1) A pointed iron bar, which served to 'poke' or agitate the coals in a fire.

In 1676-7 Francis Nettleton attacked John Crosley of Tong with a hote firepoint. An amusing but confused use of the word was quoted by an Almondbury minister, the Rev. Alfred Easther. Writing about the noted local character Joe o’ Nuppits, he related how Joe had made his way to Padiham, in Lancashire, begging along the way. He fared badly and found the journey more than he had bargained for: on his return he complained that he had stopp’d at Padiham sooa long that his legs had swelled as thick as firepoints. The Halifax historian John Watson included ‘fire-point’ in his glossary of local words in 1775 with the explanation that it was ‘so called perhaps from its having a sharp end’. In one sense that was true, but the explanation masks the fact that ‘fire-point’ was itself a popular form of the even earlier ‘fire-pote’. The vowel in ‘pote’ was made into a diphthong by dialect speakers, which resulted in an almost inevitable confusion with ‘point’. To ‘pote’ or ‘poit’ had a variety of related meanings but was still commonly used to describe the action of agitating or moving about with a stick or some other implement. The ‘fire-pote’ was simply a fire poker. This spelling is recorded in Yorkshire documents from the sixteenth century. When Richard Thewlis of Dalton died, in 1588, he had one fire pote listed among his possessions by the appraisers and in 1644 Gamaliel Bingley of Lepton had two iron ranges brigges two fier poits and two payre of Tongues. Occasionally an abbreviated form occurred: 1622 one iron range, bridgs, poyt, tonges, rackes and spites, Cottingley. Other local documents show that the ‘fire pote’ could also be a formidable weapon. In a witchcraft case of 1652 a Huddersfield woman called Hester France was brought to trial at York, and in evidence one of her detractors recalled how she had one day been mending the fire with the fire poite when Hester France burst into her house, looked at the implement in her hand and threatened to seare her lipps with itt. Other women went beyond mere threats: in 1720, John Lightowlers tried to arrest Joseph Maud but the prisoner’s wife Mary run after him with an iron fire pote and struck him over his back and arms … thrust at him and made a hole in his coat and afterwards, when he had taken the fire pote from her, burst his nose with her fist till blood gushed out, Northowram. It was of course an implement always ready to hand and there can be no doubt that it played its part in many an ale-house argument. In 1672, Michael Broadley was beaten over the head, first with a frying pann and after with a fyer poyte, Halifax.

spellings fire-pote
dates 1588 1622 1644 1652 1672 1676-1677 1720

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