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The History of Hollow Oak

By Janet Martin

Not all houses had names in past times and Hollow Oak is unusual in that respect. The name first appears at the end of the 17th Century and it may be that there was a particularly striking oak tree nearby which gave the house its name.

The Walker's - circa 1640-1715

Members of the Walker family of Haverthwaite were recorded as tenants of the recently dissolved Abbey of St Mary in Furness in the mid 16th century and may well have occupied a house on the site of Hollow Oak for many generations before that. Like their neighbours they would have been farmers who were also in a position to exploit the resources of the local woodland making brushes, wooden bowls and saddletrees etc. The most important woodland industry however was the burning of coppiced trees for the manufacture of charcoal which was used to smelt the iron which was brought up from the mines in low Furness to be treated in primitive bloomery forges. Hollow Oak was associated with the local iron industry for the greater part of its recorded history.

In 1538-39 Miles, Robert and John Walker paid 24s.6d rent for a tenement and eighteen acres of land in Haverthwaite and they are the earliest documented owners of the property which was later known as Hollow Oak. Miles Walker, whose undated will was proved on 15th November 1587, was probably the son of the aforementioned John Walker. His wife was probably dead as he made no provision for her but he had three sons, John, Thomas and Edward. To John, the eldest he left the house, half the barn and all the "chambers". (The precise meaning of this last is not perfectly clear) The second son, Thomas was to have "the new house standing before the door", possibly a new wing that had been added to the original house and the other half of the barn, while provision in money was made for Edward. (It should perhaps be said that although the Walkers had been tenants of the Abbey during the 16th century, local occupiers became virtual freeholders with the power to sell their property or to devise it by will)

John Walker died in 1610 and was probably buried at Colton but the surviving registers there date only from 1623. He too seems to have been a widower, but he had seven sons living at his death, the eldest of whom, Miles, received his father's "ancient tenement and farm-hold". Land, money, corn, hay and wool were left variously to the other sons and in particular a close of ground with an adjoining house called "the Smythie Close" was bequeathed to the second and third sons, Robert and Edward. This land lay on the south-east side of the road between Haverthwaite and the "new" bridge later known as Backbarrow Bridge and was to become famous as part of the site of the Backbarrow ironworks so long associated with Hollow Oak. Even at this time there was a bloomery there.
John's son Miles made his will in November 1645 and died in the September of the following year but the Colton register is fragmentary and badly damaged in this period and there is no burial entry for him. He might have been expected to have had an eldest son called John and probably did as a John, son of Miles Walker was a party to land transactions in the 1620's and 1630's, but he must have predeceased his father.
The heir in 1646 was another Miles, for whom provision must have been made before his father died as he is not mentioned in the will. Miles senior left a cow and a calf and a young horse to his wife Jane and half of his corn and hay. The inventory of his goods names his house as "Yewyeate" and it seems clear that he had retired to another house in Haverthwaite leaving the younger Miles to farm at Hollow Oak. "Yewyeate" or Yewtree was occupied by members of the Walker family into the 18th century. Very little is known of this Miles; he seems to have been married twice, to Agnes Burnes in 1638 and to an Emm(a) who was buried at Colton as "Emm Walker widow of Hollow Oak in Haverthwayte on 17th March 1675. He left no will and the date of his death is unknown, but he was still alive in 1661.
With his heir John Walker we are on firmer ground, he too being married twice, his first wife Miriam being buried on 23rd December 1676 and less than a year later he married Emmy or Emlin (Emmeline) Rownson. He had at least seven children. His only surviving son, Miles, is not mentioned in his father's will, but he was living at Yewtree in 1717 and must have been provided for there. John Walker's eldest daughter Elizabeth was baptised at Colton on 11th February 1680. On 5th may 1704 her father and John Machell of Haverthwaite made a settlement upon the occasion of her marriage to John Machell by which the bridegroom paid her father 100, promising him an annuity of 7.00 for his lifetime. In return, John Walker made over all his property in Haverthwaite which certainly included Hollow Oak. Presumably the other farm at Yewtree had already been given to her brother Miles, but as Hollow Oak was the family's "ancient tenement" it is surprising to find it going to a daughter. But she was making an excellent marriage and John Machell's generous settlement would have been difficult to resist.

Next Page - The Machell Family at Hollow Oak


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