In August 2013 the History and Vernacular Buildings Study Group absorbed some of the story of Wensleydale’s earliest important township – Wensley.  This historic area, all the manorial rights, has always belonged to the Lords Bolton, and this is still an Estate village. Originally this was the chief township in Wensleydale, on the River Ure, but the devastating plague of 1563 rendered the whole ‘wasted’.  Villagers who survived the plague evacuated the smitten area, and the once-thriving medieval fair and markets became established in Leyburn. By the 18th century Wensley village had been reconstructed as the population grew again, but the church, standing on ancient sanctified ground, holds the historic story.

Far removed from its earliest river crossing of probably tree trunks, and progressively rebuilt in stone, repaired after major floods, the strong and handsome 19th century bridge we now see does still retain two central 15th century pointed arches. The bridge was probably built with the £40 left by Richard, the first Lord Scrope for the repair of the earlier bridge.

Holy Trinity Church in Wensley dates from 1240, and reveals much evidence of its early history, internally and within the churchyard.  Ancient stones, often with worn inscriptions, identify much of a dramatic past.  Wooden carvings in the church date from 1527, created by craftsmen of The Ripon carvers.  Similarities in the designs suggest that their works is evident in places from Aysgarth to Flamborough, and Durham castle to Manchester cathedral.  This image is one of the Coat of Arms of Sir John Scrope, KG, 5th Baron of Bolton, 1461-1498, and the family Tiptoft, impaling the family Dacre, and quartered by Vaux, the whole supported by two eagles.

Much of the village was restored in the 18th century, Victorian architecture dominant in well designed and strong stone structure, typically featuring decorative bargeboards along the edge of house gables to cover the rafters and keep out the rain. Some were built in the Jacobean style, with the mullioned windows originally in iron frames.

The delightful Wensley Brook plunges from its northly source, over many little waterfalls and through small deep gorges, sustaining many water-loving plants and mosses, before finally discharging into the River Ure.  Here, an early cornmill captured the power from the brook by its waterwheel to rotate the cogs for grinding.  This complex still survives and is is the Workshop of White Rose Candles.

This 18th/19th century barn of Myers Farm was probably originally another flour mill, as the remains of a waterwheel can be seen on the Wensley Brook side.  Oats, particularly, were a staple diet of local lead miners and farmers right through the 18th century. It is now used as a sawmill.

Sunlight catching the gearing of the barn’s millwheel at Myers Farm.

Phyllida Oates