Cowart's Common Room
What is This?

Not far from where I live is this structure. I have always assumed it was a species of sheep dip, though I have never seen sheep being dipped there. But it is a bath of some sort.

It is about 20 metres long by about 5 metres wide, or for those of you used to old measures - about a chain (22 yards) by a pole (5.5 yards). The ends are splayed for the bath narrows in the middle to about 12 feet The depth, from the top of the wall to the bottom of the water, is about six feet, though there is only some two feet of water in it at the moment and this seems to be the natural level.

The bottom is paved - as are the ramps on each side - and carefully paved with ridges running transversly as if to give horses more purchase.Uploaded Image. The slope of the ramps is such that I imagine a horse and cart could go down and up without overmuch difficulty.

You will see from the picture that it was neatly built from dressed stone (as opposed to rough stone) which must have made it a costly construction. The mortar is not cement but lime - which I suppose dates the structure to sometime before 1850.

It is not near any other building of this period. It stands on its own, in the middle of a field constructed as a groove cut in the tip of a very small naturally occurring mound.
It could be for baptisms, I suppose, but why construct something this size, big enough to run the widest of farm carts through? And why build it of dressed stone? The only other building that uses similar dressed stones in town is the castle (c1320).

And it isn't on a road or track leading to anywhere. So, come on you clever folk, what is it? Who built it? And why?

Posted at 7th Apr 2008 - 08:16PM   Posted by Fennie   What is This? Comments: 13

No idea but fascinating! it must be a dip of some sort maybe cattle??

Posted by: Bodran on 7th Apr 2008 at 08:25PM

Faith's Avatar Hub3 doesnt think it is a dip because the sheep dip on our farm is constructed in a stream with sluice gates to raise and lower the level so, after use, the old dip could be washed away.

Posted by: Faith on 7th Apr 2008 at 08:29PM

Faith's Avatar Hmm, maybe it was built above a holy spring so that people could bathe and be cured?

Posted by: Faith on 7th Apr 2008 at 08:34PM

Snailbeachshepherdess's Avatar how far is it from a fast running river? Before shearing shepherds used to wash the sheep......then after shearing they would dip them against bugs and parasites.
A bit from apoem by John Dyer describes it......

...'First, however, drive to the double fold,
Upon the brim, of a clear river,
Gently ,drive the flock
and plunge them one by one into the flood
................And then resign them to the sunny bank
Where bleating loud they shake their dripping locks'

So perhaps if there is no river nearby ....this may have been the answer?

Posted by: Snailbeachshepherdess on 7th Apr 2008 at 08:57PM

Swimming pool? or an elaborate dew pond?

Posted by: Bodran on 7th Apr 2008 at 08:59PM

Unpeuloufoque's Avatar A Ha ha? ( for those who wanted ot keep thier deer clean?

Posted by: Unpeuloufoque on 7th Apr 2008 at 09:59PM

Cait's Avatar Have you asked the owner of the field?

I am thinking holy place or sheep wash place but why would it be built so 'elaborately' for a sheep wash? If it's sheep country I would guess it is for sheep.

Go to the local historical/ archaeological society, archives department. If you have no luck contact me and I will ask our local people.

Posted by: Cait on 7th Apr 2008 at 10:14PM

Lampworkbeader's Avatar Just a thought, but the dressed stone could have come from some other, older and defunct building nearby, rather than be specially prepared for that building. My guess that is some form of sheep washing place. (Just a guess)

Posted by: Lampworkbeader on 7th Apr 2008 at 10:50PM

Cait's Avatar That's a good idea LWB. They used to use the Roman road stone for building etc didn't they? Not that this is the case here of course.

Posted by: Cait on 7th Apr 2008 at 11:11PM

Peterwf's Avatar Maybe it is for driving a coach and horses through to keep the wooden wheels damp so the tyres (steel rims) don't fall off.
(Thinks of Constables The Hay Wane)

Posted by: Peterwf on 8th Apr 2008 at 07:13AM

Ivy's Avatar Maybe there WAS a road or building nearby when it was originally built but this has vanished over the centuries. I mean if the nearest house that is built from the same stone dates from 1320 it is nearly 700 years old and much may have changed. When I go to what used to be the inner German boarder I can hardly find it any more after less than 20 years.- Still this doesn't answer your question. Have you not got something like a village archive?
Please let us know when you find out what it was.

Posted by: Ivy on 8th Apr 2008 at 07:15AM

Faith's Avatar My husband mentioned your idea too Peterwf, but surely it would be easier to just slosh a bucket of water over the wooden wheels when needed?

Posted by: Faith on 8th Apr 2008 at 08:40AM

Exmoorjane's Avatar Keep popping back to see if anyone has cracked it.....I'm intrigued. Will you please post a separate 'the answer' when you find out?

Posted by: Exmoorjane on 8th Apr 2008 at 09:45PM

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