Cowl House, Bransdale West

Cowlhouse - Home of Newark Wilson family

This house, situated on the west side of Bransdale, NRY - just south of the head of Bransdale, called 'Cockayne' - was built in 1747 by William Garbutt of Bilsdale. It was added to, the roof raised, at various times in its history, so that it is now known as a 'longhouse' - one of several in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The house is listed as as a historical site, and is part of the National Trust property of the North Yorkshire Moors. It is consider one of the 'lesser secular monuments' of the area, located at SE 616967. It has two storeys, is made of stone (course squared rubble) and has pantiles on the roof.

The house and buildings are built in a line up a slope with an isolated group of buildings to the south. Most had been built by 1819 (NYCRO ZEW M 29).

West Bransdale with Cowl House to left

The house and farm was owned by Newark Wilson throughout the latter part of the 19th Century. Here were born the three children of Newark and Hannah Wilson (nee Wood) - son George and twins Ann Elizabeth and Mary Jane. Some stories suggest that the house was shared around this time by members of both the Wilson family and the Moon family.

Mary Jane Atkinson - twin sister of Ann Elizabeth Green; married William Atkinson of Bilsdale; residence - Bonfield Ghyl, West Bransdale & Westerdale House, Huttons Ambo, Yorkshire

Ann Elizabeth Wilson married James Green, the 'illegitimate' son of George Moon and Esther Green. James was born at Rudland Moor which is at the top of Bransdale East - an area that separates the valley of Bransdale from the dale of Farndale. (Rudland Rigg was an ancient 'drover's road where livestock was moved north and south from Scotland to and from cities in England.) It's possible that James first met and became interested in Ann Elizabeth when he was visiting his (Moon) father and relatives, at west Bransdale - perhaps right at Cowl house.

Cowl House was also owned at various time by the Moon family and I have copies of the records to that effect. 1828 estate records (of Chas. Duncombe, Esq.) show that the property was owned by a George Moon. Fields listed, include: Long Leys, Pry Butts, Middle Holme, Far Field, Broad Flatt, Broad Field, New Close, Homestead, etc.; Pouch, Horse Pasture, Great Hollin Close, Far Field, High Field, Far Intake. William Moon owned the land to the north and John Pearson the land to the south of Cowl House.

The present residents - Dr. and Mrs. Colman, have been very kind to me during my visits and exploration of the house, outbuildings and property.

In the house, the mantel over the main fireplace is from the 17th C. In fact someone was farming there as early as 1640. It's possible that the 'crucks' used as trusses in the present (west-part) barn were from the original cruck house that may have stood there at that time. One can also see footings from an earlier dwelling.

The west side of Bransdale were said to have practiced a 'wild form of Methodism.'

The main range of the house comprises two orginally free-standing buildings, a two-storey house of 1745 and an 18th C. barn to the west, which were linked together about 1800 by a two-room two storey block whose east rooms were added to the house and the west rooms put to agricultural use. By 1819, a byre and a stable with hayloft had been added east of the house, and probably a dairy outshot had been added to its north side - and an isolated smithy to the south. The house was heightened and remodelled c1830's and after 1854 a car shed was added to the stable, and the smithy was successively enlarged.

The front elevation of the house (built 1745) has plinth and central doorway with chamfered, flat-headed ashlar surround and a lintel, inscribed 'W.G. 1745' (for Willliam Garbutt, who sold the house in 1752). A blocked fire window to the west room had ashlar surround; other ground floor windows have ashlar side pieces but have lost their presumed mullions. On heightening by 3 course, new first floor windows were inserted and matching sills and lintels were given to the ground floor windows, the west of which was enlarged.

Cowl House and Smithy (to right) - looking across to East Bransdale

The rear elevation has two blocked doors, one or both of which opened into the now demolished probably dairy outshot. Stone chimney stacks with coved caps are contemporary with the heightening.

The interior was entirely refitted with the heightening in the 1830's. Surviving fittings of this date are: ground floor west room - chimney piece with moulded stone surround and wooden shelf (also found at Cornfield House, Bransdale and Bransdale Mill - where Newark Wilson also lived and worked earlier), chamfered ceiling beam and joists, beam with straight cut stopes; ground floor east room chimney piece with plain stone surround. Architraves and four panel doors of later date? Some internal remodelling improved by 1926 (date on plaster of ground floor room).

The barn has opposed narrow doors, a single-end door, all with rectangular lintels. Plain barbs course. The west gable has 'kneelers' at base. The interior is now altered, but the tie beam trusses have reused crucks as principles.

The block between the house and the barn consists of a two-room, two-storey block built around 1800. The east ground floor room has two cut-down 18th C type lintels, butted together. Other lintels are rectangular with herringbone tooling. The east rooms were added to the house - each with a fireplace with a plain stone surround. The western part is a loose box with used to have a lot over. The chimney stack has a coved cap.

The smithy is single storey, with square-ended kneelers and gable coping. The roof has been renewed.

William Garbutt only remained in the new property he had built and owned for 7 years before moving to Cow Syke, a larger acreage farm to the north east of the dale (Bransdale). Garbutt sold Cowl House to William Moon and it was to remain in the Moon family for at least 100 years. William Moon himself later moved to Cornfield House - just north in the dale - and left the property in the hands of his son, George Moon, the property remaining with this branch of the family until at least the mid 19th C.

There seems to have been some lapse in Moon ownership between the takeover by William Moon in 1752 and 1814, for according to the 1782 survey of the Duncombe estates, John Shepherd occupied Cowl House at the time. This would however fit in which a 21 year lease and by 1814 George Moon was again farming the property, and was still a tenant of Lord Feversham 10 years later. According to a 1844 Bransdale and Farndale low Quarter Tithe Map, Cowl House was a 50 acre farm and George Moon was assessed for 7/- tithe payment.

Despite the strong association of the Moon Family with Cowl House during the 19th C, this has has not continued in recent decades.

It has been suggested that at some point in its history, Cowl House acted as an Inn. In 1969 Cowl House was acquired by the national trust. Old records in York apparently show a receipt from a man from Cowl House, Bransdale, dated 1642.

Cowl House - aerial


The genealogy of the Moon family, as associated with the records of Cowl House:

Generation 1

William Moon (mid 18th C) - perhaps a brother of a George Moon.


Generation 2

George Moon (1814 - 1844) - m. Jane Garbutt (1823 - 1845)



John Scarth Moon (middle of 19th C) - and George Moon (1788 - 1863) m. Elizabeth (1795 - )


Generation 4

George Moon m. Mary Bentley (nee Medd) in 1892


Generation 5

George Scarth Moon m. Ivy Collier in 1928. (He lived at Mt. View Bransdale)