sow

1) Workmen used the word ‘sow’ for a large oblong piece of solidified metal, from the fifteenth century at least.

The cast pig-iron at a furnace flowed into a ‘runner’, a depression in a bed of sand, and then into branched channels known as ‘sows’. The name is said to have arisen because this pattern resembled piglets feeding from a sow. In 1701, Robert Sorsby’s shop in Sheffield contained sow metall Boxes. The analogy is absolutely clear in the accounts of ironworks in Sussex: in 1542-3, for example, money received for swine pannage drew a distinction between Sowes, pygges and shottes: stocks of iron in 1563 were similarly referred to as Sowes and Shott. The ‘shott’ was a young pig, one that had been weaned.

spellings sow metal

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2) A common alternative spelling of ‘sough’.

1539 shall kep oppyn his watter cowrce cawilyd a sowe, Ossett: 1590 turne one water course ... or else sowe it under the grounde into the Calder, Dewsbury

1598 liberty for sinkeinge, soweinge and making of pitts, Thornton

1655 opening a sowe upon Baildon Moor

1701 for repair of the way … damaged per that coal pitt sow, Horton

1718 John Smith for by worke in the Sow, Farnley.

dates 1539 1590 1598 1655 1701 1718

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Photo by Kreuzschnabel CC BY-SA 3.0