1) The plant or plants which we refer to collectively as ‘moss’ are found clustered together in damp places, often on walls or trees, and this ‘material’ was used over a long period for bedding in slates and stopping crevices in dams and walls, from the thirteenth century at least (SZ1/266).
In Durham there is a record of women collecting 'mosse pro eodem [stagno]' in 1324-5. Evidence in Yorkshire dates from the mid-fourteenth century: 1351pro vadiis unius femine colligentis mosse pro reparacione cooperture, Hartshead
1453-5 Et de 5d sol. pro quinque pond. de mosse empt. ad eundem opus, Ripon
1511-2 Sclaytston, 4d, ad idem opus, ac del mose, 1d, Ripon
1570-1 with thack, mose and morter, Brockholes
1652 to maintaine and upholde the premises with thatch, mosse, glasse and morter, Whitley. The practice is recorded regularly into the nineteenth century and gave rise to a verb: 1809 Paid for Mossing William Charnock’s House, Ovenden.
2) A swamp or morass, a peat-bog.
These were common landscape features, and ‘moss’ is a frequent element in northern place-names from the twelfth century. Typical compounds are Moss Carr, listed seven times by Smith and first recorded in Methley: 1380 ‘Hugh de Caille did not scour his ditches … from Mossekerr to the Coitgrene’, an offence which resulted in flooding. Of equal interest are Moss Hagg, Mossy Sikes, Mosley Mires and two ‘Moss Crops’, the last of these from a word applied to various species of cotton-grass. It was a popular generic also, and Blakmosse was recorded in 1205-11. Typical moorland names in this category include Fleet Moss, Holme Moss and the more evocative Featherbed Moss which occurs in Bradfield, Grassington, Meltham and Saddleworth. The mosses were a source of peat, and responsible for a number of distinctive vocabulary items, especially ‘moss room’, not listed in the OED. This was a division in a ‘common’ moss, and it gave a tenant the right to extract peat and turf: 1556 Item towrves oppon the mosse xiijs iiijd, Kirkham, Lancashire. In 1684, William Pennington’s property in Whittington included one Mosse room and the term is implicit in a Rathmell lease of 1664. This granted land to Henry Walmsley on Rathmell Moor reserving to Henry Clarke a parcel of Mosse being in the East end thereof as the same is marked and meared and staked forth for diging, getting, graveing and drying of peates, turves and fuell in the said Mosse. An alternative was ‘turf room’: 1722 The turbary or Turfe-Mosse in Hamerton Dalehead, One Turfe-room in Small Gill Moss, One Turfe room in the White Moss, Wigglesworth. In a dispute about peat-getting rights in Lingards, in 1627, one witness complained that trespassers with their Cart wheles upon the soft Mosse had so worne the soyle that a boundary stream had altered its course.