The House at Hoylandswaine

I FOUND this drawing pasted inside the front cover of a secondhand book. You wouldn’t have got that if you’d been downloading an e-book. It’s dated 8 May 1922, a Monday, and it’s apparently by a C A Clifford. The postman must have knocked on the door of this house on that Monday morning as Clifford records that he (possibly she?) received the book by post from publishers and that he paid 8 shillings and sixpence (42.5 pence but equivalent to about £9 in value today).

He left his mark on the book, stamping and writing his name and address in it seven times, in the front, back and middle. He gives his address as ‘Hoylandswaine, Nr. Penistone, Nr Sheffield’. I’d like to go there to see if I can identify the house.

I can tell you a little more about Hoylandswaine as the book is Place-Names of South-West Yorkshire, by Armitage Goodall, M.A., late scholar of Queens’ College, published by the Cambridge University Press in 1914.

Place-names aren’t always what they seem, he tells us, for instance, you might guess that Armitage Bridge near Huddersfield gets its name from one of the author’s namesakes, the Armitage family who have long been associated with the area. In fact the family probably owe their name to the place; there was a Hermitage here. In a charter of 1212, the Normans refer to it as ‘Heremitagie que jacet juxta Caldwenedene brook’, the hermitage which lies beside the Caldwenedene brook’. The local people soon dropped the ‘h’ from this Old French word, and it appears as ‘ermitage’ in a deed of 1352.

Hoylandswaine was, he suggests, the Viking Sveinn’s  piece of ‘high land’. It is recorded as Holande in the Domesday Book, which in the local dialect soon became Hoyland.

I find these place-names fascinating as I can often relate them to a landscape I know. It’s as if our Viking, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, Celtic and Roman predecessors are still there, evoked in the names we use every day.

Whistle and I’ll Come to You

This feeling of a historical presence in the landscape is a feature of M R James’s short stories, published as Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. In The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral the spirits dwell in ancient timbers, in Whistle and I’ll Come to You it’s a bone flute that triggers the supernatural events. One of my favourites involves a curious etching of an ancient house that alarmingly shows signs of life. In fact, can’t you see a face at the gable end window of The House at Hoylandswaine?! Those lace curtains were closed a moment ago . . . weren’t they?

It doesn’t surprise me that the leading member of the Editorial Committee of the Cambridge Archaeological and Ethnological Series, who published this Place-Names book, dealing as it does with a species of ‘ghost’ in the landscape, was M R James himself, Litt.D., F.B.A. and Provost of King’s College.