Wensley Parish information from Bulmers' 1890.


Geographical and Historical information from the year 1890.

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

This parish is situated in the beautiful and historic vale of Wensley, and comprises, in addition to the township of its own name, those of Leyburn, Castle Bolton, Preston-under-Scar, and Redmire, embracing a total area of 14,281 acres, and a population of 2,172. The Yore, or Ure, which runs in a tortuous course through the parish, has been fully described at page 24. The Northallerton and Hawes branch of the North Eastern railway passes through the parish, and has a station at Leyburn.

WENSLEY township lies on the north bank of the Ure, and contains 2,051 acres of land, wholly the property of Lord Bolton, to whom also all the manorial rights belong. The land is chiefly laid down in meadow and pasture. The rateable value is £2,171, and the population, 322. The village of Wensley is picturesquely situated on the north bank of the Yore, about 1½ miles W. of Leyburn. The scenery around is strikingly beautiful. On the north rises a ridge of precipitous limestone rocks, some of which bear a rich sylvan covering; to the south the view culminates in the majestic Penhill, and around woods and meadows intermingle, forming a combination of loveliness and grandeur scarcely equalled anywhere in the north. The village boasts a very respectable antiquity, and is said, on what authority we know not, to have been the market town for the whole vale before the Norman Conquest. Its market, in mediæval times, was held by virtue of a charter obtained by Henry le Scrope, Chief Justice, in 1318, in which also was granted the privilege of an annual fair on the eve and day of the Holy Trinity. The market was still in existence when Leland wrote his Itinerary; but probably ceased to be held after the town was wasted by the plague in 1563. So severely did Wensley suffer from the pestilence, that a field called Chapel Hill was used for the burial of the victims, and those not stricken with the disease fled from the town. From the following entry in the parish register we may infer that the church was closed, and the ministrations of religion suspended:- "The reason as some thinke that nothinge is found written in this register in the yeare of our Lord God, 1563, is because that in that yeare the visitation or plague was most hote and fearefull, soe that many fled, and the towne of Wensley, by reason of the sickness was unfrequented for a long season; as I find by one olde writinge, dated 1569, p. me Jo. Taylor." Wensley never recovered from the effects of this pestilence, and gradually fell from its position of chief town of the dale to a small and insignificant village.

The name has been variously written at different periods. In Domesday Book it occurs as Wendesley, and in other old documents it is spelled Vensela, Wendreslaga, Wensele, Wandesleye, Wenslagh, Wencelagh, Wynselawe, and Wenslaw.

The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, dates from the reign of Henry III.; but there is reason to believe that Wensley had its church in Saxon times, and that the rudely sculptured stone, bearing the name of DONFRID, now preserved in the vestry, is a relic of that structure. The nave appears to have been restored in the Tudor period, probably in the reign of Henry VII. The tower was repaired and modernised in the early part of last century. On each side of the nave is an aisle, separated therefrom by an arcade of three pointed arches, resting upon octagonal columns. At the east end of that on the north side was the chantry of the Blessed Virgin, founded by Richard, Lord Scrope, in which mass was daily offered for the founder and for all Christian souls. Here is now the family pew of the lords of Bolton, a most exquisite piece of carving which once formed the screen of the Scrope chantry in St. Agatha's Abbey, at Easby, near Richmond, whence it was brought after the Dissolution. There are eighteen panels in this beautiful piece of workmanship, each elaborately carved, depicting, in heraldic blazonry, the various alliances of the noble family of Scrope; and an inscription, with the date 1525, now much defaced, reads as follows:- "Here lyeth Henry Scrope, Knight, the seventh of that nayme, and Mabell, his wife, daughter of the Lord Dakers de Greys. Here lyeth Henry Scrope, Knight, the third of that nayme, and the right Lord Scrope of Bolton, and Elizabeth, his wife, daughter of Henry, Earl of Northumberland." On a stone in the floor near this pew are the figures of two children, and a Latin inscription, which tells us that they were the sons of Lord Henry Scrope and Mabell, his wife; and that one died on the 25th of March, 1525, and the other on the 28th of July in the same year. Beneath the pew is the family vault of the Powletts.

In the chancel are a triple sedilia in the Early English style, and several old oak stalls, the fronts of which are emblazoned with heraldic insignia exhibiting the arms of Scrope, quartered with Tiptoft, Dacre, and Warren. They are 16th century work, as evidenced by the quarterings, and are said to have been presented in 1525, by Henry Richardson, the rector of the church. It is, however, contended by Mr. Barker, that they once belonged to Easby Abbey, whence they were removed after the Dissolution, "probably by John, tenth lord Scrope, of Bolton." In the floor, in front of the communion table, is a monumental brass, which may be described as the perfection of this species of memento mori. It is in the very highest style of Flemish art, and is without doubt the finest specimen in England. On it is represented a priest robed in full canonical vestments, bearing on his breast a chalice and the sacramental bread covered by the corporal cloth. The stone carrying the plate was surrounded by a brazen border, bearing an inscription, but this bas been torn away, and an insignificant brass plate inserted with the name of the Rev. Oswald Dykes, rector of Wensley, who died in 1607, inscribed in all the glory of borrowed plumes. The name of the rightful occupant of the tomb has, however, been rescued from further oblivion by the researches of the Rev. James Raine. In the will of Dykes, discovered by that gentleman, the testator directs that his body shall be buried under the stone and brasse of Sir Simon de Wenslay." Sir Simon was a member of the Scrope family, and gave evidence at York in the great Scrope and Grosvenor controversy of arms in 1386. We are thus able to approximate the date. The east window, consisting of five lights, was inserted at the expense of the Hon. W. T. Orde-Powlett.

The nave and aisles are fitted with oaken stalls of considerable age, and an antique screen of wood separates the chancel from the nave. A large blue stone in the centre aisle commemorates the brothers Richard and John Clederow, both rectors of the church. The organ, a fine instrument by Abbott, of Leeds, was presented by Lord Bolton in 1883, in memory of his mother, Letitia, Baroness Bolton. In the tower are three bells, the oldest of which bore the following black letter inscription previous to its recent recasting, HONORI SCI PETRI.

The churchyard cross, by which our forefathers symbolized their hope in a blessed resurrection, was removed long ago, probably by the fanatics of the Cromwellian period, who in their religious frenzy destroyed or mutilated every sacred emblem they could lay their hands on in cathedral and parish church. In a search made by the Hon. W. T. Orde-Powlett, he discovered on the 22nd of October, 1887, the foundation in situ, due south of the south door, but not a fragment of the cross was found.

Richard, Lord Scrope, of Bolton, formed the design of making this church collegiate; and in 1398, obtained the royal license to resume a donation of £150 a year, payable out of certain lands, to St. Agatha's Abbey, Easby, that he might therewith endow a college for secular canons at Wenslawe. It was to consist of a master or warden, and as many fellows and servants as he thought proper. In addition to this endowment, Lord Scrope was empowered to transfer to them the patronage of Wensley church and its dependent chapels, and also an acre of land in the town of Wensley, for the habitation of as many poor persons as he should appoint. For some reason or other the foundation, which was evidently intended to be on an extensive scale, never took effect.

In the church lie buried the Rev. William Mason and his son Valentine. The former was rector of Wensley from 1673 till his resignation in 1683. He was the father of the Rev. William Mason, the poet. In the churchyard rest the remains of Thomas Maude, the poet and historian of Wensleydale, who died in 1798, in his 81st year. He was surgeon on board the Harfleur, when commanded by Capt. Lord Harry Powlett, who afterwards succeeded to the title of Duke of Bolton, and appointed Maude agent for the Yorkshire estates. The latter resided at Bolton Hall, and published his poem on Wensleydale in 1771, for the benefit of the Leeds Infirmary.

The church register dates from 1538. The tithe rent-charge is £1,097. The living is a rectory, net value about £700, including 79 acres of glebe with residence, in the gift of Lord Bolton, and held by the Hon. and Rev. Thos. Orde-Powlett, M.A.

The school is a substantial structure, built about 24 years ago by Lord Bolton, by whom and the rector it is chiefly supported.

On the village green is a grand old elm, "the only specimen now left of the 'forest monarchs' which anciently adorned almost every hamlet in Wensleydale." This was the trysting place of a past generation,

"When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree."

Wealth had not then created an artificial distinction between master and servant; a free and easy manner characterised both lord and squire, which even the parson was not proof against. Thus says Richard Braithwait in his "Drunken Barnaby's Journal"
"Thence to Wenchley, valley-seated,
For antiquity repeated;
Sheep and Shepherd as one brother
Kindly drink to one another,
Till pot-hardy, light as feather,
Sheep and Shepherd sleep together."

The Yore is here crossed by a graceful bridge, which was widened and restored in 1818. It was built, according to Leland, by Alwyne or Alwent, rector of Wencelaw, who died in 1436; but there was a bridge before Alwent's time. Richard Lord Scrope, who died A.D. 1403, left by his will £40 "for the repair of the bridge of Wyneselawe."

Near the village is Wensley Hall, a commodious residence, occupied by Lieut.-Col. the Hon. William Thomas Orde-Powlett, eldest son of the present Lord Bolton.

Several veins of lead penetrate the carboniferous limestone rook in the western part of the township. A mine was opened out many years ago at Keld Heads by the Darwen Mining Co., but, after a brief career, the works were closed. Subsequently, the proprietary rights were purchased by the Keld Heads Co., by whom the mine was re-opened about 46 years ago; it is now wrought by Thomas Dymond, Esq. There are three shafts, varying in depth from 20 to 80 fathoms, and two levels. There are smelting works and all the usual machinery for the dressing of the ore and the manufacture of the metal. The noxious fumes which arise during the smelting of the ore are deprived, by condensation, of much of their poisonous quality, and conveyed through a flue, under the ground, to the hills two miles distant from the works. In consequence of the depressed state of the lead market, only a small number of hands are at present employed in the mine, the output being about 100 tons of ore per year.

LEYBURN is a township and market town in the parish of Wensley, stretching along the north bank of the Ure, and intersected by the Northallerton and Hawes branch of the North Eastern Railway, which has a station here. The total extent of the township, exclusive of water surface, is 2,390 acres, and the population, in 1881, was 972. The soil varies from a stiff clay and gravelly loam, in the lower ground near the river, to a light limestone, as we approach the high moorlands that separate Wensleydale from Swaledale. Lead and coal are found in the district, but the mining operations of the township are confined to the 12 fathom bed of limestone, which is quarried on the north side of the Shawl by Mr. Styan, who employs about 20 hands. The principal landowners are Lord Bolton, who is also lord of the manor; Francis Henry Riddell, Esq., Cheeseburn Grange, Stamfordham, Northumberland; the exors. of the late H. T. Robinson, Esq., The Cliff; and J. Yarker, Esq. The gross rental of the township is £5,250, and the rateable value £4,546.

The town is pleasantly situated on the crest of an eminence, 625 feet above the sea level, eight miles S.S.W. of Richmond, 10 miles W. of Bedale, 18 miles W. of Northallerton, and two miles N.N.W. of Middleham. In the vicinity is some of the loveliest pastoral and romantic scenery in the county. Thus Maude sang:-

"Exalted Leyburn next, with open arms,
Due north our moving observation charms;
Where, from its rocky verge and sylvan side,
Most aptly ranged in gay theatric pride,
We view a lower world, where beauties spring,
Tempting and fair as classic poets sing;
Woods, streams, and flocks the vale's sweet bosom grace,
And happy culture smooths her cheerful face."

The name of the town is of undoubted Saxon origin, but its derivation possesses no historic significance. It is mentioned in Domesday Book; and it is said once to have had its priory, but no record is forthcoming in proof of the assertion. There was a church here in pre-reformation times, dedicated to S.S. Peter and Paul, but, after the change of religion, it was degraded from its sacred office and converted into a barn. It stood in or near the field called Chapel Flatts, at the west end of the town, and was demolished about 90 years ago, for the sake of the building materials.

The town consists chiefly of one long wide street of well built stone houses, most of which have been erected during the present century. The Town Hall was rebuilt by Lord Bolton, in 1856-7, on the site of its antiquated predecessor, at a cost of about £2,000. It is a substantial stone structure in the Italian style, with no attempt at architectural embellishment. In the upper story is the court room, where petty sessions are held on the last Friday of each month. The Market Place is spacious, and is the chief business centre for Wensleydale. Near the old Town Hall there formerly flourished two noble elm trees, between which were the stocks, and on the side adjacent to the Town Hall, and overshadowed by the spreading branches, stood the Market Cross. These, after enduring the storms of many centuries, were cut down in 1821, and their fall necessitated the removal of the cross, which has not since been restored. But the Market Place still retains its bull ring, a relic of those times when bull-bating was a favourite sport in the district. The market is held on Friday, and there are also four annual fairs, for cattle, sheep, &c., on the second Friday of February, May, October, and December, and a fair for cattle, sheep, pigs, &c., every alternate Friday, The Swaledale & Wensleydale Banking Co. have a branch establishment here, as also have the York City & County Banking Co. The Gas Works were erected in 1855, at a cost of £1,200, raised in £5 shares, and the town lighted with gas for the first time on the 5th of December of the same year. In 1877 Water Works were constructed, at a cost of £2,000, which was borrowed from government.

The Church, dedicated to St. Matthew, is a neat stone edifice, in the Early English style, erected at a cost of about £3,000, raised by subscription, and consecrated by the bishop of Ripon, on the 16th of September, 1868. It consists of chancel, nave, porch, vestry, and square tower, containing a clock and one bell, added in 1883. From the time when the old chapel of S.S. Peter and Paul above mentioned ceased to be used for divine service, until 1836, Leyburn was in the unique position of having a market but no church. In that year a stone edifice was erected by the Hon. T. 0. Powlett, at a cost of £500, in which service was held once every Sunday, by the rector of Wensley or his curate. This chapel was converted into dwelling houses after the completion of the present church. The Rev. Arthur Kelly, M.A., Oxon., has been curate-in-charge since 1888.

The Catholic Church, dedicated to S.S. Peter and Paul, is a neat stone edifice, in the Gothic style, erected in 1835, at a cost of about £2,000. The original chancel, which was too small to admit of the services of the church being carried out with that solemnity which the rubric requires, was enlarged about four years ago. The altar is of carved stone, and covered with an embroidered antependium. The baptismal font is a memorial to the late pastor, and bears the following inscription:- "Pray for the soul of the Rev. T. A. Loughran, who died May 6th, 1875, aged 42, and to whose memory a grateful people erected this font." It consists of an octagonal bowl of Caen stone, chastely designed, resting on a cylindrical shaft of green marble. On the alternate facets are represented the four evangelists, and on the intermediate faces the Lamb of God; the Host, chalice, and vine - emblems of the Holy Eucharist; the Book of the Gospels; and a marble tablet, with the above inscription. Another tablet in the church records the death of the Very Rev. Richard Bolton, Dean, 28 years pastor of the mission, who died 13th November, 1866, and to whose memory this tablet and the Stations of the Cross were erected by his grateful flock. The mission was founded in 1771, and mass was said in a small chapel at Grove House every alternate Sunday, by the priest from West Witton, until the erection of the present edifice.*

* Grove House, or, as it is now named, Thornburgh, was long the property and residence of the Thornburghs, a Westmoreland family of distinction in the 13th and 14th centuries. It remained in their possession until the death of George Thornborough. Esq., in 1774, when it devolved upon Ralph Riddell, Esq., of Cheeseburn Grange, Northumberland, by right of his wife Mary, daughter and heiress of the above gentleman. The Thornburghs were ever firmly attached to the old faith, and in the age of religious intolerance when the Catholic religion was proscribed and its priests hunted like felons, a chaplain was generally maintained at Grove House, and the "priest's hiding hole," in which he was secreted whenthe pursuivants were about, is still to be seen in the house. Father Hudleston, who was instrumental in the escape of Prince Charles after the battle of Worcester, and who also received him into the Catholic Church on his deathbed, is said to have resided for some time here. The mansion was considerably altered and enlarged in 1863, under the direction of Mr. Hansom, the architect, and is now the residence of the Hon. John Charles Dundas, J.P. and D.L., chairman of the Quarter Sessions for the North Riding, chairman of the N. R. County Council, and Lord Lieutenant of the County of Orkney and Shetland.

The Congregational Church is a neat, substantial building, erected in 1875, at a cost, inclusive of the site, of £1,258, which was raised by subscription. This edifice, which superseded a chapel erected in 1793, will accommodate about 200 worshippers, and is under the ministerial care of the Rev. P. K. Batchan, M.A.

The Wesleyan Chapel is a neat structure in the Early English style, erected in 1884, at a cost of £2,280. This sum was raised by subscription and the sale of the old chapel, now converted into a Public Hall, The resident minister is the Rev. Henry J. Atkinson.

Thornborough Charity School is the only public educational establishment in the town. It was rebuilt on the site of the old one in 1864, at a cost of £410, raised by subscription, and consists of a main room, 60 feet by 18 feet, and class room. There is accommodation for 120 children, and an average attendance of 78. It has a yearly endowment of £20, received from the Charity Commissioners. Mr. J. T. Bacon, master

Leyburn gives name to a Poor Law Union, comprising 80,268 acres, and containing 8,323 inhabitants. The total rateable value is £58,315. The Union includes the following parishes and townships:- Agglethorpe, Akebar, Arrathorne, Barden, Bellerby, Constable Burton, Caldbridge, Carlton, Carlton Highdale, Castle Bolton, Ellington, Ellingstring, Fearby, Finghall, Garriston, Harmby, Hauxwell East, Hauxwell West, Healey-with-Sutton, Hunton, Hutton Hang, Hornby, Leyburn, Melmerby, Middleham, Newton-le-Willows, Patrick Brompton, Preston, Redmire, Scrafton West, Spennithorne, Thornton Steward, Wensley, Witton East Within, Witton East Without, Witton West.

The Workhouse is a commodious block of buildings, erected in 1876-7, on the Quarry Hills, a little to the N.E. of the town, at a cost of about £6,000. There is accommodation for 38 paupers, and the average number of inmates is 26. The building which previously served the purposes of a workhouse was formed out of seven cottages, and has been converted into dwelling-houses and stables.

Leyburn Shawl - The vicinity of Leyburn abounds in beautiful scenery and objects of interest; but its greatest attraction is The Shawl, a natural terrace, extending upwards of a mile along the edge of a limestone scar. The name is supposed to be a contraction of Shaw-hill, that is, the woody-hill, which is aptly descriptive of the ridge. This beautiful walk commences about half-a-mile west of the town, and when it is reached the panorama that lies spread out before the eye would require the pencil of the artist to do it justice. "The steep precipice drops away abruptly from your feet," says the author of Three Days of Wensleydale, "and at the bottom lie huge masses of grey rocks, splintered and scattered as if an earthquake had strewn them there. Light hazels shoot up among them; . . . and a profusion of wild flowers fills the interstices. . . Old trees grow picturesquely from narrow clefts in the precipice, their topmost boughs just waving along the edge of the terrace, where ground honeysuckle and wild thyme blossom luxuriantly. Still lower down rise thick woods, sloping gradually towards rich fields. In these woods the soft, low coo of the cushat, and the sweet songs of linnets seldom cease, notwithstanding kestrels and sparrowhawks are sailing about, far beneath you indeed, but still high above the ground and the elm tops. Right opposite Penhill uprears his crest; westward Bishopdale opens, and Raydale; you distinctly see the cataracts of the Yore at Aysgarth, and hear their hasty rush, audible more than fifteen miles away. The view on this side is bounded by hills, which approach Westmoreland. Middleham and Bolton Castle are conspicuous, besides a host of villages and churches. The entire view eastward is splendid, only of a more subdued character than that towards the west; it is bounded by the remote blue hills of Cleveland, and with the aid of a glass the smoke of the engines on the Great Northern Railway is sometimes very distinctly seen." The scene is not only picturesquely beautiful, it contains many spots rich in historic associations. "On the banks of the Yore," says a local writer, "the visitor treads ground which has been trodden by kings and kingmakers. Edward IV., Richard III., and the famous Earl of Warwick; and there, too, sauntered in their girlhood, Mary of Middleham and Queen Anne. The historic associations connected with these and other great names give additional interest to a district which, independently of such aid, is in itself one of the most interesting that can well be imagined."

In one part of the ridge occurs a depression or pass where, according to a local tradition, Mary Queen of Scots was retaken, whilst endeavouring to escape from Bolton Castle. Though the story is uncorroborated by the authority of any contemporary writer, there is probably some truth in it, as the pass has now been known time out of mind as the "Queen's Gap."

To enhance the attractions of the Shawl, seats and grottoes have been erected in various parts of the terrace, and the walk kept in beautiful order by the Shawl Committee, aided by public subscription.

PRESTON UNDER SCAR is a township situated among the hills, in the western part of the parish, comprising an area of 2,656 acres, including about 1,000 acres of moorland. The soil rests on limestone and is chiefly in meadow and pasture. Coal, of inferior quality, and veins of lead exist among the hills in the northern part of the township. Lord Bolton is sole owner of the land and lord of the manor.

The village is situated at the foot of a lofty scar, which forms the western extremity of the terrace of rock stretching eastwards to Leyburn, 3½ miles distant.

Preston is said to have once had its church, but there does not appear any other authority for the assertion than its name of Priest's town. A small mission chapel was erected by Lord Bolton in 1862, in which service is held every Sunday evening by the curate of Wensley. There is also a chapel belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists. The inhabitants are chiefly miners, for whose intellectual benefit a reading room and library, in connection with the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes, has been established. In 1877, a scheme for supplying the village with water was completed, at a cost of between £100 and £200, which will be repaid by a voluntary rate in four years. A long level of a disused mine, about half a mile from the village, has been utilised for a reservoir, from which the water is conveyed in two-inch galvanized piping.

A little north-west of the village is Scarth Nick, a mountain pass in the road, from which a most beautiful panoramic view of the valley can be obtained, including the castles of Middleham and Bolton, the cataract of Aysgarth, eight villages, and seven churches

Bolton Hall, the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Bolton, is within this township, and about one mile west of Wensley. It is situated in an extensive park skirting the north bank of the Yore, and girt with a belt of woodland. It is a noble stone mansion, erected about the year 1678, by Charles Powlett, marquis of Winchester, afterward Duke of Bolton, who came into possession of this portion of the Scrope land by his marriage with Mary, a natural daughter of Emanuel, earl of Sunderland, and thirteenth and last Lord Scrope of Bolton. The hall was erected at a period when architectural taste was much debased, but restorations and additions, made during the present century, have converted it into an elegant mansion. The most interesting feature of the interior is the picture gallery, containing several remarkable portraits of the Castle Bolton Scropes, amongst which are the following Henry, 9th Lord Scrope of Bolton, and his wife, Mabel Dacre, of Gilsland; John, 10th Lord Scrope, and his wife, Helen Clifford; Lord Harrye Scroope, the 11th lord (one of the tilters before Queen Elizabeth at her coronation, A.D. 1558), and his two wives, in separate pictures; Thomas, 12th Lord Scrope; and Emanuel, 13th and last, who died in 1630. The situation of the hall is remarkably beautiful, commanding on every side a prospect both romantic and picturesque.

CASTLE BOLTON comprises an area of 4,960 acres, the property and manor of Lord Bolton. There are three farms and several small holdings let to cottagers, but a large portion of the township is of a mountainous and moorland character, the chief value of which lies in the lead ore beneath the surface. The gross estimated rental is £1,462; rateable value, £1,333; and population, 169. The village occupies an elevated situation on the ridge of hills which margin the dale on the north, and is distant about six miles W. by N. from Leyburn.

Bolton Castle. - The chief interest of the township centres in the ruined fortress whence it derives its name, and wherein many generations of the lordly family of Scrope passed their eventful lives. It is situated at the west end of the village, about a mile and a half from the Yore, at an elevation of 800 feet above the sea level, and is a conspicuous object in the landscape for many miles. The Scropes were resident here as early as the reign of John (1199-1216); but this feudal stronghold dates from 1379, in which year Richard le Scrope, Knight, M.P. for the county of York in 1364, summoned to parliament as a baron in 1376, and twice High Chancellor of England, obtained the royal license to castellate his manor house of Bolton, which he "made from the ground." Eighteen years were occupied in its erection, according to quaint old Leland, at an outlay of 1,000 marks per year, making an aggregate of 18,000 marks (£12,000), an immense sum in those days. From the same authority we learn that most of the timber used in its construction was brought from the forest of Ingleby (Inglewood?) in Cumberland, by means of divers relays of ox teams placed on the road. The building is quadrangular in form, the north and south façades, each measuring 183 feet, whilst the east and west sides are strangely unequal, the former being 132 feet in length and the latter 136 feet 10 inches. At each corner is a square tower, the walls of which are 96 feet high and 7 feet thick. These towers are connected by embattled buildings of enormous strength, with a small turret or buttress tower in the centre of the north and south sides. In the latter, and also in the four larger towers, the same singular irregularity is preserved in the facial dimensions. The buildings inclose a courtyard, 93½ feet by 55 feet, from which five narrow doorways, each of which was defended by a portcullis, lead into the castle. There was only one exterior entrance to the fortress; this was on the east side, and was also defended by a strong portcullis. Sir F. Knollys, writing in the reign of Elizabeth, says:- "The house is very strong, very fair, very stately, after the old manner of building, and the highest walled one I have ever seen, and hath but one entrance." On the south side of this gate was the guard room, and to the west other vaulted rooms, above which was the chapel, 49 feet by 19½ feet. The pious builder of the castle founded a chantry in this chapel, and endowed it with a rent-charge of £106 13s. 4d., for the maintenance of six priests, one of whom was to say mass daily for the soul of king Richard II. At the east end of the chapel was the piscina, and at the west end a tribune, whence a narrow staircase led to the rooms once occupied by queen Mary of Scotland. These rooms were connected with the withdrawing room, 47 feet 6 inches by 24 feet 2 inches, by a passage. From this room a very narrow staircase gave access to the sills of two of the windows of the hall, and a passage to the floor of the hall, In the north-west tower were some of the principal apartments. Here the original narrow windows appear to have been replaced by larger ones, with mullioned transomes. The grand hall, 51 feet by 27 feet and 36 feet high, was on the north side of the castle, and was lighted by seven windows, the sills of which were 13 feet 6 inches above the floor. Over the centre of each window on the south side was an aperture, apparently for ventilation, and to afford an exit for the smoke from the hearth. The castle, however, was not without its chimneys, for the royal antiquary already quoted says, "One thinge I muche notyd in the haulle of Bolton, how chimeneys was conveyed by tunnils made in the syds of the waulls, betwixt the lights in the haull." There appears to have been a gallery at the east end of the grand hall and another in the thickness of the wall on the north side. The kitchen would be in the north-east tower. Lewyn, a mason, contracted to build "a tower for a kitchen," the outside walls to be two ells wide; and also to "make between the said tower for the kitchen and the gate" certain tower embattled buildings, and an embattled tower "at the side of the gate towards the south." Within the north-east tower was the castle well, three feet in diameter, from which water could be drawn to the first floor, and in its immediate vicinity the bones of deer have recently been found. The castle has its dungeon, indeed what mediæval fortress would be complete without this appendage! This dismal chamber, 12½ feet long by 9 broad and 8 high, is excavated out of the solid rock beneath the small buttress tower on the north side. The only entrance is through a small opening in the vaulted roof, and the wretched captive once immured there could by no possibility effect his escape. In one corner is a well, and in another the rock to which the prisoners were chained, how many poor creatures have lingered here a wretched existence, until death terminated their sufferings, the world will probably never know, as such barbarous deeds were seldom recorded by the local annalist; but one armbone at least has been found still bearing its heavy iron manacles.

The most interesting incident in connection with this castle is the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots; and the apartment in which the beautiful but unfortunate queen spent a portion of her captivity is still known as the "Queen's Chamber."

Having hastily and unwisely determined to seek the aid of her royal cousin, Elizabeth, against her enemies, Mary crossed the Solway Firth and landed at Workington, on the 16th of May, 1568, in a sorry plight, as we learn from the following letter to Elizabeth: "I am in a pitiable condition, not only for a queen, but even for a gentlewoman, having nothing in the world but the clothes in which I escaped." She and the 16 faithful followers that had accompanied her were conducted thence by way of Cockermouth to Carlisle, where she remained a short time in the custody of Henry, Lord Scrope. When Mary placed her foot upon English soil she cherished the fond hope that she was now a free agent in the territory of a sympathising sister-queen; but the illusion was soon dispelled - she quickly learned that she had placed herself in the toils of a wily, crafty, and jealous woman, jealous alike of her personal charms and accomplishments, and of her superior right to the English throne. Mary was detained in Carlisle Castle until the 13th of July, when she was removed in the custody of Lord Scrope and Sir Francis Knollys to Bolton Castle, where she arrived on the 15th of July, 1568. It was during her sojourn here that the Duke of Norfolk, Lady Scrope's brother, through the intrigues of Mary's enemies, was pursuaded to make that proposal of marriage to her which cost him his life. Local tradition avers that Mary tried to escape from her custodians whilst she was a prisoner here, but that she was recaptured in a pass through the craigs on Leyburn Shawl, since named "Queen's Gap."

Mary remained at Bolton until the 26th of January, 1569, when, by order of Elizabeth, she was removed to Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire. The weather was bitterly cold, and Mary was wretchedly ill with rheumatism; but the order was peremptory; and mounted on hacks, lent to Sir F. Knollys by the Bishop of Durham, the unfortunate queen and the few faithful followers she was permitted to retain near her went on their melancholy journey over the frost-bound country. Her imprisonment for 18 long years, the plots that were formed to release her, her intrigues with the conspirators, and her execution by the command of Elizabeth, at Fotheringay Castle, in 1587, are matters of general rather than local history.

During the struggles between Charles I. and the Roundheads Bolton Castle was gallantly defended for the king by a party of the Richmondshire Militia, commanded by Colonel Scrope, and afterwards by Colonel Chaytor. The attack was vigorously conducted, but the little garrison valiantly held the castle, slaughtering their horses for food the while, and capitulated on honourable terms on the 5th of November, 1645. Two years later the castle was ordered to be rendered untenable by the Committee at York. Sometime about A.D. 1700 part of the N.E. tower, which had suffered severely from the enemy's cannon during the siege, fell in, and the remainder collapsed on the 19th of January, 1762, when in a chimney were found several musket barrels "eat up with rust."

Scrope Family of Bolton. - Whether on the tented field or in the councils of the State, there have been few names more distinguished than that of Scrope. The family was settled in Worcestershire before the Conquest, as recorded in Domesday Book; and in the reign of John we find them in Yorkshire. William le Scrope, in 1286, had three carucates of land at Bolton, which he held under the Lady of Middleham. The family at this time was neither powerful nor wealthy, but they possessed that mental calibre combined with force of character which seldom fails to carve its way to distinction. About this time a scion of the family, learned in the law, became the progenitor of the Scropes of Masham, Upsall, and Flaxstead.

Richard, the first Lord Scrope and founder of the castle, was the second son and eventual heir of Henry le Scrope, Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench. He was created a peer by Richard II., for the many and important services which he rendered to his country and to his king. "During the most brilliant period of our annals," says Mr. Longstaffe, "from the conflict of Cressey, and for the next 40 years, there was scarcely one battle of note in which Lord Richard did not distinguish himself." He was Lord High Chancellor of England from 29th October, 1378, to 29th January, 1380, and again from December, 1381, to July, 1382. He died A.D. 1403, and by his will left to his son Roger, "pro capella de Boltoun in Castro" vestments, &c.; for the principal chamber his bed, &c.; for the hall his green curtains worked with griffins, &c.; for the buttery two silver barrels, the constable's cup, and one mazer, called "Spang."

Sir William Scrope, his eldest son, was created Earl of Wilts by Richard II., and became by purchase owner and King of the Isle of Man in 1395. So vast was his power and influence over Richard II. that Shakespeare says of him, "The Earl of Wiltshire hath the realm in farm." For his fidelity to his sovereign he, with other adherents, was beheaded at Bristol in 1399, without the formality of a trial, and his estates confiscated. Having predeceased his father the title and estates of Bolton were inherited by Roger, the second son of Richard, first Lord Scrope, but he did not survive his father many months. Space forbids us to trace the various inheritors of the title. They married into some of the noblest families, of the land, the Nevilles, Percys, Dacres, &c., and "in the three centuries between 1330 and 1630 the house of Scrope produced two earls, twenty barons, one lord chancellor, four treasurers, two chief justices, one archbishop, two bishops, five knights of the garter, and numerous bannerets."

The direct male line terminated with Emanuel, thirteenth Lord Scrope, of Bolton, who was created Earl of Sunderland by Charles I. in 1627, and died in 1630, without lawful issue by his wife, Elizabeth Manners, when the earldom became extinct and the barony fell into abeyance, and so remains. By his cook, Martha Jones, he had a son, who died in his twentieth year, and three daughters, among whom his immense estates were divided. Mary, the eldest, married for her second husband, Charles Powlett, Marquis of Winchester, to whom she conveyed the Wensleydale property; Armabella, married John Grubham Howe, Esq., and Elizabeth, Thomas, Earl Rivers.

Charles Powlett, Marquis of Winchester, was created Duke of Bolton in 1689, but the title became extinct in 1794, by the death of the sixth duke without male issue. The Bolton estates were then inherited by Jane Mary, the natural daughter of the fifth duke, whose husband, Thomas Orde, Esq., a member of the ancient Northumbrian family, assumed the name and arms of Powlett, and was created Baron Bolton, of Bolton Castle, in 1797. He died in 1807, and was succeeded by his son, William Orde-Powlett, the second baron. His lordship married Maria, the eldest daughter of the first Lord Dorchester, but by her bad no issue, and dying in 1850, his nephew, William Henry Orde-Powlett, inherited the title and estates. His lordship was born in 1818, married his cousin Letitia, youngest daughter of Colonel Crawfurd, and by her (who died in 1882) has, besides other issue, a son, the Hon. W. T. Orde-Powlett, born in 1845.

The Church. - In addition to the chapel within the castle, to which we have already alluded, there were two others without the walls, dedicated respectively to St. Anne and St. Oswald. Of the former, only a few vestiges remain on the south side of the castle, but the latter still survives, and is in a fair state of preservation. It appears from the style of its architecture to have been erected about the same time as the castle. It retains intact most of its ancient features, its double transomed windows, sedilia, piscina, &c. In the north wall is the fragment of an altar tomb, but with the exception of the name, TOMAS, inscribed thereon, there is nothing by which we may identify him whose remains rest beneath.

The townships of castle Bolton and Redmire now form a separate ecclesiastical district called Bolton-cum-Redmire. The living is a vicarage, worth £180 per annum, including 100 acres of glebe, in the gift of the rector of Wensley, and held by the Rev. Christian Abraham Manasseh Pauli, B.A., since 1856. The register dates from the year 1684.

Lead ore occurs in the carboniferous limestone which chiefly constitutes the hilly moorlands of this and the adjoining township, and is wrought at the Apedale mines, which have been re-opened within the last two or three years, with a very encouraging prospect. The Virgin Moss mine was also re-opened about the same time, and yields carbonate of barytes as well as lead ore. Coal was formerly extensively wrought in the township, but the seams are now exhausted.

REDMIRE, or more correctly REDMEIRE, from a small mere or lake, is a township comprising 2,199 acres, the property of Lord Bolton, to whom all the manorial rights belong, Walter North, Esq., and the trustees of the late Hy. T. Robinson, Esq. The gross estimated rental is £1,858, and rateable value £1,689. There was formerly a Spa well on the Mill farm, but it ceased to flow about 18 years ago, probably in consequence of some interference with the spring by mining operations. The water possessed similar properties to that of the celebrated Harrogate well, and its medicinal qualities attracted many visitors. The village is pleasantly situated on an acclivity on the north bank of the Yore, about 4½ miles W. of Leyburn. It is chiefly inhabited by miners. On the village green stands a monumental pillar 14 feet high, erected by subscription in 1887, to commemorate Her Majesty's Jubilee. It stands on the spot formerly occupied by the Maypole, which was shivered by lightning in 1849. The monument bears the following inscription:- "This Pillar was erected, and the village streets supplied with lamps, in commemoration of the 50th year of the reign of Her Most Gracious Majesty, Queen Victoria, June 20th, 1887."

The Church, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, stands about half-a-mile from the village. It is an ancient structure with a fine Norman south doorway, and an Early English chancel with a good Tudor roof. Service is held here and at Bolton by the incumbent, every Sunday alternately, morning and afternoon. Among the funeral mementoes which grace the little churchyard is the gravestone of Hannah Hanson, of Bolton, who died on the 14th of January, 1812, at the age of 105 years.

The School was founded about 1725 by the Rev. Thomas Baynes, curate of the chapel, who endowed it with land at Bentham, which was afterwards exchanged for about 40 acres in Swaledale, now let for £20 a year. The present school was built about 12 years ago.

The Wesleyans have a chapel in the village, erected in 1816, and considerably enlarged in 1866. It is in the Middleham circuit.

The Town Hall is a commodious building, erected as a Drill Hall, in 1862, by Mr. Other, of Coverham Abbey, and now used for public entertainments, lectures, &c.

Elm House, the seat of Walter North, Esq., is pleasantly situated amidst some rich woodlands, and commands many delightful views of the surrounding dale.

At Redmire, was born Jeremiah Willis, a poet in the humble walk of life, and author of "The Beauties of Wensleydale," published in 1838.

CHARITIES. - Wm. Parham, who had been gardener to the Duke of Bolton, left by will to the poor of Wensley township, in 1670, the sum of £100, with which was purchased a rent-charge of £7 16s. 8d., payable out of the manor of Walburn. The poor of this township have also the interest of £15 left by persons named Foss, Metcalfe, and Bearpark. Charles, Duke of Bolton, who died in 1698, bequeathed to the poor of the townships of Wensley, Leyburn, Castle Bolton, Preston, Redmire, Harmby, Thornton Steward, Downholme, Carperby, Marrick, and Thornton Rust, the sum of £102 per annum, to be paid by his heirs out of the rents and proceeds of property which he bequeathed to them for that purpose. William Hammond in 1759, left by will to the poor of Wensley parish, the sum of £500, with which was purchased £648 stock in the Three per cent. consols; and in 1772, Peter Hammond left a similar sum, the interest thereof to be applied in apprenticing poor children of this parish, viz.:- two-fifths of the income for Wensley township, one-fifth each for Leyburn and Preston, and the remaining fifth for Redmire and Castle Bolton.

[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.