1) To ‘peel’ or remove the bark from trees.
It was evidently an ancient practice: 1277 ‘He is also accused of barking hollies’, Wakefield. Later references include: 1501 Thomas Ternour ... has pylled hollynnes ... and cutt esshwod by divers tymes, Selby
1564 noe inhabitant … shall pill any barke of any oake, ash, holling or elder, Giggleswick
1658 to pill, fell, cut downe … the wood, trees, underwood and barke in Dodger Roide Springe, Tong
1739 To the Pillars when Pilled the Reign, Whitley. In a colourful deposition at the Quarter Sessions in 1682 it was claimed that the servants of John Firth did in a very riotous manner enter into the groundes and woods of Sir Lyon Pilkington … and did take away his barke which was pilled and turned the ladders where severall of the workmen were pilling … and carried the same awaie, Bradley. In the East Riding the word was also used in the preparation of flax and hemp for spinning: 1587 Item certain pillyd tow and unpylled towe vjs
1606 Item sommer hempe pilld & unpild, South Cave. Other inventories for South Cave have references in 1588 to a stonn of pilling towe and in 1592 to certayne pylling hemp.