float

1) A tool used by bowyers, represented in the arms of the Bowyers’ Company where it is pictured as a flat plate with teeth on the under side and a handle at the top (OED).

A York bowyer named Richard Clint who became a freeman in 1406 made the following bequests in his will: 1434 Thomć filio meo j zonam de serico ... et meum optimum flote ... Willelmo Scott, servienti meo, j thik flote et j gravour ... Roberto Heburn, servienti meo, j thyn flote and j gravour.

places York
dates 1406 1434

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2) Trenches taking water into fields.

These words have been noted in the West Riding: 1465 juxta le floytyate, Rowley

1482 le common floyt, Rowley

1610 for not keeping Braygill float gapp fenced, Airton. The associations in these cases are all with the control of water so they may be early examples of ‘float’ in the sense explained by Marshall: 1785 ‘The floats are trenches, receiving by the means of floodgates … the waters of a river, brook or rivulet, and conveying it along the upper margin, and upon the tops of the … swells of the field of improvement’. The floating of riverside meadows is a well-documented practice, and research by Mary Higham has shown that similar methods were employed to create retting pools in the production of linen. She identified early retting pool systems in several riverside townships, notably in Newton in Bowland, and that makes the following by-name or surname of interest: 1310 Thomas le Floyter, Appletreewick

1379 Henricus Floyter, Newton in Bowland

1415 Roger Floyter alias Bowland, York. It is not surprising that ‘float’ and ‘flood’ were confused by clerks and one example of that is the locality Floyd Green in Rowley which has the earlier spellings Flood Green and Flowtegren: these establish a clear link with the two fifteenth-century examples of ‘floyt’ already quoted. ‘Floit’ is the usual dialect pronunciation of float.

spellings float gate float gap
dates 1310 1379 1415 1465 1482 1610 1789

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0