The Field Society history group has made visits to Skipton seeing Springs Canal, High Corn Mill, the Castle and the Church and the Ginnels leading from High Street to the canal.  Last year we saw the development of Skipton after 1865 when the Castle made available land for the Union Mill and for the Middletown and New Town developments to provide housing for the workers and the role played by the canal in the location of mills and its associated housing. In the main there was only one major landowner involved, Skipton Castle. It laid out road patterns in the rows of tightly packed terraces of small houses which was in close proximity to the mills clustered around the canal.

To complete the survey we looked at Gargrave Road where land was available to meet a range of needs and uses which could not be accommodated in the cramped town centre or immediately around the mills. Skipton was not solely a “mill town” and although spinning and weaving were major employers, the town had originated as a market town and this role continued. Roles for “middle management” arose and, with the introduction of Skipton as a rail hub for the Midland Railway, there were considerable job opportunities. The business of the town expanded and a secure and stable “middle class” was created. Developments in Gargrave Road reflected the different uses, the number of landowners involved, the differing purposes of the developers and in the west and north of the Town the demand for and provision of better-quality housing.

Gargrave Road reflects these different elements. It is the site of site of four schools all built in the second half of the nineteenth century, one specifically for the children of mill workers, one for Roman Catholics with accompanying Church and Convent, and two chapels (if Water Street is included). It is the site of the Workhouse built in 1834 and it is the road selected for the building of better-quality housing as well as mansions for the wealthiest residents.

Social and aesthetic factors influenced the location of better-quality housing in Gargrave Road (and to the North and West of the town) such as avoiding industrial smoke, having long distance views or proximity to well-to-do neighbours. However, the sites were in themselves not suitable for building a mill and possibly more expensive to develop for mill housing which in any event was being provided elsewhere in the town. There is a social gradient as well as a physical gradient as we progress along Gargrave Road with the better housing being on higher ground the to the west and north of the town. Indicators in this are the change from terrace to semi-detached to detached, the inclusion of a bay window, garden and basement and the increase in size of the plot. However, notwithstanding these factors, the housing was in reality close to the town mills and the canal as our walk revealed.

The different number of landowners and developers involved produced a variety of house designs which we did not see in the New Town and Middletown mill workers housing. The principal landowners being Skipton Castle, Ermysteds School and the Birtwhistle family. Each continued the former practice of establishing a road pattern and selling individual plots but for their own reasons imposed obligations in the form of legal covenants on the builders to achieve better quality housing. As we progressed along Gargrave Road there is no regular time line and developments took place as the landowners/developers wished and they took place at the same time as Middletown and New Town and the mills were being built.

Individual Properties.

Several individual properties were noted. Coach Street Chapel was built in 1836 by the Primitive Methodists, the design contrasting with the Wesleyan Chapel in Water Street. In 1856, Sidgwick School was built, and is now ‘Calico Jack’. Two years earlier, St Stephens Roman Catholic School had been added to the complex including the Church and Convent.

Park Terrace, (1875) was built on land owned by Ermysteds School and was in a sensitive position. When selling the land Ermysteds imposed strict covenants regarding the size and appearance of the housing to be built. The houses are considerably larger than the Middle Town terraces with architectural features enhancing their appearance. The houses were to have a minimum building cost of £500 per house and were to be built in accordance with a design from one architect – James Hartley. Although the plots were sold off individually the resulting appearance is of a single terrace.


Woodman Terrace – the Woodman Public House was built to meet East West trade following building of Gargrave Road, to avoid the former Turnpike route over White Hills to the north.

Gainsborough Court now incorporates Skipton Workhouse dated 1836.

Ash Grove 1878, a speculative development and example of individual entrepreneurship, was developed by Joseph Platt a Coachbuilder. Farther along is Skipton Girls High School, 1888.

Woodlands House, 1856, is the only surviving mansion in Gargrave Road, apart from Aireville Hall – now Skipton Academy. It was built by the Hattersley Family, local industrialists. The Lodge to Woodlands is of Arts and Craft design.

In contrast to the majority of terraced properties in Gargrave Road, numbers 22-28 are a terrace with no concern for uniformity in any of the house designs.

The steep West Bank Road was intended by Skipton Castle as site for large high-quality houses.  Initially only two built due to a property crash.  However, the Castle stuck to its decision and did not reduce its quality standards. Again, there is influence of Arts and Crafts designs with half timbering. The Knowle 1898, was designed by James Hartley, Westville and Lynwood two large semi-detached house by W.T Shuttleworth.

At Granville Street housing features were noted on side roads down to Brook Street. As we progressed down Granville Street we saw in the side roads the gradual reduction in housing standards from detached at the top to small terraced housing at the bottom, and the loss of bay windows, and front gardens and reduction in plot size. We came suddenly upon the canal and Dewhurst and Victoria Mills which demonstrated that the housing remained in close proximity to the Town and the source of its wealth.

Text by Ian Clark

Pictures by Phyllida Oates