| One of the most beautiful of the river crossings in our area
is Cow Bridge, where the road from Long Preston to Wigglesworth (B4478)
crosses the Ribble. Less well known perhaps are the elegant land drainage
works carried out in the ings upstream and downstream of the road. At the
very beginning of the eighteenth century, when the land was drained and
the common fields were finally enclosed, Long Preston Beck was carried on
an aqueduct over the marshland and flood bank of the Ribble to join the
river at Will Crooks, almost opposite the mouth of Wigglesworth Beck.
A related major civil engineering work was undertaken at the same time when the Back Cut was dug over a distance of rather more than two miles to drain the ings. The cut ran from Reedholme below Skir Beck Farm to emerge at a fine masonry portal three hundred yards downstream of Cow Bridge.
The area to be drained and improved was to be protected from damage caused by the overflowing of the "Rivulet named Long Preston Beck". The embankment of the river itself had been constructed at an earlier date but needed extensive repairs. Though the area affected amounted to about three hundred acres, about half had already been enclosed. The 1:25000 Ordnance map shows the contrast between the old enclosure, which still consists of narrow fields, some rather similar to the strips from which they were formed, and the much larger plots constructed under the new scheme.
In 1799 a Bill was presented to Parliament petitioning George III to allow the proposed drainage and enclosure scheme. The enclosures covered not only some 150 acres of Long Preston Ings but a further 450 acres of stinted pastures well up to the north east between the boundary of the parish and Langber Lane. This area too is surrounded by previous ancient enclosures. It has little relevance to the ings, except that it gave much extra weight to those landowners who had interests in both areas. The field names are interesting, especially Cracoe Mire which nowadays has little to do with either Cracoe or a mire, and seems to be remembered in the farm name Crake Moor.
A further area mentioned in the Act and in the Award to which it gave rise is the region of Gallaber Pits and the Town Field. Gallaber Tarn is near to the east boundary of the parish and Gallaber Pits road ran round the northern boundary of the tarn to the north of the Skipton Road, and is now cut off from the village by the railway line. Some of the field boundaries were erased when the railway was constructed but the shape of field number 38 is unmistakable. Holgate Road ran across the railway roughly from New House Farm and appears—perhaps rather surprisingly as it is so close to the parish boundary—to run to the Town Field.
Besides laying down the areas to be included, the Act stipulated both the way in which the proposed enclosures and drainage should be announced and approved (by a notice to be attached to the door of the church, and read out after the Sunday service), and the manner in which the commissioners' decisions were to be recorded and preserved. Such detailed instructions were required for each separate enclosure proposal throughout the country, but in 1804 a general enclosure Act went through Parliament—thus depriving the legal profession of what must have been a quite lucrative aspect of their business.
The process of the law is often seen as grinding extremely slowly. It is refreshing to read that this Act of 1799 required the commissioners to prepare the details and to report before June 24th 1799 with "a true, exact and perfect Survey and Admeasurement" of the ings and the stinted pastures. The survey was to enumerate the precise area and ownership of each of the Proprietors—who numbered at that time about 48. And in addition agreement was to be reached by Christmas Eve between the commissioners and the landholders, both on the size and position of each enclosed and consolidated plot and on the charge to be levied on each proprietor for his or her share of the work done or of the compensation to be paid if the inconvenience were deemed greater than the value. In the event the award was only completed in 1815 and signed on May 25th at the Boar's Head in Long Preston.
The resulting plan and description may be seen at the Record Office in Wakefield, where one copy of the land allotments and of the two plans drawn up for the work, were deposited under the terms of the Parliamentary Act which authorised it. Unfortunately the plan which showed the cattle gates and beast gates to the north east of the village along Langber Lane is no longer with the rest of the documents. A second copy of all these documents was deposited in the Hospital at Long Preston, in a special chest constructed for the purpose. Even more unfortunately the documents have disappeared from the hospital but copies of the Wakefield plans were traced on linen before the second plan disappeared. The nineteen vellum sheets giving details of the survey and allocations, determined by Thomas Buttle of Kirkby Lonsdale, are a great pleasure to handle though something of a struggle to read.
An extract from the award, giving the details of Jennet Abbotson's allocation, illustrates the detail of the commissioners' work:
"We allot and set apart for her a certain Parcel of land upon the said Pasture called Langber Number 3 upon the Plan hereto annexed marked Number 1 bounded as next hereinafter mentioned that is to say on the East by an Allotment (Number 1) herein awarded to the said William Birtwhistle and Robert Birtwhistle, on the West by Langber Road, on the North by an allotment Number 2 herein awarded to John Procter and on the South by the Allotments Number 4 and Number 5 herein awarded to His Grace the Duke of Devonshire and the Trustees of Long Preston Hospital which said Allotment or Share contains in Statute Measure 58 Acres and 25 Perches. And we do hereby order and direct that the said Jennet Abbotson and the future Owners and Occupiers of her said Allotment shall for and in respect thereof erect and make and for ever hereafter keep in repair all the Fence separating her said Allotment from the Allotments of the Duke of Devonshire and the Trustees of Long Preston Hospital Number 4 and Number 5 and the Langber Road and also repair and keep in repair so much of the old Fence on the West side of Langber Road as lays opposite her said Allotment. And we do also allot and set apart for her the said Jennet Abbotson in Lieu of her several Parcels in the said Open Fields a certain Parcel of Land upon the said Fields by the Name of Brigholme and Carr End, Number 10 on the map hereunto annexed marked Number 2 bounded as next hereinafter mentioned (that is to say) on the East by the Back Cut on the West by the River Ribble on the North by an Allotment Number 8 herein awarded to Thomas Battersby and on the South by Ancient Inclosures and an Allotment Number 12 awarded to John Tennant which said Allotment or Share contains 4 a. and 2 r. And we do hereby order and direct that the said Jennet Abbotson and the future Owners and Occupiers of her said last mentioned Allotment shall for and in Respect thereof erect and make and for ever hereafter keep in repair all the Fence separating the same from the Back Cut and the said Thomas Battersby's Allotment Number 8. Then as to the Allotment or Share of His Grace the Duke of Devonshire...".
Roads and Hedges.
Jennet Abbotson, in common with the other proprietors was required to look after the fence along the road bounding her land. Langber Lane was an old road, described as the route from Settle to Otterburn. In many cases accommodation roads were constructed, generally named from the owner of the land to which they led, and these roads replaced all ancient tracks, which were ploughed up to form part of the land allotted. Main roads through the area were to be made 40 feet wide between walls, banks or ditches and it is a curious provision that though trees could be planted beside a road, they had to be at least fifty yards apart.
We may complain nowadays at the cost of photocopying but the Act lays down that the charge levied by the Registrar at the Public Record Office for attested copies of the Award should be 6d for each hundred words. At about this time (Drainage Association account book of 1815) Robert Moorby earned 3/6d per day for repairing flood banks so that eight lines or so of copying would have cost something like an hour of labour. Say £20 for an A4 sheet.
The Drainage Works.
The preambles to the Act and to the final Award make it clear that the river bank itself had already been protected—the flooding of the ings being laid at the door of Long Preston Beck itself. However allowance was made in the final award to raise money for repair of the flood bank.
Originally the work extended from Reedholme, close to the river below Skir Beck Farm, to a point some 300 yards below Cow Bridge and from just below Mill Bridge, where the course of Long Preston Beck levels out as it enters the flood plain, to the river.
An embankment carries the beck from that point, gradually rising above the flood plain—or rather the flood plain falling gradually below the level of the beck—and over the river bank before turning downstream to discharge into the Ribble in a direction which would tend to scour the bed and avoid the formation of a delta. This aim was not entirely successful, and a considerable amount of work has been necessary over the years to clear gravel banks which have interfered with the river flow. Easing of the flood problem in Long Preston has thus been handed on to communities further downstream, to the benefit of the civil engineering profession which has consequently had further calls on its services.
The other line of attack on the drainage problem was to construct the Back Cut, generally parallel to the Ribble, over a distance of about two miles. Where this ditch crosses under the embanked beck a fine stone aqueduct was built to carry the beck, and the opportunity was taken to instal a cast iron flap valve to prevent water from backing any further up into the cut. It is this aqueduct which forms the chief monument to those who carried out the work. It now lies on the land of Mr David Beresford of High Ground Farm, Hellifield who asks members of the Trust to telephone him (0729-850202) for permission if they wish to visit it.
About forty years after the work was completed it was decided that maintenance would be much simplified if the cut were covered over. A further major investment was made at the expense of the beneficiaries in proportion to the acreage of their holdings, to wall the sides of the cut and cover it over with stone slabs and soil. The walls are five feet high near to the outfall but reduce in height further upstream. This resulted in the present impressive structure which may be seen, where it passes under the road, from the southern side of Cow Bridge. It ends, partially blocked by an iron railing, at the outfall. From there I am told that it is easy to walk up the cut—easy, that is, for potholers or midgets—at least for the first few hundred yards. Downstream of the road the cut runs under Mr Roger Beresford's land before joining the river. He too would like potential visitors to telephone (0729-850200) for permission if they wish to walk over his fields.
The Origin of the Ings.
Though flooding produced by nature was the threat of the eighteenth century, it was intentional flooding by the hand of man which provided the threat in the late 1970s when the Water Authority was searching for reservoir sites in the North West. The ings—indeed all the flat water meadow land between the Gas Works bridge (Penny Bridge) at Settle and the narrows at Arnford Wood a mile downstream of Cow Bridge-owe their deep silt and fen-like appearance to a natural dam left by the ice at the narrows as the glacier retreated up the valley. This site for a dam was attractive to the Authority and its engineering advisers who realised how quite a small dam could control so large a body of water. Under this threat of flooding the Drainage Association found it only too tempting to neglect the necessary maintenance work on the cut, which is now in some need of repair.
In the end the water authority chose to raise the dam at Haweswater and this part of Ribblesdale was reprieved.
In these days the Church is struggling to maintain its buildings and its clergy, and such ancient institutions as the House of Lords have their political wings clipped. It is interesting to observe the special conditions afforded both to "The Most Noble William Duke of Devonshire, Lord of the Manor of Long Preston" and to "The Vicar of Long Preston for the Time Being". It was required that those plots consolidated from the scattered property of each of the proprietors in the open fields and stinted moorland pastures should be enclosed, ditched, walled or fenced. Each proprietor was to be responsible for "one side or one end of his, her or their Allotments as near as the same can (all things considered) be done". But this did not apply to Edward Prescott, Vicar of Long Preston, and his successors. Their land was to be "Ring Fenced with Ditches and Quick Set Hedges and other Mounds at the Expence of the other Proprietors", and the commissioners were to allot responsibility for maintenance thereafter for ever. This same exclusion applied to expenses in carrying out all the works, though the cost of the undertaking was to be shared among all the landowners in the ings. Failure to pay the sums assessed by the commissioners within the due time were to result in the sale of goods and chattels or the commissioners were to receive all rents or profits if no goods or chattels were to be had. Under a special clause saving the Lord of the Manor's rights, the Duke retained all rents, perquisites and profits in every way as though the Act had never been passed.
In preparing this article I have been very much helped by Mr George Carr, secretary to the Ings Drainage Association, and by Mr W. Mitchell who generously provided a copy of the Act. The late Dr Raistrick's analysis of the Association's rent books, published in 1944 in the Yorkshire Dalesman, provided much information. I am also grateful to the staff at Wakefield for their help and for allowing me to peruse documents without paying the shilling laid down in the Act.
The Aqueduct and Back Cut. Drawing by the author. 11