Drove Roads
by
Heather Ballantyne

Ruth Ansell Davis came to OTLHS to tell us about Drove Roads and their history. She became interested in the subject about a year ago and said  that we were lucky as we have many drove roads in our area probably caused by the bottleneck of the Lune Gorge.
Most drove roads in this area started in Scotland, but information is sketchy and hard to find. Painters like Landseer and Turner made this look like an idealistic life where in fact it was very hard. Drovers needed to know about animal husbandry and they either acted on their own account or as agents for farmers, and it was important that the animals arrived at market in good condition.
In several places along these roads you will find enclosures, normally about 10 miles apart, which is where the animals were kept overnight. The early routes kept to the high ground as valleys were muddy and difficult to travel along. In limestone areas they would follow the spring lines so that the  animals could be watered.

Moving animals was a means of transporting money in the form of livestock, but a lot of rustling went on across the English/Scottish border and the Scottish view was that animals were Common Law Property, so they also saw English cattle as their property. In 1535 there is a reconrd that the English took back 10,356 cattle, 12492 sheep and 1296 nags plus 200 goats. A few years later Henry VIII had abou 23,ooo heads of livestock driven back  over the border.

Picture: Ferrying Livestock from Skye to Kyle.


Back in 1359 Henry III gave safe passage to a scottish family to travel through  England with cattle, horses etc for 1 year. As time went by an infrastructure of taxes and tolls came about, but most drovers tried to avoid these roads and travelled by moorland tracks. By 1663 the number of animals passing through Carlisle was about 18,500 and they attracted a toll of 8d per head. Many of these may have come from Ireland via Port Patrick. Cattle were not as big as today - they were small stocky animals which weighed about 6 cwt and were only sent to market at the end of their working life. When cattle needed to travel on hard roads they needed to be shoed and because of their cloven hoofs the required 2 shoes per hoof, although sometimes only the outer hoof was shoed. Unlike horses, cows cannot stand on 3 legs so they had to be slung to have shoes fitted, therefore special farriers grew up along these routes who made shoes for cattle.
By the time of Elizabeth I drovers needed to be licensed and this had to be signed by 3 Justices of the Peace and was only issued to men who were over 30 years of age and had been maried for 1 year. In the 17th century drovers had to hold a Certificate of Good Repute and this was displayed on the drovers sleeve  as an oval blue emblem giving his license number.
If drovers had horses it was to carry supplies not to ride. They carried their own food - handfuls of oameal and a few onions, plus  some whisky. They would mix the oatmeal with water to form porridge or with onion and blood from the cattle to form a blackpudding.

Drovers may have looked rough but they had to be men of outstanding skill and characture as they carried great responsibility. They were responsible for not just taking the animals to market, but carrying great sums of money after the sales. They were entrusted to collect taxes and carry peoples' letters. They were reliable , resourceful and good businessmen.
For nearly two hundred years, through the second half of the seventeenth century, throughout the eighteenth century, and into the early nineteenth century, droving flourished aided by a growing human population and hence demand and other factors. Between 1727 and 1815, for example, there was a long series of wars with Spain, Austria, America, France and, finally, the Napoleonic wars. This meant a large navy had to be maintained. Salted beef was a major foodstuff for the navy, which was thus a major market. In 1794 for example, the London meat market of Smithfield recorded 108,000 cattle arriving for slaughter and at least 80% of these came from Scotland. But times were changing and droving would go into decline.
The peace, after the battle of Waterloo in 1815 finished the Napoleonic wars, meant the shrinking navy needed less beef but other changes were even more important. The first half of the nineteenth century saw a revolution in agriculture. Enclosed systems of fields replaced open common grazing and large, fatter cattle were bred and raised ready for market. More importantly, by the 1830s, faster steamships were being built and farmers in the lowlands and elsewhere started to ship cattle directly to the southern markets instead of by the long arduous overland droves. Then, once railways were established by the 1880, this provided an even swifter and more reliable means of transporting cattle and other agricultural products to market. The trade died steadily. Droving days were over.

Map of Drove Roads
Today you can still trace drove roads. Pub names such as Black Bull or the Drovers Inn give you a clue as to where they would have been.. Also look out for roads which have very wide grass verges (plenty in the Orton area) they are normally over 40' (12 mtrs) wide. Anywhere that has a price in the name, like Halfpenny Lane, was likely to  have been where dovers stopped overnight and was the fee for each animal.

An interesting evening that will now make us look at our roads differently.




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