A History of the Pinfold


The pinfold in Shelley is situated in Wellgate which is the lane going down from Huddersfield Road to Near Bank behind the old Co-op building. Typically it was built at the edge of the village near a water source. In this context “gate“ means road, so it is “road to the well”. It is not immediately obvious where the well is. In 1921 the very high wall supporting Huddersfield Road collapsed on to Wellgate and the spoil was cleared up and dumped into the disused pinfold. It was later grassed over. Looking at the gateway to the pinfold, it is obvious that the original level was much lower and was approached by a short flight of steps. The well is opposite, under the road through a low archway. The 2 houses next to the pinfold are called Pinfold cottages.

The origin of pinfolds is shrouded in mystery but we do know that they existed in Saxon times as they had the word “pundfald”. This gave rise to the word “pinfold” in the north of England and “pound “ in the south, hence the word “impound” meaning “to enclose”

The Pinder

In medieval times crops were grown on open land and animals grazed on common land away from the village and this continued with reasonable success until the 15th century. Throughout this time, however, animals that strayed on to farmland were impounded in a pinfold until their owners were traced. As more and more land was farmed, the problem of straying animals became more acute and by the end of the 16th century every village would have a pinfold.


This was typically a rectangular stone built enclosure 5 or 6 feet high, which could be locked up and big enough to keep several animals such as horses, pigs, cattle, sheep and geese. The person whose responsibility it was to round up, feed and look after the animals was called a pinder. They were appointed by the Manor Court. It was a prestigious job, which was salaried and sometimes had the benefit of a house and garden.


The Manor Court was the lowest court of law in England during the feudal period 5th to 15th century and governed the areas over which the Lord of the manor had jurisdiction and over those who held land within the manor. The Manor Court had the power to levy a duty on farmers within its jurisdiction of 2d a year and 1d for cottagers to supplement the pinder’s salary, if it chose to do so.

It was the duty of the pinder to round up stray animals from farmland and private gardens and lock them up until the owners came to claim them. A fine was levied on the owner depending on how long the pinder had to keep and feed the animal, the cost of rectifying any damage the animal had caused, and an element for his salary. It could be quite costly for the owners. Often they would catch up with the pinder before he had the chance to lock up the animals to try to avoid a fine.

Pinfold Gate
Hole in the Wall leading to the Well
The Pinfold
Steps from Near Bank ,with the Pinfold on the left as you go up

The walls of the pinfold were built high, not just to prevent the animals from escaping but to prevent the owners from climbing over the wall and retrieving their animals. Fines varied from one Manor Court to another, typically 1d for a horse, 4d for a pig and 2d for 20 sheep. Heavy fines were imposed by the Manor Court when pinfolds were broken into and animals released, anything up to one pound nineteen shillings and eleven pence. In more serious cases offenders could be sent to prison. If an animal remained unclaimed after 2 weeks, the pinder had the right to sell it at the market.


The advent of the lnclosure (Enclosure) Acts saw the gradual decline of pinfolds as more and more land was enclosed and there was less likelihood of animals straying. Pinfolds became redundant through under use. Most became dilapidated and were demolished, the stone used for building purposes.


At the eastern end of the village going towards Skelmanthorpe is Lydgate. I can find no reference to the word or its meaning. However, Dr. George Redmonds, local historian, now deceased, records it as a gate (in the modern sense of the word) across the road to prevent animals straying into Shelley Village. The pinfold is close by so there is obviously a connection.


It is on record that Shelley pinfold closed around the year 1860. The walls are made of sandstone which is in abundance in our area and so it has not been demolished or robbed of its stone.


Last century a Shelley resident, Rowena Ogle brought the pinfold to the attention of the Department for the Environment, the result being that it became a Grade 2 listed building in the care of Kirklees Council with the stipulation that it cannot be altered in any way. This has ensured that a little bit of our history has been secured unlike in most villages which did have pinfolds where now their existence is merely suggested in street names, like Pinfold Lane. “Pinder” still remains as a surname.

Written by Malcolm MacDonald