Cow Shutt Fen

1) A place-name, perhaps part of the town's common meadow.

The earliest spellings of this place-name occur in the manorial court rolls in the 1500s. In 1525 the hedges in Cutler Lane had to be trimmed so that tenants might carry hay from Cowshotfen … as they had been accustomed and in 1541 tenants who had meadow in Cowshotfen were ordered to transport stone to two local lanes where repairs were being carried out. The number of wain loads depended on the number of acres in their possession so it was an obligation of their tenure, which suggests that Cowshotfen was part of the town’s common meadow. The fact that it was ‘town’ land persuaded Smith that ‘shot’ should be interpreted as ‘shut’, that is a division of land, but this word referred to arable and not meadow so an alternative explanation may be required.A clue to the origin can be found in the advice on matters of husbandry that John Kaye of Woodsome gave to his children c.1570: scarr [scare] the cowshott and the craw from thy pure wheat, a recommendation that bird-scarers should be employed when the wheat was almost ready to harvest. The ‘cowshott’ was the voracious wood pigeon, a regional term on record from the Old English period, listed as ‘cushat’ in the OED but with a 400-year gap in the evidence.That space can be occupied by minor place-names from townships in and around Wakefield, all of them close to Methley. In 1324 ‘Henry de Swillington had licence to take a piece of land and meadow in Alvirthorp … called Coushotedole

in 1333 Margery Mote surrendered several pieces of land in Stanley ‘into the hand of the lord’ which included ‘a rood called Couchotrode’, and in 1364 an acre of land held by Robert Walker of Wakefield in Ossett ‘abutted on le Couschotcliff’. In all these minor names and also in Methley, I believe, the reference is to the wood pigeon. The origin of ‘cushat’ remains obscure but there is no doubt that the bird was commonly known by that name in and around Wakefield and it would have foraged in the low-lying fens between the Aire and the Calder.

dates 1324 1333 1364 1525 1541 1570

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