Hay Sweep
Historic photograph of Hay Sweep <empty>

Hay Sweep
Drawing of a Haysweep - Ian Forbes <empty>

Meadow
Hay Meadow - Chris Ruskin

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Daddry Shield
Current Location: Ireshopeburn
Theme: Agricultural
Period: Modern
Date: Early 20th century

What is it?
A North Pennines type of hay sweep, an implement used to gather lying dried hay prior to storage in the hay barn.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
Through most of its recorded history, the economy of much of the North Pennines has been based on a dual economy of lead mining and farming.   This led, particularly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to agricultural land being divided up into very small pastoral farms or smallholdings.   Often a miner’s farm would consist of only one or two meadows, one or two pastures and grazing rights on the fell.  Thus the amount of equipment needed on the farm was small, and the implements often locally made and inexpensive.   One such implement was the hay sweep.  

Haysweeps were used during haymaking to gather in the cut and dried grass.   Pulled by a horse, the sweep gathered up the loose hay which was then carried on a sled to the hay byre.   Many hayfields were on valley sides – the horse and simple sweep could cope with steep ground.   A sweep required little capital investment, being made by the local joiner.   The hay sweep is emblematic of the farming side of the miner/farmer economy.   Several different designs of Pennine hay sweep have been recorded in the literature – the wing sweep, the paddy sweep, the wheeled sweep, the Swaledale sweep and the gate sweep.   The first four types have been recorded in the Yorkshire dales.  Three of these types have been recorded in the North Pennines.   These are the paddy sweep , the wing sweep and the gate sweep.  The third (the gate sweep) was unique to North Pennine hill farms.   However the only record of the gate sweep in the literature (Atkinson) is inaccurate in describing how it was used and no pictures of a gate sweep have ever been published.   The gate sweep was attached to the horse which pulled it by two chains, one each side of the sweep, and the operator stood on the back.   When it was full of hay it was flipped over to empty it and sweeping started again using the other side of the sweep.

Why is it important?
In 1980 there were at least ten gate sweeps surviving in Weardale.   Today this is probably the sole surviving example of this important piece of smallholding equipment, and can stand as an exemplar of the low-tech locally designed implements typical of North Pennine upland smallholdings.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Atkinson, F. 1977. Life And Tradition in Northumberland and Durham.   J.M.Dent, London
  • Hartley, M. and Ingilby, J. 1968.   Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales. J.M.Dent, London.
  • Forbes, I. 2011.  The Gate Sweep. Unpublished article
  • North Pennines AONB. "No Five O'Clock in our Calendars" A history of hay time in the North Pennines.


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