AYSGARTH: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Hang West - Electoral Division and Poor Law Union of Aysgarth - County Court District of Leyburn - Rural Deanery of West Catterick - Archdeaconry of Richmond - Diocese of Ripon.

This is an extensive parish, surpassing in magnitude any other in the North Riding. It stretches from the borders of Sedburgh and Westmoreland eastward, to the vicinity of Redmire and West Witton, a distance of 18 miles, occupying the upper part of the beautiful valley of Wensleydale. Its average breadth is about six miles, and its total area 81,012 acres, an extent considerably more than the half of the whole county of Rutland. These were the limits of the ancient parish of Aysgarth, which comprised the townships of Aysgarth, High and Low Abbotside, Askrigg, Bainbridge, Bishopdale, Burton-with-Walden, Carperby-cum-Thoresby, Hawes, Newbiggin, Thoraldby, and Thornton-Rust, which still form the civil parish; but for ecclesiastical purposes this extensive district has been sub-divided, and the jurisdiction of the ancient mother church extends only over the townships of Aysgarth, Bishopdale, Burton-cum-Walden, Carperby, Newbiggin, Thoraldby, and Thornton-Rust. The population of the civil parish in 1881, was 5,482.

The whole district is full of beautiful and varied scenery - elevated moorlands and clumps of woodland intermingling with fertile dales - while down the hillsides pour numerous mountain torrents, which look like streams of molten silver, when viewed from afar, as they rush down the steep declivities, or with roaring noise are precipitated over rocky ledges that vainly impede their onward course.

The township of Aysgarth contains 1,174 acres, and had, in 1881, a population of 370. Its rateable value is £1,614. It is mentioned in Domesday Book as the vill of Echescard, and in the Kirkby Inquest, it is written Aykescarth. Dr. Whitaker derives its name from the Danish Scarthe, a scaur or rock, and the Saxon ea or ay, water; but with all deference to so learned an authority we would suggest that the first part of the name has had its origin in the oak (Scan. eik), and that its full signification is the "Inclosure of oaks."*

* The author of "Yorkshire Past and Present," derives it from the Scandinavian aesir and gardr, signifying the "garden of the gods."

In the reign of King John the manor of Aysgarth belonged to the family of De Burgh, whose seat was at Brough, in the parish of Catterick; and about a century later (A.D. 1313), it came into the possession of the Fitz-Randolphs, lords of Spennithorne. The Fitz-Randolph lands were subsequently divided and conveyed to different families by the marriage of three daughters, co-heiresses. The principal landowners at present are the trustees of Hy. Thos. Robinson (lords of the manor), W. H. Tomlinson, Esq., Chas. Blades, Lancaster; Lady Mary Vyner, and the Rev. Dr. Wray.

The village of Aysgarth is a quaint straggling little place, overlooked by a bleak hill, on the south bank of the Yore or Ure, five miles E. by S. of Askrigg, and eight miles W. by S. of Leyburn. On an eminence about three-quarters of a mile from the village is the parish church (St. Andrew), originally built in the reign of Henry III., but restored in the time of Henry VIII., by Adam Sedbergh, the last abbot of Jervaux, to which monastery the rectory was appropriated. It was almost wholly rebuilt in 1866, the tower and the columns of the nave being the only portions of the former edifice that were retained in the reconstruction. The beautiful old rood-screen and loft were renovated at the same time. These elaborate carvings are supposed by some writers to have been brought from the Abbey of Jervaux, and part of the abbot's stall from the same church now forms the prayer desk. An elegant brass eagle lectern was presented by the congregation, and in 1880 a fine-toned organ was added.

The reredos of Caen stone, which extends the whole length of the east wall of the chancel, was added in 1887, by the daughters of the late Mr. H. T. Robinson, as a memorial of their parents. The style is that of the 13th century, to harmonize with the ancient rood-screen above mentioned, In the centre compartment, over the communion table, is a very beautifully carved relief of Leonardo da Vinci's well-known picture of the Last Supper, enclosed in a richly moulded frame, surmounted by three ogee canopies, divided from each other by crocketted pinnacles resting on angel bosses. On each side of this compartment are three arched panels, and over the whole, extending from end to end, is a foliated cornice with delicately carved cresting over it. The oaken communion table is enclosed in stone to correspond with the reredos, the front being divided into three compartments, in each of which is sculptured an angel holding a shield bearing the monogram I.H.S., between Alpha and Omega. Level with the table is a string cornice on which is the following inscription:- "In majorem Dei gloriam, et memoriam Henrici Thomæ Robinson, et Elizabethœ uxoris." (To the greater glory of God, and in memory of Thomas Robinson, and Elizabeth, his wife.) Above the reredos, on each side of the chancel window, is a double tier of panelling, the upper ones containing full length figures of angels holding scrolls and emblems; and above these are canopies similar to those in the centre. The whole work has been admirably executed by Mr. R. L. Boulton, from the design of Mr. C. G. Wray, F.R.I.B.A.

The living, a discharged vicarage, was formerly in the gift of the Abbots of Jervaux, who maintained out of the tithes a vicar and two "chaplains" to "do divine service in the parish church of Aysgarth and the chapel of Askrigg." At the Dissolution the vicar's income was stated to be £30 (a very handsome sum in those days), and some glebe land besides. In the reign of Edward VI., the same sum was assigned to Christopher Rogerson, then vicar, on the ground that "the Vicar of Aysgarth and his predecessors time out of mind," had been accustomed to receive it. The tithes were given by Queen Mary to Trinity College, Cambridge, together with the advowson of the benefice, which is now worth about £180. The present vicar is the Rev. Fenwick W. Stow, M.A. Among the vicars who have held this benefice, the most illustrious is Alexander Neville, Archbishop of York, in the reign of Richard II., with whom he was a great favourite.

Near the church the Yore is crossed by a bridge, a curious structure built in 1539.

A short distance from the bridge is Aysgarth Force,* one of the most beautiful waterfalls in England, and the great attraction of the district. Here for the distance of about half a mile the Yore flows, or rather rushes, in the wildest confusion over a broken bed of grey limestone, forming two picturesque cascades, one above, the other below the bridge, In the latter the water is precipitated over three successive ledges of rock, roaring and foaming into a stony basin beneath; and on each side rise rugged limestone cliffs, on which the wild rose and fern have made themselves habitations in every spot and crevice where a little soil can be found. Near the falls is a handsome hotel called "Palmer's Flat," on the site of which, it is supposed, there once stood a hospice for the use of palmers or pilgrims.

* From Fors (Old Norse) a waterfall.

In the village are chapels belonging to the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists, and a Meeting House belonging to the Society of Friends. The National School, erected by subscription in 1837, is endowed with the rent of a field left by Chris Tomlinson, Esq., and now let at £6 per annum.

HIGH ABBOTSIDE is an extensive township lying on the borders of Westmoreland. Its area, according to the overseer's returns, is 13,229 acres; of these 6,900 acres are moor and fell, abounding with grouse and other kinds of game. The rateable value for the present year is £5,644, and the population in 1881 was 493. The Earl of Wharncliffe is lord of the manor and principal owner, and the devisees of John A. Metcalfe, W. H. Tomlinson, Esq., the exors. of J. Chadwick, and of the Rev. Jacob Tomlin, Anthony Johnson, Edward and Alexander Chapman, the exors. of Thomas Hewitson, Richard Smith, Thomas Stuart, R. S. Pickard, James Balderston, James Slinger, J. W. Lodge, Esq., James Brougham, and Thomas Bell have also land in the township.

The whole district is of an Alpine character, and abounds in beautiful and romantic scenery. On the north lies a high mountain ridge, which culminates in Shunor Fell, 2,346 feet above the sea level. This ridge forms the watershed between Wensleydale and Swaledale, and from it strike off numerous spurs, separated by deep narrow valleys or gills, down which flow numerous torrents, tumbling sometimes over high rocks or pouring with impetuous rush down the steep declivities. Towards the western extremity of this ridge, near the borders of Westmoreland, the Yore, or Ure, has its source, and thence winds its way among masses of rock which have fallen from the sides of the narrow picturesque gill. At Hardraw Scaur the stream meets with a sudden depression in its rocky bed, and pours in an unbroken column to the depth of 33 yards. "Here," says Dr. Whitaker, "is a waterfall of peculiar and almost unrivalled character. It is a grand column of water projected from the edge of a rock, so as to detach itself completely from the strata beneath, and to plunge without dispersion or interruption into a black and boiling cauldron below. This singular and happy effect has been produced by two causes - first, the bed of the torrent above is a stratum of rock, broken off at the point from which the projection takes place, so hard that the perpetual attrition of a violently agitated current has made little impression upon its edge; and secondly, the strata beneath are schistus, perpetually decompounding by the action of the air, and widening the interval between the face of the rock and this vast column of liquid crystal, which may be surrounded and viewed in its ever-varying refractions on every side."

In the great frost of 1739-40, the outside of this column of water was frozen, forming a huge hollow icicle 90 feet in length, through which the unfrozen water was distinctly seen to flow as through a glass tube. The same occurred again in 1881, and people from all the country round visited the spot to witness a sight so rare. By the continued decompounding of the schistus strata, referred to in the extract from Dr. Whitaker, the superincumbent ledge of hard rock, over which the water is precipitated, was being gradually deprived of its support, and would, at no very distant day, have sunk down, completely changing the form of the beautiful cataract. Such a casualty has, however, been prevented by a casing of stone, built in the face of the rock by the noble owner.

The western boundary of High Abbotside is formed by the Hell Gill beck, which separates it from Westmoreland. Several etymologies have been given of this repulsive name. According to popular belief the gill was so called from a fancied resemblance to the bottomless pit. The Saxon word helle, signifying the "pouring down of water," has also been suggested; but perhaps the most probable derivation is the Danish proper name Hallr, which may have been borne by some early proprietor. In old deeds it is called Hale Gill, not Hell Gill; but whatever may have been its origin, the name is singularly appropriated to a chasm so deep and narrow as scarcely to admit the daylight. The ravine is crossed by a bridge of 10 feet span resting on perpendicular walls of rock 60 feet deep. Beneath this bridge is a lower one, which, tradition avers, was the work of his satanic majesty, and is called the "Devil's Bridge."

The district around is wild and dreary; "the traveller," in the words of Dr. Whitaker, "finds himself on a level peat moss, suddenly appalled by a dreadful and perpendicular disruption in the rock, where a stream is heard to murmur at a vast depth beneath. This is Hell Gill, the Stygian rivulet of Camden, which forms a striking natural boundary between the counties of York and Westmoreland."

The common lands of the township and manor of High Abbotside were inclosed, pursuant to an Act of Parliament passed in the 5th year of George IV. Disputes arising, touching the boundary between the said manor and the adjoining manor of Mallerstang, commissioners were appointed to "ascertain, set out, fix, and determine the said boundary." After an examination of the various parties interested, the commissioners decided that the boundary went "direct from White Birks to the water of Hell Gill, and so up the said water to the first sike (on the east side thereof), above Lamb Folds, and from thence in a direct line, as the same is now staked out, to the boundary of the manor of Muker, in the parish of Grinton."

Some small veins of lead are worked in the township, and coal, of an inferior quality, is wrought on a limited scale. Stone is plentiful and of excellent quality, and since the opening of the Northallerton & Hawes Railway quarrying operations have been very considerably extended.

Hardraw is a village in this township, and, with Lunds, constitutes a vicarage, formed out of the joint chapelries in 1858. The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary and St. John, was built by the Earl of Wharncliffe, in 1880, in memory of his brother, the Hon. James Frederick Stuart Wortley, who died in 1870. It is a neat stone edifice, in the Early English style, peculiar to the North Riding, and consists of chancel, nave, south porch, and bell turret. The estimated cost was about £1,600. The materials of the old church were used in the foundations. There are two stained-glass windows, in the chancel, inserted by the vicar, one in memory of his wife and eldest son, and the other to commemorate his twenty-five years ministry in the parish. The joint living is worth £200 a year, derived almost wholly from 277 acres of glebe, purchased with various benefactions and grants of Queen Anne's Bounty, and is held by the Rev. Robt. Pinck. The patronage is exercised by the Earl of Wharncliffe and the Vicar of Aysgarth alternately, The impropriate tithes belong to Trinity College, Cambridge, and are leased by C. Other, Esq., of Coverham Abbey - gross value, £146 11s.

A School Board was formed in 1873, and a school, with master's residence, was built in 1875, at a cost of £900, on a site presented by the Earl of Wharncliffe. There is accommodation for 90 children, and an average attendance of 30. Another school was erected at Lunds, in 1878. High Abbotside is also a contributary to the School Board of Hawes, to which it sends two members.

Lunds is a scattered hamlet near Hell Gill beck, whose name is a memento of the days of the pagan Norsemen, when each grove and stream had its presiding divinity, lundr, the sacred grove. The chapel is a primitive structure, consisting of chancel and nave, capable of accommodating about 40 persons. It was described by the late William Hewitt, in 1839, as "a wretched hovel for a place devoted to religious worship." He further says it was so full of crevices that, in winter, the snow came through and covered the floor and benches to the depth of two or three inches, and the congregation, four or five in number, "had to seat themselves as well as they were able." There is a local tradition that for many years the chapel was without a door, and that the chapel clerk used to close the entrance with a furze or hawthorn bush, to prevent the cattle and sheep from taking their abode within the sacred walls. About the same time, it is also said, "the small bell was missing from the place where it usually hung, not more than ten or twelve feet from the ground, and, to remedy the loss, the same clerk used to come down to the chapel each Sabbath morning, at the usual hour of tinkling the bell, and elevating himself sufficiently so as to thrust his head through the hole where the bell had hung, vociferated lustily "bol-lol, bol-lol, bol-lol, bol-lol." The living is now united with Hardraw. The register dates from 1749.

This small out-of-the-way place can claim at least one inhabitant that has carved his way to wealth and distinction. This was John Blades*, a member of a family still represented in Abbotside and the adjoining township of Mallerstang. He went to London while still a youth, report says with the proverbial half-crown in his pocket, and obtained employment as a porter in a glass seller's shop in Ludgate Hill. Through his industry, integrity, and business capacity, he was advanced to the position of traveller for the house, which he represented not only in England, but also on the Continent. He subsequently married his employer's only daughter, and became proprietor of the business which he had entered in the humble capacity of porter. He was Sheriff of London in 1813, at the same time when another Yorkshireman filled the office of Lord Mayor.

* In 2019 Malcolm Lawrenson points out:
The John Blades, who became Sheriff of London, was never an inhabitant of Lunds (though there were lots of John Blades who were inhabitants). The apprenticeship records for his brothers at the Glass Sellers Livery Company show that they and John came from Stainton, near Barnard Castle in County Durham. Bulmers' colourful description of Lunds, far more so that most of the Directory, may have resulted from his agents stopping at the Moorcock Inn overnight and being entertained by the locals. For some additional information see the Prodgers Tomb article

Cotterdale is a small village four miles N.W. of Hawes. It is situated in a valley hemmed in by lofty hills, except on the south, where the opening affords the only entrance to this small but fertile dale. Here is Cotterforce, a beautiful cataract, and near rises Cotter Hill, whose rugged sides enhance the beauty of the vale. The village consists of about fifteen houses and a small Primitive Methodist Chapel, built some fifty years ago. Sedbusk is an agricultural village, seated on an eminence, 1¼ miles N.N.E. of Hawes. Near this place are several subterraneous caverns, called the Mazeholes, the roofs and sides of which are covered with beautiful stalactites and incrustations of various hues; and at the extremity of one cavern is an excellent spring of water. The poor of Sedbusk have the rent of an acre of land, bequeathed to them by Isabella Metcalfe, in 1782. Forsdale, Cams Houses, Litherskew, and Simonstone are other hamlets in this township. At the last-named place the Earl of Wharncliffe has a shooting box.

LOW ABBOTSIDE is an adjoining township, comprising 4,738 acres of land, chiefly of a moorland character, lying between High Abbotside and Askrigg. It is valued for rating purposes at £2,382, and had in 1881 a population of 130. The principal landowners are the Hon. William Lowther, M.P.; the Earl of Wharncliffe, who is also lord of the manor; devisees of the late Mr. Humphrey; Mr. John Jaques Willis; the representatives of the late Mrs. Hey, Messrs. Wood, Mr. M. Rukin, Angram; Mrs. Abram, James and Arthur Scarr, the exors. of the late Mary Knowles, Mr. C. Thompson, Mr. G. Scarr, Helm; and the N. E. Railway Company. The township, which is for all ecclesiastical purposes in the new parish of Askrigg, contains the scattered hamlets of Grange, Bowbridge, Helm, Show Cote, or Shawcote, and Skelgill.

This district formerly belonged to the Abbots of Jervaux, and hence its name of Abbotside. These lands were given, in the first instance, by Akar Fitz Bardolph, son of an illegitimate brother of Alan Rufus, first Earl of Richmond to Peter de Quincey, a monk of Savigny, skilled in medicine, and a frequent visitor at the earl's court, to found a house of the Cistercian order to which he belonged. Peter selected a spot close to a small stream, now called Grange Beck, and forthwith commenced the erection of a monastery, which he called the Abbey de Caritate, but a beautiful little fors or waterfall hard by gave to it its more popular name of Fors Abbey. Here, with two companions only, he dwelt for the space of five years, when, with the consent of the parent monastery, his house was made subject to the Abbey of Byland, and, in 1150, twelve monks, with John de Kingston for their superior, were despatched from Byland to take possession of Fors Abbey. The district was wild and inhospitable, and the brotherhood suffered much hardship from the inclemency of the weather and the sterility of the soil. Their endowment was small, 1½ carucates of land at Fors and 3 carucates in Worton, with the privilege of taking "the remains of all deer which the wolves had killed," and Conan, fifth Earl of Richmond, pitying their miserable condition, granted them lands in East Witton, whither, with the consent of Herveus, the founder's son, they removed in 1156, and erected the stately Abbey of Jervaux. Fors Abbey was maintained as a cell to that house until the dissolution of monasteries, in 1535, when the site and the abbey lands were granted away by the king on indulgent terms, and are now the property of the devisees of the late John Humphrey, Esq. A farmhouse, called Grange, now stands on the site, and the visitor would look in vain for a memento of the abbey, were it not for a trefoiled window head built into the wall of a barn.

On the east side of Grange is an Almshouse, founded in 1807, by Christopher Alderson, Esq., of Homerton, Middlesex, containing residences for three poor women of the age of sixty years or upwards, two to be chosen, if practicable, from Askrigg, the founder's native place, and one from Low Abbotside. There is also an out-pensioner, who must be qualified in the same way as the inmates, and who is also to be chosen from the townships alternately. The founder endowed the charity with £2,000 in the three per cent. consols, and each of the inmates has an allowance of £16 a year, while all that remains of the income, after deducting necessary expenses, is paid to the out-pensioner. The almshouse is managed by a body of trustees, whereof the vicar of Askrigg for the time being is ex-officio chairman. A little to the S.W. is Colby Hall, formerly the seat of the Colby family, but now the property of the Hon. W. Lowther, and occupied by a farmer. Besides the fors which gave its name to the abbey, there are within a short distance Whitfield Force and Mill Gill Force, two picturesque falls formed by the Mill or Paddock beck, which separates this township from that of Askrigg.

ASKRIGG township, comprising 4,697 acres - of which 2,811 acres are enclosed, the rest moorland - lies on the north side of the Yore, opposite Bainbridge. It is valued for rating purposes at £3,899, and had in 1881 a population of 624. The northern portion of the township is covered by high moorlands and fells, called Askrigg Common, which is separated from the heather-covered heights of Low Abbotside by a narrow picturesque glen, through which flows the Mill beck. This stream, in its short course to the Yore, forms two very beautiful waterfalls. At Whitfield Gill, where the narrowing sides of the ravine are thickly clothed with wood and fern, the water is precipitated in one unbroken sheet over the ledge of rock to a depth of 40 feet. About a mile further down is Mill Gill Fors, described in a local Guide as a charmingly broken waterfall 69 feet high.

Askrigg (from aesc, an ash tree, and rigg, a ridge) at an early period belonged to the Fitz-Hughs, and, in 1463, Henry, Lord Fitz-Hugh granted a lease of all his demesne lands in Askrigg, together with the tenants, to Abraham Metcalfe, for a term of seven years. The Metcalfes were a numerous and influential family in Wensleydale, and, like the rough English borderers, maintained their clanship for centuries after the ties of consanguinity had elsewhere, in this country, ceased to unite into distinct societies persons of the same name and blood. Even at this day there is scarcely a village in the North Riding in which the family is not represented. James Metcalfe fought under Henry V. at the battle of Agincourt. Brian, his second son, settled at Beare Park, in Carperby township, and was the ancestor of a long line. He figures as one of the heroes in the curious old ballad, called the "Felon Sow of Rokeby." Thomas, the eldest son and heir, purchased the estate of Nappa from Lord Scrope, of Bolton, and erected there the hall which thenceforth became the principal seat of the family. This Thomas held the lucrative post of Receiver of the lands of Richmond; and some time later, another of the family, James Metcalfe, Esq., the king's sergeant, &c., was, for his great services, made Master Forester of Wensleydale, Roedale, and Bishopdale, and Keeper of the royal park of Woodhall, with an annuity of £10, by Richard III. In 1556, Sir Christopher Metcalfe, knight, was High Sheriff of the county, and, as was the custom, he, with a retinue of horsemen for a body guard, met the Judges of Assize on their way to York. Sir Christopher, desirous of showing off the numerical strength of the Metcalfe clan, selected for his body guard 300 of his own name and kindred, all mounted on white horses and clad in uniform. The last of the Nappa line of the Metcalfe family, Thomas Metcalfe, Esq., was described in his aunt's will, in 1692, as "the hopeful heir to the old ruinous house of Nappa." The aunt's sanguine aspirations were not realised in the "hopeful heir"; he died unmarried in 1756, aged 69 years, and was buried in Askrigg Church.

Nappa Hall, so long the seat of this ancient family, is a picturesque dwelling of the fifteenth century, consisting of a centre and two embattled towers of unequal magnitude. It is now the property of Lady Mary Vyner, younger daughter of the late Earl de Grey, and is tenanted by a farmer.

There is a tradition that Mary Queen of Scots, during her imprisonment at Bolton Castle, passed two nights at Nappa Hall; and the massive carved oak bedstead on which she slept was long preserved at the hall, as a souvenir of her visit. It was removed by Lady Mary Vyner, the present owner. James I. also paid a visit to Nappa Hall whilst deer stalking in Roedale Forest. He was entertained by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, and it is said that, being afraid to cross the ford of the Yore on his horse, he was carried over on the back of Sir Thomas's huntsman.

Near the hall is an enclosed warren, celebrated for its breed of silver grey rabbits. The Yore and its tributary streams abound with cray fish, which are said to have been introduced into the river by Sir Walter Raleigh whilst on a visit to Nappa Hall.

The principal landowners of the township are Lady Mary Vyner, who is also lessee of the manor under the Crown; the trustees of Major J. A. Metcalfe; John Lloyd Wharton, Esq., M.P.; Mrs. Elizabeth Winn; the trustees of the late J. F. Clarkson; Major William L. Banks; Basil Thomas Woodd, Esq.; Rev. Charles C. Wood; Mrs. S. M. Wood; and Messrs. John and James Terry, and John Baynes.

The Town of Askrigg is situated on the north bank of the Yore, 12 miles west of Leyburn, and 5¼ miles east of Hawes. It is a place of considerable antiquity, and was formerly of more importance than now. Drunken Barnaby, in his Journal, speaks of it as

"Askrig, market-noted,
With no handsomnesse about it;
Neither Magistrate nor Mayor
Ever was elected there.
Here poor people live by knitting,
To their Trading, breeding, sitting."

It still maintains its reputation for hand-knit hosiery. The market, which has long been discontinued, was granted by a charter of King John, under which a kind of corporate body, known as the "Four Men," is still annually elected. The ancient seal has unfortunately been lost, but an impression of it exists, from which it appears that it bore the figure of the Market Cross, still standing in the centre of the Market Place. Here also is a large building, called the Old Hall, a pleasing specimen of Elizabethan domestic architecture, erected by William Thornton in 1678. A few yards from the door is the stone to which was formerly affixed the bull-ring, when bull-baiting was a popular sport in the dale; and a curious balcony between the two gables of the "Hall" is said to have been used for the purpose of witnessing the sport. The Old Hall is described by Miss Fothergill in her "Kith and Kin."

The Church is dedicated to St. Oswald. The pillars of the north aisle are apparently Norman or Transition, but the nave, which has a fine oak roof, and the rest of the building are Perpendicular, of about the end of the fifteenth century. It was restored in 1854, and now consists of nave, side aisles, a chancel with side chapels, and a tower in which are three bells, bearing the date 1659. The chapel on the south side of the chancel is the chantry of St. Anne, founded by James Metcalfe, of Nappa, and the burial place of the Nappa family. It contains an ancient piscina, and is new used as an organ chamber. In 1878, the church was beautified by the addition of a fine east window of stained glass (by Meyer, of Munich), which was erected by subscription as a memorial of the late George Winn, Esq., junr., of Askrigg, who was unfortunately drowned in crossing a ford near Aysgarth, in April, 1876, to the universal regret of all who knew him. A small tree formerly grew on the roof of the vestry, but was blown down about thirty years ago. The living is a new vicarage, in the gift of the Vicar of Aysgarth, valued at £105, and in the incumbency of the Rev. Christopher Whaley. The parish of Askrigg includes the townships of Askrigg and Low Abbotside, and part of that of Bainbridge; and had, in 1881, a population of 1,150.

The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have chapels here. That belonging to the former body is a substantial stone building, erected in 1878, on the site of an older one, at a cost of £800, and is in the Hawes circuit. The other was built in 1869, at an expense of about £600, and is in the Middleham circuit. There is also a well-attended parochial elementary school, founded in 1841 and re-built in 1876.

The village is in railway communication with the North Eastern and Midland systems by a branch line between Northallerton and Hawes, opened in 1877.

Woodhall is a small hamlet two miles east of Askrigg. The monks of Jervaux had land here which, after the Dissolution, came into the possession of the Metcalfes, to whom it still belongs. The Hall, which is surrounded by beautiful scenery, is the residence of J. C. C. Routh, Esq., whose ancestors have been settled in Wensleydale since the reign of Edward II. Sir William de Routh, knight, was Bailiff of the Liberty of Richmondshire in 1349; and his son, Sir Peter de Routh, Chivaler of Baynbrigg, was appointed Custodian of the Gate of Carlisle Castle, and subsequently Chief Forester of Knaresborough. This Sir Peter also held important offices in the royal household - at one time Keeper of the Door of the Queen's Chamber, and at another Usher of the Queen's Chamber. He married Elizabeth, only daughter of Adam, third Baron of Swillington, and the manors of Swillington, Thorp Perrow, and Rhodes devolved upon William Routh, Esq., of Baynbrigge, her grandson. From this William Routh, the present J. C. C. Routh, Esq., claims direct lineal descent, as shown in the pedigree compiled by General Plantagenet Harrison, and a title to the Peerage of Swillington.

CHARITIES. - John Weatherill left the interest of £50 to the poor of Askrigg; they also receive a rent-charge of 12s. out of Sater-end-field. Two of the inmates of Grange Almshouse are selected from this township.

BAINBRIDGE is an extensive township, comprising upwards of 15,000 acres, lying on the south side of the Yore, from which it extends to the borders of the West Riding. It includes the village of Bainbridge and hamlets of Worton and Cubeck, in the parish of Askrigg; and High and Low Blean, Counterside or Countersett, Marside or Marsett, Carr End, and Stalling Busk - all in the picturesque valley of Raydale and parish of Stalling Busk. The land is the property of several freeholders, the principal of whom are F. W. Foster, Esq.; James Eccles, Esq., Durham; the trustees of the late J. F. Clarkson, West Witton; the Hon. William Lowther, M.P.; Lady Mary Vyner; Basil Thomas Woodd, Esq., Knaresborough; William James Whaley, Esq., Hawes; and Mr. James Hodgson, Bainbridge.

The township is valued for rating purposes at £8,603, and has a population of 683.

The village is situated on the banks of the Bain (Celtic Ban, Bain, white), near its junction with the Yore, and has received its name from the bridge which here crosses the stream. It lay on the outskirts of the forest which formerly occupied the upper portion of Wensleydale, and was the residence of the foresters who had the charge thereof. This forest was part of the possessions of the Earldom of Richmond, and was granted by Earl Conan to Robert Fitz-Ranulph, or Randolph, Lord of Middleham. Robert was succeeded by his son, Ranulph Fitz-Robert, who, when summoned by Ranulph, Earl of Chester and Lincoln, to show by what warrant he made towns and raised edifices in the Earl's Forest of Wensleydale, answered, "that the towne of Beynthrigge was of the ancestors of the said Ranulph by the service of keeping that forest, so that they should have there abiding twelve foresters, with a horse for each." Besides the dozen foresters who looked after the "vert and venison," there were two grassmani, who appear to have been a sort of police, whose duty it was to arrest malefactors in the forest, and convey them to Richmond Castle. These grassmani had each two acres of land for ploughing, between Goldmyresyke and the village. The forest, like the Draconian laws that protected it, has disappeared; but its memory is still preserved at Bainbridge by the "Forest Horn," which is blown every night at ten o'clock, from the feast of Holy Rood (September 27th) to Shrovetide. The object of this nightly blowing, tradition tells us, was to guide belated travellers in the forest to a place of shelter and safety. For the same reason a bell was rung at Chantry, near West Witton, and a gun fired at Camhouse. The old horn, which had sent forth its gladsome sound for we know not how many centuries, was replaced in 1864 by a new one from an African buffalo, presented by Mr. Harburn, of Bishop Auckland; and the ancient one is now preserved for the inspection of the curious at Bolton Castle.

The houses are all well built, and surround a fine open green, in the middle of which stands the weather-worn framework of that instrument of seventeen-thcentury coercion, the stocks. The village hostelry dates from 1445, and another ancient house, with mullioned windows and a two-storeyed porch, recently re-built in its original style, once belonged, an inscription in Greek tells us to Alexander Ingram; and another inscription sets forth in Latin that "All earthly undertakings are perfected by the power of the Gods." The Wesleyans and Congregationalists have chapels in the village; that of the former built in 1836, and the latter in 1864, at a cost of £513. The Friends have a Meeting House and burial ground; and there is a National School, erected in 1876, in which the service of the Church of England is held on Sunday afternoons by the Vicar of Askrigg.

About a quarter of a mile from the village, the Yore is crossed by a bridge of three arches, called Yore Bridge, near which is situated the Grammar School, founded by Anthony Besson, Esq., in 1601, and endowed with premises in York "for the maintenance of a sufficient and learned schoolmaster," to teach grammar and the classics to the sons of the inhabitants of Askrigg. In 1683, Abraham and Anthony Fothergill gave to the school 2½ acres of land, called Blaydes' Intake in Brough Pastures. The school is free for Greek and Latin, but a small fee is charged for English. The premises have been re-built. In front is a curiouslys-culptured stone, representing a mermaid, said to have been discovered in one of the neighbouring Roman camps. The endowment now produces £160 per annum.

The Workhouse in the village was built under Gilbert's Act, but was placed under the New Poor Law Act in 1869, when the present Aysgarth Union, comprising the twelve townships of the civil parish of Aysgarth, was constituted. Under the Gilbert Act it was known as Bainbridge Union, and did not include Bishopdale, Carperby, and Newbiggin.

On a flat-topped eminence, close to the village, are the traces of a Roman encampment, which has been identified as that of Bracchium. The Saxons, who probably made use of the abandoned fort, called it Burh, or the fortified place, of which its present name, the Brough, is a corruption. The rampart encloses an area of about five acres. Several fragments of statues, altars, and inscribed stones have been found here, the inscriptions on which are given in "Gough's Camden." From one of these we learn that Bracchium was built by the Sixth Cohort of the Nervii, under the care of Lucius Aunœus Senecio. A statue of Aurelius Commodus with an inscription found here was long preseved at Nappa Hall. Two Roman millstones were discovered in 1817. They were encased in a leathern hide, and measured 9 feet 6 inches round the circumference, and 2 feet in depth. When put in motion they ran in the form of a dish, one within the other, and worked in a very superior manner. One of the stones is now preserved in a garden in the village. On Addleborough (the Saxon Ethel-Burgh or Fort of Honour), a hill one mile south of Bainbridge, Camden in 1590, found remains of trenches which he supposed had been a castra œstiva or summer camp to Bracchium. On this height is a cairn called Stone Raise, 120 yards in circumference. Local tradition said it covered a vast treasure, but when opened several years ago, a kist-vaen containing the skeleton of some ancient British chieftain, was all that rewarded the treasure searchers.

About two miles south of Bainbridge is Semerwater, a beautiful mountain tarn, environed by heather-topped hills, which descend in gentle sweep to the water's edge. It covers about 100 acres, and has an average depth of 45 feet. It is fed by several small streams which draw their waters from the hills at the head of Raydale, Cragdale, and Bardale, and from the lower end flows the little river Bain before mentioned.

According to a local legend, there stood here previous to the year of grace 45, a large and populous town by the side of a small rivulet. Hither came one wintry day a poor wayfarer, tired, hungry, and penniless, who begged in vain food and shelter from the prosperous citizens. Being repulsed from every door he wandered down the vale to the cottage of an aged couple, whose poverty did not permit them to reside in the proud city. Here he received a friendly welcome, and was hospitably entertained with the best fare their pantry could provide, viz., oatcake, cheese, and milk. He spent the night beneath their roof, and on the morrow before taking his departure, he blessed them for their hospitality to a poor wayfarer; then turning his face towards the uncharitable city, he cried

"Semerwater rise! Semerwater sink!
And swallow all the town,
Save this lile (little) house
Where they gave me meat and drink."

Scarcely were the words uttered, when the earth with hissing noise sank down; the stream overflowing its banks filled up the void, and the city was seen no more. The poor charitable couple prospered and became the richest people in the vale, and the blessing descended to their children's children for many generations. The poor beggarman was an angel in human form.

On the shore of the lake is a large boulder stone called the Carlow Stone, a name supposed to be derived from the British Caer Loch, that is City Lake. Two other stones visible but generally covered with water are known as the Mermaid Stones.

Above Semerwater lies the valley of Raydale or Roedale, once a favourite haunt of that graceful animal, with Cragdale and Bardale on each side. Scattered along these vales and by the margin of the lake are several neat residences and historic houses. Carr End, now a farm house, near the end of the carr, was the birthplace of John Fothergill, an eminent physician, who was born here in 1712. Having served his time to an apothecary, he proceeded to Edinburgh, where he took his doctor's degree in 1736. He afterwards travelled for some time on the continent for the purpose of enlarging his knowledge, and finally settled in London, where he obtained an extensive practice. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and also a member of the College of Physicians, Edinburgh. He was the author of several medical treatises and pamphlets, which were afterwards printed in collected form under the editorship of Dr. Lettsom. Fothergill was a member of the Society of Friends, and was a liberal benefactor to the Seminary at Ackworth belonging to that body. He died in London in 1780.

Thwaite End was once the property and residence of the Metcalfes. Counterside Hall, near the lower end of the lake, was erected in 1650, and was the frequent resort of George Fox, the founder of the Quakers, when he visited this part of the country. The black oak bedstead whereon he slept was long preserved in the house, and tradition avers that James I. also spent a night here while hunting in Raydale. Picturesquely situated under a ledge of rock at the head of the dale is Raydale House, formerly the property of the Robinsons, who, at one time, were at feud with the Metcalfes. The fracas culminated in the siege of Raydale House by Sir Thomas Metcalfe, in 1617, when two persons were killed and several wounded. The house is now the property of F. W. Foster, Esq., and is occupied by Mr. John Horner, farmer. Low Fors House, now a farm house, is beautifully situated at the foot of the lake, near the base of Addleborough Hill. Hard by is Low Fors, one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Wensleydale, where the water comes pouring down from a height of 80 feet in three zig-zag falls.

Worton, on the south bank of the Yore, a little below Bainbridge, is a manor of 1,900 acres, the property of Lady Mary Vyner. The old hall, once the seat and property of the Robinsons, was erected in 1600, as appears from that date above the doorway. In the kitchen is an old arch, much admired by visitors. The hall is now tenanted by a farmer.

Stalling, or Stallen Busk, is a small village near the head of Semerwater. A chapel was erected here in 1602, and rebuilt in 1722. It is a very humble structure. The living is a new vicarage, in the gift of the vicar of Aysgarth, worth £92, and held by the Rev. William Balderston, master of Yore Bridge Grammar School. The parish includes the whole of Raydale. The school was erected in 1874, by B. Foster, Esq., at a cost of £450, and is supported by voluntary subscriptions and fees. It is attended by about thirty children.

BISHOPDALE township, comprising 4,791 acres, includes a considerable portion of the valley of that name, containing some of the richest meadow land in the county. Among the hills which bound the dale on either side are numerous waterfalls, some of great height and beauty. The dale is supposed to have been at a very early period, probably during the Saxon age, the property of the Archbishops of York. In Leland's time this chase belonged to the king, and "yn the hilles about hit there were redde deer." The principal proprietors of the soil are the trustees of H. T. Robinson, Thomas Metcalfe, W. Purchas, and J. W. Lodge, Esquires.

The township is valued, for rateable purposes, at £2,398, and contains eighty-seven inhabitants, who reside in the scattered farmhouses. The far-famed Wensleydale cheese is manufactured here.

BURTON WITH WALDEN township occupies the lower ends of the vales of Bishopdale and Walden, and comprises an area of 7,600 acres. Its rateable value is £4,500, and its population, according to the last census, 444, The manor of Burton-with-Walden, which also includes the townships of Aysgarth, Thoralby, Newbiggin, and Bishopdale, belongs to the trustees of Henry Thomas Robinson, and the following are the principal landowners:- exors. of the Misses Moody, Leyburn; Major Costobadie; W. R. King, senior, Esq., Ferriby; Mrs. E. R. Hutton, Sorrelsykes; James Clarkson Winn, Esq., J.P., West Burton; exors. of T. F. R. Hammond; James Pilkington, Esq., J.P., Swinithwaite Hall; and the Rev. Dr. Wray.

The village of West Burton is pleasantly situated between the Bishopdale and Walden becks, about six miles E.S.E. of Askrigg. It was once a market town, and still boasts its ancient octagonal market cross and the remains of the old wooden stocks. The market has long been obsolete, but Fairs are still held on March 10th and May 6th for horses, cattle, and sheep. The Wesleyan Methodists and the Independents have chapels in the village, the former erected about the year 1813, and the latter in 1851, at a cost of £350.

A good stone building was erected in 1748 for a free school, at a cost of £80, left by John Sadler, a native of the village. He also endowed it with an annual rent-charge of £16, payable out of a certain estate, but in consequence of some legal informality in the devise, the payment was discontinued in 1793, and the school house was afterwards appropriated by an inhabitant to his own use. The present school was erected in 1873, by the late H. T. Robinson and his sister, the late Mrs. Hudson, and was by them endowed with £500 for the education of the children of the township. It is licensed for divine service, which is held every Sunday afternoon by the vicar of Aysgarth.

Walden embraces the narrow vale of the Walden beck, which stretches southwards from West Burton between lofty moors and fells, attaining, in some places, an elevation of 1,700 or 1,800 feet.

The poor of the township have a close, purchased with £50, left by one Metcalfe; and a piece of land in Aysgarth, purchased with £40, left by John Lupton, in 1784. They have also a rent-charge of 10s. per annum, and the interest of £30, left by Elizabeth Whiting, in 1756, for apprenticing poor children.

CARPERBY CUM THORESBY township comprises 4,879 acres of land, stretching along the north bank of the Ure. The soil is gravelly, and chiefly devoted to meadow and pasture. Lord Bolton is lord of the manor and principal owner, and Sir William Chaytor, Thomas Bradley, W. B. Wood, F. S. Strickland, and William Thompson, Esquires, have estates in the township. Its rateable value is £3,471, and the commuted value of the great tithes, which belong to Trinity College, Cambridge, £120. The village of Carperby, Kerparbi in Domesday Book, is pleasantly situated a little north of the Ure, on the Sedburgh road, eight miles W. of Leyburn. It suffered, in 1810, from a conflagration, in which twelve houses were destroyed. At the west end are the remains of an ancient stone cross, which has been of beautiful design. There are here two chapels, one belonging to the Wesleyans, built in 1826, and the other to the Friends, a handsome building, erected in 1864.

Bear Park (a corruption of Beaurepaire, the beautiful retreat) was long the property and residence of a branch of the Metcalfe family. It is beautifully situated near the falls of Aysgarth, and is now owned and occupied by Thomas Bradley, Esq. In the north wall of the house is a large sculptured stone, representing the sacred monograms, which is supposed to have been brought from Coverham Abbey.

Thoresby, which is also included in the township, is a small village about a mile below Bolton Castle, and 1½ miles east of Aysgarth station. It was formerly the seat of a family of that name, and here, it is said, was born John de Thoresby, Archbishop of York from 1354 to 1373. He was a younger son of Sir Hugh Thoresby, of Thoresby, knight, and was esteemed the most learned man of his day. He was Lord Chancellor of England and a Cardinal. He wrote an Exposition of the Ten Commandments and other theological works, but the most glorious monument of his memory is the magnificent choir of York Minster, which he began and nearly completed at his own expense. The family was of Danish extraction, and is now represented by the Dodsworths of Thornton Watlass.

Both Thoresby and Carperby bear evidence in their names of a Danish origin. The former place is supposed to have been the site of an altar or temple of Thor, the Norse equivalent of the Saxon Thunor; or it may have received its appellation from some namesake of the Thunder-god. Tradition says there was a church here in Saxon times, and the assertion has obtained some corroboration by the discovery, in 1861, of the upper part of a Saxon cross near the spot where the sacred edifice is said to have stood.

NEWBIGGIN township, comprising 1,683 acres, is situated between Bishopdale and Walden beck, and consists chiefly of high moorlands, in which lead ore is found. The principal landowners are the trustees of H. T. Robinson (lords of the manor); Wm. Purchas, Esq., West Burton; R. Chapman, Esq., Leyburn; Exors. of R. Lodge, Esq., Bishopdale; Mrs. E. Ryder Hammond, and Mr. S. Thwaite. Rateable value, £1,600, and population, 104. The village is situated about 6 miles S.E. of Askrigg.

THORALBY township (2,840 acres) is situated between Aysgarth and Bishopdale. The lordship was formerly held by the citizens of London, from whom it was conveyed in 1661, to Major Thornton of St. Nicholas', near Richmond. The manorial rights now belong to the trustees of Hy. T. Robinson, who was also one of the principal landowners. The following also have estates here, viz.: Robt. Sadler, exors. of Robt. Lodge, Rev. 0. Sadler, Wm. Purchas, Sept. Sadler, and Leonard Jacques.

The village of Thoralby (the by, or town of Thorald is pleasantly situated on the north-east side of Bishopdale, about five miles from Askrigg. There was formerly a chantry chapel here, founded by Maria de Neville, Lady of Middleham, in 1316, for the benefit of her own soul, and those of her father and mother, and of Robert de Neville, her late husband, and their ancestors and heirs. It was suppressed with the other chantries by Edward VI., and its revenues seized for royal use. The place where it stood is still known as Chapel Close. The Wesleyans erected a small chapel here in 1823, but this will shortly be superseded by a new one, now in course of erection, at a cost of £350. The Primitive Methodist chapel dates from 1849. A Reading Room was erected in 1887, at a cost of £150, as a useful and permanent commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee.

Littleburn House, an ancient mansion near the village, but now a farmhouse, was for some time the residence of the Lords Rokeby; and on a bridge, leading to the house, is an elegant Latin inscription from the pen of the fourth Lord Rokeby, who, whilst resident here, published a drama, entitled "John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough," which was printed at Leyburn. Edgeley was formerly the property and seat of Matthew Robinson, Esq., father of Mrs. Elizabeth Montague, a lady of extraordinary talents and conversational powers. In 1769 she published "An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakspeare," in answer to the objections of Voltaire, which obtained a great and deserved reputation, and still ranks with the best illustrations of the transcendent powers of the "immortal bard." She formed a literary society, which held its meetings in her house in London, and was nick-named the "Blue Stocking Club," from the circumstance that one of the gentlemen members always exhibited a preference for that colour in his hosiery. She assisted Lord Lyttleton in the composition of his "Dialogues of the Dead"; but it was in epistolary correspondence that Mrs. Montague particularly excelled, far surpassing her namesake, the Lady Mary Wortley Montague. She had her little crotchets and peculiarities, which she exhibited in various ways. One was a dinner which she gave every May-day to the chimney-sweepers of London, to commemorate the fact of her husband's kinsman, Edward Wortley Montague, having been for some time, during the wild period of his youth, a chimney-sweeper. She died at Denton Hall, near Newcastle, in 1800, at a very advanced age.

In the hills, near the village, is a very fine waterfall, called, from the adjacent farm, "The Heaning," but sometimes, and more poetically, named "Silver Chain Force." It consists of a succession of seven cataracts, formed by the Haw beck within a length of 200 yards, each fall constituting a link in the chain.

CHARITIES. - The poor of Thoralby and Newbiggin receive the rent of 4½ acres of land, left by one Butterfield; the interest of £3 6s. 8d., left by James Hammond; an annuity of 20s., left by Charles Robinson; and a yearly rent-charge of 20s., bequeathed by a person named Harrison.

THORNTON RUST. - This township lies on the south bank of the Ure, between Askrigg and Aysgarth. It comprises an area of 1,917 acres, of which about 900 acres are unenclosed moor. Rateable value, £1,758. The following are the principal landowners:- Captain F. Chapman, W. H. Tomlinson, Esq., Robert Chapman, Esq., John Chapman, Esq., Mrs. E. R. Hutton, Rev. J. Chapman, T. R. and G. Metcalfe, and John Cockburn.

The village, large and well-built, is situated on an acclivity about 2½ miles S.F. of Askrigg. There was formerly a chapel here, dedicated to St. Restitutus, the memory of which is still preserved in the nominal affix, Rust (Restitutus). Dr. Whitaker relates the following curious custom, which was observed here:- The chapel bell, he says, "was carried about and rung by hand, so that when any of the inhabitants died, it was rung as a passing bell in the middle and at each end of the village. This was considered as a public invitation to one member of every family in the place to attend the funeral, which was announced by another peal of the bell, as before."

There are in the village a Calvinist Chapel and School, founded by John Tomlinson, who, in 1827, bequeathed £2,105 7s. 8d., four per cent. consolidated bank annuities, and two acres of land for the erection of a chapel, and for the support of a "Calvinist minister and schoolmaster" to instruct, as free scholars, all the children of Thornton Rust whose parents are not worth £500, and also twenty poor children of Aysgarth and Worton. The chapel and school are in one building; the former above, and the latter below. Thornton House (erected in 1672), the property and residence of Captain F. Chapman, has long been in the possession of this family.

[Description(s) from Bulmer's History and Directory of North Yorkshire (1890)]


  • Transcript of the entry for the Post Office, professions and trades in Bulmer's Directory of 1890.

Scan, OCR and html by Colin Hinson. Checking and correction by Peter Nelson.