Barn Door Graffiti, Keasden

Abigail Amos (edited by Maureen Ellis )
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

In 2002 Abigail Amos who had lived at Keasden in the 1980s wrote an unpublished article with accompanying illustrations about the records that she made of the graffiti of 12 buildings in the Keasden valley. Her article is lodged with the Settle Museum at the Folly and has been made available for this Journal.

She writes as follows. These records were made between 1980 and 1985 during the period that I lived at Lesser High Birks, as it was realised that the trend for conversion of barns into residential properties would cause their permanent destruction. High Birks Wood barn, Lesser High Birks home barn and the middle barn on the access road to Lesser High Birks off the Keasden road have all been converted to dwellings.

There are 48 sheets (of graffiti) representing 12 buildings. Each building was thoroughly searched for incised graffiti and each example is recorded. There will be instances where examples were missed as when stored machinery made access impracticable. Some buildings revealed no graffiti. The old barn door at Lesser High Birks lay on its side inside the barn

The oldest barn door appears to be that at High Birks, the Wood barn. Mr Wallbank said that the house that had once stood beside the barn was one of the oldest in the dale. The fact that outbarns exhibit far more graffiti than do home barns will be of interest to social historians. Farm workers awaiting the next load of hay, avoiding the boss or simply sheltering from the weather, had leisure to cut their initials or symbols into the hard wood doors of remote buildings. Sheep counting marks seem to be mainly on home barns. The shallow incisions and pictorial content, birds, ships, houses and figures are almost always at child height. Initials are everywhere, but genealogists will be frustrated by the comparative rarity of complete names and associated dates.

She lists the following barns:

Keasden Head south outbarn
Keasden Head home barn
Lesser High Birks old barn door
Lesser High Birks new barn door
High Kettlesbeck outbarn NW of house
High Kettlesbeck outbarn by beck
High Grain home barn
High Grain north outbarn
High Grain south outbarn
High Birks home barn
High Birks wood barn shippon door
High Birks wood barn

List of associated names and dates

C. Henley 1828
Ernest Feather 1910
John Close (who farmed Dovenanter End in the 1880s)
G. Holme
Thomas Wallbank High Grain
Bob Wallbank 1903
William Robert Wallbank 1932
J. Lund 1916
R. Garth 1897
G.R.C. Wood
E.C. Wilkinson 1840
E. Thomas 1888
John Jackson ( initials only) owned High Kettlesbeck c 1915
James Smith 1842
John Thomas Harrison
T.H. Townley 1918
Christopher Banks
George Stephen
Alf Leek
T Hawthornethwaite 1844

The Wallbank family have always been a source of social history and Abigail Amos records a conversation with William Wallbank of Rantree in 1985 when he was 81.

'I asked him about the Haythornethwaites' she writes.

They came to Keasden Head in 1860. At that time a family called Scamblers lived at Clue (Clew? ) Hall out on the fell west of Rantree. There were seven little Haythornethwaites and at least seven little Scamblers, the seventh being Septimus. For several years 13 children from the two families made their way up the lane to the school together. The Haythornethwaites did a moonlight flit from their tenancy at Keasden Head, taking all of value with them except their sheep. In those days each tenancy had its own home flock of hefted sheep which technically belonged to the landlord. So the estate gathered all the sheep off Keasden Head and marched them over Burn Moor, collecting in all the fell ones on the way, and penned them on Lamb Hill side. Here, all those belonging to the Haythornethwaites were sorted and sold to defray unpaid rent.

The Scamblers moved to Keasden Head then, but left in 1868. Joshua Scambler had his name incised 'perfect' in a pane of the kitchen window. This glass was still there in Mr. Wallbank's childhood but is gone now.

Abigail Amos showed a great deal of foresight in these recordings, as fallen down doors are often discarded and at least two barns in Keasden have been demolished altogether. The biggest change has been the acceleration of barn conversions in the aftermath of the foot and mouth outbreak. These graffiti are not the marks of lords and ladies but people, mostly men not women, who provided the labour force on the land. One of the notable things is the literacy and numeracy of the carvers.

Abigail Amos' research is likely to encourage others with access to old buildings to follow her lead.

Lesser High Birks old barn door







High Birks wood barn inside shippon door
associated date 1793





High Birks wood barn inside shippon door 1789.
Digital enhancement of original graffiti by Richard Ellis






















Lesser High Birks old barn door

High Birks wood barn inside shippon door
associated date 1793

High Birks wood barn inside shippon door 1789.
Digital enhancement of original graffiti by Richard Ellis