Pre-17th century

Stuart Period 1603-1713

This would be the last time period before the Chevin common wasteland became enclosed. The commoners rights would have continued to be cutting of turf (first mentioned in 14th Century), peat and underwood for fuel, collecting of bracken and stone.

Records show “rutting and spoiling the lord’s wood” and “Stubbing up by the roots and cutting down woods at Hollins Otley in a place called Poulskar”.

The lord was also entitled to pasture sheep on the common. “Inhabitants have rights of common for cattle, horses, sheep and for turbury; they have encroached upon the common and kept horses, hogs and geese; graved up the soil for turves and cut down underwood”.  A report to the Archbishop shows a Chevin long dug, delved, scarred and exploited – both by official licence and unauthorised activity. 1653 Henry Snider was brought to task for “not filling in the holes upon the common of Otley out of which be broake stones”; and Timothy Dixon of Carlton was “dogging” on the common shortly after. “John Scott upon the oath of Henry Wiley, hath broken stones in Shiffin and not filled up the holes again, contrary to a pain formerly layde”.

Frequent stone delving records in courts was the historic activity of Otley inhabitants for a variety of uses such as slates, stoops, crosses and querns. Surface boulders of the lower slopes would have been split and cleared for many generations until the natural rocky landscape remained a feature of only the higher ridge.

Urban rebuilding would have commenced in this time period and demanded major common stone quarries. Leases refer also to the “millstone quarry lyeing in Shevin”. The carting and sledging of such heavy loads from outcrops and quarries in changing locations across the hill has added another layer to the already complex pattern of older tracks.

In 1699 Otley, Carlton and Guiseley men were in court for “breaking stones to make an oven upon the waste of our lord”. This may have been related to a concern of bracken conservation on the Chevin, and cases of mowing and burning bracken before allotted seasonal times (which may weaken it) suggest a value placed on it. 1653 “Mowing of brackens off Shiven before tyme” was an offence in the manorial court.

A local historian stated “Soap was scarce in those days, but a good substitute was found in brackens, which were extensively used for fulling purposes”. Medieval fullers of Otley’s Walkergate were local finishers of woollen cloth. As well as potash soap and cloth production, bracken potash could also be used for tallow chandlers goods, burning lime, and animal bedding.

Roads, tracks and footways across the Chevin connected the town with its common pasture, woodland and quarries, and neighbours to the south. Many winding routes of tracks and path may have been used by pedestrians, farmstock, horse-riders, pack-pony, cart or sledge. Routes would have been needed to and from Caley, Bramhope, Carlton, Yeadon, Guiseley and Menston.

Yeoman farmers are likely to have been gaining in wealth during this time (at the expense of the growing class of landless poor) and one Otley yeoman family by the name of Dade is likely to have installed a horse trough for drinking water at a location known as Dades Well near the top of East Chevin Road – which would have provided welcome relief to horses and people struggling up this main route from Otley.

(Source for much of the above from Paul Wood’s excellent book “A guide to the landscape of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Otley”)

<Romano British18th century (Victorian)>