Grinton Parish information from Bulmers' 1890.


Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

Wapentakes of Gilling West and West Hang - Electoral Division and Poor Law Union of Reeth - County Court District and Archdeacony of Richmond - Rural Deanery of Richmond West - Diocese of Ripon.

This extensive parish, the second in magnitude in the North Riding, stretches about 20 miles along the upper reach of the Swale to the borders of Westmoreland. Its area, inclusive of upwards of 30,000 acres of mountains and moorlands, is 52,046 acres, of which 44,940 acres are in the Wapentake of West Gilling, and the remainder in that of Hang West. It is divided into the townships of Grinton, Melbecks, Muker, and Reeth, whose inhabitants in 1881 numbered 3,368. The whole district is wild and romantic - a varied combination of flood and fell and dreary moorland. Two ranges of hills - many of the summits reaching nearly 2,000 feet above the sea level - enclose a deep and narrow valley, down whose sides in narrow rocky channels flow numerous mountain streams, the waters of which unite below to form the Swale. These in their descent are often precipitated over ledges of rock forming cascades and waterfalls which, after heavy rains, are strikingly beautiful. The upper portion of the mountains in this part of Swaledale belongs to the millstone grit formation, and bears its characteristic covering of brown heath, the undisputed domain of the grouse and the sportsman. Lead forms the principal mineral wealth, and mines have been in operation here since the reign of Henry VIII., and probably much earlier. This trade in recent years has been much depressed, and several of the mines have, in consequence, been laid in.

GRINTON township comprises 8,804 acres, of which 5,500 are moorland, and is valued for rateable purposes at £3,681. The land belongs to a number of freeholders, of whom the principal are E. G. Whitelock, Esq., Cogden Hall; James William Close, Esq., Leeds; Col. A. H. Charlesworth, Chapelthorpe Hall, Wakefield; Messrs. Winn, Askrigg and West Burton; the heirs of Edward and John Broderick, Summer Lodge; the heirs of the Rev, J. Metcalfe, Hawes; Mr. F. Garth, Haverdell House; Mr. William Eglin, Hebdon Bridge; Miss Atkinson, Derby; Mrs. Clarkson, exors. of James Metcalfe, the heirs of John Littlefair, Gaythorne Hall, Shap; the heirs of Thomas Metcalfe, Miss Simpson, Mr. J. Barker, Mr. G. W. Robinson, and Mr. N. Clarkson. Col. Albany Hawke Charlesworth is lord of the manor, having purchased the rights from the Crown about ten years ago. The lead royalties have been leased for 42 years to a company which has recently commenced operations on Grinton and Whitaside.

The village of Grinton is situated on the south side of Swaledale, near the confluence of the Arkle beck with the river Swale, about nine miles west of Richmond. The Church, dedicated to St. Andrew, is an ancient and spacious edifice, erected apparently from the Early English style of its architecture, about the 13th century. It consists of a nave, with side aisles and a south porch, a chancel with side chapels, and a low square tower containing six bells. The carved oak screen work, which separates the chancel from the chapels on either side, is of early date, and in the windows are the remains of some choice specimens of ancient stained glass. The pulpit is of carved oak with sounding board dated 1718. The old fashioned boxed-up pews remain and have recently been painted and varnished. There are memorials of Sir Solomon Swab and of some members of the D'Arcy family, and beneath the floor of the south chapel "lies Elizabeth Blackburn, who was buried the 28th of February, 1688." A stone coffin, with a floriated cross on the lid, lies in the churchyard. An organ was added in 1860, at a cost of £200. The living is a vicarge in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and worth £200 per annum. The present incumbent is the Rev. Percy Smith, M.A., who was presented in 1855.

Grinton Lodge, the shooting box of Colonel Charlesworth, stands on the hill side S.E. of the village. Cogden Hall, the property and residence of E. G. Whitelock, is situated on an eminence about a mile E. of Grinton. The estate formerly belonged to the Wilsons, of Eshton Hall, and was purchased in 1740 for £2,000 by Caleb Readsdaw, Esq., whose son and successor, John Readshaw, built the hall, which with the estate was subsequently sold to James Fenton, Esq. From this gentleman the hall and estate were purchased in 1802 by Messrs. Christopher and Matthew Whitelock, of Ellerton, from whom it has descended to the latter's grandson, the present owner.

Swale Hall, now an antiquated farmhouse, but formerly the seat and property of a family from whom it took its name of Swale, is situated on Harkerside Moor, a little west of Grinton. Alured de Swale, the first of the name of whom we have any record, was the son (or, as others say, the nephew) of Walter de Gaunt, a kinsman of William the Conqueror, and the first Lord of Swaledale. This Walter founded and endowed Bridlington Priory, and granted to this Alured de Swale the manor of West Grinton, lying on the river Swale. Geoffrey de Swaledale, his son, was forester of Swaledale; and the next owner of the manor, William, son of Geoffrey, accompanied Richard Coeur de Lion to the Holy Land, where he died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, William de Swaledale, Robert de Swale, the great-grandson of this William, was in the Scottish wars of Edward II. and III., and commanded a troop of archers at the battle of Neville's Cross. Later, in the time of Charles I., Solomon Swale, of Gray's Inn, a barrister-at-law, was member of parliament for Aldburgh (Aldborough, near Boroughbridge), and proposed the restoration of Charles II. in the House of Commons on the 17th May, 1660, who was the following day proclaimed king. In consideration of this service, and for his losses on account of his loyalty to Charles I., he was created a baronet in 1660, and received from the king (Charles II.) a grant of £2,000, and afterwards the loan of another £2,000, to be repaid at the rate of £100 a year, without interest. Misfortune overtook the family in the time of the third baronet, Sir Solomon, grandson of the first Sir Solomon. The chief estate was held by a lease from the Crown, which the baronet and his predecessor had neglected to renew for many years. One Reginald Marriott, a clerk in the Exchequer Office, had discovered the omission, and procured, by petition to the Lords of the Treasury, in the name of George Tushingham, a lease of the greater part of the estate to himself. Sir Solomon beggared himself with lawsuits for its recovery, and was thrown into the Fleet prison, where he died of a broken heart in 1733. The title descended to his nephew, Sebastian Swale, a merchant of Malaga, in Spain, with whom expired the last male descendant of the second baronet; and the title became vested in the Swales of Rudfarlington, near Knaresborough, who were descended from Dr. Robert Swale, of London, second son of Sir Solomon, the first baronet. The Hall, with 20 acres of land, was sold in 1786, and there was little to inherit except the bare title, which the next three heirs did not assume. In 1877, the Rev. Sir John Swale, O.S.B., of Birtley, county Durham, as heir male of his brother resumed the family honours; "not," he says, "for the sake of worldly vanity, for a Benedictine monk despised all worldly things, but he assumed it as an honest and worldly man, having regard to the future welfare and preservation of the ancient house." He died in 1887, and was succeeded by his nephew, Sir John Swale, Bart., landlord of the Royal Oak Hotel, Knaresborough, who died in 1888. The title then descended to Sir Benjamin Swale, who died October, 1889, and it then went to his brother, James Swale, of Rudfarlington, who is the present baronet.

Crackpot is a hamlet about five miles W. of Grinton. Near the source of a small rivulet here is a curious cavern, designated in recent times "The Fairy Hole," though its older name appears to have been Crack Pot. The entrance is extremely narrow, but within is a spacious cavern, the further end of which descends abruptly, and at the bottom is a deep water issuing out of the rock. Between Crackpot and Grinton is Maiden Castle, an ancient encampment, probably of British or Roman origin.

The township of Grinton is in the Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of West Hang.

MELBECKS township is extensive and stretches along the north side of Swaledale, and is included in the Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of West Gilling. It comprises an area of 10,106 acres, more than one-half of which is covered by wild fells and moorlands. Lead ore is plentiful among the hills, and is wrought at several places by the Old Gang Lead Mining Co., Limited, who employ about 100 hands. The soil is light, resting on gravel or stone, and is chiefly in pasture. The rateable value is £3,865, and the population in 1881 was 1,165. The whole township forms part of the manor of Healaugh, of which more anon. Captain F. H. Lyell, lord of the manor, is an extensive landowner, and the following are also large proprietors in the township, viz.:- George William Robinson, Esq., Reeth; the heirs of Joseph Peacock, Esq., Arkingarthdale; the trustees of the late Matthew Whitelock, Esq., E. A. Knowles, Esq., Gorton Lodge; and Thomas and Maurice Birkbeck, Esqrs. The township was formerly noted for its knitted hosiery, but this industry is now almost wholly abandoned. There is no village of the township's name.

Feetham is a considerable village about three miles W. of Reeth. A church (Holy Trinity) was erected here in 1840-1, by public subscription and grant from Ripon Diocesan Society. It is a light and handsome edifice, in the later English style, and was restored and reseated in 1886, at a cost of £150. In 1841, the township of Melbecks, with part of those of Grinton and Reeth, was formed into an Ecclesiastical District, containing 10,106 acres and 1,519 inhabitants. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the vicar of Grinton, and worth £160 per annum. The Parsonage is a neat structure on the south side of the Swale, built by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1846, at a cost of £900. During the progress of the work, seven human skeletons were discovered in a mound near the house. They were deposited in the orthodox way - feet towards the east, and had apparently been buried in military clothing, as the buckle of a sword belt and other small matters were found with the bones. There is a tradition among the inhabitants that a skirmish occurred somewhere in this neighbourhood between the Scots of the Young Pretender's army and the "Dalesmen," and it was supposed that these were the remains of seven of the former who had fallen in the encounter. This tradition, if it have any foundation at all, cannot refer to the rebellion of 1745, as the Pretender's army, both in its march and its retreat, passed through Lancashire without entering Yorkshire.

Low Row is a hamlet almost adjoining Feetham. About the year 1690, or a little earlier, Philip, Lord Wharton, an ardent Presbyterian, fitted up his shooting box, called Smarber Hall, near the village, as a chapel for the use of Protestant Dissenters. His lordship also gave two parcels of land, in the county of Westmoreland, the rents of which were to be paid to the minister. In 1809, an Independent chapel was erected in the village, in lieu of this old Presbyterian one; and this was rebuilt and enlarged in 1874, by subscription. The Wesleyans have also a chapel and school here, erected in 1840, at a cost of £600.

Gunnerside and Lodge Green are two adjoining hamlets, divided from each other by a beck, over which a bridge has been recently erected, at a cost of about £700. It is built on the site of one destroyed by a flood some time ago. The two hamlets form a considerable village, now generally called by the former name only. A Wesleyan chapel was erected here in the early days of the sect, and rebuilt in 1866, at a cost of over £800. There is also a school belonging to the same body, attended by 85 children. The village has also its Literary Institute, erected at a cost of £400, raised by subscription, to which Christopher Pratt, Esq., Bradford, was the chief contributor. It contains a smoking room, reading room, lecture hall, and library, in which are some 400 volumes. The following hamlets are also in this township - Blaides, Barf-End, Kearton, and Wintering Garths.

MUKER township embraces an area of 34,066 acres, of which, about 28,000 are rugged fells and moorlands. The district abounds with mineral wealth, but owing to the depressed state of the lead market, and the consequently unremunerative prices which have now prevailed for the last three or four years, the working of that material has been discontinued. Iron ore is also known to exist, and coal is found at Tan Hill, where about a dozen hands are constantly employed. The manor of Muker was purchased from the Crown in 1545 by Lord Wharton. Frances, daughter and heir of the late T. Smith, Esq., of Muker hall, conveyed it in marriage to Charles Lyell, Esq., from whom it has descended to Capt. F. H. Lyell, the present owner. The following have also considerable estates in the township, viz.: Messrs. Winn, Askrigg and West Burton; The Misses Clarkson, Satron; the heirs of the late Thomas Lodge; J. C. C. Bouth, Esq., Wood hall, Askrigg; Booth Hay Metcalfe, Esq.; the Broderick family; Mr. R. Alderson, West Stonesdale; Messrs. Scott; Messrs. Wilson, Keld; Simon Fawcett, senr., Angram; R. Thompson, Esq., Inglewood, Penrith; and Mr. John Metcalfe, Gingerfield, Richmond. The estimated gross rental is £7,499, rateable value, £6,768, and population, 837.

The river Swale has its source here among the hills on the borders of Westmoreland, where it is formed by the junction of Sleddale and Birkdale becks at Lane End lead mines, about three miles above Keld. The valley thence begins to widen, and the river in its windings forms several small but beautiful waterfalls, the most considerable and picturesque of which is Keasdon Force, where the water falls about 15 feet "amidst an amphitheatre of rocks finely fringed with underwood."

Muker is a diminutive market town in the upper part of the dale, 10 miles W. of Reeth, and 20 miles from Richmond, but since the closing of the lead mines, its weekly mart is scarcely worthy the name. The Church (St. Mary) was erected as a chapel-of-ease in 1580, and a District Chapelry constituted, embracing the 10 hamlets forming the township. The edifice is a plain building with a tower, in which are two bells. The living is a perpetual curacy, of which, the original endowment was £8 6s. 8d., paid annually by the landowners of the chapelry, after the rate of 9d. upon every noble of rent due to the lord of the manor. It has since been augmented with £800 of Queen Ann's Bounty, £1,000 in parliamentary grants, all of which has been invested in lands, and with an annual grant of £24 made in 1844 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, producing a total income of £150 a year. The patronage is vested in the Vicar of Grinton.

There is an "Endowed School" in the village, originally founded as a Free Grammar School, in 1678, by Anthony Metcalfe, who endowed it with a house in London. This was sold and the money invested in land, which now produces £22 10s. a year. The school premises were rebuilt by subscription in 1849, enlarged in 1870, and a residence for the master purchased in 1882, at a cost of £200, towards which Edward Cleasby, Esq., contributed £100. It is now, as remodelled by the Charity Commissioners, a Public Elementary Mixed School, with an average attendance of 30, of whom, not more than ten shall be taught gratuitously. A Literary Institute was erected in 1867, at a cost of £260, of which sum £100 was given by the late William Tarn, Esq., and the remainder by various subscribers. The library contains over 600 volumes, The Wesleyan chapel, a little west of the town, is a plain stone building, erected in 1845, and enlarged in 1869. It will accommodate about 150.

About three miles W. of Muker is the hamlet of Keld where there are an Independent Chapel erected in 1745, a school, and a flourishing Literary Institute, with a library containing 700 volumes. The following are also hamlets in this township, viz.: Angram, Birkdale, Calvert Houses, Firth, Ivelet, Oxnop, Rash, Ravenseat, Satron, Stonesdale, and Thwaite.

About 2½ miles S.W. of Muker are several openings or fissures in the ground, varying from a few feet to seven yards in diameter, and extending to a considerable depth. They are fancifully named Buttertubs. At the head of Swinnergill, about 1¾ miles N. of Muker, is Swinnergill Kirk, a cavern upwards of 60 yards in length, where the early Noncomformists secretly met for worship when iniquitous laws forbade them to assemble in public.

REETH township is extensive and contains 5,659 acres, of which, 2,784 are moorland, and includes the town of Reeth, and the hamlets of Fremington and Healaugh. The hills abound in lead ore, and the mines give employment to a considerable number of the inhabitants. The present rateable value of the township is £4,449, and the population in 1881 was 998. The principal landowners are Capt. F. H. Lyell, Mr. John Barker, Reeth; John Tomlin, Esq., Burlington Street, Kensington, London; Mr. John Sherlock, Scarborough; Mr. Matthew Whitelock; Dr. A. B. Kernot, Reeth; G. W. Robinson, Esq., Reeth; Mrs. M. Robinson; Mr. James Littlefair, Gaythorne Hall, Westmoreland; Mrs. Winn, Askrigg; Mrs. Metcalfe, Hawes; and Mr. Henry Deacon, Reeth.

This place is thus mentioned in Domesday Book: "In Rie there are six carucates rateable to the geld, and there may have been three ploughs. Tor had a manor there, now Bodin has it and it is waste." In the time of the Edwards the manor was held by the Marleys and Gants. Later, it came to the Bigods, but was lost to this family by the attainder and execution of Sir Francis Bigod, for his participation in the Pilgrimage of Grace. It afterwards came into the possession of the Lords Wharton, and was confiscated with other manors and estates on the attainder of Philip, Duke of Wharton, in 1728. It subsequently passed through several hands to the late Thomas Smith, Esq., of Muker Hall, whose daughter and co-heir, Frances, married Charles Lyell, Esq., from whom it has descended to the present owner.

The town of Reeth is picturesquely seated on an eminence near the confluence of the Arkle and the Swale, eight miles N.W. of Leyburn, and 10 miles W. of Richmond. Philip, Lord Wharton, in the reign of William and Mary, obtained a charter for a weekly market and four annual fairs. The market is still held on Friday, but is now of scarcely any importance; and the fairs, under an arrangement made in 1856, are held on the Friday before the first Monday in March, the first Friday in May, the Friday before Masham lamb fair, and the last Friday in October. The Congregationalists have been established here since 1787. The present edifice was built in 1868, at a cost of about £1,000, which was raised by subscription. It is in the Gothic style, and will seat 400 persons. In the rear are a Sunday school and a small burial ground. The Wesleyan chapel was erected in 1796, and in May, 1887, it was considerably damaged by a fire that broke out in the early hours of the morning. It has since been restored and improved, at an outlay of £500, and will accommodate 500 people. It is under the pastorate of the Rev. Thomas Peers. The Friends' Endowed School was founded in 1778 by Messrs. Raw, and endowed with £2,195 2s. 6d., which has since been increased to £4,000. The present school, with master's house attached, was erected in 1862, at a cost of £3,000. There is accommodation for 400 children, and an average attendance of 120. It is open to all denominations. In consideration of the endowment, 30 boys and 20 girls are taught gratuitously. Mr. John Robinson is the master. A Mechanics' Institute was established in 1878, and now contains 1,090 volumes.

Reeth Poor Law Union comprises the townships of Arkingarthdale, Ellerton Abbey, Grinton, Marrick, Melbecks, Muker, and Reeth, covering an area of 70,267 acres, and had, in 1881, a population of 4,718. The rateable value of all the land property within the Union is £28,699, a depreciation of £8,232 since the previous valuation. The Workhouse is situated on the south side of the town, and has accommodation for 34 paupers; present number of inmates, 18.

Fremington is a small village and manor in this township, about half a mile east of Reeth. A Free School, in connection with the Established Church, was founded here in 1643, by James Hutchinson, a merchant and alderman of York, but a native of this place. He endowed it with lands at Gate Fulford and Fremington. The school is mixed, and has an average attendance of 68.

Fremington is mentioned in Domesday Book, and at that time Alan, Earl of Richmond, had the manor, which then lay waste. It afterwards came into the possession of the Gants, of Swaledale, and, at a later period, belonged to the Covells, of Ainderby Myers, one of whom sold it, in the reign of Elizabeth, to Thomas Layton, Esq. The next owners were the Whartons, of Gillingwood, from whom the estate was purchased by Peter Denys, in 1796, or soon after, from whom it has descended to Sir Francis Charles Edward Denys, Bart.

Draycott Hall, the seat of Sir Francis, is pleasantly situated at the foot of a steep hill, half a mile from Reeth. The house is at present held on a lease by W. S. Deacon, Esq., who resides here during the shooting season.

Healaugh, or Helah (Hale in Domesday Book) is another village about 1¼ miles S.W. of Reeth. It was once a place of much more importance, and the head of the manor, which included Reeth, Melbecks, and Muker, comprising about 40,000 acres. The manor, early in the 13th century, came into the possession of the Gants, lords of all Swaledale; and the mansion - which tradition says stood in the Hall Garth, and belonged to the renowned John of Gaunt - was more probably the residence of this family, between whom and the famous Duke of Lancaster there was only a very remote kinship. From the Gants a moiety of the manor passed to Peter de Malolacu, as co-heir to Gilbert de Gant, his maternal uncle, who died in 1297. This moiety was purchased in 1385 by Robert de Plesyngton, and the other passed, by the marriage of an heiress, to the Bigods. The manor descended in severalties tbrough various families, and eventually came into the possession of the Whartons, and now belongs to Captain Francis Horner Lyell. The owners of the royalties are Sir F. C. E. Denys, Bart., Sir F. F. D. Shuckburgh, Bart., and the Countess of Pomfret. The Wesleyans have a chapel in the village.

On Harker Hill, opposite Healaugh, are the remains of an ancient encampment, called Maiden Castle; and from this a line of entrenchments may be traced across the valley to Fremington, where ornaments of brass, inlaid with silver, and a Roman coin, have been found.

This township is in the Wapentake and Petty Sessional Division of Gilling West.

[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.