Hebden Township Historical Data

B. J. Harker: 1869

This extract comes from B.J. Harker's book Rambles in Upper Wharfedale, pages 156-164, published in 1869 by Edmonson of Skipton. This account describes the village before the rebuilding of much of Main Street and the construction of the school, and Hebden was in its industrial heyday. See J.A. Bland's description of the village written in 1874 after many of the improvements were carried out.

Photograph of cover of 'Rambles in Upper Wharfedale'
The cover of "Rambles in Upper Wharfedale"

Bailey John Harker (1844-1916) was born and died in Grassington, his parents being William, a tailor, and Betty. He married Amy Smith (1846-1923) in 1868 at Wellington, Shropshire. By profession he was in the church, and served as an non-conformist minister as far a field as Wales, Scotland and Bolton. He was the author of a number of literary works.

Photograph of B.J. Harker (on right)
Bailey John Harker (on right). Click for larger version
Wild tracts of forest-ground, and scattered groves, 
 And mountains bare, or clothed with ancient woods, 
 Surrounded us; and, as we held our way 
 Along the level of the glassy flood, 
 They ceased not to surround us; change of place 
 From kindred features diversely combined, 
 Producing change of beauty ever new." — Wordsworth. 

After we have crossed the Linton Stepping Stones, we come to the junction of two footpaths, one of which leads down the valley by the river-side, and the other to the village of Hebden. We will take the former. In less than a quarter of a mile we pass beneath the eminence on which is built Lythe House - it takes its name from the Saxon word "Lithe," which means a declivity. Our path now becomes enchantingly beautiful, being bounded on the right by the Wharfe, and on the left by the Lythe plantation, from the lime trees and beeches of which, numerous birds send forth sweet melody. A former owner of the Lythe began to make a deer-park of the land which surrounds it, and on the Grassington and Pateley Bridge Road, near the Half-way House, a portion of the wall which was intended to enclose it yet remains.

The walks about the Lythe are locally, if not extensively, famed for their many beauties. Village swains find their retirement suitable for the telling of tales of faith and affection; those who have become tired of the worries of business and life visit them on purpose to drink in their apparent sympathy with their circumstances; rural artists and poets frequent them in order to study nature in her calmer moods and aspects; and men of God, of the same tastes as Isaac of Old Testament times, come to them to hold communion with the Divine presence which most surely pervades them. The scenery all around is such as would induce us to linger: the river flows smoothly along, its waters reflecting the clear blue sky; the hawthorns which stud its sides are covered with pink and white bloom, which fills the air with pleasant odour; we cannot proceed without seeing in the river's silent deeps the sportive trout, now showing only their dark brown backs, then displaying their silvery sides. From both the north and south of the river there rise steep banks, begemmed with flowers, and whether we look up the valley or down we seem to be hemmed in by hills and mountains.

We will only visit Hebden in the way of reference; I will, therefore, give you its history, etc, as we walk slowly down the valley. The name is from heb, high, And dene, a valley,—the ravine which runs through the village is the high valley. The township originally belonged to the Mowbrays, but they sold it to Osbern de Arches, who held it as Superior Lord at the time of Domesday Book (1080). The Manor then extended over part of Burnsall, Thorpe, and Drebley. Under Osbern de Arches, Uctred, the son of Dolphin, who was the founder of the Hebden family, was in possession as mesne Lord; the Saxon owner's name was Dringel. At this early date surnames were not in use, and people were called after the Christian name of their parents, or from the name of the place where they resided—thus we have John de Rillstone, Gospatric de Rigton, William de Hebden, and Henry de Hartlingtone.

In 1271, the Manor of Hebden was in the hands of William de Hebden, or, as he was called, on account of being an ecclesiastic, William de York; in 1294 he was patron of the second mediety of the church at Burnsall, and in 1336 a charter of free warren was given him. In 1348, Richard de Hebden was the patron of the above mediety, and presented in 1367 to William de Hebden, probably his son, who, however, only lived seventeen months after. The last name of the Hebdens which Dr. Whitaker has been able to trace is John Hebden, patron of the mediety just noticed.

The Manor next passed into the possession of the Tempests of Bracewell, probably by the marriage of an heiress with Thomas Tempest, who presented to the church at Burnsall in 1472. The estates were parcelled out in the early years of Queen Elizabeth (about 1570), and the patronage of the second mediety of the church at Burnsall sold to Sir William Craven. The area of the township of Hebden is now 3563 acres 1 rood, and 29 perches. The manorial rights are shared by many owners, who hold various proportions of an ancient valuation thereof, the total of which was only £28. 6s. 8d. At the time of the enclosure of the common lands in 1857 the owners had to prove their title thereto, and the valuation now amounts to £28 10s 3d, of which William Chadwick, Esq., of Arksey House, near Doncaster, has £4. 15s. 11d.; the Linton Hospital Trustees, £1; the Rev. T. F. Chamberlain, £3. 4s. l½d; Mr. William Stockdale, of Skipton, £2 9s 2¾d.; the Rev. H. J. Swale, £2. 2s. 9d.; John Lupton's Trustees, £1. 19s. l¼d.; William Laycock's Trustees, £1. 17s. 4d.; Jonathan Hebden, Esq., of Grassington, £1. 8s. 7½d.; the Duke of Devonshire, £1. Os. 6d.; and several others receive smaller amounts; the Trustees of the Wesleyan Chapel having one penny, and Mr. Robert Wensley, twopence farthing. Mr. Edward Armstrong, of Grassington, and Mr. William Hawley, of Hebden, are bar-masters, or agents, over the manorial rights.

Of the old Manor House, which formerly stood at the extreme eastern end of the village, on the top of a steep declivity, there is scarcely any remnant left; it is said to have been on the site of what is now called Hebden Hall, the property of Mr. William Stockdale, of Skipton, who, with the exception of Mrs. Mary Chamberlain, of Rylstone, is the largest proprietor in the township. The only trace left of the old hall is the now dry fish-pond. Such ponds were usually attached to manor houses in Roman Catholic times, for a ready supply of fish on fast days. Dr. Whitaker says there was anciently at Hebden a considerable establishment with out-offices, &c. This would probably belong to Bolton Abbey. Report informs us that under the Hall Garth there are cellars and ruins still to be found.

Immediately below Hebden Hall is Thruskell, or "Thors Kill," one of the largest springs in the district. It takes its name from Thor, the god of Thunder, to whom it was dedicated by the Druids. It is situate on the north side of the "Craven Fault," which can be traced from Greenhow Hill, by Fancarl Crags, Thorskill Spring, Linton Church, Threshfield Moor, and so forward by Gordale Scar, Malham Cove, Clapham and Ingleton, to Kirkby Lonsdale, at which place it turns suddenly to the north, for 55 miles, during which length, Professor Philips informs us, it has a dislocation of at least 3000 feet. Thorskill drains the stratification to the north, and the water coming in contact with the imperious "Fault" is thrown to the surface at the lowest point in such voluminous quantity as soon to fill the large reservoir made for its storage. What adds to the copiousness of the spring is probably Coppergill Beck, a small rivulet which comes down from the moors, runs a few hundred yards into the township of Hartlington, then sinks into the open ground, after which it takes a westerly direction for about a mile, and then comes out at the Thorskill.

Hebden Church is a prominent building, and is the only chapel-of-ease in the parish of Linton. The foundation-stone was laid in May, 1840. On the 27th of October, 1841, the church and the adjoining burial ground were consecrated by Bishop Longley (the late Archbishop of Canterbury). The architecture of the church is false Gothic, from the rough designs of the curate, the Rev. Mr. Fearon, of Hardy Grange, Grassington, a clergyman very energetic and much beloved. Divine service is held every Sunday afternoon. There is a school on the village green, to which a plot of ground was added at the time of the enclosure of the common lands; designs for a new school and schoolmaster's house were prepared, but either from lack of energy or funds they were never carried out. In addition to the church, there are chapels for both Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists.

A short distance above the village green is a pretty waterfall, caused by the Hebden Beck flowing over a limestone ridge about 12 feet high. Continuing by the stream past Hole Bottom and the Smelt Mill, the tourist will find rocky and romantic scenery well worth a visit; there, nature is tossed about in the wildest manner. A little higher up is the Hush Waterfall, made a few years ago, when Mossy-moor Dam, a large reservoir on the east of the glen, burst, and poured its waters into the depths below at a fearful rate. That occurred in 1855. Further up the stream are the Hebden Moor Lead Mines, and a little beyond the Smelt Mill and mines on Grassington Moor, the latter belonging to the Duke of Devonshire.

In the village of Hebden there are two bridges over the Beck, one is called the High Bridge, the other the Low Bridge. The former was built at the expense of the county in 1827.

Previous to the year 1862, Hebden was very subject to typhus fever, and other epidemic diseases, through want of drainage and a proper supply of water. In that year, Mr. Varley, C.E., of Burnsall, but now of Skipton, was employed to lay out a scheme of water supply, and now few places are better off with regard to that indispensable beverage.

Of late years the inhabitants of Hebden have much improved, both socially and intellectually. It is not without sorrow that I have to tell you of an event which has lately been brought to light, but which happened 140 or 150 years ago, near the village.

Murder, most foul, as in the best it is, 
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural. 

At Coppergill, on the 20th of November 1867, Mr. T. Hartley was engaged, along with his servant man, in getting stone and gravel from an adjoining quarry, when the former discovered a human skeleton lying about four feet below the surface. On being exposed to the air, the bones crumbled away, with the exception of the upper jaw and part of the skull. Near to the head of the human skeleton was found the bony frame-work of a dog, in a more perfect state of preservation, the head being complete. From enquiries made at the time, the remains are thought to be those of a person named Young, who was murdered by his brother. The following are the particulars which have been handed down to the present time :—The two brothers lived together on a farm at Hebden Bank Top; the elder brother was heir to it, and also to another at Dibbles Bridge; but he was a person of weak intellect. One day these brothers went out together, accompanied by a dog belonging to the elder. The dog and its owner, however, were never afterwards seen, and the general impression of the dales people was that the elder brother had been murdered by the younger. The story goes on to say how the miners of the last century used to assert that they had seen the ghost of the murdered man, and always held that he had been thrown down a shaft. The younger of the brothers continued to live on the farm at Hebden, but never prospered. Everything is said to have gone wrong, and he was eventually reduced to beggary, having, not only at the time of his death, but for some time previously, had to subsist on relief supplied by the parish officers; and when on his death-bed he appeared to be much disquieted. It is always supposed he would have confessed, but the person attending him prevented him by stuffing his mouth with the blanket, and all he was able to say was, in the dialect of the district, "That was a sad morning's wark," referring, as the bystanders supposed, to the morning when he killed his brother. The mother of a village traditionist, a little while before her death, which only occurred some three or four years ago, when at the age of ninety, was heard to say, "It is strange nothing has ever been made out respecting the murder of Young," and expressed her belief that it would be sure to come to light some time. The dog shared the same fate as his master, probably to avoid detection. The house the Youngs lived in has been removed, with the exception of a portion of the wall, which now forms part of the fence on the north side of the Well Croft, behind the Bank Top Farm House.

Hebden possesses two mills; one of them is a corn mill, built on the "Soke" principle, the other is a cotton mill.

Now we have reached the Hebden Stepping-Stones. Here, about thirty-one years ago, when the collieries were being worked on Thorpe Fell, three miners were crossing at a time when there had been a sudden thunder storm on the hills up the dale, which caused a rapid rise of the water. On coming down the steep declivity of the Bridle Road on the south side of the river, the men saw at a distance the coming flood, and foolishly endeavoured to get over the river before it came, but one of them, the last of the three, named William Fletcher, was too late, and was washed away, his body being found many weeks after, near to Wetherby, 35 miles below. A pair of boots which he was carrying was found at Loup Scar, Burnsall.

I will now give you an historical and topographical account of Thorpe.