1) Probably a display site for blackgrouse or black cocks.

This fascinating word incorporates Old Norse leikr meaning ‘play, sport’ and as a minor place-name it has been noted at least a dozen times in Yorkshire, e.g. 1605 at Whiteyside, at a place called Cocklakes, Grinton. Unfortunately many of the examples are quite late and their identification is not always straightforward. The earliest on record is le Cokelayke in Hartlington which survives as Cocklake Ridge, whereas Cockleyckebanke in Rathmell is now Cockley Bank. Some ‘Cockleys’ clearly belong here and I have no doubt that the full corpus of names should include many localities in the northern counties which now have the spellings Cocklaw, Cocklet, Cocklick and Cocklock.The history of a Slaidburn place-name provides evidence of such variations, illustrating the problem that scribes were having with the suffix by the seventeenth century. The locality is likely to be the Cocklaik where James Robinson was living in 1601 but later forms include: 1625 Cockland

1639 Cocklick and 1713 Cocklicks. These suggest that the meaning was no longer transparent to clerks, who were perhaps not local men, but neither can we be certain that ‘cocklake’ had survived in everyday vocabulary. Wright listed it as a West Riding word and quoted a reference by Lucas in Studies in Nidderdale, but reference to the text shows that the author was speculating about the meaning of a local place-name.Nor can we be certain when the word came into use but it certainly has a very long history and there are much earlier examples elsewhere in the north-west of the country: c.1240 Cokelaikemoore in Westmorland and 1189 Cockelayc in Cumberland, a ‘lost’ locality. It is quite possible therefore that its history goes back to the years before the Norman Conquest.The literal meaning of the two elements is ‘cock – play’ and several interpretations of that have been offered by editors of place-name works, including ‘place frequented by grouse’ and ‘place where woodcock play’: Diana Whaley goes a little further, saying ‘the place where blackcocks play’ but the explanation which comes closest to the meaning, at least in my view, is that of Bruce Dickins who treated cokelayk as a single item and quoted Lady Henley’s suggestion that it is a term for the display site of the black grouse or blackcock. The dialect word lek is still used for these ‘arenas’ which are situated in open locations with short vegetation. The birds return year after year to the same patch of ground and it is easy to see how the word became a place-name. Indeed it is a prolific minor name, with almost thirty examples already noted in the three counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Yorkshire, all in the north-west of the country. Other sites may have less specific names, such as lekestaynes recorded in Thorpe near Linton in 1471. The term might be of special interest to ornithologists, since the black grouse has declined in recent years and a distribution map of Cocklake would provide information about the bird’s former range.

dates 1189 1240 1305 1471 1601 1605 1618

Related Content Loading...

Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0