Michael Bancroft “swapped” a cow... and what happened !







Here’s an interesting little tale from the Leeds Newspaper of 23rd June 1877, entitled ‘Swapped a a Cow, and the Result’ concerning Michael Bancroft, a farmer from the village of Oxenhope near Keighley, and the problems he had with the sale of one of his cows.

Michael Bancroft was born on 6th February 1839 in the Bocking area, which is in the Bingley parish, area although geographically is nearer Keighley. He was the son of Michael and Ann [nee Shackleton], and was one of a family of eight children. His father was a weaver, and later a woolcomber in the area and Michael initially became a house painter, before taking up as a farmer in the 1870’s at a 38 acre farm called ‘Birks’ near the village of Oxenhope.

1881census - Birks Farm


He married Susie Earnshaw [1840-1897] from Oxenhope, and they went on to have at least ten children, several who died in infancy.

Here is the story about the cow incident, taken from the Leeds newspaper:
‘At Keighley Courthouse on Wednesday, the Judge and a jury were engaged for some hours in hearing an action brought by Michael Bancroft against Joseph Wood, to recover a sum of £21, for the alleged detention of a cow. The plaintiff was a farmer at Birks, Oxenhope, and the defendant was also a farmer at Haworth. They had been in the habit of trading with each other for years. And in April last, the plaintiff, who kept milking cows, had a geld which he wished to sell. The defendant called and examined her, and a day or two after the plaintiff examined the cows of the defendant to select one in exchange. A bargain was struck, the plaintiff paid £2-12s-6p, and getting in exchange for his cow one of the defendant’s cows and a calf. The animals were exchanged on the following day [The 19th April]. After the plaintiff’s cow was put in the mistal of the defendant’s, she took ill, and though advised to get a cow doctor to her, he kept her without any attempt to recover her till the 27th April when, [while the plaintiff and his wife were away from home] he sent the cow back, and took away the cow he had given in exchange. The plaintiff, on finding the cow returned, called a local cow doctor, and afterwards a Veterinary Surgeon, who found her suffering from superacute inflammation of the lungs. The cow got gradually worse and died on the 15th May. The defence took the form of a counter claim for damages in consequence of the plaintiff having warranted the cow, and having stated that it was “ all right”. The veterinary surgeon however gave it as his opinion that the cow had, for at least two months been suffering from pulmonary consumption. His Honor asked the jury to consider whether there had been a absolute warranty that the cow was alright, or whether without any warranty, there had been a knowingly false representation on the part of the plaintiff. The jury found for the plaintiff, awarding Bancroft damages of £17-10s, and his Honor expressed concurrence with the verdict.’

Looking at the photograph below, showing the view from Birks Farm, its easy to see how running an isolated small farm on the moors, high up on hills above Oxenhope must have been difficult, particularly in winter, and it looks as though farming did not prove to be a success for Michael and his family because by the time of the1891census Michael, with his wife and remaining six children were now living down in the Lowertown area of Oxenhope, with his occupation listed as a woolcomber.

Michael died on 2nd October 1900, age 61 years, and was buried at Oxenhope Weslyan Burial Ground

view from Birks Farm - 2014

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