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19th Century


This is the year it is said The Bay Horse received its licence to trade. This seems a little soon as the granting of permission to build the new road was in 1810. It probably took several years to build the road, over difficult terrain, with limited tools.


The Bay Horse started life as the New Inn, with a coaching stable across the road.  The first record we have is of James Watson being the landlord in 1818. In the same year his father Peter was landlord at Cowling Hill, the old settlement before the new road was made. Possibly the licence transferred from one to the other, as with the new road there would be much less traffic and therefore less custom at Cowling Hill.
The new public house would have been one of the first buildings on the new turnpike road and could have been a stopping place for horse drawn coaches between Leeds and Preston. It is said that horses were changed here for coach service between Bradford and Burnley.


By the time that Joshua Tetley’s Brewery (Leeds) was founded, the New Inn pub had been renamed The Bay Horse.


On the Tithe map of this year The Bay Horse is mentioned. The village comprised the building and opposite it a few others at Flood Root.


Richard Hill owner of The Bay Horse sold land known as The Croft, adjacent to the pub for John Binns’ (1810-1880) Croft Mill to be built, as the first mill in the new village. It is now Mill Croft housing estate.


Dorothy ‘Dolly’ Watson died aged 61. She was landlady for possibly over 30 years in the early days of the Bay Horse. Her speciality was the wedding feast, for families returning from Kildwick church, before Cowling church was built. She is said to have instituted a custom, which was kept for many years of offering a quart of ale (about 4 pints) to the wedding guest who arrived back first. This resulted in horse backed racing matches for the landlady’s reward and guaranteed that the young men passed several other pubs and returned to spend their money at the Bay Horse. Old Dolly’s quart of ale soon became a recognised wedding custom. 


It is said the pub had established a high reputation for hospitality. It is possible that it was used as the headquarters for grouse shooting on Ickornshaw Moor, and local hare hunting.

20th Century

Late 19th C – C1918

Pigeon Shooting was a sport followed by many men of Cowling. It is said the field, (called Rough Fields then) where it took place, is now Collinge Road. There was betting on the outcome. One landlord William ‘Billy’ Hill was a breeder and trainer of the Blue Rock pigeons used. It is said he bred them in a loft above the stables, opposite the Bay Horse.  It is also said they were in big demand at live shoots in both Yorkshire and Lancashire where hundreds attended.  Those at Cowling shoots would afterwards attend the Bay Horse for food and drink.  There is a shooting butt on Ickornshaw Moor still known in dialect as ‘Billy Hill oil’ (hole).
The pub would have been a bustling hotel used by businessmen and workers as the self sufficient parish had six mills and at times over fifty shops and small businesses


There was possibly a big celebration in the pub, as Ezra Laycock brought back from London the first motor bus in Yorkshire. First Bus in Yorkshire
However as Ezra is buried in the Methodist graveyard we cannot presume he attended.


Local man Philip Snowden, the son of a weaver, became Chancellor of the Exchequer and was to go on and hold the position under three administrations until 1931. It’s doubtful however that he or his supporters celebrated at the Bay Horse. He was a tea-total Methodist.

Late 1940s

Cowling Football club was using the pub cellar as a changing room and also in the old stables across the road.


There was still a stream flowing though the pub cellar, contained in a stone channel.


Knur and Spell, an old traditional northern game was revived by a group in the village and played at sometimes on the field behind Woodhouse and sometimes near the recreation ground on land known as The Scars. Principally a pastime for working people, it was often referred to as ‘poor man’s golf’.  This link to a video shows the game being played at Cowling. At the end of the game it shows refreshments were taken in The Bay Horse.

Early 1970’s

The front three rooms of the pub were opened up into one large room in, as was the fashion with the introduction of central heating to buildings.

1974 – 2005

Pram Race. This was a team event charity race (minimum of three with one ‘baby’ in the pram), – starting from the Black Bull, Cowling to Crosshills, Eastburn and then finishing in Sutton-in Craven. The race sometimes finished at The Bay Horse or Black Bull, Sutton. The teams visited 11 pubs and clubs on route and had to have a drink at each one. After a number of years the racing stopped for several years but was resurrected again from 1996-2005. The race had to end due to insurance problems for a race involving drinking alcohol and running along a main road with a pram, whilst stopping motorists, including buses, to collect for the charity of choice. So much money was raised in the first two years for Muscular Dystrophy that famous celebrities Richard (later Sir) ‘Dickie’ Attenborough, (David’s brother), actor and film director and the following year Anita Harris, pop singer came to The Bay Horse to receive the cheque. In other years celebrities both started the race and presented trophies at a presentation night held at various venues. Bay Horse landlord and landlady Ian and Sylvia Clues were involved in the organisation of early races.


The back room furthest from the bar was still known as ‘The Buffs Room’ This was because it was one of the rooms used for meetings by the Cowling branch of the RAOB, Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.  There was also a pair of buffalo horns hanging from one pub wall. Started in 1822 the organisation aids members, their families, dependents of former members and other charitable organisations.

21st Century

The cricket and football club continue to support the pub after fixtures, as they did in previous centuries, often celebrating trophy wins at the pub. The pub also continued to run darts and domino teams in local leagues. Pool teams have also been organised by the pub.  The village women’s rounders team supports the pub.  In the early years of the century the pub and its customers continued to feature prominently in the local gala procession, often winning the best float.  One landlord, Johnny Sharkey, with others started a rugby league team in the village. The team is still called Cowling Harlequins (2014).


The pub became leased by the group Tyke Taverns. Between 2006 and 2013 a succession of managers ran the pub. There was a lack of investment in the pub’s infrastructure.


After a quick succession of different managers and diminishing custom the pub was closed in June, until the lease was taken by Neil Pickles and opened in December. A positive new attitude and staff increased business.

2014 February – March

Pub closed for complete refurbishment…

List of Landlords


New Inn – James Watson
Possibly succeeded by son William (wife Dorothy (Dolly) Throup)


Robert Laycock – (wife Dorothy (Dolly) Throup)


Mrs. Dorothy (Dolly) Laycock, widow of William Watson and Robert Laycock


Richard Hill, son-in-law of Dorothy (Dolly) Watson/Laycock


Betty Hill (nee Watson) widow of Richard Hill


William Hill, son of Richard Hill (see 20th Century – Pigeon Shooting)


Hannah Hill –wife of Wm. who died 1922.  Pub sold 1927. (See Sale of Bay Horse 1927)


Harry Cope


Geoffrey Clarke


Sam Brunskill


Tom & Ethel Towers


Dick & Mary Snowden (nee Dawson)


Mr. & Mrs. B. Winstanley & son Tony
Mr. & Mrs. S. Hebbes
Derek & Charlie Hebbes

1973 – 76

Ian & Sylvia Clues
Peter & Rita Clarkson
Gordon & Sue Lee
Malcolm Bird
Don & Mair McLean
Johnny Sharkey


Shaun Fountain (Tyke Taverns) lease holder from Punch Taverns (set up in 1997 as a pub leasing company)
He employed several managers including locals Keith & Jill Proctor (twice) and Mick Town-Jones.
Mr Fountain closed the pub from June to December 2013.

Dec 2013-

Neil Pickles, lease holder from Punch Taverns, employing manager and staff to run The Bay Horse.

‘My Cowinheead Lass’

Dialect Poem about ‘Dolly’ Watson 19th Century Landlady of Repute

“Dolly” or Dorothy Watson/Laycock was the landlady of the Bay Horse, Cowling for possibly thirty years in the 19th century. (See List of Landlords and 19thC 1864 ). This dialect poem is dedicated to her, as a young Dolly.


When I happen to thirst my Dolly’s the first
To give me a drink if sho’s brewing or churning,
Bud on sum lucky day, al tack her away
For me Cowinheead Lass, me heart it is burning!

Sho’s not very owd, ner given to scould,
A flert of a sloven – sho’s quite the contrary,
And her legs when in view wi her stockings so blue,
You’d think she wer nowt bud a queen er a fairy!

Sho’s five feet ten, as tall as some men,
Bud none or yer tulip – a beautiful lily!
Sho’s not varry wise, yet sho wod yoh surprise
If yoh hed ta tack her ta be rather silly.

On’t moor sho can run, an level a gun,
An blow off the head of a moorcock or tewitt,
Sho can saddle a horse, an maont it of course,
An mack a pie crust aat a hoate meaal and suet.

Sho can dance wi em all when sho goas to a ball,
To see her worl raand yud think sho wor funny,
Sho can warble a song, hauf a day long,
An ivery verse end, it al be abaat money.

Her maoth dosan’t froth when sho’s apt to be wroth,
Fer that wod indeed be a varry bad omen,
Bud sho’al baance like a cat an buzz like a bat
Bud in spite o all that, sho’s a famous young woman!

This poem was written by Bill o’ th’ Hoylus End, born 22 March, 1836, and christened William Wright.  After working in a mill he became a musician, actor, sailor, puppeteer, inventor, acrobat and soldier. On returning to Keighley he began entertaining in pubs with his poems and songs.  He was a dialect poet, who wrote about local events and dignitaries.  He is most remembered for his “History o’ Haworth Railway”, and compiled “Howorth, Cowenheead, and Bogthorn Almanak 1873”.  Billy lived in Hoyle House End at Hermit Hole in Halifax Road, Keighley.  He died in 1897 aged 61.

Sale of Bay Horse March 1927

(Newspaper report from 1927)

On Friday afternoon the sale of the Bay Horse Hotel took place. The freehold licensed premises situated in the Main Street, Cowling, being knocked down to Messrs. William Whitaker and Co. Ltd, the Old Brewery, Bradford, for the sum of £2,650.

The Bay Horse is a very old established hotel and is fully licensed.  The accommodation comprises a large sitting-room, snug and tap-room facing the main highway, which is the principal thoroughfare between Yorkshire and Lancashire.  The road traffic, especially since the advent of motor transport, being considerable.  It has also a convenient serving bar, a large kitchen, a commodious concert, billiard or dining-room, and five bedrooms with bathroom and lavatory accommodation.  The cellars are large and the outbuildings are approached by easy gradient from a large yard.

The stone-built premises, viz. 116 Keighley Road, Cowling, situated immediately opposite the Bay Horse Inn on the other side of the road, were also sold to Messrs. Whitaker for the sum of £215.  The premises have been used as stables, cart shed and hay loft.

The last owner of the hotel was Mrs. Hannah Hill, whose husband Mr. William Hill, who was landlord for many years, died in 1922.

The auctioneer was Mr. Wilfred Southwell, acting for Mr. Robert Feather of Keighley, and the solicitors were Messrs. W. and G. Burr, Sugden & Co. of Keighley.