We have been getting thoroughly immersed in the history of droving in Scotland and the North of England as we start the process of research for the ‘A Way Through’ project. We began with a scrappy photocopy of a leaflet produced in Kirkby Stephen called ‘The Droving Tradition of the Upper Eden Valley’ which we’ve now found an online copy of here, it mentions an archive which we are currently trying to track down.
The text also led us on to some more general works including A R B Haldane’s ‘The Drove Roads of Scotland’ and Peter Roebuck’s ‘Cattle Droving through Cumbria 1600-1900’ which are providing some fascinating detail, though most of it only really touching on the Westmorland area we will be looking at.
It’s led us to start thinking about what physical remains might we be looking for in the landscape, the routes themselves obviously, but also the ‘stances’ where cattle were pastured overnight and the roadside inns and other places where the drovers refreshed themselves on their long and physically demanding journeys.
Descriptions of drovers are not always very complimentary. An eighteenth century traveller through the Yorkshire Dales, The Hon. John Byng, later Viscount Torrington, was horrified when he visited Gearstones in Ribblesdale : “Crossing a ford, Mr Blakey led me to a public house – called Grierstones, the seat of misery, in a desert; and tho’ filled with company, yet the Scotch fair held upon the heath added to the horror of the curious scenery: the ground in front crowded by Scotch cattle and the drovers; and the house cramm’d by the buyers and sellers most of whom were in plaids, fillibegs [kilts] etc.”
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