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Rights of Cowling Freeholders
Newspaper article 1927
History of Ickornshaw Moor
Supplied By: Mrs Anne Akeroyd
In spite of the information recently given to a meeting of the ratepayers of the parish of Cowling, the question of the freehold shooting and grazing rights on Ickornshaw Moor has up to the present time been inadequately explained. Through the kindness of a well-known gentleman of legal and antiquarian reputation, a much more definite analysis of the matter is available, and in the following statement made by him the public have a more authoritative and legally accurate summary of the facts than has ever been given before.

Ickornshaw Moor is included in the wastes or common lands of the Manor or Lordship of Ickornshaw (or Cowling as it was commonly called), the Manor itself forming part of the present township or parish of Cowling.

The whole of England was formerly divided into manors held directly or indirectly from the Crown. The lordship or ownership of a manor, including the soil of the wastes or common lands thereof (i.e. those parts of the manor which had not been enclosed), was vested in the Lord of the Manor, and he could exercise all the rights of ownership, e.g. shooting over such lands, but subject to the "common rights" of the tenants of the manor, i.e. the right of such persons as owned enclosed lands within the manor (which they held of the Lord of the Manor and for which they rendered service and paid quit rents) to get peat and to turn out their cattle, sheep, etc. to pasture on the common lands.

In some manors, e.g. Stothill, also in the township of Cowling, this still holds good, and the soil of Stothill Moor and the shooting over it still belongs to the Lord of the Manor, subject to the right of the tenants of tie manor, or freeholders (i.e. the owners of ancient holdings or farms in tie manor) to get peat and to turn out to pasture on the moor in summer as many animals as their farms will keep in winter.

The other manors, e.g. Keighley, the Lord of the Manor and the freeholders have obtained an Inclosure Act and the wastes and common lands have been divided among them in "allotments" in proportion to the size of their ancient holdings and all common rights have been thereby extinguished.

But in the case of the manor of Ickornshaw, or Cowling, a different course was adopted. In or about the year 1565 the then Lord of the Manor, Richard Tirrell, Esq of London, sold to the tenants of the manor three ancient holdings in fee simple, reserving only quit rents, which amounted in all t0 15.4s.3d thereby making them "freeholders" of their respective holdings or farms. And in 1583 his son, Edward Tirrell, of Aeshton in Essex, conveyed to these freeholders the manor or lordship of Cowling (as it was called) including "the commons, moors and wastes and certain privileges and royalties to the said manor belonging" and also released them from payment of the quit rents. The freeholders, having in this way become themselves co-owners of the lordship and of the wastes and common lands thereof, including Ickornshaw Moor, proceeded to convey to each freeholder so many parts in the same, the whole being divided into 304 parts, and the number of parts taken by each freeholder being proportionate to his quota of the total amount of the former quit rents. For many years after this time the draftsman of a conveyance of any farm within the manor was careful to include in the description of property conveyed the number of parts in the moors, etc of Cowling to which such farm was entitled, and though the practice has fallen into disuse the right still remains.

The commons, moors and wastes of the manor, including Ickornshaw Moor, thus became vested in the freeholders as tenants-in-common, i.e. each of them had a separate and defined but undivided share therein and they might at any time have agreed to a division being made, each taking his own share and giving up his rights in the remainder. But they have never done this and in the meantime each freeholder is entitled to exercise all the right of ownership, e.g. shooting, pasturage, on the whole of the said commons, etc. including Ickornshaw Moor, in the same way that any one of several tenants in common of a field can walk over the whole of it. They may, of course, at any time agree to let such rights to a tenant, and they have sometimes done so in respect of getting lime boulders out of the back for burning, but they have never, it seems, all agreed to let the shooting; and it was the ill-advised attempt of a would-be shooting tenant, who had obtained a lease of the shooting from some of the freeholders to prevent others from exercising their rights, which gave rise to the disturbances in 1802.

But it must always be borne in mind that no one tenant in common is entitled to exercise his rights in such a way as to injure or diminish the enjoyment by his co-owners of their similar rights, and although the moor has never, it would seem, been "gaited" or "stinted" i.e. the number of cattle or sheep which each freeholder may turn on has never been defined, it is quite clear that no one freeholder is entitled to turn on more sheep whether his own or some other persons, or to shoot or to allow others to kill more game than his share. What that share is would have to be ascertained, e.g. by setting the number of shares his farm is entitled to, as compared with the whole 304 shares, against the number of sheep that the moor can carry or the proper amount of game that ought to be killed, or it may be that there has been some more recent apportionment among the freeholders or the respective rights. In any freeholder were to pasture more sheep or kill more game than his share the other freeholders would be entitled to take legal proceedings to prevent him continuing to do so. It is doubtful how far the sub-division by sales, etc. of any particular farm, or the ownership of any property other than a farm would entitle the present owners to "freehold" rights. Another feature incident to a tenancy in common, unless recent legislation has made any alteration in the lay, is that if any one owner applies to the Court for an order for partition or division of the property between himself and his co-owners, the Court is bound to make such an order; or if it is proved that it would be more advantageous to the co-owners to order a sale the Court may, and if a majority (in value) of the co-owners so apply, it must order a sale. If such an application were made by any freeholder it would probable be found that it would be more to the advantage of the freeholders as a whole to order a sale rather than a partition, and if this were done the moor would be sold by public auction as freehold to the highest bidder, the nett proceeds divided among the freeholders according to their shares, and all rights now exercised on the moor (except rights of way) extinguished. This course was actually adopted in the case of Stanbury Moor, which belonged to the freeholders of Stanbury; the Moor was sold by public auction about the year 1903 under an Order of the Court, and purchased by the Keighley Corporation as part of the catchment area of their water undertaking, and the nett proceeds of sale divided among the freeholders.

It would seem, therefore, that the Acts for regulating Commons, etc do not apply to Ickornshaw Moor, and that neither the public nor the inhabitants, the householders, nor the ratepayers of Cowling, as such, have any rights over the moor, other than public rights of way.
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