A small but select group visited Long Preston (LP) in mid-September. The visit was in two halves punctuated by a good lunch at the Maypole. This is a string village at the junction of the A682 and the A65, four miles from Settle.

Long Preston is one of a handful of villages which still show traces of its 14thC. mediaeval origin, another one being Burton in Kendal. There are two triangular greens, one at the Maypole, one to the west of the main road, few buildings survive even from the 18thC.   What has survived very well are the crofts behind the houses or tofts.  Evidence strongly suggests that the village crofts around the Maypole demonstrate the centre of the village at Domesday, the other groups of crofts being Monastic and Freehold.

One of the green on the east side of road, looking towards Magna Printing

Another unusual feature of LP is the number of barns, many of them being very large most probably to feed the huge numbers of animals that passed through Long Preston at the cattle and livestock fairs on ‘the concrete’ near the Maypole.  Many of the barns of course have been converted into residential properties.

Kirklea (datestone 1679) on Main Street has a very interesting frontage with 18th and 19thC additions. Two semi-detached cottages off Back Green are amongst the oldest houses in the village. Again 17thC. with later additions, it now appears to be one residence.  We were also informed of an apparent ‘witch’s seat’ on the chimney of nearby Greenbank House which appropriately is facing Pendle Hill.

Kirklea 17th Century origins, with later additions

One barn on Station Rd. is still being used for its original purpose as a hay barn. Across the fields from here we viewed the Almshouses or Knowles hospital. Founded in 1613 by James Knowles a mercer from London but native to the village.   The almshouses were rebuilt in the Gothic style in 1895.

The resident of 1 and 1A Main St. gave us a most informative history of the houses which had also been a tea room in Victorian times.  We have found that it seems to be serendipitous to chat with local residents as we sometimes discover much more than written sources can tell us.  On to Anvil House, one of two smithies in the village, the other being adjacent to the Maypole.  West View on Main St. has an earlier house at the back with a very fine 17thC. doorway.

On the way to the church a very unusual millstone is propped against a wall. Made from French Burhstone – quartzite stone, it consists of many sections bound together with an iron band.

There is a very interesting small old looking building next to Vicarage Barn on Church St. Maybe this was the site of one of the first schools? Further along adjacent to the church is where the Tithe Barn stood. Tithes would have been collected by the vicar provided by Bolton Priory in 1303, following the Dissolution the tithes were given to Christ Church Oxford and were still being collected in the 19thC. Although the then vicar bemoaned the fact that he could not collect all the tithes as some villages belonged to dissenting churches, around 30% of the population.

Two cottages on Back Green Lane, late 17thC with later additions

St Mary’s Church is the oldest building in the village. Possibly built on the site of an Anglo Saxon Church. In the Domesday “Ulf had three casucates in Prestune and a church”.  Apparently the chantry chapel on the south aisle was the first educational establishment in the village in 1469.  The north and south arcades have octagonal piers and segmental pointed arches.  There is stained glass by Carponnier and four old interesting coats of arms belonging to previous landowners, the de Clares, Lucys, Percys and Cliffords, – blue and yellow chequered.  Eagle eyed viewers of the Queens Funeral would have spotted the Clifford coat of arms at the back of the high altar at Westminster, although the one in St. Mary’s has a red horizontal band in the middle.

The old Boys School near to the church has fine arched windows with tracery.  As we moved-along Back Lane (there are two in LP.) we were able to view the crofts more easily.

Another place of note on Main St. is Grosvenor Place, the three storey house here had a weaving shed on the top floor and was owned by the Holgate family.

Moving on towards West End, this was once a separate self-contained community in the 17thC but expansion has joined it to the main part of the village. Here Prospect House now the largest house in the village, was probably a cottage in 1601 and nearby Townhead house, once the old manor house, has a very interesting bay window. Cromwell House once the Old Redcap Inn is dated at 1592, left side and 1685, it has an interesting inglenook fireplace and an unusual carved headstone above the entrance.

Back Green 17th cottage, note three different roof lines

There is said to be a link between LP and the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle…..”.  This was through Prior Moone, the last prior of Bolton Priory whose family croft was probably near Guy’s Villa Barn.   Evidence for this is from a beam in the barn that has been dendro dated and bears the initials MRE, Richard and Ellin Moone. (1708). A survey by YVBG in 2011 showed re used beams to have been brought from the Priory.

Barn on Station Road being used for its primary purpose

Like other villages LP experienced pastoral and industrial revolutions, the coming of the railways and canals all had their effect on the village.  In the Victorian period there was an economic resurgence and decline.   Even in the 1950’ and 60’s the village still had quite a few shops, its population has waxed and waned over the years.

John Birtwistle of the droving family of Skipton significantly altered the tone of the village in the 18thC.  He held cattle fairs on Great Close at Malham, where 20,000 animals were quartered.  Some cattle travelled via LP down the droving tracks one of them would have been Langber Lane, an ancient track, (three neolithic axes found around here).   The mile post for this lane stands in the Millennium Garden, nearby is the old village pump.

Infilled pigeon lift at Greenbank Farm
Barn with Quoin acting as lintel

We know much about the village due to Bolton Priory Records, the 1379 Poll Tax, manorial records and the 1841 Tithe survey. These give a good picture of a village which can be followed through the centuries.   Contrary to popular belief the Romans did not have a camp in LP according to the archaeological test pitting project carried out in 2014 – 17. Roman period finds of glass and pot sherds were not thought to be indicative of a military presence. Neither was there evidence of a pre conquest presence, despite the church being said to have Anglo Saxon origins. However, there was evidence of Mesolithic and Bronze Age activity.

We recommend you to wander round this most interesting village as we did and find things out for yourself, the villagers have done extensive research and produced excellent booklets and other publications see their website https://www.longprestonheritage.org.uk/.  Its worth reading up on before you go…. and is well worth a second visit.    The geology of the area is also very interesting see https://geolancashire.org.uk/geotrails/welcome-to-the-long-preston-geotrail/.

Despite a drizzly afternoon we managed to finish our tour and even saw the Yorkshire sash windows!

Frances Bland

Gayle Wray

Thanks to Phyllida Oates for majority of photos.

October 2022