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Printable Version Thoughts on Malkin Tower

<P><BR>Having read the article posted by              regarding the siting of Malkin Tower I have put together the following thoughts on the subject and would welcome any response from fellow members, most of whom will be far more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.</P>
<P>The many books and pamphlets on the history of the Lancashire witches seem to place the site of Malkin Tower as being at either Malkin Tower farm (on Blacko hillside) or at Sadlers Farm, Newchurch, in an area called Malkin field. Walter Bennett, in his book The Lancashire Witches was of the opinion that the latter was the site, the tower being some 500 yards away from Bull Hole Farm. The general consensus is that the building was an old barn or farm outbuilding. Further to this I would like to proffer the following:</P>
<P><STRONG>Wild guess number one:</STRONG></P>
<P>A quick search of the meaning of the word Malkin throws up a couple of variations: <BR>The middle English word for cow is Kine (Kyen) pronounced Kin, this was in use until the late 1800s. A 1790s map of the area shows Malkin Tower farm as Malkine. Mal in middle English means bad/abnormal – the prefix mal denoting ill or evil. Is it therefore possible that a field known as Malkin would be an area, perhaps close to the farm, where stock in poor health would have been kept? This would mean that the poorer beasts would not be allowed to wander far, the farmer could then keep a close eye on them.  </P>
<P><STRONG>Wild guess number two:</STRONG></P>
<P>A Malkin in Middle English was a woman of low standing ie; a kitchen maid or slattern. If the Demdike family had occupied the same dwelling for a number of years could the area have become known as Malkin ie; where the  Malkins live? I know I am showing my linguistic ignorance here but is it also just possible, along these lines, that Malkin could also mean Bad Family taking Mal prefix as evil and Kin suffix as family/children. I recall from my school German lessons that Kinder means children but I could be shoe-horning a Norse word in to a context where it doesn’t belong (if my German language teacher is reading this -  nothing new here then Mr. Self)?</P>
<P><STRONG>Wild guess number three:</STRONG></P>
<P>Malkin is actually Malt Kiln and as such the building would possibly take the form of a “tower”. The wild guessing that has taken place up to now does not provide an explanation for the description of “tower”. A cottage, smallholding or hovel would not, it seems, warrant the description of tower (at least in the terms we would use today). A field may be called Malkin but what form would a structure take so as to warrant the description of Malkin Tower?</P>
<P>The Malt kiln theory at least incorporates a reasonable explanation for the tower. Malt kilns were used to malt local grain (commonly barley) by means of drying the germinating husks. This was carried out by means of spreading the grain on the kiln floor and shoveling it, at intervals, so as to get an even level of temperature and moisture content over a period of time. The grain would then be spread out on thick  woollen, or woven fibre, sheets. These would be suspended over the heat from a fire on a framework of wooden poles resting in the grooves of “rack stones”.</P>
<P>The fire would be either placed underneath the floor, as a furnace, or be placed in a side of the kiln building and the heat directed under the suspended sheeting. In larger kilns the drying floor would be on the first floor of the kiln and the fire lit on the ground floor. Wheat straw was generally considered to be the best fuel for malting fires as it didn’t taint the flavour, or colour, of the finished product. The Scottish whisky malting operation probably used differing methods (perhaps powdered kilts made the best fuel)! Even a two-story kiln could conceivably be described as a tower.</P>
<P>Since the advent of large-scale brewing malt kilns have usually been tagged on to the end of the main brewery buildings. During the 17th century many kilns stood alone. I would imagine that it would be advantageous to site the kiln away from other buildings due to the fire hazard.</P>
<P>Thomas Potts, in his treatise The Wonderful Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancaster (written November 1612 I think) mentions that Bessie Whittle, daughter of old Chattox of West Close, Higham, broke into the “fire-house” at Malkin Tower. She carried away “all or most of their linen clothes, half a peck of cut oatmeal and a quantity of meal, all worth twenty shillings and more”. Could this “fire-house” be an annex of the tower/kiln where the fire was lit for the malting process. Alternatively did dwellings of that period have such a thing as a “fire-house”. Perhaps the “fire-house” was actually a description of a kiln building?  </P>
<P>It does not appear possible that the Malkin Tower of witches lore could have been a working malt kiln as Mother Demdike and her family lived there but were constantly out and about gurning at folk, pinching things, making clay dolls and casting spells like they were going out of fashion. Besides which it wouldn’t appear that they would have had the wherewithal to run a kiln operation. Having said that, Demdike’s daughter Elizabeth Davies (Device) must have worked at some time as she fell out with Richard Baldwin the miller, of Wheathead, over unpaid wages. Demdike was then said to have put a charm on  Ellen, Baldwin’s daughter who died a year later.</P>
<P><STRONG>Even wilder guess – number four:</STRONG></P>
<P>Having mulled over these few thoughts on the subject I took myself off up to Malkin Tower Farm this morning. The main aim of the sojourn was to see if I could spot the pile of stones widely reputed to be the remains of said tower. I had forgotten how well preserved our landscape history is in this area. The massive ancient holly hedges form boundaries that have survived from antiquity (a nice generalisation this as I haven’t a clue when they would date from)!</P>
<P> I also wanted to see if there were any kiln rack-stones to be seen. These are the stones used to hold the suspension poles when malting grain. They vary in size but are unmistakable in appearance, commonly around 3 to 4 feet in length, a foot wide  and 4 to 6 inched thick  they have a series of worked deep grooves across one face (these were to hold the poles in position). Wherever an old kiln has been demolished these rack-stones invariably turn up in the stone walls around the area, either incorporated into the original wall when it was built or used to repair existing walls. This can be seen to good effect down at Admergill, many rack stones from the long-disappeared malt kiln litter the walls around the Lower Hall (there is another story here). </P>
<P>Needless to say I didn’t find anything resembling a rack-stone (at least not in my search area to the north side of Malkin Farm). What I did find was the remaining gable end of a building on the high ground about 200 yards to the north of Malkin farm. At this juncture I can hear the howls of derision as I am sure many of you will know about this and that it will have been scientifically poo-pooed in other quarters! </P>
<P>This gable stands 10 courses high (7 to 8 feet) and perhaps 20 feet in width. The stones are semi-dressed and the standing block of the gable forms part of the dry-stone wall. There are remnants of old lime and gravel mortar between the stones of the upper courses. I imagine that the gable pre-dates the stone wall as the walls are built up to the gable on either side. The gable forms a very slight deviation in line to the dry-stone wall but is nevertheless fully incorporated. This looks for all the world like the end of a cottage type building to my untutored eye. Looking over the wall there is a clear indication that there has been a rectangular building extending the gable south into the field. As the grass is growing now it makes the outline of the site quite clear as the grass is not growing much where the building would have been. I estimate this building to have occupied about the footprint of a standard terraced  house.</P>
<P>This site is on the highest ground overlooking Malkin Tower farm to the south and Pasture Head to the east. A large hollow lies between the site and Green Bank Farm to the north. The easiest means of access to this area would have been to cut across north from the original Gisburn Old road (not as it lies now) or directly east by Pasture Head. Both these ways can be seen on the ground where gateways survive. As a malt kiln would require a steady supply of clean water to germinate the grain they would usually be sited near a well, spring or stream. The gable site is on higher ground above the stream in the clough but not exactly ideally placed for water supply. If it were a kiln, however, the site would be well placed to serve the needs of at least 5 nearby farms. </P>
<P>Just an observation - from Barnoldswick Road, where the track to Malkin Farm begins, the gable can be seen quite clearly on the top of the hill. Even a two-storey building on this site would dominate the lower areas, much as Blacko Tower does, could this be the origin of the term “tower”. On this subject the other day I saw a photograph of Blacko Hill before Stansfield built the tower – the hill appears really odd to my eyes, like an old chap who has always had one tooth in his head grinning at you following removal of the tooth!</P>
<P>Further to earlier guesses the field that this proposed building occupied is next to Malkin Tower farm thus fulfilling the criteria for my Malkin (sick cow) field. Even further - could a building known as Malkin have housed the servants of a nearby well-to-do family ie; Malkin = lowly woman? I have just remembered that Malkin was also used to describe a mop made of clouts. Along these lines I have read somewhere that a Richard Towneley, a member of the Towneley family from Stonedge, now Higherford, lived at Malkin Tower Farm . As he was born in 1682 and died in 1726 I would think that he would have been in residence at Malkin Farm in the early 1700s – far too late for our purposes but it does signify the status of the dwelling at that period.</P>
<P>This brings me to the puzzle of where did the building stone from Malkin Tower go? The stone walls around the area incorporate a few scattered dressed stones but not enough to build even one toilet wall. The barn adjoining the early building at Malkin Farm has a date stone 1820. I think this was built by one of the Hartleys, did he use the tower stone or was the stone likely to have been long gone by then. Does Malkin Tower Farm pre-date the Tower or vice-versa? There is also the consideration that local people would not wish to incorporate the stone from the tower into their buildings given its history of witchcraft. Even today native country people from our area harbour strong superstitions. As a matter of interest WHEN WAS Malkin Tower demolished? Was the standing gable above the farm a complete building when the field was enclosed, if not why was a single wall allowed to remain standing?</P>
<P>To take a slight swerve  here, does anyone know why the old thorn tree in the next field to the gable (towards Blacko tower) has a 3 foot stone base around it? The tree is not with any wall or hedge boundary but has been purposely preserved in the field. It is unusual in that the roots are within a man-made container that looks every bit as old as the nearby stone walls. The only explanation I can think of is that in the old religion certain tres were considered to contain spirits and were therefore treated with great respect. Given the siting of this particular tree, near to the proposed Malkin site, could this be relevant? </P>
<P>A bit more circumstantial evidence is that James Device, in his confession stated that he made his way to Malkin Tower past the stone quarry. I know there were hundreds of these but the largest would surely have been on Blacko Hillside. The path he would have taken from Roughlee would have taken him right below these workings. There is also a quarry on the Sabden Road out of Newchurch, this has an enigmatic face carved into the rock face. </P>
<P>Also, at the infamous gathering at Malkin on Good Friday were a number of people from Colne and at least one from Gisburn. Surely people from these areas would be more likely to attend a meeting on the site at Blacko than trailing all the way to Goldshaw  (Newchurch)?  It depends on their mode of transport I suppose! On this point, I am puzzled by the fact that Demdike and Chattox were aged 80, decrepit and blind yet they still managed to trot around the area with abandon – one day in the dark depths of Trawden, the next on the far side of Higham. They must have been walking 10 or 20 miles on these outings.</P>
<P>I think that I have just about run out of conjecture at this point. Please make my day and systematically destroy all of the above ramblings and replace them with known facts. But, as this is my first attempt to post on this wonderful site please, no swearing  as I am very sensitive!!</P>
<P>In the words of George Bush “I have just had another remembranceisation” – Malkin was also commonly used as a word for cat (Spokeshave wrote of Grimalkin or Grey Cat). In Scotland Malkin denotes a witches familiar!</P>
<P>NB.I will place photographs relevant to the above in photo section.</P>
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 Added on:  23/05/2004
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 Posted by:  BarrowfordJohn
 Comments:  4 Comment(s)

  By: BarrowfordJohn on 25/05/2004
Posted by (top line of article) should read - posted by DOC, 20th April 04.

  By: Callunna on 01/06/2004
Wow! You've certainly put in a lot of thought and legwork on this one. Some fascinating theories you've come up with there, lad.

I don't suppose we'll ever know the complete truth about Malkin Tower - or indeed the whole Pendle witches story.

One clue to the origin of the word Malkin is perhaps its pronunciation - it rhymes with "walkin(g)" which might exclude the 'mal = bad' theory.

Keep up the good work BarrowfordJohn!

  By: Flutterby on 13/04/2007
Watching Bill Oddie tonight he talked about Hare,s saying they were called Witches! Because they vanished quickly ! And years ago some-one told me or i have read itthat Malkin meant Hare?

  By: luckystar1982 on 30/05/2007
Im currently reading the book about Jennet Preston and the Lancashire Witches. its facinating, it mentions Malkin Tower and the remains on blacko hill in this book.

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