Isaac Bancroft saved Ickornshaw Moor !

Ickornshaw Shooters outside the Round Hut - circa 1890


Ickornshaw Moor is the area of moorland above Cowling village, including the hamlet of lckornshaw, right up to the Lancashire border with the becks acting as natural boundaries. It is beautiful moorland, with ever changing scenery through the seasons, traversed by footpaths and bridleways, which can still be enjoyed today.

History tells us that Ickornshaw Moor is included in the wastes or commonlands of the manor of Ickornshaw. In or about 1565 Richard Tirrell, Lord of the Manor at that time, sold the tenants of the manor their ancient holdings, making them freeholders. In 1583 his son, Edward Tirrell, conveyed the Lordship or Manor of Cowling, including the commons, moors, and wastes of moors to those freeholders. The freeholders held the land in undivided shares of 304 equal parts., in proportion to the amount of rent each had previously paid. There is a deed to this effect dated 1657. There were originally 24 freeholders, but through the years these rights were passed down through generations or sold, so the number of freeholders became much greater and widespread as people moved further afield.

Ickonshaw Moor is reputed to be an excellent grouse moor, and villagers have enjoyed shooting rights across it for many years. These men were known as the Shooters to begin with, eventually becoming Cowling Gun Club in 1975. Voluntary subscriptions were collected to pay for the upkeep of a new stone shooting hut used by the Shooters, and built in 1902 on the site of an earlier smaller Round Hut [See this in the picture at the top], and the official opening of the new Stone Hut is shown below.

The new Stone Hut grand opening - 1902
And here is a more modern picture of the Stone Hut from the rear, with the addition of a lean-to, built onto it in more recent times.

Ickornshaw Moor and Stone Hut 

 There have been many disputes over Ickornshaw Moor through the years, some concerned with boundary disputes, some with shooting rights - which have been staunchly defended by the shooters. In August 1892 almost the entire village congregated on the moor on the glorious 12th to show a united front against Messrs. Pepper and Houldsworth, who had purchased rights to shoot from a minority of villagers in order to extend their existing rights to Emmott Moor which runs adjacently. This show of strength was too great and, despite one more attempt to shoot over the moor and several visits to court, shooting rights remain within the village and a Gun Club is still in existence today.

Back in 1880, the following articles, regarding shooting rights, appeared in the local newspaper.

 Alleged Game Trespass at Cowling Petty Sessions, Skipton,     
                                           August 21st 1880

The following men were summoned for game trespass on the moor at Cowling.

Smith Shuttleworth, Painter, Cowling.
William Teal, Farmer, Colne.
Blackburn Robinson, Keighley.
Thomas Burry, Manufacturer, Nelson.
Richard Roberts, Manufacturer, Nelson.
William Smith, Silsden.
John Jackson, Silsden.
Isaac Atkinson, Farmer, Cowling.
Wright Greenwood, Woolsorter, Haworth.
George Binns, Warp Dresser, Cowling.
James Stephenson, Warp Dresser, Cowling.
William Wilkinson, Bradford William Turner, Bradford
Isaac Bancroft, Stonemason, Cowling.

 From the statement of the prosecuting solicitor, it appears that the right of shooting on the moor in question is disputed, but that an arrangement has been come to that all summonses on the defendants should be withdrawn with the exception  of that for Isaac Bancroft. The defendants promised in open court not to trespass again and to pay costs.


 Mr Neill, who appeared for the defendants, ,who said that they were perfectly willing to do so, as the person who gave them liberty to shoot game, he found. had not the right to do so. The promises having been made, the defendants were dismissed.

 The hearing of the case against Isaac Bancroft, who is said to have a right to shoot on the moor, was adjourned.

A Question of Shooting Rights on lckornshaw Moor,
Cowling Petty Sessions at Skipton, September 4th 1880
Judge T.H Ingham in the Chair

 Isaac Bancroft, Stonemason of Cowling, was summoned for trespass in search of game on the moor near Cowling. Mr Nowell, solicitor of Burnley prosecuted and Mr Neill represented the defendant. From the opening statement on Mr Nowell it would appear that fourteen persons had been summoned for the offence, and at the session a few weeks ago, thirteen of the defendants had apologised in open court, and in paying expenses, the summons were withdrawn.


 The present defendant claimed to have a right to shoot over the moor in question and declined to adopt the course adopted by the other defendants. In consequence, the case was adjourned until today, in order that enquiries might be made as to the question of right.


 The prosecution stated that the people residing in the district claimed to have a right to shoot over the moor, whereas they had no right at all, and in the second place most of the persons claiming a right had signed an agreement with Mr Foulds of Burnley, which contained a paragraph to the effect that persons would be prosecuted for trespassing on the moor after that time.. In spite of that, the defendant went upon the moor, and it would be up to Mr Neill to show that the defendant had the right, which he claimed, to go on the moor and shoot game.. As far as Mr Nowell, the prosecutor could learn, the defendant claimed the right through some deed left by his father [James Bancroft of Fairplace Farm], and if such was the case, probably the deed would be provided. The simple statement that the defendant was the owner of the common property would not he sufficient to claim.

Mr Neill, defending, said that the conveyance of the property under which they claimed a right was made in 1841, and his client had shot on the moor for a period of thirteen years, and his brother for two years before him without any interference from anyone.

James Bancroft, the defendant's father, stated that he took from his father a plot of land at lckornshaw on which eight cottages were afterwards erected. The tenant had the right to take Ling, Bedding, etc from off the moor adjoining.
Isaac Bancroft stated that he had shot on the moor for thirteen years without any interruption. He got his licence to do so off his father.
Mr Nowell, at some length, contended that the evidence did not prove a reasonable claim, and in support of this quoted various decisions in the superior courts.

After the matter had been fully argued, it was decided by the Bench that it was not a case for them to deal with, and the summons was dismissed

His Honour Judge Ingham, in giving his decision added that the people of the Hamlet of Ickornshaw had a "JUST RIGHT TO THE MOOR". That expression of opinion would seem to be enough, as nothing more was hear of this attempt. It would seem by his actions the Isaac Bancroft "HAD SAVED THE MOOR FOR THE INHABITANTS OF THE VILLAGE".

The right to freedom of access to Ickonshaw Moor remains within the village, and moorland life continues much as it always has, and the picture below shows the Ickornshaw Freeholders having a brew outside their stone hut after a day's shooting in 1936 [courtesy of the Cowling Moonrakers website]

Ickornshaw Freeholders - 1936
Isaac Bancroft let a very interesting life,and I wrote about him and his skills as a stonemason and builder in a previous article, called: 'Quarrymen of Cowling'


[I am grateful to Mr Dennis Harker of Cowling and the Moonrakers of Cowling website for some of this information]
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