the stairwell, and a very small window to light the understairs space at ground level. The west-facing gable shows the considerable height and width of the house. The current roof slope is 35o, typical for slated roofs, rather than a slope of near 60o which is normally indicative of thatching. Three chimney stacks indicate a high degree of comfort. The third middle chimney offers the key to understanding the method of construction of the roof space and stairwell giving support to a heavy roof. The wall thicknesses throughout the current house are about 2 feet (60cm), apart from some thin internal modern walls.

The house is unusually deep from north to south, being about 11m, and rather high at about 8m. There are ceiling joists in the two bedrooms which are very long at more than 5m. The rectangular stairwell with dog-leg staircase is wide at 2.7m (1.2m or 4ft stair width). The attic space is also unusually high at 3.5m (11ft) to the ridge and relatively unobstructed, giving plenty of head-room, with a doorway through a north/south dividing cross-wall, suggesting that it was a living space. There is an attic window on the west gable. The demand for more living space in the 1700s explains the design of the roof space as a garret - rather than an attic or loft with less headroom.

The house is situated in good quality farmland and altogether appears to be that of a prosperous family, likely to have had servants or farm-hands living in. There is a well or sump just outside the west end of the house and a separate barn behind the east end of the site. The location as far as old routeways is concerned might be relevant to its early history. An ancient causeway across nearby Cocket Moss is noted by Brayshaw [1932].

The roof space

The roof structure includes a curved beam in a half-truss and other old oak timbers. The use of ‘upper crucks, curved inclined principal rafters like true crucks but rising from the beams at garret floor level’ is a known technique after the 1660s for providing more headroom [Brunskill, 1992]. The west end upright king post has been trimmed on one side. The timbers in the roof are old and re-used. They were presumably taken from an older property and adapted to suit the new c.1700 house. There is a rectangular stairwell structure, 2.7m by 3.6m, reaching up from the ground floor to the roof slabs (properly called stone slates). The width is large for a staircase but not exceptionally so as to require an alternative explanation such as a tower.

There are lines of edges of thin slabs visible on the inside of the east gable end of the house and the central north/south wall in the roof space which correspond to the flues in these walls. The slabs lie below the ends of purlins to reduce the fire risk. The central flue has to reach the chimney stack centrally located on the ridge and the stack needs to be supported by the central north/south wall underneath. The ground plan does not allow for an east/west wall supporting the ridge of the roof. The central north/south cross-wall is keyed to the stairwell wall in the roof space mainly by a very substantial stone lintel over a doorway under the ridge line. This keyed-in lintel is thought to be necessary for giving the roof structure rigidity and support for the chimney stack directly above. It then follows that the timber half-truss in the east end is adequate to support the roof. The use of the stairwell masonry to support the roof reduces the need for long purlins on its east and west sides.

The large stairwell quoins in the roof space are very clean and sharply cut with pecked surface and do not appear to be weathered. The stairwell is an integral part of the current house rather than a pre-existing structure. There is also a small opening with a stone lintel into the stairwell giving access to a rather small closed space under the roof. This might have been made to allow internal access to the roof slabs and timberwork.

First and ground floors

There are building plans for other local houses which show an external square or rounded turret for a staircase [Harrison and Hutton, 1984 pp. 53, 70]. The Swaw Beck rooms either side (east and west) cannot realistically be considered to be later additions to a turret because of the same wall thicknesses, the bonding of walls at junctions and the uniform appearance of the whole of the north-facing house wall.

The rectangular stairwell is notably wide, of a fine domestic quality, made of oak. In the stairwell walls of Swaw Beck House on the ground and first floors are internal doorways. The lintels are combined stone and old oak. It was common practice to re-use old wood and embed and encase wooden lintels in stone or plaster in rebuilt houses [White, 2000]. The walls on one side of two of the doorways have been substantially chamfered to make access easier and on the first floor a long oak beam has been used to support the load above in the absence of a solid wall. It would have been very difficult to make this chamfer on a previously unchamfered wall and therefore it is thought to have been done purposely during building of the house. There was a small doorway facing the road, now blocked to make a window. The entrance door in the east wall is a modern alteration.

The room heights are generous and some beams are chamfered, all suggesting that this is a gentleman’s house. One can imagine that John Brinnand requested his builder to provide two larger rooms and two smaller ones (rather than four of equal size), an imposing rectangular stairwell, a fireplace in the centre of the house and a large attic space. The first consequence was that the central chimney flue had to be fitted into a thick north-south wall to slope to reach the roof ridge and that this wall had to support the chimney stack and roof. The position of the rectangular stairwell meant that the north-south cross-wall did not reach from the rear to the front of the house and in the attic space it could not be supported underneath but had to be keyed into the stairwell structure which was continued upwards to support the roof. A doorway had to be provided in the cross-wall in the attic. If the third central chimney had not been required the roof structure could have been simplified with an east-west wall reaching the roof and supporting it.

The granary and barn

At the east end of the house is a small building, a ‘granary’ or byre with exterior access steps. The neighbouring modern dwelling was converted from a barn. Substantial foundation boulders are now hidden in the base of the granary wall; flooring was of very thick stone slabs. Further large boulders were found when the barn was converted and these were removed into the garden of Swaw Beck.

The granary is less deep, north/south, than the house and inside on the house gable end can be seen a line of edges of thick roof slabs, 0.5m lower than the roof at the apex, and at a different angle to the current roof. The roof must have been raised at some time to match the barn roof since three old re-used uneven beams are not supporting the current roof. There are two deep square holes through the west wall which are probably ventilation holes; these are now blocked by the house gable end. This indicates that the current Swaw Beck house was not present when the granary was built. The vent holes are of a shape typical of the 17th century.

There is also a possible old doorway in the east wall. All this suggests that the building is older than Swaw Beck house and was modified by altering the roof and frontage when Swaw Beck was built. The old barn roof is in line with the ‘granary’ as seen in the 1950s photograph. The barn was probably built after the house, after 1700. It is speculated that an earlier house on the east side was taken down at the time of building the new house.

Comparable local houses

There are many plans showing a rectangular section containing a staircase with similar although smaller dimensions to that of the current staircase in Swaw Beck, e.g. The Holme [Rural Houses, 1985] and Great Broughton, Grange Farm, [Harrison and Hutton, 1984, p.53]. A very similar ground plan with a stairwell is found at Keeper’s Cottage, Brackenbottom, near Horton in Ribblesdale, with two chimneys in the gable ends [YVBSG, 1998]. This is dated to about 1720 and the plan is said to be very traditional after 1650. The off-centre wall between front and back rooms rises to the rafters to take most of the roof weight and carry the ends of horizontal tie beams of half-trusses to further support the roof. The half-trusses are linked with an iron tie bar. One of these half-trusses is the same in principle as that in the east end of Swaw Beck. Other houses with similar ground plans are Vipont House in Airton [Pevsner, 1966] and Lower Winskill with datestone 1675.

The central chimney stack on the roof ridge of Swaw Beck has to be supported by a masonry wall underneath and a flue has to be connected to it. The chimney-supporting wall has to sit on a wall on the lower floors and be thick enough to contain the flue. In the case of Swaw Beck this is the central north/south wall. Because this reaches only part way across the house it is necessary to give it support by keying it into the wall of the stairwell made to reach into the roof space. The cross-wall cannot be continued directly over the stairwell due to lack of support underneath.

Confidence in the state of society encouraged investment in property in the later 1600s, as evidenced by the datestones seen on many local houses [www.NorthCravenHeritage.org.uk]. The Hearth Tax data of 1672 show that the house at that time had only one hearth, tax paid 4d. The current house with its three chimneys post-dates 1672 and a build date of around 1700 appears appropriate.

Cocket Lodge and estate

We can now consider the question of the origin of Swaw Beck and whether it was earlier known as Cocket. In the Middle Ages abbeys and large landowners such as the Percys and the Cliffords managed their vast estates with a series of lodges or farmsteads scattered across a large area, many of which still exist. These were either freehold as was Cocket, or tenanted by at-will unfree tenants. The fact that Cocket was freehold might suggest that it has a pre-Conquest origin with the landholder making some agreement with a new feudal lord after 1066. Grainhouse, Rome, Fieldgate, Close House, Paley Green, Craven Ridge and Armistead were other Giggleswick lodges and further afield were Colt Park, almost certainly a stud farm, Lodge Hall, Nether Lodge and Thorns.

In early times Cocket estate was held by the king and administered by the bailiff of the manor of Giggleswick. Cocket is recorded as a lodge in the early 14th century [Littledale, 1916]. The Clifford rent survey of 1499 names Cocket as a freehold lodge. It might have been located near the right of way described by John le Fleming in 1256 running from Swainstead in Rathmell via what is now Little Bank Farm to the River Ribble and perhaps onwards to Giggleswick Church [Stephens, 2011]. The 1520 rent survey made for the Cliffords includes Cocket as the only named lodge. The rent survey of 1579 [YAS DD 121/24/2] names Cocket and other local lodges.

Two meadows adjacent to Swaw Beck House are called Cockit Meadow and Under Cockit in the 1844 Giggleswick Tithe Award. It seems most likely that Swaw Beck House lies on the site of Cocket lodge.

The residents of Cocket

The Poll Tax of 1379 for Giggleswick notes Thomas Cokheued & ux (i.e. wife) and Willelmus Cokheued & ux both paying the minimum 4d [Speight, 1892] - surnames often denoted the place of residence or origin at this time. Willemus Kokheud & ux lived in Rathmell, also paying 4d. The farmstead was not therefore wealthy. The 1579 Clifford rent survey for Giggleswick shows that ‘Thomas Browne holdith at L.(Lord’s) Will the viij th parte of one Rode (rood) neire unto his house at Cockhead of the rent of 1d.’ [YAS DD 121/24/2]. The rent survey of 1579 lists Cristofer Cocket renting a croft and two closes for 23d and a 30s entry fine and also mentioned is a close called Cocket estimated at two (customary) acres near the ‘field yeate’. Field Gate is the neighbouring property to Swaw Beck.

The Giggleswick Parish Registers in the period 1566 to 1612 show that Cocket was held by one family, the Brownes. Although we have many wills of members of the Brown family (from 1548 to 1689), only one, for Christopher Browne of Cockett, 1611, mentions Cocket - there is no other relevant information to be gleaned from his will. As recorded in a court case Brown v. Nowell [TNA C3/283/42, RP(SG15)] date range 1596-1616 ‘ Allan Carre late of Capleside in the Countye of york Gen was lawfullie seized amongst dyvers other lands & ten(emen)ts of greate value of and in one messuage or Tenem(en)t and Certaine lands meadowes and pastures with the appurtenances Comonlie called Cockenhead als Cockhead situate lyinge and beinge in Giggleswicke’. After 1612 there is a succession of different residents recorded in the Parish Registers so perhaps Christopher was the last Browne to reside at Cocket. William Johnson, resident in 1674 [Hoyle, 1986 p.16] had only one hearth and was too poor to pay the Hearth Tax in 1672. The house may have been in a poor state at this time.

A deed of 1648 concerns Robert Carr of Hesberthaw, Margaret Wiglesworth, widow, and Thomas Wiglesworth her son of Cocket in Giggleswick [YAS, 1648]. Roger Willson was a resident in 1689 of Cocket and Tofts [Hoyle, 1986 pp. 35,40, 44, 50]. There is reference to Cocket as a residence in 1704 [Maria Reynoldson de Cockit vid; Hoyle, 1986, p.85]. Any change of name of Cocket to Swaw Beck therefore took place after 1704 assuming that they are the same property.

What is the meaning of the name Cocket? Is the 14th century name Cokheud or Cokhed descriptive of an early resident - with a head like a cockerel, a red-head? There is a village in Brittany called Vezin-le-Coquet and this may be the source of the name (coquet meaning neat or pretty in French - dictionary.reverso.net). There is also La Motte-Coquet (Verneuil En Bourbonnais 3500). The ancient local Paley family probably arrived from France with the Conqueror and the settlement at Paley Green not far away may derive from the French village Paley near Paris. A link of Cocket with France is therefore possible. The Old English word cocc probably related to medieval Latin coccus and Greek kokkos can mean a berry or seed or something round - a reference to a round head or bilberry or the like?

The Scottish raids

During the turbulent early 1300s the fortification of houses could have been considered by some householders and the question arises whether Cocket might have been fortified. The nature of the local topography is such that a group of raiders might have chosen to pass this way at some time, to give the inhabitants real cause to worry about their safety and loss of property. Brayshaw [1932] mentions a causeway being nearby, crossing Cocket Moss, west of Little Bank, but its location is not certainly known.

McNamee [1997] has written of the raiding of northern England in the period 1311-1322. The main aim of Scottish raiders was to obtain cash (by means of hostage taking) rather than robbery. Mid-summer of 1316 saw an attack on Yorkshire through Swaledale and Kirkby Lonsdale. The next serious raiders came in 1318 and 1319 travelling by several routes including Airedale and Wharfedale to Ribblesdale. Bolton Abbey, Skipton and Giggleswick suffered, amongst many other places. The taxation Lay Subsidy of 1319 records the vills applying to have their taxes reduced because of the Scottish depredations. The Bolton Priory Compotus [Smith et al., 2000] notes ‘Pro j stirketto liberato de manibus ballivorum apud Setyll post recessum Scotorum’ (for one stirk released from the hands of the bailiffs near Settle after the retreat of the Scots.)

An earlier house - 1600s?

William Harrison (in the 1570s) reported that villagers would marvel at the ‘multitude of chimnies lately erected’ and that ‘everyman will not be quiet till he have pulled downe the old house, if anie were there standing, and set up a new after his own device’ [quoted by Woodforde, 1970]. Thus any house built prior to about 1700 may well have been pulled down. Chimneys are a 16th century improvement so any previous house, pre-1672, may have been built or modified with a chimney in the late 1500s.

Because of the existence of old re-used oak beams in the roof it seems very likely that an earlier building stood nearby. The existence of the granary/byre with a house on its east side, seems probable. One can imagine a smaller house with one or two bays with mullioned windows, one chimney, and a small barn attached at its west end, containing a few cows - a laithe house.

The Swaw Beck house appears to have been built in the early 18th century on a new site on the west side of the extant granary and the large barn (now converted). The existence of another barn to the east has to be accounted for but its age is uncertain. It was probably associated with an early 17th century house, but not attached to it.

Even earlier, in medieval times Cocket Lodge was likely to have been a rough single storey dwelling, with no chimney, probably thatched, but sited in a favourable position for agriculture.

Conclusions

It is not doubted that the house known as Cocket /Swaw Beck has a long history, probably of British/Anglo-Saxon origin, as a small farmholding. After the Conquest the owners were presumably freeholder tenants under a Norman lord subject to feudal rules, later to become freeholder tenants of a lodge owned by the Clifford family. After Dissolution and associated turmoil in the 1500s a simple stone house, maybe thatched, with a single hearth and a barn may well have been built in the 1600s. Oak beams in this building may even have been taken from an earlier property. It is likely that between 1704 and 1726 the house was completely rebuilt on an adjacent new site and renamed, to make more space and provide more comfort for accommodation of people or goods, the granary/byre being retained and a large barn added. The stone and oak beams from an earlier house were re-used since large timbers were valuable. Some of the mullioned windows were also re-used.

Acknowledgements

The observations of Alison Armstrong, Diana Kaneps, David Shore and Dr Tony Stephens have formed the basis of much of this account. Andrew Longbottom, the builder who worked on the house in recent times, has provided valuable professional opinion on building techniques and insight into the construction of Swaw Beck.

References are provided in the web version of this article

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Swaw Beck 1950s
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Swaw Beck 1950s


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Attic east


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Attic central


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