COVERHAM: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.


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

This extensive parish, covering some forty square miles, stretches southward from the confines of Middleham to the head of Coverdale, on the borders of the West Riding. Both the dale and parish receive their names from the Cover, which winds its way in numerous sinuosities through this beautiful dale, and empties itself into the Yore at Cover Bridge, below Middleham. The river is said to derive its appellation from av or avon (British) water, with c prefixed, signifying the shallow stream in contradistinction to the deep and rapid Yore. The northern and southern halves of the parish are distinguished as Low Dale and High Dale, from their respective positions, and these are again divided into the following townships; in Low Dale, Coverham-cum-Agglethorpe, Caldbergh, Carlton, Melmerby, and West Scrafton; and in High Dale, Carlton-Highdale. The total area of the parish is 22,120 acres, and the population in 1881 was 998.

COVERHAM-CUM-AGGLETHORPE township contains 1,410 acres of land belonging chiefly to the trustees of Henry Thomas Robinson, Esq., the Rev. George Edmundson, and Christopher Other, Esq. The manorial rights are held by the Rev. E. C. Topham, rector of Hauxwell. Coverham, Agglethorpe, and Bird-Ridding are hamlets in the township. The first named is about two miles S.W. of Middleham and three from Leyburn station, on the Northallerton and Hawes railway. The chief feature of interest in the township is the abbey, which once stood here, only a few fragments of which now remain. It was founded about A.D. 1215, by Ranulphus Fitz-Robert, son of Helewise, daughter and heiress of Ranulph de Glanville, Lord Chief Justice of England under Henry II. The inmates were White Canons of the Premonstratensian Order, who had previously been located in a monastery at Swainby, founded by Helewise, his mother, in the latter part of the reign of Henry II. Disputes arose, it is said, between Ralph Fitz-Robert and the Canons of Swainby, which led to the foundation of Coverham, and the removal thither of the brotherhood; but a more probable reason for the translation was that the sound of the abbey bells might be within hearing of his castle of Middleham. Helewise, his mother, had been buried at Swainby, but after the erection of Coverham, her bones were removed thither, and reinterred in the Chapter House.

The founder gave to the canons the church of Coverham and various lands and tenements, and subsequent benefactors added largely to their possessions. The church of Sedbergh, with three oxgangs of land, was given by Geoffrey le Scrope, of Bolton, to the canons, in commiseration of their great poverty, arising from "the frequent hostile inroads of the Scots and other events of adverse fortune," and the church of Downholme by another Lord Scrope. They had also the church of Kettlewell, and the rectory of Seaham, in the County of Durham. When the fiat of dissolution went forth, the lands, tenements, tithes, &c., belonging to the abbey were valued by the Commissioners at £207 14s. 8d. per annum, but after deducting pensions and other expenses, the net income was reduced to £160 18s. 3d.; Coverham was consequently included among the lesser monasteries, and surrendered into the king's hands in 1536. In 1547, the demesne lands, amounting to 1901 acres, were leased to Ralph Croft, at a yearly rental of £13 19s. 10d., and ten years later they were sold by the Royal Commissioners to Humphrey Orme for £419 15s. The other lands were granted away or sold on equally indulgent terms. The site, with the adjoining grounds, subsequently came into the possession of the Bainbridge family, from whom it passed to the Atkinsons, thence to the Listers, and from them to Christopher Other, Esq., J.P. and D.L., the present owner.

A modern mansion has been built out of the ruins, and the few fragments that remain are scarcely sufficient to enable one to form a conception of the original beauty of the abbey. The Norman gateway, which gave entrance to the sacred precincts, is still entire, and two arches of the nave of the abbey church remain, which appear from their style and ornamentation to belong to the latter part of the 13th century. The outline of the church can be traced, but the greater part of the site is occupied by a farmhouse and opt offices. Another building, now converted into cottages, appears to have been the abbot's lodgings. In the wall is a remarkable window of nine low lights, with transoms and trefoil-heads, and over a door is the inscriptions, "BUDSA....BYGO....ABBS. IMS. BINFELDE." Above another door is a falcon and "A" with "F.B.S. MERCY." also three shields with T.M. and a cross patonce. Several inscribed stones are built into the walls of the mansion, one of which states that "the abbot happily finished this house in 1508;" probably a restoration.

Two stone effigies, discovered during the progress of some building operations about the beginning of the present century, are supposed to represent two of the early lords of Middleham. They are habited in armour and cross-legged. The hands of one are folded in the attitude of prayer, and at the side of the other are represented two dogs chasing a stag, whilst a third dog is playfully biting the knight's scabbard. There is also the trunk of a third statue, probably another of the Fitz Randolphs.

The church dedicated to the Holy Trinity stands on an eminence near the ruins. It is in the Early English style, and comprises chancel, nave, south aisle, and porch, and an embattled western tower, containing three bells, The chancel is a modern re-construction; the rest of the fabric is supposed to date from the 12th century. In 1878 it underwent a thorough restoration, at an outlay of over £2,000. The east window, consisting of three lights, is a memorial of the Topham family, and on the south side is a square-headed one of two lights to the memory of Roger Dawson de Coverdale Duffield. Other two single light windows (modern) are inscribed respectively to Catherine Dawson, who died in 1670, and Chris. Dawson, of Melmerby, who died in 1588, and are both buried here. The west window of the south aisle, presented by the Rev. B. D. Dawson-Duffield, is full of heraldic blazonry, showing the arms of the chief local families - Scrope, Topham, Neville, Tomlinson, Dearden, Dawson, Croft, and Dawson-Duffield. There are also memorial windows to the Dawson family. The church is furnished with open stalls of pitch-pine stained and varnished, to harmonise with the open timbered roof, the pulpit, reading desk, &c. The approach to the churchyard is through a handsome lych gate, erected in 1888, in memory of the late John Topham, Esq. The living is a vicarage, with Horsehouse annexed, in the patronage of the Rev. E. C. Topham, and incumbency of the Rev. Frederick Wade-Dalton, M.A., who resides at Carlton. The joint benefice is worth £280 a year, including 200 acres of glebe, with residence.

Agglethorpe estate is the property of the Rev. G. Edmundson. Cotescue Park belongs to the trustees of the late Henry Thomas Robinson, Esq., and is the residence of Charles James Burrill, Esq. It was formerly owned by the Crofts, a numerous and influential family, which, in the reign of Charles I., possessed no fewer than seven manor houses in this immediate district, but not one of these is now in the possession of the family.

In this district are the famous training stables of Messrs. Bates, Dawson, Osborne, & Hall, whence have proceeded some of the most noted winners of the Derby, St. Leger, and other great races. Tupgill Park is the residence of Mr. Bates, and adjoining are the training stables. Mr. Bates was the trainer of Tam o' Shanter, winner of the Chester cup; Teviotdale, which carried off two Ascot stakes; Borneo and Riversdale, winners of the Manchester cup, and Border Minstrel, one of the best horses of his year. Ashgill is the training establishment of the Messrs. Osborne, whence many a celebrated winner has gone forth. Thorngill is the residence and property of Mr. Robert Osborne. Breckongill is the residence of Mr. John Osborne, a name familiar to all lovers of the turf. He commenced his career as a jockey in 1846, and has had a most successful record. Amongst other winning mounts Mr. Osborne piloted the winner of the Derby in 1869, of the St. Leger in 1863 and 1874, and of the Oaks in 1874. The One Thousand Guineas he has carried off twice, and the Two Thousand Guineas six times.

Miles Coverdale, one of the early English reformers, is supposed to have been a native of this valley. He was associated with Tyndale, another reforming divine, in translating the Scriptures into English, and in 1535, he published the first edition of the Bible ever printed in English. He was appointed Bishop of Exeter in 1551, and died in 1568.

CHARITIES. - Thomas Foster, in 1692, left to the parish of Coverham 13a. 3r. 30p. of land at Swineside - one-fourth of the rent for the perpetual curate, and the rest for the poor; and, at the enclosure of Swineside Common, an allotment of 2a. 3r. 32p. was added to it. There are also fourteen sheep gates on the moor. James Croft, of Coverham, left, by will, dated December 2, 1871, the sum of £300 - the interest thereof to be distributed by the churchwardens for the time being amongst the poor of the parish.

CALDBERGH, or CALDBRIDGE-WITH-EAST SCRAFTON, is a thinly-populated township, containing 3,449 acres, of which a large portion is moorland. It is valued for Poor Law purposes at £677, and had, in 1881, 72 inhabitants. Sir William Topham, knight, is lord of the manor of Caldbergh and principal landowner. The village of Caldbridge, consisting of some half dozen houses, is seated on the eastern acclivity of Coverdale, four miles S.S.W. of Middleham.

East Scrafton is an adjoining estate and manor, the property of Lady Chaytor, widow of the late Sir William R. Carter Chaytor, Bart., of Clervaux Castle and Croft, who died in 1871. Scrafton Lodge, the seat of her ladyship, is a modern mansion.

On the banks of the Cover, in this township, is St. Simon's Well, formerly used as a bath, and reputed beneficial in certain diseases. Near it stood an Oratory, called St. Simon's Chapel, but every vestige of it has disappeared, and the only memory which tradition has preserved of it is its name.

CARLTON township, usually distinguished as Carlton Town, comprises 2,742 acres of land, situated on the western side of Coverdale. Its rateable value is £1,315, and population (1881), 252. The principal owners are A. C. T. Orde Powlett, Esq., Ainderby Hall; Mrs. Williams, Weybridge; Messrs. John and Henry Constantine; Mr. Thomas Geldart, Carlton; Mr. James Simpson, senr., Carlton; Mrs. Stubbs, Catterick; and Mr. John Dawson, Canton. A. C. T. Orde Powlett, Esq., and Mr. Thomas Geldart are joint lords of the manor.

Carlton, the principal village in the dale, stands about three miles S.W. of the Church. A chapel-of-ease was erected here in 1835, and enlarged and re-furnished in 1875, at which time a new schoolroom was built adjoining. The Wesleyan Chapel was re-built in 1873, at a cost of £400.

CARLTON HIGH DALE is an extensive township, covering 10,389 acres, the greater part of which consists of lofty fells and moorlands. It includes the hamlets of Horsehouse, Gammersgill, Swineside, Arkleside, Braidley, West Close, Woodale and Hindlethwaite. The land belongs to several freeholders, the principal of whom are the trustees of H. T. Robinson, Esq.; Christopher Other, Esq.; A. C. T. Orde Powlett, Esq.; and Messrs. Wray and Pickard. Slate and limestone are abundant, and are quarried to a considerable extent. The township is valued for rating purposes at £2,171, and had, in 1881, a population of 247.

At Horsehouse, so called from being the customary baiting place in the days of packhorses, is a church, dedicated to St. Botolph. It was originally erected as a chapel-of-ease to Coverham, and afterwards became a perpetual curacy. The fabric was re-built in 1869, in the Perpendicular Gothic style, and comprises chancel, nave, south porch, and a low western tower, with embattlements and pinnacles, containing three bells. The living is annexed to Coverham. The Wesleyan Chapel here dates from 1828, and that belonging to the Primitive Methodists, from 1860.

CHARITIES. - John Constantine, in 1724, bequeathed, out of four farms at Gammersgill several rent-charges, amounting to £25 15s. per annum, vis., £12 for the resident curate of Horsehouse; £3 for the education of three poor children; £9 for apprenticing three poor boys; £1 to the poor of Gammersgill; and 15s. for the Trustees. In 1714, William Swithenbank charged his estate at Horsehouse with the following yearly rents:- 20s. for four sermons at Horsehouse Chapel; 20s. to the poor of the congregation; £5 for educating and apprenticing poor boys of the constablewick of Canton; and £2 for poor widows. The poor have also 20s. a year bequeathed by John and Thomas Hammond.

The endowed school was re-built in 1877 at the joint expense of the late H. T. Robinson, Esq., and Mr. G. W. W. Wray, of Leyburn, and has an average attendance of 30 children.

MELMERBY township (area, 1,212 acres) lies on the west side of Coverdale, and includes part of the moorland fell of Penhill. The rateable value is £544, and the number of inhabitants 110. A. C. T. Orde Powlett, Esq., is lord of the manor and owner of the greater part of the land. The village consists of a few scattered houses, four miles S.W. of Middleham. The poor have 30s. a year, left by Oswald Marshall.

A remarkable instance of canine sagacity occurred here in February of the present year (1889). A man named Taylor was out on the wild bleak moor, accompanied by his dog, when he suddenly had a fit, and fell down among the snow. The dog set off home, and, by his gesticulations, plainly indicated that something was amiss. A young man followed the animal, which went straight to the spot where Taylor was lying unconscious. The snow was coming down very heavily at the time, and, had the search been delayed, Taylor would in all probability have perished.

WEST SCRAFTON is another township in this parish. It lies on the eastern side of the dale, and contains about 1,600 acres, belonging to several owners, of whom the principal are Christopher Other, Esq., who is lord of the manor, and the Rev. A. M. C. Pauli, Redmire. There is a seam of coal in the township, and flag and slate are quarried among the hills. The rateable value is £474, and population 106. The village is small, and occupies an elevated situation on the side of a steep eminence, about two miles from Coverham. The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists have each chapels here, built in 1866.

[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.