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The Change of Name

Scapegoat Hill has not always been the name of the place, it was first called Slipcoat Hill.There are suggestions that the place was, at one time, called 'Scaup', but no written evidence of that has come to light.

In fact, even Slipcoat was not consistently used, quite often it would be given as 'Slippery Coat' - in fact, an early record is 'Slipecot Hill', which would have been pronounced 'Slippycot'. Some authorities are of the opinion that the name derived from slipcoat, a type of cheese. Questions must be asked about this origin, not least because this cheese appears to be from Sussex in origin and no local use of the term has been found.

One intriguing possibility arises from a 'cote' being a pair of greyhounds and 'slip' being a term for the release of greyhounds. The de Lacy family, based in Pontefract Castle, had hunting grounds at Scammonden. Was this where they first released their dogs?

Far more mundane, but far more likely, is that the name reflects the slippery nature of the hillside: to this day, water teems out of the hill after heavy rain.

The change to 'Scapegoat Hill' came about very quickly. The first recorded use is in a legal notice of Enclosure appearing in the Leeds Mercury in 1820 and, although Slipcoat Hill appears on the first Ordnance Survey map in 1843, by that time, Scapegoat Hill is used more or less consistently.

It is reasonable to conjecture that the term 'Scapegoat' was applied derogatorily or in jest and the village may well have been spoken of as Scapegoat Hill for some time before 1820.

It is interesting to explore the possibility that the term 'Scapegoat' was first used in a religious context - in the Bible the scapegoat is cast out into the wilderness - and Scapegoat Hill could have been called wilderness at the start of the nineteenth century.

Perhaps the change of name is connected with fact that residents started attending Pole Moor Baptist chapel in 1808.


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