A Peep into the Past

Courtesy of Elizabeth Shorrock

Oral history collected from residents at Greenfoot around the 1980s included material on leisure activities in and around Settle during their early lives. A gentleman who came in to Day Care - a man who was born and spent most of his life in Settle area - had this to say.

Around the early 1800s cock-fighting seems to have been the main source of pleasure, although it must be emphasized that it is known that bull-baiting took place in Settle market centre. Concerning the cock-fighting each village in the district seems to have had a special place and day for those cock fights to take place. These fights were known as mains and they were arranged between local owners. Vast numbers of people attended and this included drinking orgies and betting, skulduggery and all the other evils that one associates with an illegal activity.

A main was held at Giggleswick on the 12th March every year in the Grammar School grounds and here one wonders what the Headmaster thought as he herded his small charges out of sight and hearing away from such disreputable conduct. Here I think we should also mention that the beating of the bounds took place on the same day, where all the local dignitaries including also school boys walked the parish boundary. At each junction in the boundary the boys set to bravely with sticks and beat the boundary firmly and having done that they then started to beat one another.

One other illegal activity which seemed to have been very popular throughout the whole district was that of salmon poaching. Many large succulent salmon were taken at many points along the river from north of Settle to Halton West and many a fine specimen in Giggleswick, Settle and Langcliffe. There were quite a few different methods of catching the fish. One method was known as lowing. A long pole was used which had three iron prongs and rags attached that had been soaked in tar then ignited. These showed where the fish lay - then they were impaled on the three prongs on the end of the pole. One other method was known as cobbling. This meant that a net was stretched across the river. The salmon were then stoned or cobbled into the net.

Another notable activity was mischief night. This was a night claimed by the youth of the district as a way of letting off steam. The village constable was conspicuous by his absence. The highlight at Langcliffe was the removal of all movable objects from their present site to the large tree in the centre of the village and next morning the tree resembled a hardware store. Barrows, buckets, brushes, clothes’ props and gates were all to be found in this collection. This seems to have been the general trend of youth throughout the district on this particular night.