pinfold n : a pen where stray animals are confined
- To confine animals in a pinfold.
Pinfold, in Medieval Britain, is an area where stray animals were rounded up if their owners failed to properly supervise their use of common grazing land. A fine had to be paid for their release.
An alternative spelling/pronunciation was "poundfield", which implies a relation to the modern English word "[im]pound".
The terms "pinfold" and "pound" are Saxon in origin. "Pundfald" and "pund" both mean an enclosure. There appears to be no difference between a pinfold and a pound. The term pinfold seems to be more popular in the north and east of the UK whilst in the south and west the term pound is more popular.
Originally built to hold animals which were found straying from their owners land or were found grazing on the common without common rights. The animals would not be released until a fine had been paid to the "pinder" who was an officer of the lord of the manor. Breaking into the pinfold to release the animals was an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. They were also used by drovers taking their stock to market. The pinfold was used to pen the animals overnight for a small fee.
The size and shape of pinfolds varies, some are four sided: rectangular, square and irregular, others are circular. In size they vary from a few square metres to over 0.5 ha. Pinfolds are known to date from the medieval period. By the 16th century most villages and townships would have had a pinfold. Most of what remains today would date from the 16th and 17th centuries. Some, like Tockholes Pinfold in Lancashire are listed buildings but most have fallen into disrepair.
The artist Andy Goldsworthy has produced a series of sculptures in several of the pinfolds in Cumbria.