1) A fold was a pen or enclosure for animals, and the inference is that it must often have been a temporary structure, made by fastening hurdles, bars or ‘fleaks’ to fixed stakes.
In his Farming Book Henry Best devoted a whole section to the foldinge of sheepe and wrote in detail about how the folds were constructed, noting which wood was best for the folde barres, and how the bars should be put together. It was a practice usually carried out during the growing period, for that meant that the grazing might be controlled and stock moved from one locality to another. It also meant that areas of ground could be progressively manured: 1557 when it was faughe they did fold ther shepe ther to make the grounde fartill, Bulmer. Henry Best recommended setting the folds on land where it was intended to sow rye or ‘massledine’ the following year, and such a piece of land was said to be fold-mucked. There are frequent references to the practice in medieval documents, and the following agreement formed part of an undated grant to Rievaulx Abbey: ‘The grantor to find and repair a sufficient sheepfold in Stainburg for the monks, and to find sufficient straw in the sheepfold for 200 sheep which were to lie in that sheepfold or the grantor’s fold as the monks’ shepherd should find most convenient. The dung from both places to belong to the grantors’. ‘Faldingworth’ or ‘Follingworth’ are not uncommon minor place-names, especially in the hilly parts of the central Pennines, and since they mean ‘folding enclosure’ this may take the history of the practice back to the Old English period: 1379 Faldyngworth, Norland
1425 Faldingwoth, Rothwell. We are more familiar with the word ‘fold’ in the sense of a small enclosed area near to or adjoining a farm house: 1593 ‘an enclosure called a yarde or foulde’, Dewsbury. In fact there may have been a transitional period in the word’s semantic history for there are references in farming leases which suggest that part of the farmyard may sometimes have continued to be used for ‘folding’. In 1680, for example, the tenant of land at Meltham was allowed so much folding in the south part of the fold there as lyeth south from the south side of the mistall door. There are alternative words for ‘fold’ in this sense: in south and west Yorkshire, for example, it was also referred to, from 1560 at least, as the fold-stead, and, in parts of east and north Yorkshire, foregarth was an alternative. These terms are dealt with separately but in the latter case it was defined in 1618 as the foregarth or foulde adjoining to the north side of the said messuage. The house had been recently extended or rebuilt and the foregarth divided into four equal parts. One of these parts, along with a moietie of the ... barn or lath was leased with the west half of the house and there was to be free roome within the garth … for the theaking and repairing of the lath. The residue was to lye in common for the useage, reparacion and uphoulding of the whole messuage or firehouse . A third meaning of ‘fold’ is the one defined in Easther’s glossary as ‘a collection of cottages, standing in a yard more or less inclosed’. The OED notes this meaning in Lancashire, from 1863, but there is much more to its history. The street directories of the early nineteenth century show that it was by then already an established generic. In Halifax, in 1837, there were town centre localities named Aked’s Fold, Pickles Fold, and Senior’s Fold
in Huddersfield there was Chadwick’s Fold, and in Sheffield Barratt’s Fold. In the town centres these folds came to be associated with cramped living conditions and even squalor. In the Morning Chronicle of 1849 it was reported that the courts and culs de sacs … locally termed foulds, were often inhabited by the very poor and were reeking with stench and the worst sort of abomination. Many such folds have been swept away in slum clearance schemes and few of the town centre names appear to have survived. However, it is quite a different story in some textile villages. In Honley, for example, a township near Almondbury, there are at present Brooke Fold, Jessop Fold, Swift’s Fold and France Fold, all with a local surname as the first element, and Doctor Fold, where a dynasty of village medical men lived out their lives. The folds in such cases were often associated with one family, and the inference is that the number of cottages increased as the families expanded. A manorial survey of Huddersfield, in 1716, seems to catch the word fold at a transitional stage of its development, for it gives the rent paid by John Horsfall for six cottages all within the compass of his Folds. And yet this last use of the word may have a much longer history, particularly in the Calder Valley. In 1654, for example, an entry in the Heptonstall parish register records the baptism of John, son of Richard Hudson of Hudsonfold: other early examples include: 1658 Wilson Fould and 1709 Hopkinson Fold, both in Halifax. In Almondbury Gibson Fold is recorded in 1688 and Megson Fold in 1699-1702. In the latter case the Megsons appear to have left the village of Newsome c.1688 and the families said to be of Megson Fold were called Sykes and Brook. It seems that some of these place-names could survive the departure of the families after whom they were named, at least temporarily.