Through 2017 we looked further at the changing milling industry, from medieval times to the 19th century, had two village walkabouts to relate early social structure with modern-day, reviewed the long history of a moorland estate, and enjoyed an insight into some prominent county families.

Skipton canalside mills

Skipton canalside mills.
Photo: Phyllida Oates

Study of the region’s milling industry began in Nidderdale, with the Hartwith Heritage Group and their knowledge of the many small water-powered and two larger mills that worked on the abundant Fell Beck, between Low Laithe and Smelthouses, from the earliest corn and flax mills, through textile and rope requirements, bobbin-making and brushes. Later, we looked at Skipton’s substantial 18th and 19th century textile mills where steam power was introduced.

Our third visit was to Bancroft Mill, which featured some of the latest construction and engineering techniques in textile milling and is now a museum.

Giggleswick provided the focus for a study of historic social structure, from medieval times to the 19th century. We identified the packhorse trading route, and the earlier use of many properties: home-weaving, farming, yeomen, educational and religious. Many prominent families established themselves in Giggleswick before before becoming known nationally.

At Healaugh and Bilbrough, we studied history and medieval architecture. We made connections with the Wharton family of Mallerstang, of Thomas Wharton who settled in Healaugh, where there is an outstanding 13th century church, and the 4th Lord Wharton who established a Bible Trust specifically for children. Thomas, 3rd Lord Fairfax of Denton Hall, Ilkley, commanded cavalry at the Battle of Marston Moor in the early 17th century. His tomb is in Bilbrough church, as is the tomb of John Norton of Rylstone, who owned the Manor of Bilbrough in the 15th century.

The extensive Malham Moor Estate has a long history from the earliest settlers, through monastic farming and business, to 17th century apportionment. The harsh landscape is still farmed, but the area around Malham Tarn and its properties came into the ownership of Thomas Lister in the 18th century. The house developed as a hunting lodge, with many extensions and modernisings. Later it became the home of the wealthy Victorian merchant James Morrison and his successors and is now a National Trust Field Centre.

Early farm at Kettlewell

Early farm at Kettlewell.
Photos: Phyllida Oates.

We lured more recent Group members back to Kettlewell to review its long history. Avoiding prehistory we trod around the original village structure at Townhead with its old marketplace, inn, rebuilt Norman church, early farms, 15th century bridge and routes, and 13th century cornmill, all still identifiable. The expansion of the township was recognisable in the architecture, improved routes and bridges, and we attempted to associate early family names with datestones and census records.

This is a brief summary of the year’s activities but we of course keep full records of all our studies.

Report: Phyllida Oates. Photos: Phyllida Oates
The Local History and Vernacular Buildings Group Co-ordinator is Marion Hutchinson.