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A Brief History Of Ickornshaw Moor.
By Kathryn Wilson - Cowlingweb

Ickornshaw Moor is the area of moorland above Cowling village, including the hamlet of Ickornshaw, right up to the Lancashire border with the becks acting as natural boundaries. It is a beautiful moorland, with ever changing scenery through the seasons, traversed by footpaths and bridleways which can still be enjoyed today.
This area of land had seen the activities of man throughout the ages. A Mesolithic site was excavated and dated to 6,000 B.C. A display at Cliffe Castle Museum in Keighley holds several artefacts found during the excavation, including arrow heads and a tranchet axe. There is little other historical evidence about the area until much later, other than the remnants of place names left from Danish occupation - Ickornshaw meaning Squirrel Copse.
Later history tells us that Ickornshaw Moor is included in the wastes or commonlands of the manor of Ickornshaw. In or about 1565 Richard Tirrell, Lord of the Manor at that time, sold the tenants of the manor their ancient holdings, making them freeholders. In 1583 his son, Edward Tirrell, conveyed the Lordship or Manor of Cowling, including the commons, moors, and wastes of moors to those freeholders. The freeholders held the land in undivided shares of 304 equal parts, in proportion to the amount of rent each had previously paid. There is a deed to this effect dated 1657. There were originally 24 freeholders, but through the years these rights were passed down through generations or sold, so the number of freeholders became much greater and widespread as people moved further afield.
Although technically rights to Ickornshaw Moor are restricted to residents of Ickornshaw and other present day freeholders, it was generally held that anyone living in Cowling Parish had the right o enjoy freedom of access to the moor, including rights to turbary (taking peat), rush and bracken gathering before the arrival of straw bales, and taking game, and that farm owners or tenants had grazing rights.
Ickornshaw Moor is reputed to be an excellent grouse moor, and villagers have enjoyed shooting rights across it for many years. These men were known as the Shooters to begin with, becoming Cowling Gun Club in 1975.Voluntary subscriptions were collected to pay for the upkeep of a stone hut used by the Shooters, built in 1902 on the site of an earlier, smaller hut. The Shooters also took part in heather burning and repairing crossing places. A man named Lot Shuttleworth spent much time living in the hut, which he painted and whitewashed, and in return was given a gaming license and cartridges. He also repaired paths, trapped vermin, and helped with heather burning. Although he could never afford his own gun, he was so respected for his hard work on the moor, one of the Shooters left him a gun in their will. The stone hut fell into disrepair after the second world war and had new windows and doors installed in 1968/9 which were paid for by subscriptions.
There have been many disputes over Ickornshaw Moor through the years, some concerned with boundary disputes, some with shooting rights - which have been staunchly defended by the shooters. In August 1892 almost the entire village congregated on the moor on the glorious 12th to show a united front against Messrs. Pepper and Houldsworth, who had purchased rights to shoot from a minority of villagers in order to extend their existing rights to Emmott Moor which runs adjacently. This show of strength was too great and, despite one more attempt to shoot over the moor and several visits to court, shooting rights remain within the village and the Gun Club is still in existence today. The most recent dispute was over ownership in 1980, and lasted several years.
The Commons Registration Act of 1965 required all land in the country to be registered, so in 1967 Cowling Parish Council registered the 774 acres of Ickornshaw Moor as being "common land", with 76 holders of rights listed in the registry, made final in 1975. In 1980 a Commons Commissioner was instructed to establish an owner of the land, and so ensued a legal battle which began in October 1980 and went all the way to the High Courts. There were three claims to ownership of the moor - the Freeholders of Ickornshaw, Cowling Gun Club, and Margaret and Robert Feather.
The Feathers' claim was to ownership of a strip of land running along the eastern edge of Ickornshaw Moor and the western boundary of Stott Hill Moor, which they were already accepted as owning. The dispute here was due to a difference in boundary markings between Register maps and earlier ones. The Feathers' claim was upheld after the examination of papers from 1954.
Both the Gun Club and the Freeholders were claiming ownership of the whole moor with the intention of retaining ownership within the village, and safeguarding use of the moor for generations to come. At the initial hearing the courts decided that neither had a case and the land remained in the care of Cowling Parish Council. The Gun Club later withdrew their case in the hope that a single appeal from the village - the Freeholders - would stand a better chance in court, and in the expectation that they would still be afforded shooting rights and the status quo would continue. The Parish Council formed a board of trustees for the moor, representative of all moor users. The Ickornshaw Freeholders Association represented by Mr. David R. Pedley, himself a freeholder, lodged several more appeals using extensively researched documents and maps dating back to the 1500s. The courts however were not to be moved and due to a number of factors - difficulty in tracing old documents, definition of certain legal terms in those old documents, and finances - the Freeholders' claim was eventually withdrawn.
Today the right to freedom of access to Ickornshaw Moor remains within the village, and moorland life continues much as it always has.

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