The Cop Loaf

Exploring the wooded hillside of Beacon Scar above Ingleby Arncliffe in search of the ruins of Coploaf Cottage. This is not shown on modern maps but appears on the Ordnance Survey 6″ 1857 edition. The site is now covered by forestry planting but the ruined walls are easy to trace and eventually, I stumbled upon a raised overgrown platform concealing stone rubble. Nearby I happen to notice a large sandstone boulder which I now assume was the Cop Loaf itself, the “large ‘rocking’ stone” referred to in the parish history. I didn’t try to see if it rocked but maybe that will be a task for a future time. But what is a cop loaf? According to one source, it’s a hollow loaf, containing an apple with currant for eyes, and ornamented on the top with the head of a cock or a dragon. It was put by a child’s bedside to be eaten before breakfast on Christmas morning. Shakespeare refers to one in his play Triolus and Cessida although he spells it as a cob-loaf. A 17th-century dictionary refers to a cop loaf as “a bunne” and “a little loaf made with a round head, such as cob-irons which the fire. A bignet, a bigne, a knob or lump risen after a knock or blow“.
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